We were happy to spend some of November and all of December between Arlington and Austin, Texas. In the Arlington area, we stayed at Texan RV Ranch in Mansfield and Loyd Park at Joe Pool Lake. In Austin, we alternated between Emma Long Metropolitan Park, Bastrop State Park, and McKinney Falls State Park.
It was really wonderful to spend time with friends and family and celebrate the holidays together. We are so fortunate to have friendships and connections that withstand being away from people for months at a time. It was so great to be able to see friends we hadn’t seen in months and pick up right where we left off. Although we enjoyed seeing friends and family and being home for the holidays, we were definitely ready to get back on the road!
We left Austin behind and began the long journey west to Big Bend National Park. We first headed to Rocksprings, Texas to spend a couple of nights at our friend’s. They are in the process of building a gym and had a lovely parking lot for us to spend a few days in. It was really great to catch up with friends and nice to have a spot to stay to break up the drive out to Big Bend. If you ever find yourself in Rocksprings, Texas, you should definitely go check out The Forge and say hello to Kayla and Chad. They’re wonderful people! Or find them on Instagram @theforgerocksprings. Their gym is gonna transform their community!
Big Bend National Park
About four years ago we decided to go camping in Big Bend. We were totally unprepared for the weather and ended up only staying one night. Totally crazy considering we drove about nine hours to get there and only stayed one night, but it was so cold and we were not ready for the temps. This time we were ready for the weather (and not staying in a tent).We were excited to head back to the area and spend a few days exploring. We were also excited because two of Meaghan’s best friends were joining us to ring in 2019 in this beautiful part of Texas.
Big Bend is one of the most beautiful places in Texas and an amazing retreat from other areas of the state. It was refreshing to get away from everything after being in such large cities the past month. The Chisos Mountains are amazing and the park is truly one of a kind and a must see! We visited during the government shutdown of 2018 so were unable to explore some of the areas including Santa Elena Canyon, but we still had a great time. We stayed at Paisano RV Ranch which was located right outside of Terlingua and about fifteen minutes from the entrance to the park. It was a nice, small park with a convenient location to both Big Bend and Terlingua.
Meaghan, Susie, and Layne decided to tackle Emory Peak on New Years Eve. Emory Peak is the highest point in the entire park and requires a strenuous uphill hike with 2,400 feet of elevation gain and some rock scrambling at the end to get to the very top. Their plan was to make it to the top in time to enjoy the sunrise from the top of the park. They woke up at 4:15 in order to drive into the park and make it to the trailhead in time to get started. They left the trailer around 5 and ended up arriving at the parking lot at around 5:45 a.m. Next, they started walking to where they believed the trailhead was. Wrong. So they walked back to the car and drove to the correct parking lot.
They started walking to the trailhead and again realized they were wrong, now they were hiking on the interpretive trail instead of the Emory Peak Trail. Finally, at around 7 a.m. they got started on the right trail. Save yourself some time and access the trailhead by parking by the Chisos Lodge and head to the Basin Trailhead. From there, you take Pinnacles Trail and will eventually connect to Emory Peak.
This trail was AMAZING! The views once you gain some elevation were really incredible and breathtaking. As you can guess by the start time mentioned above, they did not make it in time for the sunrise, however it was still a great hike and we highly recommend it. It was so cool to see the stars fade away as the sun began to rise, so it was still worth it the early start time.
Once we made it to the top, we had to scramble up to the very top. We almost didn’t do it, but with encouragement and peer pressure of others making it up, we did it! This was probably one of the scariest things we’ve done, way scarier than Angel’s Landing in Zion because there are no chains or anything to hold on to and the drops are terrifying. But, we made it and the views of the entire park were magnificent!
The trail took us almost all day. It took us about four hours to make it to the top and we didn’t get back to our car until around 3:30. We’re pretty slow, but if you plan to do this hike make sure you have time, water, and snacks. We packed a lunch and took a break on our way down to eat. This was definitely one of the best hikes we’ve done! It was really challenging but really fun and rewarding.
Starlite Ballroom in Terlingua
After Emory Peak, we were exhausted but it was New Years Eve! We couldn’t not celebrate! We decided to head in to town to check out what was happening in Terlingua. Finally, we decided to stop into the Starlite Theater. They had music and it wasn’t too crowded, we were shocked considering it was one of the few bars in town and it was New Years. We had fun ringing in the New Year together in such a cool place. Starlite Theater is a must visit if you come to the Big Bend/Terlingua area. Enjoying a beverage on the patio at sunset (which we didn’t get to do this time) will complete your trip to Terlingua. Check out the shop next door for lots of unique souvenirs too!
“It’s New Year’s Day Here on the Border”
On New Years Day, we decided to go check out the natural hot springs in Big Bend. We drove about forty five minutes into the park, the last bit being on a rough one way road, but we made it to the Hot Springs Historic District parking area! We then hiked about a quarter of a mile to get to the hot spring. There is a bathroom near the parking lot that you could use if you needed to change, or just find a spot where you’re hidden by trees near the hot springs, whatever you’re in the mood for!
