Big Bend National Park – Texas

Today we headed south on RM 385 from our site at the Marathon Motel & RV Park. An aside – do you know what the RM stands for? Neither did we. It stands for Ranch to Market Road. Earlier in our time in Texas, we came across some “FM” roads which means Farm to Market. Some FM roads are known as RM because local ranchers objected to being called farmers by implication.

Big Bend refers to the U-turn the river makes in this beautiful park in southwest Texas. Our time was limited today so after a stop at the Panther Junction visitor center, we decided to head to the Southeast  corner of the park. We stopped at the Rio Grande Overlook and then headed to the Port of Entry to Boquillas Del Carmen, Mexico. Big Bend is the only US National park with a border crossing. We were briefed by border control what to do, what not to do, and where to check in upon our arrival in Boquillas. After a short walk, we paid $5 each for a round trip ride across the Rio Grande in a row boat.

On shore, we passed on the $5.00 donkey ride into Boquillas and decided to walk. Following a group of several people on donkeys, I suggested to Becky that we pass them up so we weren’t stuck behind them at “immigration”.

After the short walk we were on our way to what looked like should have been  immigration when we were stopped short by a policeman who said “NO” and pointed in the other direction.  We stood there with what must have been a bewildered look and somebody who may have been a guide with another couple walked past and said “Immigration is closed, your legal.”

We spent the next 2 minutes walking the entire length of  the “main drag” and turned around having seen the town. We ducked into Jose Falcon’s restaurant to have a bite to eat. After a couple cold ones and a nice meal, we headed out wondering how we forgot to have a shot of tequila. We purchased a small clay cup that says Jose Falcon on it to put our Agave plant in (when we rolled into the RV Park earlier, I struck up a conversation with a local who gave us a baby Agave plant).

After crossing back into the states, we decided to hike the Boquillas Canyon Overlook, a roughly 2 mile round trip trail along the Rio. It’s an easy hike, with an initial moderate climb. The hike was enjoyable, it felt like the trail ended too soon as it didn’t get us quite to the point where we could look around the bend. We probably could have muscled through to see it. We did however see some beautiful canyon walls.

Along the trail, we saw on a couple of occasions souvenir type items for sale along the trail left by Mexicans. These were unattended and we did not purchase any. In the paperwork we received entering the park, it mentioned it was illegal to purchase these items.

On the way back we saw a group of kayakers. We did bring our Kayaks and plan to go to Santa Elena tomorrow to scope out if that’s a potential entry spot for taking a small stroll on the Rio Grande. We also did the Burro Spring Trail where we spotted the elusive Cookie Monster Cactus.

Today we took the Santa Elena trail and scoped out a kayak adventure. The trail itself was short, only about 1.5 miles long round trip. It was a challenge crossing the Rio over to the trail. There were two options, one was crossing the river which while shallow was very messy as you would sink in to your knees is mud. The other option was crossing over some rocks up stream and climbing a semi precarious rock wall to hit the trail. That is the option we chose, and it was worth it. It also convinced us that taking out kayaks up the canyon would be a wonderful experience.

The next day we loaded up our kayaks and took them to the river access approximately two miles downstream from where the canyon starts. While we would be paddling up stream for these two miles, the current looked mild and it didn’t appear that it would be to much of a challenge.

Boy were we wrong. About half way up we met another couple who was debating turning around as the going was tough and they weren’t sure how far up the canyon was. We told them “it was just around the corner” and they decided to plow ahead with us. After a couple extended over land portages and a couple pulling the kayaks in the water as opposed to paddling, we finally saw the mouth of the canyon. The couple had Minnesota ties and she has a brother who lives maybe 15 miles away from us – small world. After our adventure, we went to their campsite and shared stories before heading to our own.

Pro Tip: Launch your kayak at the Santa Elena Trailhead!

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