Posted by: kerryl29 | June 8, 2020

Big Bend, Day 2: Discovery

As I mentioned in the last entry, my plan was to spend Day 2 at Big Bend National Park photographing daybreak at Dagger Flat.  Dagger Flat is an area in the east-central part of the park, and probably the most cactus-strewn tract that’s relatively accessible.  it’s reached by following an unpaved road known, somewhat misleadingly, as the Dagger Flat Auto Trail.  The road runs for roughly seven miles to the east of the main park (paved) road that runs between the north entrance and Panther Junction.  As long as it hasn’t rained recently, this road doesn’t require four-wheel drive to be traversed.  High clearance, however, is recommended; I wouldn’t take, say, a Ford Mustang on this road.  And if it has rained in the area recently, I would avoid this route entirely as it will become impassable fairly quickly.

As noted last time, I stayed in Marathon the night of Day 1. The drive to the Dagger Flat turnoff went smoothly.  I saw no other vehicles on the 60-or so mile drive but I did see a ton of rabbits darting hither and thither through the vehicle headlights once I was inside the park.  I estimated an hour’s drive or so to the turnoff for the Dagger Flat Auto Trail, and an indeterminate amount of time to drive the seven miles to the end of the road.  I’d never been on this road before so I wasn’t sure what to expect and, what’s more, I’d be making this first drive in the dark.  So, I gave myself an extra 45 minutes.  This turned out to be a wise call because driving this road in the dark was, while not dangerous, a bit iffy in a few spots.

When I reached the end of the road–which is indicated by a large circular area allowing for a relatively easy turn around process to head back toward the main park road, light was just beginning to come up.  It was chilly–not horribly cold–and windless.  I got out and looked around, attempting to size up the location.  Cacti–mostly yuccas–dotted the scene, which was rolling and rocky, with ridges and mountains in the distance, particularly to the south and west.

Before I knew it, color appeared in the eastern sky and I hastened to take advantage of it.

Dagger Flat Sunrise, Big Bend National Park, Texas

The sky conditions were mostly, but not entirely, cloudy.

Dagger Flat at Sunrise, Big Bend National Park, Texas

The pinkish color in the east sky didn’t last long.  I climbed most of the way up a fairly steep, rocky rise and pointed my camera to the southwest.

Dagger Flat at Sunrise, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Dagger Flat at Sunrise, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Dagger Flat at Sunrise, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Dagger Flat at Sunrise, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Before long, dawn was over, but that didn’t mean photography had come to an end.  I got back in my vehicle and made my back towards the main park road but stopped whenever something caught my eye, which was frequently.

Dagger Flat Morning, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Dagger Flat Morning, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Dagger Flat Morning, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Dagger Flat Morning, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Dagger Flat Morning, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Dagger Flat Morning, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Dagger Flat Morning, Big Bend National Park, Texas

I didn’t see another soul during the several hours I spent at Dagger Flat.

After I reached the main park road, I turned south, in the direction of Panther Junction and its visitors center.  Before I got there, I spotted a scene along the road that drew my attention and stopped to photograph it.

Chisos Mountains, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Chisos Mountains, Big Bend National Park, Texas

After stopping at the visitors center and officially securing my park pass for the week, I headed off to do some exploring–which covered most of the rest of the morning and early afternoon.  My first stop was at Dug Out Wells, a one-time ranch site–with the windmill still intact.

Dug Out Wells Black & White, Big Bend National Park, Texas

There’s a short–but very interesting–nature trail also located at Dug Out Wells and I took a turn on it and made a few images, featuring some of the three different types of prickly pear cactus that are endemic to the Chihuahuan Desert

Chisos Mountains, Dug Out Wells, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Chisos Mountains, Chihuahuan Desert Nature Trail, Dug Out Wells, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Chisos Mountains, Chihuahuan Desert Nature Trail, Dug Out Wells, Big Bend National Park, Texas

From here, I continued south, all the way to the end of the line.  This extension of the park road takes the traveler all the way down, ultimately, to the Rio Grande, which can be accessed from a number of spots, including Hot Springs, Rio Grande Village and, ultimately, Boquillas Canyon.  I checked out all of these locations, other than Hot Springs (to which I would return for an extensive exploration and photo session later during my time in the area), and several other spots as well (a couple of river overlooks, primarily).  I wandered around Rio Grande Village a bit and made the short hike (about 2.5 miles round trip) into Boqullias Canyon.  The midday light was awful, so these were all scouting sessions–with one exception.  I had hauled my gear, seemingly pointlessly, into Boquillas Canyon, but far along the trail, I spotted some turtles swimming in the Rio Grande shallows.  I was perched high above them–there was no way to get close in this part of the canyon–but tried to make the best of the situation.

