THE BEAUTY OF BIG BEND

Much as we love trains and faraway haunting train horns,  there is a limit. Trains rolled through Marathon all night long right across from our barren campground at the Marathon Motel and RV Park. Each one sounded three long piercing whistles that blasted through Phred’s normally soundproof walls to give us a totally broken up night’s sleep or lack thereof. Nevertheless, we headed out fairly early on Thursday, January 16th, for Big Bend National Park named for the bend in the Rio Grande River which forms the southern border of the Park and the northern border of Mexico.

After a leisurely drive from Marathon, we reached Big Bend, the only National Park that encompasses an entire mountain range, the Chisos Mountains. This is where Charlie finally saw her first roadrunner, but it wasn’t running so she kept looking, but saw only the road, not another roadrunner. There were plenty of other sights that were more interesting than the road, so giving up on the roadrunner, we watched the landscape DSCN2216 across desert flatlands, DSCN2217 up cliffs that date back millions of years, and DSCN2221 beyond to the mountains. Upon reaching Panther Junction, we headed west to the Rio Grande Village RV Park which is the only full hook-up campground in the 800,000 acre park.

We though the cliffs behind the campground were spectacular DSCN2224 until the sun started to set. Then we knew what spectacular really was. DSCN2226 As the sky darkened and the moon rose, we tried to capture the splendor of that sight DSCN2235 and while these are not the best photos, DSCN2241they are the best we could capture since our tripod was under Gina’s bed.

Friday morning we headed to the eastern most exit past buttes and balancing rocks DSCN2242 to visit the ghost town of Terlingua. Want to see a sign we passed en route? DSCN2244 Not a stopping place for us.

Terlingua actually was a thriving mining town which lived on for a while after the mine closed. Some hardy souls still live here, DSCN2245 lots of homes are available, DSCN2254 the Starlight Theatre still serves dinner and has live music but not at lunchtime, DSCN2246 and rafting tours down the Rio Grande start here. It is not quite a ghost town since it has an internet cafe, DSCN2252 but close.DSCN2260

As we set out for the State Park, we began looking for a restaurant (per usual.) Given our surroundings, we didn’t expect to find more than a hamburger joint or a taco stand. It was a total shock to find the Badlands Hotel  DSCN2272which is actually an elegant resort  DSCN2264with a golf course and gourmet restaurant. The dinner menu was extremely expensive and extensive, the lunch menu neither. Our hamburgers were among the best we ever ate and the setting was beautiful. DSCN2269

Next stop, the State Park along the Rio Grande River.And stop is the right word. Please note that the river is the border with Mexico which we think of as a barrier to enter the U.S. DSCN2276 Maybe not. 

After several blind curves on top of blind hilltops, approaching the”Big Hill” we decided to stop, make a u-turn and go back past Terlingua and north to Alpine. We were stopped by the border patrol who asked how many people were in Phred and when we said two, he let us pass. We must look honest.

 We found the Lost Alaskan RV Park in Alpine – really lost but a great campground with wonderful hosts. We had a yen for ice cream (again no surprise), so the hosts sent us to the Murphy Street Raspa Co. where Gina had a sundae and Charlie had a root beer float. Murphy Street used to be a main drag along the railroad track in Alpine and is now in the process of being restored. The Murphy St. Raspa Co. is a little bit of everything fun: ice cream, candies, crayons, toys, baubles, wall hangings, and a wonderful owner who loves to talk about the town. The ice cream was our dinner (watching our girlish figures so we skipped the rest of the meal) and then we settled in Phred for the night.

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