Ronna put together a backpacking plan for us, and we decided to explore the Old Ore Road. It was a terrific long weekend and almost everyone was able to make it. What a treat!

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    It was the perfect setting for another wonderful family vacation! Mom and Nathan drove from Dallas to Midland, where they met me, Ronna, and Mark at the airport. We drove to a nearby truck stop to have lunch and Nathan took video of the salad bar so that we didn't have to get up to see what they had. Afterwards, we went back to the airport to pick up Dad and we were on our way! Everyone was excited, if tired from flying and driving all day, but Mom had reserved a campsite in the Basin campground for us, so we set up camp, had dinner, and hit the sack. Tom would catch up with all of us the next day and we were all happy to be in our 2nd home: Big Bend! We could hardly sleep.

The next morning, bright and early, Dad dropped me, Ronna, Mark, Nathan, and Mom off at the Chimneys Trailhead. We had our big packs on and were ready to spend the night on the trail in a primitive spot for which we had registered at Panther Junction. Our original plan (to hike through the Banta Shut-in to Ernst Basin Campsite, had to be scrapped as there was reportedly no water at the springs along the way and the temperature was going to be very hot during the days we'd be on the trail. We found out later that there was indeed water at some locations, but were still glad we had adjusted our plans. I had never been down the Chimneys Trail and was a little concerned with my big backpack on. It wasn't the weight of the pack, it was the pressure on my knee that I worried about since I'd crashed my motorcycle just a few days earlier in Seattle. As it turned out, my knee was okay but my left hip bothered me tremendously. I didn't complain (nobody likes a whiner) but when we reached the big rock and the ruins in the shade, I gave in and spent the afternoon napping in the cool breeze that swept around the rock and blew away the flies.

Ocotilla blooming on
the Chimneys Trail

the "upper apartment"

petroglyphs by the ruins

big rock cast giant shadow!

Ronna, Mark, Nathan, and Mom struck out to find Red Ass Springs, which they believed to be in a small copse of Cottonwood trees that we could spy at a distance. It looked like a long, hot, hike and I was glad I didn't go. But it felt good to get the packs off, and everyone made good time. Mom and Nathan made it to the trees and said it was really neat, but that the underbrush was very thick and they couldn't find a lot of room to relax there. I think it was farther than they thought it would be! Ronna and Mark ran low on water and so returned to the rock where I was relaxing. They made themselves at home and we spent the hottest part of the afternoon chatting and getting caught up on life in the shade. I could easily imagine Native Americans doing the same after a productive morning.

The sun also rises

Here comes the hot sun

You can see forever!

nap-time at the
Chimneys Day Care

When Nathan and Mom returned, we had lunch and then explored the other side of the rocks, where there were pertroglyphs and another set of ruins. Just as the sun was creeping around the rock to shine on us, we would be able to move to the "upper apartment" because the shade was creeping across its 'rooms'. It was a wonderful day, full of conversation, exploration, and a really nice easy hike across the desert floor. For the night, we spread out at a nearby clearing aside a creekbed. It was covered with tiny gravel that would be nice to sleep on. We stretched out and watched the stars before dropping off, one by one, to sleep. I had wonderful dreams that night and woke a couple of times to see what the stars looked like. I lay there quietly as the eastern sky lightened very slowly, and the dawn came to greet us. It was beautiful, so quiet and alone. We broke camp just before sunrise and as we ate our breakfast and packed up our things, we watched the sun spread slowly across the desert floor from the west as the sun cleared the mountain behind us. It was headed our way, and it was gonig to be a hot one!

the only shade for miles

long ways away

sunet on the rocks

the trail calls me away

The hike out to the western trailhead was indeed a hot one, especially the last mile or so, which is up a creek bed. But there were blooming cactus all around us and the day was just too pretty to complain! My hip hurt a lot, but the going was easy with very little elevation gain or loss. We had a snack along the way but when the sun is overhead, it's hard to find any shade! Dad was waiting for us at the other side, though, with cold pop and even a beer for Mark. We sure were glad to see him and we think he missed us a little bit that night. He met up with Tom, though, and they spent the evening at the Basin together. Tom had gone down to the Rio Grande to do some kayaking (this made mom a little bit jealous) and we'd catch up with him later. We decided to go to Santa Elena to see if we could find him.

Mom is having a
Spam sammich

blooming prickly pear

bird nest in the cholla

more ocatillo

more prickly pear

and even more!

Ronna and Nathan in
front of Santa Elena

sickly yellow cholla

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