Big Bend Trip

Posted by Kyle on February 15, 2011

I have always enjoyed the outdoors, especially in solitude. At the end of January, I took an opportunity to do just that. I went to Big Bend at the end of January and came back with lots of photos and tales of mountain lions, meteors, and harrowing escapes. The photos are finally up.

Click this image for the full gallery.

I drove to Big Bend National Park from San Angelo on Saturday, January 29. I had planned to be there for a whole week, but things changed and I had to come back early. More on that later.

I got to Big Bend later than I expected because I stopped on the way there to help a stranded motorist. It’s bad enough not to stop when don’t have a good reason not to. It’s even worse not to stop when you don’t even have a bad excuse not to, and traveling alone with no one depending on you to be there takes away all excuses.

The conversation on the way to get gas in Fort Stockton was good, and we got his car back up and running.

When I got to Big Bend, I set up my tent, made dinner, snapped a few photos of the camp site, and went to bed.

The next morning (Sunday), I hiked the Lost Mine trail at dawn. Watching the remainder of the sunrise from the end of that trail was amazing. I just stood there, silent and still, for about 30 minutes praising God for such a beautiful creation. It was WAY better than church!

That afternoon, I took things pretty easy and drove down to the hot springs and snapped a few photos of the ruins there. The river was way down. So much for the “Mighty Rio Grande.” The creek behind the house I grew up in regularly had more water than what was in the Rio Grande that week.

Sunday evening, rumors began circulating about the weather turning south on Tuesday, but it didn’t sound too bad.

The next morning, Monday, was a big day. It was to be my first day in the back country, and I woke up a little late, but excited. I ate breakfast, packed, and found the trailhead…almost two hours late. I had intended to start hiking around 8, but didn’t get on the trail until 9:45 or so.

The hike was absolutely beautiful, even if I’m a little out of shape and other hikers were loud.

I had some neat company for lunch and one of my snacks.

I broke for lunch at around 12:15, and a blue jay was kind enough to sit with me as I ate about 5 feet away. I think it wanted scraps, and I was almost a little sorry to disappoint.

A couple hours later, around 2:15, while I was eating a snack, a pair of mountain lions, I think a mother and about a 1-year-old cub, crossed the trail heading downhill. They were truly beautiful animals, even if they did scare me a little witless. I triangulated my position on my 7.5-minute topo map like a good Eagle Scout and reported it the next day.

I was shooting for the campsite NE4, but at around 4:00PM, as I passed SE2, I decided to stop for the night. SE2 was unoccupied, so I set up camp, my tent facing North-East to protect against the South-West wind.

I cooked dinner without the instructions I had intended to pack. My hamburger helper with Spam turned out more like a noodle soup, but it was warm and tasty. Three does came and ate dinner in my campsite with me.

I finished around 6:45PM, and, as it was getting dark, I turned in for the night. About 15 minutes later, the wind changed and started coming from EVERYWHERE. My tent, therefore, offered little protection. Check out the pictures and you’ll see why.

I laid awake for about two hours thinking and singing and running through as many prime numbers as I could in my head.

Around 9:00PM, the wind got annoying, so I just took the tarp down and laid it over me like a blanket, weighing it down with rocks. I went to sleep fairly quickly and slept really well for a while.

Around 12:30AM, though, I woke up again. I was getting really cold, and discovered my tarp had ripped and was no longer protecting me from the wind. The temperature had also dropped to around 25°F, which to a born and bred Texan, is COLD.

As I tried to sleep despite the wind and the cold, I stopped shivering, and my thoughts started getting muddy, which was a little scary and dangerous, given I was alone. I tried as hard as I could to figure out how to warm up, and the best thing I could think of was to bundle up and start hiking.

It took a while to pack, but at 2:15AM, I started hiking by flashlight. As I hiked, my heart started beating faster and my thoughts got clearer and I began to shiver again. Praise God!

About 20 minutes in to my hike, the whole sky was suddenly bright. It was so bright that, had it stayed that way, I wouldn’t have needed my flashlight anymore. I looked up and say an enormous meteor falling through the sky. I could even hear the sonic boom as it entered the atmosphere. It was truly beautiful, but only lasted about 5 seconds. I kept hiking with my dinky little flashlight and tried to hold on to the memory of the light from that meteor as long as I could.

With about two miles left in my hike, I misjudged a step-down because of the shadow my flashlight cast, and I hyper-extended my knee. Let me just say…“Ouch.” With a 70lbs. backpack on, what would have been just a goofy stumble became rather excruciating.

I wrapped it in an Ace bandage, took some Naproxen Sodium and Acetaminophen, drank the rest of my water, and started hobbling the rest of the way to the Chisos Basin Lodge parking lot where I parked my car the day before repeating my wife’s favorite mantra: “Just keep going. Just keep going…”

I got there at around 8:00AM.

I’m not proud of it, but I’ll admit that I wimped-out. I remembered there was a restaurant there at the lodge from previous trips, and a mug of Hot Chocolate next to a plate of hot eggs, bacon, hash browns, and pancakes was too much to resist.

Unable to hike anymore, and with what would turn out to be hellacious weather that buried San Angelo in that abominable white stuff for almost a week on its way, I decided to turn home.

All in all, though, it was a really great week, and I can’t wait to get outside again.

Do you have any good Big Bend stories? How about camping trips that went horribly wrong? Tell me about it below. Or, leave an idea for my next adventure.


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