Day 112 Continued…
Monday, January 27, 2020 – The drive from Fort Davis through Alpine & Marathon to the main entrance of Big Bend NP took just over 2 hrs. We did not have reservations so wanted to arrive early. Upon stopping at the main visitor center, we were told there were approximately 14 spots available. Well, little did we know that the campground is 45 miles from the park entrance! Do you have any idea the size of this park? It’s insanely massive! But oh so beautiful and very much worth the trip!
We arrived at the Rio Grande Village Campground and began to search for an available site. Our FL friend’s had visited this park a couple weeks prior and clued us in on the process for finding and reserving a site. We thought we knew what to expect but once we started driving the campground in a search of an available site we found it wasn’t easy to ascertain if the site was actually available. The site posts in most of the campsites had a piece of paper clipped on them with a date. Did this mean the site was available on this day or that it was reserved until that date? Other sites had the official “Available” or “Reserved” signs that we had seen in most of the other parks. We decided to take a chance on one of the sites that had tomorrows date on it. Quickly decided to back in because now other RVs were also driving around in search of a site. Before unhitching we decided to check with the camp host in order to ensure that it was actually available. It’s a good thing we checked because we had it wrong. The date on the sign indicated the night reserved, not the night available. We quickly found another site that was only available for one night and honestly, it was the LAST site we could have fit in. We were so grateful! There are only restrooms in our campground and no hook ups. This shouldn’t be an issue as we had filled our fresh water tank before leaving Davis Mountains State Park so that we wouldn’t have to stop for water. Also the generator and gas can were both full as it would be are only source of electricity during our stay. The park’s generator hours where from 8AM – 8PM which is more generous than most of the parks we have stayed at so far. Most only allow generators to run for two hours in the morning, typically from 8AM to 10AM and in the afternoon from 4PM to 6PM.
After settling into our site, we took a walk over to the Rio Grand Village Store to check on the amenities and just get the lay of the land. The Village Store has laundry & shower facilities for a fee – yes, $2.00 for a 5 minute shower. There is also an RV park by the store with full hookups. Really, it’s just a parking lot. We inquired on availability there in the event we couldn’t find a spot tomorrow. Every site was full but they do have 2 sites each day that are first come/first serve.
On our way back, we got our first glimpse of the Rio Grande! We are literally across a little river (I’d call it a creek at some places) from Mexico.
When we returned and had a little dinner, we set out to hike the Rio Grande Village Nature Trail. The trail took us to the water’s edge again at a different spot and we could see a few Mexicans on the other side. Along our trail, you would occasionally see handmade items with a price tag and a money jar nearby. Apparently, it’s common for the Mexicans to place items around the park for sale. It was a gorgeous hike with seeing the sun beginning to set and included a burro sighting.
Before turning in the for the night, we walked the entire campground scoping out sites that were coming available in the morning and that our rig would fit in. I had about 5 options. The plan was to scout out the sites early in the morning to see who leaves first.
Tuesday, January 28, 2020 – After coffee, Lucas and I set out to look for a site while Matthew went for a run. Lucas carried his little camp chair and was taking his job as “site securer” very seriously. We only walked a little ways when a couple pulling out asked where we were off to. I said we are looking for a site. They informed us that their site was available and guess what?? It was one on our list!! We quickly walked over and placed Lucas’s chair in the site and I went to pay for it. Because this was a first come/first serve site, we could reserve it for as long as we wanted it. We decided to stick with our plan of departing on Thursday.
When Matthew returned from his run, we hitched up and moved to our new site then packed our backpack for a hike. It was about a 25 mile drive to the Lost Mine Trailhead. We were a bit unprepared for the temperature shift due to elevation change and were a bit chilly when we started out and again at the breezy top. This was one of the hardest hikes we’ve done but the view from the top was phenomenal! Definitely worth the effort. Hike Stats: 4.2 miles, approx. 2 hrs
Upon returning to the trailhead, I spotted a Black Jeep with NY plates and not just any NY plates but one with Watkins Glen on it – that’s near my parent’s place for those who don’t know! Unfortunately, the occupant(s) were no where around. More on this later.
