SocraticGadfly: Big Bend: First visit in 8 1/2 years

December 28, 2019

Big Bend: First visit in 8 1/2 years

I was a "regular," a "veteran," even, in the previous decade, but hadn't been to Big Bend National Park in 8 1/2 years. I was enough of a veteran, and early enough of one, to have been out there before the Park Service closed the crossing at Boquillas (and Santa Elena, where Mexicans crossed to our side) because some dumb ass in DC thought Osama bin Laden or minions might invade the US from Boquillas, Cohuila, Mexico.

Here's a link to my overall photo album. I'm going to extract just a couple with comments. (All photos embiggen in their album location.) Let's start here:

Living as far away as the Metroplex, I normally drive to about 15 miles south of Marathon (pronounced with a schwa last syllable, unlike the normal) on US 385. Big Bend is an International Dark Sky Park and the darkest national park in the contiguous 48. Even before officially getting into the park, this picture of Orion at top right and Canis Major at lower right should make that clear. I will have more on this in a separate post.

Big Bend has three ecotones: desert, montane and riverine. This photo illustrates two of them: middle-altitude Chihuahuan desert surrounding the Chisos Rim.

The riverine is best capped, by those who know, with a nighttime soak in the 104°F hot springs immediately adjacent to the Rio Grande. I'll have more on this in a future post, too.

This diversity makes it a hot spot for birding, even though it's not on one of the three main north-south migrational flyways. The photo at left, I'm keeping small, so that it doesn't appear too pixelated. This is of an acorn woodpecker. Among new sightings for me that, for various reasons, I didn't glass in my camera, were a lark bunting, a ruby crowned kinglet and a vermilion flycatcher.

As I note, I'll have a couple of more posts in weeks ahead about various issues.

The first of those is now up, as I ponder if Millennials are ruining Big Bend.

Because things have changed in 8 1/2 years. Both posts will address a couple of bigger — one to me, one in general — of these changes.

The Park Service itself has changed some things. It now charges a fee for backcountry camping permits, whether backpacking or primitive car camping. That has been a flat rate, but is scheduled to go to a per-day system next year. Thanks, both Trump and Obama, and both R's and D's in Congress, for failure to adequately fund the NPS. Thanks Obama and Kenny Boy Salazar Shrub Bush (forgot it was that long ago) for the head fake of replacing the old Parks Pass with the new Access Pass, which likely gives only $50 of its $80 to the Park Service, like the old Parks Pass, and instead bribes BLM and USFS with most of the rest to continue to undercharge miners, drillers and loggers. Here's a 2010 story on how the new Access Pass fees split out in the early years after the transfer; the NPS got no extra money, and yep, the other agencies got some. The Park Service itself, and its partner nonprofit, the National Parks Foundation, have themselves become more capitalistic, too.

So, the human hand on the park has changed indeed.

What has not changed is the desert itself. As this slightly stylized photo below shows, hiking back down the Marufo Vega trail, Big Bend is one of our most existential national parks. (Cactus Ed Abbey made one visit here before setting up permanent shop further west.)


No comments: