Bricks Contain Mercury, And Other Fun Roadtrip Hazards- Big Bend Natl. Park, TX

Gods this last post for this trip feels like it’s taken me an age and a day, good grief. More realistically, it’s been 2 months since this trip- it took place at the end of June and it’s now the end of August and i’m a month away from my next probably just as ill-advised roadtrip. But considering I picked up a lot of common sense knowledge from this trip, more so than even from the last roadtrip back in March, I don’t mind that it’s taken me this long to finally get it together enough to finally finish.

It took about 8 hours to drive from our house here in the Dallas area to the southern park of Texas that Big Bend is situated in, literally right on the border to Mexico. Considering the longest day drive me and the bf have done was the 17 hours to the Grand Canyon last March, this was a breeze. He drove the first part until we stopped in Abilene for lunch at a Denny’s (because of course you have to stop and have lunch at Denny’s) where I forgot how to count by fives when leaving a trip for our waitress with the hostess and she teasingly- but somehow still kindly- told me, “It’s alright honey, you’re pretty.” And let me tell you, if that wasn’t the best indicator of how the trip was gonna go, i’m not sure what else would have been.

The second leg of the drive was taken over by me and I managed to get us stopped by the sheriff not 5 seconds after driving into the town we were going to staying in, Alpine.  For once though, I can 100% guarantee I wasn’t actually speeding and was more than a little confused as to the reason we had gotten pulled over. According to the unfailingly nice and polite officer though, I had been speeding, but he let me off with just a warning. When I told a friend later about this, his immediate reaction was to say, “well it’s cause you’re a girl, and you’re pretty” and I just sat there thinking, maybe it had more to do with me being nice and meeting Texan politeness with my own brand of southern charm. Heavens knows I wasn’t much to look at that day, running on 4 hours of sleep, any makeup I started with already faded from the hours on the road and a questionable stain on my shirt from a breakfast of coffee and chips. And so, thats the best advise I can give you if you plan to travel in Texas, always be polite and just this side of guilelessly charming if you can manage it.

The biggest thing that I learned from the last roadtrip was to stop ruining my shoes and remember to always put on something that wasn’t flats when going out exploring. And I mean, thats probably such an obvious thing to anyone that isn’t me, but there you go. From this trip the most important thing I learned is that investing in a cooler when heading out on a full day of exploring is probably a good idea, or else suffer the slightly stroke-inducing prices at the parks general stores.

Heading into desert climate enviorments, make sure to bring something to cover your face when the winds start to pick up, especially if your heading out in the summer months. I got buffeted by scorching winds from all side and to say it was bracing would be the understatement of the year. After enduring this for the better part of 3 hours I finally found a sheer scarf in the back of the Jeep that I hadn’t seen in months, wrapped it around my head and shoulders and covered my mouth and nose as best as I could while running around like a crazed coyote among the cactuses and dust.

Jeep Renegade at Big Bend natl. park

Bring enough water, a car that can handle dirt, rock strewn “roads” and maybe don’t go hiking around abandoned mines at the hottest part of the day after driving in an air conditioned car for the past 5 hours. You might possibly get heat stroke and end up almost dying in a part of the park where cell reception is just a dream and the nearest ranger station is hours away. Just a kind suggestion, made from infinitely dumb experience.

Btw, just for reference that might be helpful, some symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Lack of sweat despite the heat
  • Red, hot, and dry skin
  • Muscle weakness and/or cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat 
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
( this is just to say, if this was a bingo card game, I would have cleaned up but good)

Also, another good piece of advice…..when visiting the park with the darkest nightsky in the lower 48, maybe don’t pick a weekend right before the full moon.  Just you know, a friendly suggestion.

Me and the bf ended up spending a good few hours getting buffeted by rough winds up alone on Sotol Vista point hoping for some darkness to glimpse some starry skies but in the end we packed up and headed out around 11pm back to Alpine. Another good piece of advice would be to remember that Big Bend is right on the border to Mexico, which means hello Border Patrol.

We got stopped at a Border Patrol checkpoint around 12am and let me just say, that other piece of advice I gave up above, about being polite? Gotta say thats probably also a good thing to remember when/if you get stopped by the Border Patrol. They had us park the car, get out and sit on a bench nearby and then had an agent and his dog go through our car. I’m gonna go ahead and say they probably didn’t see us as the most likely transporters of drugs and/or humans considering the guy they assigned to stand near us while our car was being searched didn’t ask us if we had anything in our pockets until the bf took out his cell phone to check the time. And even then all the guy did was ask “er, you guys got anything else in your pockets?” and then comment on how hard it is to get service out there. The car search took maybe 10 minuets, after which they wished us a good night, helped me back my car out of the parking spot and waved us off into the night. Good times.

