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National Parks - 2012 Trip - Day 8

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Start Location: Van Horn, TX
Ending Location: Alpine, TX
Miles Today: 321
Trip Miles: 2682
States Visited: 7
National Parks: 3
National Monuments: 1
Low Temp: 71.7° F
High Temp: 105.9° F
Min Elevation: 2552'
Max Elevation: 5787'

Route Map:


We had some interesting contrasts today.   We started out early (at least by our body clocks) but it was a comfortable 76 degrees.  The first 100 miles was a very straight, pretty boring 2 lane road with a speed limit of 75 - the fastest we have ever seen on a 2 lane road with no divider.  The most interesting thing we saw was what looked like a huge bomb sitting on a pedestal a little ways off the road.  The only identifying sign was a locked gate and something about a US Military site and no trespassing - we have no clue but did get a picture or two.

The next 100 miles were a little more twisting and curving and, although it was heating up, proved to be a little more interesting ride.  We arrived at Big Bend National Park around noon and drove to the Panther Junction Visitor Center where we ate lunch and sort of got the lay of the land.  We actually had to drive 21.5 miles of the park just to get to the visitor center.  Following our theme of deserts, Big Bend is actually located in the Chihauhuan Desert.  The Chihuahuan desert is the wettest of the four North American deserts, though they rarely receive more than 10 inches of rainfall. The rainy season in the desert is usually from mid-July through late September.  Some of the roads in the park were mud covered from recent rains and the ranger advised us not to take these - and we gratefully complied.

We did take a 10 mile ride to Chisos Basin which is located about 1500' higher than the visitor center and in the middle of the mountains.  The ride was very twisty and the temperature dropped a good 10 degrees in just 10 miles.  Then, as we were about to leave the basin, it began to rain - hard - and we rode down in a heavy downpour during which the temperature dropped almost another 15 degrees - it felt really good.

After that ride we slowly made our way to another visitor center and the park exit.  Like when we were in Saguaro, we felt like we were the only ones in the park.  From there we headed for Alpine, TX where we planned to spend the night.  It was very hot, around 100 degrees, for most of the ride until we got within about 20 miles of Alpine when it poured again.  We didn't mind because it cooled us down and after a few minutes the rain let up and we were almost dry again by the time we got to Alpine.

We did some research this evening (yes, we probably should have done this before we left, but where would the fun be in that) and it appears that Guadalupe Mountains National Park is a mecca of hiking, backpacking, and backcountry camping.  There is only a short, but apparently scenic, 7 mile road to the visitor center so our time there may be short since traveling on a Goldwing isn't really compatible with those uses.  After that, depending on the time, we will either head for Carlsbad Caverns National Park or Carlsbad, NM to spend the night.  When we looked at what kind of hotels might be available in Carlsbad we were shocked to see many of the motels were booked for weeks out and that many of the others were very expensive - like $179 for a Holiday Inn Express.  When we looked at surrounding cities (there aren't many) we found the same thing.  Ultimately we booked a room at a Best Western - site unseen, which we don't actually like to do.  After further searching it appears that Carlsbad is in the middle of an oil boom, probably like Williston, ND, And that's the reason for the motels being full.

There's always something!