Monday, October 28, 2019

Up around the Bend

For some reason, Pandora was remarkably perceptive on which Classic Rock songs to present for our drive last weekend.  We had just hit I-10 when this song came on.

That was the first non-classical music album my Mom allowed me to buy with my lawn mowing money.  Which probably explains why 1812 Overture is one of my all time favorite pieces of music.  (Provided, of course, they use real cannons in the recording.)

So, juvat, why is that "Up around the Bend" appropriate?

Well, Sarge, Mrs J, MBD, SIL and I were headed to Big Bend.  I believe this was my 10th visit, Mrs J's 3rd, MBD's 2nd and SIL's first. 

There's an awful lot to like out there, and even at 10 visits I haven't seen it all.  And, unfortunately, I didn't remove anything from the list I hadn't seen.  Not for lack of trying, mind you, but Mother Nature gets a very big vote on what you can or should do.  It's even bigger when you're in a desert a hundred miles from the nearest medical facility.

Judgement is crucial.

But, it was a pleasant trip. I mean there's a lot of things to like about this drive.

I mean, as soon as I enter I-10, the speed limit is 75, about 10 miles later, it turns to 80 and stays that way til just outside El-Paso, about 500 miles.  Now, for those of you who grew up on being on time on target, that's 4 miles every 3 minutes.  So, we've got that going for us.

Also, in the above picture, you can see that traffic was absolutely horrible!  And the situation behind me is virtually the same.  (Yes, Beans, if you zoom in real tight, you can see a car and a truck on the cusp of that hill in the distance.  So, I was tailgating, sue me!)

Didn't need to but when we got to Fort Stockton, we filled up with gas.  Judgement, doncha' know?
(For the record, there is a gas station at the park headquarters, but it wasn't there the last time I was.  Oh...and it's about a dollar per gallon more expensive than in Fort Stockton.

So, leaving Fort Stockton on US 385, the traffic situation improved a bit.

Well....I washed the bugs off the windshield, anyways.

As one can see, the weather was quite nice.  Highly accurate truck thermometer was reading 82.  We arrived at the Gage Hotel in Marathon about 5:30, so about 4.5 hour drive and got checked in.  My first stay at the hotel was right after the new millennia started when I drove a group down in my limo.  The tour was led by a very famous former Dallas Cowboy defensive lineman, whose last name is also the name of a flower.  

No, Beans, not Pete Rose....for several reasons.

I had stayed in the original portion of the hotel, directly across the street from the railroad tracks.  Trains came through every half hour or so all night long, blowing their horn as they crossed the two intersections in town.  Which were the intersections about 200 yards to either side of my window.  

It was a long night.  But, I digress.  If you stay there, and you should, stay in the Portales suites.  Very nice, with a old west kinda style.  Waterfall shower heads (I think it's possible you could drown standing up).  Oh, and the town passed a law banning train horns after dark.

So, much better all round.
The view outside our door.

A hawk eyeing the Hors d'oeuvres.  He didn't get any, but a good looking bird.

 Walked over to the White Buffalo Bar and had something to clear the trail dust.
Macallan 12 did quite nicely.

MBD and SIL joined us after a while.

We didn't mind waiting.

In any case, dinner was next on the agenda.  I had a steak which was quite nice, although most of the other choices were a little too frou-frou for me.  Guys, we're in the middle of nowhere, leave the vegan stuff elsewhere.

After a post-dinner libation, we settled in for the night.

After breakfast, which was good, at a coffee shop that was selling bags of "Viva la Feminista" coffee, which was interesting, we hit the road again.

Due south for about 100 miles.

Traffic was again horrendous, however,  the Federal Government decided that the speed limit in the park was 45. BTW, that ridgeline is about 30 miles away.  Our first stop will be in the gap on the right side of it.  Those are the Chisos Mountains and we'll be headed to the Chisos Basin.

As one can see above, we are transiting desert.  One of the interesting things to appreciate here is the different microclimates.  Where that photo was taken, is not a good place to break down.  Yes, it's on the "main drag" of the park, but I think I saw one car in the 45 minutes it took to get from the front gate, to the park headquarters.  

