big bend national park trip

Two weekends ago Josh, Natasha and I went to Big Bend National Park. It was an incredible trip and we laughed that we actually did (almost) everything we planned. Rare, but excellent.

Big Bend is jokingly called the “Grand Canyon of Texas,” but that’s not far from the truth. The huge park offers stunning scenery and tons of trails. We researched a couple we wanted to do and ended up finding a few more.

We flew to Midland Odessa, loaded up on groceries and drove two hours south to Alpine, Texas. We stumbled upon Harry’s Tinaja, the only open joint in town. We ate lunch at the Cuban food truck in the parking lot and listened to Harry’s stories at the bar. Although he’s from Germany, he lived in French Polynesia for a while and was once healed by a ghost doctor. Real life.

On our way out of town we stopped for a brewery tour and tasting at the Big Bend Brewing Company. They had a fun little tour and samples of everything! If you’re in the neighborhood, I recommend checking it out.

Natasha loved that impala

Natasha loved that impala

We then drove two more hours to our residence for the weekend- the dried up mining town of Terlingua, Texas. Did I mention it’s remote? The population is literally 58. I think we met half the town, not kidding. There’s no cell service (we did have WiFi at the hotel), but they have three restaurants, two bars and some trailers in the desert.

After three days we had a regular order at the only breakfast joint. Those burritos were killer.

Our breakfast hangout

Our breakfast hangout

Thursday night we ate at the restaurant connected to our hotel, El Dorado, where we met our waitress Jeanette and her boyfriend Richie. They showed us an off the map hike and invited us to play in their weekly poker game with the local bandits. Seriously everyone we met the whole weekend was warm and welcoming to us. They wanted to make sure we saw all the good stuff.

Friday morning we tried to get kayaks, but the river was too low. Instead we got a slow start on a loooooong day of hiking. We summited Emory Peak and then wound back to the South Rim. It was a 15-mile round trip. The three of us are (or at least were) semi-athletic people who exercise on the regular- we thought, “We can totally walk 13 miles.” Well we had the distance wrong and that doesn’t even account for the vertical factor. I’m still glad we did it, but I wish I would have brought more water.

On the South Rim

Near the South Rim

The views were unreal and we stopped for a bunch of photos and videos. Josh’s parents got us a GoPro for Christmas, so this was the maiden voyage. We LOVED it. Having that camera makes me want to take cooler trips.  As promised before, video coming soon!

Josh GoPro-ing

Josh GoPro-ing

We ended the day with dinner at the famous Starlight Theater and drinks at a local joint called the Boathouse. An over-served cowboy proposed to Natasha since they were drinking the same beer.

Surprisingly, the next morning we were not a stiff as we thought we’d be.

We did a shorter hike into Santa Elena Canyon and then a little longer one to Cattail Falls. Both very pretty and much less crazy than the day before.

Santa Elena

Santa Elena

We chatted up other hikers along the way. One of my favorite parts of this trip was all the new people we met in town and in the park. Since Big Bend is out of the way, it attracts a more serious crowd. Our new friends had incredible stories of extended hikes and living in the backs of trucks. Hearing that stuff makes me want to do something crazy.

On the far east side of the park, there’s a crossing to Boquillas, Mexico. We read up on it and packed our passports. You could take a $5 rowboat across the Rio Grande, but Josh really wanted to “swim” it, so we waded. In that area the river was about three feet deep.

Once in Mexico, you walk the mile into town or pay $5 for a burro ride. Natasha, the resident animal lover of the trip, couldn’t resist the burro. Josh and I rode them back after we ate lunch in town. Honestly, Mexico was a little underwhelming but the food was good and it’s a funny story.

Broncin' burro

Broncin’ burro

Crossing to Mexico is also where we met Adam who hung with us the rest of the trip. He joined us for tacos and tamales, which we defiantly paid the gringo prices. We swam back to the States and went through a really quick customs process.

Our last stop of the night was at the hot springs. The hot tub-like foundation was built into the river bank of the Rio Grande and the overflow landed in the cool river creating a warm waterfall. We talked to some other travelers and spent a couple hours soaking, then overheating, then jumping into the river, then swimming down and getting back into the hot spring. It was the best place to end the day.

The spot where the hotspring meets the river

The spot where the hotspring meets the river

That night Adam joined us for dinner at the hotel and then poker out back in the garage. It was surreal. We were in the backroom with our new pals Richie and Jeanette, as well as Herman who owned the hotel (and maybe most of the town?) and his buddies. Josh and Natasha both walked away with winnings. Afterwards we celebrated at La Kiva, the other local bar.

Charming sunrise selfie

Charming sunrise selfie

Sunday morning we had a farewell burrito and poked around the local trading company before saying goodbye to paradise and driving four hours back to the airport.

Take me back already.

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Shannon