Big Bend has got to be one of the cleanest parks I've ever visited! Wow! Both Hannah and I were completely blown away by how well taken care of this park was! Usually when entering a park, right off the bat I see litter next to the entrance booths/ pull outs/ visitor centers. BUT NOT UP IN HERE! We literally had to drive STRAIGHT THROUGH for MILES ON MILES until I spotted ONE lonely Mtn Dew bottle. ONE!
After being blown away at the cleanliness of this beautiful place, we set up a picnic overlooking the sunset over the Rio Grande! I guess we enjoyed this park during the off-season (in the summer when it is sweltering hot derp da derp) but nonetheless we were blown away by how little traffic there was. Our first night in the park we saw about 3 cars total!
After our picnic we drove to the campsite and prepped for the next day. The stars were UNBELIEVABLY bright, like the Milky way was OUT TO PLAY. Sleeping was difficult because our campsite was super windy and close to 90 degrees but that didn't stop us from rising at the crack of dawn to head on over to the Emory Peak Trailhead (tallest peak in Big Bend). We got there just as the sun was peeking over the mountains. MAN what a beautiful hike. The incline was gradual and honestly unnoticeable at times, the sun was shaded behind the Chisos mountains for most of the way up, AND being in the Chisos Basin we were almost 2,000 feet above other areas of the park. So basically the 5.5 miles to the peak was just SO enjoyable (besides seeing a freaking tarantula !!!). PLUS we didn't see a soul until our way down! It's funny because the trail is relatively easy for 99.99% of the way, but the last few yards of it is COMPLETE scrambling. We accidentally scrambled up the false peak only to realize the actual peak was sitting next to us... Both peaks had these large radio towers on the very tippy top. Still trying to wrap my head around the experience of climbing up a mountain without running into any other humans only to be rewarded with a huge hunk of metal and wires... Food for thought.
On our way down the trail we took a wrong turn and almost ended up hiking an extra casual 14 miles along the South Rim... Just goes to show ya that even somewhat experienced hikers can get turned around! We made it down to the trailhead around 1pm and immediately got ice and ice cream. We then left the Chisos Basin to explore the hotter areas of the park AKA Santa Elena Canyon! This was the landscape I sort of expected Big Bend to be, large canyon walls with a river cutting through it. Landscapes you'd expect dinosaurs to be roaming through (because they DID!) We attempted to beat the 114 degree heat in a car with no A/C but instead the sunscreen wouldn't rub into my skin because I was just sweating so much. YUM. However, we did find a little bit of shade and set up a picnic and ARTS IN THE PARKS session! It was soooooo nice just to sit and breath for a second and take in the unreal place we were in. Plus I felt really lucky to get to share this with Hannah. LOOK at the vibrant colors she picked up on!!! WOW painting en plein air in a beautiful place just never freaking gets old and always cures the soul even when you're sweating buckets.
After painting for a while we decided to call it and drive back to our campsite. When we rolled up our tent was NOWHERE TO BE SEEN. A million thoughts raced through my mind when Hannah spotted a teal pop of color peeping out behind a ditch all the way across the campground. OUR TENT HAD BEEN COMPLETELY UPLIFTED FROM THE WIND AND BLOWN AWAY WITH ALL OF OUR STUFF IN IT. It was basically the most hilarious series of events. We were just so sweaty and ready to sit in the shade and crack open a delicious beverage so this was the last thing we expected! Luckily, EVERYTHING WAS ACCOUNTED FOR! Not even one single stake was lost! And only minimal scratches on the rainfly. All in all, kind of a miracle- and made the beverage that much more delicious.
The next morning we woke up to try and take full advantage of everything before heading back to the Guadalupe Mountains. We saw an incredible sunrise over the mountains next to the Rio Grand. One of the songs that had been playing as the soundtrack to this trip was "Rivers and Roads" by the Head and the Heart and it felt as if that morning had inspired that song. Both Hannah and I are going through pretty tumultuous chapters of our lives, but still finding beauties around us and getting to share them with each other despite the fact that we live thousands of miles apart. Tearing up just writing about it.
To say goodbye to Big Bend we spent one more morning in the Chisos because it's just the best up there. We had gotten a few recommendations that the Lost Mine trail was a MUST DO so we did it! Man, we TRUCKED up and passed this family visiting from England who asked us what kind of furry animal was perched on a rock. After that the two kids just kind of became our hiking buddies, asking if Hannah and I were sisters (because we were both wearing hats, all black, and braids *see below*), what cool things we had seen, and just being amazing. It was a highlight to get to share that hike with them!
NEXT STOP was Carlsbad, NM. But by the time we got there the last round of tours had already gone in the cave so we ended up postponing and heading back to GUMO for a delicious dinner/ relaxing evening. To make it an even more spectacular day we realized we had visited THREE NATIONAL PARKS IN ONE DAY!!!! New record. How FREAKING cool.