After our first day exploring the eastern reaches of Big Bend National Park, my wife and I awoke on day two within the Chisos Basin near the center of the park. Here the morning sun illuminated the distant Chihuahuan Desert through The Window, a natural gap in the surrounding Chisos Mountains.
With my wife waking up and preparing for the day I eagerly set out to hike a portion of the Window Trail.
This lower, more arid section of the Chisos Basin provided up-close looks at many of the typical Chihuahuan Desert plants, including prickly pear (Opuntia sp,. Cactaceae)…
…common sotol (Dasylirion wheeleri, Liliaceae)…
…and agave (Agave sp., Agavaceae):
Of particular interest were the individual agave plants that had grown tall flowering stalks and died. These plants develop for many years, but ultimately end their lives with an impressive flowery show.
In February the flowers had been long pollinated and had gone to seed, but the dead stalks themselves were still quite striking:
I then hiked up the base of a few trails that extended southward and upward. Although the Chisos Mountains Lodge is perhaps the “busiest” place in Big Bend, in the morning light it appeared quiet and serene in the shadow of Casa Grande:
These higher elevations harbored flora that were more at home in relative shade and moisture, including quite a few trees:
Splashes of color were provided by a few early-blooming wildflowers like this mock vervain (Glandularia sp., Verbenaceae):
With my wife ready to go we set out to explore the lower elevations of the west end of the park. On our way out we encountered a Carmen Mountains white-tailed deer (Artiodactyla: Cervidae: Odocoileus virginianus carminis), a subspecies of whitetail that calls the Chisos Basin home:
Leaving behind the relatively cool shade of the basin, the rest of day two would soon find us baked under some of the hotter, drier parts of western Big Bend.