Return to Big Bend
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In 1993 Beth and I had traded our 1985 Chevy S-10 pick-up for a customized Chevy Van.

On February 17th 2000 we left Bradenton for a two-week vacation to return to Big Bend after a 15-year absence. The Van had 90,708 miles on it. Shortly after turning west on I-10 from I-75 we stopped at the Suwannee River State Park which we had wanted to visit for some time.

We camped that night at the Blackwater River State Park  along I-10, just Northeast of Pensacola.

The next morning we continued West on I-10 to Mobile Bay where we toured the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park. The park included not only the USS Alabama, but also the submarine USS Drum and static displays both inside and out of aircraft from World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Cold War.
Beth had never been on a Navy ship. The Battleship Alabama was about the same size as the Cruiser USS Canbera that I was stationed aboard when I served in the Navy.

 We toured the USS Drum, SS-228 , and the displays inside the pavilion

and outside
We left The Memorial Park the afternoon of the 18th (91,265 miles) and continued west on I-10. We bypassed New Orleans on Interstate 12 and camped for the night outside of Lake Charles, Louisiana off I-10 at The Sam Houston Jones State Park.

We left the campsite at dawn (91,605 miles) and drove to Houston where we took US 290 to Austin, Texas. We spent Saturday night and Sunday with the Kreigers.
We left Mark and Virginia's (91,937 miles) about 7:00 a.m. following US 290 until it intersected I-10 and drove all day listening to books on audio. We stopped at Ft. Stockton for some last minute supplies, then turned South on US highway 385 arriving at Big Bend National Park in the late afternoon, around 4:00 p.m. Seeing the familiar terrain again was a moving experience for us both. We felt the enchantment of the park all around us. We paid our $10.00 entrance fee and then continued on to the Basin, first stopping at Panther Junction where we made a quick stop to pick up a schedule of ranger talks.

 Our old campsite was occupied and so was the one next to it so we began looking for another spot. The one we decided on ended up to be #53

which is our old campsite number. They had re-numbered the campsites and added a few more. We had a good view of Casa Grande

and the window.

We attended a ranger talk in the evening. All of the campsites are now provisioned with bear proof metal storage containers secured on a concrete slab.
We learned there is a bear population of about 20-30 that have infiltrated from the Sierra Del Carmen Mountains in Mexico. We didn't see any bears, however.  

On Tuesday the 22nd of February, 2000, we left our camp in the Basin (92,420 miles) and drove down to Rio Grande Village. We hiked the nature trail

and the trail spur along part of the river.

Very peaceful and beautiful. The weather was great, sunny and warm albeit somewhat windy (as usual). Then we drove to Boquillas Canyon and hiked into the canyon as far as you can go (which isn't very far)

We watched two goats climbing on the rocks and on the bank of the river on the Mexico side. These were probably domestic goats gone wild. We also saw two burros along the bank on the Mexico side.

We ate our lunch there. The wind was blowing hard and the fine sand was blowing in our faces along with the hot wind. After we left the canyon we drove to the parking area for the Hot Springs. Walked to the Hot Springs. Wasn't as big as we had remembered it.
(during the day, the tourists owned the hot springs but after dark it belonged to the employees and long term campers. Much cavorting in the nude.) We then stopped at the ranger station and bought a new map of the park. The Ranger Volunteer said the temperature was 90 degrees! We returned to our campsite in the Basin and hiked the Window Trail.

Beautiful as always. We returned to our campsite at dusk.

Wednesday February 23rd is our special anniversary. We hiked the Lost Mine Trail where we met 17 years ago today.

Another beautiful sunny day. The wind was a little cool, especially at the top of the trail.
Beautiful views. We had our picnic lunch up at the top and spent some time taking pictures and just feeling the enchantment all around us. Such a special place! We drove to Panther Junction to inquire about the Big Bend Ranch State Park. We decided we would not go there this time, it is basically undeveloped and therefore uninviting to us. We had our traditional anniversary celebration with scotch and blackened hotdogs on the grill dipped in mustard! YUM! YUM! We went to a ranger talk at 7:30. Ranger Rick "Tom" did an excellent presentation about the treasures of the park.
The next day we went on a ranger walk with Ranger Rick "Tom" about 1/2 way up the Lost Mine Trail.

He did a nice job and we enjoyed the hike. We drove down through the Cottonwood Campground on the Southwest side of the park and on to Santa Elena Canyon.

We hiked in as far as you can go.
Beautiful and peaceful. Nobody else around at that time!

Had our picnic lunch there. Spent time just enjoying the calm river and shade of the high canyon cliffs.

We stopped at Castellon on our way back to our camp in the Basin and visited the ranger station. We stopped at the Mule Ears Overlook

on the return trip to the Basin. There were deer in the campground when we arrived.

On Friday the 25th of February, we hiked to Cottonwood Falls. There was not as much water as before, no columbine blooming yet. Nice hike to a cool spot.

We hiked the Ward Spring Trail. We had forgotten that we had hiked that one before. Not very rewarding when you get to the "spring", trail winds through desert and lots of tangles and cactus and ends at the spring which is located at the dikes. Then we drove down to the river and crossed via a rowboat ($2.00 per person) to Santa Elena, Mexico. We walked around the small village and had an early dinner at one of the three restaurants. We ordered chicken burritos. Beth took one bite then realized that the chickens running around the yard of the restaurant would soon be in burritos, too. She could not finish hers. She had a nice coke in a bottle and Michael had a couple of beers.
We drove back to the Basin and went to a ranger talk, which was not very well done.
The campground filled up during the night and there were some noisy youth in white vans. We would have moved to a primitive campsite had we been staying the weekend. As it was, we had to pack up and leave to head back to Florida. There was a tarantula under the tent when we took it down! First one we've ever seen!
We were sad to leave (92,708 miles) this magical place, but take more fond memories with us.
The return trip took us back up US 385 to Ft. Stockton where we turned East. We spent the night in a hotel in Sealy, Texas along I-10. The next morning, February 27th, (93,300 miles) we continued on I-10 East and camped again that night in the Blackwater River State Park in the Florida panhandle. On the 28th we drove from the campground (93,900 miles) to our home in Bradenton, Florida (94,382 miles). 

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