Pictures from Big Bend National Park
I spent Memorial Day weekend hiking around Big Bend National Park, located in southwest Texas. It was hot, super-dry, and a 10 hour drive from Houston, but I enjoyed exploring the mountains and getting out of Houston.
The high fire danger prohibited backcountry camping in the higher elevations, so I hiked about 15 miles on Saturday and did a bunch of shorter hikes on Sunday.
Here’s a High Chisos map and some pictures:
Heading south into the park, still ~30 mi north but getting into the mountain range.
Welcome to Big Bend National Park
The Chisos Basin
Casa Grande (7325′)
~7:15 Saturday morning, just starting the hike up Emory Peak (7825′). Base camp is at 5110′, so ~5 mi and 2615′ to go. The temperature’s only ~85, but I can already tell it’s going to be warm.
Looking W across the basin; luckily I’m still in shade.
Looking N across the basin at Vernon Bailey Peak, some parts of the campsite are visible between the tree branches.
In the shadow of Casa Grande
Casa Grande from the side. Though there aren’t any maintained trails up, it looks like you could get into the crown from a S approach… Would’ve tried if more time and will try if I go back.
~2 mi in, still a ways to go
Almost level with Vernon Bailey (6670′), just over 1000′ left.
Looking W through The Window
Looking N, can barely see campground through trees. ~3 mi from camp.
Looking N at Casa Grande
N @ Pulliam Peak (6870′)
Staff housing & ‘cabins’; campsites are directly left of the small prominence.
Pulliam Peak (6870′)
Getting higher, ~ 1 hr in
At the TM1 campsite, 1 mi to Emory.
W @ Carter Peak (5688′)
Emory Peak, can barely see one of the radio towers.
A good trail
In the sun, starting to get warm
Almost to the peak, stopped to look E. The furthest-visible ridge is part of the Sierra del Carmen in Mexico.
Looking S near the peak
Looking N, can pick out the trail up.
N, Level with Casa Grande (7325′)
Looking NNW, can barely see part of the campground
NNE @ trail up
Last ~100′ of vertical is 4 point bouldering
Lookin S, 40′ from peak. A solar collector for the radio repeater is visible at the top of the 300′ spire.
Looking direclty downward at base of spire.
S, atop the eastern spire of Emory Peak (7805′).
Looking S from Emory Peak
Looking SSE from Emory Peak
Looking SE from Emory Peak
Looking ESE from Emory Peak
Looking W from Emory Peak
Enjoying the morning, ~9:30 (2 hr climb). Thanks to Jerry for the picture, he arrived ~20 mins ahead of me.
Looking W from Emory Peak
The slightly taller spire of Emory Peak. You can’t tell which one is higher while looking up, but both are awesome.
Looking E from Emory Peak.
Looking ENE from Emory Peak.
Looking NE from Emory Peak.
Looking NNE from Emory Peak. Casa Grande and Pulliam Peak visible.
Looking N at the campground.
I spent an hour on the peak enjoying the views, eating lunch, and surprisingly succeeding in calling mom & dad. At only 10:30 I was way ahead of schedule, so I headed out toward the Southwest Rim.
I ought to be knee deep in water…and it would’ve felt good. It’s about 95 and full sun, but my visit coincided with a record drought. I didn’t find any water in the mountains.
Looking E over the Southeast Rim. The top is 7403′ and the right edge of the image is ~5200′. Sadly the pictures fail to convey the awesome scale and beauty.
Looking ESE over the Southeast Rim, parts of the Sierra del Carmen mountains are visible in the distance.
Looking SE from the Southwest Rim.
Looking S from the Southwest Rim
Looking SW from the Southwest Rim.
Looking down from the Southwest Rim, there’s a ledge ~100′ down then a rock face
Looking NW at another part of the Rim along my trail out.
Air temp’s ~105, but a great breeze coming along the Rim
Dynamic action posing…
Looking E over the Rim
Looking S, can barely pick out the Rio Grande by the green foliage.
W @ Cool plateau on the Southwest Rim
Looking ~S from the plateau thing
Getting hotter, it’s ~12:30 and 3.5 of 5 liters of water down…6 mi back to the campground.
Might be the Blue Creek trail…
Even the cacti seemed to be desparate for water, succulents were the only green things along much of the trails.
The Blue Creek Fire…
Hiking back on the Laguna Meadow Trail, the trail cut across many different types/colors of rock. Each reflected the sun in a slightly different way to the point that type transitions felt like an oven had just been opened…nearing 110 + full sun.
Looking in the direction of Emory, but I think Emory is hidden by this nearer peak. The red-colored spire is visible from base camp.
Base Camp! Have 1 drink of water left and ~2mi left, so 5L – 1 drink in ~7 hrs in the sun. Would’ve been great to have any water in the mountains, as that really prevented any thoughts of backpacking away from well-water.
Looking W out The Window.
Almost done, ~.75 mi back to the campground. It’s about 15:30 and hot.
The Rio (Not So) Grande. Having explored the Basin on Saturday, I spent Sunday driving around the park and doing smaller hikes. Here I’m at the SE corner of the park heading into Baquillas Canyon.
The entrance to Baquillas Canyon
Etched by the Rio
Cool compaction layers & caves in canyon wall.
Mexico is a calf-deep wade away. There is no physical border, nor any patrolling along the border. With Baquillas, MX less than a mile away, it was interesting to see trinkets and donation jars interspersed along the trail, along with ‘Victor, the Signing Mexican’ chanting at the entrance to the canyon. A slightly odd experience, but apparently enough tourists reward the Mexican’s endeavor.
After a mile hike at Baquillas canyon, I drove over to the west side of the park for some desert hiking. Here, I’m looking back at the parking lot and three cars with ACs on high. It’s ~105 and near 13:00.
The Mule Ears
Looking E along the trail in, one verdant exception to the drought.
Water! Besides the Rio Grande, this is the only other flowing water I saw on the weekend.
What came from the ground now returns to it; seriously pathetic, this is 200′ from the spring source and an algal soup the entire way.
Either that little spring powers alot of green or all these plants are drying up.
After returning from Mule Ear Spring, I drove to the SW corner of the park to hike Santa Elena Canyon.
Looking SE along the Santa Elena Canyon
Looking S into the Santa Elena Canyon. The mid-level ridge on the left is ~500′ and the top is 1500′ from the river level.
It’s hard to convey the awesome scale and beauty of the canyon…
At the start of a mile-long trail into the canyon
The Rio Grande, slowly deepening the canyon.
Looking N out the end of the canyon; would’ve been cool and crazy to seem some of those large rocks fall from above.
Only swimming or rock climbing will take you further along the border
Looking S into the canyon from atop one of the fallen boulders. Podracing through the canyon would be awesome.