Sunday, April 15: This morning we got up "early" and left Marathon at 8:30 a.m. for a day of hiking in Big Bend National Park. Our first stop was the Castolon Visitor Center on the southwest side of the park. We asked the ranger about the Ward Spring Trail and the Mule Ears Spring Trail. He got out a trail book and explained those hikes to us, but then he said, "I've got an even better trail. It's secret and not on the park maps." He explained to us how to get to the trailhead. We decided we'd go there after the Santa Elena Canyon hike (1.6 mi). Nice temperature, cool-ish breeze.
Santa Elena Canyon hike photos:
|Bob on Santa Elena Canyon trail--Rio Grande River|
|Bob by the Rio Grande--Mexico across river|
|Yes, that's bamboo!|
|Santa Elena Canyon|
Cerro Castellan photos:
|Road below Cerro Castellan|
Tuff Canyon hike (1 mi.) -- photos:
|Tuff Canyon - dry waterfall|
|Tuff Canyon from viewpoint|
|View of Cerro Castellan from Tuff Canyon floor|
|Bob in Tuff Canyon|
Secret Trail (3 mi.): National Park Service sign at the beginning of this trail said, "Aggressive mountain lion active in area. Do not bring small children on this trail." We can't tell you where this trail is and it's not on park maps...only a park ranger can tell you.
|Ocotillo in bloom|
|A waterfall in the desert?|
|Happy hiker Susan.|
|Looks like a waterfall to me!|
|View across Rio Grande into Mexico.|
Boquillas Canyon Trail (1.4 mi.):
|Looking toward the entrance to Boquillas Canyon.|
|In Boquillas Canyon...much cooler.|
|Burro in Mexico|
|Swallows' nests in the cliffs.|
|Trail to hot springs.|
|Hot springs pool|
|Bob can't wait to get in!|
|View of the Rio Grande from hot springs.|
We had a wonderful day hiking in Big Bend National Park. The temperature was not extreme; we had some cool breezes early in the day. There was one last place in the park I wanted to see but it was getting late: Dugout Wells.
We got to Dugout Wells at dusk/twilight. Light was fading fast. Across the road ahead of us, I thought I saw a coyote, but the tail was way too long. Bob said, "I think that was a cougar. It had the haunches and the stance of a cat." When I thought about it, I knew he was right. A cougar (aka mountain lion, puma, and in these parts, panther)!!! Cool, I had never seen one in the wild before.
Not a good idea. Whose idea was this anyway? Go to a watering hole when all the desert animals are coming out? Good way to see animals, but maybe a good way to become dinner!
We drove the loop around Dugout Wells. As we were about to exit the car, Bob said, "Hand me the camera. Quick!" I found the camera as quick as I could. He got a shot of a javelina.
More pics from Dugout Wells:
|Chihuahuan Desert at twilight|
|Dugout Wells landscape|
|It's getting darker!|
We started walking the 1/2 mi. nature trail. At this point, all I can think about is the cougar out in the desert stalking us...especially since this trail headed in the same direction as the cat had. Abort! Not becoming cougar food tonight.
Our drive from the park back to Marathon (2 hours) was not without excitement. Deer dotted the sides of the roads. Bob and I were on high alert watching for four-legged mammals. Also distracting were the nighthawks swooping in front of the headlights to catch bugs. I didn't want to hit them because they were very pretty.
When we were almost back to Marathon, we stopped at a picnic area to look at the stars. Big Bend National Park has the darkest night skies in the lower 48 states and we wanted to experience it. Amazing! The Big Dipper was directly overhead. I've never seen so many stars near the Big Dipper. Wow, wow, wow.
We made it back to the 5er and two hungry cats.