Saturday, 4/10/21: The Window

Just about the most beautiful and delicate flowering cactus we saw. (I finally got this straight - cactus is singular; cacti is plural).

The Big Bend wildfire has expanded to 600 acres. I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out what was burning. The sparse desert vegetation looked pretty harmless to me.

We checked first thing in the morning - the Chisos Mountain area had two trails open: the popular Window Trail and the Lost Mine Trail. The campground and the Visitor Center were also open. Everything else, including all the back country campsites and all the other trails and rustic roads were closed.

We drove up to the Visitor Center where The Window Trailhead is located. It is several thousand feet higher than the desert floor. The vegetation was radically different. Small trees abound and the bushes were thick. A fire could certainly be sustained way up here.

A park ranger at the Visitor Center said the Window Trail was 5.6 miles round trip with a 500’ elevation change to deal with if you start from the Visitor Center, but only 4.4 miles and much less elevation change if you start from the campground just down the road. I remembered that an 80’ elevation change felt like 800’ in 97º heat. We drove down to the campground.

The sign at the trailhead pegged the round trip distance at 3.6 miles. Gaia GPS, however, confirmed the 4.4 mile distance that the park ranger quoted. The hike was pretty much all downhill to the Window. That meant all uphill on the return trip.

But it was worth it. The craggy angular rock formations and mountain walls were beautiful. When we reached the actual Window Canyon, the area became even more stunning. The trail ended at, well, a window to the world. The dry gulch that formed the canyon dropped away a couple thousand feet leaving the confining canyon walls to frame a window to thin air. It was impressive.

Fortunately, we were blessed with an exceptionally cool day. The high reached a frigid 88º in the desert and only 76º in the Chisos Mountains. The breeze was cool and the air was pleasant. Only the direct sun was hot.

The sign says 3.6 miles. Don’t believe it. It was 4.4 miles.

Scenes along the trail.

The Window. This canyon was formed by a dry gulch. Here the gulch just stops. Whenever it rains, the gulch swells with water and it leaps off the side of the cliff - now that would be sight. The two tall rock formations in the forefront are actually independent formations and are several 100 feet away from The Window.

After the hike, we slowly drove back to V-Jer, trying to burn every formation, cactus, and bush into our souls. I am going to miss this place.

Views on our slow drive back to V-Jer.

When we pulled into the RV park, something was different. The park is divided into three parts. There is a tiny tent-only section. Then there is a full hookup section that includes sewer hookup for each site as well as water and electricity. Finally, off to the side, is our section, the electric and water sans sewer section. For the past three days, our section only had us and one other giant rig. This time when we drove in, the familiar giant rig was gone and a new trailer had set up right next to V-Jer.

That was odd. We have this whole section wide open and the management put the new people right on top of us. Fortunately, Judie and Duane turned out to be the nicest and chattiest retired couple imaginable. And Duane had beer, wine, and sticks of a fine smoked German sausage he called landjaeger. Hmmm, I gotta get me some mo’ of that.

Being our last night, we had lots of organizing and packing chores, but beer, wine and lanjaeger were powerful distractions. Ironically, these guys had just been where we were heading and vice versa. We compared notes; Duane helped me with some chores; and Wanda got so chatty herself that she only got half of her chores done. After another round of drinks, we didn’t care. It was a perfect ending to a perfect four day Big Bend visit.

Tomorrow we head for New Mexico. What did I think of Texas? First of all, the near 100% mask compliance pleasantly surprised me. For all of the “liberty” rhetoric and “freedom” bluster coming from Texas politicians, Texans themselves seem practical.

Texans, with all of their empty miles of highway like to drive fast. Most two-lane highways are posted at 70 to 75 mph. Four-lane highways are usually 80 mph, but one four-lane expressway was posted at 85 mph. In the long expanses that seem to go nowhere, you can get to nowhere fast in Texas.

Mark of Appleton was right, there are three awesome places in Texas: Big Bend, Davis Mountains, and the Hill Country. The rest was, well, OK.

Our ride back to V-Jer, where again, all was well.

Dave and Wanda

Mask Up To Save Lives.

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