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  1. #31
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Posts
    351

    Default

    Dave:

    Great report! I'm really enjoying the ride through some familiar territory (many of your stops can be found in part 1 of our travel guide, Arizona and New Mexico: 25 Scenic Side Trips. Guadalupe Mountains is a beautiful place, and it doesn't get a heck of a lot of visitors, so I'm glad you were able to fit that in to your itinerary.

    That said, please tell me you've already been to Carlsbad Caverns! It was only 30 more miles beyond Pine Springs! I know, I know--when time is not unlimited, we have to make choices, and deep caves don't appeal to everyone--but even so, that place is one of the true natural wonders of the world, so if you have NOT been? Definitely consider it for one of your future excursions.

    Rick

  2. #32
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,369

    Default A great book full of great ideas.

    Hey Rick, I'm glad you are enjoying it !

    I was going to mention your book in a summary at the end of this report as I was lucky enough to get a copy from Mark while in Vegas. While this trip was already planned out, I have been reading through since our return to the UK and I must say it's excellent with detailed information and wonderful illustrations. Anyone reading this report who has plans to visit Arizona and New Mexico will find a copy of the book a great resource for planning those 'off the beaten track' places.

    As for Carlsbad Caverns, it's on our 'Hopeful' list of places to visit and we will have one more 50/50 chance to visit there later in the trip. As you say, there are so many places and so little time, another interesting place we had to pass up on on that day was White sands National Monument. There are certainly enough options 'left to do' that would certainly warrant another trip through the area !

    Dave.

  3. #33
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,369

    Default Big Bend.

    Day 11. February 27th.

    I had a bit of a restless night having picked up a bit of a cough and suffering from indigestion and only added to by the trains running close by through the night. The entire town of Van Horn has been developed either side of the tracks and there is no escaping the sound of the trains, perhaps they should of named the town 'Train Horn'. Despite that I'm up and excited to hit the road to Big Bend NP. We top up our propane tank as we will be in Big Bend for 3 nights, but leave topping up the fuel tank until we get to Marfa, in the hope that will keep us going during our stay as the fuel is scarce and expensive in the park.


    Click here for this RTA Library Map

    So we head south on US90, a quiet straight road with open range either side and just a couple of small communities between Van Horn and Marfa. Rather bizarrely, about half way between the towns there is a piece of 'Living art' by the side of the road. This is in the form of a Prada store that displays a collection of shoes and handbags from it's 2005 collection but the 'store' does not open, it's actually completely sealed including the door. The 'Marfa Prada' art display has been reclassified as a museum to avoid it being declared an illegal advertising board by the Texas DOT. There is a sign explaining it's existence and around the back there is a chain link fence that has been covered in padlocks with messages. So strange yet kinda cool.



    We continued down the road a way and was surprised to see a huge Mural by the side of the Highway that I had not discovered in my research. This was probably down to the fact it's quite a new project, part of the project was first displayed in 2018 but it was only completed in January 2019 (a few weeks prior to us arriving) with Elizabeth Taylor being put in her place. (Bet that's a first!!)



    The fence posts in front are over 4 and a half feet tall, just to give you an idea of scale. The mural honours the 1956 film 'Giant' that was partially filmed in Marfa. It was created by John Cerney who has done a number of roadside murals. Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean are instantly recognisable but sitting in that car is no other than Rock Hudson. This was James Deans 3rd film as leading role but sadly died in a car crash before it's release.

    So we rolled into Marfa and got our supplies and topped the fuel tank up and had a wander around. Originally a 'water stop' for the railroads, Marfa became the County seat of Presidio and has a lovely Courthouse building.



    From Marfa it would of been quicker to continue to Marathon and then head south to our destination, the Chisos mountains campground, but I liked the idea of heading to Presidio and east along the Mexican border on Highway 170 through big Bend Ranch SP. So from Marfa we headed south on US67 and stopped on route at Shafter, part living and part mining ghost town. This once booming mining town, located in the Chinati mountains by Cibolo creek, now only has around 11 residents living there. The town pretty much died when the mines shut down but it was used as a location for several scenes in the 1971 movie The Andromeda Strain. As we stroll through town to the creek there are still some interesting buildings remaining, and some old ruins from the mining days which the land seems to be slowly reclaiming. The Sacred heart church stands proud 'front and centre' of town and I believe it still holds mass once a month.





    Back on the road we drove through Presidio TX and headed east on FM170 through Redford and into Big Bend Ranch State park. The scenery soon changed into all that I had been hoping for and dreaming of as we drove along reaches of the Rio Grande and through several canyons.