From the hike, we drove down into Chisos Basin which has a campground (for small RV’s and tent campers only), a Visitor’s Center, small convenience store and the Chicos Mountains Lodge & Restaurant which is managed by Forever Resorts. We were able to get WIFI at the Visitor’s Center, did a quick video chat with my parents and picked up a Junior Ranger book. The views here are just spectacular!
We planned to have dinner at the Lodge restaurant but unfortunately, it was closed from 4:00 – 5:00 forcing us to wait about 45 minutes. Taking advantage of the free WIFI, we downloaded a few YouTube videos and caught up on social media. There is little to zero cell service in most of the National Park which after almost 3 weeks of limited service, we would like to have that luxury back.
Dinner was delicious (always better when I get a brake from cooking) and the view was like none other! The sun was setting as we pulled out and began our drive back home. We were all exhausted.
Wednesday, January 29, 2020 – Today we are going to Mexico! We watched a few videos on YouTube of others who had made the crossing and our FL friends had given us a first hand account of their experience so we were confident that it was save. Lucas had heard you could ride a burro/donkey so there was noway that he would let us skip this adventure. BUT FIRST – this morning Lucas takes his LAST antibiotic!! We had a mini celebration!
After an otherwise slow morning, we prepared for our trek into Mexico. Packing our backpack with plenty of water, a few snacks and our passports, we first went to the Boquillas Canyon and completed the 1.4 mile hike into the canyon. It was a quick, easy hike and we briefly heard dulcet tones reverberating of the canyon walls of the one known as the “Singing Jesus” – a Mexican that sings in canyon. He has a tip jar set on the US side and typically requests donations for his songs.
To say we had zero trepidation of venturing into Mexico would be untrue. Our preference would have been to go with a few others. When we pulled into the border crossing parking lot there were plenty of vehicles there so we assumed others would be there. To go into Mexico, you simply pass the Park Police office – they manage the crossing for US Customs & Border Protection (US CBP)- and follow a path to the edge of the Rio Grande River. There we waited for a Mexican to cross the river in a rowboat and take us across. Upon landing, we paid $5/adult roundtrip for the crossing – Lucas was free. Then we could choose our mode of transportation to the town of Boquillas just over a mile away. The options were burro ($6), horse ($7), truck ($10) or walking. Lucas & I chose a burro and Matthew walked beside us. A guide accompanied us to ensure the animals cooperated and to take us to where we needed to be.
Upon reaching the edge of the village, we dismounted and walked the rest of the way past residents who sold souvenirs outside their homes. There is a Mexican Police Station which we were told to check in with – more of a welcome center than for immigration – however, it was closed so no stamps in our passports. From there we could choose between two restaurants picking the one on the right – Boquillas Restaurant – which we were told was the more authentic one. They offered three items: tacos de cabra (goat), chicken tamales and cheese enchiladas. Matthew chose the chicken tamales and I the cheese enchiladas with Lucas being offered a cheese quesadilla. I also ordered a margarita because, after all, it’s Mexico!
The village of Boquillas, Mexico really only has one street and at times it’s hard to tell if the folks live there or just come in from another town each day. After a bit of research on the village I found out that the border crossing had been closed after 9/11/2001 and remained closed until 2013, which I’m sure had a huge impact on them. Especially since the village appears to survive only because of the tourism from Big Bend National Park.
After enjoying our meal, we walked with our guide a little more through the village picking up a souvenir for each of us. Lucas picked a lizard made of beads, Matthew a bracelet with the town name and I a koozie/cozy with the town name and a burro on it. 🙂 From there we walked back to our burros and made the quick journey back to the river.
Upon our return to US soil, we entered the official crossing building which is manned by the Park Police. Inside there is a kiosk where you place your passport on a scanner. A few moments later, the phone in the kiosk rings and you’re connected with a CBP officer who we learned sits in El Paso, TX. In our case, I told him that I was traveling with my son and husband. He had me place Lucas’s passport on the scanner for review and once complete, I passed the phone to Matthew so the officer could verify his passport as well. It was a simple, painless process. This little venture was definitely a highlight for all of us, especially Lucas.
