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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

Vistas Through "Windows"

~Sunday, November 21, 2021~

Day 525

We woke up to a new neighbor this morning….an early arrival, and a fellow Lance owner. He purchased his Lance 1685 (a 16-footer), used, back in June and has been on the road ever since. He’s loving everything about it, except for a little problem with his slide as of today. But after a few adjustments, he was able to get it out. Hopefully he’ll be able to get it back in when he leaves. He’s spending a week here where his daughter, who attends University of Texas in Austin will be coming to visit for Thanksgiving. Very cool. He seemed to know the Terlingua area quite well when he gave a stamp of approval on a few of the hikes I mentioned we were thinking about taking. He also suggested a stop at the Terlingua Ghost Town, Santa Elena Canyon, mixed in with some great eateries…..breakfast at the Bad Rabbit Cafe at Terlingua Ranch Lodge, yummy tacos at Taqueria El Milagro, and dinner at the Starlight Theatre Restaurant. When we told him we’d look forward to seeing him again later in the day, he had a good excuse for that not to happen since he’d ben taking in an early evening soak at the Langford Hot Springs overlooking the Rio Grande River. Sounds amazing!

Investigating Big Bend National Park today. One of Big Bend National Park’s best-known hikes is the Lost Mine Trail , close to the Chisos Basin Visitor Center. There are 2 visitor centers in the park with the other being10 miles northeast of Chisos called Panther Junction. There was no one at the entrance station to the park but there were signs directing you to the visitor center to pay fees. It appeared they were not enforcing those, so we decided to hold off on renewing our annual national park pass until another time. We drove by our intended trail, the Lost Mine Trail before getting to the visitor center, in hopes that by the time we were done there, the parking lot at the trailhead would have a few spots open. With it being a Sunday, the visitor center was bustling. We even noticed a few gutsy RVer’s trying to find a perfect spot to park their rig in an already crowded parking lot, obviously ignoring the signs recommended not to do so. Even the road to get in was windy and steep. From Terlingua’s elevation of 2,800 feet, we climbed to 5,400 feet at the visitor center. And what a rookie maneuver by both of us not to come prepared with a second layer of clothing. We didn’t realize the altitude change nor factored in the very windy day. Luckily, the hike would warm us up. The visitor center is the hub for the nearby campground, lodge, restaurant and general store. However, the visitor center was a bit lackluster, only highlighting the various animal species of the park; nothing about the terrain or history of Big Basin. In the past, we’ve come across some pretty spectacular national park visitor centers. But once in a while, you see a few duds. But one thing that we haven’t really come across at these places, are warning signs for mountain lions and bears, and we’re in the desert. Hard to believe that in 800,000 acres of land, Big Bend National Park is home to about 20 mountain lions (most are tagged to study their territory and behavior).

We noticed a trailhead at the visitor center for The Window Trail which in the end, became our trail of the day. The 15-car parking lot back at the Lost Mine Trail was still full. Once again, an unexpected trail turned out to be pretty darn awesome! Moderately trafficked through dry creek beds which can be full during wetter periods, this 5.6-mile out and back trail descends through Oak Creek Canyon. The descent was gradual with a few “wind tunnels'' along the way. It was pretty cool to see quite a number of built in granite steps, easing our descent

into the canyon. Interspersed between the “step” area were several streams and pools of water. As we approached the end, “The Window'' pouroff frames an amazing panoramic desert vista. And we weren’t alone taking in the views, cautiously. The rocks at the end are extremely slippery

which you can see by the shininess of them. We think the rock was slick because of the thousands of footsteps that have plodded on them over the years. Anyway, the dropoff, if you fell, would be fatal… is straight down. 😬😳

On our hike back up, we ran into a few late hikers (not sure they’d make it to the end and back before sunset?), and no signs of 4-legged creatures. What a sight that would be. So I picked up a good walking stick, just in case. As we neared the top, we came to a fork with a directional sign for the “Windows Trail”, so we took it. Soon after, we realized that it didn’t look familiar. We knew it would take us to some end, but would it be the right one? That would be a “no”. It dropped us into the campground quite a ways from the visitor center. We could have gone back down on the trail to the junction or keep going. We decided to keep going, taking the road back, where it was cold and windy. The trail would have kept us a little more insulated. About 5 minutes into our detour, a very nice “Boy Scout dad” pulled over in his mini-van to offer us a ride back to our car. Jeff and I wouldn’t normally take a lift from a stranger, but we usually feel pretty safe in national parks, and you can’t go wrong with a “Boy Scout dad”. Our angel for the day.

By the time we got back to our campsite, it was dark and WINDY (20 mph), but pretty warm. And it was nice to finally see a few stars in this “dark sky” place, since these past few nights the full-moon has prevented us from seeing any.

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