Big Bend National Park Day #5 – Window Trail, Oak Spring Trail, Window Overlook Trail, Chisos Basin Campground & Sunset Photos – February 28, 2011

by Adam on February 28, 2011

The Chisos Basin Campsite At Big Bend National Park - Home For 2 Nights

The Chisos Basin Campsite At Big Bend National Park - Home For 2 Nights

After the move from the Big Bend Rio Campground to the Chisos Basin Campground and a relatively mellow day yesterday there was a whole new area of Big Bend National park to explore today!  The rest of the dozen eggs served as breakfast for the day so there was finally some protein in the body to add a little fuel beyond sugar and carbs from the all the processed food over the last couple weeks.  The plan today was to go hike the Window Trail and explore some other trails in the Chisos area of Big Bend.

The Start of The Window Trail From The Chisos Basin Campground At Big Bend National Park

The Start of The Window Trail From The Chisos Basin Campground At Big Bend National Park

The easiest was to access the Window Trail was right from the campground, the same way as a little bit of it was hiked last night.  After a little “bucket” bath with some Old Spice body wash, a washcloth and a gallon or so of water I at least felt a little bit more clean, though probably still smelled like a skunk (or maybe it was just the shoes!).  In order to get to the Window Trailhead, a short walk across part of the campground was necessary to get there.

A Ber Warning Sign Near The Start Of The Window Trail In The Chisos Mountains At Big Bend National Park

A Ber Warning Sign Near The Start Of The Window Trail In The Chisos Mountains At Big Bend National Park

Warning signs were posted all over the place.  Bears, mountain lions, rattle snakes and other creatures, not to mention wicked sharp cactus call this area of Big Bend home.  It seems like bears, mountain lions and rattlesnakes don’t show up much as none of these predators has been seen on the trip so far despite all kinds of warning signs.  The only wild creatures seen so far have been mule deer and Javelina.  Neither one poses any threat so long as you keep a little distance between them and you and even then they usually just run away.

A Section Of The Big Bend Window Trail Near The Beginning Of The Trail

A Section Of The Big Bend Window Trail Near The Beginning Of The Trail

The Window Trail in the Chisos basin of Big Bend starts with a bit of a downhill hike.  When the trail starts out you can see pretty well all around you but as the trail continues to drop in elevation down toward the “Window” the trees and bush on either side get progressively higher and do make it seem like it is the perfect place to get ambushed by a mountain lion.  If the warning signs weren’t around you’d never worry about it but knowing they are in the area keeps them in the back of your mind especially when hiking solo!

The Canyon Near The End Of The Big Bend Window Trail Hike

The Canyon Near The End Of The Big Bend Window Trail Hike

The “Window” you are walking down toward when hiking the Window Trail at Big Bend National Park is a wash of sorts.  A torrential monsoon rain would flood mush of the area in which the trail blazes through.  Toward the end of the Window Trail there are a few “windows” that provide stunning views of mountains and flat lands off in the distance.  As you get to the actual window the forces of wind and water erosion are evident.  The rock surface that leads down to the Window is slick, smooth, worn and a bit slippery even when it is dry.

Adam Jewell In Window At The End Of The Window trail At Big Bend National Park

Adam Jewell In Window At The End Of The Window trail At Big Bend National Park

Of course for the best photos you want to get as close as possible to the window.  Fortunately it is possible to get pretty close to the edge without putting oneself in much danger.  The forces of erosion have carved some “safe” (though) slick areas near the edge that drops off hundreds of feet and becomes a waterfall when the monsoon rains hit the area.  Today was a moderately warm sunny day so the photos were good the whole way down to the window.  There weren’t many people hiking the Window Trail. But after handing around down there for a while taking photos a group of 4 people came down.

Adam Jewell At The Top Of The Oak Springs Trail At Big Bend National Park

Adam Jewell At The Top Of The Oak Springs Trail At Big Bend National Park

From the initial conversation it was evident that these folks were familiar with the area.  We talked a little bit and then one guy commented that the camera lens was a pretty expensive piece of equipment.  It’s never good if someone recognizes that a piece of gear you are carrying is worth a couple grand out in the middle of nowhere.  After talking for a while they offered a ride back from somewhere called “Oak Spring” where they were hiking after the Window Trail.

A View From The Top Of The Oak Springs Trail At Big Bend National Park

A View From The Top Of The Oak Springs Trail At Big Bend National Park

It sounded like a cool trail and somewhere that was not in the original plan.  They seemed like pretty nice people but did know I was carrying some expensive gear.  So far nothing bad had come of accepting or giving rides to people in the National Parks.  I did have enough water to get by for a while so long as this “Oak Spring” trail wasn’t to far off so we all started hiking down around the Window to the Oak Spring area.

