Each year our family opts to get out-of-town for the Thanksgiving holiday. This year proved to be no different as we embarked on a 10-day trip to one of our favorite spots in West Texas, Big Bend Ranch State Park. A week camping, backpacking and hiking across the Chihuahuan Desert with no toilet, shower and some nights not even a tent over our heads. Sounds crazy, but to us it’s a little slice of heaven without cell phone service or the chaos of the city or the pollution of light to be able to sleep out and enjoy star-gazing each night as wind down from the day.
First of all, we have to commit at least 4 days of driving to getting to our beautiful desert destination. Once we hit the Texas hill country, the geology is gorgeous! I remember the first time my husband took me to this beautiful place I was completely in awe of the topography that I got to see, not to mention getting to see my first sets of wind turbines (which some people don’t like so much, but wind energy is a great source of alternative energy especially in the desert locations of West Texas) I always wish I had better photos of them and boy are they HUGE! Just one rotator blade is the length of a semi-tractor trailer!
The Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park, which are located along the Mexico border, also used to be privately owned, but were sold to the State and Federal Park Services and restored (some still in the process of being restored) to allow visitors to enjoy this vast desert splendor! There is always so much to see and so many trails to hike. But first you have to make sure that you have the proper vehicle to get you to those back-country locals that we love so much!
Big Bend Ranch State Park encompasses 287,000 acres of Chihuahuan Desert wilderness, along the Rio Grande River of western Texas. Operated as a preserve by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, it is adjacent to Big Bend National Park on the west. Established in 1988, the state park features spectacular rock formations, unique plants and animals, and 10,000 years of human history.
Embracing some of the most remote and rugged terrain in the Southwest, it encompasses two mountain ranges containing ancient extinct volcanoes, precipitous canyons, and waterfalls. Big Bend Ranch State Park is home to a tremendous diversity of animal and plant species, including 14 species of bats, several species of hummingbirds, and at least 11 other rare plants and animals, including Hinckley Oaks and Mountain Lions. The park also maintains a small Texas longhorn herd, a remnant of the property’s ranching heritage. – Desert USA Big Texas
Day hikes to old Ranch ruins are always at the top of our list and this year over the course of our trip, I believe the total number of miles hiked added up to more than 20. Seeing old dwellings, mine ruins and other ranch operations always peak my interest, but it also reminds me how much we just up and leave garbage around (even if at times its industrial). It’s still fascinating to explore though, I totally admit.
When it comes to sleeping at night, we do bring our tent, but my husband and our family opt to “sleep out” when possible. This trip was no different! I believe we ended up sleeping out at least 3 nights of our 6 night trip. Waking up with ice on your sleeping bag . . . yeah, sleeping out in the desert is not for sissies! HaHa!
Showers and toilets are also considered a “luxury” in this wilderness country. Rarely do we take time to grab one, but this trip we had to go into the Ranger Station to grab new back-country permits and, well, it was there! So we indulged in a mid-week shower after 4 days out and let me just say, 5 minutes in the shower can do a girl a world of good!! (it’s the little things I tell ya!)
But in the end, this trip each year is about getting to spend quality time with my husband and some of our family. We don’t ask for much, just a little spot on the ground each night, a good meal in our bellies (good beer for the boys) and a new hiking trail to conquer each day!
So when you are thinking about getting away from the hustle and bustle of city life, really think about a trip to disconnect and get out there. Sometimes the road may just lead to nowhere and when you find yourself there take time and soak it all in!