    We then stopped at a Teepee rest area for a cuppa and then again further down the road at the Contrabando abandoned movie set. The site was used in a number of Movies but there is only a couple of buildings that remain after floods in the area made others unsafe and they were torn down. Still a cool place to stop if you're passing through though, as well as the buildings you can walk down to the rivers edge and dip your toes in the Rio Grande.





    We continued through Lajitas and Terlingua and finally into Big Bend NP, our main objective of the trip. Just before Panther junction we turned off at Basin Junction towards the Chisos Basin campground. The road got narrower and more twisty the closer we got with some interesting hairpin bends on a steep downhill grade. I loved it ! The views were out of this world and I felt really excited about spending the next 2 nights in this campground. The campground only caters for vehicles up to 24 feet in length so I was a little nervous about arriving in a 'C25' RV, but whats a few inches between friends ?! We pulled into our spot, which was basically a layby to the side of the road with a tent site off road. As we jostled into position trying to find a spot that made us as level as possible a campground host came over, I thought oh no. He was a nice chap who asked how we were doing and I told him we were trying to get as level as possible as Cruise America don't supply blocks/ramps with their rentals. He was soon back with a couple of levelling blocks and offered to give us a hand getting level. Top man !

    Settled in, we sat and took in the views which were pretty amazing.



    We made dinner and sat outside to eat, with a beer of course. The sun dropped and the night sky became ablaze with millions of stars, there was total silence and as all the camp lights were turned off around the campground (including ours) we sat there in awe of the beauty of the night sky. We saw flashes of light rocketing through the milky way and I must say, I felt elated. I had enjoyed every moment of our journey here, but this was different, this is why we are here and do what we do.

    Goodnight !

    Today's mileage. 230 miles. Total: 1956.
    Last edited by Tom_H007; 05-15-2019 at 06:04 AM. Reason: Added map

  4. #34
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, Australia
    Posts
    215

    Default Prado

    Amazing adventure you both are having. I bet you gave a sigh of relief when that Prado store was sealed up and closed. Lezli looks dismayed hehe. You better buy one of those bag's for her now Dave. hehe. I wouldn't mind a real version of that yellow Ford. Looks like a Twin spinner.

    Keith

  5. #35
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,369

    Default A bit of a relief !

    You know me too well Keith ! I'm not the worlds keenest shopper and when you have driven miles out of your way to avoid them, it was a bit of a shock to find an expensive 'store' in the middle of nowhere. Haha.

    Dave.

  6. #36
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, Australia
    Posts
    215

    Default

    Hahaha You sound just like me Dave. I avoid shops. Cloth's just appear in my wardrobe every now and then so i don't have to go. I can imagine the look on your face when you came across that Prado. hehehe.

    Keith

  7. #37
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,292

    Default Marfa and the great Prado spoof

    Yeah, that Prado spoof is pretty funny. I had no idea.

    Great road shots!

    Mark

  8. #38
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,369

    Default A Window of opportunity. (A day off from the road)

    Day 12. February 28th.

    After a good nights sleep I woke quite early as it was already warming up inside the RV. I made a coffee and stepped outside and sat quietly taking in the views, it wasn't long before I was joined by a 'Road runner' bird who seemed to be chasing his breakfast. We checked each other out and then he returned to pulling at the grass looking for his elusive breakfast while I carried on with my coffee. I had no set plan for today, but prior to arriving here I had thought we would take in some sights around the park this morning and then hike the Windows Trail from the campground this afternoon. I felt so relaxed and realised that this will be the only opportunity to have a day off from driving so I decided the RV would stay where it is for the day and we would do some walking. It wasn't long before Lezli joined me at the table where we enjoyed a very relaxed breakfast. Once ready we walked through the campground to the 'Windows Trail' and set off with plenty of water and some snacks for this 5 mile or so round hike, it was already feeling hot!

    The scenery was wonderful !




    In the early stages there was little shelter from the sun but then we started going through some shrubs and a canyon section which gave some shade. We stopped for a break and got chatting to another couple, the eagle eyed chap spotted some movement high up on the mountainside some distance away. They blended in with the rock so well it was easy to lose track of them and were difficult to find through my zoom lens.



    We thought they were a type of mountain goat, but it turned out they are 'Barbary Sheep' or otherwise known as Aoudad on the North African continent which is there natural habitat. Having been imported and introduced to Texas as a species liked for their hunting potential, they soon settled in and the population boomed in this natural environment. They are hardy, agile and very quick as well as territorial which doesn't bode well for the Bighorn that shares the same space looking for food and water.

    As we got closer to the 'Window' we had to navigate over rocks and streams to continue, it was a great 'playground'. Another person we spoke to told us that this was his 3rd or 4th visit and he had never seen water running through here, a benefit of the rains that had swept through a week before.





