Friday, March 25, 2011

Chisos Mountains

I probably should back up a bit here and explain Big Bend National Park. It derives its name from the u-shaped bend of the Rio Grande River which borders the park. The park is very diverse in its landscape, as it has three life zones. It is located in the very southwestern corner of Texas, so a lot of the park is desert. I have mentioned the river or are riparian areas. Another large part of the park are the Chisos Mountains which rises out of the center of the park. John and I had heard that a trained volunteer was leading a group of people on the first two miles of the Lost Mine Trail in the Chisos Mountains on Thursday and decided to join the group. It was described as "a sensual walk". The guide, as we hiked along with him, pointed out numerous plants and trees commonly found in the park and how to identify them by feeling their leaves or, in the case of cactus, seeing what kinds of spines are on the plants. He had small containers of alcoholic beverages (which the Mexicans make from the sotol plant as well as the agave) and had us smell them.  He also had some gin, I did not know that the juice of the juniper seed flavors gin. Also, to our horror, he picked up some fox scat and showed us how to identify the animal who left it.  After two miles with the guide, John and I continued upward alone along the northern slope of the Casa Grande (which is part of a chain of mountains in the Chisos). The end of the trail took us to a promontory high on a ridge overlooking Juniper Canyon. We were hot and tired, but the climb was well worth the effort. We had in front of us one of the best views in the park. The square-shaped rock behind us is Casa Grande.
 After our hike John and I stopped for lunch in the park's only restaurant. From where we were siting we could get a good view of another famous location in the Chisos Mountain basin called the Window. It is a natural break in the mountains where water flows into a canyon below it.

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