This morning I woke up at 5 am and right outside my tent was the Milky Way. It was awesome! I got out my Fujifilm X-E4 with 18-55 mm lens, put it on the Ultrapod and took a few shots. There were only a few clouds in the sky so the shots looked pretty good, and I even captured a few shooting stars. In fact, with the 30-second exposure, almost every shot had at least one shooting star in it. It was so cool!
Soon, the sun made its way into the day, and after a sunrise photo and some coffee, it was time to hit the trail. We hiked Laguna Meadows Trail all the way down to the Chisos Basin, seeing one large bear along the way. It was digging a hole near the trail so we had to scoot past pretty quickly, bear-spray at the ready. Very exciting!
At the end of the hike, I splurged on a Topo Chico and mango ice cream bar before we hit the road. After a couple of hours we arrived at Fort Stockton and had lunch at Pepito’s, where I had a huge burger. It was a good way to satisfy my hiker hunger!
Here are a few more photos and the Strava track from the last day of our Big Bend trip. Enjoy!
After a strenuous hike yesterday, we were looking forward to an easier day on the trail. But first, we had an early morning visit from some deer as we broke down our campsite and had a quick breakfast. Then we hit the trail and hiked to Boot Springs to see if there was any water flowing from the pipe (there wasn’t).
After a short rest at the cabin, we headed up to the North Rim where we enjoyed the awesome views, eventually making our way to the South Rim 3 campsite, where we’d spend the night. SR3 is an excellent site, with a great view of Mule Ears and Santa Elena Canyon in the distance. It was so cool to watch the changing light on the landscape below.
Here are a few snapshots from today’s hike and campsite, a time-lapse I recorded during our dinner, and also the Strava track:
Today two friends and I made the trip from Austin out to Big Bend National Park for a few days of camping and backpacking. The drive out was pretty cool, with lots of interesting clouds to take photos of. And when we arrived at the trailhead, the weather was just about perfect. We still had some cloud cover as we made our way from the Chisos Basin up Pinnacles Trail to today’s destination of TM1 (Toll Mountain) campsite.
While on the trail, we came across three black bears. They were looking for food and didn’t mind us taking photos and watching them for a while. It was our first time to see a bear at Big Bend so we were all stoked!
The top of Pinnacles Trail is pretty tough, especially with heavy backpacks, but we made it to the top successfully. It was at the junction of the TM1 campsite, Pinnacles Trail, and Emory Peak Trail that we saw the evidence of the fires that swept through the Chisos. Lots of trees were blackened and burnt, and the smell of burnt wood lingered in the air. Luckily, the campsite was untouched so we were able to set up our tents, cook dinner, and then fall asleep pretty quickly. We were all worn out from the hike, and also the long day of driving.
Here are a few snapshots and Strava data from today. Enjoy!
Today I broke camp and headed down Colima Trail to the Boot Canyon Trail. I decided to return to the Chisos Basin via the Pinnacles Trail, which is the same trail we hiked in January, but just in the opposite direction.
Pinnacles Trail is pretty steep towards the top, with some fairly large steps. I remember when we hiked up it, my thighs were burning since we were carrying all of our water. I think my pack weighed 43 lbs (19.5 kg). This time, I was traveling down (a trekking pole is very helpful) with a lighter pack (32 lbs / 14.5 kg) since I drank almost all my water and I was thoroughly enjoying it. Ideally, you want to finish your hike with no water left in order to minimize weight, and I did pretty good in that I ended up back at the car with .5 liters remaining.
On the way down, I passed a lot of hikers going up the hill, and a bunch of them were really suffering. I could fully empathize with them! On the first day, your pack will be the heaviest, but at least your legs are fresh. Anyways, I encouraged those hikers who looked most exhausted and kept on descending into the Chisos Basin. The trail went by quickly and after just ~2 hours I was back at the car.
I really enjoy solo camping, and solo travel in general, and this trip to Big Bend National Park was a relatively safe way to satisfy my wanderlust during this COVID-19 pandemic. I’m so glad I went!