    We finally reached the Window with only a 4 other people there, while they peaked out the window we sat on a rock and had some Trail mix and water and chatted with the other people. It was our turn to take a look and one of the Gents offered to take a picture of the two of us. Lezli has a fear of heights, especially if there is no guardrail. She done well to look so relaxed, If only you could see her conquering her fear just seconds before you'd know what I mean.



    Just behind us is where the water falls off a sheer drop and into the unknown, so I get Lezli back to a comfortable point and carefully go a bit further to take a look, the view is quite remarkable. (The rocks are wet near the edge so extra precaution !)


    We start making our way back and things have really started to heat up and once we hit open ground it's hot ! It turned out it was touching 90F which is a long way from the 19F we experienced in Olancha at the start of our trip ! There was no sign of the Mountain sheep but there was an abundance of butterflies and we also spotted a few lizards, Dragonfly's, Mexican Jay birds and a Woodpecker.

    When we found shade it was very welcome, Lezli struggles in the heat.


    We didn't spot any Bears or Mountain Lions !


    Back at the RV we had a late lunch and rested up for a little while after our 5+ mile walk and then decided to head out and walk some more. We walked through the campground, in the opposite direction to earlier, towards the visitor centre via the Windows view Trail which offered good views of where we had walked to. (It looked easy from here !)



    The visitor centre and lodge was quite busy with people, cars and coaches and a big contrast to the completely quiet and surreal atmosphere of the campground and Trail less than a mile away. We had a look around the visitor centre and store where I purchased a reasonably priced hat to help cover up from the heat. We then strolled back to the RV and settled back in for a relaxing night with a couple of cold ones.



    Today's mileage. 0 (Or 7 miles on foot! )

  9. #39
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,369

    Default Up the creek without a paddle !

    Day 13. March 1st.

    We were up bright and early this morning and outside enjoying the surroundings with a cup of coffee at 7am. It was time to say goodbye to the Chisos mountains and continue on our adventure! Our first visit of the day was to Santa Elena canyon, a place I have been looking forward to visiting for quite some time. So we made our way back up the winding mountain road and headed west through the park towards Maverick Junction. There were two ways in and out of the canyon, one was an 'Improved dirt road' called Maverick road and the other a paved road, the Ross Maxwell scenic drive. What better than to take one in and one out to see different sights ? So I decided to take the Maverick road down to Santa Elena canyon. As we approached the turn off my plan was to pull into the parking lot and ask about conditions along the road at the entry station, but it was full of pickups unloading scramble bikes, there seemed to up to 100 off road bikes and as they made their way up the road there was a dust storm similar to that of a cattle drive ! It was another glorious morning, I couldn't park, so I decided just to make my way up the road. That was my second mistake ! As we continued up the road, which looked in really good shape, we soon discovered it was badly washboarded with ripples that were making the kitchenware rattle and the body of the RV shake. I slowed to a crawl and continued on while enjoying the desert views.




    My gut told me to turn around while I could, but the view of the canyon ahead made me ignore it. It's only another 8 miles or so. My 3rd mistake. The road got narrower and the condition of it worsened, but turning around was no longer an option.


    In all honesty it wasn't that bad, but being 'Off road' I knew a simple puncture out here would be costing me a fortune to get repaired as it would be our responsibility, so extra precaution. We was quite happily going along when we rounded a bend and went down a dip only to be staring at wall of dirt, or as I know now, a river bank ! It looked like the road continued straight ahead, but I checked left and right anyway to discover we were sat in a river bed with nowhere to go. (It was Alamo Creek) I got out to survey my surroundings, but despite some other travellers having stacked some boulders against the bank to climb out, it was apparent I was going nowhere. The only hope I had was at an angle but that came at a risk of rolling the RV on it's side, one that would of been foolish to attempt. As I was looking at how to turn and if it were even possible, a Jeep approached. I thought 'Oh dear I'm going to get a lecture' but a nice chap got out and asked if he could help by assisting me drive up the bank with direction while watching clearance. I declined and told him I was just figuring out how best to turn. He actually drove his Jeep with big 'All terrain tyres' up there at a couple of different angles, so I could see the pitch and angle. That struggled and he agreed I should turn around. We chatted for a while about the places they had been and stories of getting stuck in tricky situations so it was all good and he understood why I was there. Haha ! He then offered to see me back in a tight turning area I had selected in the widest part of the creek, it didn't help that it was on a bendy section and the stones that had been pushed to the side of the creek were deep and soft, so trying to reverse a few inches with the wheels sucked down needed a few revs and then wanted to lurch. I counteracted that by using my left foot on the brake and slowly releasing it. Finally we were out and 'rattling' very slowly back the way we had came, my biggest regret being that I never thought to get any pictures of the situation ! What had happened is those rains from a week or 2 ago had flooded down the creek and washed the road out on the bend just leaving a steep bank behind. Oh yeah, that was my 1st mistake, I hadn't really listened properly at the 'Window Trail' yesterday or else I would of had an alarm bell.

