Saturday, May 23, 2009

Big Bend

We're back safe and sound. I'm sure you've all been waiting for this with bated breath -- a picture of the vicious beast that we encountered on the Boot Canyon Trail in Big Bend National Park.

Here's how it happened. We were about 4.5 miles into what turned out to be a 13.5 mile hike through the high Chisos Mountains. A hiker headed in the opposite direction on the Boot Canyon Trail said there was a bear up ahead. So we carefully kept our eyes open, expecting to see a bear off on a hillside somewhere. We passed another gentleman who had been camping in the area -- he was looking for the bear, too, having been alerted by the other guy. We just kept walking along, having just passed an old corral, when...

ROAR! It was about 15 feet up a tree right next to the trail, and it wasn't interested in letting anyone walk nearby. We watched for a few minutes (the two of us, the camper, and the first guy, who ran back at the sound), and heard it making some strange guttural sounds and every once in a while chomping its teeth. We were very nervous about cubs being nearby, but we couldn't see any. This was definitely a full-grown bear. I couldn't get a good picture so I went back to the corral and down a little hill to see if I could get a better view -- the picture above was the best I could get. One more load roar, this one complete with projectile bear saliva, convinced me that our hiking plans had changed. So we had to make a bit of a detour. Luckily, it only involved a short backtrack, but it did ultimately add a mile and a half to our day's walk.

Later, we ran into a hiker near the South Rim that we had passed on the trail before the bear encounter. He ran into the same bear, but sat down a ways off and waited it out. Eventually, it climbed down and ambled off. Hearing this, we figured we could hike back along that trail, and before we knew it, we were under the very tree where it had been earlier. No sign of the bear anywhere, except this.

The rest of the trip was much less eventful, but no less interesting. A selection of pictures from the trip can be found here -- or in a slideshow format. We got to see large parts of the park that we didn't visit last time we were there. And it was a perfect time to go -- right at the end of their busy season. It was getting hot along the river, but still quite pleasantly cool in the mountains. And we went on several hikes and side trips where we didn't see a single soul.

If you like visiting national parks, definitely give this one a try. It's unique. We won't wait so long before we go back again.

Oh, and because this is a knitting blog, I must report that I did some knitting.


  1. It must have been sort of scary - I'm glad you were ok, and that the bear didn't hang around. Your pictures are beautiful (and funny!). Looks like a wonderful time - thanks for sharing it!

  2. Projectile bear saliva would certainly be enough to make me turn around!