Saturday, April 27, 2013

Big Bend National Park, Day 4-Santa Elena Canyon

While it was pretty chilly at night when we first arrived in the park, it's been warming up steadily--good news and bad news:  the mornings have been increasingly brighter and less overcast, but it doesn't take long for the sun to really get hot.  This day was no exception--don't know how high it got, but midafternoon the store thermometer was registering 99 in the shade!  Can only imagine how hot it will be here at the height of the summer!

But what a lovely day it was.  All the guidebooks said you should do the Santa Elena Canyon hike in the morning, due to the sunlight patterns, so that's one of the reasons we stayed the night before in Cottonwood, to be closer to Santa Elena and to get an early start.  The seven mile drive from the campground to the trail was just glorious, and the panorama views were spectacular!

Looking down from the road to the Mexican side of the river--couple of guys with their cows and dogs enjoying a beautiful riverside morning!

As we drove along, we could see the canyon walls, each turn giving us different perspectives--this is the divide, the river having cut through these walls over years and years--at least two or three, don't you think?!  The canyon walls rise some 1500 feet above the riverbanks along the canyon floor.  We've been seeing this view from afar, but it was exciting to get closer!  Mexico is on the left, Texas on the right.

Beautiful Northern Cardinal on a branch by the trailhead.

 We're standing in the dry bed of the Terlingua Creek, which flows into the Rio Grande at this point when there's rain.  Where we're standing will be completely flooded.
 Looking up the river into the canyon.
 Had to get a little of the Rio Grande on me!
Looking up toward the trail where we're headed.
 Reflection of the Mexican canyon wall
 Two shots of the dry, baked dirt of the creek bottom--quite a change from the way it will look after a rain!

 Another beautiful flower we've not seen before.
The closer you get the more awesome the sight of these high canyon walls
 Love the cactus!
 Looking down from one of the overlooks onto the Terlingua Creek bed
 Turkey vulture just spreading its wings and glorying in this magnificent beauty; on a rock on the Mexican side.
 The trail along the river bank
 These massive rocks that have fallen from the side of the canyon wall--glad we weren't there when they fell!
Standing below an outcropping on the wall, looking straight up, trying to give a little perspective

 You can see Trisha down in the bottom of the picture
All of this is completely underwater when the creek floods.

 In the parking lot by the trailhead--sign said in 1990 when they had a really big flood of the creek, the water was 5 feet above the level of the parking log--about where the notch in this sapling is.
 Mountains of tuff--the volcanic ash from the last eruption--looks a lot like dribbly beach sand castles!
 A view of the Mule Ears, from a different perspective--Trisha now prefers to call this Angel Wings!

Well, we'll reluctantly leave Big Bend this Saturday morning, and head west--looking forward to what many of the guidebooks call one of the most beautiful drives in Texas, toward Presidio--who knows where we'll spend tonight!

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