We made it to Big Bend National Park and there were trees!  Hurray!  Don’t get me wrong, these were still some of the most inhospitable trees I’ve ever seen, Mesquite trees with daggers up to an inch and a half long every 1/2”.  But, still, it gave the appearance of something that resembled a forest and they gave shade which was lovely!

Grocery shopping is sparse in these parts so Porters was what we landed on a couple hours outside the park.  They have a decent selection, this one was way better than the one we previously went to, but still there are no organic veggies and some of our healthy favorites weren’t there.  That being said, we were very glad to be able to restock our fresh veggie supply!!  

We are still treating our little ones sweet little feet for athletes foot and are not finding that any of the things we are doing are doing much good.  They are still teetering on the verge of cracking open again.  

I had about 4 days with little to no symptoms of my cold/sinus inflection/never ending sickness.  I only had a slight cough left!  Then, for some reason it came back again.  All that mucus got lonely and wanted to visit me again.  Oh boy!  My guess is the change in elevation when coming to Big Bend sent my sinuses screaming again.  Hopefully it won’t stay as long this time.

On the day we arrived at the park it was quite chilly in the 50’s with a breeze.  The girls even had to wear their winter jackets outside.  However, the next day it was beautiful and sunny into the 70’s!  

Rio Grande Village Campground

We camped at Rio Grande Village Campground. The girls played all morning pretending they were javelinas using the bear/javelina box and foliage as props.  Those boxes have provided hours of entertainment for our kids.  Many nights we fell asleep with the bear box filled with creations; cozy beds, figurine displays, tea parties, javelina feasts…you name it!  

Boquillas Canyon Trail

Before it got too hot in the day we went for a hike along the Rio Grande River which promised a beach at the end.

Along the trail we found little wire trinkets skillfully wound into various creatures and native plant life.  These trinkets were accompanied by a cash “jar” that told the prices.  It was temping as they were beautiful but in the park newspaper we were given by the rangers visitors to the park were told that it was illegal to buy Mexican goods within the park.  They encouraged visitors to enter into Mexico to buy the same trinkets.  I’m not exactly sure why this is the rule.  These trinket stations moved throughout our hike from place to place.  It was very mysterious.  

Wire Creatures

As we hiked closer to the Rio Grande we began to see very high, very lush rushes.  They made us feel like we were entering a jungle!  So much green and such density!

It was near the rushes that we saw a sweet roadrunner milling about looking for food.  They are such neat and odd birds the way to cock their heads to the side, fan their crest up and down and bob their long tail in every which way.  It was so fascinating watching it.  The roadrunner let us sit still and watch for a good chunk of time.  We then decided it was time to slowly move on down the trail.  Even then it didn’t seem very phased and let the girls go fairly close to it before it scooted off the trail and into some bushes.  

The Rio Grande was muddy for sure!  It was mud and sand that lined those beaches.  In fact, the mud was so sticky it held the girls shoes tight.  I thought they were exaggerating until I tried to pull them out of it and couldn’t get their shoes to budge.  I yanked and yanked and finally out popped my girls but the shoes were still stuck.  With a bit of effort we pulled them free.  From then on we stuck to the slightly rockier places.  It was great mud for playing in though.  Sticky clay-like soft squishy mud.  Can’t beat that!  

The girls found a “track story” in the mud as well.  Track stories are when the tracks of multiple animals tell a story.  In this case it was the story of a little bird who ate a horsehair worm.

The girls were so excited to finally find one!  We had never seen a horsehair worm before so I looked it up. Turns out, horsehair worms develop as parasites in the bodies of grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches, and some beetles. When mature, they leave the host to lay eggs but are not parasites of humans, livestock, or pets and pose no public health threat. Thank goodness! One creature we found that can’t hurt us.

Horsehair Worm

The view down at the river was so beautiful with high rocky walls framing the river.

It was also really neat being able to look over the river and see another country!  We could see a couple boats in Mexico as well as a couple forts/homes made from sticks and mud.

A row boat / fort on the Mexico side of the Rio Grande

After we had hiked out we went to a viewpoint and were able to see some people on the Mexican side of the river.  The girls yelled “Hola” to them until they finally heard them and waved back.  The girls were tickled pink!  

Pie & Ice Cream

After the hike we celebrated the girls’ earned Nice Cream Party!  Every so often they fill their charts with stickers which they earn from working together as a team and we celebrate with ice cream and toppings!  It’s a pretty fun event!

Nice Cream Party!

That evening the girls and I made pumpkin pies!  The plan had been to celebrate Halloween with one but timing just didn’t work out.  So, since it was a good solar day, I could use Wobbles’ electric oven and bake them up without a total hit to our batteries.

