We continued west and then south and visited Big Bend National Park. The park is named for the big U turn the Rio Grande river makes here in South West Texas. The park includes parts of three eco systems; the Chisos Mountains,Chihuahuan Desert and the Rio Grande River.While the park is on the U.S. boarder with Mexico there are no legal border crossings in the park. Years ago, before 9/11 tourists used to visit the Mexican town of Boquillas but that is no longer legal.

It was 77 degrees on the day that we arrived and I had to change a shredded tire on the trailer. When a trailer tire goes you don't know about it until its shredded.

We finally saw javalinas.

After that ordeal we visited the famous Rio Grande hot springs, unfortunately it was late so we didn't immerse ourselves.

At one time there was a motel and, grocery store and post office and people came by car to experience to hot springs. The next day we went on several hikes. One on the east side not far from the Rio Grande Village Campground where we were staying into Boquillas Canyon for a 1.4 miles roundtrip "the trail climbs over a low limestone hill and drops to the banks of the Rio Grande near some Indian mortar holes." As we neared the end of the walk before turning back an entrepreneur had brought souvenirs over from Mexico and set up a display. He offered his wares on the honor system from the Mexican side of the river. We didn't by anything but he also had a jar with a few dollars with a note that asked for money for their school, I put some money in the jar.After 9/11 there is no legal boarder crossing in the park if caught on our side he could be in deep trouble. "Actually he would be sent to a holding facility in Arizona (which we later passed on our travels) before being returned to Mexico.

The other hike was a 4 mile roundtrip at the center of the park in the Chisos Mountains.

"The Window Trail... descends 800 feet from the trailhead for two miles...The first mile is through open scrub vegetation with fantastic views of surrounding Chisos peaks. The last mile enters a cool shady canyon with oaks, wildflowers, and a sometimes a trickle of water. At the end of the trail is the "window"...the pour-off that drains the entire Chisos Basin. It is a narrow slot in the canyon wall at the top of a 100 foot dropoff."

Obviously we didn't get too close to the drop off, there is a limit to the adventures that we go on.

After two nights camping without hook ups on the east side of the park we moved to a private campground, just outside the west side of the park in Terlingua. After leaving the trailer in a full hook up site (electric-water-sewerand satellite tv) we drove back into the park to the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.

The Drive which starts near the west entrance to the park goes through the Chihuahuan Desert to the Rio Grande. On the way we passed several scenic overlooks and stopped at some just to look and others for a short walk. Sotto Vista, Mule Ears Overlook and Tuff Canyon are all worthwhile stops. We visited the Old (Sam Nail) and Homer Wilson (Blue Creek) Ranch's

and stopped at the Castolon Historic District for a glimpse into Big Bend’s past.

Troops were stationed at Castolon at one time to deal with border bandits such as Poncho Villa.We parked at the end of the paved portion of the drive and walked the 1.7-mile round trip (more like up) into Santa Elena Canyon. one of Big Bend’s most scenic spots. This trail begins at the end of the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. We crossed the Terlingua Creek, on logs and sticks a previous hiker put down and climbed several short switchbacks before gradually descending along the banks of the Rio Grande.

We returned to the west entrance of the park on the Old Maverick Road, a 13-mile gravel road.

On this road we passed and stopped to photograph the Luna Cassita. Luna raised a large family and lived to be 108. I am sorry that one of us didn't stand next to it as it was only about five feet in height. Anybody interested in moving in.

We were going to stay two nights in Terlingua but the cold set in and Ft Davis which I wanted to visit was to be closed on Christmas day so we left the next morning and drove to Alpine,TX in a light snow. We set up the camper in the Lost Alaskan Campground in Alpine and went to Fort Davis before it closed early for the holiday.Ft Davis is the highest point in Texas and it was cold.

None the less the fort was built to protect west Texas and the only all weather overland trail crossing the country. The famed Buffalo soldiers were stationed here as was Black Jack Pershing who got his nickname because he commanded Black troops at Fort Davis. Second Lt Henry O. Flipper the first black graduate of West Point also served, was courtmartialed in a controversial case and received a dishonorable discharge at Fort Davis in 1882. In 1976 the Army reviewed his case and posthumously gave him an honorable discharge he received a full presidential pardon in 1999 by President Clinton. Every afternoon around 2:30 the fort's loudspeakers play an audio reenactment of the Retreat, complete with trumpets, officers commands and responses, the band playing "Hail Columbia" and the sound of marching and wheeling horses as the troops passed in review.

That night the temperature dropped to 15 degrees. I had to use the hair drier to melt the ice so that we could take showers and the next morning again to dump our waste tanks.

We then drove to El Paso for two nights and replaced two tires on our way out. The tire that had been shredded destroyed the one next to it. We had planned to visit the El Paso Holocaust Museum but a 2001 electrical fire closed it. They are planning to reopen at another location in El Paso sometime in 2005.