Day 1: Marathon, Big Bend & Terlingua

When I initially booked my road trip through Texas and southern New Mexico, I wasn’t nervous about it. But after telling people where I was going, their nervousness of me being so close to the border by myself made me nervous. I was looking forward to the trip, but now had this anxiety that I didn’t have prior. I shared my location on my iPhone with a friend so that I would at least have someone who’s aware of where I am.

I started out the first day by boarding a plane quite early in the morning on Thursday from Tampa. The flight was into Dallas where I had a 1 hour connection. I made the boarding call for my zone on the connecting flight just in time. The Dallas airport is huge, so you have to take a little tram that goes between gates.

After touching down in Midland/Odessa (you may know of this area from Friday Night Lights), I hit up the local target for water, snacks, and anything else I may need while on the trip. I grabbed fast food for lunch and headed on the three hour drive south toward big bend.

There’s not much on the way south. There’s a town called Fort Stockton that I passed through, and then an even smaller town called Marathon. I did some research ahead of time and found that Marathon has gas, a nicer hotel, and a super adorable coffee shop. I stopped there at the coffee shop, V6, and also got gas. If you’re looking to stay outside of the park at a hotel, the Gage Hotel is a great option. They also have a restaurant that looked great called the 12 Gage as well as one called the Brick Vault Brewery and Barbecue which is looks like an old gas station that’s been redone.

It was about 45 minutes south from Marathon to the entrance to Big Bend. The views are incredible and you see the Chisos Mountains for miles. The landscape reminds me a lot of Arizona or parts of Utah. It’s pretty dry, many cacti, and more shrubs than there are trees.

There was an auto road called Dagger Flat road which was about 5 miles out that I took and did some exploring. It’s wide enough for one car, and is much more an “off road” than I anticipated. You go about 10-15 miles an hour on the entire road. The Nissan Murano did a great job navigating the rocks, silt, dirt, mud, and gullies.

After returning to the main road (which I was SO happy to see), I drove to the Panther Junction visitors center and then down to the Boquillas Canyon area. There’s a campground down there right along the Rio Grande, as well as hiking trails.

I was trying to get to my hotel and check in before sundown so I headed west toward Terlingua, a ghost town. The size of the National Park is much bigger than you’d imagine. It’s larger then the state of New Hampshire, and it took me about an hour to drive from the Boquillas area over to Terlingua if not more.

Terlingua is an incredibly small town. Do not expect a chain of any sort. The eating and lodging accommodations are also pretty limited. The population of the town is about 60 people. When I was looking at where to stay, I found a hotel in the town called La Posada Milagro. It was beautiful online so I booked the room that has a private bathroom. The directions to get there were the kind that are like “your instructions are taped to the front door of the cafe”, “turn right at the arrow”, “follow the blue lights”, and “walk down the stairs to the second door on your left”. It was already getting dark out, so navigating the dirt roads without names and finding my room took me some trial and error but I eventually found my room.

There’s wifi, but it’s pretty slow and no cell service, so I was glad I had looked up where I wanted to go for dinner ahead of time. The hotel has a restaurant called Taqueria El Milagro that’s within walking distance down a dirt road of the hotel. They have a variety of different taco options, chips and queso, and Mexican coke. I ordered chips and salsa, three tacos, and the Mexican coke. They bring out a variety of different salsas and I accidentally put the VERY spicy one on one of my tacos. I was sweating, and my eyes were watering, but I survived. I have now learned to try the salsa before using spoonfuls of it.

After dinner, I was tired from a very long day of being up as well as from driving so I went back to the hotel to relax. I spent some time figuring out my plans for the following day and then went to bed.