Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Trails on the Trail – the good, the bad, and the ugly

Will and I finally went on our 5 day camping extravaganza (!) to Big Bend National Park. We were supposed to go in March, but that got nixed due to me going to MA for work. The plan (and why I even try to plan is beyond me, b/c things never go according to plan) was to spend a few nights at Elephant Tusk (we stayed there last time, unmaintained 4x4 road = no other people for MILES!) and hike around in the desert and then move to another campsite for the remainder of the trip.

We leave Wed at 4:45 AM, make 2 gas/potty stops, and arrive at the park HQ at 2:30 PM. Woo! We get one night at Paint Gap (Will’s choice) and 2 nights at E Tusk. Decide to spend the final night in the Davis Mountains. Woo! We got our campsites!

We drive over to Paint Gap and unload our wordly belongings. Then we realize its hot. As in you can’t sit down or stand still b/c its sweltering out. In fact, the only way to create a breeze is to take a hike. I immediately curse myself for wanting to take a camping trip in the DESERT in APRIL when instead, I could have spent 5 days on a cruise in Mexico. Anyways, we swelter, the clouds show up, and life is tolerable.

The next morning, we get up, pack up, and head for the mountains. We hike up the Lost Mine Trail (1,100 ft elevation gain, top elevation of 7,650 – hey, I’m used to elevation of oh say 100 feet MSL, so being over a mile high is exciting for me!). Its nice and cool up there so, we find a nice tree, eat a picnic lunch, and take a nap. Well, Will took a nap and I got bored and decided to hike around and explore. We hang around for a long time, waiting for the desert floor temp to go back down to something tolerable. Begin hiking down at 3 PM. Its bloody hot on the hike down. So hot that we decide this isn’t fun anymore and we’ll spend one night at Elephant Tusk then book it the next morning to Davis, where presumably, its much cooler. We get to ET at 6:30, sure enough, its still hot, so we pop open the back of my Xterra and use that as shade. As there’s no SHADE in the DESERT (shaking head again – what were we thinking?) Go to sleep, wake up, pack up, and 4x4 out of the park to coolness.

We stay at the Davis Mtns state park, and well, its not really that pretty. Its brown and hilly, rather than oh, mountainy. But I guess Texans think anything with a bump is a mountain. But surprise! Its actually cool enough that you had to wear pants! Yay! So, we set up and veg. The park is close to the McDonnell Observatory, and we found out they do Star Parties, so after sunset, we mosied over there to look through their telescopes at the stars. Very cool. Get back to our campsite at 11:30 (I’m sure all the campers around us appreciated us driving up that late….) and its so cold I have to bust out my down sleeping bag and sleep the whole night with it over my head to keep my nose warm. We wake up the next day, decide to take the 2 PM guided tour of the observatory, which was cool. Will really likes physics, so he definitely got his geek on. Then we spent the rest on the night bumming around and doing a whole lot of nothing.

Sunday we pack up the truck and drive 8.5 hrs eastward to Houston. I have to say, we saw an awful lot of California license plates on the drive back home. Its like they released them all at the same time in a mass migration east. We’re thinking its spring break over there? But why would you drive across Texas for spring break? Ew….

And now, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:

* Seeing someplace new: we’d never been to the Davis Mtns before (we went to Big Bend a few yrs back, but were sick, so it wasn’t that much fun – sense a theme?), so it was fun to explore a new place.
* The hike up the Lost Mine Trail was beautiful. Clear skies, mountains, no idiots on the trail. What more can you ask for.
* Good food – b/c I planned it. Sausage/peppers/onions, pork fajitas, Cajun dirty rice, steak. Mmmmm. I don’t screw around when it comes to camping food.
* Time to relax. Yay! I don’t get to sit around and read books very often, so that was nice.
* Seeing the planet Saturn in such detail, you could see the shadow that its rings cast upon the planet’s surface (badass!).
* Knowing more about constellations and star formations!
* We broke down and got an air mattress to sleep on. (Yes, Christine, I owe you an apology for making fun of you, although you sort of still deserve it b/c I still wouldn’t backpack with an air mattress). My hips go numb despite me buying one of the more cushy therma-rests, so we became soft and got an obnoxious air mattress. And we slept soundly each night. Damn, that means we’ll have to keep it.
* Pictures on Flickr of our trip (purty!)

The Bad:
* Desert in April is HOT. It doesn’t seem like upper 80’s should be all that hot, but when there’s no shade and all the rocks have been baking, its really no fun at all.
* The drive – 1500 miles round trip.
* The enormous amount of bug splatters on my Xterra. I’m gonna have to get it detailed….
* The night at ET, I laid down on my sleeping bag to go to sleep and immediately had a sharp stinging sensation on my left shoulder blade. I sat up and found a squashed bumble-bee on my bag. And the bastard stung me. Fortunately, I had hydrocortisone and bandaids, but damn.

The Ugly:
* Me going Tues – Sunday w/out a shower and being around a LOT of ppl at the observatory tour on Saturday. Good thing I brought some scented lotion!


Anonymous said...

My corruption is now complete! Glad it worked out for you. The observatory sounds like a great time. I might have to find someplace around me I can visit. Christine

Jess said...

Dude, I need to go camping with you. Your camping food sounds 100 times better than the ramen/trail mix that we usually end up eating.

Glad it was fun and awesome pics!