After collecting our luggage in Midland, where security gently prevented Mom from meeting us at the gate (she just had to try!), Ronna and I piled into the Suburban and our trip was underway!

Click on the small pictures to see larger ones.

Dad's all set! Let's go!
We stopped in Ft. Stockton to eat at a Mexican restaurant that has been there at least since the 50's but which we had never tried. It was pretty good, but were in such a hurry to get back on the road! The drive into the park was fraught with adventure as we dodged rabbits, deer, and strange birds that flew into the truck. The hard part about the birds was that they were the same color as the road so Nathan could hardly see them until it was almost too late. We were nervous as we pulled into the Basin, all hoping that we had been assigned cottage #103, the same one we had in July of 2000. Tom and Jeanine had arrived earlier in the day and since their room at the lodge had been mistakenly assigned to someone else, they were lucky enough to get cottage #100, which has a king size bed, a microwave and a little refrigerator. I think it helped that Jeanine knew the woman at the reservation desk (it's a small world, after all!) and, sure enough, we had been assigned #103! That started the trip off right, for sure!

We were almost too excited to sleep and stayed up quite late unpacking and planning to hike the Lost Mine Trail the next morning. We also assembled our trail mix from fixings that I brought from Seattle. It was fun to see what everyone wanted in their trail mix! I sure have some ideas for next time. Finally, though, we hit the sack. I slept wonderfully in my own bed, while Ronna took the rollaway cot and Nathan and Tom shared another bed. The noise from the Snoring Family was deafening but somehow it sounded just right to me and I drifted off eventually.

Mom got us all up at what felt like 5am to hit the trail. We ate breakfast but we could see it was going to be a hot day so we got around and jumped in the car. Jeanine and Jordan joined us and we set off in high spirits. The hike was fabulous and the view from the top was great. Mom, Ronna, Nathan and I had lunch at the top and poked around climbing the boulders and taking pictures. Lost Mine is a very popular trail and we passed a lot of people on the way down. It was so hot, I'm glad we got an early start. We saw a huge snake on the way down and later identified it as a bull snake. It was about 3 feet long and several inches thick at its middle.

Mom and Dad

tall cactus

Heading up the Lost Mine Trail

Top of the Lost Mine Trail

After lunch we went down to the Hot Springs and played in the water. Unfortunately, the Hot Springs as we remember it are pretty much gone, buried in many feet of rock and sand from the latest incarnation of the Rio Grande river. They had some pretty severe storms recently and the river has slightly changed course, covering the springs in the meantime. The hot water is still pushing its way through the ground, though it's making a very small pool at this point. It was so hot that day that we thoroughly enjoyed splashing in the river. Later on, back in the Basin, we walked down for a ranger program and saw deer and bluejays along the way.

She wasn't afraid of me at all...

...until I asked her to carry me back to the cottage.

"say, how's about a cheezit, bub!"

quite persistent

That night was the Fourth of July and Tom made some fantastic margaritas in Mom's new blender and we relaxed on the porch to watch the show. But instead of fireworks, we watched the most incredible display of lightening that I have ever seen. The storm was in Mexico, probably over 100 miles away and the clouds filled the Window, crackling with their electricity. The air smelled sharp and when the wind of the storm hit our little cottage, you knew there were s ome serious forces at work up there in the sky. At times, the lightening would fill the sky but other strikes were more like spears, stabbing the ground over and over. We watched it for hours, marvelling at it and wondering if the storm would hit us. Well, it did, late that night, all of a sudden. In a trice, we were all up listening to the rain pound on the roof and the wind whistle through the mountains. I was glad to have my family around me to laugh with and pretend we didn't care and that we weren't afraid. The next morning was a bit cloudy and Dad, Nathan and I decided to take the GPS and try to find Rice Cemetery, out off the Glenn Springs Road. Dad had the coordinates and I plugged them into the GPS and we were off! Ronna, Mom, Tom, Jeanine and Jordan headed down to Bouquillas Canyon to play in the sand dunes and caves there. We were successful finding the cemetery as there was actually a path that went there. Nevertheless, we had fun tracking ourselves on the Garmin.

John Rice

Oh, bury me not...

