If anyone would like to know the routes we’re traveling, I’ll update this map from time to time. It doesn’t include any little side trips, but it’s pretty close to the actual route. This is Chapter 1 of the Great Curiodyssey: the route we took from Loveland, CO to Spring Branch, TX.
Archives for April 2016
Day 13 (4/20) – Our next big stop was Big Bend National Park, a 150 mile jaunt continuing South through Texas. We stayed at the Cottonwood Campground on the West end of the park close the Rio Grande. The views around Big Bend are just stunning. It is big and vast and there is a certain magic in the desert landscape.
We are wimps when it comes to the heat, though, and have some acclimating to do. It was pushing upwards of 95 degrees when we got there late in the evening and after setting everything up, we were sweaty and swearing. As we were lounging in the campground contemplating the temperature it would require to literally melt a person (we felt we were possibly approaching it), a squadron of Javelinas graced us with their presence. For those of you who don’t know, these weird little creatures (also called collared peccaries) look like wild pigs, but they aren’t in the same family as the domesticated pigs we know. Check them out if you’re curious. Collared Peccaries. Apparently they’ve been known to take out small dogs if the mood strikes them.
Day 14 (4/21) We’ve encountered one of our first camper issues of the trip. Our [email protected] came with a Norcold refrigerator unit, and we’ve struggled a little to understand exactly how much power it’s drawing and the errors we’ve been getting from it. We don’t have a lot of things to keep in there, but it’s been nice so far not to need ice every few days, and between recharging our battery when driving and using solar panels during the day, we’ve been able to keep our battery power close to full. We weren’t sure at first if it was a battery issue or a temperature issue, and we’ve decided that its probably a combination of the two. It just hadn’t shown itself to be a problem because we haven’t been in temperatures this hot yet. Luckily, there was a park store just about a mile from the campground, so we turned off the fridge and threw a 10 lb. bag of ice in there, using it as a cooler until we do more research on how to use this more effectively.
We had 2 small hikes planned for the day, the first was up into Santa Elena Canyon.
The side of the canyon where we were (with the cacti) is the US, the other side of the canyon is Mexico. Its a popular place for kayaking and rafting, but the murky green water looked like it was moving pretty slowly. Marc tried skipping rocks across the river but came just shy of hitting the other side.
We stopped back at our camp to check on the fridge (it was holding its own with the ice) and ate lunch then headed to the more popular and higher ground of Chisos Basin which we heard could be a little cooler. It has another campground, a lodge, visitor’s center and store. We went on another short hike, about 2 miles, and the views once again, were spectacular. The Chisos Mountains are the southernmost mountain range in the US and the only mountain range to be fully contained within a National Park.
I’m kind of in love with the flowers on cactus plants.
Day 15 (4/22) – We had a long drive ahead of us from Big Bend to San Antonio. We were rewarded for leaving early with a fantastic view of the Chisos Mountains as the sun climbed higher in the sky and cast shadows over the range.
We found more sweeping views of the desert just about as far as you can see, sometimes punctuated with a bluff or a mesa. The sky had perfect clouds.
The drive was broken up by a picnic lunch at Seminole Canyon State Park.
We finally arrived at my sister’s house that evening, and were welcomed with open arms, a soft bed, a hot meal and of course, this adorable face. Lucky us.
Day 8 (4/15) – We drove from Alamogordo south past Carlsbad to camp at Guadalupe Mountains National Park, which contains the tallest peak in Texas coming in at a whopping 8751 ft.
Our campsite was nestled right near the trailhead for multiple hikes, and once again I forced Marc to do way more hiking at this spot than he was excited about! First hike was up to a rock formation called Devil’s Hall.
A good deal of the trail was over rocks in a river wash, and we got to experience this little pissed off critter on our way down. You wanna see grown adults jump 3 feet in the air? Yeah, that rattly sound will do it!
That picture is pretty blurry considering we didn’t want to get too close!
Day 9 (4/16) – Today’s to-do list included hiking to the “Top of Texas,” and I regretted the scoffing I had done at the measly 8751 feet that it contained. This hike really kicked our butts! We will not underestimate Texas again. The views from the top extended as far as the hazy skies would allow.
The hike took about 6 hours and we were pretty much beat for the rest of the day. Wind gusts were up to 40 mph at times, so we hunkered down and had wine and movie night from the comfort of the camper!
Day 10 (4/17) – You guys! If you have never been to Carlsbad Caverns, put it on your list right this instant! I’ll wait, go get your list and write it down. You didn’t really do it, did you? You should. This was one of the most surprisingly awesome places we have been. We showed up around 9:15 and bought tickets to the 10:00 tour, but they said usually they want people to allow about an hour to get down into the caves by 10. Well, we weren’t deterred and figured we could make it. There are elevators that will take you down the 750 feet below the ground, but they have been out of service and pffffft! Who needs elevators anyway?
This is just the opening of the cave. It goes on for what seems like forever and ever, and although our legs were screaming (remember the 6 hour hike we did the day before?) it was so worth it and we made the 10 o’clock tour with time to spare.
There just is no way that any of the pictures we took inside the cave can convey how cool this is. So, I’m not going to post many more, and you are just going to have to trust me and go there some day to witness it for yourself! There are about 30 miles of discovered caves with more that have yet to be explored.
Day 11 (4/18) – We drove to Davis Mountains State Park with a plan to camp there for the next 2 nights. In the afternoon, we roamed the grounds of the old Fort Davis that was in operation 1854-1891. They had done a fantastic job restoring some of the buildings and bringing it back to life.
Day 12 (4/19) – One of the reasons that we wanted to stop here in Texas was to see the McDonald Observatory, home to astronomers doing leading research from University of Texas. We toured telescopes during the daytime, and learned of the history and specs of some of the biggest telescopes. The location is situated in an area great for studying the sky as it has some of the lowest amounts of light pollution in the US.
The best part came later that night, when we returned for a Star Party, where they showed us different constellations, and then let us view different objects in the night sky through some of their telescopes. We saw jupiter and 3 of its moons, a close up view of the moon, several different star clusters and the Orion nebula. It was one of my favorite things so far. They did such a good job and to be able to see those things was just wonderful.