Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Big Bend :: Hot Springs Trail

One of the easier trails in the Rio Grande Village area is the Hot Springs Trail, which takes you three miles through the hills, canyons, and desert to, where else, Hot Springs! But when the river is high, like it was on this day, the Hot Springs are flooded. So, no relaxing in the springs when you get there! When the river is low, the water from the Springs runs clear and warm. The Springs were developed in the late 1920s. There was a lodge, store, and the Spring House where visitors would soak up the powers of the mineral hot springs. The foundation is the only thing remaining of the Spring House now. The lodge and store buildings still exist though they are no longer used.

The weather forecast was for temperatures in the low 60s so I put on a sweatshirt and nylon windbreaker, packed my little bag with “energy” food to eat along the way, grabbed some water, my hat and walking stick and was on my way.

The trailhead is on the opposite side of the Village, about two miles away, so I drove the van over. After passing through the grove of green cottonwood trees the trail started up. And up. It was uphill for the first 3/10 of a mile. And not just a gradual uphill slope, but steep switchbacks that I am sure have tested many a soul, mine included! As it turned out, this was actually the hardest section of the trail (as far as going uphill, anyways).

The view from the overlook, after you have navigated the first 3/10 of a mile, uphill. It sure seemed like more than 3/10 of a mile to me!

Probably about half way out, there were three hikers making the return trip. They were the first people I had seen since starting out. Of course, they said the trek was worth it. That's what everyone says about every trail it seems. A short while later when I looked back at where I had been, I saw another lone hiker coming my way. In an odd way, it was somewhat comforting to know that someone else was behind me.

It wasn't long before the lone hiker caught up with me. I'm a slow walker, stopping often along the way. His name was Larry and he was from Wisconsin. We chatted for a minute or two and then he was on his way. I'd see him every now and then, up ahead. About this time, it was getting hot. Much hotter, it seemed, than the 60 degrees that had been forecast. I had already taken off the windbreaker and was considering the removal of the sweatshirt. Instead I pulled up the sleeves. Oddly enough it was cooler with the sweatshirt on than with the bare skin exposed to the direct sunlight.

These were growing in what appeared to be solid stone, right on the edge of the canyon. They were about 8 inches tall.

The desert sometimes appears lifeless and barren, but it is really far from it. Life is all around if you just stop to look for it.

Up and down. Following the worn trail of dust and stones. It goes on and on. The Hot Springs are down there, down by the river. Close, but oh so far away!

Getting closer. The Hot Springs are just in front of that sandbar sticking out into the river.

Looking back. At where I'd been.

I heard someone yelling but couldn't make out what they were saying. It was Larry, the lone hiker. He waited until I caught up with him then told me that he had been trying to tell me about the huge spiral fossil in the path. But I had seen it.

The fossil was at least a foot in diameter. And it was right on the pathway. You can't help but step on it as you go down the trail.

Larry and I walked together to the end of the trail. There were picnic tables beneath the shade of a huge palm tree. Upon closer inspection, the tree was made up of five palm trees clumped together, it was amazing. Even more amazing is the fact that I didn't get a picture of it! Larry and I sat beneath that aged tree and ate our lunch. We talked about everything and about nothing. Soon he was on his way back. I stayed and rested for another fifteen minutes before leaving.

The walk back seemed much harder than it was going out. There was very little shade. I found one spot where a rock overhang provided a bit of relief. It helped. I didn't think I'd have enough water so I would take small sips, just enough to wet the lips. It helped.

The last uphill stretch was the hardest. I knew I was getting close to the overlook. I knew I'd made it! And then I heard a voice. Larry had waited for me there, at the overlook. I thought, how sweet. And I thanked him. He said he was concerned since I was alone, he'd been keeping an eye out for me. He said that if I was feeling anything like he was – exhausted – that it would be nice to take a break before tackling that last downhill section.

I found a rock to sit down on. It happened to be in front of a trail sign, which was casting it's shadow. Ah, shade, just enough to get me out of the sun for a few minutes. I drank the remainder of my water and was thankful for it, as warm as it was and as awful as it tasted, it was delicious.

After about 15 minutes of rest, we continued on down the hill, meeting several other people coming up who were just going to the overlook. At the trailhead Larry and I said our goodbyes. He took the picture of me below. Not a glamorous getup, but it got the job done! If I look hot and tired, it's because I was...

Rather pleased with myself, I slowly walked to the van, pulled out a bottle of cool water and sat down in the shade of one of those glorious cottonwood trees! Then I went to the camp store and had an Ice Cream bar! Well, to be honest, I had two!


  1. Becky, What an awesome trip you are taking! I have really been enjoying all the gorgeous photographs and reading about your adventure. Be safe and enjoy every step you take.

  2. This is such a great selection of images - you really have a talent for nature photography! The spiral fossil looks like it would have been tricky to take.
    Evelyn in Montreal

  3. Your adventures remind me of some of my own!


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