Of course we didn't get on the road as soon as we would have liked but we didn't run into any traffic cutting through the DFW airport, down SH 360 and then out I-20. It was pretty much pedal to the metal all the way. Last year we stopped in Odessa and got groceries but this year we got up early and stocked up the coolers before we left town so we didn't have that stop to make. Good thing because we wanted a primitive site at BBNP and you had to be at the park before 6pm to get a permit in person. I knew it would be close. We hit Monahans at 3:15pm and then dropped down Hwy 18. As we blew through Ft Stockton, we got a cell signal and called the park. They confirmed we had to be there in person and we couldn't camp at a site without a permit. Soooooo, we pressed on. Judging by the sign mileage we saw along the way, we would be about 10 minutes late! If you've ever been to BBNP, you know the speed limit is 45 on their roads. Well, when we hit park border, my car just refused to drop its' speed. I kept looking up for airplanes and as best I know, there weren't any looking for me! We hit the Panther Junction Hdqtrs at 5:55pm. Fortunately, the ranger on duty was the one my sister had talked to and as soon as we walked in, she just knew who we were! After several minutes of discussion on sites since our 1st choice wasn't available, we got our permit and headed out to Grapevine Hills Site #2.
Here's a couple pictures of the headquarters and a reverse view looking away from the building.
Our site was 3.8 miles off the road. When we pulled up, we faced our first disappointment of the trip. I guess we were too tired and didn't hear the ranger say how this was located right next to GH site #3! But fortunately during our stay, nobody moved in! We only saw 4 cars the entire time we were at the site, 3 of them in one day going back to the Grapevine Hills Trail trailhead. That was the same day we did the hike, so we didn't see them after that. We had a great view of the Christmas Mtns (I think that's what these mtns are called!) and the stars at night - OMG!!! The best I've seen there. My sister had an ipad with a star app. You hold it up and the gps fixes on the stars you're holding the pad up to. Pretty cool I thought. It allowed us to 'see' some constellations that we wouldn't have been aware of otherwise. And the Milky Way - oh boy! It was so evident and you could see enough of it that it curved with the earth. That might have been one of my favorite things at this park.
Here's a few pictures of the GHT trailhead and scenery. This trail is fairly easy until you get to the last 250 meters. Then you need to be a billygoat!
If you look at the upper middle, you'll see a sign, kinda rusty looking. That lets you know the 'climb' is about to start!
Here we are at the top of the climb, just below the famous 'Balanced Rock'. My sister is sitting and I'm standing behind her. I tell you we did not plan our outfits! We walked out of our tents that morning, both of us wearing our Dundee, MI Cabelas t-shirts and red hats. She's a big Reds fan.
Looking out back beyond the balanced rock.
More looking beyond the rock.
It just keeps going and going!
Last one looking out the back
OK, THIS is the last one! Notice there is another 'balanced' rock!
Looking back toward the trailhead
This little critter was hanging onto that rock for dear life! I saw 3 different types of lizards on this trip, 2 here at BiBe.
We had tons of room at the campsite. As in years past, we each had our own tents, mine a 10x9 footprint and my sister's a 10x8. We had the EZ-up for shade and a table to put the stove on and to eat from. We were so tired the 1st night we got there that we didn't put the EZ-Up up until the next morning. I confess for the 2nd year in a row, we could not get the dang thing up without cursing and laughing like lunatics. My sister said she's seen people put them up at kids' sports games in like 3 minutes. Guess we just like to make a major event out of it. Finally after being smarter that the shelter, it was up. But...we didn't like where it was so we moved it to just beyond the car stops in the parking area. Used the stakes provided and then added some big rocks on each pole foot. We drop the shelter down for a low profile when we're gone and this year, we realized we could stand up under that canopy with it down so we never raised it up after the first time! My apologies, we took the tents and EZ-up down before I took any pictures. I think eveyone knows what all that looks like! Here's the site.
While every night was clear as a bell, it got windier than all get out during the morning hours. The 1st morning the wind blew hard enough to pull out a rainfly stake on my tent. That got me up at 4am trying to corral the rainfly and get it re-staked. When I was at BB in 2004, I thought it was windy but I mean our tents were rockin'. No storms, just wind. We got up about 7:30 am each morning. There was a very low cloud deck each day but before long, it was clear and sunny. Temps during the day maybe high 70s/low 80s with a gentle breeze. Sleeping temps at night were very moderate. One night I put a 2nd blanket on.
