Thursday, July 30, 2009

Travel Tip Thursday

It's Thursday! Go visit Pseudonymous High School Teacher for more tips.

One of the treasures of Texas is Big Bend National Park. (Wikitravel also has a great article on the park.) Visiting Big Bend is not for the faint of heart. It's isolated. It's located in the northern end of the Chihuahuan desert and near the Davis Mountains. The nearest town is Marathon, about 40 miles from the northern boundary of the park. The closest city of any size is Midland, about 230 miles to the north. El Paso is the largest commercial airport and 330 miles to the west. The only preactical way to visit the park is to drive.

The park itself is 1252 square miles. Aside from the developed areas around the park headquarters, the majority of the park is back country. The best way to see the park is with a four-wheel drive vehicle and your own two feet. Consider getting a primitive camping or backpacking permit. Big Bend gets only about 350,000 visitors a year. Most of these will be concentrated in the developed areas and along the river. Venture into the desert or mountains to avoid the crowds.

The busy season is mid-Novemeber through the begining of January. There is a spike in March, as well, around Spring Break. Avoid visiting during the summer. There's a reason that the National Park Service home page for Big Bend has a section entitled, "How NOT to die in the desert".

From personal experience, I would recommend March. It's still going to be cool enough and even though this is a busier time for the park, you're still going to be to find plenty of nature. And that's what it's all about at Big Bend. Wide open spaces, varying geography, flora and fauna are in abundance. Because of it's sheer size, it really takes more than one day to get a real appreciation for the park. There are miles of hiking trails, primitive and improved roads and all are worth your time.

When last I visited Big Bend, one of the things that surprised me were the Bluebonnets. We were there in March and the Bluebonnets were in bloom. For those of you not in the know, this is the state flower of Texas. The Texas Department of Transportation seeds the roadsides with these and other wildflowers. In the Big Bend area, the bluebonnets are almost four feet tall. For someone used to the other species of the plant that are no more than 6 inches high, it came as quite a shock.

The most important thing I can tell you about planning a trip to Big Bend is; Be Prepared. Since much of the park is isolated, you will be on your own for a while if anything happens. Make sure you have plenty of water and wear appropriate clothing. Fuel your vehicle often since stations are few and far between. Before you make a backcountry visit, take a Red Cross first aid class. Preferably a Wilderness First Aid class. (Check with your local Boy Scout council). Cell phone service is spotty, at best, so don't depend upon them. There are public pay phones in all the developed areas.

This is one of the last pristine areas of our country. It's worth the time and effort to get there.

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jpooh said...

I started to sob like a baby when I saw the pics of the blue bonnets.

I wanna go home...


Jan from the Sushi Bar

Chris said...

sounds it motorhome friendly?

True Blue Texan said...

@Chris- Yes, to an extent. The main roads in the park are paved and there are RV campsites around the main area. If you could bring a car, especially something with a high clearance, you could leave the RV at the campsite and toodle around the park in the other vehicle.

@Jan- These particular bluebonnets are really outstanding. The pic doesn't really do them justice since there's no real scale. But trust me, they can be huge.

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

I want to visit one of the last pristine areas of our country. I love isolated wilderness.

Thanks for turning us on to this Texan!

shaunna said...

awesome... stunning

♥georgie♥ said...

loved the pics but those blue bonnets are breath taking!

I am just now getting around to updating my followers and returning the follow-sorry it took me so long