Sunday, April 8, 2012
We departed Del Rio in route to Lajitas, TX. As we climbed in elevation along the Rio Grande, we stopped at the Pecos River Overlook. As we stood there, enjoying the view, CC asked, “We have to drive across that thing?” It’s a bridge, and the answer is yes, IF, you want to continue to Big Bend. I must admit, from where we were, the bridge looked a little under-engineered. (As usual, click on any image to enlarge)
After a brief one night stay at the Marathon Motel and RV Park, we ventured on to Lajitas. The “directions” on their web site said, check in at the Lodge Registration, just past the boardwalk. OK, boardwalk in site, now where to park this beast. As I pulled off the road on the right shoulder, there was a sign that read, Steep road ahead - 10 miles 15 degree slope. Holy cow! I sure don’t want to attempt that with this rig.
CC walked across the road and checked us into the Maverick Ranch RV Park, and said, “The lady said it’s about a half mile from here.” OK, which way? To which she replied, “She said this way”. With that, we continued on. It wasn’t looking good as we drove on, the road narrowed, and I remembered that sign. Almost instantaneously, we both said, stop here! The right shoulder was wider and had partially been paved. Now all we had to do was unhook the toad, and attempt to turn this 43 footer around on a two lane road. At first I thought it would take 2 or 3 wiggles to make it, but CC guided me back to the very edge, and as I pulled forward, cranked the wheels hard left, narrowly missing a road sign. Now, with only one wiggle, I have come to appreciate the 55 degree wheel cut Freightliner put on this chassis. With that little bit of suspense behind us, we headed in the other direction to the RV park, past the registration. Now why would they locate registration past the park? Why not just register at the RV park office? There are just some things I will never understand, but we finally arrived at our new home for the next five days.
The Maverick Ranch RV Park is part of the Lajitas Golf Resort and Spa. They have a private airstrip, and offer a wide range of equestrian activities, as well as 4-wheeling, river rafting, and skeet shooting. This was originally a 26,000 acre ranch, and was used in the 1800’s as a border crossing and the Lodge was built to mimic this era.
The next morning, we decided to take the steep road to Presidio, along Highway 170, and had only traveled a few miles when we came upon an old movie set. The small village or Rancheria was never a real village. It was constructed in 1985 as a set for the boarder-western comedy “Uphill All The Way” starring Roy Clark, Mel Tillis and Burl Ives.
Since that time, nine different movies have been made on this original set and later more buildings constructed at this location.
Other movies filmed here: 1993-Rio Diablo; 1994-Gambler V: Playing for Keeps; 1995-Streets of Laredo; 1995-My Maria (1996 Music Video of the Year); 1996-Dead Man’s Walk; and in 2000, Journeyman.
It is hard to believe that Mexico is just across the river! The vibrant culture of this borderlands region spans the river and has long inspired both artists and filmmakers.
Since we were so close to the home of CC’s epicurean desires, we decided it was indeed a “Kodak Moment” in the Rio Grande, with Mexico in the background. You’re probably thinking, one could just walk across to Mexico or vice versa, and you would be correct, as the water was less than a foot deep.
On the road again, just a few miles from the movie set, we rounded a corner and came upon this social group of Mexican Edsels. It’s amazing they can survive in this environment, and this part of west Texas hasn’t had any significant rainfall in almost 2 years; even the cacti were / are withering away. (That’s a picture of the same narrow road we turned the rig around on yesterday.)
In just a few more miles, we came to the steep grade. Not only steep, but winding as well; a 15 degree climb for about a mile, followed by the reverse. No way would I want to take a big rig on this highway.
We arrived in Presidio around noon, and decided on El Patio, a little Mexican joint that had come highly recommended by numerous people. The place was packed, and it did not disappoint. Behind us, in the corner, was this unique wood carving.
The following morning, we ventured into Big Bend National Park, and made our way to the Chisos Basin, centrally located within the park, about 23 miles from our entrance at Maverick Junction. As we drove, CC and I both commented on the desolation, and extreme drought conditions that exist. We had expectations of cactus blooming, since this was, afterall, Springtime. Temperatures were in the high 80’s with single digit humidity levels.
Arriving at Chisos Mountain Basin Junction, we turned southward for the 6 mile climb to Chisos Mountain Lodge. The road is steep and winding, and is not recommended for trailers over 20 feet, or RV’s in excess of 24 feet. The Equinox had no problem, but the recommendation was duly noted, and after the round trip, understand completely. Below is what locals refer to as, “Window View”.
As we descended from the Mountain Lodge, we came across this lil’ fella just having the time of his life with an orange road cone. We watched for over 5 minutes as he or she, bit, scrunched, tossed, and otherwise tried to bear-handle that cone; it was quite conical, even comical. We kept our distance AND stayed in the car as we photographed the yearling.
