The drive through Big Bend Ranch State Park led us to Presidio, another border crossing town. Note: Big Bend National Park is a different area. The views were great, the small camp grounds along the Rio Grande were designed for small camping rigs twenty feet or less. We did see several larger units in designated dry-camp areas. I’m sure our rig could handle the 15% grade road, but why? We were surprised by the overabundance of knats, and glad we had not planned on camping here. The Rio Grande River is very shallow and not very deep in this area. It was interesting to learn there is a $5,000 fine for crossing at an unofficial crossing site.
Fort Leaton State Historic Site is within the park. The 40-room fort is one of the oldest and largest adobe buildings in Texas. It served as a home, trading post along the Chihuahua Trail, and private fortification for the Leaton family against Indian raids, and attacks by bandits and other outlaws. The on staff ranger suggested we hike Closed Canyon, we did.
Dylan and Paige, a wonderfully bright young couple where hiking out of the canyon as we were finding our way down Closed Canyon trail. We asked the usually trail questions. How far is it? Did you like it? What is there to see? Their response was alarmingly funny. Paige had to show us a video of Dylan trying to negotiate a section of the trail. As she was locating the clip Paige pointed out that Dylan was damp from the chest down. The dry climate was working for Dylan. Paige finds the video. Dylan had fallen into a four-foot-deep pool, but the hysterical part is listening to Paige, “What’s your plan?” Dylan is straddling two rocks, “Do you have a plan?” Dylan makes a few more moves, “I don’t think that’s a good plan! What’s your plan?” Splash Dylan is up to his chest in water. Laughter.
I’ve been noodling how to convey the history of Texas. We attended an hour-long presentation titled, “The Bandit Wars of the Rio Grande Valley”. Mexico extended way north approaching Missouri. The Anglo’s, the Indians, and the Mexicans all wanted the same land. It was a mess for a long time. Early year Texas Rangers were more like mercenaries with license to kill, and that is the crux of how can I feel good about modern day Texas.
Joe a historian hobbyist who conducted a presentation of the Bandit Wars of the Rio Grande Valley spent and inordinate amount of time going over the vocabulary he would be using. Texan, Mexican Texan, Mexican National, Mexican, and Anglo, emotionally I rolled my eyes. What Joe covered in an hour would take a semester to really get a handle on.
Mexican ranch land was bargained for between the two countries. From 1910 –1919 the Mexican government changed leadership ten times, ranging from forty-five minutes to one and a half years. So, who’s bargain is real, and binding? At first glance, Francisco “Poncho” Villa seems more like Robin Hood, and the Texas Rangers and Calvary are working for the evil Sheriff of Nottingham. Political best intentions, following orders, human rights, wanting to survive, doing the next right thing, was all true and part of the Wild West. Even the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco, Texas has a small amount of history for the debauched 1910 –1919 era. No wonder the Mexican ranchers wanted to make a stand.,
The Castolon Historic District visitor center within Big Bend National Park had a partial portrayal of the Texas Rangers that I found interesting. That, and looking around the terrain it is hard to imagine the area was once a cotton farm. Unfortunately, in 2019 a wildfire in Mexico jumped the Rio Grande River into Big Bend National Park. The Castolon camp store and visitor center set in a historic U.S. Army barracks was burnt down.
A popular hiking trail in Big Bend National Park is Santa Elena Canyon. We meet the nicest people on hiking trails. Jim and Ahren are traveling across the states in their travel trailer much like we are. Like us they have kind of an idea which way they would like to go, but are also making it up as they go along. We enjoyed our walk and talk time together checking out Santa Elena Canyon.
The impressive mountains and vistas, the winding Rio Grande, and history of the Big Bend area was not on my bucket list. I need a new list; Things I’ve been ignorant about.
Click here for Mexican border war complexity
Click here for Fort Leaton information
Click here of Castolon history
Big Bend Ranch State Park, drive to Presidio.
Closed Canyon Trail
Texas Rangers; early years