by Taylor Lasseigne and Angela Driscoll / August 19-20, 2005

In August of 2005 my wife Angela and I left New Orleans and headed West. After visiting my brother in Houston, we continued West to Big Bend National Park, stopping at Amistad National Recreational Area to cut the driving time in half.

The main reason for stopping at Amistad, like I mentioned before, was because of the park’s located – about halfway between Houston and Big Bend National Park. It was a great place to rest between two stretches of long, monotonous highway. But Big Bend was always the reason for the trip.


The Big Bend entrance is still 26 miles from the park’s main visitor center at Panther Junction and 35 miles from the Chisos Basin and the beginning of our trailhead.


Angela and I at the Chisos Basin and the beginning of the Pinnacles Trail - which leads to the Boot Canyon Trail, the South Rim Trail, and then loops back around and back to the beginning, about 12 miles round trip. We plan to hike the whole thing in two days.


This is Casa Grande, "Big House" in Spanish. The peak reaches up to 7,325 feet and can be seen from the very beginning of the Pinnacles trail. Prickly pear cactus can be seen at the bottom of the photo. By the way, all of the mountains seen in these pictures are part of the Chisos Mountain Range.


Clouds came suddenly over the mountains and before we knew it, we were ducking for cover under a stone wall. We were in hiding for about twenty minutes before the hard rain let up. We had to keep going, so we threw on our rain gear and sloshed on.


A spring (possibly Boot Spring) where we stopped, snacked, drank, and re-energized.







I tried to figure out what kind of tree this was, but came up empty handed. My guess is some kind of pine maybe??


6.3 miles from the trailhead, Angela finds herself perched atop the 7,403 foot tall Southeast Rim, overlooking the rest of the Chihuahuan Desert and the Chisos Mountains.


Panoramic from the South Rim (click image to enlarge)


We set up camp just a few paces from the rim, and we had to do it quite quickly because a huge storm was chasing us up the mountains.


The storm was just a bluff. I don't think a drop fell from the sky. Seeing that the coast was clear, we ate some grub. Here is Angela referencing her Big Bend Nature Guide, sitting on bear lockers (used to store food safely).


Stands for southeast camp 3



We woke early the next morning to this beautiful sunrise over the Southeast Rim. You can see two thunderstorms on the horizon.



There's Angela on the rim, not quite awake yet.



Funny story about this Mule Deer; Latin Odocoileus hemionus. I stepped about 30 feet away from the camp to brush my teeth, not wanting to attract any unwanted friends. About ten minutes later I saw this Mule Deer licking up the toothpaste from the area I had constituted as my “sink”. She walked all around the campsite looking for more treats, found nothing, and walked off into the woods.


This is Senior Chisos (named after the Chisos Mountain Range). He is one of hundreds of toys found in Kinder Eggs (a European candy). Senior Chisos enjoys banging his cymbals together, long road trips, and teetering on the edge of the South Rim in Big Bend.


Century Plant; Latin Agave havardiana. The Big Bend Nature Guide says, “This medium sized agave is generally found in dry mountainous areas. Its sword like grayish-green leaves have teeth pointing downward and grow in a rosette at the base of the plant. The flower stalk appears in 8-20 years. Each branch bears a cluster of yellow flowers.”


As we head back toward the beginning, just before the trailhead to Emory Peak, Boot Rock juts out in the distance.


This is the trailhead to Emory Peak - only one way up and down. By the sign you can see that we have just hiked 2.3 miles from the South Rim and have 3.5 miles until the Chisos Basin (that's where the car is). But first, we must climb this side trip to the top of Emory Peak - the tallest peak in Big Bend at 7,825 feet. Notice the sign also warns about bears, "BEAR COUNTRY DO NOT LEAVE BACKPACKS UNATTENDED". There are bear lockers here, so we take off our large packs and stick them inside, leaving only our small packs on our backs with a few snacks and water. We start to climb.


We can see the top! But how much longer will it take to reach the summit? There are almost no flat spots here. Its all vertical. In the photo you can see that the peak is a sheer rock wall at the very top. This would prove to be the most challenging part of the entire trip. Actually, it was quite scary. We had to climb straight up large boulders, some completely covered in ladybugs! A wrong step could have spelled disaster, but we took it slow and made it to the top.


Angela atop Emory Peak - notice how the packs are tiny.


Taylor atop Emory Peak - notice the solar antenna on the left.


Panoramic from Emory Peak (click image to enlarge)


Solar powered antenna are scattered on Emory. I suppose that's what often happens on the highest point in an area.



Going up the last 30 or so feet of Emory, I was a bit too freaked out to get out the camera, but on the way down I just had to shoot some of these ladybugs. These photos don't really do the situation any justice - there were ladybugs as far as you could see. Whole rocks were covered - boulders even. Take a close look... looks like hanky-panky to me.



Yes, those are ladybugs again!


This photo shows how uncomfortably rocky the Emory Peak Trail was. Once we reached the bottom though, it was only a few more miles to the car.



Big Bend Nature Walk

On the second day of the trip, hiking from the South Rim, up Emory Peak, and back to the Chisos Basin, Angela found many interesting examples of flora and fauna. She would now like to share them with you:


Angela examines a plant closely...





Nopal "prickly pear" cactus; Latin Nopal opuntia