Last weekend we headed down to Big Bend National Park for the long Labor Day weekend. We left thursday after work and stayed with friends in San Antonio, then headed out early friday morning for the park.
On the way, we tried to scout a route that Mr. Leary put together for the overland central project. unfortunately, it looks like the road has been privatized, and we didn't feel like testing our luck alone on what was likely someone else's land. This was the crossing and cattle guard for Longfellow Rd. it continues a ways down on the north side of hwy 90 and goes up to some buildings past a sign for the Longfellow Ranch.
After stopping for lunch in Marathon, we headed south towards the park. on the way, we tried to scout the south end of Mr. Leary's route where dove mountain road connects to hwy 385. unfortunately, we found another no tresspassing/private road sign, this time owned by the Pope ranch. They were even nice enough to quote the penal code for you.
Finally at the park...entrance sign
after stopping at the visitors center to inquire about campsites, we headed down towards panther junction, stopping to fill up before heading up to the basin campground. next to the gas station was this prickly pear cactus that was just dripping with pears. obviously they've had plenty of rain in the park this summer.
on the way up to the basin. we actually saw a bear on our way up, which a very rare sighting. he was too quick to get a picture, unfortunately.
unfortunately, the basin campground was a bit disappointing. most of the campgrounds were overgrown, and they were just kinda crowded together. we decided to bail and camp at the Rio Grande Village campground instead. after getting set up and meeting up with MikeWhoTruong, we made dinner and ran a bit of Old Ore Rd in the dark. the next morning, after good breakfast cooked by MikeWhoTruong, we headed out to see what we could see on the park's backcountry primitive roads. we ran river road from the east to where it meets Glen Springs road, then turned north and followed Glen Springs road back to the park road. after having lunch, we went up to the Panther Junction visitor center to check the daily report for road conditions. we were advised that the Old Maverick road had several washouts and was very muddy. we stopped looking for the interesting section when we were passed by a honda oddysey headed the opposite direction. we took Old Maverick down to the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive and then over to River Road West. there were a few spots where there was standing water on the road, but it was all hard-bottomed and didn't give us any trouble. we did have a bit of fun in the water though.
for some reason i just think Ocotillo is so interesting. this one also shows more evidence of how much water the area has gotten lately. usually they only produce leaves on the last 12-18" of the stems.
Mike stretching out the new Toytec suspension on his 4runner
we eventually made our way back to the campsite to meet up with Ash and his fiance Holly, who had with them Holly's parents. we all met, had dinner and sat around chatting before wandering back to our tents for another good night’s sleep. the next morning, we headed out with one trail in mind – Black Gap Road. We drove north from Rio Grande Village to the North End of Glenn Springs road, then followed Glenn Springs Road down to the north end of Black Gap Road.
On Glenn Springs road
Ash scouting the terrain, and testing out his new Bajarack
Finally on Black Gap road. after about 20 yards of road looking just like the one we came from, it drops into the first wash with a level of terrain that kindof takes you by suprise, not because its difficult, but because its probably the greenest part of the whole park outside of Chisos Basin.
Ash coming down the wash:
And Mike right after:
after a climbing back out of the wash, the road follows a ledge for a bit, which can be a bit tippy and narrow in places. it doesn't look it, but the trail is fairly narrow here, with a bit of loose rock and a hole that tilts the truck toward the edge.
the infamous black gap step. the recent rains had washed a lot of the rocks away from the bottom of the step, but it was still no problem for any of us.
Mike just after coming up the step.
The trail becomes much easier after the black gap, eventually turning to graded 2-track before connecting with river road. Ash suggested that we check out the Mariscal Mine ruins which were on the way back towards our campsite. This was a Cinnabar mine that was started in the early 1900's. here's the story of the mine: http://www.nps.gov/bibe/historycultu...202004%202.pdf
anyways, its pretty cool to walk around and see what is left of all of the buildings and equipment.
"ran when parked" i'm sure
more mine ruins
After checking out the ruins, we decided to head back to camp so we could pick up any last minute supplies we needed from the store before they closed, and find out the story on the coin-op showers. we decided to get clean and then relax at camp before dinner.
Holly had a super organized system for all of their meals set up. they were very efficient, and ate like kings! when they get back, we'll definitely have to get some tips from them on how to get organized.
the next morning, we had to head back to Houston. Ash & co. were staying the rest of the week, and Mike wanted to make his way to the north side of the park via Old Ore road, so we set off on our own from Rio Grande Village. We made a detour through Austin to have dinner with friends, and made it back to Houston about 9:30.
Hopefully Mike and Ash will also post their photos once they sort through them.
hope you all enjoyed the report, we had a great time. next time maybe we'll try out big bend ranch state park