On this day we had a wonderful hike on the Lost Mine Trail which was supposed to be a warm-up for a twelve-mile hike the next day. Well, it turned out to be a reality check - the planned long hike was a bit too ambitious for us. But we still planned to camp in the scenic Chisos Basin area - until the weather sent us packing.
As usual, we got a later start than we planned. We had hoped to get up early, drive to Chisos Basin, and hike the Lost Mine Trail where we would see a gorgeous sunrise. Nope. Didn't happen.
Still, we did get on the Lost Mine Trail by 9:15 - much better than the noon or 1:00 of the last two days.
This trail is 4.8 miles round-trip with an 1100-foot elevation change. To test our stamina for a possible 12-mile trail the next day, we packed our backpacks as if we were doing 12 miles including a gallon of water each.
One of the great things about this trail is you can get a self-guided tour book at the trailhead for a buck. It corresponds to 22 markers on the trail that helps break the trip up and teaches you a few things along the way.
Talk about scenic. We barely got away from the road before I started taking pictures.
Every switchback in the trail provides a better view than the last one.
This beautiful butterfly was a first for us. It's called an Arizona Sister.
It's hard to keep your eyes on the trail. But you had better watch where you're going.
Climbing higher and higher. This is about a mile into the trail and is the place we were supposed to be for a fabulous sunrise. We were only about 3 hours too late.
We stopped often on the way up to birdwatch. Here is a Rufous-crowned Sparrow - another new one for us.
This Century Plant, a variety of agave, was starting to sprout its once-a-lifetime bloom. It takes them about 20 years to bloom and then they die after blooming.
You like cactus blooms? Here are a few from a Strawberry Pitaya.
Linda chose the angle and perspective for this shot.
This is the unusual Texas Madrone tree. It sheds its bark over time and the bare tree takes on a "sunburned" appearance.
Looking back down to the trailhead from yet another overlook. If you look really closely, you can see a tour bus on the road in the center of the photo. It's just about to pass our truck and the point where we started.
By the time we got to the top, Linda was struggling and ready to be there. She found a shady spot under a Mexican Pinon (or Pinyon) Pine and we unloaded our packs and had a snack.
The views were worth the effort. Check out those tiny people on the rock (lower left-center).
There's more. More people walking across the ridge on the right.
Another awesome view.
Now, while we were hanging out for about an hour at the top of the trail, Linda spotted a Roadrunner that popped out near where we were sitting by ourselves.
I went to get a photo and found her standing on the side of a nest feeding her three babies. I got pics of the babies, but the best photo is this one of mom sitting on the nest covering her hatchlings.
Now we have seen lots of Roadrunners, but to find a nest with babies was pretty special.
In the upper parts of the trails, we saw several Mexican Jays. I got this photo at the top.
Another "life bird" for us. And on the way up we found three babies that had recently fledged and were hanging out waiting for mom & dad to bring food.
After resting up, getting something to eat, and taking in the views, we started back down. It was supposed to be a three hour trail, but we had already been on it four hours by the time we left the top. We take our time, stay quiet, stay observant, and tend to see what others miss.
On our way, I spotted this lone White-tail Deer. We had a moment.
Then we got a great look at another "life bird" for us - the Spotted Towhee. He's a pretty one.
We made much better time going down the trail. We did that part in about an hour and a half. But Linda was pretty sure that the 12-mile all day hike for tomorrow was out. She wasn't going to be able to do it. I had my doubts myself - Big Bend kicked our butts on this trail.
Still, we moved forward with the plan to tent camp. We found a great spot in the Chisos Basin Campground and did the self-pay thing for two nights ($14 each). In no time, we were set up and I was taking pictures of our views.
It was going to be a good night.
We took our grill and camp stove, so I grilled burgers while Linda fried up some potatoes and onions.
We were looking forward to the clear night sky and waking up in the morning to great views.
We even got a visit from a Scott's Oriole. I didn't get a good shot of him, but it was our fourth "life bird" of the day.
Then things got weird. A little cloud went over us and it started .... hailing! What the heck?! Those are little hail pellets on our tarp under the tent.
Then it clouded up, got cooler, and rained.
Then the winds shifted and the sun came back out. I was enjoying the sun lighting up the rocks from my lounger.
I even got in a little nap.
Then the wind shifted again. The clouds rolled over the mountaintops and into the Basin.
The rains came with more hail and strong winds. Our poor tent was bending and blowing. The winds came from all directions and it looked like there was a bear in the tent trying to find a way out.
We jumped in the truck to stay warm and dry. We had our sleeping bags and air mattress in the tent all ready to go. But we expected tent and all to just fly away at any moment.
We couldn't do anything but laugh hysterically. "Can you believe this craziness? Should we stay or should we go?"
The rain let up just enough for us to check out the tent. Great. There were puddles inside and the sleeping bags were wet. That's it! We're shoving it all in the truck and going home. Consider our $28 in camping fees a donation to the park.
As we got everything packed into the bed and cab of the pick-up the sun came out again. And there was a tiny rainbow that appeared to be coming out of this rock.
It was as if Big Bend was saying to us "Don't come in here thinking you can just do whatever you want. Now get on outta here and remember I'm the boss."
Even though it briefly looked like it might clear up, our decision was made. And rather than re-pack the tent, we thanked it for 20 years of service and put it out of its misery. May it rest in peace.
On our way out of the Basin, we got another rainbow message.
After taking that last rainbow picture, I looked back and saw this nice view.
As we drove home, we lamented the fact that we wouldn't be experiencing what we set out to experience. But we tried.
And the more we drove, the worse the weather looked. So our disappointment turned to satisfaction that we made a very good decision to leave.
Seeing that storm move in, and all the colors of Big Bend under the dark skies, was amazing, but we were very glad we weren't spending the night in a tent.