As we all know, life can "get in the way" of true happiness. I invite you to follow my posts as I try to reconnect with nature as often as life allows. Then,
if so inspired, pick up a paddle or pack and join me on an adventure that makes everything else fade away. -

Monday, December 19, 2011

Big Bend & Carlsbad Caverns National Parks

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I got the idea to take Colin on a trip to Big Bend National Park when my mom emailed me a photo from West Texas.  She had been doing some training in some of the smaller towns and thought the place was  beautiful...of course it is!  I had gone to Big Bend with my dad when I was younger.  We had camped in "the basin" only to find out there had been a mountain lion in camp that night.  We had gone across the border to Boquillas del Carmen, and spent a day rafting on the Rio Grande.  It was a fun trip and I was hoping to show Colin some of the places I had seen.

DAY - 1

We left home early the morning of December 10th and spent the day driving to my mom's in Austin.  Colin was very content watching movies and playing Angry Birds on the iPad until the battery died...then he reluctantly went to sleep.

DAY - 2

Sunday we left Austin with my mom and headed West.  We had a nice drive through the hill country before getting on I-10 and starting the transition to the desert.  We arrived at the park entrance around 5:00 p.m. and drove towards the Chisos Mountains.  Colin had been sleepling as we had entered the park but woke up as we were climbing into The Basin.

We got to the lodge around 6:00 p.m. and my mom went to check-in while Colin and I waited in the car.  As she was walking back to the car we had a little excitement.  A young black bear came wandering across the parking lot!  He headed into the trees and soon emerged 12-15 feet away on the rock outcropping above my car.  He began to eat the juniper berries and I began to snap photos.  Unfortunately the lighting wasn't great and he wasn't posing so the photos are not great, but fun none the less.  I figured this wasn't too out of the norm, but the entire kitchen staff was outside with their cameras so I guess seeing bear wasn't that to common here.  He was the 15th I'd seen that year (lucky me)!  He was around 6ft tall and 250 lbs. +/- if I had to guess.  Probably no more than a year old.  He finished his meal and scrambled back across the parking lot...not liking all of the attention he was getting!  We headed to our room to unpack and then back to the lodge for dinner.  Yes, we walked.  After a nice meal we went to bed...we had a big hike ahead of us the next day!

DAY - 3

Monday after a breakfast of eggs on the camp stove Myself, Colin, and my mother headed out to hike The Window Trail.  The Window Trail descends 800 ft from the parking lot to the point where all the water drains from The Basin into the desert below via a 75ft waterfall.  The hike is 5 miles roundtrip.  It should be noted that Colin was 3 years, 11 months at the time and that neither he nor my mother had ever done a hike this strenuous.  I was not expecting the pace to be fast, and was expecting it to take most of our day.

The descent was easy going and very enjoyable for all.  Colin found numerous rocks to climb and we enjoyed the scenery.  As we neared the bottom the valley turned into a canyon and we encountered steps cut into the slick-rock.  Colin and I scrambled down but my mother took some coaxing.  We got to the point of the "pour over" but stayed back as to not make grandma too nervous.  Had I a climbing rope and harness I would have been tempted to build an anchor and rap out to the edge where I could really get some good photos.  I did not.

After a brief rest we headed back up and I expected that it would be slow going.  I was pleasantly surprised that they both made really good time.  In fact, as I kept stopping to take photos I found myself having to catch up!  Colin decided he wanted to have some Mac and Cheese (the microwave type) that he had insisted on bringing along.  I was fully prepared to boil some water for him and make it but after a snack he decided he could wait for dinner.

We continued our climb back up the trail and by the time we made the fork in the trail to the campground they were worn out.  I offered to them that they could continue to the campground for another 1/4 mile and I would finish the steep uphill 3/4 mile climb to get the car.  They thought that was a great idea and we were both off.  By the time I picked them up and returned us all to the room to clean up they were somewhat rested.

We decided to go for a drive down towards Rio Grande Village.  By the time the car had moved half a mile Colin was sound asleep.  He had a nice little nap and we enjoyed the scenic drive.  The sun was beginning to set as we returned to the mountains.  When we got to the hotel room Grandpa was waiting for us.  He had driven out that day because he had to finish up some work on Sunday.  We all went to the lodge for dinner and Colin filled grandpa in on the grand adventures we had had so far on the trip!

DAY - 4

Tuesday we spent the day driving down towards Castolon and the Santa Elena Canyon Overlook.  This culminated with Colin "swimming" in the Rio Grande.  The last time I had seen the Rio Grande it was a decent sized river with moderate whitewater.  This day it was a total of 18" deep and 8ft wide.  Colin still enjoyed it!  After the swimming adventure we headed North and out of the park towards Carlsbad.  We drove through Ft. Davis and the Observatory before stopping for dinner in Pecos.  We arrived fairly late in Carlsbad but they had an indoor pool and I promised Colin he could swim.  We spent over an hour in the pool before retiring to bed to play Angry Birds.  This had become our new bedtime tradition on this trip.

DAY - 5

Wednesday we spent most of the day at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  Roie, Colin, and I opted to hike down through the natural entrance and Grandma opted to take the elevator and meet us down there.  We had lunch in the cave and then walked the 1.5 mile trail exploring the big room.  After some purchases in the gift shop we hit the road and headed back toward Austin.  We stopped for dinner again in Pecos and Grandma and Grandpa drove back to Austin, but Colin and I stopped along the way as I was too tired to drive any further.

DAY - 6

Thursday we made it back to Austin and met Grandma for lunch after her board meeting.  That night we took Colin to Chuck E Cheese and he had a blast!

DAY - 7

Friday Colin and I headed for Wichita where we spent the night.  We could have driven home in one day but it is  along drive and I wanted to go one more place.

DAY - 8

Saturday we headed for Strong City, KS and the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.  We spent a little time looking around and took a short hike before heading back home.  It was a nice week away seeing some beautiful places with my boy!

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