Big Bend Slider, Boquillas Canyon, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Big Bend Slider, Boquillas Canyon, Big Bend National Park, Texas

When I was done with the exploring, it was around 2 PM.  I decided to check out the Basin area, next.  The Basin, accessed by a winding paved road, is the jumping off point for numerous trails that lead into the Chisos Mountains high country.  This area has a very different look and feel, both literally and figuratively, compared to the desert floor well below.  The Basin has a lodge, store and visitors center and a good-sized parking area.  I poked around the immediate area a bit, and checked out the very short (1/4 mile) Windows View Trail, which is paved, with a nice view of the Window, a v-shaped cut in rocky cliffs to the west of the overlook.

By now it was around 3:30 PM, probably too late to take any of the longer hikes I had in mind from this area.  Deferring those to later in the trip, I decided to check out the relatively short (around 2.5 miles) Basin Loop Trail, with the intention to be back at the Basin itself, leaving myself more than enough time to potentially photograph sunset from the Windows View Trail.

The Basin Loop Trail has some very nice views of Casa Grande, one of the Basin’s most notable landmarks.

Casa Grande, Basin Loop Trail, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Casa Grande Black & White, Basin Loop Trail, Big Bend National Park, Texas

There are also some interesting views of the Window–more oblique in perspective than those from the Window View Trail.

The Window, Basin Loop Trail, Big Bend National Park, Texas

All in all, it was a pleasing hike.

Basin Loop Trail Black & White, Big Bend National Park, Texas

It had clouded up considerably by the time I finished the hike, about 90 minutes before sunset.  Rather than hanging around to photograph a sunset that was beginning to appear wouldn’t happen, I decided to check out a few areas in the western part of the park, which I hadn’t yet explored at all.  But before I took off I spent some time photographing a particularly cooperative roadrunner who was hanging out between the trailheads area and the Basin Store.

Greater Roadrunner, The Basin, Big Bend National Park, Texas

It’s about 15 miles from the bottom of the Basin road to the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive that leads into the southwest part of the park, and about 10 miles or so up the drive you reach its high point–Sotol Vista.  It was within 30 minutes or so of sunset when I got there, and still mostly cloudy, but this is where I chose to make my stand.  Indeed, it remained mostly cloudy, but I tried to make the best of it, focusing on images that I thought would work in black and white.

Foothills Black & White, Sotol Vista, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Sotol Vista Black & White, Big Bend National Park, Texas

With one exception.  A small crack appeared in the southwest sky and I pulled out the long lens to try to take advantage of it.

Mountain Sunset, Sotol Vista, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Before long the crack had closed and the light show for the day was over.  I checked into my lodgings in Terlingua, just outside the park’s west gate, and plotted my course of action for the next day.


Responses

  1. Wow! What amazing terrain! I found it fascinating, from sunrise to sunset partially because I have not seen these plants before except for some blooming Prickly Pear in Southern Saskatchewan. The light and point of view in the Casa Grande shot makes both the coloured and black and white images pop and your last shot is a perfect ending to a very good day.When I saw the roadrunner I actually made the “meep-meep”sounds from the cartoons.

    • Thanks very much, Jane.

      Meep-meep. 🙂

  2. It’s fun to revisit Big Bend. The contrast between this location and your images from Hawaii is quite striking…kind of the yin and yang of climates.

  3. Starkly gorgeous country, winding up with purple mountain majesty.

  4. Nice post! Awesome…

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  5. […] along one of the main park roads–perhaps in the Dug Out Wells area which had been visited the previous day.  So I dutifully got up good and early and made my way into the park long before daybreak.  But […]


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