After two days of touring Santa Fe and eating all of the green chile we could manage, we pushed south towards Texas. Our first stop just outside of the city was Tent Rocks – a must do for anyone visiting the area and very accessible from downtown. Drizzle (and some snow) made  for a chilly but beautiful hike casting a different light onto the striated walls of the slot canyon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We continued on via Roswell (not worth the stop) to Carlsbad where we grabbed some groceries and then settled in for a very windy night of camping on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land between the city and the entrance to the caverns. With gusts topping out at 60 miles per hour, we spent the evening tucked in the tent enjoying beers brought along from Santa Fe Brewing Company and hoping that we would make it through the night. We did. Winds calmed, the sun rose and we headed to Carlsbad Caverns National Monument for some pretty structured spelunking.

In what is becoming a recurring refrain on this trip – the Caverns were even more impressive and expansive than we expected. Room after room of the most amazing formations at a scale impossible to capture through photos.

Abbey’s family history is tightly woven through the national parks of this region. After World War II, her grandfather graduated from the University of Colorado (also our alma mater) with a degree in civil engineering. He went to work for the National Park Service as part of the team that installed the elevator that took us the 754 feet from the surface to the cavern floor at Carlsbad and the water system that would provide necessary infrastructure for explorations of our next stop, Big Bend. In so many ways we are following his footprints as we visit the many places he touched on this trip.

The Guadelupe Mountains greeted us as we crossed over the NM border into TX and spectacular valleys gave way to flat plains and dusty abandoned gas stations signaling our approach to Marfa.

Funky, art-filled and enjoying a hipster boom (thanks Beyonce), Marfa is the perfect stopping off point for your explorations in Big Bend. We spent the night sipping mescal cocktails at the Capri and making friendly with the bartender so he would store our gallon jugs of water in the walk-in overnight, ensuring that our camping provisions would stay chilled in the 98° heat.

Prior to heading to the park we made a laundry and latte stop at Tumbleweed Laundry and filled our now thoroughly chilled cooler with a few nights of food from The Get Go. If you have some extra time while in town don’t miss the Donald Judd exhibitions at the Chinanti Foundation and the iconic instagram opp at the faux Prada Store (which you can’t miss it on your way into town).

Big Bend is expansive – we had been told, but we still weren’t prepared for the scale of the park; it blew our minds. The best way to see it all in a limited amount of time is definitely with four wheel drive and a high-clearance vehicle so you can tackle the many unpaved roads that criss-cross the terrain.

 

 

We entered Big Bend via the Persimmon Gap Visitor’s Center where we picked up and paid for our backcountry camping permits. To camp at the many awesome primitive campsites within the park, you have to get your permit in person up to 24 hours in advance of the day you intend to camp. After picking your site, it’s reserved, so you don’t have to worry about going and staking your claim, but can spend the rest of the day exploring instead.  We opted to camp in a different spot each night (both single campsites, so no neighbors!).

Big Bend is expansive – we had been told, but we still weren’t prepared for the scale of the park; it blew our minds. The best way to see it all in a limited amount of time is definitely with four wheel drive and a high-clearance vehicle so you can tackle the many unpaved roads that criss-cross the terrain.

Our dirt road explorations took us to the far Southeastern corner of the camp and the Boquillas Crossing into Mexico, where with a little additional time, you can wade or take a rowboat across and grab lunch in the border town of Boquillas.

With the sun sinking on the horizon, and the border crossing closing at 6:00 PM we waved to Mexico before heading back to the center of the park and setting up camp at Rice Tank 1 in the foothills of the Chisos Mountains. After a meal of bratwurst burritos – our new tasty invention – we settled in and watched the stars come out in one of the darkest parks in the United States.

Our second day in the park took us through the Chisos and out to Santa Elena Canyon for a beautiful (and partially shaded) hike along the Rio Grande with plenty of opportunities for foot soaking and for some fellow hikers- swimming. Santa Elena was definitely one of the busier sections of the park, so getting here early in the day is key to soaking in the scenery with a little bit more solitude. Camp this night was in an open desert plateau with the threatening name of Rattlesnake Mountain. No snakes were seen, just more stars, and a gorgeous sunrise that painted the surrounding mesas the most beautiful golden pink.

Throughout our time in Big Bend, the rooftop tent was an ideal travel companion. We loved being able to take advantage of the more remote campsites, and sleep soundly well above the tarantulas, scorpions and snakes that are local residents here.

On the morning of our third day, we exited the Northwest corner of the park via the Maverick Junction entrance station, putting us in close proximity for a stop in Terlingua Ghost Town for some killer chorizo breakfast burritos with a side of crazy Burning Man – style art installations.

We’re sad to leave West Texas behind us as our trip continues- there are so many more small towns and stunning vistas to explore, we highly recommend making the trek down to this, one of the most remote corners of the continental U.S.

 

Enjoying these blogs? Check out our friends Instagram feeds below and be sure to check in again for the next section of their journey. Here’s to Overroam Roof Top Tent living and traveling!

 

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