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Big Bend National Park Dagger Flat


Dagger Flat and Fossil Bone

More photos can be seen at

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Today was an easy day. Both of us were rather tired after yesterday’s hike and so we planned a less strenuous day. Our Breakfast was pancakes with sliced bananas and real maple syrup, plenty of coffee and a glass of orange juice. The cabin we are staying in is painted a bright turquoise on the outside. Inside is a largish room with three beds, three folding chairs, a small table with two chairs, a small bathroom, and a tiny kitchenette. The cabinets in the kitchenette are constructed from a single sheet of plywood with outside hinges. The dishes and cooking utensils look like they came from a garage sale but still everything is usable and it is pleasant to have breakfast here before we head out for the day.

We drove to Rio Grande overlook, parked, and off-loaded one of the motorcycles. The plan was for Glen to ride up the Candeilla trail and meet me at Dagger Flat. His ride was through fairly rough 4-wheel drive roads.

It was odd to be alone in the truck out in the desert. I stopped several times to take photos of yuccas as I felt compelled to get good samples of the variety of botanical specimens. I startled a coyote near Dugout Wells and he ran along the road for a good way, looking back to see if I was still following him, and I was, of course, and snapping the camera as fast as I could while driving. There is so little traffic here that it feels a lot like pioneer days.

One of the stops I made was Hannold Grave. Here a young woman died of uremic poisoning and asked to be buried on her ranch overlooking the draw where she used to read to her three young children in the afternoons. I wonder what it must have been like—it is so quiet—all you hear are the birds and the whisper of wind through the drying leaves of the yuccas. Her husband supplemented the ranch income by teaching at Dugout Wells School eight miles away. It is hard to figure out exactly why people would settle in this place—it is beautiful but surely difficult for livestock to find enough food.

Another stop was at Fossil Bone Exhibit. This area in the time of dinosaurs was a swamp and populated with hippopotamus like creatures and tiny horses. The rock here is shale and very crumbly.

Further north on the way to Marathon is the turn-off for Dagger Flat. I drove slowly down this trail as it had a fair amount of sand and two large mud holes. Dagger Flat contains lots of dagger plants but is also what they call Yucca Woods. There were thousands of them there—some with their fruiting bodies decaying, most with a trunk of dried leaves. I found a falcon sitting on one and tried to get a good photo of him. I’m not used to such a fancy camera as Glen left me.

Surprisingly, it took about two hours for Glen to make his trip. He arrived with a big smile on his face and we drove along for a bit to find a good place to load up the motorcycle. With so little traffic (only one other vehicle made it down that road while I was there) it wasn’t a problem to stop and block the road.

Our afternoon was still ahead of us and we decided we would head for the State Park. We were surprised to learn that this area had been the location for cinnabar mining. Cinnabar is a reddish ore that produces liquid mercury. Liquid mercury is used in the production of explosives and not surprisingly, the economic viability of the mines was directly related to the wartime needs. The need for firewood to run the furnaces along with the difficulties in transport was an also limiting factor.

The state park entrance proved to be interesting. It is named after the biologist, Dr. Warnock, who surveyed the plant life in Big Bend. The ranger was quite informative and we decided quickly that the state park would be fun to explore for a week. It seems to be even less busy than the National park and this week has been perfect—gorgeous weather and just enough people to not feel alone but so few that frequently we are the only ones on the trail.

We ate supper again at the Starlight Theatre—I had a tuna steak burger preceded by fish soup and Glen had shrimp cocktail perfectly laded with bits of jalapeno and then tofu. As predicted, the tofu was not his favorite dish but we ended up sharing a piece of chocolate bourbon pie with ice cream.

All in all, a pleasant day. We are both a bit sad to think that tomorrow is our last day here.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Your descriptions and photos make me long to travel this area. Thanks!

    December 30, 2007

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