    As we got closer to the 'Window' we had to navigate over rocks and streams to continue, it was a great 'playground'. Another person we spoke to told us that this was his 3rd or 4th visit and he had never seen water running through here, a benefit of the rains that had swept through a week before.
    Note. I would not recommend anyone go off paved roads in a rental, you could be in breach of your contract and any expenses occurred because of doing so can be charged to you.


    Click here for this RTA Library Map

    Once we were back on the 'black top' we made our way to the canyon on the Ross Maxwell scenic drive. There were some lovely views along the way.



    We finally arrived at Santa Elena canyon and it was everything we had hoped it would be, absolutely amazing !



    You can walk from the parking lot out to the beach and look into the canyon or with a climb up some stairs you can walk along the Rio Grande and into the canyon. It was a very hot day again but it was worth the effort and once in the canyon the shade was a welcome relief from the sun and even better was a nice paddle in the river.







    We sat in a secluded spot and took in the scene of towering red rocks and the contrasting green waters of the Rio Grande. Not many people had made the effort to walk into the canyon so it was lovely and peaceful within it's towering walls. We started to make our way back and once we exited the canyon we walked across stones in the river (on the US side) to an Island formed of rock in the middle and splitting the river in two. It was time to take the boots off and 'hike into Mexico' a few paces. The border is located down the middle of the river at this spot. Afterwards we bumped into the couple we met out in the creek and chatted some more. They were pleased to see we had made it out and had got here without any further issues. They also informed us that the road had got worse as they continued and that had we got through that section, we would of certainly got stuck further along the road, only with no where to turn around ! In many ways we had got lucky and I appreciated that fact but I wan't sorry I tried.



    We returned to the RV for lunch before moving on towards the Rio Grande campground on the other side of the park. More on that later.........
    Last edited by Tom_H007; 05-15-2019 at 06:23 AM. Reason: Added map

  10. #40
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,369

    Default To the Rio Grande campground.

    Day 13 cont...

    As we left Santa Elena canyon the temperatures were back into the high 80's, possibly touching 90f. We made our way along the Ross Maxwell scenic drive, stopping at a few viewpoints and at the old Castolon visitor centre. The land here was once used as cotton fields, over 100 acres of them near to the river. There are some old pumps and other machinery that have been left laying around since production ceased in 1942, the only clue that the land had once been worked here.


    Click here for this RTA Library Map

    The cut in the distant rock is the entry to Santa Elena canyon.


    We made our way to our next stop, the Mules ears viewpoint and then to Sotol Vista. The views were amazing and the plants that welcomed the rain added some colour.





    We headed east from Gano Springs junction towards Panther Junction and beyond. We wanted to visit Boquillas canyon and thought we may have to do so, but as we had made good time we decided to head straight there, in the hope it was enough time before the sunset. We turned off towards the canyon, the road was paved but quite twisty in places, the views were great. We passed the official Boquillas border crossing that was now closed. We had hoped to cross the river and visit the small Mexican town of Boquillas Del Carmen for a Tequila but our timing didn't meet with the border opening times. (There is usually a couple of boatman who will take you across the river where others wait to give you a ride into town. (There are local crafts for sale and a couple of bars.) From the road we could see the colourful small town nestled among the hills on the other side of the Rio Grande, but it was not be !

    The view on approach to Boquillas canyon after Panther Junction.


    We arrived at Boquillas canyon trail head and set off on our way. We walked alongside the river for a while and then the canyon started to come into view.


    I had read about Mexicans illegally crossing the river and leaving what is described as 'contraband or illegal goods' for sale along the footpaths by way of an 'Honesty box'. It wasn't long before we stumbled across one example of this practice.



    They were reasonably priced and I had a mixed feeling of sympathy and sudden alertness as we were the only people here at this time of day. The authorities take a dim view of anyone purchasing "smuggled goods", so we continued on our way.

    The canyon came into view and we were able to make it a short way into the canyon before the footpath ended and the rocks and river stopped you from going further. I did a bit of scrambling over rock but there was no way through. I think the river level was higher than normal as I thought we could of gone further than this had it not been.


    We started our return walk to the RV just as the sun was setting and as we drove back towards the Rio Grande campground there was fire in the sky. We arrived at last light and settled down for the night. We had a 'cowboy meal' of Hot dogs and beans with bread that we had to eat inside as the heat was still there, and if you opened the door for a second a million moths thought it was an invite to come inside!





    It had been a good, good day !

    Today's mileage: 145 miles. Total :2101.
    Last edited by Tom_H007; 05-15-2019 at 06:51 AM. Reason: Corrected map link

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