On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions. From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
This series was created by Alain Chamot (1971-2020).
A few more pics and commentary from our December 2017 trip to Big Bend National Park. On the way out we went through Terlingua YX, which was a trip by itself, and ended up in West Texas for a couple of days, staying at the Turkey Hotel in Turkey TX. If you ever get a chance to do that, it is worth the trip!. We spent a day in Palo Duro Canyon as well, and some of those pics are in a previous edition of On The Road.
Here’s a longer and wider view of the Chisos Mountains, looking west from a jeep trail in the high desert. The Chisos Basin Lodge is on the other side of those.
One of the interesting plants in that part of Texas is this variant of the Prickly Pear cactus with blood-red thorns. Clearly a warning that should be heeded!
I spent Christmas morning 2017 at the Sam Nail ranch, an historic homestead now within the National Park. Scrubby trees and a water source in the desert usually means lots of birds, and that was true that day as well. One of the birds that we saw in abundance in that park was sort of a surprise, Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus). A migrant from the wet boreal north, spending its winter in this desert, was not something I expected!
Spotted Towhees (Pipilo maculatus) were also quite abundant, and some of them were beginning to practice their songs.
Another male Pyrrhuloxia (Cardinalis sinuatus), giving me the icy glare.
Besides the Pyrrhuloxias (aka Desert Cardinals), there were also plenty of Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis). As I might have mentioned before, winter cardinals in Texas seem much brighter than usual, even in the half-light of dawn!
The south border of the park is the Rio Grande River, which is not so grande here. We spent some time skipping rocks at this spot, and it was certainly possible to skip a rock all the way to Mexico.
The Santa Elena Canyon is another iconic geological feature of the park. This narrow gorge of the Rio Grande separates the USA from Mexico; that cliff on the left of this pic is in Mexico. In fact, the camera I was using also records GPS data; if I input the coordinates into Google Maps, it says that this picture was taken in Mexico…
Willow trees with some fall color in the flood plain of the Rio Grande just below Santa Elena Canyon.
Finally, one of the highlights of the trip was a spot along the river where these interesting wire sculptures and walking sticks were displayed, along with a box where you could leave money if you wanted to purchase something. No price tags, and it was certainly the honor system. The proprietors were just across the river in Mexico; you could see their boat on the bank on the other side. I presume that they boated over occasionally to pick up the proceeds and restock the store. We purchased a few of the wire scorpions, and called “Feliz Navidad” to the unseen merchants on the other side. They wished us a Merry Christmas as well.