I dropped the mens off at the RV and decided to go check out the Hot Springs that was a few miles away. I knew Lucas would love it but wanted to be sure it was a place for him. Things are just so much further apart in the west. What looks like a short drive may take you 30+ minutes and this adventure was no different. Part of the road was for 4 wheeled drive or off road vehicles only. Let’s just say, I had to turn on the 360 cameras on the truck to ensure I didn’t drop off the edge of the road.
Of course the area checked out fine so I headed back to pick up Lucas. He was SO excited to go swimming. When we returned there were probably about 12+ people there. The spring in only about 20 feet square and the water temps reach 105 degrees. We met a few locals as well as people from Minnesota and one who had a relative in the DC area. One of the ladies was standing in the Rio Grande and Lucas wanted to swim there a bit, so she offered to keep a hand on him so he could say he stood in the Rio Grande. While he was a bit more active than most may have liked while soaking in the spring, he did provide a level of entertainment and they were most gracious about it.
A bit later, we met a gentleman, Jeff, from NY who lives about 2 hours from my parents. In conversation, I learned that he was the one with the Watkins Glen, NY license plate on his Jeep. He’s sold his house and business and is out traveling for an unknown period of time. His website is http://www.goldgravelandtravel.com if you’d like to check out his adventure. I’m always intrigued by others who long for a simpler life.
We chatted with these folks for a well over an hour and before I knew it, I could see the sun setting. Knowing we had to get out of this area before dark due to the driving conditions, I had to practically drag Lucas away from the water. While the experience may not have been as relaxing for me as I’d hoped keeping an eye on the boy, the conversations with others was refreshing.
Thursday, January 30, 2020 – Packing up to head drive north today. Matthew went for a run while I started the teardown. Lucas was playing outside when I looked out and saw a coyote roaming around just a couple hundred feet from our rig. I was a bit freaked out but when talking to others later, they mentioned it’s a common occurrence. Apparently, they’re just looking for left overs. After Lucas was safely inside, I tried to take a picture but it wasn’t clear.
We were not in a rush to leave this beautiful place as our next campsite was on the side of the road – well, technically, in a rest area. 🙂 Matthew and I both felt that we weren’t finished here but knew it was time to move along. We will be back and will stay much longer! There is so very much to explore here – of course having an off road vehicle would be nice.
After the usual stop at the dump station, we went to the Rio Grande Village Visitor’s Center for Lucas to complete the Junior Ranger Program. Unfortunately, we arrived in the middle of lunch hour so had to wait about 45 minutes. Lucas took that time to run laps around the parking lot to burn some more energy before we drove several hours. I wandered around the building and read the plaques. When 1:00 arrived, we entered and he successfully completed the pledge and received badge #11.
Along the route we spotted this bitty Target. We had seen it on our way south to Big Bend and people were stopped beside it to take pictures. 🙂 There’s even a shopping cart – it’s hard to see in the photo. Also shown is how the boy entertains himself on some of our drives.
We pulled into the Pecos West Rest Area on Interstate 10 just as the sun was setting and parked behind another RV. There was a HUGE playground that Lucas immediately spotted. He & I went there while Matthew got set up. We typically put the stabilizers down to take pressure off the truck even though we stay connected. Here, we decided to put out our living area slides to make it a bit more comfortable.
After playing for an hour or so and exploring the museum-like section of the Rest Area, we headed to the RV for dinner. On the way we had made a pit stop at Walmart for fuel and I ran in to grab dinner. I was on the phone with my Mom and asked what I could grab quick for dinner. She suggested a rotisserie chicken. What a brilliant idea! I grabbed a bag of baby carrots and a couple other things. Dinner for less than $10 and it was quickly consumed. It was a bit chilly here from what we were used to in the southern part of the state so headed to bed early.
Tomorrow we leave Texas! We’ve spent 60 days in this state – so many more than we thought we would but we don’t regret a single one.