There are a few destinations we’ve researched that we know we have to visit, and that will end up being an experience we won’t forget. Big Bend National Park falls in to this category. With several days off from working during the winter holidays we figured it was a great time to head to Big Bend because of the reportedly poor signal in the park. This place sure is out in the middle of nowhere! The drive in to the park is about 40 miles with no signs of civilization. We also figured it would be a great time to really try to test out the solar because if it didn’t work well, I wouldn’t have to scramble to get power to work.
As we’re learning, things don’t always go as planned when living on the road, and Big Bend was no exception.
- We almost had to cancel the trip entirely due to a massive blizzard, and took a longer route just to avoid it.
- When we did get there 30 minutes before the time the gate closed (from what their own site said) we were told we couldn’t get in.
- The batteries were continually getting drained overnight and were down to almost nothing in the morning.
- We had to leave early because of another snow storm that was potentially entering the area.
- “Oh no, it’s so close to Mexico, will you be safe?”
So all of this made for a horrible experience right? Not if you can just take each problem in stride and make the best of what’s given to you.
We obviously ended up going and the weather was a non factor with some careful planning and navigation by Kate. When we were turned away at the gate after hours of traveling we just said “Screw it,” and set up right outside of the park along side the road. The battery issue was frustrating, but we spent most of the days hiking anyway (and I eventually figured out the problem in Arizona the following trip). And even though we had to leave early, the awesome experience we had there will greatly outweigh the problems we faced, which has become a recurring theme for me on this adventure.
From boon docking with nobody else in sight, to an amazing mountain hike in the Chisos Mountain, to sitting in hot springs overlooking the Rio Grande and Mexico, this was a 3 day trip worth all the problems encountered.
We were lucky to get the only remaining dry camping site that could fit our camper, and it was pretty great being able to look around and not see another soul for miles.
Being so far from others also has it’s other advantages, like the most incredible view of the night sky I’ve ever seen. I walked outside of the camper almost having forgotten what we’re read about the Big Bend sky at night, and was totally floored by what I saw (and immediately had to grab the camera).
The kids killed it on the Chisos Mtn. hike. Normally it’s about 20 minutes in and the whines start, but I think they are actually building up a hiking tolerance. It was a spectacular view that leaves you with a feeling that’s hard to explain.
We wanted to check out Santa Elena Canyon, and started out driving out there thinking we might now make it, but even though we missed getting to the canyon in time, the drive out was a whole experience in itself, with some of the best views and sunsets we’d seen thus far.
Lastly if you ever get a change to visit, make sure you make your way down to the hot springs. It’s basically the ruins of a facility that was built long ago that people would travel to from miles away just to bask in it’s healing waters. It was attacked 2 different times–first by Native Americans, after which the facility was able to reopen. Later it was attacked by Mexican bandits, and they weren’t able to restore it after that.
All in all, this short boondocking in Big Bend National Park remains on our favorites list for places we have camped in the United States so far.