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Trip: Big Bend


Enjoying the peace and tranquility

Hiking Big Bend National Park 2012

October 27 - November 3, 2012
Marianne Page

When most people hear the word “Texas” they do not immediately think “mountains.” But those familiar with Big Bend National Park are well aware of the rugged Chisos Mountains running across the Lone Star state’s most-visited National Park. So when I proposed this trip because Carl R. had not run it in several years, the outing quickly filled with desert hiking enthusiasts and those who want to visit all US National Parks.

What makes a successful excursion? A key ingredient is participants who not only look forward to hiking with a group in an area they are excited to get to know, but are equally eager to work together towards that end. It also helps if the group is flexible, like our Big Bend trippers who readily embraced a change in plans after a local suggested we add a hike in the Big Bend State Park to our itinerary.

No wonder this was the best excursion my co-leader and I have enjoyed in quite some time in terms of “people-chemistry,” big scenery, climate and hiking experience. We even had a full moon dazzle us is as it rose over “The Window” and set in the pink and blue sky of a dawn.

Speaking of flexibility, another surprise we experienced was the sunrise: we’d planned to start our hiking days at 7 am in order to make the most of cool mornings. Well, somebody forgot to inform the sun about our schedule! Not until 7:45 did we have enough light to assemble without headlamps. As it turned out, hot temperatures were not a concern. In fact, even with the 45 minute “delay” to our days, hiking temps were perfect.

Aside from the fantastic trails, highlights of our excursion included accommodations in the Chisos Mountains Lodge, the only place to stay in the National Park due to long drives to the trailheads from anywhere beyond its boundaries. And the only word to describe this surprising mountain chain in Big Bend and across the Rio Grande in Mexico is “awesome.” For some, the highlight was a canoe trip on the Rio Grande with guides who treated us to a soak in two hot springs along the river. And celebrating Halloween with a dinner at Terlingua’s fabled “Starlight Café”—with everyone dressed in costume—was perfect. I could go on and on about the trip’s many delights, but one thing is certain: I will surely return to Big Bend National Park.

What makes a successful excursion? Despite all the planning, screening, talking to participants and endless emails, once on board the truth is in the mix as you meet and bond as a group.

Feedback/Questions: Marianne Page
(all photos copyright © by Marianne Page)



Big Bend

Arrival at El Paso airport
Saturday, October 27, 2012


Big Bend

Marfa is an Artist's heaven!
The Town Hall and Palace movie theater.
October, 28, 2012


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10 AM in Marfa, October 28, 2012
The Hotel Paisano is a Historical Landmark


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An Old Settement
October 28, 2012


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After a night’s sleep in Van Horn, a stop in Marfa and one for gas and food in Alpine - lunch at Sul Ross University, we arrive at Chisos Mountain Lodge with the Chisos’ Casa Grande mountain monolyth (7325 ft.) greeting us.
October 28, 2012


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A Big Bug, October 28, 2012


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Our group, still new to each other…
at ‘The Window’
October 28, 2012


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The Window
The Window, which is at 4,600 ft., is framed by Carter Peak, 5,688 ft. and Vernon Bailey Mountain.
October 28, 2012


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Take your pick…this is called "slick rock"
Looks like slippery ice! The Window...
October 28, 2012


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At The Window
The flash floods smooth the rock
October 28, 2012


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Stairs to The Window
The stonework which was constructed by the
CCC, The Civil Conservation Corps,
is visible all over the National Park!
(and perhaps too Civil-ized)
Sunday morning, October 28, 2012


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Dinner at the Lodge’s restaurant with setting sun.
Nate Church, George Schott (co-leader) and Ruth Bigio.
October 28, 2012


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Full Moon at the Window
backlit by the rising sun.
October 29, 2012


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Full Moon at the Window
backlit by the rising sun.
October 29, 2012


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Lost Mine Trail,
the second most popular hike in the park. This is a longer hike than The Window. It starts at an elevation of 5600 ft. and ends at 6850 ft.
Monday, October 29, 2012


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The whole group on Lost Mine Trail,
taken by a passing local videographer
October 29, 2012


