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042A – BBNP Field Notes – Chisos Basin Campground to Window Trail in Big Bend National Park

Artwork for Ward's Adventure Travel Podcast 144 x 144 Export Quality 100
Posted by on February 27, 2015
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Bob Ward

Fiction author with a zest for adventure travel. Blogs, tweets, videos, and pins for research and fun. He also hosts Ward's Adventure Travel Research & Trip Journal, a weekly podcast available on EFN, iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and more.

Dad and I podcast live from Big Bend National Park. The first half is from our campsite the Tuesday evening we arrive. The second half is Wednesday during a lunch break while hiking Window trail.

Partial Transcript:

Bob: Okay, we’re live. Ward’s Adventure Travel Research and Trip Journal, and guess where we’re at…Big Bend National Park. We’re sitting here at our campsite.

Dave: Big Bend, Texas.

Bob: Big Bend, Texas.

Dave: And you wouldn’t believe it, but it’s chilly here in Big Bend, Texas.

Bob: It’s going to be in the lower 30’s tonight.

Dave: Yes, and Bob and I are sitting here at a picnic table in our winter coats. You’d think we were in Iowa, snow blowing around us.

Bob: Well, at least there’s no snow. It is a bit chilly, but this is really cool because the basin is actually a bowl surrounded by these cliffs.

Dave: Really high cliffs.

Bob: And the campsite is nestled right down into this bowl. It’s just the sweetest thing. So right now the sun has dipped, it’s six-thirty p.m on the 17th of February. The sun has dipped down below the ridgelines, and we still see some sunlight shining on these ridges to the east, these peaks.

Dave: We should post some pictures so they can see, because this really is cool.

Bob: Yeah, but my camera’s in the truck. So we’ve cooked our dinner, we’ve eaten, we’ve got our tents pitched, and it’s a really laid-back campground, really nice, smaller than I’d thought it was looking from the aerials, it’s smaller.

Dave: Yeah, there’s probably 20 people here, 20 campers. And there’s a few tents, and a few hard-shelled campers.

Bob: The campground is apparently all full, booked and reserved.

Dave: It is? Well, who are these people?

Bob: I noticed what they do is put a sign on a pole, on a campsite. Like ours says Bob Ward, and it says 16th thru 22nd. Now the one over there says some other person’s name, 19th thru 22nd. So that’s going to be unoccupied for two more days.

Dave: Oh, I see, and then…

Bob: Somebody is going to come in.

Dave: I think all of ours are tents only, the ones we’re going to be in. Aren’t they?

Bob: Well, they’re…

Dave: There’s no place for them to park here.

Bob: Some of them have a parking stall that has been paved into the campsite a bit, and if you have a camper you can park there. Or if you have a car, you can park on that. Ours just has a little parking spot for a car off the campsite. Well, we’ve got to talk about our impressions. So we left Monday. We should talk about the trip out here, how that went, and our initial impressions about everything.

Dave: Well, this was kind of a nice trip from me, because Bob did 95% of the driving, because I had a cataract operation on my right eye, so I’ve got one eye and the other eye is healing, so I see about…well, if you stood in front of me I might be able to tell you were there, with my right eye. With my left eye I can see 20/20, but it’s still a strain to just use one eye. Anybody who’s never been one-eyed before–that’s most of us–you don’t realize what a benefit that second eye is, giving you a depth perception and an ability to move around things, so if I come by somebody, if they’re on my right side, I’m liable to knock them down, just not even realize I’m that close because my depth perception is off. And so Bob did most of the driving, which left me there to snooze away, which was okay. I didn’t mind that.

Bob: On Monday we left at nine o’clock in the morning. Then we got off the road, I think at ten. We drove for 12 hours, so we must have gotten off the road at nine. We drove from our place all the way to, what was the town…?

Dave: Witchita Falls, Texas.

Bob: Just across the boarder of Texas, and then we got a really great LaQuinta Inn for sixty bucks, and we slept from about 11 p.m. until five, and got up at 5 a.m., and we were in the car and on the road at five-twenty. And then we drove the rest of the way. So today we drove another eight hours.

Dave: Yeah, we got in here about two o’clock, two-thirty, somewhere in there.

Bob: No, it was more like…we got into this park, stopped at Persimmon Gap, which is the first visitor center. You’ve got to pay twenty bucks for your car, so we paid our twenty bucks, they give you a receipt that you tape onto your windshield. So once you’ve paid for your vehicle, then you drive another forty-five minutes to the basin campground, which is where we’re at. When we got to the basin campground, there were two girls on bikes. They were hitching a ride. They had ridden twenty miles.

Dave: Up hill.

Bob: And they were exhausted.

Dave: With a down hill wind.

Bob: They had another twenty-two miles to go, and we didn’t have any room in the back of the truck because it’s a shortbed truck and dad had his backpack back there. We had just bought…we stopped at Odessa or Midland. It was Midland Walmart, and we got all of our food there. We each got six gallons of water.

Dave: And we find out we don’t need any water.

Bob: Yeah.

Dave: Because they’ve got water right here.

Bob: We didn’t know that.

Dave: We didn’t know that. That was our safety factor. We said, you know, for eighty-eight cents a gallon we can buy six gallons, and we know at least we have water. If they have water, that’s fine. So it was all right.

