Day 28: Thursday, December 15 Big Bend National Park, TX to Double Mills Historical Marker Miles: 51 Flats: 0 Elevation: 1850 ft - 3750 ft - 2860 ft
After coasting down to our campsite on the Rio Grande, we were not looking forward to the 20 mile climb up the Panther Junction, but it turned out to be a nice way to start our ride on this cool, cloudy day.
|Riding out from the Gravel Pit|
|Riding towards the Chisos Basin, which we unfortunately did not ride up to|
After a quick lunch at Panther Junction and chatting with a motorcycle traveler from West Virginia, and two recreational cyclists from Dallas who had really fancy bikes, we headed north into a 15-20 mph headwind toward Marathon. The wind kept it cool, but at least the sun came out to warm us up a little as we rode along.
Originally we planned to camp near the northern exit to the park, but there was confusion with our primitive camping permit and we had to leave the park this day or we would have to pay again (a whole $10!). On our way out, we stopped at the Persimmon Gap park entrance and learned about the U.S. Army using camels for transportation in the area in the 1860's and we taught the ranger about the Buffalo Soldiers Bicycle Corps of the 1890's that traveled from Missoula, Montana to St. Louis, Missouri on bicycles!
The most notable part of this day of riding was all the wildlife we saw. We saw roadrunners, a coyote, and we saw two big bucks jump a high fence right on the edge of the road.
Outside the park, there was a campsite 5 miles away on an east-west road, but we decided we didn't want to go an hour out of the way, so we continued up highway 385 and decided to camp at the Double Mills Historical Marker. We tucked ourselves under a little tree, hoping no one would come by and kick us out. This was only the second time on our trip that we guerilla camped on the side of the road.
Day 29: Friday, December 16 Double Mills Historical Marker to Marathon, TX Miles: 38 Elevation: 2860 ft - 4055 ft
We survived the night without getting caught, but at breakfast we realized we had run out of gas for our stove. We nibbled on crackers and summer sausage, packed up and headed toward Marathon.
It was an uneventful ride with the exception of several more deer sightings. Minnesota is crawling with deer, but the difference with seeing deer in this area is that you see them for more than three seconds. In Minnesota, they hop into the woods and they are gone, but here, you can see them bounding along long after you initially spot them.
|James H. Evans photo|
We were happy to arrive in Marathon where we planned to stay in a hostel/eco-village, but before we headed over there we got some burgers and checked out the James H. Evans gallery. Eric and I both really enjoy his photographs, both of the desert landscape and its inhabitants, and in appendix of his book Big Bend Pictures, he has wonderful descriptions of his subjects.
The hostel/community we stayed at is called La Loma del Chivo. It is a big plot of land with a few permanent residents, a couple of gardens, two chickens, many other pets, and several projects in sustainable construction. Part of the draw of experimenting in construction techniques in a place like Marathon is that it is an unincorporated town and therefore one does not need to pull building permits.
|La Loma del Chivo|
We stayed two nights at La Loma del Chivo in the papercrete hostel that includes a nice outdoor kitchen. La Loma was a really cool so we stayed an extra night, but the only bummer was that it was so cold. It was cloudy and in the 40s both days and there was no indoor heating.
|Outdoor kitchen at La Loma del Chivo|
On our full day in Marathon, one of the Loma semi-residents showed us around Marathon and introduced us to come folks in town, especially people involved in papercrete. That night we ended up going back to one of the places we visited for an open house, a bed and breakfast called Eve's Garden. It is a really colorful, beautiful place and it is almost all constructed of papercrete! We enjoyed meeting folks from Marathon, eating delicious appetizers and we even got invited to someone's house for breakfast the following morning!
|One little colorful corner at the bed and breakfast Eve´s Garden|
Eric and I have passed through Marathon several times while traveling between San Antonio and El Paso, but we had never even stopped. We are so glad to be on the bicycles, traveling slow, as it allows us to see so much that we never even imagined was there.