14 January 2014

Big Bend National Park: Hot Springs After Hiking, Anyone? (Day 2)

Big Bend National Park Old Ore Road Tinaja Top View
Top view of unnamed Tinaja off Old Ore Road.

The part of our night that wasn't spent trying to stay warm in our very ventilated tent consisted of trying to calm our ever vigilant dog, Ria.  She hadn't been camping in a while and was on pins and needles every time the wind gusted, which was about once every two minutes.  We slept in, and then made fried eggs and root veggie hash inside the tent.  This left us warmer, with an added bonus of a steam bath in eau de potato.  Ha!

After some bike maintenance, we headed to Old Ore Road.  It is a 26 mile point to point ride.  They say allow 3 hours for driving, but those estimates are for 4WD vehicles.  You can do it faster on a motorcycle, of course, but you probably won't, since there are so many views that are pause-worthy.  My favorite part of the ride was stopping to explore a small canyon that had been polished smooth by rushing seasonal waters, called a Tinaja.  There are other, bigger tinajas to see in the park, like the Ernst Tinaja, but we had this one all to ourselves.

Big Bend National Park Unnamed Tinaja
This was part of my view as I snacked on a Clif Bar in the unnamed tinaja.  So pretty!

As we continued down Old Ore Road, we encountered several SUV's.  Most of their drivers let us pass by, but others didn't catch the hint.  We also ran into a caravan of photographers from Houston driving identically decked out Toyota FJ Cruisers, and one fellow was nice enough to take the following shot of us.

Big Bend National Park Old Ore Road Impressive Geological Formations
This part of the road ran below an impressive ridge with some beautiful geological formations.

We rode a few more miles, and then found ourselves on top of a very large hill with a lovely view.  The rest of the ride was nice, but rather flat.

Big Bend National Park Old Ore Road Highest Point
This was the highest point on the Old Ore Road, and the view was gorgeous.   

We had intended to stop by the fossil exhibit on the way back to camp, but time was short and we wanted to make it to the hot springs before dark, and we still had to stop for gas.  Hurrying in general makes me cross, but after passing on the exhibit, hurrying to the spring, and getting stuck behind what felt like the slowest driver of all time we arrived in the parking lot just after twilight.  By the time we were at the spring, it was pitch black.  Oh yay!

Crazy hair lady is not impressed.

My grumpy face didn't last very long, though, because the water was so relaxing, and there were so many people having fun in the hot spring that night!  I had no idea it would be so popular--it was hard to find a place to sit.  I guess I could have been disappointed at all of the extra company, but I was thrilled to know that I wasn't alone in my affinity for hot springs.

As a bonus, that night was a new moon, so the star gazing was dazzling.  No, I'm not over exaggerating--it was truly spectacular.  Big Bend National Park is one of the best places in the country for star gazing for several reasons.  Firstly: you aren't near any sources of light or air pollution.  Secondly: deserts are dry, and places that are dry don't get many clouds.  Thirdly, down by the river there isn't a lot of vegetation or other view obstructing, well, anything.  I am convinced that we picked the best time to go star gazing in Big Bend, and I'd encourage you to do exactly what we did.  It is an incredibly beautiful and romantic way to enjoy a long winter's night.

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