Our plan of action from Huntsville was to head to Austin to do some rock climbing. We rock climbed at Reimers Ranch state park, a little west of Austin. It's all sport climbing, on our first day we did 5 climbs. When we were done it was mid-afternoon and we were right next to the Pederales River. We got a tip from one of the other climbers (petite girl in photo) that there is a great boulder to jump off of.
Bamf petite rock climber
We took advantage of the boulder, did a little swimming, then headed back to camp. The next day we climbed another 5 routes with a quick dip in the river. We met very cool people while climbing. Every climber we were next to was friendly, funny and chatty. It was great. We loved both days, and enjoyed very sore muscles for the next few days.
Fun jumping off boulders
The following morning we made it to San Antonio with the intent of visiting the Alamo and doing the River walk. At the Alamo we walked the grounds, read through the history of the Alamo in the barracks building, and got to chat with a reenactor outside. He had a similar flint and steel kit to the one I've been playing with. We had a nice conversation with him. He informed us that the Mission San Jose was actually better maintained than the Alamo and the good local place to eat is only a mile away.
San Jose mission, didn't get any photos of the Alamo and not many take here.
From the Alamo we did a short stroll along the river walk. It was a commercialized Venice. It was interesting to walk along, there were a bunch of restaurants, too many people and chain restaurants. We then made our way down to Mission San Jose, it was more our speed. It had more of the original buildings than the Alamo. We walked around and read the history. After that we had dinner at Taqueria Guadalajara. It was a lot of the same things you'd see and get at any mexican restaurant, except everything tasted way better.
We spent about six hours in San Antonio, then headed west to a picnic area for the night on our way to Big bend. Next day on our way to Big Bend we went through a little town called Langtry. We caught a sign for the Judge Roy Bean museum. We had no idea who that was and on a whim turned around to check it out. We learned all about Judge Roy Bean, a man who was one step down from the criminals he charged. It was awesome. In Langrty around the mid to late 1800's it was the wild west. They had no judge or law enforcement and Roy Bean was selected to be the Justice of the Peace. In his history they mention him running scams (selling watered down milk) and having fled Mexico after killing a man. His way of justice was to fine criminals, and pocket the fines. He was a rough and tumble guy, and perfect for the job. It was clear from what we read that if anyone 'nice' were in that role they wouldn't last but his style of justice worked for the area. They had the original saloon/court house where he ran his business and conducted trials, which were often held on the porch. They had no jail so he'd tie the belligerent drunks to a tree until they were sober, then fine them. He was quite the character.
The original saloon/court house
We made it to Big Bend and got our back country permit. Here they have designated back country primitive sites and you have to book where you are staying. We made a plan to stay a few nights in each corner of the park. The drive to our first campsite was treacherous. It was along a 'not maintained' road that required having a 4x4 lifted vehicle. We had no trouble, just a few 'oh sh*t' moments. We are saddened there is no photo proof. There was one good spot when I had to get out of the car to spot him because part of the road had washed out and if he crossed it wrong, I'd be standing there watching him roll down the hill. Oh well, we made it safely to Elephant Tusk campsite, in the middle of nowhere.
at the campsite
In the morning we packed up and headed on a hike that was right next to the campsite. It is uncharacteristically hot for this time of year. I'm talking 90-100's. So we went out and hiked only until noon then turned around. We wanted to be done by the time the high heat hit. It is also quite dry. I've never been this dry. It's good in some ways, like my wet clothes dry really fast, but my nasal cavities are also dried out. Anyway, we only had one night at that spot.
Hiking Elephant tusk trail
Purple tinged prickly pear in bloom
We spent the next two nights by the Rio Grande. After being dry and hot I dreamed this site would be nicer than it was. We were near the river but had to do a little hike through thick brush to get to it and it was not very deep in that section. Still, we had a great view. We did another hike, followed by siesta. Oh yea, we have spent almost every afternoon under shade eating salsa and chips. Our food intake has been oatmeal in the morning, snacking while hiking, salsa and chips in the afternoon and veggies at dinner. I only want to eat fruit and veggies. The heat really diminishes your appetite for food and increases it for fluids and electrolytes.
Sunset in camp
On our way to the next campsite we stopped by the Mariscol Mine to explore. It is a Cinnabar aka Quicksilver aka mercury mine that closed in 1943.
