Big Bend National Park: Day 2, Part 1

DSCF9853

The Window of the Chisos Basin at sunrise. Photographed 02/10/2014 at Big Bend National Park, Texas.

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.

DSCF9898

The Window of the Chisos Basin at sunrise. Photographed 02/10/2014 at Big Bend National Park, Texas.

With my wife waking up and preparing for the day I eagerly set out to hike a portion of the Window Trail.

DSCF9868

The Window Trail of the Chisos Basin at sunrise. Photographed 02/10/2014 at Big Bend National Park, Texas.

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)…

DSCF9857

Prickly pear (Opuntia sp., Cactaceae) photographed 02/10/2014 at Big Bend National Park, Texas.

common sotol (Dasylirion wheeleri, Liliaceae)…

DSCF9850

Photographed 02/10/2014 at Big Bend National Park, Texas.

…and agave (Agave sp., Agavaceae):

DSCF9890

An agave plant (Agave sp., Agavaceae) photographed 02/10/2014 at Big Bend National Park, Texas.

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.

DSCF9922

An agave plant (Agave sp., Agavaceae) photographed 02/10/2014 at Big Bend National Park, Texas.

In February the flowers had been long pollinated and had gone to seed, but the dead stalks themselves were still quite striking:

agaveshoot

An agave plant (Agave sp., Agavaceae) photographed 02/10/2014 at Big Bend National Park, Texas.

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:

DSCF9881

The Chisos Mountains Lodge under the shadow of Casa Grande. Photographed 02/10/2014 at Big Bend National Park, Texas.

These higher elevations harbored flora that were more at home in relative shade and moisture, including quite a few trees:

DSCF9875

The shady base of the Pinnacles Trail. Photographed 02/10/2014 at Big Bend National Park, Texas.

Splashes of color were provided by a few early-blooming wildflowers like this mock vervain (Glandularia sp., Verbenaceae):

DSCF9843

Mock vervain (Glandularia sp., Verbenaceae) photographed 02/10/2014 at Big Bend National Park, Texas.

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:

DSCF0220

Carmen Mountains white-tailed deer in the Chisos Basin. Photographed 02/10/2014 at Big Bend National Park, Texas.

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.

DSCF9924

Heading out of the Chisos Mountains. Photographed 02/10/2014 at Big Bend National Park, Texas.

Advertisements

About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Botany, Ecology, Geology, National Parks, Vertebrate Zoology, Weather and Climate and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s