Friday – Day 3
We woke early to get a good start on the day. The smell of bacon had already enveloped the entire campground from many of the campers. I disappointed Nick by handing him a pop-tart. He gave me the evil eye and mumbled something about bacon as he grabbed it from me. I always believe in keeping it simple, but i’m starting to think changes need to be made in the future. Unlike our family camp outs, most of our dude trips are fast and furious. We have a small amount of time to get a lot done, which is why we skip certain luxuries that take up our precious time. Like cooking a big breakfast. But man, that bacon smelled good.
I whipped up a batch of coffee with the jetboil and GSI Java press as we sat and discussed our day’s activities. The campground was quite a bit busier this morning with more folks coming in. Our neighbors across the way were of the flower child generation and their stories of travel and adventure were extensive. They had been all over the world with their free spirited lifestyle, and along with the long hair and beads made for some really great storytelling.
Once our breakfast of coffee and pop tarts was over, and with plans made, we breathed in a big helping of that heavenly bacon breeze, before heading out for another road trip.
Side note: This happens to be the same jetboil and java press I lost in the great Pecos River flood of 2014. They were found two months after the flood, halfway submerged in a bag, with a few of my other belongings. They had flowed into the Rio Grande about 50 miles down river from our camp. They were full of silt, and stunk to no end. But I cleaned and cleaned, and have been using them for the last few years on most trips. Although, even with the extreme thorough cleanings I gave them, you can still smell the silt around the burner if I haven’t used them in a few months. Ahhh, brings back memories. 🙂
We had decided to take this day and hit some of the scenic drives and mess around in Lajitas, Terlingua, and Big Bend Ranch State Park. Once out of the park, our first stop was at the Big Bend Motor Inn store in Study Butte. We were just going to get a few snacks, but then we saw it…breakfast burritos the size of footballs. Bacon, sausage, egg…ohhh yeah….bacon.
Soon after, we stopped in Lajitas. It’s been a long time since i’ve been through here. I didn’t hardly even recognize the place. Back then we parked in front of the stores on the dirt, then go over and buy a beer for Clay Henry, the beer drinking goat, to drink so he would stop yelling at us. Now it’s all manicured and purdy lookin’. Some of the buildings I remembered, but there has been so much built in the last twenty years. I kinda liked the old way better, but it’s probably good not to listen to someone who only comes through every few decades.
We walked around a little bit, and talked to a very nice shopkeeper who filled us in on all the last 20 years of the town’s history I missed. Then it was back on the road and heading west towards Redford. The scenery was beautiful. It wasn’t long before we got to Grassy Banks campground. I’ve camped here four times in the past. It was just as I remembered, dusty and desolate, the way I like it. And for nostalgia sake, I had to go have a look.
I spun about a dozen stories of the weekends camping out here, until I could tell Nick might be losing interest. Well honestly, as I was reminiscing looking at the river, I turned and asked him if he could believe his mother camped out here, but he had already walked off. No telling how long I was talking to myself. In the words of Sheriff Bart…”Always like to keep my audience…riveted”. 🙂
We didn’t stay very long. We still had a ton to see, and one of my favorite stops was right up the road. It’s certainly in my top 10 touristy scenic overlooks. Still can’t beat the Pecos River overlook, but it’s right up there.
We pulled up and were fortunate to be alone. Again, I spun some tales of days gone by, but this time kept a closer eye on my audience.
It was just as beautiful as the first time I saw it. We got out and and just marveled at the view. Then of course Nick ran off and jumped up on some rocks, reminiscent of the scene from the 1985 movie, Fandango, which was just a stone’s throw away from us.
We were having a blast. The 360 views. The scenery. The smells. The wind blowing hard enough to let you focus on what’s around you rather than the road beside you. Well worth the drive.
Speaking of nostalgia, or throwbacks, below is a photo of my wife and myself back in 1997 at the same spot. Back when I had long hair, or just hair in general. No it’s not a mullet, it was all one length in a ponytail thank you.
Nick and I spent quite a bit of time here. We both found great spots to just sit and reflect. It’s hard to find those times where you can tune everything and everyone out around you and just enjoy where you are at that point and time. I’d get up and shoot more photos, then sit down a while, then get back up and wander around. But as with any tourist overlook, it started getting crowded. More and more started to stop, and our little piece of private heaven began to turn into a public get together and we decided it was time to move on. With the time getting away from us, we decided to turn back and hit a few spots we had seen on the way down.
On our way back I wanted to make sure we stopped and visited the old Contrabando movie set. It has seen seven movies filmed there including 1995’s Streets of Laredo with James Garner, Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepard. The last time we were here in 1997, it was still in real good shape and you could drive up pretty close and get out. But now, much to my surprise, there’s a big gate, signs, and a plaque telling of the place, but really not much there anymore. Only one building and a bathroom. From what I gathered it was all torn down in 2015 due to safety hazards from floods and vandals. And since it was never meant to be permanent, it would cost too much to restore.
Before we even entered, I realized we needed a day pass from the state park before we could go check out the place. And since we try to obey the rules, we made the 12 mile round trip to Barton Warnock Visitor Center to get them. Plus, there might be more places we wanted to go in the park. Always better to be legal.
Once back, we made our way down the trail. It’s a beautiful place. They had a covered picnic table with an incredible view of the Rio Grande. We wandered around the cantina, and noticed the backdoor open. We walked in and realized what they were saying. Looked like half the ceiling was falling down, but still very cool place to explore.
This is what it looked like back in 1997. Back when cameras used film. 🙂
Next, we headed on down to the river. There’s plenty of room to spread out and walk around. And unlike some of the areas, you can actually get to the river very easily. It was nice to have the place to ourselves. We were there messing around for a couple of hours without seeing a single person.
It was getting later in the afternoon and we needed to start heading back. We drove through Terlingua and stopped at the Terlingua Trading Co. Very cool place and nice folks there. We grabbed a few things for the ladies back home and stopped at a few other shops before making our way back to the Rio Grande Village Campground.
On the evenings menu was pork chops and beans. Just something quick and easy. It was a long day of running all over West Texas, so we needed something simple.
After supper I decided I really didn’t want to sit around all night before we head to the village store to call the girls. She wasn’t getting out of work until after 9pm, so we had plenty of time to find something to do. We talked about that on the ride in, and picked a few spots we could stop later and setup the tripod. I grabbed all my gear and we headed out to our first spot.
It was extremely dark and so calm. The traffic was one car every 15-20 minutes. Other than that, quiet and peaceful. Although at one point, I had walked off the road about 75 yards to find the best shot. All the sudden, there was a light coming my way. It looked like a flashlight. But there wasn’t anything between the mountains and the road, and those mountains were a few miles away. I wasn’t going to hang around for a stop and shout in the middle of the desert at night, so I grabbed my gear and hightailed it to the car. I got in and told Nick, “nope, next spot”. We started driving off and we were both watching the light in the distance. It would go away, then appear again, like someone was walking and kept putting it down. Then we saw another one. “Where am I, Marfa?” All the sudden we passed a sign for Chisos Basin up ahead. It hit us both at the same time and we started laughing. Those flashlights way out yonder were cars coming down from the Basin, and were far enough out to look like a single light shining. Derp. It just looked so close from where I was at. I didn’t realize we had driven so far after our first stop. I thought we were way closer to the village than that. Oh well, it gave Nick something to poke fun at me every time we saw headlights coming at us.
We stayed out for about two hours until it was time to get back to the campground. We showered and then called the girls. We got back to the campsite around 10:45 and were out cold within 30 minutes. Great end to a great day.
Stay tuned for Part 3.
Thanks for coming along,