Days 2 and 3 of our visit to Big Bend National Park found us wandering from the park’s west side to its east side to visit iconic canyons on both sides, as well as a small, but nonetheless charming, canyon in the middle. No hike was over two miles (round-trip), the weather cooperated wonderfully, and the scenery was excellent. As were libations and meals at the Chisos Mountains Lodge (never underestimate the small pleasures of having to neither cook nor wash your own dishes). Plus there were more menu choices than ramen and tuna (or tuna and ramen). 😉
Santa Elena Canyon
A short (1.6 miles round-trip) trail took us from a paved parking area into stunning Santa Elena Canyon – where the Rio Grande River has carved its way through 1,500 feet of limestone strata. Trail guides rightly indicate that the necessary (but un-bridged) crossing of Terlingua Creek is not possible when the creek floods. However, the guides often fail to mention that crossing the creek where the trail meets it might also be impossible due to the incredibly thick and sticky mud on the creek’s bottom. We got around the creek’s sucking mud by going upstream until it petered-out, then made our way cross-country back to the paved steps on the official trail. From there we continued into the canyon until the canyon walls squeezed us almost into the river.
Diminutive Tuff Canyon runs alongside the Russ Maxwell Scenic Drive just outside of Castolon. It was formed when Blue Creek cut through a layer of bluish-white, welded volcanic ash (“tuff”). A short trail at the south end of the parking lot took us down into the canyon and then we ambled up and back along the drainage for less than a mile. A short, but scenic, little hike.
Boquillas Canyon is on the east side of the park, almost directly opposite Santa Elena Canyon. A short trail took us from the parking to the top of a cliff overlooking the Rio Grande. From there we continued down to the river’s edge and into the canyon until the trail was pinched-off between the canyon wall and the river. As we were leaving the trailhead, a gentleman went by on a horse and on up the trail. From the cliff overlook, we watched him swim the horse across the shallow Rio Grande and into Mexico (later we would see him do the same thing with a string of horses). This certainly says something about the historic porosity of the southern border. That absurd wall is going to need water wings here. 🙄HOME