Most of our group were there at our Margarita Hill campsite by Thursday evening. Ok Hwa and I, Steve and Kristy, Mark and Barbara, and Jack and Teresa had all arrived by Thursday, and we were expecting Mike and Maria sometime Friday. On Friday morning we got together and decided on a hike. Last year it was a guys only hike/climb to the top of Casa Grande mountain. That was a tough, but rewarding day. This year it was co-ed, so we decided not to climb any mountains. A couple of us suggested the Pine Canyon trail. It was agreed, and we loaded up in the Bronco and headed out. Along for the hike were Mark, Barbara, Jack, Ok Hwa, and myself. Steve and Kristy were going to drive into Alpine for the day. Teresa had injured herself riding my little motorcycle earlier in the day, so she was grounded with a severely sprained ankle.
Pine Canyon is on the east side of the Chisos Mountains. From Panther Junction Park Headquarters, you travel southeast on the main park road approximately six miles to the Glenn Springs road. This is an unpaved, back country road for high clearance, four-wheel drive vehicles. Down the Glenn Springs road about two miles is where the Pine Canyon Road cuts off to the right, and heads around Nugent Mountain, and up into Pine Canyon. It's another two miles or so up to the end of the road at the trailhead.
We piled out of the Bronco at the trailhead, and got on our backpacks and checked our water bottles. Mark is the alpha male in our group, and by far the strongest hiker. He and Jack started off in the lead, with Barbara following, and Ok Hwa and me in the rear. I knew Ok Hwa would slow me down, but I was resigned to keeping at her slow pace. After about a quarter mile, she decided it was too much for her, and went back down to wait for us at the car. She would busy herself taking nature pictures 'til we got back. So, freed from her slow pace, I tried to catch up with the others.
From the "Hikers Guide to Trails of Big Bend National Park" published by Big Bend Natural History Association, here is the following description of Pine Canyon Trail: "Medium difficulty. 4.0 miles round trip. The trail begins in sotol grasslands at the end of the Pine Canyon primitive road. Check with ranger about road conditions before you go. The trail climbs up through open desert grasslands for a mile before entering the canyon. Once in Pine Canyon, the trail winds through a heavily wooded section where Mexican pinyon pine, junipers, and oaks are common. Further ahead you will find ponderosa pine, Texas madrone, bigtooth maple, and Emory and Graves oaks. The trail ends at the base of a 200-foot cliff that becomes a delightful waterfall after heavy rainstorms. Longspur columbines grow under tall oak and maple trees near the base of the intermittent waterfall."
I caught up with Barbara about at the place where it turns from grassland into wooded canyon. We hiked along together, stopping occasionally to take pictures. I had also been making small video segments along the way. We knew we'd never catch up to Mark and Jack, so we didn't even try. The wooded section through the canyon was so beautiful and cool. What a welcome relief from the bright sun out in the desert. We were amazed at how cool it was up among the trees, probably a twenty degree difference from out in the sun.
At last we caught up to Mark and Jack. They were waiting for us at the end of the trail. We all thought it would be a very nice place to camp there at the base of the cliff. As long as it did not rain.
When we arrived back at our camp at the Chili Cook-Off, Mike and Maria had arrived. That completed our group. That night we enjoyed a beautiful night under the stars listening to the music of Mark David Manders, and the King Bucks.
Official site of Big Bend National Park: http://www.nps.gov/bibe/index.htm
Official site of the Chili Cook-Off: http://www.abowlofred.com/
Mark David Manders: http://www.markdavidmanders.com/
The King Bucks: http://www.thekingbucks.com/Site/Home.html