The drive back the next morning had us stopping at the Marfa Prada art installation and then listening to a couple of episodes of the Black Tapes before the bf drifted off to take a much needed nap and I switched to listening to 8tracks playlists to keep me going. We stopped at the most retro 50’s of rest stops a little past Odessa and I swear it was like stepping into a Fallout game that I almost expected there to be a Nuka Cola vending machine somewhere. It was an easy drive and we made it home by the evening, that strange feeling of being back in the suburbs and near the shining bright lights of Dallas after being gone in the literal boondocks of Texas settling over us.

All the ups and downs of the trip, all the unexpected joys and misadventures… I can with full honestly say the trip to Big Bend was unlike anything i’ve ever experienced before and it was more than worth the time and effort needed to get to such an out of the way place.And if you’ve plans to head out there, blow a kiss to the desert winds for me and tell the Sotol plants i’ll see them soon.

Masterlist of Big Bend posts:
#1 Unexpected Bears
#2 Old Maverick Rd.
#3 Mule Ears and East River Rd.
#4 Mariscal Mine
#5 Glen Spring Rd.
#6 Chisos Mountains and Bears
#7 Sotal Point Sunset
#8 Prada Marfa


Prada Marfa- Marfa, Texas

Prada Marfa, Summertime
Prada, Marfa - South Texas art installation
Prada Marfa Art Installation

When I started out with the planning for this trip, as always, the end result was nothing like what I began with. To start with, my main goal on heading down south was to see the interesting little town of Marfa.
To witness the Marfa Lights
To wander around the Chinati Foundation’s varied collection of art installations
Perhaps to even stay at the delightfully unique El Cosmico

Visiting Big Bend Natl. Park was an afterthought in regards to these other things I was more interested. ‘Till I began talking to friends about the trip…and they in turn gushed about their great interesting hiking and exploring the park, nevermind some random town that lies beyond it’s borders. And so I started reading up on Big Bend more and in the end it ended up being a trip that focused almost exclusively on the park and nothing else. With one exception that is, the prickly art installation that is Prada Marfa.
(one of my favorite articles on this is here )

Say what you will about it and what it means and what it will mean- there is something so surreal and bizarre and yet so utterly “Texas” about coming upon this place amid the endless road that leads you back towards the north on US-90 (and actually found just outside the teensy town of Valentine, not Marfa). It’s customary to take a photo of yourself in front of this building, but the only image of me visible in any of these photos is in the reflection on the windows inside the “store” and I don’t think anything is more appropriate for a places I almost left behind in the dust. I will be back to Marfa to soley see all those things I wanted to see before the desert climate of Big Bend seduced me over to its side but, this place will survive in my memory as a once and only sort of visit.


Sotol Point Sunset- Big Bend National Park, Texas

sotol point, Big Bend Natl. Park the sun sets at sotol point, Big Bend Natl. Park sotol point, Big Bend Natl. Park summer haze at sotol point, Big Bend Natl. Park sun haze at sotol point, Big Bend Natl. Park red red sun, big bend natl. park red summer haze, Big Bend Natl. Park red sun sets bloody, big bed natl. park texas

The sun set a blazing red under the burning hot haze coming in from the Mexican border and me and the bf watched the sun make it’s descent all alone up on Sotol Point, waiting for the heat to subside just a little while the winds buffeted us on all sides. The sotol plants this point was named for where the only living things for miles around as we waited for the night to come alive around us.


Chisos Mountains, Oasis and Bears- Big Bend Natl. Park, Texas

Chisos Mountains, Big Bend Chisos mountains, Texas
Road to the basin, Big Bend Natl. park

After eating dust for what felt like most of the afternoon driving through rough terrain on Glenn Spring Rd, getting back onto the paved highway almost brought tears of joy to me and the bf’s eyes. Of course, we’d barely been on the road for 5 minutes before he was pulling over for me to get out and repeat my love affair with the blazing hot winds just to photograph the surrounding landscape.

The park is, for the most part, a study in brown. It moves from the lightest of browns that you could almost pin towards white, to the farthest tips on the horizon that blur into shadows of black. But driving towards the Chisos Basin, our eyes were immediately inundated in a splendor of green, that lush and verdantly brilliant sign of life.

Perhaps thats why the bears that inhabit this park call solely this area home. I guess if I was going to pick a place to settle in, it would make sense to pick here. Not 5 minutes away from the visitor center, we were on the road and noticed that just up ahead the car in front of us had slowed down and had it’s hazards turned on….but the truly odd thing was the girl with her phone sticking out of the passenger side window. We held back a ways away till they drove off and then continued on, at which point I looked over to see what it had been that had so captured these peoples attentions and there just a few dozen feet down the side of the road, a bear.

I don’t think i’ve mentioned this before, I doubt i’ve had a reason to but- i’m really outrageously terrified of bears. It’s not a phobia, not does it come from some traumatic event, I just really think bears are rather scary predators and I would much rather swim with sharks than go camping with bears. So you can imagine my great joy seeing that bear just hanging out 3 minuets away from the parking lot of the visitor center. To the people camping in that area, I greatly admire your acceptance of mortality, I probably have to work on that a bit more.