When Will we Ever be Able to Wear Shorts?

Obviously, we were looking for warm weather in all the wrong places….Mesquite-cold!….Sedona-cold!….Benson & Bisbee-cold! The cold and snow followed us. No sooner did we leave a place and we heard that it had snowed there!!! What to do? We couldn’t go back to Lander – it was still SNOWING SNOWING SNOWING! Day after day! Friends in Lander reported single digit temperatures and recommended staying south. But….we were south and it was still cold. Well, above freezing, but still not “shorts” weather. 

I had been eyeing Aransas National Wildlife Refuge ever since friends from our Bosque del Apache volunteering days in New Mexico told us about it being the last best hangout for the endangered whooping cranes. But also, I was mesmerized by that long strip of sand called Padre Island where cousin Margaret and Dave had also spent some time….sun, sand, waves….right up my alley! It was calling. 

So off we went. Mostly we just drove and drove and drove. As we drove, I tried to find places to stay but everywhere was full until we called this place, Hideaway Lakes RV Campground. They had space. Followed all the directions but when we made the directed turn to the park, we found ourselves on a packed dirt road stretching before us through a pecan orchard. “Where on earth is it taking us?” we asked each other. 

Answer? To a beautiful, quiet, bird sanctuary surrounded by the USA/Mexico border on one side, border patrol vehicles everywhere, and pecan trees all around us. There were only three other rigs besides us and a bird sanctuary to boot. A lovely young man owns it, Adrian and his girlfriend Tassy. Super friendly and nice. Got the trailer set up and headed into the nearest town, Tornillos, to Don Panchos Mexican Supermarket for groceries. 

We liked it so much at Hideaway Lakes, we decided to stay an extra night and use the time to do some much needed errands in El Paso like buying some more warm clothing, a new flexi leash and a cable tie down for Marley (he chewed through the first one), doing laundry, and planning our route to Padre Island.

We had finally reached the time where we had nothing left on our agenda to accomplish-it was time to start our meandering journey to the Texas gulf coast. We spent quite a bit of time looking at the map and talking about where we thought we wanted to go. We both decided to continue all the way to Padre Island, about as far south as you can go in Texas. Auntie Kaffee had talked about Big Bend National Park in glowing terms. That’s all the encouragement we needed to point us towards our first stop….that and a few weather forecasts showing +80 F temperatures “down there.” Marley too wanted to go to the seashore, never having been there before.

Campgrounds Big Bend National Park were full but Mike found an RV place close to the park called Stillwell Store Park & RV. We reserved there for five nights, thinking that would give us lots of time to explore the park. It did. We also were warned on their website that there would be no cell coverage or internet so we were kind of looking forward to that. 

Having done all our errands, we came back home to sit in the sun with a drink and to watch the sun set over the water. Lovely but still chilly, even in the sun. Marley loved chasing the ducks. He was so cute….he’d wait silently, very still, until they came close (we’d fed them some bread crusts and they came looking for more), then he’d charge. The ducks would scatter a short distance away….little did they know Marley wouldn’t swim after them. He hardly got his feet wet. But we have learned …. he likes to dig….a lot!!!!

We drove through the Chihuauan Desert, miles and miles of it. Around Alpine, we started to see mountains in the direction of Big Bend NP. Arrived at Stillwell to check in and who should we meet but a couple, Pam and Duane from County 10! Close to Lander, in Kinnear. We became good friends in the five days we were there. Marley fell in love with Pam! It was a mutual affair.

We sat in the sun that afternoon.….it was finally HOT!!!! 80 degrees!!!!

Explored the park. Entered through Persimmon Gap, the north gate and headed to do the west side of the park…to Panther Junction – then did the Ross Maxwell scenic drive to Santa Elena Canyon, where the Rio Grande flows through. On one side is Texas, on the other, Mexico.

Made numerous stops but it was so cold…beautiful sunny day but such a cold wind!!! From Santa Elena Canyon we took a 4 wheel drive road very reminiscent of Lake Mead road monitoring days. Wildlife, vegetation and geology are so much the same as at Lake Mead. The road took us to Terlingua, just outside the park – I guess it could be called the west gate. Thought we’d check out the Terlingua Ghost Town to see if we could find a place for lunch. We did….something or other bar and grill. 

At our camp site, Marley barked at any and every person and/or dog that passed within sight so we are not happy with him and he’s biting us when we reprimand him. I guess he’s not used to the whole camping thing and that there are people who camp closer to us than he likes.

We were at the park gates the next day before they opened. Went straight through, headed for Panther Junction. Stopped to chat with a young ranger (he’d set up a telescope to see the sun dogs). Marley is a great conversation magnet. Other people gathered to talk and hear about and admire Marley. 

Onwards to check out Boquillas Canyon and Rio Grande Village. At the Boquillas Overlook we found a Mexican market of sorts….all kinds of crafts like pottery, hats, wire sculptures and more made by the Mexicans who live across the river. We met two sisters from Texas. Their father was a border patrol agent. They told us that it’s this market, and a few others, as well as visitors going across for food and margaritas, that have kept their town going. (We didn’t bring our passports otherwise we would have gone across into Mexico too!) Apparently during the covid years, they almost didn’t make it. They also told us we weren’t allowed to buy because we’re not paying taxes but I don’t think it’s too closely checked. There seems to be a good relationship between the two sides of the border. It was such a surprise to find it. The market was right beside the Rio Grande and on the other side, a canoe was beached. Several times a day apparently someone from the other side rows over to check out and collect the box where people put the money for the items they buy. Fascinating!!! 

Stopped to do a 5 km round trip walk from the highway down to the hot springs. It was a good walk. We were only allowed to take Marley places a car can go so we chose to walk this road down and back. It was a good walk but on the way back there were a lot of tiny flies bothering us incessantly. Gnats!!! Their bites are very very itchy! Stopped for ice cream at the gas station at Panther Junction, then at the Fossil Discovery (amazing), and then headed home.

Next day, we visited Chisos Basin. It is literally a basin, surrounded by mountains on every side. Exceedingly beautiful and oh-so busy with staff guiding/directing traffic, only allowing a vehicle in for each vehicle going out. When we got back to the intersection, there were police vehicles doing the same. 

Saw a whole host of Eastern Bluebirds at the parking lot at Chisos – big and sky blue all over. Took a quick drive to the end of the road to La Linda. Other than a bridge over the river (closed and barricaded of course) to Mexico. Took a few pics and then came back.

At this point, we were still wearing capris and warm sweaters.

2 thoughts

  1. You three do make tracks! And what alot of great experiences! Glad you finally found the warmth!

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