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Another shot from the Lost Mine Trail, a gorgeous hike
Elephant Tusk is a famous landmark in the distance
Monday, October 29, 2012


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Panther Station with interpretive cacti trail,
maps and info center.
We are on our way to a Ranger talk down the road.
October 29, 2012


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Ranger chooses a cool spot to deliver his speech...
before venturing into the desert
October 29, 2012


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... and this is it…lots of history,
changes by nature and stories of fools
October 29, 2012


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Driving into the Boquillas Canyon
- at the end of Big Bend NP -
we see two lost souls
October 29, 2012


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Once a thriving exchange between Americans and Mexicans at and over the border..now but a forbidden memory since 9/11. Very disheartening for all in and around the park who have lived like family together.

This is all that remains of the once thriving community exchange... forbidden to buy, but who can resist to give a little?


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The mighty Rio Grande at this end of the park
and the Mexican border
October 29, 2012


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Social hour at Marianne and Ruth's place
Chisos Mountains Lodge
These two are best friends. They shared a week of hiking in the Grand Canyon before joining us for the Big Bend trip. Just 2 of the 14 happy campers ...



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The full moon with daylight at the Window is still
fascinatingly beautiful in colors!
On our way to Emory Peak via “The Pinnacles”
Tuesday, October 30, 2012


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Lovely meadows towards Emory Peak.
(Do you see the 2 mule deer in
“The Meadows”?)


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Pinnacle Trail to Emory Peak-view of Chisos Mountains Lodge
October 30, 2012
Copyright © Nathan Church


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Trail signs in Big Bend
October 30, 2012


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Deep valley along Emory Peak Trail
October 30, 2012


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Boot Canyon - see the boot?
October 30, 2012


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Our group before the last steep up to Emory Peak!
October 30, 2012


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and those CCC stonework steps...
much appreciated, even if a bit civilized!
October 30, 2012


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It does not look like much, but it was a scary propositon to climb to the peak!
Ruth on her way.
October 30, 2012


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Grace working her way up
with the other brave ones following.
Emory Peak
October 30, 2012


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Grace has made it.
Emory Peak, elevation 7832 ft.
October 30, 2012


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Emory Peak view... incredibly beautiful in its desert starkness
October 30, 2012


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Emory Peak view... Boqulllas Canyon in Mexico
October 30, 2012


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Paddling the Rio Grande
Always muddy, the flow varies due to run off from the Rockies, melting snow and demands for irrigation. Here it flows through open land.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012


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Swimming in the Rio Grande
We never expected to be floating down the Rio in our suits! Three chose to stem the strong current of the river. One lady in our group even dared to set foot on the Mexican side; she now can claim she's been to Mexico!
Wednesday, October 31, 2012


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Fun in the Hot Springs
It is a pleasure to take a dip in the hot springs of the Rio Grande, which run clear and sweet, but here the muddy river water mixes in.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012


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Hot Springs
Here, prior visitors have dug a hole and attempted to dam out the muddy Rio Grande.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012


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Shallow Water Ahead
... but also shade from the cliffs as the river carves along the sedimentary layers of the uplifting sea bed. Wednesday, October 31, 2012


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The scenery changed as we paddled down the Rio Grande -this is appropriately named the "Hot Springs Canyon". Our float through the Santa Elena Canyon turned to a canoe trip due to low water level of the river. We were disappointed first, but in awe as we maneuvered the changing river flow.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012


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Evening and dinner at the Starlight Theater
in Terlingua, TX on Halloween
This much loved entertainment and good food palace in Terlingua was recommended by several friends who are very familiar with and love Big Bend - we now are fans too!
A highlight of the trip.
October 31st, 2012


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Most of the group at dinner on Halloween.
October 31, 2012


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A retired pilot and his classically music trained wife entertained in the Starlight Theater to our delight. They worked the tables in their time-out, and that is how we learned they live at the house we passed on the way in with an airplane parked in the front yard!
October, 31, 2012


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This was our longest hike at 12.5 miles. The Pinnacles and Laguna Meadows Loop includes Emory Peak. We chose to break the loop up into two hiking days, the first of "Pinnacles" with the Emory Peak summit, this one of Laguna Meadows to the spectacular South Rim. It turned out to be a perfect choice for our hikers.
These are the "Pinnacles", elevation 7100 ft, viewed from Laguna Meadows Trail.
November 1, 2012


