Big Bend NP is one of the best kept secrets in the United States. This National Park is AMAZING!
We had been planning this trip for a few weeks. When it came down to it, Mark and I were the only ones who could make the jaunt down to southern Texas. I left NW Arkansas on Monday morning to make my way to Oklahoma to meet up with Mark for a quick lunch. We would then make our way to Wichita Falls Texas for the night. This would cut down on a super long day for tomorrow.
We got up early, ate a quick hotel breakfast and hit the road. It would be a nice 9 hour drive to get to our camping location in Terlingua-Study Butte. The drive was uneventful, if not long, however we made it in pretty good time. We got our tents set up and relaxed the rest of the evening. Mark’s brother and sister in law, Brian and Nancy were already at the camp site there sprinter van was set up and they were cooking dinner. Not a bad way to be greeted. Howard and Ruby were also there in their big Class A. They were rolling in style. Mark and I were very happy to be camping in our gazelle tents. These tents would be tested later in the week when the weather changed.
After a great meal and catching up with friends, we turned in. We were excited to hit the trails in the morning. Not a bad way to start the trip.
We were greeted with a beautiful sky and decent temps. Mark cooked us up some breakfast and then we all loaded up to hit the trails. Brian rode with me and Nancy tagged along with Mark for the day. I guess they felt that their van would not be a good choice for todays trails.
We hit the Panther Junction visitor center before jumping out on the trails. Today we would be doing Black Gap road. This is a Jeep badge of honor trail, however it was an easy trail and our little 2DR JK with 33’s and a 2″ lift did it easily. Heck even Marks Tacoma made it. (I joke.. I Joke) It was a fun trail and it was awesome seeing the reaction from Brian and Nancy as they had never experienced this type of off-road adventure. The weather was amazing and we all enjoyed the day.
We really enjoyed the day and stopped plenty of times to take in the beauty and to enjoy the day. This NP has so many options. You can explore all day long and never get off the pavement, or you can take the many off-road sections and explore the park that way. I have been down in the park on motorcycles and with the Jeep and both times, I have had an incredible time. Just remember to schedule enough time to stop and enjoy all that Big Bend has to offer.
One of the best features of Big Bend NP is the fact that you can venture off the beaten path and feel like you are the only folks in the park. The park is huge and during this time of year, can be very busy as the weather is conducive to winter exploration. We drove all day long and only came across a couple of other park explorers.
Black Gap was a ton of fun and we really enjoyed the drive. It was technical enough to keep your attention at times, but also allowed for us to do a ton of sight seeing. It is my kind of trail. Fun times were had by all.
This was a great day of exploring the park. We made it back in time to have a few adult beverages before cooking dinner. Tonight would test our warmth in the tents. During the day we saw temps in the mid 70’s. As the cold front rolled in, we would experience temps in the mid 30’s for our overnight sleep. Tomorrow the highs was forecasted to be in the low 40’s so a large change from the great weather we experienced today.
We woke up and let me tell you, it was COLD. My phone had the temp as 26 degrees and it felt every bit that cold. Add the 15 mph wind and it was down right frigid. The wind during the evening caused a few little hiccups. The hub on my Gazelle tent collapsed a few times, so at 4:30am in the cold I was tying it down more. Yes I should have done this when I set up the T4, but it had never happened in the past 2 years of us camping in the tent. Lesson learned and not really a big deal.
One of the cool things about the Study Butte RV Park is they have a café on the premises. With that being said, this RV park was a little disappointing. The views were interrupted with a ton of modular buildings on site and there were a number of areas that seemed like a trash dump. The camping was fine and it seemed that the RV part was very average. It was fine for our stay, but I would look to stay somewhere else on our next visit. We did visit during a peak winter season, so the options were limited as reservations had to be made at most locations. Don’t get me wrong, it was fine, just could have been so much better, with just a tad more TLC.
We got loaded up and hit the road. We were doing the River road, with a full day on Old Ore Road. We would not be disappointed with the trails today. It was unbelievable.
This day fit my style for off-road adventure. I love to see new isolated areas off the beaten path, requiring a vehicle capable enough to avoid large crowds. We spent the entire day and saw a handful of people. The roads were not technical but did offer some fun from time to time. I am not a huge rock-crawling kind of guy so this type of trip takes me to my happy place and there is little chance that you will hurt your vehicle to the point of being stuck in the middle of nowhere. The scenery is breath and like I said earlier Big Bend is a must-see for all outdoor enthusiasts. A fun time was had by all.
We finished up this cool day on the trails and then headed into town to eat at the famous Starlight Theater in Terlingua. This is a must-see. The food was very good, however, it is the atmosphere that makes this place amazing. We enjoyed a great meal while telling stories of the past few days. This would be the last day of the entire group being together, Brian and Nancy were headed back to California early the next day, so they would not be joining us on the trails.
We had a little bit of excitement when we returned to the tents. As I was prepping to crawl in for a cold evening of camping, I noticed a car hauling ass into the park, followed closely by a sheriff's truck with lights and siren in full effect. I watched as the sheriff followed the car around the park, and then to my surprise, they headed towards our camp. The car jumped into the camping area and drove between both of our tents before taking the 2′ jump off the wall and kept on going. He had to pass within 10′ for our tents and was very close to meeting the front end of Marks Tacoma. The Sherriff followed suit and before we knew it they were gone. After we both collected our thoughts, we were lucky that no one was hurt. It was crazy! We found out that the person driving the car had dropped off a few illegals and was fleeing from the sight of the drop off. Alpine police had to use tire strips to stop the vehicle. Crazy times in Terlingua indeed. Unfortunately, this caught me off guard so I did not get a picture or video. I guess I was stunned.
It was another very cold evening of temps in the 20’s. We enjoyed a few cups of coffee and breakfast in the café, before heading back to camp and saying our goodbyes to Brian and Nancy. They were a lot of fun and hope to have our paths cross again in the near future.
We finished our last day with more exploration, along with a motorcycle rescue. The rider had run out of fuel on old Maverick Road. I thought this would be an easy fix as I always carry 2 gallons of extra fuel in my rotopax. However I had forgotten on the way to Mark’s house, I came across a guy on a Goldwing that had run out of fuel, so I gave him mine. I had not refilled the rotopax, so I could not help the rider. We were going to tow him to the road (sketchy at best) but was saved when another group of riders came by with some fuel. Crisis adverted. It is a good lesson for all. If you are off the beaten path, a few extra gallons of fuel can be a life saver.
Our time in Big Bend was almost over. The journey will be one that will not be forgotten anytime soon. It is a magical place and I was excited to spend the week in its beauty. The isolation of the area, makes it a great place to relax and get back in touch with what matters most. So glad I could spend the week with good friends. The only thing that would have made it better would have been if Jamie could have joined us. Next time.. I promise she will be here.
That wraps up this latest off-road report. If you are interested in doing a trip like this, reach out to me at motoadrenalinetours.com and we can get something planned.
The video for this adventure can be seen here:
You can see more pictures here: Picture Gallery Big Bend
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