DH and I just got back from spending three nights at the Chisos Mountains Lodge in Big Bend National Park.
The lodge itself is located in the Chisos Basin at around 5400'. The temperatures at this elevation were high 30s to low 40s in the early morning and 60s during the day. The basin area is very pretty, with mountain peaks all around you.
We stayed in a Rio Grande motel room. It was fine, none too large and the bathroom was definitely petite, with a low shower head (DH is 6' 4" and I am 5' 10" so showering became somewhat of a gymnastic exercise). The walls were also relatively thin so you could hear the people in the adjoining rooms talking - not sufficient to make out what they were saying - at least no one was talking that loud - but enough so that you knew they were there. Also, the first night, for a while, we could hear someone snoring in one of the adjoining rooms.
Now having read over my description, it sounds a bit negative. But let me emphasize that we were very happy with the room and we would stay there again. Also having said that, when we go back (and yes we want to go back) we will try to stay in one of the Casa Grande rooms. They appear to be larger, neighbors on either side (as opposed to three sides plus kitty-corners) and have nice balconies.
Now Schoolmarm told me that the last time she was there, she ate lunch in the restaurant and it was better than in had been in the past - makes me wonder what it was like in the past. The first night DH had the Chilli and I had the Southwestern Chicken Breast - both were worse than mediocre. After that we stuck to cheeseburgers for dinner and the cheeseburger weren't bad (weren't especially good, but not bad) and they were much better than our entrees of the first night.
The breakfast buffet was also rather poor - no danger of meeting an eggshell in the scrambled eggs - they were made from some preprocessed egg goo, the pancakes tasted like they were made from a just add water mix and the sausage patty had way too much filler and a very dilute sausage taste. Even the canned fruit had an inconsistent consistency - from hard, to just right to mushy - all in one piece. Surprisingly, the coffee was pretty decent.
When we go back, we will be bringing more food with us - (we always bring peanut butter, raspberry jam and bread for our hiking lunches). The rooms have refrigerators and microwaves so we will bring some pre-prepared nukable dinners, fruit, cereal and milk with us and stop in the restaurant for coffee and maybe one night of cheeseburgers.
Driving to the park (from Las Cruces NM) we stopped in Marfa for lunch. We ate a a small little restaurant called Squeeze where we split an order of hummus and pita bread and each had a fruit smoothy - DH the boysenberry / blackraspberry and mine the strawberry/ raspberry / blueberry / black raspberry - they were wonderfull. The pita bread was fresh and lightly grilled and the hummus was delicious. Squeeze was a wonderful find!
From Marfa we headed south on 67 towards Presido and then along FM 170 towards Lajita and Big Bend NP. FM 170 parallels the Rio Grande and has sections which are very scenic. On the way we stopped to hike Closed Canyon (1.4 miles round trip) in Big Bend Ranch State Park (it adjoins Big Bend NP on the west). It a nice slot canyon / dry riverbed that drains into the Rio Grande - basically level with some larger step downs and pools of water as you get nearer to the Rio Grande.
Continuing on to Big Bend NP, there were lots of Texas Bluebonnets and other wildflowers on the roadside. We arrived just in time to stop in the main Ranger Station (which closes at 6) at Panther Junction - the ranger station in the Chisos Basin closes at 4. We then proceeded to the basin, checked in and watched the sunset.
The next morning we did the Windows hike (5.2- 5.6 miles roundtrip, 1000 ft elevation loss / gain) which had been recommended to us by both Schoolmarm and Texasbookworm (many thanks). It was a marvelous morning hike to a drainage window that cuts through the mountains surrounding the basin with great vistas through the window. The Texas mountain laurels and Mexican buckeyes were blooming - we really liked the Mexican buckeyes - they have wonderful rosy purple blooms - I am hoping that I can find one to plant in my yard in Las Cruces.
After we got back from the hike, we headed to the visitor center in Castolon, down by the river (elevation ~ 2100') where we ate lunch - our trusty P&Js. From there we drove further along the river to the trailhead for the hike into Santa Elena canyon. Basically the Rio Grande follows along at the base of the 1500 ' high Sierra Ponce cliffs for several miles and then makes an abrupt 90 degree turn, cutting through the mountains via a deep narrow gorge - the Santa Elena canyon. There is a 0.7 mile (one way) trail into the canyon on the riverbank between the river and the canyon wall - eventually the river and the canyon wall meet - the end of the trail. Again this was a marvelous short hike, with a fair number of people coming and going on the hike (stroll). The shoreline and the trail were very sandy and for days afterwards we were shaking sand out of our Keen sandals.
Afterwards, we drove back to the basin, stopping at a few overlooks, hiking down the .25 miles to the old buildings of the Homer Wilson Ranch, checking out the wildflowers. DH kept pointing out a purple bush - but by the time he pointed it out - we were already by it.
Eventually we stopped so I could get a better look- and when I looked at it, the word Dalea came to mind - sure enough when we got back to the Ranger Station we found out it was a feather dalea. I have no idea how I knew it was a Dalea.
Well this is all for now - I am a slow typist and am at the limits of my attention span - later more on the day long hike to the south rim and the return trip through Ft Davis.
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