The days here at Big Bend are winding down fast and today I felt like I needed to discover some new areas of the park. I got a late start as I finished up paperwork related to taxes and bill paying, so did not hit the trails until 12:30 or so. Even though I’d made a nice salad and 2 apples, I treated myself to a sandwich, jalapeño cheese crackers and an ice cream bar from the Panther Junction gas station. Kind of reminds me of the commercial where they say that gas station sushi is NOT a good idea. But I lived and hiked it all off!
I did 3 short hikes today: Cattail Falls, Croton Spring and Ernst Tinaja. Cattail Falls is an area of the park where water (when there is enough!) pours from the Chisos Basin area. It is also the water source for most of the park so it is not a heavily advertised hike. Signs along the hike ask people to limit their group size and not bathe or swim in the pools to avoid contaminating the water. It is truly an oasis with lots of trees, grasses and wildlife. I spent a couple of hours quietly watching bugs, birds, lizards, and butterflies enjoy the coolness and water. Never noticed the poison oak, but I kind of forgot to look for it once I got there!
Croton Spring is just a short drive from the main park road where there are 2 backcountry campsites. The change in vegetation from cacti to flowers in the Croton Spring area was amazing. Not much water, lots of mineral deposits (white coating on the ground and plants).
Lastly, I drove the Old Ore Road (the first mile or so was scarey due to lots of rocks and trenches!) to the Ernst Tinaja. A tinaja is a place where water pools year round and provides animals with a drink. I could not tell how deep the tinaja is in total, but it is deep enough that the guidebook tells that sometimes animals drown in it because they fall in and cannot get out. Unfortunately, my camera battery went dead (and the spare was back home in the charger!) so I did not get to take many photos of the rock formations. I will definitely try to get back there and get some photos before I leave as it is one of my favorite places geologically.
The Old Ore Road got its name from the transport of cinnabar and silver from Mexico to the processing plants in the United States. I’ve tried to find out more about the person buried at the gravesite and will write more if I get information.
I was surprised to find big prickly poppy and 2 small rock nettle plants growing in the area of the tinaja. Nice to know I don’t have to hike the Black Gap again to see them!
Tomorrow is the First Annual Highland Games and I’ll be helping supervise one of the contests. All the contestants have to wear kilts and all the young men and women athletes working in the park are competing. More about that tomorrow – intrigued?