The second day at Big Bend National Park was focused on the central section of the park. Day one was over and had left me a bit tired. The long drive out from Houston, the full day of hiking the previous day, and now I was heading into the higher elevation area. Fortunately, the weather looked a lot better than it did the previous day. It was a bit warmer and considerably sunnier – though that would change once I got into the long hike for the day: The Window.
The previous article had a list of the hikes I had planned and so I set out to tackle the next set. The first stops were, again, some of the scenic stops along the drive. I started off from Terlingua and took the main road into the park again – heading toward the Chisos Basin. Again, I saw some gorgeous views along the drive and thought how every mile gave me more of them.
Driving along I finally got to the area I wanted to see and found a parking spot near the outdoor theater at the campground. This was the recommended area to park as it’s near the trail head – and there are bathrooms there!
The Window trail is rated as “moderate” and it is – but I was warned about its trickery. The 5.6 miles round trip is mostly downhill on the way out which of course means it is uphill on the way back. Yes, you get to climb when you’re most tired. There is an elevation change of about 1,000 feet from about 5,500 ft. in altitude to about 4,500 back up to 5,500. While that may not seem like much, for us Houston dweller who are slightly above sea level, we really need to suck in that thin oxygen! At 5,500 feet, there is only 83% of the oxygen there is at sea level! I had been working on my hiking endurance by walking a lot, but the altitude change made it a bit challenging on the return part of the hike. So – be warned and prepare for it!
The hike itself is quite beautiful and you go through several different areas with different topography and plant life. There are pine and oak trees with some scattered cacti – yes, there are even at this elevation – and eventually you start to reach a slick rock area. This area of the hike can be a bit challenging, the slick rock can be slippery and there are areas that are a bit steep – steps carved into the rock help, but if there is water, it can be dangerous. I slipped on one but did not fall.
The great reward is, of course, when you reach the end of the trail and are greeted by “The Window” – the area where the Oak Creek drains off the mountains. This is one of the reasons to always check with the rangers for any possible dangers. While there is not much waterfall in this area, under the right conditions a sudden storm can easily turn this area into a dangerous flash flood area. I was lucky in that it had been dry enough that the trail was beautiful and not too wet. On the other hand, there had been enough moisture to still have some water in the pools!
After reaching The Window and enjoying the stunning view (the photos do not do it justice and it got overcast which did not help give proper perspective), I started the hike back. Along the way, I stopped a couple of times to drink some water and have a snack. Once back, I found a picnic area near the Chisos Mountain Resort and enjoyed my lunch that I had packed and brought with me. It was a good opportunity to enjoy the area and check it out for a future return visit.
While sitting here I saw some deer as well as different types of birds. I had come somewhat prepared with a small birding booklet, but I’m not really that observant and certainly did not take notes of what I saw. I know during our visit I saw multiple roadrunners, jack rabbits, deer, coyote, and several different (and very beautiful) birds.
After lunch I headed toward the northern part of the park. At this point, I was pretty tired but not quite ready to call it quits for the day so I drove and stopped along the way at several areas of interest. Among them was a historic site where the burial site for Nina Marie Seawell Hannold is located. She was part of a family that settled in that area and loved the creek near the grave site. She died during child birth and was buried near the creek she so loved.
Continuing north along this road I came to a fossil bone exhibit that is being improved. The exhibit is informational and interesting and they are working on an improved building – OK, an actual building, not just a walkway with some glass enclosed exhibits – which will make it much more enjoyable and nicer to visit.
The views from this area were pretty darn good too and I decided to call it a day and head back into town – but not without stopping by a few of the scenic pull-offs along the road. If nothing else, the light changes and makes them look different each time.