Zip Lining into Big Bend
[El Paso & Lajitas, TX – Dec 24 & 25, 2021]
To cap off 2021, we decided to sneak in another national park. Big Bend had been on my list ever since we went to Texas’ only other national park, Guadalupe Mountains, in early 2020. Both parks are in West Texas and only about 3.5 hours apart. However, we had already packed 3 national parks into that 3-day itinerary (the other two being Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands in New Mexico). Big Bend had to wait.
Big Bend is one of the most remote national parks. Its location in the southwest corner of Texas puts it 4.5 hours away from El Paso and almost 6 hours away from San Antonio. Those are the closest large cities! Big Bend is also the westernmost point of Central Standard Time. Since we were coming from Los Angeles, we would be losing 2 hours of time. Because of this and flight schedules, we decided to fly to El Paso and spend the night there before driving to Big Bend the next day.
The Omicron variant combined with busy Christmas travel was already starting to wreak havoc on the flight schedule. Hundreds of domestic flights were scrapped that day (Xmas Eve). Luckily, we only suffered a minor delay. Our plane was ready but our crew was running late from San Francisco. They literally landed two gates away and walked over to our flight!
The only pic I have from that night in El Paso is from our dinner at Kona Grill, where I managed to leave my credit card. Luckily, they held it for me until I picked it up 3 days later on our way out.
We woke up early on Christmas day to this gorgeous sunrise.
Our destination was the tiny town of Lajitas, TX, just west of Big Bend. There is a fast route and a scenic route, and the difference is only about 30 minutes without stops. Given that we had all day to make the drive, the scenic route through Presidio was a no-brainer.
Our drive began eastward in I-10.
We veered off I-10 at Marfa. This artist enclave is home to less than 2,000 people and a speed trap, which does not break for Christmas Day! Ugh. Besides that, though, Marfa does attract a fair number of visitors as a center for minimalist art, a great place to glide and also its mysterious phenomenon, the MARFA lights. Perhaps the most famous and easiest art piece to see is the PRADA Marfa permanent sculptural art installation. It’s in the form of a PRADA storefront and displays actual PRADA goods from the 2005 fall/winter collection. It was inaugurated in 2005.
We also spotted a big blimp and wondered what it’s doing in the middle of the Chihuahan desert. A quick google search revealed it’s a Border Patrol blimp. This tracked with the inordinate number of Border Patrol stops and trucks we saw on the road. We actually went through a Border Patrol stop right on I-10 just east of El Paso!
The rest of the scenery between Marfa and Presidio was pretty flat but still beautiful.
But once we passed Presidio, the awesome views of Big Bend Ranch State Park were before us. This 311,000 acre park on the Rio Grande is the largest state park in Texas. Don’t confuse it with the national park even though they’re pretty close to each other and are both part of the Chihuahan desert.
We arrived in Lajitas in the early afternoon, just in time for check-in. I had expected cooler temps but that forecast was actually for the higher elevation in the Chisos Basin of the national park. Lajitas was much closer to the Rio Grande and it was a balmy 85F / 29C. Even by desert standards, this was a heatwave for December. We had booked a stay at Lajitas Golf resort, which was beautiful!
B had booked us a zipline tour in the afternoon. It looked a little bit iffy for a while due to high winds, but in the end we were able to do the 4 highest zip lines on the course. The outfit is right on resort grounds and is a run by a family of 4.There was only 1 other person in our group, so we didn’t have to wait around a lot. The first zip line dangled us over a canyon, while the last one allowed me to get some serious speed.
The nice thing about staying in the resort was that we had everything we needed right there. We grabbed dinner at the on-site restaurant and marveled at the sunset. How often do you get a gorgeous sunrise and sunset in the same day? What a great first day in West Texas… if we don’t count that speed trap. 🙂
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