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The drive into the park is always exciting, looking to see what has changed since I've been there last. The cholla and prickly pear were sure blooming nicely at Panther Junction.

Casa Grande was there to greet us and was beautiful during this sunset. We had javelina in our campground in the morning.

Next day, Mom, Ronna, Nathan and I hiked from the bridge at Tornillo Creek down to the Rio Grande, past the hot springs and into Rio Grande Village where Dad met us in the picnic area. I got very hot on that hike and Ronna took care of me, giving me all of her water. Finally, Nathan hiked ahead and came back with gookinade and more water. It was hot for me (95) but it wasn't considered hot by anyone who lives in that climate. I enjoyed the hike anyway as it was very pretty along that trail and the trail itself was well-maintained.

Back at the picnic area, Dad had a little scuffle with a vulture for his trail mix, but he eventually won out!

Later that day, we hiked from the Basin campground over the window and down into Oak Springs. It's probably my favorite hike in all of Big Bend. If you click on the second picture, you can barely make out the path below us. What a spectacular viewpoint!

Dad met us with the truck at Oak Springs and we went back to the campsite and had chicken-foil wraps for dinner. Later we had margaritas and fell into our sleeping bags.

On Sunday we planned to drive out to Grapevine Hills and see the rock formation there. But along the way we got a flat tire. Changing it was no problem, as you can see from the picture ;)

Since we had no spare, we decided to turn around and get back to the paved road. On the way out to Castolon, we stopped and hiked down to the Blue Creek Ranch. It was very peaceful there. Dad and I relaxed on the porch in the shade while Mom, Ronna and Nathan explored the surrounding rock formations and trails.

We drove out by Cottonwood campground, stopping along the way to check out the adobe house up on the hill. The fireplace in the center is actually constructed with petrified wood pieces, an irony that I think was intentional. The canyon behind Ronna is Santa Elena. What a great view these folks had from their patio!

Afterwards, we stopped to cool off in the Rio Grande. Ronna and Mom had a great time "body-surfing" in the current. Then we drove on to Castolon for a picnic lunch. Nathan brought fresh-cut pineapple for us and it really hit the spot in the heat of the day. That night, Ronna and Nathan made camp-stove pizzas for everyone and Mom prepared a fresh salad. We watched our neighbors struggle with their campstove but for all of our smugness regarding our culinary skills, we still felt silly when our car alarm went off early the next morning.

Each night, skunks came to sniff around our camp site but we were careful not to leave any food out for them (right, Dad?). One night, a kit fox came snooping around, too. Aside from that, we saw several deer in the Basin campground, but no bear or mountain lion due to the drought conditions. On the drive out of the park Monday morning, we encountered several javelina crossing the road.

In Marathon, we stopped for a picnic lunch at a wonderful park and spent some time birdwatching. Nathan showed us all the Vermillion Flycatcher, a fairly rare bird. He sure was pretty, bright red with black "speed stripes" on his cheeks. We also saw some beautiful Bird-of-Paradise bushes.

Then, despite stopping for gas and ice cream, we found ourselves at the airport in Midland. Ronna had a flight to catch, I checked into the Ramada Inn, and the rest of the gang went on to Dallas. There were many hugs and kisses and we all smiled at each other's sunburnt cheeks, knowing that we had yet another wonderful Big Bend memory to treasure. I look forward to the next trip! Thanks, everyone for all the hard work and sharing!

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