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Big Bend National Park Zone 3: The River (Day 121, Part 2)

November 17th, 2009 No comments

Best zone for last, I guess. Big Bend is so-named because it’s situated on a large bend on the Rio Grande. Clever naming, yes. Anyway — the river goes through a gorge and, um, I think I’m back to where I should start these posts with the second paragraph again.

Except that I don’t have any material for a second paragraph. Maybe it’s too early in the morning.

big-bend_santa-elena-roadThe gap in the cliff is Santa Elena canyon. And the cliff to the left of the gap is in Mexico.

big-bend_santa-elena-opening (1)The canyon’s gaping maw.

big-bend_santa-elena-canyonCanyon, river.

big-bend_santa-elena-canyon-visitorsIf they’re on their honeymoon, I don’t think it’s going well.

big-bend_santa-elena-wallThe walls, closing in.

big-bend_santa-elena-jungleThe canyon contains its own jungle!

big-bend_santa-elena-view-outOut the canyon and onto the flood plain. I think the river was low.

big-bend_santa-elena-ramps-downThe trail heading down from the cliffs’ giddy heights.

big-bend_santa-elena-riverbedThe river bed.

big-bend_santa-elena-touristsThe tourist hordes.

It’s sort of telling that this park only exists on the US side of the border. I went to a couple border parks on the north side of the country that both extended into Canada (Glacier-Waterton and Boundary Waters) and none that were on the Canadian border that didn’t.

OTOH, there were a lot more border patrol agents cruising around Big Bend.

I like rivers and canyons.

bkd


Big Bend National Park Zone 2: The Desert (Day 121)

November 16th, 2009 No comments

121 seems like a big number, doesn’t it? Anyway:

First thing I did when I got to the park was go to the Visitors Center to figure out what I’m going to do. I tell him that I’ve been to California, Arizona, and Utah plenty, so what I want to see is how this place (Big Bend) is different from those places. He proceeds to tell me that since none of those places are the Chihuahua Desert and that therefore I haven’t seen anything that’s at all like Big Bend.

Ahem. Deserts:

  1. They’re all dry.
  2. They’re all very hot.
  3. Except at night, when they’re all very fetchin’ cold.
  4. They all have tough, ugly, leathery plants.
  5. They all have a narrow assortment of small, crunchy animals.
  6. There are usually some barren, rocky hills around.
  7. There’s often sand.

Whereas the Mojave Desert has mule deer, we have Chihuahuan White Tail Deer!

Wow, that *is* big. If only I were a zoologist.

Whereas their rocks are between 100 and 450 million years old, ours are between 50 and 400 million years old!

Or a geologist.

We don’t have saguaro cactus like in the Sonora Desert, but we have the highest concentration of ocotillo in North America!

For one thing, lack of saguaro and glut of ocotillo aren’t exactly selling points. For another, I’m not a botanist either.

Plus, we’re the only national park with its own mountain range!

Listen:

  1. If a mountain range can be completely contained within a national park, it’s not much of a mountain range.
  2. Olympic National Park *is* a mountain range, so that doesn’t make you special anyway.

The more park rangers I interact with, the more I think that one lady ranger at Acadia in Maine deserves a medal for outstanding competence. Half a day? Good. Drive this loop, stop here and here, then you’ll have time to hike the second-best trail in the park. Write down these trail names. Now go! Go! They need more like her. A lot more. I should’ve got her name.

Oh well. Desert, and not very different from the Mojave or Sonoran deserts.

big-bend_desert-drive

big-bend_desert-trail

big-bend_desert-trail-2

big-bend_desert-hill

big-bend_dirt-road

Definitely no saguaros.

bkd

Big Bend National Park Zone 1: The Mountains (Day 120)

November 16th, 2009 No comments

See, because there are three main zones in the park: (1) mountains; (2) desert; and (3) river. Right.

And before things get too wild, I’d like to mention that this national park is in the middle of nowhere (which I guess is better than being at the edge of nowhere, because at least it’s in the middle of something). It’s a hard park to get to without meaning to be there. OTOH, (they claim) it has the darkest night sky of any NP in the lower 48. Would probably make it a good place to be a burglar — not that anything happened.

Hiked to “The Window”. Kind of a short hike (4.5 miles), mostly tourists. And most of the good pictures I got of the mountains were from the Visitors Center rather than the hike. Naturally.

‘Course, they didn’t have one of *these* at the Visitors Center:

big-bend_tarantulaA tarantula! Or maybe it’s a tarantulo. It’s hard to tell without flippin’ ’em over.

About the size of my hand. And then the trail (although, technically, the tarantula photo *is* a photo of the trail.

big-bend_window-trailHere’s the trail. Not bad-looking for a desert. Oh wait — these are mountains, not desert.

big-bend_windowThen this is “The Window” itself.

So it was kind of a dull hike — but at least I got to sweat a lot. Then I went back to the campground and visitors center to get some *real* photos. Relatively real. Two of them.

big-bend_casa-grandeCasa Grande from the handicapped-accessible trail.

big-bend_pink-cloudsA middling-quality sunset, with mountain silhouettes.

Then I decided that since I’d never gone to a National Park ranger lecture at a campground amphitheater before, I should try that. So I went, listened to a guy talk about how old rocks are for 20 minutes, then tried to leave quietly. There was a new moon, which made things especially dark, but I found these guys right outside my campsite.

big-bend_javelina-soloA javelina!

big-bend_javelina-bandAnd his merry band!

(It’s hard to compose wildlife photos interestingly when you can’t really see the wildlife so well.)

And then I went to sleep.

bkd

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