Sunday, April 5, 2015

Big Bend National Park: Window Trail

After a great sunrise hike in Santa Elena Canyon, Zak and I drove gradually northeastward through Big Bend National Park. Our destination was the Chisos Basin to next hike the Window Trail.

Window Trail, Big Bend National Park
More helpful advice from a ranger -- the trail is 5.6 miles roundtrip with 980 feet of elevation change if you start at the visitor center.  However, starting at the Basin Campground reduces the distance to 4.4 miles roundtrip and the elevation drop to 500 feet.  We opted for the latter option.

Window Trail, Big Bend National Park
We overheard a ranger tell another visitor that the desert was as green now as it would be all year thanks to a wet winter.  Not everything was growing yet, though.  And dead plants against a cloudy sky look best to me rendered in black and white.

Tufted Titmouse, Big Bend National Park
On one of the several crossings of Oak Creek along the trail we found ourselves in the midst of at least four Tufted Titmice.  None were willing to give me a clean shot.  This partially obscured image is the best I could manage.  After a few minutes stalking them in hopes of getting a clear view, I decided to give up the chase and continue the hike.

Window Trail, Big Bend National Park
I like to greet people along hiking trails and occasionally strike up conversations.  As we neared a trail split, a group coming from the opposite direction advised that we take the upper route for about a quarter of a mile to reach a better outlook to the west than we'd get at the actual Window.  So we did, and were suitably impressed.

Window Trail, Big Bend National Park
Retracing our steps and rejoining the Window Trail soon brought us to some slickrock with carved steps marking the best path through.

Window Trail, Big Bend National Park
Then abruptly we were at The Window, and its 220-foot pour-off.  No railings, no fence, no sign.  Just a few steps away from certain death.  Despite being in less danger than standing the same distance from, say, a four-lane highway it still created a queasiness.  But a stunning one.

Fueled by Fluffernutters and Gatorade we covered the distance in about three hours, which is pretty solid for me given my frequent photo stops.  Sunset was still a good three hours off, so there was more yet to be seen!

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