The next morning, we woke up feeling refreshed and ready to explore our third park of the trip- Big Bend National Park. Before departing for the day, we secured lodging at Terlingua Ranch for the night, which was located just outside of the park. Unfortunately, my friend’s cold had developed into full blown laryngitis, but she was still a trooper and ready for a day of adventuring.
We entered the park through the north entrance and made our first stop at the Fossil Discovery Center. This was a fun little area, which had fossil exhibits, a picnic area, and a short trail leading to a viewpoint. After exploring here, we stopped at the Panther Junction Visitor’s Center to plan the rest of our day.
Big Bend National Park encompasses the entire Chisos mountain range, as well as a large part of the Chihuahuan Desert. We decided to drive to the Chisos Basin first, where we walked the Window View Trail and admired some beautiful views. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the temperature was perfect. The Ross Maxwell scenic drive was another popular area of the park we explored, which lead us to the Sotol Vista Overlook, Mule Ears Viewpoint, and eventually down to the Rio Grande River.
We decided to hike Santa Elena Canyon, which is the canyon the Rio Grande flows through. The hike description made it seem like a fairly mellow hike that followed along a boardwalk for a few miles. Now, we did follow a boardwalk, but maybe for 1/10th of a mile, and then the trail came to an abrupt stop at the river. I think most everyone was just as surprised as us because they were all gathered around the river, watching a select few cross over. Neither of us were prepared for this turn of events, which was pretty obvious by the fact I was hiking in my Birkenstock’s… However, after chatting with this couple from Colorado, they talked us into crossing the river and continuing on the hike to see the views. After thinking it over, we decided YOLO, right??
It was actually so much fun and we were laughing the whole way. Neither of us fell into the river (talent or luck, still TBD), and the hike was awesome!! After we crossed the river, we hiked up some switch backs before dropping back down into the canyon and meeting up with the river again. We hiked barefoot for a while until our muddy-covered feet dried enough to put our shoes back on. This was definitely a memorable hike, and will continue to be one of my favorites that we’ve ever done in the parks.
After our fun day at the park, we headed towards our cabin at Terlingua Ranch. This ranch was located on nearly 200,000 acres of rugged, West Texas beauty. Even though the beginning of this trip seemed like it was cursed, I couldn’t help but think this was a pretty cool turn of events. Big Bend National Park is a Certified International Dark Sky Park, and I was excited to see the night sky outside our cabin. The Milky Way was clear as can be, and the shooting stars were in abundance. Living in a big city, you don’t see many stars at night, so you kind of forget how much you miss it. I went to sleep that evening with views of clear skies and a full heart.
As crazy as our weekend was, it was still full of memories and exploring three new National Parks, so who can complain?! ❤