Chios Mountains

On one of our days out our little one fell asleep in Azul on our way back to the campground.  She had woken up particularly early and was pooped!  For some reason since we entered Texas the girls have been getting up earlier and earlier each day.  They are now waking about an hour and a half earlier than their normal time.  Why do children do this?  We were glad our little one took a nap to hopefully catch her up on sleep.  We very well know it doesn’t work like that but we always hope that logic will prevail.  

Asleep in the van

We decided that since our little one was sleeping we would use that time to drive up to the Chios Mountains to see the view and do a short trail.  Just at the base of the mountains Justin remembered that I was sick and wondered if it was wise to change elevation so rapidly.  I worried too if this was wise but knew that Justin was really looking forward to checking out this portion of the park (and we couldn’t take Wobbles so it was now or never) so we went ahead and did it.

Driving up to Chios Basin

The views were lovely!  However, since our oldest wasn’t thrilled about the idea of us venturing to the mountains she stubbornly stuck to her guns and did not budge for the hike.  She’s in a phase which has lasted a long time and hopefully will soon end that if it’s not her idea to do something, she is extremely reluctant to do it (that was put very gently!).  Our little one was still sleeping so an adult had to stay with her.  Therefore, sadly, Justin did the short hike on his own.  He reports that “it was good.”  Are you hooked??  Ha!  We’ll give this part of the park more attention once the girls are older.  I’m sure there are beautiful hikes in the mountains but they are all very long and fairly strenuous.  Too much even for two little seasoned ones.  

The view from the short Window View Trail

By the time we got back to camp both girls were awake and very ready to get out of Azul!  They had a blast playing with the walkie-talkies while one was in the bear box and one was out and about.  They kept me entertained while I sewed.  It was pretty cute.  Then Justin and the girls burned off some energy after dinner by riding bikes around the campground.  It was a perfect place to ride since it was flat and there were lots of routes to choose from.  

Biking around the campground at dusk

That night it was still so warm out that we decided to go for a nighttime walk around the campground since it gets dark so early now (especially since we are in a new timezone here which, by the way, we aren’t observing since we will be in Arizona’s time zone soon anyway).  Justin was able to observe for himself the creepy hundred wolf spider eyes that glow on the ground at night.  It gets more and more creepy and frightening the more you think about it.  I tried not to think so much about it! 

It was on the walk that we were able to see javelinas in the wild for the first time!!  Not just one but 7!!  They walked right out in front of us from the woods, across the campground road and into peoples’ sites.  It must be their night-time scour of the campground to see if any careless campers left food around.  It was SO amazing to see!!  There were all sizes within the group of 7.  We told one guy that the javelina’s were in his campsite just a couple feet from him.  He just casually turned on his headlamp and commented that they were pretty common.  Well, clearly that guy was from the area!  We then saw another right on the edge of another road we went on to get back to our campsite.  In an instant the javelina scuttled out of sight without a sound and where our flashlights couldn’t see it.  So sneaky!  We also saw some bats which was neat!

Last Day at Big Bend

So, we have been starting a new game as a family.  Every day after breakfast I whisper into someone’s ear that they are the “good deed doer” for the day.  It is this person’s job to do good deeds for people throughout the day.  It is everyone’s job to be noticing the nice things people do for them throughout the day.  Then, at dinner time we share what good deeds we noticed each other doing throughout the day and we take a vote to try and guess who was the designated good deed doer.  It has been really fun lately and everyone has been being more kind and generous with one another.  It’s probably just a honeymoon period but, I’ll take it!  

Justin was a sweetheart and made us a Mexican breakfast using our fresh tortillas and it was delicious.

Making breakfast burritos

While the girls were waiting for Justin to make breakfast they put on a show for us.  They played “getting married” again but this time neither one wanted to be the boy so they decided to both dress up fancy and marry as two girls.  “Its more fancy that way,” they agreed.  

Getting married again

Well, this marrying party took itself out of the camper and to the campground roads.  One thing led to another and the parade went to the nature trail nearby.  All of this was quite lovely but we were very much not prepared.  Both girls were wearing costumes and their nightgowns, our oldest was wearing socks with sandals and our youngest was wearing crocks without socks (neither of these choices of footwear are desert appropriate!).

It all went well until our oldest had to go pee (with four layers of leotards on underneath a quick pee outside was out of the question) and our youngest had gotten a blister on her foot!  Oh boy.  I have learned that with kids it’s really best not to fly by the seat of your pants.  Theres a lot to be said for being prepared.

Back at camp the girls worked on sewing projects, making nests, finishing Jr Ranger books with our little one as the teacher and gathering javelina food as they had the habit of transforming into cute little javelina’s at a moments notice.