The hot spring is relatively small, but the water is nice and warm! There were a good amount of people there while we were there, but it didn’t feel too crowded. The hot spring is right on the Rio Grande and it was relaxing to soak in the hot waters while watching the river flow by. It was a great way to spend New Years Day and we would highly recommend this area if you visit Big Bend!
From Big Bend, we hit the road for Las Cruces, New Mexico. We were racing against the weather as a snowstorm was supposed to hit Las Cruces that evening. We went passed through Alpine, Texas right after some ice and drove through a winter wonderland. It was beautiful to see the west Texas landscape covered in white. As we passed through El Paso and into New Mexico, the snow really began to fall. It was exciting for us since we’ve never seen much snow and the roads were completely fine.
We arrived to our boondocking site at Sierra Vista campground in the Organ Mountain – Desert Peaks National Monument and were pleasantly surprised! We had seen photos of it and read reviews, but this site was unbelievable! The views of the mountains were stunning, the road was great and easy to drive on, and sites were clearly designated. This was definitely one of our favorite boondocking sites we’ve stayed at so far. The Organ Mountains were amazing. We honestly didn’t even know they existed before staying here. We dubbed them “The Tetons of New Mexico” because of their beauty and similarities to another one of our favorite places.
Las Cruces and Mesilla
We really enjoyed Las Cruces! It had everything we need in a town (grocery stores, post office, laundry) and tons of other stuff! There was also NO traffic. We both found ourselves in complete shock while driving on the highway at 5 p.m. and there not being anyone else around. Coming from Austin, we just expect the highway to be a parking lot during rush hour. Nope, not here!
We explored the downtown area in search of some cards or postcards, but couldn’t find what we were looking for. However, we found Organ Mountain Outfitters which was a really cool local shop and Coas Books, a neat bookstore. We eventually picked up a card at the Southwest Environmental Center, another cool spot. This area was nice and again, not crowded at all!
The Laundry Lyfe
This new lifestyle didn’t come with a washer and dryer, so finding good laundromats has been a fun new challenge for us. We have done laundry all over the country and Big Bundles in Las Cruces was seriously the BEST! They had super fast wi-fi so we could work while getting our laundry done, it was amazingly clean (like we didn’t totally freak out and feel the need to rewash something if it fell on the ground), good prices, super nice employees, and to top it all off, they were playing Twister (one of Matt’s favorite films) while we were there. If you’re in Las Cruces and need to do some laundry, this is where you need to go.
We wanted to enjoy some Mexican food while in New Mexico and decided to check out a spot in Mesilla, a town near Las Cruces, called Andele. The reviews and talk of a salsa bar sold us. We knew it was gonna be good as soon as we tasted the chips and salsa. We regret not buying a bag of those chips honestly. Matt had a combo plate that offered a little bit of everything with their green sauce and Megzi had cheese enchiladas with green sauce. Being from Texas we are kind of particular when it comes to Mexican food and this was delicious. We also enjoyed a slice of tres leches cake for dessert and it was great.
On the way home we found a custard place and decided to try this as well because YOLO, right? Caliche’s had so many different choices but we settled on the Adobe Mud: frozen chocolate custard with espresso, caramel, and oreos and it was delicious. We highly recommend both Andele and Caliche’s, if you find yourself in the Las Cruces/Mesilla area. You won’t be disappointed.
Hiking in the Organ Mountains
We did a few hikes while in Las Cruces and they were all great. All provided views of the spectacular Organ Mountains and lots of desert vegetation. We hiked a bit of the Sierra Vista Trail, Soledad Canyon, and Baylor Pass Canyon. Since all of these hikes are on a national recreation area, Gizmo got to join us!
Soledad Canyon and Baylor Pass Canyon
Soledad Canyon was a nice 3.4 mile loop trail that led to a waterfall. The waterfall was partially frozen when we visited but that made it even more beautiful to us! We got to hike through some snowy sections which we enjoyed and got to see lots of desert plants.
We were going to try to hike some of the Organ Needles Trail, but unfortunately due to the government shutdown, we were unable to get to the trail head. We found Baylor Pass Canyon nearby and decided to hike it instead. Baylor Pass Canyon is a 6.3 mile out and back trail. This was another beautiful trail with lots of sections covered in snow. At 6 miles this was Gizmo’s longest trail to date, but she loved it! She likes eating snow and as long as it’s cool outside she would probably hike all day.
We had originally only planned to stay in Las Cruces for one or two nights, but we loved it so much we ended up staying for four nights! We are excited that since we don’t have any reservations yet this year, our schedule is more flexible and if we find a spot we truly love we can stay longer. This is helping us be more present and really enjoy the places we are when we’re there.
Leaving this site was hard but we were excited to make our way to Sedona, AZ and enjoy the Red Rock country that we love so much. Make sure to check in next time!