Texas is big. I mean really big. So it is only fitting that it’s national park has big right in the name. We headed south to Big Ben after spending a few days in the Guadalupe Mountains. We took our time getting down to the park. We spent a couple of nights in Van Horn, and a night in Alpine before finally reaching our destination. It had been pretty cold in the northern part of the state and didn’t warm up much until we got down to the border. We stayed in a campground that was literally on the border, it was a really nice campground. It was so big! There were about 100 sites, but no RV hookups. It did have a place to get water and a dump station though so we were happy. The weather was great when we arrived and we could finally take off the coats and hats.
If you have read my previous posts you know that I love our visits to the national parks. It was especially nice this time because we stayed right in the park, which we are not always fortunate enough to do. It’s a huge park, so even staying in it, we had to drive a little to get to the hikes and visitors center that we wanted to visit. The park is very diverse with mountains, desert, and the Rio Grande river all coming together. They had some great hikes for us to do with the kids. There were three hikes in their junior ranger books they could do to earn patches, we did two of them. We were also able to do one of the ranger led hikes where we learned about how the natives used some of the plants in the area. These hikes are always fun and informative for us, not to mention an easy warm up to our more challenging hikes. The longest hike we took here was 3 miles one way. It took us past a hot spring, up a mountain, along the river, and ended at a grassy picnic area. The only unfortunate part was that we were not dressed appropriately. It had been so cold before we got there that we were kind of used to wearing pants and long sleeves. The day had started out cool, but quickly warmed up to 70 degrees while we hiked. Needless to say we got a little warm, and I am usually so good about making us all wear layers! All in all it was a beautiful day and a great hike.
Part of being in the national parks that we love is getting to see the wildlife. Big Bend has something like 180 bird species that can be found throughout the year, we were fortunate to see and hear many of these while we were here, including a roadrunner! The kids also found many different insects, but being there in the cooler months Miles didn’t spot any lizards. The geology here was also amazing. We were surprised to see so many amazing rock formations, and the mountain views were really beautiful. One of the hikes we took was to balanced rock the trail led us through a valley with some really interesting rocks, and had a pretty steep climb up at the end. The kids loved bouldering around when we got up to the top. We were able to spot many wild animal tracks along the trail which was fun for all of us! Before we left we took the kids to get yet another junior ranger badge, plus they earned two patches for doing the required hikes, and a third centennial patch for attending the ranger hike. It was a really great national park and I hope that many people get to see it at least once.