May 14, 2022 Study Butte, TX Day 5

We set the alarm for 7 AM, but Bob woke up first at 6:30 and got me up at 7:00. We were planning another day in Big Bend National Park. This is the part of the trip I’ve been waiting for. To see the canyon and the “big bend” in the Rio Grande River where the park gets its name. We wanted to make our drive and hike today in the cooler hours of the day. We were ready to go by 8:30. The temp was 71 degrees when we left. It was the coolest morning temp we’ve had so far. We started out on the same road that we’ve taken for the last 2 days. Today the entrance station that was manned, I guess because it was Saturday. We used our Lifetime Senior Pass to enter for free. There was a short line to enter the park, so we were gone in no time. We had to stop again for construction, but this time the line was a bit longer. Our friendly flag lady was up ahead, but we were the 14th in line so we couldn’t chat with her today. After 3 minutes, we were on the move again and as we passed her, we waved and wished her a “good morning”. We turned off of the main road after 13 miles headed for Santa Elena Canyon. Santa Elena Canyon is one of the most spectacular canyons in the park. It spans the border and its south canyon wall towers above Mexico.

This was a new stretch of road for us and new scenery.

The road took us deep into the canyon.

Then we went up and over the mountain to the top.

From there we could see the valley below. The sky was clear, but it was a little hazy in the distance. We made our descent slowly, taking in the view, as we made our way slowly down to the river.

We got our first view of the tall canyon walls cut by the Rio Grande River. It was a long wall that went on for miles and miles. They don’t need a fence or Border Patrol in this area here.

We passed the village of Castolon which we would check out on our drive back. We finally reached the bottom of the valley where we saw this collection of a bright, white substance.

Bob said it was like it flowed down from somewhere and looked like a snowdrift.

We finally reached the old river bed with the wall looming before us. We finally got a picture of Trump’s “wall”. He sure knows how to build them. LOL!

The “notch” or Santa Elena Canyon came into view which is where we were headed. This is where the Rio Grande River cuts through the wall to create the canyon.

It got more impressive the closer we got.

The trail that we were attempting to take today enters between the walls of the Santa Elena Canyon and ends where the cliffs meet the Rio Grande River. The walls of the canyon rise 1500 ft. from the banks of the Rio Grande River. This is what we came to Big Bend National Park for. The Santa Elena Canyon is one of Big Bend’s most beautiful canyons. It is 30 feet wide at its narrowest and 19 miles long.

The face of the canyon was formed by the Terlingua Fault, which is mostly covered in gravel. The deepest channel of the Rio Grande is the international boundary, with each half of this canyon protected by National Parks. The southern side belong to Canon de Santa Elena (Mexico) and the northern side is Big Bend National Park (USA).

When the river rises, it can make the trail impassable. Big Bend National Park lies in the Chihuahuan Desert, one of North America’s 4 major deserts. Big Bend refers to the U-turn the Rio Grande makes here defining the park boundary between the US and Mexico for 118 miles.

We arrived at the parking lot at 9:30 after a long 40-mile drive.

We got ready to hike the 1.4 miles (round trip) into the canyon with plenty of bottled water. The temp was 79 degrees, but the sun was warm.

The trail began on a boardwalk which brought us to the Terlingua River where we had to cross.

We had to cross this little bit of river without going onto the Mexico side. This is the “big bend” of the river. We found a piece of dry, cracked ground to walk on.

We had to climb a steep stairway up this rock to begin the hike on this trail. If you look real close, you can see people on the trail in the center of the picture just above the trees.

We saw this interesting lizard as we began our climb on the trail. He was about 8 inches long. We haven’t seen many animals in this area, so we got a little excited to see this guy.

There was a sign about the feathered beauties around the Rio Grande. I’d love to see one of these sometime.

I started up the stairs of the steep rock and Bob decided he just couldn’t do it with his fear of heights and so few railings, so I proceeded on alone. Bob would wait below for me.

When I got to a landing on the stairs, I stopped to take a look around at the river bed below me and the “Big Bend”.

This sign explained how the Rio Grande River has changed over time.

I climbed a little higher, then higher still and got a bigger view of the river bend.

I finally reached the top of the stairs and the area of the path where it leveled off. At that point, I began walking parallel to the river.

There was very little shade along the path, but when I found some, I rested. I had to climb down a few stairs at the other end to reach the river.

From where I stopped, I could not walk across the river bed to walk further into the canyon. Darn! I really wanted to walk further. On a rock on the other side of the river, I saw a nest of some kind.

Standing at the water’s edge, looking up, the canyon walls were TALL! 1500 feet tall! I rested there in the shade for awhile enjoying all the beauty around me. The canyon really made our voices echo.

After a few minutes, I started my walk back. By now it was hotter and I was drinking lots of water. I didn’t want to get dehydrated. I was 2/3 of the way back when my water supply was running low. I stopped 3 young men and asked them if they had any water to spare. They were very kind to fill up my water bottle for me so I could make it all the way back,. I knew Bob might be concerned or even mad that I was gone so long, so I pushed myself to get back as soon as I could. After all, this is why we came to Big Bend! I was almost back and from this vantage point, I could see Bob below. He had been waiting 45 minutes since we separated, so I could understand why he might be upset.

I finally made my way all the way down and was thankful to have had that extra water. We got back to the Jeep around 11:30 and the temp was only 86. It felt warmer than that, but we jumped into the Jeep, cranked up the AC, and I drank another bottle of water. We headed back the way we came, but made a stop at the Castolon Historic Area like we planned.

We discovered there were remnants of an Army post that had been there, including barracks, guard house, and corrals for the horses.

There were vacant buildings from a frontier trading post which is now a park concession store in the winter season.

There was even farm equipment left behind from the farmers (Mexicans and Anglos), who lived and farmed on both sides of the river in the fertile flood plain.

As I’ve said before, the ride back in the other direction can offer some different views.

Going this direction, we got a great view of the Mule Ears.

We stopped at the Sotol Vista where we had a western view of the Santa Elena Canyon.

It is named after the Sotol plant, which is in the asparagus family and native to Mexico. They were plentiful in this area.

This cool boulder caught my eye. The hole was caused by erosion from water swirling around inside it.

The drive back was winding and long, but there was still lots to look at.

We had to stop for construction again for a couple of minutes and then we moved on. We saw our favorite flag lady for the last time today and beeped and waved goodbye. We got back around 12:30 and just relaxed. Bob did a lot of driving today and I did some hiking, so we just took it easy. I worked on my blog from yesterday to try and get caught up and then on today’s entry. Bob took care of some Co-op business. We enjoyed cocktails before dinner and made an adjustment to our itinerary. We wanted to leave here a day early on Monday and add that additional day to our Carlsbad Caverns, NM stay. We traveled a lot of miles today and climbed 4200 ft. We have one more day tomorrow before we leave on Monday. We will have covered most of the park in the 6 days we’ve been here and have enjoyed our stay (except for that dust storm on Terrible Tuesday). Texas has been good to us.

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