Thanksgiving at Big Bend: November, 2003
mmmmm, warm drink!

Relaxing on the porch

Snap Check!
Click on the small pictures to see larger ones.

Link to Nathan's Pictures

We packed up the Suburban with our gear and our Thanksgiving dinner on Tuesday. After picking up Ronna and Mark and (somehow) packing their stuff in with ours, we were on our way to Big Bend! We stopped in Weatherford to have dinner and then at our hotel in Odessa for the night. It was a small hotel room by the time we all dropped our stuff but the sleeping arrangements were pretty easy to figure out. Thanks to my ear plugs, I actually slept that night!

We met up with Tom and Jeanine and continued into the park, with a brief stop in Marathon, as always. The park looked wonderful but we were all surprised at the number of people in it. None of us had been to the park during a peak time recently and it was quite crowded at Panther Junction. We arrived at the Lodge to claim our cabin too early so we walked around the basin area and relaxed in the sunshine. It was fairly cold weather but still very pretty. When they gave us our cabin key, it was for #101, which was a bit of a disappointment since we wanted #103, which has the view of the Window. But when we saw our cottage, we were just as happy, since it has a delightful view of Casa Grande off to the right. And Casa Grande was on our to-do list for this trip.
On Thursday morning, we got up early and decided what to do. In order to adjust to the altitude, Ronna and I wanted to hike the Window Trail to Oak Springs and onward to Cattail Falls, too. Tom and Jeanine also wanted to go to Cattail Falls, but not with us. So they took off on their own, and Dad agreed to pick us up at Oak Springs around 2pm. Mom, Nathan, Ronna, Mark, and I headed out. The Window Trail is so pretty but it seemed like no time at all before we were sitting at the Oak Springs Overlook. From there you can see for miles!

a green ocatillo

Ronna, surveying the world

a happy group!

we pushed Mom over the edge

all downhill, almost!

appr. 7 miles

Cattail Falls

not so itsy-bitsy

We had a great Thanksgiving dinner that night in the cottage. Everything tasted wonderful and there was more than we could eat. Everyone helped and in no time, we had the dishes done and packed away and were contemplating second helpings of pie. But we were all tired, and sleep came easily, despite the close quarters. After the nightly snap-check, we drifted off. Casa Grande awaited us in the morning!
We hit the Lost Mine trail around 9am on Friday morning, ready and raring to go up to the top. The first mile was easy, and then we hit the Casa Grande trail turnoff. Wow. It was such a steep hike, with lots of scrambing and hand-over-hand work. Thanks to our trusty hiking sticks and a little encouragement from Mark, we all made it up the scree field without incident, except Ronna and Mark, who kept petting the cactus along the way.
The top of Casa Grande is more lush than I thought it would be so we relaxed in the soft grass and took pictures (and a nap, in some cases). The day was beautiful and we could see forever. We were so happy to get up there! But we knew that the way down would be slow, too, so we had to get started if we wanted to be off the trail before dark. Dad had left the Suburban in the parking area for the Lost Mine Trail for us so we had a ride to the cottage and we spent much of the downhill hike speculating on what hot drink Tom and Jeanine would be making for us that night. Between thoughts of that and Mom's homemade chili and Nathan's special cheese-dip we planned to have for dinner, we kept up a good pace while picking our way carefully down the rock. We made it back to the cottage right around dark. The Casa Grande trail is closed most of the year because of the Peregrine falcons that breed up there. So while this was Nathan and Ronna's second trip to the top, it was a first for the rest of us. I highly recommend it, but only for people capable of a strenuous hike as there are few places to stand level or even to rest without balance precariously on a ledge of some sort.

"Come, climb me!"

At the top!

Steep hike = low MPH :(

Not on the map

What a view

Basin campground view

you can see forever

Looking for a picnic spot

The scree field was the hardest part of the hike up Casa Grande. It's about 200 feet long and there's nothing to hold on to. Just step after step in slippery shale, knowing there's a huge dropoff behind you. You don't want to start to slide or you'll never stop. We were careful, but still dislodged quite a few rocks to meet their doom at the bottom of the cliff. Mark encouraged everyone from the top and Ronna taught us to shout "Rock" if we thought the person behind us could get hit. It took a while to get up this field because we spaced ourselves out for safety.

happy to be at the top

lunch time

up the scree...

...then down the scree

We collapsed into our beds that night and woke up kind of late Saturday morning. We got around, though, and headed down to the Hot Springs to see how they had fared after the last storm. The Rio Grande River has taken a real beating this year between the storms and the demands of agricultural irrigation. So it wasn't moving very fast and had even formed a sort of lagoon near the palm trees by the Hot Springs. It was very peaceful but also kind of disturbing. Something doesn't seem right when the river is so slow and low.

On Top of the World

Lots of the WRONG fish

Great new boardwalk

the old store

the park was crowded

You can't turn your back
for a minute!

huge palm trees

eery lagoon

After leaving the Hot Springs, we drove down to Rio Grande Village to admire the new boardwalk over the welands. It's really nice, and looks sturdy. We saw lots of fish but apparently it was too cold to see the endangered mosquitofish. There was a catfish in the upper pond who seemed very out of place, though! Another high point of this trip was locating a graveyard not far from the Parker grave. We marked on the GPS and counted maybe 18 graves there. Dad remembered approximately where it was, so we scoured the hills until Nathan found it. Now that we have it marked, though, we'll be able to find our way back.

Saturday night, we had dinner at the Starlight Lounge in Terlingua and did 'float shots', which are like miniature ice cream floats in a shot glass. We drove slowly back to the Basin that night, hoping to see another Jaguarundi like we did last trip. But, alas, this trip we didn't see one. That's okay, though, because it was such a great trip, and a truly unique way to celebrate Thanksgiving. We dropped Ronna and Mark off at the airport in Midland the next day and drove back to Dallas. Thank you, everyone, for another wonderful holiday with my family!

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