On our way down to San Antonio we stopped at the Hamilton Pool Preserve, a neat cavern with a waterfall that we hoped to swim in. Unfortunately the drought that the area has been in caused bacteria levels in the stagnant water to be too high for swimming. We still hiked out to see the cavern, the trickling waterfall and a river that we actually could swim in. We caught a turtle and then ate a delicious picnic of left over barbecue from Sue Ann and Gary, and were on our way to San Antonio.
Unlike New Orleans, San Antonio was a little more my speed. First, on our walk to the Alamo for some Texas history we noticed the city itself was very aesthetically pleasing. It is littered with fountains, and a man made river runs through the city center. The banks of the river are lined with bars and restaurants (the Mexican food is outta sight by the way). Secondly, the city settles down early, and as I have mentioned before, I need my rest to function. By the time we walked to dinner around 9 everything was slow. At midnight only one or two bars on the river walk had customers. In New Orleans the party started at 11 and in Philadelphia thirsty Thursday is a huge drinking night (for college students at least). The next morning we departed for southwest Texas.
For the most part, our road trip is focused around National Parks, and that was why our trip to Big Bend was so momentous (for me anyway). The drive through west Texas is all desert and it takes forever. The hours in the car were worthwhile to see the Chisos mountains as we rolled up to the park. As we drove through the park we took in the wildlife, plant life and the amazing scenery. Cola was able to take the truck down a little windy road which led to a hot spring, which I relaxed in while Cola and Jeff climbed to windy peak nearby. Even though the bottom was gross and mushy, and an ecology class on a field trip warned me of the dangers of protists lurking in the spring, I was able to look past it and enjoy myself. How could I not? I was sitting in a hot spring on the Rio Grand looking out at a Mexican sun starting to set. It was amazing.
The next morning we continued our adventures in the park with a day hike called the Lost Mine Trail. The trail was my first experience with switchbacks (180° bends in a trail so you do not have to march straight up a mountain). It was hot and there was 1,100 ft of elevation change over the 5 mile round trip hike. It was challenging for me and I could not keep up with Cola and Jeff. I took my time, sometimes stopping at every other switchback to catch my breath, but I made it to the peak. The beautiful view at the top made it all worthwhile. The lookout was the optimal place to peer down on to the the valleys that construct the Chisos Basin as well as view other peaks in the park.
Over the first few weeks of the trip I have discovered some of my own tips and tricks as well as utilized a plethora of information and suggestions from my Uncle Pete and my father. Despite all of the knowledge of theirs I remembered, there were some things that I forgot, such as the importance of bug spray and the aforementioned prepping of the stove. Those were small things though, merely inconveniences. The one thing that constantly keeps biting me in the behind is allotting driving time through the parks. For example, it took x amount of hours for us to drive from Big Bend to our next destination, Gila National Forest. From where we camped in Big Bend, it took at least 2 hours to get to the north rim of the park (where google maps had put my starting location). Then when we got to the south rim of Gila we searched for a campsite for two hours (all of the close ones were taken by those in town for a blues festival in Silver City). Needless to say an extra four hours of driving is a lot, especially when added to an already long drive. It really wears on you when it happens time and time again. Despite my miscalculations and the lack of sleep they have caused some of us, morale is still high and bickering is low. So far the trip is even more than I could have ever expected it to be.