My new ride
We also stopped at the Hot Spring. I know, it seems counter intuitive with the heat here, but it felt great. Especially to jump in the river intermittently to cool off. We did a quick hike there to get really miserably hot before jumping in. We then spent about an hour in the water. After being hot, dry and moderately dehydrated for several days it was magical to be surrounded by moisture. It doesn't help that I've also been reading a book about a dystopian future where water is scarce and the main character is constantly thinking about water. I could relate.
View from pre-hot springs hike
In the hot spring
The next day, we hiked some more. This was the first time we actually did the whole trail before turning around. It's was the ore terminal trail, following the remains of an ore terminal. We felt good on the hike, our bodies starting to adjust to the heat. We rewarded ourselves with ice cream from the shop on the way back to camp. Then, siesta.
Our last day at that campsite we spent in Mexico! There is a port of entry in the park that allows you to enter Boquillas Del Carmen. I asked the cashier when we were getting ice cream about it and he said, "It's small, primitive, very Mexican and a lot of fun". We weren't sure if we'd go but that sealed the deal. We had the option to take a boat for five bucks or wade in the water to cross in to Mexico. Since we are cheap or as the nice border patrol gentleman said,"Adventure seekers", we waded through the knee deep Rio Grande.
Margaritas en Mexico!
Once in Mexico you can choose to walk, ride a truck, horse or donkey for the 3/4 of a mile to the town. Again, we walked. We went through the Mexican immigration office, a one man show in a trailer. From there we walked the town, then out of town to a sign for the next town. We walked back, wandered the rest of the town, then stopped for lunch. We had margarita's and tamales that were fabulous. The people were all wonderfully friendly. Everyone is selling trinkets, none we were particularly interested in. Except for these awesome cast iron plates you could use to cook tortillas over the fire. Those were very tempting but we don't need them, so we passed them up for now. Almost everyone spoke English, I was a little disappointed as I had been practicing my spanish in my head the night before and was looking forward to using what little I know. It was a very small town so we only spent about 3 hours there, but we were glad we went. It made us contemplate the possibilities of traveling in the truck through Central America and into South America.
The following day we drove to a new campsite near Chisos Basin. This is the main attraction in Big Bend. On our way we stopped at dugout wells (a small oasis in the desert that used to be a small town), the fossil bone exhibit (who doesn't like dinosaurs? they have found a lot of fossils here), then stopped in the main visitor center to read about the plants and animals in the area, then we did a 5 mile hike along the lost mine trail, both wearing our huaraches.
The gators used to be pretty big
I forgot to mention I busted through another pair of shoes. I've been alternating between wearing my heavy, clunky feeling Asolo boots and huaraches. I only wear the huaraches for short hikes.
nice shredded hole in my shoe, we walk too much
The hike was fun, windy with spectacular views.. well every hike here has had spectacular views. The next day the weather cooled to a high of only 65, it felt so cold after acclimating to 90s. We hiked to Emory Peak that morning, with the intent of doing a 9 mile hike. We felt so good we extended our hike to include what we were going to do the next day for a total of a 14.5 mile hike. This included doing the South Rim trail which is said to have the greatest view of Texas. I don't know if it's true but the view was the best I've seen here.
Matthew on top of Emory peak
South rim, a bit windy
Our last day in the area we did another 5 mile hike along the Window trail. Again the weather was gorgeous. It was nice to not have to retreat to shelter by midday, although we did anyway. We were a little sore and tired from the previous days exertions. Still, overall I felt way better than I have in the past after such a long hike.
'window' at the end of the Window Trail
Leaving for our last campsite we took a scenic drive that had a lot of exhibits, overlooks and short trails. We stopped for everything. It was an exhausting 'rest' day. I thought we'd drive and do little stops but we did several trails. We estimated by the end of the day we walked 10.5 miles. It was a great day. We saw many beautiful views, two abandoned ranches, the remnants of a town and learned a lot. Top two favorites of the day were the Burro Mesa Pouroff and Santa Elena Canyon Trail. To get to the Burro Messa Pouroff we hiked the upper and lower part to see it from the top and bottom. The Santa Elena Canyon was a short trail with the payoff of silent awe and the feeling of being a minute impression on the earth, it was impressive and beautiful.
Last part of the upper burro mesa
It was hard to get a good shot of the view from the top
Burro mesa from the bottom
Santa Elena Canyon
Ok, this was a LOT at once. I feel like there is so much more to say about our experiences but this is long enough. I'll try to update more frequently or do shorter versions from now on.