OK then. Enough sight-seeing for the day, as the temps were approaching 90; time for the pool. Maverick Ranch has a nice pool, and we fully expected to enjoy it thoroughly; the water, on the other hand, was not agreeable at around 70 degrees. The office told us they were installing a heater on the pool, and would be operational in 2 weeks. Now, how exactly does that help us on our 5 day stay?
The next morning we awoke to temps in the 40’s; typical for the desert this time of year. After coffee and breakfast, we motored eastward almost 75 miles to Rio Grande Village, on the eastern edge of the park. While there, hiking around, we spotted this rascal chasing bugs. Every time I see a Roadrunner, it brings back childhood memories of Wylie Coyote chasing one all over the desert, with numerous devices from ACME, designed for the massive destruction of the Roadrunner, which never happened; beep beep.
The Boquillas Canyon Overlook is only a few miles from Rio Grande Village, and so it was next on the bucket list. Near the edge of the overlook, some 100 feet above the river, was this collection of trinkets, placed there by residents of the nearby Mexican village of Boquillas Del Carmen.
As we gazed at the assortment, we also noticed 4 men across the river, sitting under a shade tree, watching us. My guess is, that if we would have put any money in the can, they would have scurried over to collect it, as we could see the “trail” across the river they had been using. The National Park Service has put up numerous signs warning tourists from buying these trinkets with threats of seizure and / or fines, as well as threats of imprisonment to the Mexican Nationals for entering the US illegally. From the appearance of the “trail”, I don’t think the Mexicans were too worried.
OK, time for Happy Hour, as we looked westward to the 75 mile drive to Lajitas. On arrival, about 2 hours later (speed limit in the park is 45 mph), we plopped into our chairs, cold adult beverage in hand, and reflected on what we had experienced today. It’s easy being thousands of miles away, saying let’s close down the border with Mexico’ but closing the border in this part of Texas would be nearly impossible, which is why they haven’t even attempted building a fence or a wall.
The Homer Wilson Ranch, also known as the Blue Creek Ranch, was one of the largest ranches in the early twentieth century in what would become Big Bend National Park in Texas. The ranch was established by Homer Wilson in 1929 at Oak Springs to the west of the Chisos Mountains. Ultimately comprising 44 sections of land, amounting to more than 28,000 acres (11,000 ha), the Oak Canyon-Blue Creek Ranch was acquired by the State of Texas in 1942 for incorporation into the new park. A large portion of the ranch comprised portions of the old G4 Ranch (named after Survey Block G4), established by John and Clarence Gano in the 1880s. Wilson's ranch focused on as many as 4,000 sheep and 2,500 goats, the first such large operation in the Big Bend area. Wilson continued to live at the ranch until 1943, when he died. His family moved from the ranch in 1944. Wilson, born in Del Rio, TX in 1892, had studied petroleum engineering at the Missouri School of Mines and was a World War I veteran. The ranch, with the headquarters at Oak Springs and its operational center at Blue Creek, was one of the largest in Texas, and the most significant ranch in Big Bend.
The Blue Creek residence measures about 24 feet (7.3 m) by 60 feet (18 m) with a 16-foot (4.9 m) by 60-foot (18 m) screened porch on the south side of the house. The single-story residence comprised two bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen, with a large central fireplace. The house features a double roof, the inner layer a traditional reed roof of the type locally used, with a sheet metal roof above. Another building housed ranch help. The structures were abandoned when the Wilsons moved out.
The Blue Creek area of the Wilson ranch was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 14, 1975.
We continued on the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive to Santa Elena Canyon, at the western edge of Big Bend. The canyon averages walls up to 1,500 feet, and is a must see on the list of places to see at Big Bend. There is an easy 1.6 mile roundtrip hike up the canyon. We had hoped to raft or kayak down the river from Lajitas, about 13 miles upstream, but as you can see, the water levels were not adequate to allow this.
We spotted this group of 3 Mexican Nationals headed downstream with a boatload of bags, and the 3 kayaks behind them headed upstream. Wonder what was in those bags? As you can see from the photo, the river was only about knee deep, and about 100 yards later downstream, they had to ford the boat across a dry stretch of the river.
Once again, back at the rig, we had time to reflect on our observations of the day, and our entire stay at Big Bend. While overall, we are glad we took the time to experience the park, but definitely under-whelmed by its beauty; the drought has taken a severe toll on her, and will most likely take years to recover, when and if she receives some much needed rain.
From here, we venture northward to Marfa, to experience the “Marfa Lights”. Thanks for stopping by, and until next time, take care and stay well…………………