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  • Writer's picturePaul Depperschmidt

Big Bend - Texas

It may not be as remote as the moon, but it is in the same zip code... Big Bend is not a place you accidentally stumble upon. It is a hike to get there, but so worth it. The closest serious town is Alpine, 85 miles away. There is a huge National Park and a State Park just as big right down the road. In this area you are right on the Rio Grande and across the river is Mexico. We elected to stay in Lajitas. It is essentially a golf resort with a goat for a mayor. No seriously.... A real goat. The airport was very accommodating and let me keep the trailer there through our stay. I was really looking forward to flying in the area, but on pre-flight inspection found that the muffler on the plane had broken. That's the way it goes sometimes. Lajitas is a dark sky town, so after 9:00 all lights should be out. The effect is amazing as there are stars that I never knew existed. You can actually see the Milky Way easily. Sorry for no pictures other than the moon. I have to work on my night camera skills.

A little way west on 170 there is the State Park, some beautiful views and great little hikes. This was the road our GPS navigator in the coach wanted us to take to get to Lajitas. Not likely... This is a winding up and down road with no shoulder not suited for our 75' circus. But great for the Jeep. We had a hike at Closed Canyon. This is a slot canyon where millions of years of water cut through to the Rio Grande. We had it all to ourselves and Nellie even got to go. She absolutely loved it. Not the kind of place you want to be when it rains.....

A trip to the area is not complete without visiting the nightlife in Terlingua down the road from Lajitas. A must see is the Starlight Theatre. This was originally an old theatre that sat abandoned for years. Over time the roof fell in leaving only the walls. Someone had a bright idea to use it as a place for parties and dancing under the stars. Years later it was completely enclosed and became a restaurant and bar. We met with the singer they had hired for the night as he plopped down at our table. Turns out he is legally blind and came down from Amarillo to play that night. Quite a character.

And right down the road is the La Kiva (Cave Bar). It's just like it sounds. And the bar is quite unique. It has been there for quite some time, burrowed in to the banks of a creek.

But the big attraction of the area is the National Park itself. It is huge and very remote. On our way to Santa Elena Canyon there was the remnants of a Ranger Station that had burned down recently when a fire that began in Mexico jumped the river. The pictures below show some of its history of Texas Rangers and an area that used to host early Air Force pilots on long cross country training.

Our big hike for the first day was in Santa Elena Canyon. The Rio Grande cuts through solid walls of rocks. On the other side, Mexico. No need for a border wall here. You can see how remote by looking at the first picture. That notch in the distance is the canyon. Nellie got some bad news right away. She was sad to read that no dogs were allowed on the trail. So she guarded the Jeep as we toured the canyon. We almost abandoned the whole hike when faced with the initial climb of the trail. Due to some high water the only entrance was scaling the side of the river bank. It was almost straight up and down with not much to hold on to. Once that was mastered the rest was easy. There were stairs built in the sides of the canyon that were easy to navigate. The views in the canyon were stunning and well worth the effort to go as far as possible.

The next day we were feeling salty and decided to head to the Lost Mine Trail. This is a trail that was mostly up with a lot of switchbacks. While only 4.6 miles round trip, it is not for the faint of heart as it goes up 1300ft. We were proud to be the oldest people by far we saw on the trail that day. It was quite the hike, but the views were amazing.

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