I got up at 6:30 and went for a run around the paved roads in the vicinity. My route included a steeply graded downhill that went on for about a quarter of a mile. I had a feeling the return trip would be hell, and it was. But I figured it was probably for the best that I tire myself out. Dan quit running and cycling years ago and we no longer have the same stamina. Going for a tough run early would make things a little more equal on the trails.
After my run, I changed into hiking clothes and packed a backpack. Then we had a quick breakfast and headed out.
Our first objective was the Lost Mine Trail. It’s a cleared trail, not too strenuous, but it climbs 1,000 feet with marked stops along the way to learn about the plants and geology. It’s billed as a good trail for first-time visitors and it lives up to its billing.
Dan let me go on ahead, and when I got too far ahead of him, I would stop to take pictures.
We finished our hike around noon and were both game to try another trail, but since there weren’t any we could agree on in the Chisos area, we decided to drive to another area of the park and stop for short hikes until the day got cooler. The side benefit of this would be that we could check out trails and campsites for our next visit.
We first went to Terlingua, then we followed the road to Castolon. We stopped to investigate two old ranches, one with a short hike to an old windmill…
…and another with a longer hike to a canyon floor, where we were able to check out the ranch house and outbuildings.
We stopped for some of the sights along the way...
and checked out some of the trails for later reference. Mule Ears is one we think would be fun.
Although the desert floor was hotter than the mountains, the temperatures never reached the 100s, as predicted.
Then we went into Castolon, which was a US Army outpost during the Mexican Civil War, making sure refugees and soldiers didn’t spill over into the United States. The old barracks is now a store.
A little farther down the road we found some old adobes that are the remains of the Harmonia Store, where Americans and Mexicans both shopped and traded in the 1920s.
Near the old adobes, down a nearby road, is the Cottonwood campground. We saw it and fell in love. We now know where we’ll be staying on our next trip.
And beyond the Cottonwood, the Harmonia Store, and the dry washes of the floodplain are Santa Elena, the Rio Grande, and Mexico.
By now it was after 4:00 and I was starving, since all I’d eaten was a bowl of oatmeal at breakfast. We got back to our room around five and after I showered off my sticky sunscreen and got dressed, we went for dinner. My tortellini dish was so generous that I now have lunch for tomorrow. I figure I’ll heat it before we leave, just enough that it’s no longer fridge temp, then wrap it in foil and leave it on the dashboard until lunchtime. A few hours of driving in the West Texas sun will make for some piping hot pasta.
I had hoped Dan would be up for an after-dinner walk, but no such luck. Instead, I walked part-way down one of the nearby trails, until it started to get too dark to walk alone. Then I came back and walked the area for awhile, finding my deer from last night. They let me get within about ten feet of them and were completely unafraid. They didn't want any interaction, but didn't mind my presence.
Our plan for tomorrow is to head out early and go to Balmorrhea and swim in the spring waters. This will be my first time there since I was 14! Then we'll decide how far east we can go with the time remaining.