Volunteer Hike & Black Gap Hike

I have had Friday, Saturday and Sunday (tomorrow) off, so for me it is hiking time! Friday was pretty tame – our wonderful Volunteer Coordinators, Jane Brown and Natasha Moore arranged a hike to an archeological site for us. I got to meet Steve and Tina who are back country volunteers, two of the camp hosts from the other side of the park, Castalon, John and Delana who will be going to Gila to be Interpretive Rangers just like me, and Linda, one of the Chisos Basin camp hosts.

Before I get started I want to share a photo of the grackles who are always at Rio Grande Village and a picture of Zuni playing with the toy Ruth gave her before we left home. Some people don’t like grackles because they are too “common” or there are too many of them. I think they are pretty.

s-Zuni-Ball Chaser


The day of the hike dawned very overcast – a very good thing since we were expecting 90 degree weather and sunny based on predictions. I am NEVER disappointed when it is overcast here in the desert. The bad thing is that Big Bend has only had 3.84 inches of rain in the last 2 years and 1.84 of it fell this January 9 in an all-day shower. So we are now almost 3 months without more than a few drops of rain that sprinkled my windshield one day.

s1a-Sunrise s1b-Treking to Site

In the foreground below are Steve (back country volunteer who catches all kinds of violations and reports them all via radio – a little overboard, but heh!), John and Delana. The next photo shows metates (for grinding of food products).



Below are some pictures of the group exploring the area, a lovely lavender flower in the canyon and a bug of unknown name who is notorious for burrowing itself head-down in the sand leaving his very stinky, protective behind exposed to would-be predators:

s3a1-In the canyon s3a2-Stinky Bug s3b s3c s3d-Cactus s3e-Way Down s3f

On the way out we tried to hike a slightly different route and played CSI: Dead Deer, picked up trash whenever we found it, and admired pink bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrush as pointed out by Natasha in the very pink shirt:

s4a-CSI Deer s4b-CSI s4c-Pink Bluebonnet s4d-Natasha Pointing Out Flowers s4e-Indian Paintbrush by PJ

I rode with half the group back to Panther Junction to get my car, then rode to Castolon to visit with Paul and Judy (friends from orientation) and spent the rest of the day showing Linda (the Chisos Basin camp host) around Terlingua and Study Butte. Which we drove to via Maverick Road – whee! Another gravel road under my belt! We later ate soup and salad AND desert at the Basin restaurant before I scampered home to do laundry and finally get to sleep at about 12:30 a.m.

Notable about the first few photos below are that people mistake the rock crystals for petrified wood! The little hut below is a “jacal” – a hut built partway below grade to help the family living in it stay cool in the summer and warmer in the winter months. The information sign said that the Luna family was large and apparently very short! The inside of the nut was only about 4 or 5 feet high! I could feel the drop in temperature as I entered the jacal.

s5a-Lost Forest of Castalon s5b s5c s5d-Green Rock s6a-Maverick Road s6c s6d

Today I drove Glenn Springs road and first stopped at Rice Tank to hike around a little bit. The campsite there was occupied by a lady spending her solitary time painting and the other campsite I passed, Chilicotal, was occupied by a family with a big tent shelter and small RV. Both campsites are in the “backcountry” where the people get special permits to dry camp in the wilderness. The first photo is of the 12″ wide animal den – perhaps a fox? Then I climbed the hills and took a few photos before moving on.

s1a-Animal Den at Rice Tank s1b-Swirly Rock Rice Tank s1c s1d-Chisos from Rice Tank s1e-Lizard Rice Tank

Ah, Glenn Springs! Green trees and water flowing gently over the road. Even big, fat tadpoles swimming in the water! Glenn Springs is also the head of the Black Gap Road. My little Saturn is not a high clearance 4WD car so no Black Gap for her! By the way, when I first pulled up to Glenn Springs a roadrunner was tussling with his lunch and won!

I had a wonderful time hiking, though. I did not go more than 4 miles in on the road but the only people I saw were 2 jeep-ers and 2 motorcyclists. The hike got a little warm as I did not start the Black Gap until 12:30. It was nice having so much solitude, exploring the washes and even scaring up a coyote and some type of quail who made a big, loud deal of warning his mate that I was encroaching on their area. Sorry no animal pictures other than the lizard above. They were all very fast and elusive.

s2a-Glenn Spring s2b-Water-Shade s2c-Fat Tadpoles s2d-Amy Starting hike s2e-Black Gap Road s2f-High Clearance Vehicle Required s2g-Prickly Pear Wavey s2h-Elephant Tusk-Push Up layers s2i-More Layers

Believe it or not the first photo is the road. I tried to take other pictures to show how challenging the road is, such as one side of the car 3 feet lower than the other but could not quite capture the drama. I took a lot of photos of the cacti and had to put all the pictures in because some of them were so beautiful. You can imagine why my friends and I call some of them “penis cacti” – Ha! Sure beats learning the Latin names!

Some of my favorite hiking was when I went off-road in the sandy washes where I could see the prints of roadrunners, snakes, lizards, javelina, mice and other critters.

s2j-Yep-Road s2k-Sand Prints s3a-Penis Cactus s3b-Brown Cactus s3b-Curious About Me s3c-Cactus hiding s3d-Cactus s3e-Cactus s3f-Plant s3g-Cactus s3h-Cactus s3h-Desert Snail s3i-Broken Millipede s3j-Cactus

Somewhere along the flatter part of the hike I started seeing really old tin cans and car parts so I included then here, too. Then I discovered a geological marker placed in 1943 and well marked by a wooden post, cairn and old car parts (!) and went way off-road up a beautiful canyon with volcanic ash (tuff) sides, many sheets of quartz crystal and red, swirly rocks. I started by spying some white flowers on the ridge line of the tuff and just kept walking deeper into the canyon. At the end of the canyon, way up at the top were the most magnificent yellow flowers.

s4a-Tin Cans-Car Parts s4b1-US Geo s4b2-US Survey 1943 s4c-Tin s4d-Tin s4e-Tin s4e-Tin2 s5a-Canyon Rock s5b-Ridge Flower s5c-The Ridge s5d-Ridge Flower2 s5e-Flower s5f-Flower s5g-Closeup s5g-Swirly Rock

On the way back I saw my first lechuguilla flower stalks and the prickly pear flowers seemed to be turning orange.

s5h1-Lechuguilla s5h2-Lechugilla Flowering s5i-Prickly Pear Orange

I had already taken and posted photos of the graveyard at the beginning of the Black Gap Road, but took this photo from a distance. Very fitting for Easter weekend.

s5j-Graves at Glenn Springs

I could not resist dousing my head with water from Glenn Springs and drenching my shirt, too. I even took a big drink because I was so thirsty. I’ll let you know if I get dysentery or something!

s5k-End of Hike Dunk at Glenn Springs



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