Recently I came across this nice post-sharing site called Sunday Favorites. A blogger, Chari, created it to share old favorite posts that might otherwise be forgotten. Seems like a great idea. So I'm reposting this one to remind myself and everyone else to watch the Ken Burns series "The National Parks" which starts on PBS the end of September. And because we loved our 2006 visit to Big Bend, one of the more remote places we've stayed. Click on National Parks in the the right-hand Category column to see posts on some of the other National Parks we've been lucky to visit. These are all some of our favorite places and we can't wait to watch the PBS series.
It would be fun someday to say we'd visited all of our National Parks. Even if we don't ever get to all of them, we are glad to have spent time in the most remote and least visited one in the lower 48 states. This is Big Bend in southwest Texas. There are 800,000 acres within the Park's boundaries. The scenery provides wonderful contrasts. It is in the Chihuahuan Desert, surrounded by the Chisos Mountains.
The Rio Grande River forms an international boundary along the south edge of the park (for 118 miles). The River is narrow and you can see Mexico on the other side. We really hope that by the time our grandchildren get to visit the park they will still be able to see this view instead of a fence or wall.
We hiked down the spectacular Boquillas Canyon. It's a narrow section formed by the River when it meandered through the desert eons ago.
Before 9/11 there was a soft crossing here into the Mexican village of Boquillos Del Carmen. Tourists could be ferried across the river and experience a bit of what was like to live in a remote village in Mexico. That's no longer possible because of security concerns. By road, the village is 100 miles from the nearest legal crossing to the US, so these changes have almost completely cut off the village's source of income other than subsistance farming. While security is certainly a problem at some more metropolitan border cities (such as El Paso), it is hard to imagine how it could really be so serious way out here.
Vendors still wade across when they can get away with it, keeping an eye out for Border Patrol. The stand shown here is on the Mexican side of the river. We purchased these walking sticks. Made from stalks of the sotol plant which grows wild everywhere, they are light and quite strong.
Humans have lived in the park area since prehistoric times. The little dwelling in the picture below is called Luna's Jacal. It is a rare remaining example of a building from the region's early settlement period. Luna was a Mexican sheepherder and he and his wife raised a large family (10 or 11 children) in this house. A jacal is a type of dwelling with upright posts chinked with mud. It had a thick mud roof that kept it cool in the desert heat. You can see that the roof is disintegrating. This points out a major problem with all national parks and especially this one, I suppose because it is so remote. There isn't enough funding and staff to keep up the archeological sites in the park or even to properly catalog all of the historic sites and structures.
Big Bend Park is in Brewster County which is one of the most sparsely populated areas of our whole country. Only about 13,000 people live within its 6,000 plus square miles. We stayed in Alpine, which is 100 miles northwest of the park headquarters and then moved to the tiny village of Terlingua which is a gateway community to the park. These are both remote, quirky communities. We had fun exploring around the towns as well as within the park.