Big Bend: Dry, dusty and hot
After three days in Big Bend National Park, Texas, we had seen enough scorched earth, rocks, cactus and desert heat and broke camp today, driving to Alpine, Texas to visit the nearby funky town of Marfa and hopefully fix the tow-car air-conditioning.
Big Bend was not a disappointment but day after day was more of the same. We had expected more, not sure what, but maybe we missed something. The scenery hardly changed from one location to another.
An overlook of the Rio Grande River and artwork, purchased on the honor system, left on a rock for visitors to Big Bend National Park.
First time visitors to one of the nation’s largest and among the least visited National Parks, should be prepared for the stark landscape and heat–even in April when we visited. Nights were nice and cool but by noon the temperature was hovering near the 100 degree mark every day and climbing. Don’t expect an afternoon rain shower to cool things a bit because it only rains here about 12-13 inches annually. Ain’t gonna happen.
It didn’t help that the air conditioning quit on our tow car the day we arrived. Sightseeing was comfortable in the morning without the cool air but unbearable mid-day and afternoon . The nearest mechanic was 100 miles away in Fort Stockton so we left the park and spent afternoons in the RV under Winnebago air.
The main national park campground supports RV’s and the facility is nice although somewhat tight. There’s a store for food and camping supplies at the campground and the Rio Grande River and the Republic of Mexico are within walking and wading distances. There are walking trails nearby.
A black hawk keeps watch over a nearby nest.
We camped at Stillwell Grocery, about eight miles north of the park boundary which has full camping services, including internet, but no cell phone connection. We paid the campground office a small fee to use their landline to make reservations tomorrow at Maverick RV Resort, Lajitas, TX. The hour ride to Lajitas took us through a different section of Big Bend with dramatic mountain scenery and some flat terrain and canyons on smooth paved roads.
Also, only the main roads are paved in the park. Side roads are all dirt or gravel.
RVers looking for a fancy place to stay will enjoy Maverick RV Resort. The entire community is part of one large development that includes a hotel, golf course, upscale restaurant and shopping. Martha noted in her trip journal that this place is so nice it almost seems out of place. The campground cost $45 a night but comes with full hookup which is hard to find in this part of Texas.
Unusual rock formations inside Big Bend National Park.
Early the next morning, mindful that we have no air conditioning in the tow car, we took a short drive on Highway 170 toward Presidio, TX. The highway follows the Rio Grande River which in some areas is not much wider than a creek and very shallow. Wading across the border here would not take much of an effort. There is no sign of civilization on the Mexico side of the river, other than a few grazing cows. Not far from town is an International Airport sign, which reflects the clientele the resort attracts. We could not see the airport for the mountains.
We are on the edge of the Big Bend National Park and frustrated with the heat and lack of air conditioning in the car and no mechanic within miles. Did I say it is really dry here? The only green spot is at the resort golf course where green grass greens and fairways stick out like a sore thumb, and this afternoon no golfers willing to challenge the heat.
Camping at Lajitas, TX., just outside Big Bend National Park, Texas.
There’s no economy here to speak of that we can see. Jobs are mostly clerical positions at the resort. The landscape mirrors areas of the national park–flat, hilly, dry, knee-high bushes, no trees and dead grass. Local residents are living in old school buses, trailers and shacks cobbled together with scrap lumber. Not sure some of the houses have electricity or running water.
We packed up the next morning and drove to Fort Davis where we will spend a couple nights and check out the small town for an air-conditioning expert.
NEXT: Marfa, TX., “Capital of Quirkiness.”
A roadrunner struts across the parking lot at Big Bend National Park Visitors Center. The roadrunner is the Texas state bird.