Here's a BB sunrise
On our first day, we did the GH Trail in the late morning, came back for a late lunch. While digesting our food, my sister said she really wanted to see Santa Elena Canyon since she didn't get to see it last year due to a lot of water over the road and me having a low-clearance vehicle. So, we jumped in the car and headed out. We stopped along the way at this formation, Cerro Castalon. The layers reflect volcanic events.
We also saw a lot of photographers with some very long lenses! I was not embarassed whipping out my Nikon Coolpix 4600 but I was a bit envious of their gear. Not sure, judging by some of my pictures, I don't know how to operate my camera, let along try something complex! It took me a minute but I realized they were waiting for the sun to go down and take a picture of that. Unfortunately we didn't get close enough to take a decent picture but it was so pretty, pink, bathed in the setting sun.
We made it to SEC with a fair amount of daylight. We both enjoyed the sunlight streaming into the canyon. Not quite enough time to hike out the trail for a closer look but I still like this picture.
We took the road to the day use area. Some nice picnic shelters and a ramp leading to the river. Restrooms as well.
Saw this cutie by the river's edge. It let me get pretty close!
And lastly, a view of the river by the banks
Our second day was pretty much like the first, sunny, mild temps with a gentle breeze. This day's objective was hiking the Window Trail.
Going into the Chisos Basin
We started from the trailhead across from site 50 and the restrooms.
This hike is down first then up on the way out.
We did see a tarantula! Something new to add to our list of critters. Sorry, picture is blurry! While I was photographing this, a couple coming out told us how they had driven over one the day before that was so big it actually crunched under their tire. Eeewwww!
This was taken on the way out. I marveled at how much work it must have taken to build this trail.
The end of the road, er, trail, at the pouroff. I guess both my sister and I were both disappointed at the view. We thought we'd see a more expansive panorama view but that stupid formation in front kinda blocks everything.! But the hike was fun and we saw lots of cool scenery so it was not a total loss.
There had been some rain recently so we saw several pools full and even the Oak Spring had water flowing through it. Not too far from the pouroff is a sign for Oak Spring Trail. I think it will take you another 2 miles and is fairly strenuous. At the end of that trail is supposedly another trail to Cattail Falls. I don't think they put that on any of the BBNP maps anymore. If anyone knows differently, speak up!
I saw this little guy sunning himself. Notice the cool colors! Can you make out the turquoise blue?! This one is definitely different than the one I saw on the GHT.
This is a view of Casa Grande as we climbed back up. I think the elevation change was about 800 feet. Seemed like more!
Look in the middle of the picture left of the rock - there's what I think is a grasshopper. But it had some wild colors! We saw some type of hopping/flying bug that was black but when it flew, the underneath side of it was red. That was kinda cool!
Last picture for the Window Trail - there was a beautiful (limestone?) block retaining wall. Again I wondered at the labor involved to build that.
After the hike, we did some dishes we'd been hoarding and then went back to camp. We got cleaned up (spit bath and washed our hair) and headed into Terlingua for dinner at the Starlight Theater Restaurant. I had a great prickly pear margarita with some chicken-fried antelope (same as last year!) while my sister had a regular margarita with Don Julio tequila and pork tenderloins in a reduction of chipotle and red wine - a little kick at the end! While there, we ran into a family we met on the GHT trails, so we treated them to dessert. Fun time had by all!
After another night of wild winds, we woke to a cloudy sky that quickly turned to sunshine and warmed things up. We ate breakfast, packed up camp and got on the road. Saw this huge red-tailed hawk perched in a tree on our way out of the park. We also saw a coyote but it was too quick to snap a picture. Our first coyote - yeah!
After we left the park we headed up Hwy 118 and were off to Alpine to do another round of grocery shopping. I think Alpine's a cool little town. We shopped at a Porter's grocery store and it was pretty darn nice for a small town. Loaded up and headed up to Guadalupe Mtns Natl Park. We wanted to get there before it was dark.
Ok, that's it for now. I'm too pooped to do anymore! Part 2 will continue tomorrow with the tale of Guadalupe Peak!