(For the complete set of 39 images head over to this Flickr album)
Splayed across the Chihuahuan Desert near Presidio, Texas lies Big Bend Ranch State Park; a 300,000+ acre former working ranch that is currently the largest state park in Texas. Big Bend Ranch is also home to Madrid Falls, the second highest waterfall in Texas.
We had originally planned to bikepack the park in early summer but due to various life events it didn’t happen until January. This proved fortuitous as the temperature extremes of the desert and dehydration present real obstacles even in cooler months.
Big Bend boasts the fourth darkest night sky in the United States so I took the opportunity to experiment with astrophotography.
Overnight lows were around freezing and the lack of available water was a constant concern. This place is as remote as it gets. There is no cell phone service and most of the park is accessible only by foot. Thankfully there were a couple flowing springs in the park and we used any available opportunity to filter water. I never ran out but I went through five liters at one point between resupplies.
Some places in the park are home to prehistoric pictographs of children’s (mostly left) hands. In the case of the below photo they were found on the roof of a cave located high above a dry river bed.
The terrain varies from smooth dirt roads to completely unrideable rocky four wheel drive tracks. Some of the “trails” were little more than boulder fields that had been cleared of vegetation. Most of the park practically demands full suspension bicycles though we managed, albeit slowly, with rigid frames and a full load of gear.
The Sauceda Ranger Station is a singular oasis at the center of the park which offers a bunk house and a chance to shower. We needed it.
My riding partner described it as “as beautiful as it is treacherous”. I had to agree. This place could kill you if you came unprepared.
Chorro Vista offered quite possibly the most impressive view in the park. Sadly, logistics prevented us from camping there as we had originally intended.
We were able to visit the ruins of Madrid House and refill water in Madrid Spring.
Gorgeous new vistas seemed to spring up over every hill and around every corner.
To say we had a great time would be an understatement. Both David and I would love to return here to ride the Solitario, which wasn’t possible along with everything else on this trip.
Even now the beauty and majesty of the desert defies my description. I found myself falling in love with the muted colors, extreme silence, wide open spaces, and a sort of sense of vulnerability that permeates the landscape.
- Mike @ Desert Sports in Terlingua
- All the Park Rangers at Sauceda Station