Around the Bend

Friday, January 20, 2012 Road Junkies 1 Comments

To Big Bend and Back, Day 16  

BIG BEND RANCH STATE PARK, Texas— For so long, we have aimed at seeing Big Bend National Park, and what did we do on our first day within spitting distance of the longed-for park?  We skipped it.  You read that right.  We did not go to Big Bend National Park today.

The place where we're staying is smack dab between Big Bend National Park and the lesser known Big Bend Ranch (Texas) State Park.  We set out this morning to find a couple of newly planted letterboxes just inside the state park.  Then we'd turn around and head to the national park.  Except we didn't.

That's what they all say, right?
But wait.  Before we went anywhere, it seemed prudent to fill up with gas.  We were below half a tank and not sure exactly how far it really was to the nearest station, not to mention the closest deli.  And, as you could easily guess, there was only one gas station in town.  Actually, what we learned this morning is that the resort where we're staying IS the town.  And the town is the resort.  In fact, the so-called "Town Hall" houses the resort's HR and financial departments.

So the little "general store" is the only place to shop without going 15 miles to Terlingua, 50 miles to Presidio, or hopping across the border to Mexico (not a good idea since we stupidly forgot to bring our passports).

Don't worry, Walmart.  They're not a competitor.
Once we filled up, we planned to drive into the state park a few miles, stamp in to a couple of new (end of November) letterboxes, reverse our course, and head for the big enchilada— Big Bend NP.  (Oh, come on, you can't blame me for reaching out to that particular metaphor here on the Mexican border!)

We found the first letterbox at the artificial village of Contraband.  Originally built for the 1985 film Uphill All the Way, the location has been added to and used for nine additional films.  Now it also plays host to a letterbox.

New hombre enters Contraband movie set
It was quite obvious that the creative spirit left here on the film site inspired the resourceful planter of this letterbox.  As she stated in the clue, "without stamp making supplies on this trip, we had to make do with what we could find - a Dr. Scholl's inner sole and Super Glue."  Along with a waterproof container for matches, there it was, an authentic letterbox.  Stinkin' brilliant!


Leaving Contraband, we found another stinkin' letterbox planted in late November by this same park visitor.  Did we mention that the Dr. Scholl's pads were used?  Whatever.  A boxer's gotta do what a boxer's gotta do, and we were happy to have some letterboxes to search for here.

Oh, yes.  Back to why we never made it to BBNP today.  Just in the few miles we traveled to reach these letterboxes, we were smitten by the spectacular scenery of Big Bend Ranch State Park.  Could we just turn around and drive away from 300,000 acres of Chihuahuan Desert wilderness in a rugged, remote and unpopulated setting?


If you guessed "no," you would be correct.  We decided to postpone our trip to BBNP until tomorrow so we could explore the largest state park in Texas today.  This magnificent park extends along the Rio Grande for more than fifty miles across two counties. Embracing some of the most isolated and mountainous terrain in the Southwest, the park encompasses two mountain ranges containing ancient extinct volcanoes, precipitous canyons, and even the occasional waterfall (in the rainy season, of course).


While trying to soak up this incredible spectacular scenery today, of course, all we could think about was why we again failed to bring Woodie with us.  We could only imagine the photographs my brilliant brother could produce here.  This place was begging for him.  All we can offer is our humble efforts.  Should you ever have the opportunity or even the slightest inclination to visit the Big Bend area, do not hesitate.  You will be so glad you did.  And don't forget to bring Woodie!

DAILY STATS:
  • Started in Lajitas, TX; ended in Lajitas, TX
  • Weather:  Sunny, 53° to 85°
  • Miles driven:  91          (Trip total:  2,750)
  • States: 1 (TX)          (Trip total:  6)
  • Letterboxes found:  3         (Trip total:  74)
  • Places to buy gas in Lajitas:  1
  • Places to buy supplies in Lajitas:  1
    More Photos From Today
    (sorry, they're not Woodie's!)