This was the third day of our week before 4th of July visit to Big Bend National Park in West Texas. My brother-in-law (Russell), nephew (Bart), and I had all arrived in the Chisos Basin – our basecamp for this trip – the two days before, had done our first collective hike yesterday, and so today was the day for a longer hike. We settled on the long loop out to the South Rim of the Chisos Mountains because its one of the longest hikes starting from the Basin and the views from the Rim were supposed to be sweeping (and that they were!).
After another early start, with the air temperature again in the low 70ºFs,
we made our way up the Pinnacles Trail and around Emory Peak to a junction with the Boot Canyon Trail. We followed that in to Boot Canyon, one of the most ecologically diverse areas in the park;
one named for a standing rock formation that does, in fact, look like a boot (this being Texas, it couldn’t look like a flip-flop!).
There are 18 species of oak in the canyon, some of which are unique to the Chisos Mountains, as are several other tree species – you have to hike up here to really appreciate the incredible biological diversity hidden in these high canyons.
There are springs in the canyon but much of the standing water was probably due to thunderstorm activity.
After a while, we left the pleasantly shady canyon,
and climbed gently, but steadily, up to the South Rim through grassy meadows and open forest.
We reached the South Rim at the junction of the East Rim, South Rim, and Boot Canyon Trails. The Rim represents an abrupt 2,000-foot drop from the Chisos Mountains to the desert below and is home to peregrine falcons (this area is closed during their Feb 1st to May 31st breeding season).
The views from here west, south, and east into Mexico were spectacular.
The mouth of Santa Elena Canyon (one of the three deep river-carved canyons in the park) was visible to the southwest – it’s hard to tell from this photo, but this canyon is 1,500 feet deep.
I think we were all enjoying this hike and it’s views much more than our tepid smiles might suggest!
We made a loop out of this hike by heading back to the Basin via the South Rim and Laguna Meadows Trails, which gave us a view of Blue Creek Canyon,
and of the Chisos Basin from a saddle west of Emory Peak.
Even with an early start, the last bit of the Laguna Meadows Trail back to our starting point was hot and sunbaked. After 12 miles and 2,000 feet of elevation gain in 95+ºF air temperatures, cold beers at the Lodge bar were a welcome relief (whereas the U.S. losing to Belgium in football was not).