In Which Someone Almost Got Stuck in Mexico
[Big Bend National Park, TX, Dec 26, 2021]
For our first full day in the park, we decided to do one of the most popular trails in Big Bend, Lost Mine. Although it’s short – less than 5 miles round-trip – it’s not exactly easy due to the 1,100 ft of elevation gain over a fairly short distance. It’s in the Chisos Mountain area of the park. Lost Mine trail gets it name from a legend that suggests that a secret mine existed in the area.
The key to enjoying this hike is starting early as the parking lot is very small and fills up quickly. We arrived right around sunrise and there were plenty of cars at the trailhead already. Later that day, we saw people parking along the side of the road and even all the way at Chisos Mountain Lodge. This would add over a mile one way!
Although the climb starts right away, the first good bit of the hike is a gentle incline. We enjoyed seeing the sun rise and light up Casa Grande Peak.
Before the real climbing began, we reached out a lookout point with great views of Juniper Canyon and the South Rim on the right. I loved the layers of rocks in soft early morning light.
We reached the top after a little over an hour. The area there was flat with lots of room to explore and enjoy the almost 360-degree views.
After our hike, we drove to nearby Chisos Mountain Lodge. There is a visitor center and a little store here. I got my national park passport stamped and grabbed some snacks and refreshments from the store. I was happy to find a can of cold brew in the fridge section. I definitely needed more caffeine due to our early start! This is also where I must have lost my other credit card! With the first one still being stuck at Kona Grill in El Paso from two nights ago, I was now officially relying solely on Google Pay! I don’t normally lose things so this was quite frustrating.
Next up we drove to the Boquillas border crossing in the Rio Grande area of the park. The only other time I’ve seen a border crossing at a national park was at Goat Haunt in Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada.
This very unique border crossing had just opened for the first time since COVID a few weeks before our visit. At the port of entry, the customs agent asked if we had valid passports. We double-checked just to be sure and lo-and-behold, B’s passport had expired during the pandemic! We were so grateful the customs agent made us double-check! It would have not been fun for B to be stuck on the Mexican side in the middle of nowhere! He was gracious enough to offer to wait for me at the port of entry while I crossed by myself.
After passing through the port of entry, it’s a short walk to the banks of the Rio Grande. From there, you can be ferried to the Mexican side via a rowboat for a small fee. The river level was so low, I could have actually been able to walk across!
Once on the other side, one can walk or pay for mule/car ride to the nearby village Boquillas del Carmen. Since B was waiting for me, I didn’t go to the village but I enjoyed this border crossing nonetheless.
The drive back to town was gorgeous! We opened the top of the Jeep and I loved taking photos from the car without having to dodge the reflection/dirt of the windshield.
We also checked out the visitor center at Panther Junction and took some photos at the park sign on the way out to Terlingua.
Just down the road, a coyote crossed the road in front of us! We pulled over and I popped out of the roof to try to spot the guy. He was almost invisible as his coat was perfectly matching the desert landscape. Luckily, he moved and I was able to spot him!
We were definitely ready for lunch and the little ghost town of Terlingua did not disappoint. Terlingua was a mining town around the turn of the century. Mercury mining exploded during the World Wars and the town grew. Eventually though, as demand for mercury declined, the mine shut down and the town was just about abandoned. In 1967, it became the site of the first famous championship chili cook off in 1967. Today, that today draws over 10,000 “chili heads” from all over the world on the first Saturday every November.
We had lunch at a little place called High Sierra Bar & Grill. B ordered the chili, which was indeed really good, and I got the fajitas. We spoke to the only other person there, Steve, who told us about the cookoff and mentioned that the chili served here won second place!
We spent the rest of the day relaxing at our resort in Lajitas and having a wonderful dinner at sunset. What a great first day in Big Bend!