But as we got closer and higher in elevation, the flora started to change, from tumbleweeds to now yucca and cholla.  Beware the latter.

As we progressed higher (the basin is about 5400'), the yucca thinned out a bit and Cedar trees showed up.

Pretty soon, that gave way to full grown trees.  The ridge line in the background is where the park entrance is.
There was a little pull out there with an artistic shot.  Mrs J is taking the previous picture as I snap this.  Unfortunately, the cell phone didn't quite pick up the colors correctly, the ridge was a much deeper shade of brownish red.
Finally arriving at the Chisos basin, (MBD insisting it's Cheetos Basin), we set out on our first hike of the day.  Hadn't gone too far when we came across this interesting yucca.  Not sure if it has any cultural or biological significance (although, undoubtedly, caused by global climate warming change cooling), just thought it was interesting.

And finally arrived here.  "The Window".  There's a bench here in the shade and we spent probably a half hour just looking at things.  I could feel my BP dropping.  

 All good things must end, so we headed back to the truck and started out for our next stop, which would be a "first" time thing.  Hiking Santa Elena Canyon.  But first we stopped in the Quick Stop and bought MBD some....Cheetos!

It's about an hour and a half drive from the Basin to Santa Elena, a combination of the speed limit and the fact that 45 is too fast in parts of it.  Along the way, I got a view of the Window I hadn't seen before.

 Yes, we're back in the desert.  After quite a bit more horrible traffic, we started to approach Santa Elena Canyon.

The canyon is just to the right of the road.  About 10 miles away.
Now the only other time I'd visited this area of the park, we were with our winemaker friends.  We'd planned on having a picnic lunch after hiking the canyon.  Being winemakers, a picnic lunch meant wine would be involved.  So, rather than leaving the victuals and libations unguarded, I, being the selfless person I am, volunteered for guard duty while, they and Mrs J hiked the canyon.

So....There I was* on a dangerous mission, to guard the treasure from untold devils in the heat of an early fall afternoon.  As time went on, I sought something to slake my thirst.  Alas, they, not realizing the selflessness of my actions, and the purity of my heart, took the wine opener with them.

I settled for water.

So, I haven't hiked the canyon...yet.  That was the objective of this trip.
Important Safety Tip: Mexico left, United States Right.  Don't cross the banks.
As we approached the target area, I noticed that the water level was a tad higher than the last visit.  Since the trail begins just to the right of the green vegetation, we knew that we would have to cross the small tributary in the lower right.  However, the last time we were here, that tributary was mostly dry.

Undaunted, we approached the problem. 

Unfortunately, we were outfitted for hiking in the desert, not wading rivers.  The long pants and boots, wouldn't do well.  These fine young Indians, not Native Americans, attempted the crossing.  We could see people on the trail, we knew it was doable.

However,  The young guy about to embark gets to the middle and sinks to mid-waist.  He continues across and climbs out.  His black pants were a slimy gray color.  

We elected to remain on this side and hike the canyon another day.

As we headed out of the park, MBD gets a phone call.  (Cells are a blessing and a curse, you don't have a signal when you need one, and do when you don't want one.)  There's a large hubbub at her company, (She's one of the officers), and they need her home ASAP.

So...we head back to Marathon, have a decent Barbecue Dinner accompanied by a very nice porter, and then settle down by the fire pit.  Those young enough to tolerate and not end up with a coronary or Glucose incident had S'mores.  I had Macallan.


The following morning, we saddled up and rode east for several hours, arriving at our homestead, safely.

Thus ended another fine adventure.  

Had to get this into the hopper early.  Little Juvat is back in the country for some training in Sodom on the Potomac.  Mrs J and I are flying out to spend the weekend with him and maybe visit a museum we haven't yet. 

More to follow. 

This was posted before I learned about Sarge's Familial Tragedies.  I know no more than the rest of you.  All I can offer are prayers.


