Wednesday, 4/7/21: Little Big Bend

Wanda hiking Closed Canyon.

Born under a bad sign

I been down since I begin to crawl

If it wasn’t for bad luck

If it wasn’t for real bad luck

I’d have no luck at all

—Albert King

Actually, we seem to be under two diametrically opposed signs warring with each other - one bad and one fortunate. Yesterday, our Thule kayak rack, after one and a half years of flawless operation, decided to take it’s own journey to the driver’s side of the van. That is bad luck. However, when we were stuck way out in the middle of nowhere trying fix it, some guy materializes out of the mist (OK, I’m taking literary license with the mist image) with the know-how and an extra step ladder to tackle the job. That was great fortune.

Then my new email app goes berserk. The app’s techies couldn’t figure it out. More bad luck. However, I fiddled around and stumbled onto a clever go-around. That was fortunate.

I haven’t even mentioned the electrical harness. We have a 7-wire electrical hookup between the van to the camper. Out of the blue, a couple of days ago, I got a “wiring fault” message on my dashboard while driving across Texas. The camper’s lights worked, the camper’s electric brakes worked, however, the camper’s batteries weren’t getting recharged. That meant the camper’s refrigerator, which can run on 12 volt DC while driving, was draining the camper batteries - bad luck. Long story short, I bought a can of electrical contact spray and sprayed the crap out of the connection. That seemed to do it. I did not get a “wiring fault” message on the way down to Study Butte - good fortune.

And today, more of the same. We arrived at the Study Buttte RV camp just outside of Big Bend National Park. By the time we set up it was 1:45 pm - too late to cruise into Big Bend. Instead, we went into the National Park’s little brother, Big Bend State Park, to hike two short but spectacular hikes. More on that later.

When we returned, we saw that the awning was gone; our cleverly Japanese-designed Air Force grade aluminum collapsible table and bench set was missing; and our screens on V-Jer were fluttering in the breeze. Apparently, a hefty wind gust was the culprit.

We found the table and benches, kind of mangled, dug into the gravel about 15’ away. The awning was in a heap, tangled under a half cannibalized bulldozer some 50’ away.

We tackled the awning first. Once untangled, it looked to be intact. Two poles were missing but we found them another 50’ away in a totally different direction - weird, but these are powerful signs that are operating on us. As we put the awning back on V-Jer, we continued to be surprised that it was undamaged. One plastic clip was missing and two of the other clips had their rubber feet missing. The entire park is a large gravel lot. The missing parts looked just like gravel. Well, wouldn’t you know, after walking up and down the lot in a search and rescue grid, we found all three items. With these snapped into place we were good to go.

The table and bench set might have looked mangled, however, they weren’t at all. The removable table top had just slid out of place. Once back in place, viola, perfect.

Now the screens. Drum roll......... There were no rips, that’s a fortunate sign. I tucked the sides back into the slots, refolded the pleats, and more viola, perfect.

The awning was the most perplexing. It had withstood gale winds back at Davis Mountains State Park. The weak point was how I had the awning tied to the stakes. I used wimpy bungees. To remedy this, I devised a far more robust tie down system.

Here is our stark setup at the Study Butte RV Park in Study Butte, Texas, before the awning was blown away. The town is named after William Study (pronounced: stoo’ dee), a guy who opened up a cinnabar mine the 1800s, called Study Butte. Cinnabar is a mineral that mercury is derived from.

OK, back to the day’s exploratory events. Hwy 170 follows the Rio Grande River into some of the most beautiful mountain and gulch canyon country that we have ever seen. It really makes me salivate for Utah. The pinks, tans, and dark maroons accented with the light green early spring foliage was spectacular.

We drove about 45 miles along this route before arriving at the Closed Canyon trail. The plaque pegged the trail at .7 miles, making for a 1.4 mile round trip. Gaia GPS clocked it at 2 miles flat. At 92º it felt like 10 miles. Who said a dry heat is no big deal. It is a big deal.

The canyon, our first slot canyon, was spectacular. Although it wasn’t a tight slot canyon, it did feature tall perpendicular walls with a walkway of about 15’ wide on the bottom. We couldn’t get all the way to the Rio Grande without climbing ropes as one spot dropped sharply. I supposed we could have, with a lot of luck, picked our way down, but coming back up was a no-go without climbing gear.

The trail leading up to the canyon was filled with blooming cacti of many sizes and shapes. I loved the super skinny barbed Prickly Pears with bright red flowers at the tips, much like sumacs in the fall.

Closed Canyon Trail.

The next trail was called the Hoodoo Trail. This trail, of course, featured rock formations called hoodoos - roundish curvy mushroomy shaped formations. Utah is the king of the hoodoos, but this spot did provide a nice preview. On this trail we got to go down to the banks of the Rio Grande and look at the natural rock wall that nature built on the Mexican side of the river. I had to plop one foot in the river just say that I did. The Rio Grande, is a very tiny river, made even tinier at this lower than normal stage.

That was pretty much all we had time for. We returned to camp around 7:30 pm to see our gremlin’s handiwork.

The Hoodoo Trail is a loop trail that reaches the Rio Grande River.

The favorite, the Prickly Pear.

The drive along Hwy 170 forced us to oooh and ahhh at each bend in the road.

Hwy 170 following the Rio Grande River.

Rugged, stark, beautiful.

Dave and Wanda

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