Favorite Campsites in the National Parks (1st-25th)

1. Backcountry/Boondocking sites (Big Bend National Park)

Boondocking in the wild of Big Bend

Big Bend is a huge national park, with several good campsites for trailers, included our shady site in Rio Grande that provided some shelter from the 104 degree heat. But one special thing in Big Bend we have yet to see at another National Park are designated boondock sites for RVs.  Essentially, these are backcountry camping sites that are accessible by car (“Primitive Roadside Camping”). This means there are a dozen or so scenic spots scattered around this huge park where you can pull your trailer off-road — and provided you make it down the gravel side roads with trailer intact — you find yourself completely alone under the shadows of the Chiso Mountains.

Room with a view

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Big Bend: Big Walls?

Magical sunsets at the top of the Chiso Basin

Big Bend is massive. While not as large as Death Valley in acres, something about the variety of terrain (they claim it’s three parks in one), the 100+ miles of Rio Grande it borders, and the fact that the park contains one whole mountain range within it all make it a grand statement on nature and the beauties of West Texas.

View of the Rio Grande, and Mexico on the other side.

But one human-scale question looms all of the nature that is on display here. Big Bend, on the South border of Texas, is a national park that shares a 110-mile border along the Rio Grande River with Mexico. The political overtones of this border are hard to avoid. There are signs everywhere noting that it is illegal to cross the Rio Grande anywhere except the official border crossings.  In my mind, the Rio Grande was, well, Grand with a capital G, but in reality, much of the river here in the park is shallow and not more than 20-30 feet wide. Thus college boys on Spring Break seemed to take great pride violating the stated law by wading across the narrow strait to do a little dance on the Mexican shore. Continue reading “Big Bend: Big Walls?”

Boondocking, and the Beauty of Living Off the Grid

In this year of living without in the National Parks, one goal was to learn how to boondock  (aka dry camp) and live off the grid in the Whale.  Our trials and tribulations with bad RV batteries and dodgy dish-washing techniques I’ll share later, but the reward of conservation and minimizing your resource usage is oh-so-amazing.  Because this, my friends, is what dry camping can be like.

Big Bend, Chiso Basin in the background

There’s nothing quite as amazing as waking up to this view, and feeling a little naughty (and a little guilty) that, for the time being at least, this vast awesomeness is your backyard.

When S and I were envisioning a place of peace to help us detox after years in China’s crowds and pollution, and a land of beauty to reinvigorate our souls, I believe this kind of magical stillness was exactly what I was dreaming of.