We like vacation. Repeat after me: we like vacation. Also we like vacations easy on the budget. For several years we’ve been saying to each other, “We should go to Big Bend National Park some Thanksgiving.” The best time to go is Easter or Fall, and we can’t go at Easter. So, we decided we would go this past Thanksgiving. The kids had the whole week off of school, and we were feeling the need for some nature nurturing. This is part of who we are as Christians. God really nourishes us with the magnificence of nature. We try to pay attention to this, and we try hard to impart this to our children. You should too…even if there ain’t no internets in them mountains. Wintertime camping was calling our names.
Busting out the gear pumps us all up. Kids go searching for flashlights, and they are either gone or not working every time! This time I found these retractable lights that hang around the neck. On the end is a whistle, and the light also flashes. The girls loved them, and I thought they had great safety features for hiking.
This was our fifth major camping trip as a family, so by now everyone knew what we needed to bring. The only difference was it was likely to be cold to freezing at night. I kept thinking it’s still Texas, but my sister-in-law Mattea is more of a preparer than I am and reminded me to bring the long johns for the kids at least. Theirs was the only other family joining us for this adventure thus making it the smallest group so far: 4 adults and 7 children! By the way, I have a great camping list I keep on hand. I got cocky on this trip and didn’t reference it. Mattea used my list. Prepared. The next trip I’m checking the list twice.
It is about an 8 hour drive to Big Bend from where we live, and as usual we planned to drive through the night. We left our house about 7pm on a Tuesday night planning to eat supper in San Antonio, but an hour away everyone was too hungry and sleepy to wait that long. So we ate at a little local Tex-Mex place. The food was cheap, good, and plenty, and before we knew it we were back on the road. The drive wasn’t too bad for me at first since I took the sleep shift. I don’t remember what time I took over, but it was pretty early in the morning. I think I drove from 2am until 4am at which point we had to pull over. The funny thing is we were almost there.
Note to self should we go to Big Bend again someday: We should have left later.
We arrived at 4:45am!!! Ugh. We found the lodge close to where we would check in when it was actually daylight, and parked and went to sleep. Thankfully no little people woke up! It was very cold, but everyone had blankets except for me and Matt. I put my jacket awkwardly around my legs, and curled up even more awkwardly. In the morning I was in a curly que only made possible by the yoga in my life complete with my drool on the console.
My eyeballs opened gritty and squinty to mountain sun. You know what I’m talking about. There’s something different about mountain sun. I saw that next to us the other car was already awake and getting out. Brrr. Our car was slow to wake, but we were ready to exit the vehicle and feel alive again. The girls cried out at the cold, and we ran to the Chisos Basin Lodge. We decided to eat breakfast in the lodge because we weren’t sure we could check into our campsite yet. Actually, it was because we saw hot chocolate on the menu and the heat was blowing. The food was so good, but the hot chocolate was better. It had whipped cream, and the children were smiling at this point. Mattea told us that they woke up earlier than we did because none of them could breathe. “I think we sucked all the air out of our car,” she said. I didn’t know this was possible, but they woke up trying unsuccessfully to take deeper breaths. Now that’s an air tight vehicle!
After breakfast, we checked in with the ranger station and received a map of the campground. Excitement building, we wove our cars through the bendy roads to our Group Site. It was lovely and set right in the center of Chisos Basin. The Window Trail on one side, and Casa Grande on the other. Beauty all around us took us to a right place in our hearts, and we began unloading and setting up camp.
We knew we wanted to hike the Window Trail this first day, and so we hurried to get tents up, food in the bear box, and the lunch made for the trail. Delighted with our home for the week, we were still ready to dive into these mountains.
While we were busy making our campground cozy, a Ranger drove by and greeted us. He checked my reservation, and he encouraged us to have a fun time. He also mentioned that mountain lions really like small children, and since we have a lot of those we should pay attention to where they are at all times. “Oh, and also, we’ve had the most problems with skunks lately.”
Thank you Park Ranger. Thanks. Really.
Finally we were finished with set-up, our packs were ready, and our water bottles filled. Window Trail bound, baby.