Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Big Bend By Backroad

The backroad system of Big Bend is one of the neatest things in the park and is pretty unique too. In most parks you would never be allowed to drive off the pavement. In Big Bend there is an entire system of rough roads that those with the right vehicle and the sense of adventure can explore.

The roads can be short, mostly gravel, and car capable like the short drive into Hot Springs or Maverick Road. They can also be long, rutted and 4x4 required like some of the Ore Road or Black Gap. The River road is long and it is a journey that crosses the desert, goes over mountains, follows the river, drops in arroyos, dips through dry creek beds. It is usually passable with high clearance and driving smarts. If it rains all bets are pretty much off and you might need a lifted Jeep to get through.

The road is high clearance required even in the best of conditions and because there had been a long dry spell it was in decent shape in early November. When the road is like this a pickup, Subaru, or SUV should be fine. Still, being smart, knowing how to drive in sand, gravel, over rocks, around ruts, down arroyos, crossing creek beds, etc is all needed. I am comfortable with that, so away I went in my 4x4 Element to enjoy the backroads. The Honda Element (see image two to see it near the end of the road) is a great vehicle in this situation. It has a great little 4x4 system that kicks in when needed and it can float across stuff that will start to sink bigger vehicles. It is grippy and peppy. It has gotten me through many rough road conditions. Ground clearance was my main concern as the Element is right under 7" but I found it made the road fine.

As I mentioned in my last post the first camp was near the Mariscal Mine. That was about 18 miles in and it takes over two hours to make those 18 miles.

The second day I made it around Mariscal Mountain and down toward Talley (where the side road was rutted really bad so I parked about half way down that one). I ended the day back along the river at Loop Camp.

Loop Camp is a spot of gravel on a small bluff overlooking the Rio Grande. There is not a building, light, or human to be seen. There is only the desert, river, and mountains.

The top picture is from he campsite at dusk. The view is north toward the Punta de la Sierra. Before you start to think -he is in Mexico, I am not. I am still in Texas, but because of a curving loop of the river I am south of the Rio (while still being north). The river is flowing right to left and then loops around behind me.

Finally after a great sunset the sky cleared a little and the stars put on a show. Here is a bit longer of an exposure showing the swirl of stars in the night sky and the glow of the Milky Way.


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