The December holiday season is a time that my husband has a lull in-between two of his busiest times of the work year, and it is usually a relatively quiet time for me, too. This equals a good time to take off for a few weeks. Traveling over this holiday period is not necessarily ideal, but when you take a road trip to a remote part of the country you don’t experience the normal holiday chaos.
We decided to take the opportunity to go to Big Bend, Texas. We’d been one other time partly because Tim’s mom is a campground host at the Chisos Basin Campground in the National Park for a few months each winter. Our trip could quench our thirst for adventure, our love of national parks, and also afford us time with Tim’s mom.
Big Bend National Park is a pretty remote place, and it’s one of the least visited National Parks in the country. It lies in the ‘lump’ in the southwest edge of Texas and borders Mexico along the Rio Grande river to the south. Terlingua and Study Butte, the closest towns, probably boast a few hundred permanent residents each; the park probably has that many residents with all of the employees. On the Mexico side things are just as remote and unpopulated.
Big Bend National Park is also wild place. The harsh desert country, is filled with sand, canyons, cactus and a smattering of mountains. Water is scarce, except at the river. It has a rugged beauty that offers an interesting variety landscapes and ecosystems.
Here is a snapshot of some of our adventures…
Carrizozo – a funky, artsy town in New Mexico was a good leg stretcher. We got a warm welcome and fun tour from one of its colorful characters who befriended us the minute we hopped out of the van.
Sunset at White Sands National Monument while enroute.
The first three nights in Texas were spent at Big Bend Ranch State Park where they have a great network of fun, mostly single-track, mountain biking trails. The trail signs are so cool – and with names like Contrabando – conjure up stories of smuggling and adventure.
We celebrated the solstice at a back country campsite near the Rio Grande river and watched the sunset on St Elena Canyon with its 1500 foot canyon walls that the Rio Grande River flows through and is the the U.S. – Mexico border
The rest of the nights were spent in The Basin with Samwise, our trusty camper van, nose in to Kay and Doug’s 38 foot RV in the ‘Host’ site. Samwise served mostly as our ‘bedroom’ and the RV was ‘home’ and included the luxury of a gas stove & oven, microwave, running hot & cold water, shower and bathroom. Tim’s mom was thrilled to have her ‘baby boy’ home for Christmas, and she planned meals while we took day trips to bike and hike.
This post feels a bit like a boring travelogue of what I did on my Christmas break. And I guess it is, but the trip was so much more…
I didn’t photograph the van and the RV nose-to-nose. I couldn’t get images of the dedication of the rangers and volunteers we saw, the community of friends that has formed over the years, or the ‘park gossip’ we heard.
I didn’t write about what I learned about how I can best ‘work’ on the road and what kind of art I’m motivated to create on vacation (although that might be for another post).
I didn’t capture my feelings about my realization of what a national treasure the National Park Service truly is, and how I hope the government keeps politics aside to preserve and nurture it.
As family of one of the campgrounds hosts we were invited to a ‘park’ Christmas party – at the Park’s Chief Law Enforcement Officer’s home. We met so many interesting employees and volunteers – and learned of the many opportunities available for volunteers to the Park Service. It’s quite a long way off, but Tim and I have talked about ‘campground hosting one day’. Now I know that is not the only opportunity and also that I can be, and one day would like to be, part of one of the great National Park communities.