13 January 2014

Big Bend National Park: Hot Springs after Hiking, Anyone? (Day 1)

Big Bend National Park River Road East View
There are two dirt bikes in this picture, but you really have to look for them.

K and I spent New Years at Big Bend National Park.  We thought, "What better way to relax and connect with the natural world than to go ripping through the desert on dirt bikes?"   It'd be a tragedy to live a full year in TX without having that experience.  I first learned of the park while looking for natural hot springs open to the public, and although the pictures weren't particularly inspiring, I knew I had to make a pilgrimage.  I didn't even check out any of the scenic pictures, which turned out well because I had no expectations going into the adventure.  Everything was fresh and new, at least to me, and I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.  Access to the park for 7 days cost us $20 for the car and included K's bike, and an additional $10 for my bike.  It was super nice of them to let us use the car pass for K's bike.

The park, though massive, was surprisingly busy. I would definitely try to make reservations if I were going in the spring or fall.  Site #31 was surrounded by scarily thorny mesquite trees and well protected from the wind, as were most of the sites in that corner of the campground.  That corner of the campground is excellent for people with trailers or more than one vehicle because most of the sites have pull through parking.  None of the Rio Grande Valley sites have electricity, but they all have bear lockers and grills.  Speaking of bears, Yogi doesn't seem to be that interested in campers anymore.  If you're negligent in putting away your food, you may be visited by some javelinas, though.  Camping was $14 per night.  The views are epic, and the campground is close to the natural spa, so I consider this a massive win.

Day 1

The day was spent making camp, and finally riding the River Road East to Black Gap Road, then home.  You read that right--camp = home, because home is where the dog is.  While the scenery from the River Road East was beautiful and interesting, the riding itself wasn't a challenge.  I was hoping for trails, or at least unmaintained old dirt roads.  I recommend it whole-heartedly to someone who hasn't been off the pavement yet.  River Road West is supposedly more challenging, but we didn't make it this trip because of range issues.  K needs to get a bigger tank, and I wouldn't mind one myself.

Big Bend National Park River Road East Detail of Road Quality and View
The gravel River Road East had some sandy parts, but otherwise was oh, so smooth.

Big Bend National Park: Interesting Geological Formation on River Road East
This part of the River Road East was curvier, and had interesting geological formations.

I couldn't help wanting more, thinking, "Is this it?"  Riding in Breckenridge has spoiled me!  Not to worry: Black Gap Road was much more interesting, and I rode for all I was worth.  I think I freaked K out a bit, since he's not used to following me.

Big Bend National Park Sunset where the River Road East meets the pavement
This is where the River Road meets the pavement.
The sunset was glorious, turning all the rocks shades of pink and purple.  It affected us, too-- turning us into meat popsicles on our way back to camp.  All was well once we tucked into the lamb, barley, and parsnip stew I had canned earlier during the holidays.

Big Bend National Park Tunnel near Rio Grande Village
Passing through the tunnel on the way back to camp during a fabulous sunset.

Day 2     Day 3 >

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