Saturday 7 April 2012

Texas: Big Bend

Wednesday, February 8.: Big Bend Natl. Park
The photos mostly speak for themselves when it comes to the day we spent in Big Bend.

In the morning I wandered off for a quick exploration around the Rio Grande Village camping&RV park where we were staying. The lesson of the morning was, apart from the fact that Erik makes really good coffee, the following:
1) This flat area is a flood plain. 2) The "sand" is silt-like in nature. 3) When it is moist it turns into a thick clay-like goo. 4) Moist and dry ground looks almost exactly the same unless you know what to look for. 5) What to look for.

In short I sank to my ankles in the muck and it was only my momentum that tugged me loose - if I had actually had gotten both feet stuck in simultaneously it would have taken some effort I think. The mud was thick enough that it didn't even go through the mesh of my sneakers, and the water in it evaporated fairly quickly in the dry air, so I was able to brush most of it off within an hour or so. A day later they looked as clean as ever, after being brushed down with a wet paper towel.

After wandering through the gift shop and trying to get online for a short while (the best reception of the "free wifi" I managed to get was inside the restrooms!), we went off in the Wagon to see the sights etc. First stop: Panther Junction (gas and information). The drive back up there showed that the road was not at all as steep as it had felt in the dark the day before, in fact it seemed ridiculously flat in comparison. Probably all the uphill had made us sensitive to any downwards slope, even if it was just a few degrees.

At the information center at P.J. we found a few alternatives for things to do and drove on to the Chisos Basin where we intended to go for a hike. Getting there we had a light meal for lunch, found out that the trail we had planned to take was closed due to a mountain lion attack, and was advised on an alternative by a ranger. Back up the trail some bit by Wagon (switchbacks that reminded me of Norway, except the road was much wider), and up the Forgotten Mine trail.

There we saw a mountain side opposite us that looked like a swiss cheese with all the holes (mines? caves?), we saw a doe and a glimpse of another deer, and further up the trail Erik was spotted by a veteran which inevitably led to a conversation. The man told us about a buck he had seen uphill, added 25% of size on its horns, and was a few minutes later stalked by the same buck who snuck up behind him. I dropped my water bottle and fumbled with my camera, but Erik caught a picture of it.

Going up was interesting. I was recovering from pneumonia, had been knocked out for six weeks and only up and moving about for about 10 days, and also suffering from what is presumed to be asthma, all of which added up with other factors to one Silme severely out of shape. I seemed able to breathe surprisingly well in the dry air, and we got more than halfway up before I started wondering what the hell I was doing there and regretting the entire adventure. Just a few hundred yards on I was fine again though, guess I crossed that hurdle. In hindsight I regret that we didn't continue on upwards past the point we got to - on the other hand it was getting dark, the sun setting behind the peaks, so maybe it made sense to turn around.

Back down in the valley the sun had not yet set, and I was able to catch a few more photos, as well as fail to catch one of a coyote sitting by the road watching us as we drove past.