All Hail West Texas, Pt. 1 (Picture Heavy)

I just got back from the most amazing Memorial Day Weekend, I hope all you Americans enjoyed yours, as well. And the non-Americans, I hope you enjoyed your non-Memorial Day weekend, too!

My boyfriend has been trying to get me out to Big Bend National Park in West Texas basically since we started dating a few years ago. I was a Girl Scout for ten years but with my mom being the leader, we were more Troop Beverly Hills than Red Feathers* types. I am also blessed with biology that causes me to be swarmed by mosquitos and other insects that want my blood within mere minutes of being outside, making me not a prime camping candidate. When we first got together, I wasn't as Outdoor Afro** as I am now so he had to ease me into the idea with short hikes and picnics around Austin to longer day trips and camping overnights at state parks in our area. After a successful 3 day/2 night stay at Rocky Mountain National Park last summer during which I wasn't eaten by any bears or cougars, I finally relented to the Big Bend trip last fall.

We left out late on Friday night so we didn't arrive at Big Bend until after 1 a.m. As soon as we got there, we staked out an unoccupied campsite at the Chisos Basin campground and Alex quickly set up the tent while I took care of the reservation fees. The night sky was so clear you could see the Milky Way so I begged Alex to take the rain cover off the tent so we could sleep under the stars. The drive in was especially dark and creepy (no lights along the roads) but the campsite was quiet and peaceful, so I really had no idea what to expect when I woke up in the morning.

Casa Grande, as seen from our campsite one Day One.

The next morning, I realized, DAMN, Y'ALL, I'M IN THE DESERT. We woke up, ate breakfast and headed up to the Visitor's Center for some trail maps and to gawk at the bear sighting map. I also remedied a whole "forgetting to bring deodorant" situation at the commissary (and then promptly negated this by leaving said deodorant in a hot car in the middle of the desert).

FYI: black bears are basically everywhere in the Chisos Basin area of the park but apparently visitors seeing them are pretty rare... you wouldn't know it from looking at that map, though.

We decided to hike the Window Trail. Alex said this was a nice beginner trail and the park considers it moderate but y'all... that was no joke for someone who sits at a desk as much as I do. 5.6 miles round trip with a lot of steep ups and downs, not to mention the desert heat (although I will say this was the shadiest*** trail we hiked). I was definitely feeling the burn at the end (so much that I opted out of the last .6 miles of the trail and made Alex bring the car around to fetch me from a nearby campsite. On the plus side, while I was waiting for him, I spotted this lady (and her two non-photogenic friends, they were cute, too):

Afterwards, we decided to do a scenic drive and ended up at Dugout Wells, an oasis in the middle of the desert. We saw a baby javelina napping in the shade of a bush (unfortunately I didn't get a picture because I didn't want to spook it)! After that, we had lunch at the lodge restaurant where I had a mediocre turkey burger. Afterwards we went back to camp for little bit of loafing before dinner and the skies opened up for (what we thought) was a huge thunderstorm at the time. It turns out that the heavens would open up and rain buckets (bullets, more like it) on the tent cover and lightning would light up the sky and basically I got little to no sleep (in the brief lull in the storming when it was quiet, I thought I heard someone/something outside the tent, which kept me awake even more). By the time we woke up the next morning, though, the West Texas sky was a big, clear and blue as ever.

Dugout Wells

Old Tree at Dugout Wells

This post is already really long and picture-heavy so I'm going to make it a two-parter. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion.

* Boo to the cultural appropriation but otherwise this movie is f l a w l e s s
** Can we use that as a adjective? Oh well, it just happened.
*** As in shade provided by trees, not as in sketchy/suspicious

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