Bob: Anyway, so these girls had two bikes, road bikes, and they had them loaded down with gear, kind of like backpacks. They’re paniers, you put them over the rear tire, over the front tire. These things were heavy, and they wanted to put those in the back of our truck. Well, the extended cab, that was all full of the rest of our crap, so we said, “we don’t have any room in the cab for you two girls.” Anyway, they got their bikes piled up in the back of that short bed, and they sat on top of their bikes and let us drive them maybe five miles, because we said we’re turning off at the Chisos campground turn.

Dave: And they said that was alright.

Bob: They had another twenty-two miles to go where we dropped them.

Dave: Yeah, they said “We’ll pick up another ride.” Well, they better hope so, because they looked exhaused.

Bob: We had to leave the tailgate down, and their bikes were hanging off so much that we had to take some tie-downs and tie their bikes into the truck so that they wouldn’t slide out.

Dave: So they wouldn’t slide out and they’d have to fight holding them in. Yeah, that was neat.

Bob: I felt a little bad dropping them off, knowing that they had twenty-two miles left, and maybe they’d have to ride or hitch, but we told them that in advance. Before they agreed, we said, “We’re turning up here at the corner, and what do you want to do?” And they said, “Well, can you at least take us that far?” And we said okay.

Dave: It was five miles up hill. They would have been exhausted.

Bob: It saved them five miles.

Dave: Yeah, it was better than nothing. And it gave them a good place to camp out for the night. They just need to pitch a tent and camp out. They got all their stuff to camp out, so they don’t need…

Bob: What’s inside those paniers?

Dave: Well, they must have some way.

Bob: After we dropped them off, then we start coming up these switchbacks. The campgroud is up pretty steep. And it’s a climb. And we saw another biker, and passed him.

Dave: This was a guy though.

Bob: This was a guy and after we passed he starts waving in our rearview mirror. I see this guy waving like, “Stop! Stop! Help me!” But we didn’t know what his signal was.

Dave: Plus, he’s a guy. We have less sympathy for guys.

Bob: Anyway, we kept going and left that guy.

Dave: So long sucker.

Bob: He’s probably going to come here, come riding past our campsite here and say, “You a-holes. I’m just now getting here.”

Dave: And we’ll have to say, “Sit down and have a little wine with us. We bought some box of wine at the Walmart. So we’re sitting here drinking wine and yucking it up. If he stops by, we’ll give him some wine, and he’ll be okay.

Bob: Who? The guy?

Dave: The guy. If he stops in…

Bob: Those girls are long gone. They went west.

Dave: But the exhausted guy was coming this way.

Bob: He’s not here yet.

Dave: No, he probably won’t make it either.

Bob: We’re right on the corner, so we can see all the traffic that’s coming in and out. It’s really quite a nice little area to call a home-base.

Dave: Yeah.

Bob: But what I want to do tomorrow, or at least at some point before we leave, is walk around–because it’s a nice walk, like walking around a city block–and I want to look at the campsites and say “Which one one we really like to have?” And mark down the number.

Dave: I like this one.

Bob: But we haven’t even seen any of the other. Some of them are more secluded, like that one across the street, directly across there. It’s got a covered canopy, but it’s also secluded. There’s more space over there. But I want to look…

Dave: That one right there also has a space for a…oh, they do have a tent set up there.

Bob: Yeah, but what I want to do is go around and say “That’s a really nice one,” and mark down our top five sites, because they’re over twenty, twenty-five sites here, maybe forty, and if we ever come back, it’d be nice to know which sites do we want.

Dave: Yeah, probably would.

Bob: Because all we did was look at the Google maps aerial to do the best we could to pick a site, and when it came down to reserving it, there was only one left with this covered picnic table, so I just went ahead and got it. I mean, it’s fine. But the nice thing is right here, just directly across the street, which is probably sixty feet, the campground hosts, husband and wife, are in an RV.

Dave: Which is a non-paid volunteer type thing.

Bob: And they’re right there, and what they do is answer any questions that you have. And that really gave me a lot of reassurance because they said all the trails that we’re going to hike are well-marked, and easy to find. So you’re not going to get lost going out to hike on any of this.

Dave: They also said that they’re really nice trails, and good trails. Well worth the walk, and we’ll really enjoy them.

Bob: So from here, Emory Peak is right there.

Dave: Right. It’s about twenty-five hundred feet up.

Bob: It’s the highest point in the park. When we were at the cabin we were looking at the map, and you don’t get the same sense of space and distance that you get when you’re here, because it looks so far away from the campground when you’re looking at it on a map. And you think, “How are we going to get there?” Well, you’re looking at the peak right there. Anyway, so the hosts said that it’s a full day hike up there and back.

Dave: I think they said 8 hours, wasn’t it?

Bob: Yeah, a full day, up and back.

Dave: If you don’t dawdle. If you dawdle it could be longer.

Bob: And that’s leaving from the trailhead, and so then they talked about the other trails, said Windows Trail is a nice one. That’s a day hike. You go out and back. Also, on the south rim loop, they said that the south rim loop was well marked and easy, but it would take you…you could get all the way around it in 12 hours of hard pushing, but most likely it’s better to do that in two legs. Do an eight hour–kind of where we talked about camping–and then wake up the next morning and come back up the other side. But what they said was you have to go up to the visitor’s center and get a backcountry camping permit, and you have to tell them where you’re heading, and it sounded like they were going to have to see if there were any campsites available. So there’s a limited number of campsites available, and they might actually assign you one. So we’ll find that out when we decide to do that, but the first day, they didn’t recommend us doing anything other than a short hike.

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