...on the lone prairie...

no, seriously, don't bury me there.

It was a good hike out to the cemetery, made easier by the slight cloud cover. The sky looked bruised that morning, like it was worn out from the night's storm. After we got back to the car, we drove to the Tornillo Bridge to see if there was any water running and there sure was! Lots of it! We were excited to see that, but best of all was my brother Nathan spotting this incredible fossil. I took a picture of it and after we showed it to the ranger and to the rest of the family, we knew we had to climb down to the creekbed to see it up close. Nathan filed the necessary papers with the park personnel, including GPS coordinates so they could easily find it. He also emailed the park historian, who picked up the fossil and said it is an Ammonite from the Upper Crestacean period: 65-90 million years old! Wow! Pretty cool, eh? That night as we drove back to the bridge to get the coordinates for the paperwork, we had the incredible luck to spot a jaguarundi as it ran across the road in front of us. We didn't know what it was at the time, though, and only through describing it repeatedly for the rangers, did we (and they) decide what we had seen. It's a rare animal for the park and isn't actually officially considered a park resident since they've never seen an injured or dead one. That's three sighting forms we filled out in one trip! First the snake, then the fossil, and then the jaguarundi! Cool, huh!

Departing view of Rice Cemetery

Look what Nathan found!

About the size of a basketball.

Most ammonite fossils are softball-sized.

Unfortunately, that night one of those crazy birds flew into the driver's side window while Dad was driving. Dad was not hurt and thankfully he did not lose control of the car, but the bird didn't survive. We were all saddened by that. Later that evening we had some more rain and lightening and even saw a rainbow! Also, Tom, Jeanine and Jordan made home made ice cream with strawberries and crumbled cookies for on top! What a treat that was in the middle of the desert!

Casa Grande, right before the storm

Looks pretty threatening!

Faint rainbow over South Rim

The next day we got up early (again!) and headed out Paint Gap road to Grapevine Hills. This was another scorching-hot day, but since we got an early start we were off the elevation by lunchtime. The hike was sandy but the rocks at the end make it worth the headache! They are huge, yet friendly, and can be climbed even by graceless idiots like me. Tom gave me the coordinates for a Geo-cache and my Garmin and I found it just fine. The physical cache had been removed by the park personnel (which is fine by me) but it was still cool to see. The rock formations were really neat and Tom spotted one that looks like the profile of a chocolate Easter bunny! Can you see it?

Look out below!

Great spot for lunch

A lunch table with a view

Count on Tom to find the candy!

My sister! Yay!

Cool millipede!

Map of the hike

Elevation analysis of the hike

We stopped at Dugout Wells for lunch and enjoyed the cottonwood trees there. Later that day, we went to La Kiva for dinner and to the Starlight store to look around. There were some Hardley riders there and Dad and I had to laugh at the sign under which they parked their bikes "Please flatten". With pleasure! Even the Children at Play signs reflect the culture in Terlingua. We had a nice dinner and relaxing drive back to the Basin. The sunset that night was fantastic! Almost like Big Bend knew we would be leaving the next day...

He's hiding from me


Cool sign

'spose he's looking for a tree?

Gently closing the day

Fiery red sunset

...still setting...

View from the porch

We were all sad to leave the next day, and came up with lots of excuses to stay longer. But ultimately we knew this wasn't reality, that we had lives waiting for us, and pets and homes. So we packed up the truck and said goodbye to cottage #103 and to Big Bend National Park. We plan to go back as soon as possible and I know that, for myself, I will be back soon! We stopped in Ft. Stockton again for lunch and to climb on the giant roadrunner. It turned out to be plastic, though, so we just took a picture. We also stopped to see the military tank in Grand Falls. Like I said, we were looking for any reason not to go home! Finally, though, Ronna and I were dropped off at the Ramada Inn in Midland. We checked in only to find that the cafe was closed. So we phoned out for dinner, drank what little liquor we had left and watched "The Wizard of Oz" on TMC. Mom, Dad and Nathan arrived home safely that night, as did Tom, Jeanine and Jordan. Ronna and I flew home without incident the next day. Thanks, family, for a very special Fourth of July!

So long, Window!

Farewell view

Cool, but plastic

Livin' like rock stars!

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