Hiking recently in the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park exceeded my expectations. If you want reasons, here they are:
- This photo supplies one reason. We stumbled out of our tents in predawn gloom and hiked out of the Chisos Basin — ascending toward one of the big, rocky ridges. Eventually blackness went to gray, and then we saw early morning alpenglow on distant peaks. Not a bad way to wipe the sleep from one’s eyes.
- Bears. We saw a few. Some up close. Apparently they were feasting on late-season berries and harassing hikers. Trails were open only for day hikes as a result.
- The view south from the South Rim over the Big Bend wasteland and to the Rio Grande beyond was worth the 15-mile hike. Great fun.
- Desert hiking was fun as well. We left the mountains and explored flat desert terrain and arid canyons that looked like something out of an old Cisco Kid rerun. It gets hot out there, even in November.
- The stars, planets and galaxies. Big Bend has the darkest skies in North America. It’s the place to go for star gazing. If you go, visit the University of Texas’s McDonald Observatory. Not to be missed if you like a close-up peek through a telescope. You will never get a better look at the Milky Way. Only thing to compare for me was the star gazing I did in Nepal a few years ago.
Big Bend is a place you really have to want to get to. You fly to remote parts of Texas and then drive for hours through derricks and pump jacks. Then you begin seeing craggy mountains and cacti. Eventually, you get to the park. The lodge in the Chisos Basin is a great place to eat and stay. We camped at the National Park campground but enjoyed the really good lodge food. So, go to Big Bend. Stay vertical and keep walkin’!