Have you ever been to Big Bend? OMGoodness, it is something to see. It’s about a 4 hour drive from us through mostly flatish, boring, desert type country, but once we got there….ooooo, eeeee.
We booked a res with the Chisos Mountain Lodges in their Roosevelt Stone Cottages. You can’t beat the location, location, location….or the views here. This is a photo of our cottage (#104) from their website:
Some are single cottages; ours was a duplex. It had a mini-fridge, microwave, and coffee pot (with coffee, sugar, creamer packets – just like a modern motel), a private bathroom with a single stall shower (even shampoo and bodywash dispensers). There was Wi-Fi available, but no phone signal. It was very clean and comfortable (but small double beds). There was a little wall heater if it got chilly, but no air conditioning. All of the windows had screens on them and the windows opened to let in the breeze, which was totally sufficient for our May stay. There was no tv, no phone service, and the Wi-Fi was spotty, but there were games available for rent at the check-in desk. We borrowed their National Parks edition Scrabble game. It was the only one of the choices I figured I had half a shot of winning at against the husband, (and things were actually looking pretty good there for a while, but in the end he was the victor — big surprise). Being cut off from the outside world was a bit of an adjustment at first — but we decided, after getting used to it, it was kind of a perk. The wilderness is so quiet. So peaceful. So worth our undivided attention.
We got there just in time for the sunset.
Once the sun went down, the sky outside was full of stormy clouds, so there wasn’t any star-watching, which was sort of a bummer for me, having heard that the stars are something to see here.
The parking area for the stone cottages was full of cars, but our cottage was very quiet.
The next morning we awoke to clouds crashing into the mountain peaks and forcing their way into our camp. We made a pot of coffee, got dressed, and then headed to breakfast at the restaurant.
There was a full menu, but we decided the buffet was a good choice with scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, waffles, biscuits, gravy, and potatoes, also cold and hot cereals (oatmeal and grits) with all the toppings (brown sugar, raisins, craisins, nuts), and a cold section with yogurt, and various fruits.
The restaurant is open from about 7am (I believe) until 8pm, and everyone working there is friendly and hospitable. There is also a gift-shop and a little bar in the same building with a tv, in case you must know what’s going on in the world. The lodge also has a visitor’s center with all the info for the park. And right next door to that is a little convenience store with cold drinks and snacks and sundry items. Same hours as the restaurant.
After breakfast we set off on our drive. Just having the day we decided the number one must do was the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. As we meandered out of the lodge and down the winding road those rolling clouds that had been crashing in on us were settled into thick fog just down below. But, by the time we reached the Scenic Drive, the fog had lifted.
The desert in west Texas is covered with yucca stick blooms. They look like spears sticking out of the ground all over. Here I found some pretty yellow flowers with the yucca spears in the background. I think this was along the road to Terlingua, just before the turn onto the scenic drive.
The first amazing vista we came to on the scenic route was the Chisos mountains…actually this is the other side of those mountains where the sunset was from our cottage. It’s called “The Window” from the lodge side, I suppose because of the view of the setting sun that it grants every night, but it’s pretty darn pretty from this side during the day. The century plants (agave) with their towering blooms add to the brush to make it even more scenic. The park was very green and lush because of so much unusual rainfall this year.
The next stop along the road that drew our attention was the Sotol Vista Outlook. These are the pictures I took from that spot.
I’m amazed that they turned out so well, given all the cloud cover. Seeing this with the naked eye is so much more breathtaking than I could hope to capture in my little ameteur camera lense, but isn’t it gorgeous country?
And then making our way down further we came to the Mule Ears viewpoint. Hubbie and I thought it would be funny to put the mule ears on. Ha! But, like mother, like son, he got his thumb in the shot. Oh brother. It’s what I love about him. 🙂
And the last spot on the drive is….(drum roll please)….Santa Elena Canyon.
This is right along the banks of the Rio Grande. We were told there is about a 4-mile hiking trail along in here that is one of the best in the park. We didn’t have time or the energy for a 8-mile trek on this day, especially when the weather was teasing rain, but it is on the list for our next visit. Also, this is not a part of the country you want to get caught in during a downpour. They say that the water floods over the roads and travelers can be caught for hours waiting for the roadways to clear.
The Rio Grande looked low to us. We were told that the Mexicans hold the water back this time of year and then release it for their crops during the later summer months.
We lingered here for a while, and saw the most people here of anywhere else in the park, and then we turned around and followed our tracks back. We stopped as soon as we popped up on a high point and saw the amazing view of the Cuerro Castellan and Mule Ears Peaks. Isn’t it amazing?
Here….I’ll zoom it in for you. The cloudy skies make the Ceurro Castellan look purple.
