Big Bend: The Desert Part Two


Balanced Rock 3
Taking a chance under the Balanced Rock – I think I’m safe!

Being on the road, and remaining flexible, means that plans can change, and change fast. We found ourselves with an opportunity to work in the Tetons this coming summer, so it meant that we needed to high-tail it back to Vermont earlier than anticipated to attend to some things at home.  We have to be in Wyoming by the third week in May, so we find ourselves out of the desert and in the middle of the biggest snowstorm of the season!  Ya gotta love Vermont!  I will take the opportunity to get caught up on our Southwest adventures while stationary here for a couple of months!

I need to get back to our Big Bend National Park stay and, before moving to our hikes in the Chisos Mountains here, I wanted to briefly share some other interesting hikes and places to visit in the desert.

Fossil Exhibit
Fossil Discovery Exhibit

Fossil Discovery Exhibit

The ribbon cutting for the grand opening of this new exhibit was on January 14, 2017.  So, we were fortunate to be in Big Bend just after this opened.  The price tag on this exhibit was a whopping $1.4 million and it was made possible through a successful fundraising initiative spearheaded by the Big Bend Conservancy.

Fossil Exhibit 2Fossil Exhibit 3

The weather did not cooperate the day we visited the exhibit, unfortunately.  It was cold and extremely windy.  To be honest, it was all we could do to endure the visit as long as we did.  It was pure misery!  Since the exhibit is not totally enclosed, our stay was short.  We started to hike the interpretive trail at the site but the wind deterred us!  I will go back on our next visit to the park, though.  I really wanted to spend more quality time looking over the exhibits.

Fossil Exhibit 4
Inside the partially covered building – there are many exhibits that lead you through the different time periods and the natural history of Big Bend.  Fascinating!
Fossil Exhibit 5
I was particularly thrilled to come across this exhibit!  It explains the fossil we found on the Hot Springs trail along the river.

I wandered through most of the exhibit displays quickly, and did absorb a deeper understanding of the significance of Big Bend as a fossil discovery location.  I was truly enthralled by the story these fossils tell concerning the evolution of this area from a shallow sea to a wide-spread desert.  Quite amazing to me!

We actually stumbled upon some fossil evidence on one of our hikes by the river.  It’s so exciting when this happens!

Fossil on trail
Jim stumbled upon this fossil embedded in a rock along the Hot Springs Trail near the river.  I can now identify it as an example of an ammonite!

Be sure to sharpen your observational skills while hiking in Big Bend.  You just never know what you might come across 🙂

Grapevine Hills 1
Grapevine Hills

Grapevine Hills Hiking Trail

While camped at Government Springs on the Grapevine Hills Road, we took advantage of our proximity to the Grapevine Hills trail.  This trail is further down the dirt road past several other dispersed camping sites.  It’s a short hike to the much-photographed Balanced Rock.  While the Balanced Rock was certainly worth viewing, I found the geology and rock formations along the whole trail to be more of a draw for me.  The area called Grapevine Hills is an example of a laccolith – an igneous rock formation exposed by erosion over the years.  In this case, the igneous rock is syenite, a rock similar in composition to granite minus the quartz.  As the rock heated up and cooled long ago, it caused the rock to break apart into these rough boulder-type chunks that are visible today due to weathering and erosion.

Grapevine Hills 2
The unique rock formations in this area.  My elementary geology knowledge is challenged here – but I love reading about how this was all formed.
Grapevine Hills 3 path
Part of the trail  through the draw formed between the rock *hills*

A process called spheroidal weathering is the technical term for the types of patterns visible on the rock formations in this area.  That’s a VERY basic geologic explanation for the complicated process that formed this area!

Balanced Rock 4
Example of spheriodal weathering near Balanced Rock
Balanced Rock
I wonder how long this rock will stay balanced!?  Any guesses??

Next up folks – those amazing Chisos Mountains!!

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