Without doubt, Big Bend National Park has to be one of the most beautiful, breathtaking, scenic and adventurous places I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit.
The Park covers 1,252 sq miles of the Chihuahuan Desert, including part of the 1,000 mile long Rio Grande that flows along the US/ Mexican border. Interestingly, US territory only extends to the center of the deepest river channel as the river flowed in 1848, and so crossing the river will put you (illegally) in Mexico. In fact, there is a 5,000 USD fine for doing this, which I obviously didn’t know when I waded across to take this great photo of the Santa Elena Canyon (from Mexico). I did wonder why no-one else was following me! The only thing I was a little nervous about was the strange animal footprints in the mud after seeing the warning signs for Mountain Lions…
Anyway, I survived the illegal Mexican crossing, Mountain Lions, Tigers and Bears oh my, but almost didn’t survive the intense heat when I forgot to bring any water with me (it’s hot in the desert, don’t you know).
Well it might be hot in the desert during the day, but let me tell you at night it’s a different matter. I had this bright idea of how nice it would be to camp in the Chisos Mountains in the park, under the coal-black sky lit up like a Christmas tree by millions of stars, which it was until the temperature quickly plummeted. Whilst my sleeping bag may pack up as small as a mouse in a blanket, it’s about as much good as a fart in a spacesuit when temperatures drop down to freezing. In the end I put on almost every item of clothing I had, including my motorcycle pants & jacket, and still felt like a skinned polar bear laying on an iceberg.
I think my pale complexion and sleepless daze in the morning endeared me to my friendly caravan-housed neighbours, who immediately adopted me and fed me hot breakfast and dinner (thanks Bill and Cary!) Luckily, subsequent nights were a bit warmer so I didn’t have to take them up on their kind offer of their warm spare bed. We did have some good nights playing Bill’s guitar around his camp-heater (until our fingers froze) and were even lucky enough to be joined by Leon from the camper across the way, who used to play bass for Roger Miller (‘King of the Road’), but who also did an amazing Johnny Cash impression. I do miss having my guitar with me, but I don’t exactly have anywhere to carry it on my bike.
Throughout the park there are many gravel tracks to explore which make for fun off-road riding, and even the paved roads offer some of the best riding I’ve ever done – perfect sweeping turns amongst beautiful scenery (if you ignore the 45mph speed limit!)
I can fully recommend the following hiking trails: Lost Mine Trail, Santa Elena Canyon and Grapevine Hills (with the Balanced Rock).
OK, off to bed – I hope it’s warmer tonight…