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History along the Laguna Meadows Trail
November 1st, 2012


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Taking a break on the Laguna Meadows Trail
This is what the trail looks like and how we managed to stay well hydrated hiking in the desert
with co-leader George Schott.
Desert flora - grasses and trees.
November 1, 2012


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Laguna Meadows to South Rim - Big Bend
Rest and stories along the Laguna Meadows Trail.
Gorgeous blue sky over Pinnacle Rock and Greenery of Big Bend.
November 1, 2012


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The South Rim - Scenic High Point
What more can be said then... it is a spectacular scenic view from the South Rim in such weather!
This is where we had lunch and did not want to leave.
November 1, 2012


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South Rim vastness - Big Bend
This spot took my breath away...its ruggedness seems endless, inviting backcountry exploration.
November 1, 2012


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South Rim - Laguna Meadows hike
Just enjoying the peace and tranquility in nature at this time. What a treat!
November 1, 2012


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Laguna Meadows Trail beyond South Rim
Elephant Tusk is still visible from the edge of the Northeast Rim Trail - and that's where we turned back towards Laguna Meadows and our lodge.
November 1, 2012


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Laguna Meadows Trail
The meadow and shady tree invite a quick nap...Mary and Don
November 1, 2012


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Almost back to the lodge..Laguna Meadows hike
George (Schott, co-leader) takes this last picture of the day for posterity. All had a great hiking day with the strength to finish with a smile and gratitude for this experience. Cheers!
November 1, 2012
Copyright © George Schott


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Friday at Big Bend Ranch State Park
After an exciting drive out of Big Bend into Big Bend Ranch - we experience the beauty of this Texas State Park. The canyon views snatched as we drove roller coaster on this most scenic highway of Texas, were brief, as there are no pull-outs going in. The Ranger suggested an alternate to the highly recommended HooDoos trail in the narrow of canyons, because of high water! Second best trail is this Overlook Trail off the highway. We enjoyed a walk along the river, exploring among the hoo doos and over the hillside. Lunch under a canopy at 90 degrees was good too. But, we had to run....El Paso and a farewell dinner are waiting for us.
November 2, 2012


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Big Bend Ranch State Park hoodoos and the Rio Grande
Border between USA and Mexico
A completely different look of canyon and hoodoos. Even a short walk requires a bottle of water to take along...it's hot out here.
November 2, 2012


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Just a majestic Texas scene
November 2, 2012


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"The Girls" on the knoll
November 2, 2012


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Big Bend Ranch State Park
One cannot help but feel insignificant in this wild, open country of Big Bend Ranch State Park. An unplanned side trip until we met a local on a hike in the Big Bend National Park, who was so enthused, she convinced us to change our minds from Davis Mountains to this state park. It says "come back"!
November 2, 2012


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Rio Grande of US and Mexico
So close...and yet so far...not here at Big Bend State Park!
November 2, 2012


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The most unusual "Installation"
out in the wilderness of a Texas State Highway.
This trio ventured out to capture the craziness of a strange and wonderful artists collaboration along the highway. How can you not stop and take a picture, or have one taken?
Marfa, an artists town, is not far away
November 2, 2012


Big Bend

Railroad and Davis Mountains…on the way to El Paso
Even though we should not linger, we cannot resist taking pictures of PRADA and the railroad, straight as an arrow, as the highway is too.
That's why the speed limit is set at 85!
The Davis Mountains we exchanged for Big Bend Ranch, are in the distance.
November 2, 2012


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Wildlife in the Wilderness with a Fence
Move over Prada, I am drawn to these beasts of the open country. A sign of ranching for sure. They graze right next to the installation along the highway - and make strange bedfellows of art.
November 2, 2012


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Our farewell dinner Texas style in El Paso.
It's been grand. The group is happy, satisfied and ready to fly home. Everything really is big in Texas! Until next time...thank you.
November 2, 2012

This was an AMC Adventure Travel Trip
led by Marianne Page
an AMC-NH Chapter Excursions Leader

All images Copyright © by the photographer

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