Working on Jr Ranger books

Once we were all prepared to go on a walk again we headed out to the nature trail once more.  Earlier Justin had seen a “unicorn” on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande that the girls were itching to see.  It was such a pretty nature trail which started at a little pond with beautiful rushes all around and sweet little bridges as the path.  We spotted a host of wildlife in this marshy area which looked so out of place in a desert setting.    

Is that a Unicorn??

Soon after we started walking the trail, it started sprinkling.  Temperatures were still in the 70’s so a light rain wasn’t bad at all.

We started noticing more and more desert centipedes out.  They are like worms only not slimy (though I can’t be sure of this as I would absolutely NOT touch one), way bigger and much creepier.  I guess they came out of their holes to grab a drink of water.

Desert Centipede

We also found mysterious perfectly round holes in the rocks we were walking on.  Some holes were just slight dents where as others were about 3’ deep.  Maybe rock that was softer wore away over time but in round circles?

Soon the wind started picking up and the rain became harder.  Luckily I had brought along the girls flannels so they weren’t so chilly. We scurried along the trail retracing our steps when Justin spotted some people over on the Mexican side of the river.  We noticed they all looked like they were wearing the same outfit.  Could this be part of their military we wondered?  Justin whipped out our binoculars and, sure enough, it was 5 soldiers in uniform, guns in hands, scaling down the hillside across the river.  We kept them in our sights as we walked toward our campsite.  We lost them after going down toward the pond to get back to the campground.  We still don’t know what they were doing.  Patrolling?  The border crossing was closed that day so maybe they were making sure nobody was crossing without permission.  Who knows!  It was a bit of an eerie sight to see.  

Mexican Military on the Mexico side of the Rio Grande

We were in desperate need of doing laundry so Justin went to do laundry in the one and only washer/drier in the park, as far as we could find anyway.  While he was doing that Justin dropped the girls and I at the Rio Grande Visitor’s Center so the girls could do their pledges and we could read some books and soak in more knowledge about the park.  However, when we arrived we found that the visitor’s center was no bigger than our kitchen back in Portland.  They had two children’s books and no exhibits to look at.  We were very surprised to see that most of the visitor’s centers within Big Bend were extremely small with not a lot of information offered.  

Jr Ranger pledges

When Justin told us he was third in line for the machines we were a little weary about being stuck there for so long but we made the best of it.  While we were there the rain outside became a full on wind storm, knocking the power off three times to the visitors center while we were reading.  When Justin put in the load of laundry I asked that he pick us up and please bring us back to camp.  It wasn’t a particularly long walk to the campground and certainly not from the visitor’s center to the laundry room but the rangers strongly advised us not to walk outside during the storm.  They didn’t have to tell us twice!  It was cold and crazy windy out there!!

It was a good late afternoon treat to watch Roger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella and eat popcorn while the storm ranged outside.  Such a good movie that brings me back to when I was a kid giving me a warm feeling inside.  The girls just love it too!  By the time Justin came back from doing laundry the temperature outside had plummeted down to the 40’s with 60 mph winds!

Watching Cinderella

That evening we thought it might be an adventure to take a peak outside for javelinas and look at the rushes on the nature trail near our campsite.  We all bundled up in many layers and wind blocking jackets and headed out into the wind.  Not one of the smartest choices I’ve made but it was an adventure we won’t forget.

The wind was so crazy that the tall strong rushes were bowing down to the ground with the force of the wind.  It was quite beautiful the way you could see the waves of wind coming across the marsh.

Justin ended up doing a loop on the nature trail while I stayed down below with the girls.  He said up top the wind was so strong he had to crouch down so it wouldn’t push him over.  I know he’s tall and lanky but wind powerful enough to push a grown man is pretty powerful.  He even briefly walked off the trail to be safe away from a drop off while the wind was so fierce.  We all safely got off the nature trail and onto the campground loop.  The wind seemed to still have more in store for us and gave us some powerful gusts, two of which knocked our 4 year old on her buns!  I carried her the rest of the way and Justin pried open the door of Wobbles and we all clambered inside.  

There were two tenters camping a little ways away from us.  The wind was blowing one side of their tent to the other side of their tent, hammock style.  Yikes!!  I thought, “if I were them, I’d sleep in the bathrooms!”  What a crazy wind storm!!  Our oldest and I decided it was too crazy outside to read in Azul so we ended up reading in the bathroom of Wobbles, one in the tub and one on a stool in front of the sink/potty.

Hard to see what’s going on here, but our oldest is snuggled up in the shower

The temperature quickly reached below freezing plastering the upper Chios Mountains with a layer of ice.  We got word that everyone staying up there at that campground was iced in until it thawed which was at least another day or two.  Brr!  We were happy to move on the next morning.  Bitter cold wind cuts right through you.