After completing the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive and hiking Santa Elena Canyon, my wife and I had one more drive left on day two at Big Bend National Park. We headed up the primitive gravel Old Maverick Road along the western border of the park. This low, hot area is home to desert plants like yuccas as well as panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and badlands:
This end of the park also harbors some interesting cultural features. First we saw some of the ruins at Terlingua Abajo. In the early twentieth century this small farming village along Terlingua Creek provided food for area miners and ranchers. After the local economy weakened in the 1930s the town was abandoned. Today all that is left are adobe walls and a few artifacts.
The ruins of a car from the same time period provided further evidence of the people that once lived here:
Near Alamo Creek we came acros Luna’s Jacal. This structure was home to Gilberto Luna, a resident who raised a family and farmed here until his death in 1947.
Jacals are constructed of stone walls and a roof made from woven ocotillo and cane grass that is then plastered with mud. The cool shade this building offered was a nice escape from the sun.
Further up Old Maverick Road the dry Chihuahuan Desert floor harbored several species of cacti:
Just west of Big Bend is the Terlingua Ghost Town.
This settlement was established during a mining boom in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Here the mineral cinnabar was excavated and refined for its mercury content.
After the cinnabar boom ended, the town was mostly abandoned and fell into disrepair.
In recent decades some entrepreneurs have breathed new life into the town, turning it into an art community and tourist destination. It’s certainly an interesting location and worth the modest drive from the west end of Big Bend.
After re-entering Big Bend and heading back east toward the Chisos Mountains Lodge, we passed through some beautiful badlands.
We covered a lot of ground on day two and saw a variety of interesting things. The abundant sunshine left us both a bit sunburned, and we sweat more than a little in the 86 degree F (30 C) heat. Day three, however, would find us waking up under very different conditions.