  1. Beautiful, dangerous country. Good stuff juvat!

    We went there with the little ones back when they were little. All the cool camp grounds were taken by retirees and their homes on wheels. We tent camped in the desert. Late May is a bit warmish.... We were up before dawn, and ran around until late morning. Then it was plenty of water and panting in the shade of our tarp until almost dark. Then run around and look and hike.... Forgot the camp stoves.... So we raided all the charcoal pits for leftovers... Federal wood don't burn, dontcha know and park charcoal was too expensive to buy... Had a flat out on the griddle... It was hot.... and BRIGHT. That sun reflects off everything....

    We drove home after 3 days of "vacation". One of the most miserable... uh.. memorable vacations ever..... Summer starts early in the Bend.

    And still with you Sarge. In spirit and truth bud.

    1. Thanks, STxAR,
      Not only does summer start early, it ends late. While the Chisos Basin temperature was a very pleasant 74 (as measured by my highly accurate truck thermometer), the temp down at Santa Elena Canyoun was 94, and that was right around noon, so was going to get warmer. We'd hoped to get down there earlier, but enjoyed the Basin and stayed a little long. Another factor in not going for the Canyon Hike is there's very little air motion in the canyon, so it gets very hot and humid.

      Discretion is the better part of valor. I don't think there was any disappointed folks in the decision to abort.

      Re: the last. As am I, as am I.

  2. A fine post juvat. Note to self: when traveling with wine makers pack Swiss Army knife, always make sure it's a model with bottle opener and wire stripper..... Camper or Huntsman models will do. Good photos there, always nice to see countryside that hasn't been seen before (by this Chanter) outside of Westerns.

    1. Thanks,
      Re: wine openers. Yes, since we travel with them often, I've become more adept at bringing one along. Unfortunately, TSA doesn't see the need for one to be in your carry on bag. I'm sure Chuck Norris could turn one into a lethal weapon, but, Me? Not so much. DAMHIK.

      Big Bend is a beautiful place, and not usually very crowded. Nice place to go and be alone (or alone with people you care about) and relax. October through April is the best. According to the literature, November is peak tourist time.

  3. We will add corkscrews to our car gear, our hiking gear, and our EDC gear.

    There are so many museums around the DC area. I can't remember if you've been to Udvar Hazy, or the Marine museum at Quantico.

    Hearing the lonesome whistle blow is good in a song, but bad when it blows outside of your bedroom.

    Good photo work and thanks for sharing the trip.

    1. Hadn't thought about EDC. Might have to add a second, multifunction knife, to the list.

      We didn't make it to Quantico. (As a hint)


  4. Let me state right up front, not a big fan of deserts. A single trip to Nevada proved that, I need trees.

    That being said, where you went is a rather pretty desert, as deserts go. Sounds like you all had a fine time. Nice pics, nice post.

    1. I'm just the opposite. I like/need the "See 'em comin'" distances. Guess it's a function of where you're raised.


      Hang in there. If you need anything, let me know.

  5. Not allowing honking tends to eventually have very nasty outcomes.

    1. That's a good point. I suspect it's a compromise. They don't honk at night, only during the day. And they run Headlights all the time, so are visible at night. It's a very small town and the only industry is the Hotel. Guests voila'. Course the first time someone has a little too much and misjudges the time/distance equation, the lawyers will get involved.

    2. In Melbourne (FL, not Australia, juvat) they out-ordinanced train horns in the late '70s. Which was sad, because hearing a train horn in the distance in the fall or winter was nice. But, of course, the horns were too noisy, so the city stupids said "Nyet" and no more horns after 8pm. Within 2 months 3 cars were destroyed and 1 person run over. Which the local mulletwrapper tried to blame on the FEC (Florida East Coast Railway, a legacy of Henry Flagler, as in Flagler Beach etc.) The FEC, having their stuff together, was able to nix any legal action because they had every argument and every document from the years long fight to not ban train horns at night. So the legal beagles started sniffing around the city commission. Still no horns, as you just can't teach a city commission anything...

      I can imagine it's worse now that drugs are so prevalent and stupid people think it's cool to go do drugs on train tracks. Of course, the casualtys' families always assume that the trains can stop on a dime, so they try to sue all the time. Because, of course, their drug-addled useless waste of human flesh relative was going to turn their lives around this time after rehab...

