Big Bend Ranch State Park

Our second and fourth days staying near Big Bend we headed to the state park, located to the west. I was armed with a list of potential trails but the threat of rain kept us from the canyon hikes initially (note: it is NEVER a good idea to enter a slot canyon in the rain) and we ended up mostly driving around that day, checking out vistas and taking short exploratory walks. On the far side of the park we popped into Fort Leaton but decided against spending more than 20 minutes there since Abbs had been in the backseat much of the day already. Still, it was interesting to learn what we did about the vibrant trade along the Chihuahua Trail in the mid-19th century (before the north-south route was bypassed by railroad) and the violence and hardship of life on a remote outpost in an extreme climate. The historical site also had an interesting exhibition on the battle for Texas’ independence.

On our second day in the state park we were treated to bright blue skies and eagerly headed off towards our first hike. We got a little sidetracked however by the improved visibility and ended up making a slew of unplanned stops, including one where we spent 45 minutes scrambling up and around some boulders overlooking the river gorge. Well worth it but by the time we reached our first hike at Closed Canyon there were some heavy clouds moving in from the south which darkened some sections of the canyon; other segments had a glow however due to the natural variation of color of the craggy tuff walls so there ended up being a neat motley appearance to the canyon. Diversity in shapes and erosion patterns added to the effect, making this walk our favorite in the Big Bend area.

We continued down the chasm of Closed Canyon until the required level of scrambling began to surpass our abilities, but if we’d had a rope I absolutely would have dropped down a few more pour overs. Unfortunately the polished stone near the 1 mile point was slicker than slick, as were the chokestones, and I was unable to get any traction so we had to give up once the drops were over our heads. For the most part though it was an easy walk in a varied, interesting canyon.

We ended the day by exploring the area around the Hoodoos Trail, wandering off the path when we reached the rock surrounding the pinnacles and again as we approached the Rio Grande. The sculpted tuff formations rising from the valley floor were somewhat different from the limestone and slickrock formations we’d grown so accustomed to in Utah, but really no less interesting. The green of the mesquite, yucca, and gramma grass was a nice difference too, offsetting the range of browns in the compacted volcanic ash that comprises the hoodoos, and the blues of the river and desert sky.