Shit it's early. My alarm was set for 0630 and to top it off we were in a different time zone just two days ago. Tough noogies. We hatched a plan late last night to wake up before the world and get to the natural hot springs on the rio grande. Within it's swift moving waters lies a blocked off portion of natural heated bliss. We hit the road before the sun is up and get to the spot right after sunrise. Only one person is there and he seems happy enough just to have someone to talk to.
At a blissful 105° the natural hot tub warmed us from the morning air that was in the low 40's. We could only stand about 30 minutes until we were just too hot and had to get out. The rest of the day would prove itself a downhill dissapointment from here.
We encountered trinkets for sale in the morning laying out on a rock. This would be the fist time either of us had seen anyone peddling souvenirs in a national park. There was no attempt to even hide it. A pile of stuff with prices and a bucket for money next to it. We had seen the same things for sale last night at a different viewpoint.
Getting back to the RV and out of our space by 1100 am was no problem. What was a problem was garnering our passes to use the kayaks on the Rio Grande. Following a lengthy permit application and ten minutes dealing with the gal behind the desk a final conclusion was yielded. We can't go kayaking. It was the same story as captain genius from the RV check in. She waited until after everything was complete to brief me on a few important details that quite frankly are ridiculous. Each kayaker must be wearing a life vest while paddling. Each group of kayakers (me and the wife) must carry an extra PFD in case of emergency. In addition to that, each group of kayakers must also carry an extra paddle, whistle, and water supply in case of emergency. What the hell? The conclusion was simple: The park has the river "Open" to people, but they put such random restrictions around it that people can't enjoy the ride.
We passed on the pain in the ass kayaking and opted for a short hike along the river. Once more we ran into souvenirs for sale. Accompanied with them this time however was a singing mexican named Jesus. Don't judge me. His tip jar said "Tips for singing mexican Jesus". It then became clear to Katie that there was some elaborate plan on this dude illegally crossing the river to sell stuff. I said she was nuts. But then...
In this picture there is a red canoe. That red canoe was Jesus's escape route off US soil and back to Mexico. Just out of the shot was a man in a white t-shirt perched on a rock with a pair of binoculars. Elaborate Ponzi scheme indeed. I'd categorize this as another let down from the National Park Service. It's not the fact that this guy was just trying to make a few bucks illegally. It's the fact that the NPS obviously let's this happen without trying to stop it. If Katie can crack the case in under a minute I would sure hope a well paid park ranger could do the same.
Overall we'd label the park a real let down. An amazing landscape ruined by people's inability to run a decent show. To cap it off there were only a couple of places to pull off on the 40 mile trip from the entrance. What that means to the casual visitor is it's basically a straight drive through, with little opportunity to get out and explore. There were precisely zero places that our RV could pull off, and parking at the visitor centers was a joke. It turns out the the parks directive is bigger than just the inability to kayak. Big bend doesn't want people to visit. It's merely a whole bunch of government ground on the border of Mexico. Let's just call it what it is. A national park border wall. Disheartened at the lost opportunity we hit the road and jam out the miles for south central Texas.
It was another 250 miles on the road battling the veracious crosswinds. Thirty mile an hour gusts with a steady 20 mile an hour blow made driving a practice of patience. We popped into the Amistad National Recreation area just outside of Del Rio and popped a squat for $4 a night. We had the place to ourselves which is always a mixed blessing. It's nice to have acres of public land to yourself to enjoy the piece and quiet. The negative side to this is that we always feel a little uneasy without having anyone else around. So we'll just sit around cooped up and listen to the wind howl for the night.