Open Fire Camping in Big Bend

Written by Malee Bringardner

Big Bend

When life feels too big, one my favorite self-care practices is to retreat to nature for several days of hiking and camping.  One of the most import logistics of such a trip is being well-fed with nourishing, easy-to-assemble meals that everyone can participate in making (and eating!).

Last month my husband and I, along with close friends, packed up our truck and made the seven-hour drive out to Big Bend.  The drive is a pleasure in itself, as Austin’s Hill Country melts into desert until you finally enter the park gate and behold the rock formations springing up out of the desert, growing larger before giving way to the Chisos Mountains.  We love Big Bend because it is one of the darkest places in the U.S., and looking skyward on my first visit there I felt as if I had been lied to my entire life about stars. I had just accepted that there were only a few hundred stars we could see from earth, but at Big Bend, there are over 2,000 stars visible on a given night.

We arrived late and wanted to get an early start, so I prepped breakfast for the next morning; hearty overnight oats, which make for a quick meal that will fuel you for a long day of hiking.  The next morning I rose in time to see the sunrise cast orange and gold on the rock faces around me.  Prioritizing coffee, I boiled water over our campfire and then finished assembling toppings for our oatmeal while waiting for the rest of our group to wake up.

Berry Overnight Oats

Our hike that day was the Window Trail, which ends at what was once the mouth of a waterfall. The water has carved the rock perfectly smooth at the window and the wind pushes back against you, so we are careful as we reach the lookout.  After a long day we make it back in time to cook dinner before the sun sets, which is important because cooking in the dark is fairly difficult. It's cold in the Basin after sunset, so we try to cook things that will keep us warm through the night.

The next day we drive out to the Boquillas Hot Springs, which sits beside the Rio Grande River. In 1909, a bathhouse was built on the hot springs because of their reputed healing properties. Thebathhouse is gone but the foundation remains, which is perfect for sitting with your arms in the hot springs and your legs in the cool river, looking across the water to Mexican shore. After the Springs, we drive to Santa Elena Canyon trail. The drive is over an hour, but well worth it.

This ended up being the coldest night yet of our trip, so we treat ourselves to dessert after dinner and then we all lay down to watch the stars. They are just as breathtaking as that first look. If you are patient, you’ll see shooting stars.



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