February 28, 2008


I guess the title sums it up, this being our fourth journey to this land of extremes, located in the depths of the southern desert of Texas. You know from the moment you park your trailer at Cottonwood Campground amoung the local Javelinas, that you are in true wilderness.

We are hear primarily to bird, and every expectation was met, with numerous new species, and an excellent guided hike focusing on birding techniques for noticing and remembering details that most would miss. I think we racked up about 20 species on the 3 hour walk just in and around the campsite.

No trip to the Bend would be complete without a paddle on the Rio Grande. Our new friends Skye & Karen joined us, the girls opting for a hike up St Elena Canyon, while Skye & I took to the water. And from what I recall, we even may have had lunch in Mexico that day!

Next days activities included a hike up Grapevine Canyon, which we voted the most scenic in the Bend. Since Skye & Karen had the "kids" along, they rode comfortably in the "screen porch" backpack, sheltered from the heat and spiney cactus.

The long hike in rewarded us with picture perfect views of "Balance Rock", and the open canyon on the far side. The formations in this area were pushed up as a result of volcanic activity, and that, added to years of wind & rain erosion, produced these beautiful works of art.

A special treat on the way out was this gray fox skipping quickly up the rocks. He stoped just long enough to get a look at followers on the trail, posing for the camera.

A quick drive up the Chisos Basin provided this nice shot of a cactus wren, and some beautiful vews of "The Window" far to the west.

Seeing the Window out there reminded us to stop and make the Oak Canyon hike on the return to camp. This "unpublished" hike follows an old trail to a hidden waterfall on the backside of the Window. The cool and moist air allows for several rare species of ferns & flowers to grow, including this wild orchid.
The return to the truck was just prior to sunset. While taking this shot of our friends, I noticed those stunning red hues illuminating the walls of the now-distant canyon, signalling the end to a perfect day! Our final tribute to Big Bend this year was to do another overnight on the 4wd Rio Grande Rier Road. This rugged trek into past history is always a treat, revealing new ruins, graves, and views that somehow were missed last year.
Last year we stayed at the beautiful overlook at Loop Camp. With some different scenery in mind, we opted this time for Talley site 3 or 4 right along the River but closer to thw East end of the park. Along the way, we stopped at some familiar places, but made some new and interesting discoveries:

Arriving late at Talley, we were greeted by the lazy Rio Grande, which was much closer than at Loop, and hosting quite a number of ducks as the sun set.

Right after dark, the winds began to howl, forcing us to make our kitchen about 10 feet down within a ravine near the camp parking. Nothing like a wonderfully set table, a hot catered meal, and a good bottle of wine to end a great day in the desert!
The extreme quiet coupled with the cool air made for one of those deep sllep nights. Morning greeted us with a delayed sunrise due to the mountains in the east, and a heard of Mexican horses taking advantage of the rich grass on the other side of the River.

Our love for Big Bend continues to grow. While many view it as "just a desert", we enjoy the wide open spaces, rich history, lack of people & rules, and the endless possibilities for new discovery. We encourage you too to visit this best kept secret of southern Texas.