Big Bend Rafting and other stuff…..

As you all know, the Big Bend area of Texas is far and away one of Ann’s and my favorite places to spend time.  Last week we spent four days there again.  We again stayed at the Casitas at Far Flung Outdoor Center, in Study Butte.  They are the best outfitters for the rafting, jeep tours, and other activities in the Big Bend.  Before I get into trouble, I want to emphasize that is just my own opinion.

View from porch of our cabin at Far Flung Outdoor Center.

View from porch of our cabin at Far Flung Outdoor Center.  Long lens used.

You already saw some of my images of some birds from the trip, but I also was able to get a few more landscape photos as well.  The area was as greenest as I have ever seen in the many years that we have visited.  The above photo was taken in the evening as the sun was setting from my far right.  It is a view from the porch of our Casita, albeit with a very long lens.

One photo that I left out yesterday I would like to insert here.  This man, Joseph, a park service employee, has the job of traveling around the Basin in the Chisos Mountains cleaning out the composting toilets.  The boxes on his pack horses have HUMANURE  painted on them.  A thankless but necessary job, I am sure.  I spotted him while I was scoping out some birds with my 500mm lens.  He was riding towards me about 200 yards away.

Joseph, collecting from the trail toilets.

Joseph, collecting from the trail toilets.

Here are a couple more of my favorite landscapes from our trip.

Sotol and Santiago Peak - Big Bend National Park

Sotol and Santiago Peak – Big Bend National Park

"Dawn Sun on Distant Mountain" - Big Bend National Park

“Dawn Sun on Distant Mountain” – Big Bend National Park

On Thursday morning, we decided to take a half-day rafting trip that Far Flung has as one of their scheduled activities.  We load up and head up-stream to a river put-in area called Grassy Banks.  It is about 10 miles west of Lajitas.  We launch there, then float back to Lajitas, where we are met by the Far Flung crew to load up for the trip back to Study Butte.

Tim, our guide getting the raft ready to launch.  Notice fast moving water of the Rio Grande.

Tim, our guide getting the raft ready to launch. Notice fast moving water of the Rio Grande.

Ann getting into her life jacket.

Ann getting into her life jacket.

Away we go!

Away we go!

The ride wasn’t as dangerous as some of the trips that go through the canyons, but nevertheless I had to hang on to my cameras, grab the side of the raft, and try to keep my balance.  I managed to get a few shots from the raft, though.  Even with the Image Stabilization feature of my Canon lenses, it still was difficult to keep some images in focus.

One view from the raft.

One view from the raft.

Goats high on a bluff on Mexican side of the river.

Goats high on a bluff on Mexican side of the river.

Turkey Vulture warming wings for morning flight.

Turkey Vulture warming wings for morning flight.

After the float trip, we were happy to spend the rest of the day on the porch of our canyon sipping refreshments and watching the surrounding scenery and seeing the quail, rabbits, birds that play around the cabins.  What a great time we had.  Be sure and click on the images to see some nice enlargements.

Adventures from the Big Bend – Wednesday – Day 3

In yesterdays’, Day 2 Tuesday post, I forgot to mention our evening dinner plans.  We were tired, but we thought a cold margarita and a steak would be good.  We went to the LaKiva Bar and Restaurant.  It is a place that you could only call unique.  It is more or less a cave-like structure.  It is actually built into the banks of Terlingua Creek, so it is partially underground, so to speak.

This being a Tuesday, it was Karoke Night.  In previous visits there I had got up and sang a couple of tunes myself.  Not this time though.  We got there at 5:00PM, had our margaritas, (me – two), a delicious steak filet and we were out of there before 7:00PM.  We went back to the casita and sat on the porch for awhile.  I guess we’re getting too old for shenanigans. 🙂

Now on the morning of  Wednesday, Day 3, we decided to take a guided Jeep tour through the back country around Terlingua and Study Butte.  It is another service that is provided at extra cost by the Far Flung Outdoor Center.  Thinking that the Roadrunner Deli didn’t open until 8:00AM we opted to eat at a nearby motel restaurant.  Our tour was scheduled at 8:45AM.  A young lady, Laura, was a very informed guide, and she gave us an education about the geological history of the area.

The tour was over at 11:00AM, so we had some light snacks and headed for the Chisos Mountains, in Big Bend National Park.  The Chisos are the center-piece of the park, with peaks rising to over 8,000 feet.  Our destination was the area called the Basin.  After driving up through Green Gulch, the highway tops out and about 6,000 feet, then you drive back down into the Basin which is at the 5,000 foot elevation.

Drive through Green GulchGreen Gulch and Mt. Casa Grande

On the floor of the Basin are campgrounds, and the Chisos Lodge and Restaurant.  If you visit and want to stay at the lodge, you need to make reservations about two months in advance.  It is surrounded by peaks, including Mount Casa Grande, not the highest, but the most photographed peak in the park.

Mt. Casa Grande

All the water that is collected in the Basin is drained at the pour-off at the bottom of  The Window, a vee-shaped formation on the western side of the basin.  A trail leads to the bottom of the “vee” where you can look over the edge to a  several hundred foot drop to the desert below.  A shorter trail takes you to an over-look where you have a spectacular view, also, looking far out over the Chihuahan desert for many miles.

The Window

 That drive into the Chisos took up all the afternoon.  After returning to our casita, we freshed up and decided on pizza at Long Draw Pizza.  On our many visits to the Big Bend area we passed this established many, many time.  We always ignored it as it, from the outside, looks like just a half of a large mobile home.  Drab looking with just a simple sign outside in a dirt parking lot.  You could kinda picture a red-neck cowboy, behind the bar and serving beer.

But we had recently heard that it really had the best pizza in west Texas.  We were delightly surprised, when walking in, discovered a nice looking, very inviting atmosphere.  Never judge a book by it’s cover, right?  We sat down and were greeted by Nancy, the owner, cook and dishwasher.  The pizza was fantastic and the beer was ice cold.  We ordered a medium size and had enough left for the following evening.

So then back to our room for a good night’s rest, because on Day 4 we are heading up Ross Maxwell Drive for some more photos to show you.

Until then, click on the images to see enlargements and enjoy.