Yesterday we saw the desert and the river, today we get mountains. It started with an alarm at 5:45 and bacon and eggs for breakfast. We were on the road by 7 headed to the Chisos Mountains. The drive coming from the northeast and going up into the mountains during sunrise was absolutely beautiful. We parked at the visitor center and were on the trail by 8. The temperature was in the 50s and very windy so we started the hike with our jackets on. On the way down we saw a bus for the Los Diablos Fire Crew, a group of Mexican firefighters who are called up from Mexico during serious wildfires when the national park needs assistance.
The hike to the window is pretty much all downhill and is shaded by the surrounding peaks since we started so early. The Chisos basin is stunning, with rock formations along the trail which really reminded me of Zion National Park. We made it to the Window around 9 and stayed for about 15 minutes. I had read that on a good day you can see 120+ miles from the top of the Chisos Mountains and judging from the view through the window, today was a good day. We were in the sun a lot more on the way back. It might have been because of the fire, but the haziness in front of the peaks made the view of the mountains look almost prehistoric with plateaus looming out of the haze like Mount Roraima.
We made it back to the parking lot at about 10:45, which meant we had another 15 minutes to kill before the road out was open again. Thankfully the gift shop was open! We got a Christmas ornament and a couple Texas craft sodas to celebrate a successful hike, orange dreamsicle for me and root beer for Peyton. We decided to make an impromptu drive to the north entrance of the park and came upon what was labeled as Dagger Flat Auto Trail. I had never heard of an auto trail before and it didn’t say four-wheel drive was required, so we decided to give it a shot. It was only about 7 miles but took us over an hour to complete because of how rocky the gravel road was. In retrospect I would say four-wheel drive is not required for this auto trail but highly recommended, it would make the drive the drive much smoother. Most of the drive was through large stretches of flowering Yucca plants which were very scenic, but the auto trail didn’t really lead to a specific view. Overall, I’m glad we tried it but we would have had the same views if we had turned around halfway through and due to the time it took to traverse I don’t need to do it again.
We got back to camp around 1 and loaded up the ice chest for our drive. FM 170 goes right along the Rio Grande from Lajitas to Presidio with Big Bend Ranch State Park on the right and Mexico on the left. The first 30 minutes or so of the drive is one of the most scenic drives I have ever taken. It is mountain terrain that rivals any I’ve seen in Colorado or the Canadian Rockies but in the high desert environment. We arrived in Presidio, a town of 5000 people which has the Mexican sister city of Ojinaga across the river. If you have ever seen the cartoon Border Town, Presidio is the real world version of the town in that show. Once again, there is no place that sells ice cream here. What do folks in west Texas have against ice cream? We stopped at Don Jose Panaderia for some local flavor instead and got what I would describe as fruit empanadas, one apple and one pumpkin. Thumbs up from us for both. That pretty much exhausted all there is to do in Presidio, so we turned back around to head back to Lajitas.
On the way we spotted a picnic area with river access and pulled over. We wheeled down our ice chest and lawn chairs and sipped Pinot Gringo with our feet in the Rio Grande for a couple hours. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon. We got back to camp as the sun was setting, made a fire, and toasted turkey provolone pesto sandwiches for dinner as we took in the night skies here for the last time on this trip.