Big Bend, Lajitas, and Terlingua, Texas
11/2/2003 - 11/6/2003
by Paul Ridenour
We left Dallas a little after 4 PM and spent the night 5.5 hours later in Midland, Texas. Our 17th anniversary was on 11/1, so we decided to
take a trip. We thought about going to Mt. Rushmore but were afraid of the cold and snow conditions. We have lived in Texas our entire
lives but had never visited Big Bend, so we decided to finally check it out.
We drove through the Ft. Davis Mountains and spent some time at the McDonald Observatory. Do not waste your time eating at the
observatory's Star Date Cafe. The bread was dry and it would have been better to eat in Ft. Davis first.
We arrived in Lajitas in the afternoon. We ate Lajitas Fajitas for dinner. Lajitas is 17 miles west of Terlingua and Study Butte. We stayed
in the Badlands Hotel which looked like an old western town. Next to the hotel was a spa, pool, shops, two restaurants, deli, bakery, golf
course, and horse stables. A couple of years ago, Steve Smith, founder of Excel Communications, purchased the 25,000 acres of land in
an auction for $4.6 million. He basically bought Lajitas. He spent $100 million in improvements. We were surrounded by mountains
and next to the Rio Grande River.
The Hotel, shops, spa, pool, golf course, and restaurants of Lajitas
Look for golf course hole in Mexico
The Candelilla restaurant at the hotel served an excellent breakfast and we ended up usually splitting the entrées. We had the best
French toast. After breakfast, we rode horses across the street on a two hour trail ride up steep cliffs and more than half-way up a
mountain. On the ride were lots of cacti, crystals, petrified wood, etc. After a nice lunch, Dottie went to the spa and got a manicure
and pedicure, I slept a little and watched a movie.
Rode horses more than half way up this mountain - Lajitas Mesa
Tuesday night we went to the ghost town of Terlingua. We walked though the Terlingua graveyard which is a national site. We ate at
a bar/theatre called Starlight Cafe. I dug up a couple of Cacti. We shopped a little bit. The roads have many dips in them, sometimes
as much as 40 feet. There are six foot flood signs in several places. If it rains, it is usually a flood and the water can take five to six
hours or even over night to subside off the road. We came to Big Bend at a great time because the normal June and July rains did not
come until September. Everything was green and even some cacti were blooming. No one was there. The Great Chili Cook-off
happened between October 30 and November 1 and we just missed the crowd of 10,000 people at Terlingua. We were told the best
time to come to Big Bend is the first week in March, before spring break and while the cacti and bluebonnets are blooming. We plan
to go in March of 2004.
You can get gas in Terlingua for about $1.80 a gallon. It is probably wise to fill up your tank at Alpine, Texas, 80 miles north of
Terlingua, before arriving.
We spent the entire day in Big Bend National Park. The park only cost $15 per car and it is good for seven days. We went on several
walking trails including the 1.2 mile Burro Mesa Pouroff and the 1.6 mile Santa Elena Canyon. We saw several places like Tuff
Canyon, natural Hot Springs, Candelilla, Rio Grande Overlook, Sam Neil Ranch, Homer Wilson Ranch, and the Boquillas Canyon
Trail. The only wildlife we saw besides birds was a tarantula, rabbit, lizards, and a grasshopper. The park only has twelve Black bears
but they are rarely ever seen. If you camp out in the park, you may see several Javelinas. We did not have time to see the park
between Panther Junction Visitor Center and the Persimmon Gap Visitor Center.
Boquillas Canyon Trail
Santa Elena Canyon (Mexico on left, Texas on right)
I was involved in some international trade relations. Since the borders are tightly closed, a man on the Mexico side of the river was
selling items (rocks, walking sticks, metal scorpions) on the Texas side for $5. I bought a rock. He was a very nice man. He had two
horses and his son was swimming in the river. I have no problem helping fund his son's college education.
Burro Mesa Pouroff
Santa Elena Canyon
Big Bend - lots of cacti
There are a few places in the park to get gas and some snacks/water/soft drinks. It is wise to have a couple of large bottles of water
with you when you are in the park or just down in the Big Bend area.
We ate at a five star restaurant called The Ocotillo that evening in Lajitas. We had steaks marinated in Shiner Bock. We did not
eat any wild boar, Diamondback rattlesnake cakes, or other interesting items on the menu. I did drink a frozen Margarita made
with Prickly Pear.
We left around 9 AM and drove back 10.5 hours until driving up to our house at 7:20 PM. As soon as we were a little north of
Terlingua, the weather changed. Fog began to settle in and it got nice and cold. A little bit of rain was mixed in when we got close
to Odessa and the rain followed us to Dallas.
The trip cost about $1,100.00 (gas, food, shelter) but we stayed in an expensive hotel. One could camp out in the park for only $10 a night.