      Ah, carp. I just stepped into a rant. Yuch. Better wash my feet off...

    3. …and someone gets the Darwinian Award.

    4. Beans, but it was just a “little” rant. You only had to was your feet. My Indian friend was up to his navel. I understood none of his rant, although it was long and loud.

    5. D4, well...they’ve got THAT going for them. Which is nice.

  6. Thanks you for the post and pictures. I had forgotten how curiously beautiful the desert can be.

    We bought our first home in Apple Valley CA in the High Desert. I loved the weather. Phantoms tended to get hot however, as they sat on the ramp in the sun waiting for us to train as those who would push back the Asian Horde.

    1. I do remember two things about the Phantom and heat from Luke AFB.

      1. We would pack two water bottles in the g-suit. One was frozen, the other was ice cold. We’d step to the jet, preflight and drink the now barely cold one. Fire up the jet, and do all the checks, taxi to the arming area , remove the other bottle before the arming team went under the jet and drink it. I don’ remember ever having the need to pee, evn after a refueling mission.

      2. Takeoff rolls where extremely long. Apparently, the lift genies didn’t like the heat either.

  7. Dude. Even I know who Pete Rose is/was. And though I think his record as a player might make him eligible as a Hall of Famer, his activities not related to him actually on the field are not the greatest, by far. But then again, the HoF committee has elevated some real dirt-bags and turd-burglars to the hallowed halls lately, so, well, that argument has kinda fallen. But he'll never make it in alive. Probably 6 months after he fails to make it to the next inning, so to speak (that, juvat, is a way of saying he died, do try to follow along) they'll nominate and select him. Because he really has been a thorn in their side (big thorn, not cholla thorn.

    Sometimes I don't mind other drivers on the road. But other days I can see the pull of not being around anyone for miles and miles. But 45 on a flat stretch of nothing? Bleh. That's torturous. And mean. And sucks. Too much memory of Carter's 55mph days. I feel so sorry for anyone stuck traveling long distances during those stupid days.

    As to corkscrews, though I don't drink, my nail kit has a nice set, my traveling kitchen box has 2, there's one in my glove compartment, there's one in one of the road-emergency kits (I put it in there.) And some of the multitools I have carried have one. My SCA/Ren belt pouch has 2, also. Why? Well, first it is nice to be able to help someone. Second, for some strange reason LEO and other governmental bodies don't consider them to be much of a threat. Though a pocket knife with a blade the same length makes one a terrorist. Not a corkscrew/knife/lever-thingy combination. Weird. The blade is the perfect length to cut tire stems or slash arteries and you can do all sorts of bad things with the screw... not that I've ever thought about those things, noo......

    1. Weird. Why does Blogger often drop the ')' part of a '( )' comment? I know it's not me. I see the ')' when I type, but when I post the ')' is gone. Infuriating. Must be something some pilot did to the system. I heard pilots can pretty much break anything...

    2. Beans, I went to College in Lubbock. Dad was stationed in Columbus MS. 915 miles. Usually too 19 hours or so to drive, at 55. Junior year, Dad got transferred to Nellis. I though, Great, closer. It was. 914 miles. At 55. Az Highway patrol were devious. You’d come over a rise, and there’d be one with someone pulled over. Once past and out of sight, people would speed up only to get pulled over by a second one over the next rise. Once past, the temptation was high to step on it. I mean really, there’s probably not three troopers in the whole state right? Nope next rise. That guy always seemed to have the high end cars pulled over.

      Course I was driving a beat up Vega that wouldnt go above 60, even if dropped from an airplane, so it wasn’t much of a threat to me.

  8. I really need to get back down there. Time to do some more exploration.

    1. Your Grey Man series describes the area perfectly. Half expected to see some of them.

  9. Awesome pictures and post. Mama nature, she's the bomb.

    And she'll blow your stuff off in the blink of an eye if you cross her "no go" line.

    Mind you, crowding the line is where the best adventures are to be found. If you don't mind a scar or two.

    1. Thanks, PA. Yep. Got one or two of those scars myself.


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