Just after we stopped for this view we stopped in at the little visitor’s center and gift shop in Castolon, but he was just closing up shop, so we grabbed a couple of bottled drinks and were off on our way again. We took our time past at all the views going back just to see if they had changed, and then instead of turning right at the junction and heading back into the Chisos we went left and headed to Terlingua. Husband had a 9am tee time at Black Jack’s Crossing and we were kind of wondering how long it might take to get there, since we were going to be driving down from our mountain cottage early the next morning, and possibly in the fog again.
Terlingua is an interesting town. It’s not really like a town. It’s very spread out and scattered, like an outskirts of town, but with a gas station, convenience store, hotel, bar, and little restaurant. And just a few miles further on is the “Terlingua Ghost Town” that is also disjointed and randomly spattered about. We should have, but we didn’t stop at the strange sunken ship place with the sign out front that said, “Passing Wind,” or the big orange establishment just before it. I don’t mean any disrespect, but I think this is where all the old carnie’s have gone to retire. 🙂
Not too much further on we arrived at the little oasis of Lajitas, nestled on the edge of Big Bend Ranch State Park. We had made a reservation to stay there for one night after our day of golf the next day. Now laying eyes on it we were really looking forward to a night of luxury after “roughing it” in the mountains. This place had everything a person could want. Restaurants, and bar, a bakery and coffee shop, a spa with massages, gift shop, grocery store/deli (that makes delicious box lunches to go), laundry facilities, ATM, outdoor pool, theater, fountain, beautiful views, horesback riding, jeep rentals, shooting sports, and a gorgeous golf course.
We decided to eat lunch here and then venture back to the park. I wouldn’t say lunch was anything to write home about, but it wasn’t bad. We had the pulled pork sandwich. The facility is beautiful and immaculate. The views out the windows are scenic. And the staff are wonderful. This is their website if you’d like to check them out: http://www.lajitasgolfresort.com/index.html
Back at the Chisos Mountains Lodges we decided to have a cold one in the bar and see about stirring up a conversation with whomever was there. Working that evening were a husband/wife team who were very interesting to visit with. And after that was Lucius (not sure the spelling), who was also very pleasant and took very good care of us. We caught up a little bit on world events on the television, and then decided to eat something before it got too late.
Back at the cottage we played a round of Scrabble, caught another spectacular sunset, and then turned in early.
This is the map of our travels. We didn’t get over to Boquillas or Rio Grande Village on this trip, but have it firmly inked in on our bucket list for next time. We’d love to take the jeep trail from Santa Elena to Boquillas, and also the Camino Del Rio River road Jeep trip over on Big Bend Ranch State Park. Terlingua is also an interesting place that we’d like to do a little more exploring of.
The next morning we made our way to Lajitas for that early tee time. Upon arrival we grabbed a coffee and danish from the bakery and then went over to Black Jack’s. I can’t say enough good about this wonderful golf course. Husband loved it so much he played another 18 after 18. We ordered boxed lunches between rounds, which the staff delivered to us on the course, along with cold drinks. Hubbie golfed, I took pictures, and we both got a nice tan. The course was in magnificent condition and we didn’t run into any other golfers all day.
This was our fun day on the golf course:
It was the most beautiful day we could have asked for. Cool in the morning and no wind. It did get warmer by noon and the wind picked up then too, but not terrible. After the 36 holes we checked in at the resort and climbed the stairs to our upstairs King room for a needed shower before going to grab some supper in the Thirsty Goat Saloon.
Not being all that hungry, husband got a shrimp coctail and I ordered the street tacos. Another few cold ones and we were both ready to have a nap.
Back at the room we found that the electricity had gone out….for the whole county….for three counties in fact. It never came back on all night. Good thing we showered. And good thing we had the A/C in our room turned on full blast before we went to supper. Without electricity there was no A/C all that night. No way to open a window. No lights. No way to charge our cell phones. No TV. No phone service. No coffee in the room in the morning. No coffee in the lobby either. The only place in the resort that had generators was the bar and restaurant. Oh dear. And we thought we were roughing it in the mountains. Ha! 🙂
We sweated all night, then got up and dressed in the dark the next morning. The resort offered us breakfast, but we decided to just drive to Terlingua to get coffee, and then we had breakfast in a great little restaurant in Alpine called the Bread and Breakfast. Oh my, best potatoes in Texas!!! And fresh homemade bread that was to die for. Check them out on Trip Advisor: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g30158-d3877174-Reviews-Judy_s_Bread_and_Breakfast-Alpine_Texas.html
…and then had supper in Del Rio, where we encountered a formidable storm (which we later found out resulted in devestating tornadoes in Cuidad Acuna on the other side of the border). We made it home safely and just in time for the rains that brought us the Memorial weekend flood! That was one flood warning that turned out to be right. 🙂
So there you have it….the grand tour of the little Big Bend road trip. Hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. See you next time. 🙂
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“Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good…” Genesis 1:31
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