After 9 years of living in a state that’s famous for being so big you could drive half a day and still be in the same state, I still had not made it to Big Bend National Park. I had heard a lot about it but due to how much I disliked the Texas heat in the northern part, I was hesitant to go to a desert. Luckily, I was given the opportunity to go close to November so, I trekked back over several states to explore West Texas! Now, I’m bringing you with me. Get your jacket and some sunglasses, we’re headed to the sand!
The city where Big Bend is located is Terlingua. It’s basically a ghost town that promotes a touristy ghost town strip. So, it’s an interesting place in a funny way. I can be honest with you, I would not waste my time going to check out said strip. There’s a few things over there but it’s where everyone goes for the sake of it. It’s also home to the weirdest graveyard I’ve seen. I’m sure there’s a reason for it but there’s a bunch of beer bottles broken on graves, among other things, unusual for me. There’s a few restaurants around the town but I ended up getting some really good food from the gas station, Big Bend Motor Inn Store and Restaurant, oddly enough. It was a restaurant on one side and gas station on the other but they were kind of all together. I also ate at a Mexican restaurant that was more like a room than a restaurant that was overpriced but it was near where I was staying so, convenient. Lastly, I’ll comment that there’s a pretty legit Chili Cook-off so that’s a fun thing to plan for.
Far Flung Outdoor Center
As odd as the town is, the FFOC was a sweet haven community of peace. Each cabin was beautifully comfy and spaced far enough apart that you can’t hear the neighbors yet close enough that you could meet others. The cabin is fully loaded with a kitchen and a very warm capable bathroom. There’s common areas on gravel paths connecting the cabins and even a wider area with games for kids and a wonderfully warm fire pit that stays on until 11pm. At night, you can look up and see the Milky Way and that’s really where my heart soared.
Jeep Tour – $85/person
Immediately next door is the meet up for both the Jeep and Raft Tour. When I first arrived, I had a touch of motion sickness and was nervous about going on a bumpy tour of Big Bend in such a nauseous state. Luckily, it was exactly what I needed – open fresh air! The jeep is unlike a normal ride you see on the highway. This is specially made for riders to sit up in a U shape behind the driver. The park entrance is a hop, skip, and jump away from FFOC so it’s beautiful desert viewing from the start. Our tour guide was 100% the most educated about his job I’ve ever experienced. I wasn’t sure what to expect, I hadn’t been to a true desert all day but this was definitely worth it. The “Buena Suerte” tour starts at 9am and 1:30pm (my ticket) for October – May then only 9am in the summer, which is fair. I would NOT be interested in doing the tour at all during the summer so I’m glad I made it in October. The ride is about 3 hours and he drove over all kinds of rocky and smooth terrain. There’s majestic mountains, wildlife, plant life, formations, and more. I didn’t see wildlife but BOY did I see some amazing nature. Our driver was so impressive that he was in the middle of the trail and stopped to show us golf ball cactus, how he saw it from the road was skill. He knew everything about everything, the land is him and he is the land. As I share photos about the experience on Instagram, I provide facts that you will likely find interesting but here are a few as well… Big Bend National Park covers over 800k acres, the Rio Grande River is both the boundary of the park as well as the country line separating us from Mexico, and BBNP is an International Dark Sky Park because it has the darkest measured skies in the lower 48 states. A word to the wise, if you make it to Big Bend and fall in love – think twice before you decide to set up roots. Many of the properties had been abandoned due to their inability to figure out how to build on the terrain, among other things. RVs, trailers, and gutted buildings are vacant and perhaps forever forgotten. The guide said there are properties empty since the 70s due to the people who owned them didn’t tell family where they were or maybe even that they owned them!
Rio Grande Raft Tour – $84/person
This one I was admittedly also nervous about because I, once again, didn’t know what to expect. Would there be wild rapids and possible capsizing? No, there would not be, it was a safe, gentle glide down the river. I did feel sorry for the guide on the river because she powered the entire ride with her own arms and I can’t imagine a more impressive show of strength. I went on the Half Day Float, which lasts about 4 hours and leaves at 8am or 1pm and includes a snack break on dry land about halfway. It’s a great opportunity to switch seats in the raft for a new view as well as NOM on some healthy snacks such as granola bars, carrots, hummus, and orange slices. There are a few mini rapids, fun adventure for a few minutes but they are mostly just a couple of bumps. The guide here was also very knowledgeable, she knew something about all the wildlife here and the history. From the raft, you can touch Mexico when it gets close to the side but it doesn’t do that often. There’s also parts where if you’re quiet you can hear *but not see* wildlife. What I loved about it is even though there were about 6 rafts on our trip, it was still so quiet and serene. There’s enough distance that it’s a smooth sailing caravan of people in awe. On an odd note, there’s a car stuck on the side of the mountain that had accidentally rolled down and was unable to be retrieved.. so it just sits there for eternity.
The whole experience was one I will hold fondly because it’s the perfect way to get to know the desert, especially if it’s your first time. Even setting up my telescope and checking out the night sky was a perfect moment. I’ve only seen the sky that FULL of stars, in New Mexico. It has inspired me to get a new camera to pick up the stars. Overall, there’s a lot to learn and see so it helps A LOT to have talented people to tell you about it. Sure you can Google but you can’t beat experience. Please check out my Instagram where I go through so many more pictures to chat about the experience and will soon be adding the album to Facebook. If you have any questions about Far Flung Outdoor Center or Big Bend National Park or even Terlingua, feel free to send me a message on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!