The smart thing to do would’ve been to wake up at sunrise in order to maximize our time at Big Bend. But… leave the comfy bed so soon? And come on… it was our honeymoon!
So our lazy yet clever selves decided we’d visit one of the furthest areas of the park first. Then we’d visit the attractions we passed en route. That meant the last attraction of the day would also be the closest to home, resulting in a safer drive since the night time arrived earlier. Long sleep and tourist goals achieved!
I was surprised to find a tiny beach at the Santa Elena Canyon’s mouth. As the gentle Rio Grande entered the looming canyon, visitors were relaxing in the sand or playing with their dogs. Meanwhile, I entered a section of the beach that was apparently mud… and quickly sank with no ability to free myself until Hubs Shoes used his strength to free me. What a yucky beginning.
However the rest of Santa Elena Canyon was blissfully dry- considering the slight December chill. The trail took us deeper into the canyon’s mouth as we followed the river. We began with some elevated views against the canyon wall but quickly found little areas along the water for viewing and pictures.
The short, Dorgan-Sublett Trail led us past the ruins of old settlers. However, just like in Terlingua Ghost Town, the ruins were… ruined. Out of a handful of structures, only one family decided they wanted a roof and four walls on theirs. Everyone else preferred the barely-there walls and full view access of the starry skies. But I’ll admit, the views were gorgeous.
We relaxed at the Castolon Visitor Center. Surrounding the little Center were displays showing the history from that spot such as a small preserved house, old transportation, and a large, rusted broiler.
We stayed in the parking lot to view the Mule Ears from a distance. The Mule Ears are just a funny-shaped, geological feature where over time, the mesa resembled two pointed ears. Or horns. Or pointy boobs. Haha.
Similarly, we only viewed the Burro Mesa Pouroff from a distance… I think. What exactly was the Pouroff? If it somehow involved water, the area was dryer than burnt sandpaper.
We finally began our journey around the Chisos Mountains… yes… mountains! In contrast to the flat-topped mesas, the Chisos were jagged, rising and beautiful in its mysterious look. Somehow images of Frodo and his Fellowship on a quest kept creeping into my mind. As we edged into the mountains, the vegetation along the road grew from stiff shrubs into scattered, arching trees.
We arrived at the center of the Chisos too early for sunset so we took advantage of the closest thing to civilization inside the Park. It’s here the only restaurant, bar, and hotel inside Big Bend were located. After surviving this long, we caved to the free Wifi and performed the chores from our civilized lives… like paying bills (sigh, those never take a vacation).
In this area, the Chisos Mountains completely surrounded us. As sunset approached, we hiked the little trail approaching The Window- a cut in the surroundings where you could view the Big Bend stretched out beyond the mountains. As the sun set, the colors bouncing off the basin transformed into shades of blue, gray, and green while the shadows danced and changed length.
It was our last night in Big Bend National Park so we waved farewell to the little mountains, mesas, and shrubs as we exited. We’d driven and walked what we could during our short visit. Tomorrow we’d be viewing Big Bend from a different angle.