We hadn’t planned on visiting Big Bend National Park when we set our 2015 travel calendar. But we also hadn’t planned on Jon attending the world’s largest gathering of radiologists just two days after Thanksgiving.
The Radiological Society of North America will hold its annual meeting in Chicago from November 29-December 4, and Jon was asked to attend so he could present a special preview edition of the department’s history book commemorating its 60th anniversary to alumni and friends attending the conference.
Typically, we visit Jon’s mom over Thanksgiving. But she lives in southern Illinois and the conference takes place in northern Illinois, so we tried to figure a way to do both. Staying in Cloud 9 wouldn’t work because there aren’t any campsites close to Alton or Chicago. We didn’t want to fly and rent cars and board dogs, so we decided to spend Thanksgiving in Texas.
And what better Texas location than Big Bend National Park?
Big Bend is the third National Park we visited in 2015 (the first two were Grand Teton and Yellowstone, in May). Call it our “Big” Bonus. We had no idea what to expect, so it truly was an adventure.
It began with a trip to the Whip In, an overnight site, in Big Spring, about halfway between Dallas and Big Bend. The weather was cold and breezy, but that didn’t stop Cliff from grilling an exceptional turkey tenderloin, with cob corn, Italian pole green beans and shallots, and a caprese salad. Let’s just say, if you’re going to overnight in Big Spring, it’s best to dine at Cucina Cliff.
A frosty morning made a bracing start to the next travel day, but we were soon on our way to the Chihuahuan Desert.
Most of the trip was uneventful. West Central Texas is generally flatland, punctuated occasionally by a town or village, with seemingly endless cotton fields. Texas is the largest producer of cotton in the U.S., and the West Central plains represent one of the largest production regions.
As we drew closer to the Big Bend region, however, the geography changed dramatically. The Chisos Mountains, accented by massive mesas and breathtaking buttes, are a wonderland. Our destination and home for the next four days was the Maverick Ranch RV Park in Lajitas, billed as “The Ultimate Hideout.” It was that, and more. As the sun set on our little camp, we sensed we were in for a very special treat.