I woke up today looking forward to a relaxing hike around the East and South Rims of the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park. Compared to yesterday, my pack would be very light because I only would need to carry today’s water (not even tonight’s!) and also since I was staying at the same campsite again, I could leave my tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and camp clothes in the bear box. The only thing I left set up at the campsite was the tent stakes which I didn’t think critters would mess with.
First, it was time for a bit of breakfast. I brought a Mountain House Breakfast Skillet for my morning meal, but I wasn’t very hungry, so I just had trail mix. But I was really excited to try out my new GSI Outdoors Ultralight Java Drip coffee filter. Instant coffee is okay in a pinch, but real ground coffee beans are way better, and this lightweight filter makes fresh coffee on the trail super easy to prepare. It folds flat too, which makes it easy to store underneath the fuel cannister in my cooking pot. I ground some beans at home and put them in a Ziploc bag and my food bag smelled so good!
After breakfast, I packed the bear box with my excess gear and water, then hit the trail.
Last January, my buddy and I stayed one night on the East Rim at ER2 campsite, and the views from the rim were spectacular! But at that time of year, a large section of the East and South Rim trails was off-limits in order to protect the Peregrine Falcons as they nested. So I was excited to take in the parts of the trail I missed, and the views were amazing! I pretty much knew they would be awesome, but was happy to have very clear conditions. The South Rim is highly regarded, but I think I prefer the East Rim, especially the views of Elephant Tusk and then out towards Boquillas Canyon in the far distance.
While taking a little snack break on the South Rim Trail, I decided to take a self-portrait, but I didn’t like any of the photos of myself, so here’s one of my back as I went to pose. 😀
It was interesting seeing the other hikers on the trail. There’s a big difference between day-hikers and backpacking campers. While almost everyone on the trail is friendly, the day-hikers tend to just say hello, whereas the backpackers are happy to stop and have a conversation. I guess there’s a greater sense of community since you are generally dealing with the same challenges and it’s fun to share similar experiences. Also, I like to chat (masked and at a safe distance of course) with the folks who have camera gear since they are always happy to “talk shop”. Then there are the solo backpackers like me who might be feeling a little lonely and are in search of a bit of conversation. 😂
I’m pretty knowledgeable about the different types of backpacking and camping gear so I find it interesting to note the range of gear and experience of the hikers on the trail. One one end of the spectrum are the ultralight hikers, who sacrifice some of the luxury items in order to minimize pack-weight. I chatted with one woman who was on the final day of her 5-day excursion, and she was definitely going ultralight. Her pack was tiny! On the other end of the spectrum was a group of young men who were hiking with inexpensive (and large, heavy) big-box sleeping bags, a cooler, and cups hanging of the backs of their packs. In the middle of the spectrum were those backpackers like me, who have mid to light-weight gear and some more “luxury” items. And by luxury, I’m talking about things like Kindles, a camp chair, and an extra set of camp clothes. One thing we all have in common, though, is our love for hiking and the outdoors. Like the saying goes, “Hike your own hike!” It’s all good.
After returning to camp, I decided to have another cup of fresh coffee (I need my caffeine!) before setting up my tent again. That coffee filter is great. Well worth bringing! Then it was time to have dinner, which I decided was going to be the Mountain House Breakfast Skillet. Let me tell you, the Breakfast Skillet made for a delicious dinner. I have to say, it’s my favorite Mountain House meal so far, even beating out the Beef Stroganoff. Delicious!
I read my Kindle until the sun went down and then I climbed into my tent and fell asleep for a couple of hours before waking up to take a few night photos. The sky was incredible and I was able to see a couple of shooting stars from the Geminid Meteor Shower as I was lying in my sleeping bag. It was one of those really cool moments… this is what camping is all about!
Here’s my Strava from today’s hike.
My camera & photos
I use a Fujifilm X-series camera for most of the photos on this site and my Instagram. Why not pick one up for yourself?