The Hiking Crew Making Their Way Down The Oak Springs Trail At Big Bend National Park

The Hiking Crew Making Their Way Down The Oak Springs Trail At Big Bend National Park

The trail down to the Oak Spring area was a lot more rugged than the initial trail down to the Window.  It started out by climbing back up the canyon a bit and then followed a bunch of switchbacks to get down what was basically a cliff.  At times it seemed like everyone in the group was a little bit uncomfortable with the sheer drops in some places.  They seemed to be a little more concerned with rattlesnakes than I was.  Maybe the locals knew something and I was just to naïve to know that there were in fact rattlers in the area.

A Huge Cluster Of Prickly Pear Cactus Along The Big Bend Oak Springs Trail

A Huge Cluster Of Prickly Pear Cactus Along The Big Bend Oak Springs Trail

Most of the group worked in some type of environmental science and everyone turned out to be really nice, very knowledgeable about Big Bend National park and the area in general.  After what was probably a couple miles past the Window that was the initial target for the morning, the Oak Spring finally came into view along with a nice shaded area where everyone sat down to cool off and relax.  A few more people the new hiking partners knew showed up and we all cooled off in the shade down there.

A Large Rock Formation Seen Along The Oak Spring Trail At Big Bend National Park

A Large Rock Formation Seen Along The Oak Spring Trail At Big Bend National Park

I still wasn’t quite sure where in Big Bend I was but after a cooling off period in the shade, a hike of another half mile or so led back to their trucks.  We hopped in and drove back along a rather rough rugged dirt road to the main paved road through Big Bend National Park and then played musical chairs as people switched trucks and seats within them.  By mid afternoon, the hike had gone way past the intended destination and I was back at the campsite without having to hike all the way back up (what would probably have been 1,000+ vertical feet) from Oak Spring!

The Hiking Crew Taking A Rest At The Cool Shaded Oasis At Oak Spring At Big Bend National Park

The Hiking Crew Taking A Rest At The Cool Shaded Oasis At Oak Spring At Big Bend National Park

Once back at the campsite some water was guzzled and some trail mix downed while taking a little time to kick back and relax.  There was still enough daylight left to do some more hiking around the Chisos Basin area of Big Bend National Park.  The Basin Loop trail was hiked up by the administrative building and employee housing buildings.  It was an easy, scenic trail compared to the hike down to the Window and Oak Springs.

The "Window" Seen From Chisos Basin Loop Trail At Big Bend National Park

The "Window" Seen From Chisos Basin Loop Trail At Big Bend National Park

By this time the sun was starting to set and the Window View trail was next on the list.  It’s a short trail that goes at most a half mile down to an overlook from where it is possible to gaze down at the window in the mountains where the hike earlier in the day led.  A few retired folks were down there and we struck up a conversation.

The Window View Overlook At The End Of The Big Bend Window Trail

The Window View Overlook At The End Of The Big Bend Window Trail

A couple minutes later the woman opened up what looked like a water bottle and a bit of beer spray was received in the face.  $3.75 was too much to pay for a beer at the lodge.  Instead she bough a beer at the convenience store, put it in a water bottle, and took it down to the overlook to sip during sunset!  Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around, with the 30-something smuggling beer down to the trails?

Sunset Over The Window In The Chisos Basin At Big Bend National Park

Sunset Over The Window In The Chisos Basin At Big Bend National Park

Once the sun was just about gone we hiked back up to the Chisos Mountain Lodge.  They went in for dinner while I walked back to the campsite, cracked open a can of pasta for dinner and then went to a presentation on the Texas Rangers given by one of the Big Bend Park Rangers.  It was an excellent evening program that lasted about an hour.  One it was finished there was a little time to sit out in the cold by the Chisos Mountain Lodge and use the wi-fi to check in civilization.

Sunset Over The Window Seen From The Chisos Mountain Lodge At Big Bend National Park

Sunset Over The Window Seen From The Chisos Mountain Lodge At Big Bend National Park

After a few hours on the net, sleep was calling and the body was shivering from the cold mountain air.  Sleep came easy.  Tomorrow would be another day of lots of hiking combined with a move down to the Castolon Section of Big Bend National Park to the Cottonwood campground for the night.  Lots more hiking trails including the Santa Elena Canyon awaited during the next two days at Big Bend National Park!

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