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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

Quicksilver and Hoodoos

~Saturday, November 20, 2021~

Day 524

Kind of strange to be back to shorts, t-shirts and sandals in the middle of November and with Thanksgiving just around the corner. But we’ll take it.

We’re enjoying learning about this cool little town of Terlingua. Deep in far west Texas, this eccentric town is only about 12 miles from the Mexican border/Rio Grande River, and offers a sense of peace and welcome solace from the rest of the world. There’s something about it that makes you fall in love with the silence. And the night skies are to die for.

In the late 17th century, Terlingua was “home” to over 1,000 residents, most of whom were employed by the Chisos Mining Company.

The area was known for its cinnabar from which metal mercury (also known as “quicksilver”) was extracted. The Chisos Mining Company was very successful until WWII when production declined due to a downturn in demand. The town was virtually abandoned by 1942 leaving behind abandoned, decaying buildings, and old mine shafts but has gained a little resurrection too with lodging, restaurants and bars. And ever since the early 60’s, Terlingua has hosted their Annual Chili Cookoff Championships the first week in November to rave reviews! It’s been a pleasant surprise of a stop, especially when our sole purpose of coming here was for 2 reasons: 1. to break up our drive getting back to California and 2. Big Bend National Park. Love the unexpected stuff!!

Per our hostess Allison’s recommendation, we made today our visit to Big Bend Ranch State Park, to first check in at the Barton Warnock Visitor Center and to check out the hiking. There isn’t much to see at the visitor center. But in order to see the rest of the park, there is a $5.00/person entrance fee which is paid there. Once we were in the park, we saw quite a few interpretive signs along the way with accompanying views. There was even a popular picnic/campground area where the movie “Contrabando” was filmed back in 1985. The Closed Canyon trail was highly rated, so we decided to take that one first.

To get there, it is about 22 miles from the visitor center and well worth the drive. The hike is an easy 1.8 mile out and back trail. However, since my bike incident (where I fell off my bike in New Orleans with it landing on my ankle), I haven’t been able to wear my hiking boots (they ride up too high on my ankle which is still healing). So for today’s hike I had to wear my Keen's, which is a closed toe sandal (not the best for hiking). I actually wear them for kayaking and leisurely walking. Had it been a dirt trail, the shoes would have worked fine. Instead, it was a deep, pebbly surface so the rocks kept getting in my shoes. It was a lost cause in continually trying to remove the rocks in my shoe. So I just sucked it up and enjoyed the scenery, trying to keep my mind off the discomfort. But what a cool hike. It’s a slotted canyon where it kind of reminded us of the Narrows in Zion National Park, minus the water. There were quite a few boulders to climb over on our descent and on the surface of those was loose, sandy rock, making it slippery, so we really had to watch our footing. I think I recall doing a few butt slides on the way down. Doesn’t this sound like fun?! The scenery made it all worth it and it was fun having Sadie with us. She must be so confused with our travels lately, going from cold New England, to not getting to do too much in New Orleans, to staying on the beach, to now being in cactus, rattlesnake country. What a trooper!

Next was the Hoodoos Trailhead which was easy to find. But the 1.2 mile loop trail was not. We couldn’t find the loop and the strange thing was, there were no cairns to signify that we were on the right track. Most trails have these (they are stacked rocks placed at various points in a trail). There was a short 1.1-mile loop trail that spurs off

to an overlook of the Rio Grande which we DID find. I knew so little about the Rio Grande before this trip. What I did know is that it serves as a natural border between the U.S. state of Texas and Mexico. But, did you know that it is nearly 1,900 miles long? It flows from southwestern Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico, but in recent years (since 2001 to be exact), it has not reached the Gulf due to vulnerability by scores of dams and irrigation diversions. This has left significant portions of the river dry in recent years. Maybe there should be less development to keep what Mother Nature intended in the first place?! The hoodoos in this park were interesting, but didn’t quite have the “Wow” factor we thought they’d be. Maybe we shouldn’t be comparing them to the mighty hoodoos of Bryce Canyon that we’ve seen. Does that make us hoodoo snobs? But that’s one thing about traveling. Your impressions of places definitely depends on your perspective of what you’ve been privileged to see before, which is why you have to experience things for yourself.

On the drive home, it was the perfect time of day to take in the sunset with the silhouette of the surrounding mountains all around us. We even saw a few late afternoon stragglers enjoying a late afternoon picnic. What a great way to end a desert day!

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