We had been planning this trip for about a year now - well actually Cindy does the planning because she's good at it - and were almost thwarted by the bozos in DC threatening another government shutdown a couple of days before we were supposed to leave. Cindy's research indicated a good time to go would be in February due to the weather at that time of the year. She made reservations at the campground in Rio Grande Village in the park 6 months ahead of time to assure we would have a spot. It's a good thing she did, because the campgrounds were full the entire time we were there.
We left home on February 12 and took 3 days to get to Big Bend, making stops at state parks along the way. We got to our camp site late afternoon on the 14th and just chilled the rest of the day. A nature trail leads from the campground and we did take it to try to catch a sunset. Below are a shot of our camp site and the sunset we saw.
|camp site 89 - our home for the next 2 weeks|
|sunset on day 1|
We picked the Lost Mine Trail in the Chisos Mountains as our first full day hike since the forecast highs in the lower elevations were to be in the high 80's. This trail is 4.8 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 1100'. The reviews said there would be excellent views and the birding would be good. We knew before we left home that we had a chance of adding some new birds to our life list and couldn't wait to begin looking!
Parking is limited at this trail head, so we got there early and had no trouble finding a spot. It wasn't very long after we hit the trail that we got our first new bird - a Mexican Jay! It's not a great shot, but it still counts. Very soon after that we pointed the cameras at some movement in the trees and fired away at what turned out to be a Black-crested Titmouse which is very similar to the Tufted Titmouse we have at home here.
Big Bend NP is part of the Chihuahuan Desert, but don't let the term desert fool you. The park is full of life and the plants and animals within are amazing. The Lost Mine Trail offers a great sampling of the plants and trees of the desert mountains which include different cacti, native grasses, yuccas, oak and juniper trees. We were hoping to see some wildflowers on this trip also, but many of the plants are still dormant at this time of year. We did manage to see a few though! Below is a small sampling of some of the plants along the trail. Big Bend is home to 3 different kinds of agave. The first picture below is the Havard Agave (Agave havardiana) which must be amazing when it blooms. The 2nd picture is a Lechugilla (Agave lecheguilla) which is the indicator plant of the Chihuahuan Desert. It is found in all portions of the Chihuahuan Desert from Texas and New Mexico to south central Mexico, but not found anywhere else. The last is the first flower we saw, but the plant is actually a flowering shrub - Bigelow's Bristlehead (Carphochaete bigelovii)
About a mile into the hike, the views started getting good and got better as we switchbacked up the mountain.
A short spur trail leads out to the view in the last shot above. Another couple was already at the end and as we waited for them to clear out, our 3rd new bird of the day appeared - a Greater Roadrunner! We were really hoping to see one of these and we ended up seeing several on the trip.
The trail got steeper as we continued up and the views got better. The next shot is a trail shot looking back at a group of hikers that was closing in on us, and the 2nd one looks back towards the Chisos Basin and The Window which is another excellent hike we did on another day,
By the time we reached the top, the wind had really picked up and it was tough holding on to our hats - and camera gear. The views were absolutely outstanding, though. We met a man who was painting and I don't know how he managed to hold on to all of his stuff. This hike really set the tone for just how excellent this trip would turn out to be. Below are 3 shots from the top. You can see the man painting in the far left of the 1st shot.