Big Ben National Park, Day 2-Lost Mountain Trail
Well, the wind howled all night long, but the carhouse held tight, and so did the mesquite trees overhead! Even though it was still somewhat overcast when we woke up, there was promise for a clearer day than yesterday, so we were excited. As we were having our morning coffee, Trisha looked out the window and we saw a group of about half dozen javalenas--a creature I’m told is the result of wild pigs and domestic pigs mixing--they are quite prevalent throughout this part of Texas, and that’s one of the risks of driving at night--lots of people apparently hit these things, and they are quite stout, so they could do some damage to your vehicle. I posted a picture the other day of the “cattle guard” on a pickup truck, but a Mexican man I met in a store told me the Mexicans call these gizmos “donkey knockers!” Anyway, have some pics of these javalenas later on.
Broke out the hiking boots this morning for the first time on the trip. Also had the first chance to use the water carrier backpack Shelley had given me for Christmas. We drove about 25 miles to the Lost Mine Trail, near the Chisos Lodge. All the guidebooks said this road is not recommended for RV’s over 24’ but we didn’t have any trouble--lots of tight curves and switchbacks, but the View handles so well it was not a problem. It was still overcast and quite chilly when we started out, but by the time we were on our way down midafternoon, the sun had come out, burned off all the clouds and we were down to tshirts. The guidebooks all say this is one of the most favorite hikes of the staff of the park, and we could see why. So many incredible vistas; every time we’d come around a curve, we’d see something different, and so beautiful. Took almost 200 pics, and it’s hard to decide which ones to show. The Park Service has done a spectacular job maintaining the trail, and they had a wonderful trail guide which really helped us identify different species of tress and plants. We saw a beautiful Mexican Bluejay--alost looked like an oversized indigo bunting. Much bigger than the blue jays back home. Learned to identify 3 different types of juniper tree: alligator, from the way the bark separates and looks like alligator hide; drooping, from the way the leaves droop, looks similar to weeping willow, and single-seed, from the fact that each cone contains only a single seed.
The hike was very rocky in places, with narrow paths and lots of loose rocks--thank goodness for trekking poles! In other places it was just plain rock outcroppings, but just all so beautiful. Met a man from near Houston while we were on top eating lunch--he told us his story about never having hiked before today, how he had had a bike accident which destroyed one leg some years ago and how this was his big test--we had a long conversation about this, sharing my story of my bike accident and all the recuperation involved, and compared notes about all the artificial parts each of us have! And thank you Dr. Burnikel--my two new knees worked perfectly! Met some folks from France, a young man who works in Houston whose family had come from France to visit him. At the end of the trail, where we ate lunch, it was pretty much just rock, and in some places, it was almost overwhelming, to get close to the edge and realize it was several thousand feet down to the canyon floor!
We were both pretty tired by the time we got back to the RV, drove on down to get a look at the Chisos Lodge, and then back to our campground. We drove over to the store, near where the RV hookup campsites are, to take advantage of the only wifi connections in the park. Today was much clearer than yesterday, and the result was one of the most amazing sights we’ve ever seen--the sunset against the Sierra del Carmen mountains in Mexico. The sun painted the cliffs brilliant shades of pink, and there was a full moon rising above the ridge, with big beautiful birds just soaring along over the river canyon. I took a bunch of photos, but there’s no way our camera can fully convey the full beauty of this spectacular sight. There’s a big birding tour here now, and a lot of them were out with their gigantic long lenses, so I’m sure they got some incredible pics. Anyway, as we were getting back into the RV to come back to our campsite, Trisha remarked that it’s just so hard to decide where to look, since everywhere you turn is another unique and beautiful sight!
Hope tomorrow is clear, as we’re planning on another morning hike and then spend some time on a driving tour of some of the roads. Some roads we won’t be able to traverse in the RV, but still should be some great sights.
Day 2 pics:
Sunrise from Rio Grande Village Campground
Cactus flowers, and other flowers along the road on our way to hike.
Beginning of trail
Fair warning at the beginning of Lost Mine Trail!
Baby deer just off the trail as we started.
Top of century plant, with buds just about to bloom out
One of many spectacular views along the trail!
Trisha, hoping this rock doesn't fall over!
Near where we ate lunch
Beautiful Mexican Blue Jay, perched along the trail
More spectacular views on our hike!
Looking down at the carouse, about half way up; shot with the telephoto, so you really don't get the full perspective of how high we were at this point.
On the way up, it was still pretty hazy and chilly
On the way back down, looking back up at where we'd been; sun was much brighter and had burned off all the haze.
Some views along the drive down to the Chisos Lodge
Dove walking just about to my feet as I was relaxing at our campsite.
Sunset at Rio Grande Village--sun was setting behind us, we're facing the Sierra del Carmen on the Mexican side of the river--the sun painted this canyon rim in spectacular color, no way any of these pictures really gives you the whole sense of what it was like--just magical!