photography, random thought, travel

#FindYourPark | BIG BEND

Now we’re talking! Big Bend is my home park… So I’ve got lots of good insight for you here.

I’ve been making the 9 hour drive to this remote National Park for the last 15 years (over 20 times!), and I can’t think of a better place to go. What is it that keeps me going back?? Well, if you like to explore, find solitude, star gaze, hike… you’re in luck. And if you like 4×4 roads, there are over 150 miles of dirt roads (more than any other park in the continental U.S.!) for you to drive and explore.

driving the chisos basin road in big bend national park, texas

ARS_BBNP_150408_9670

ARS_BBNP_150408_9704

During a few weeks in March/ April every year, the desert comes alive with color. Texas wildflowers dot the vast, wide open spaces of Big Bend, and the otherwise drably colored desert flora become neon green with life.

ARS_BBNP_150408_9800

ARS_BBNP_150409_9989

ARS_BBNP_150408_9706

agave americana (century plant) in bloom in juniper canyon, big bend national park, texas

ARS_DVN_150404_7474

But it’s not only Spring that is magnificent in Big Bend… Winter is actually one of the favorite times of year for seasoned BBNP adventurers. And it’s really simple… the Chihuahuan desert stays quite mild in temp throughout the whole season. A great place for snow birds to escape the cold get a little r+r.

sunset over the chihuahuan desert, big bend national park, texas

ARS_BBNP_150409_9981

You know, come to think of it, I’ve been in every season… and they each have their benefits. Fall is nice and mild. Summer’s pretty hot, but you get to see some of the most spectacular lighting storms you’ve ver witnessed.

Let’s just get something out of the way here early… Yes, there are snakes. Well, and lots of other creepy crawlies. It’s a desert, so you can expect many of your phobias to run wild… unless you’re like me and you love these fascinating creatures. But let me calm your fears… Though they are there, it is pretty rare that you come across any snakes, tarantulas, locusts, centipedes, etc., unless of course, you’re looking for them. :)

ARS_BBNP_150409_0295

ARS_BBNP_150409_0283

But you might not be expecting some of the other amazing fauna of Big Bend. There are javalina, jackrabbits, black bear, bobcat, mountain lion, deer, and so much more.

black-tailed jackrabbit in big bend national park, texas

giant millipede, big bend national park, texas

Getting There

So why is Big Bend the Nation’s least visited National Park?? Well, one of it’s greatest strengths is also a weakness in some folks’ eyes. It is REMOTE. The closest airport is in Midland, Texas (MAF), which is about 4 hour drive. You can also fly into El Paso (ELP), but you’re looking at closer to a 5 hour drive. From Dallas, it’s a 9 hour drive and from Austin, it’s 7.

But it’s exactly this very remote aspect that makes it so special in many ways. Ever visited Yosemite or Yellowstone in the summer? Then you’ll know how difficult it can be to hear yourself think! Even in the backcountry, it is common to pass dozens of hikers and backpackers in some of the more popular parks. I know, I know… it doesn’t keep me from going either. But the benefit of Big Bend is that you can have a once in a lifetime personal experience with nature in one of our Nation’s (and the world’s, for that matter) most spectacular natural treasures. If you’ve ever been, you know what I mean… don’t fool yourself by leaving this park off your bucket list because it’s a pain to get to.

Trust me on this.

Where to Stay

National Park tip #2: If you recall my NP tip #1 from Mount Rainier, you’ll be thrown a bit for a loop at BBNP. Big Bend is in Texas, which has very little public land left, so the park is surrounded mostly by private ranches. And it is such a huge piece of land (over 800,000 acres!), that you really do want to stay in the park, to get the most out of your time.

So where to stay??

Well, you may be drawn to the designated campsites, like Rio Grande Village, Cottonwood, or Chisos Basin, but in my opinion, the “backcountry” drive up sites are the best. You’ll pay around $14 per night for the maintained campgrounds and likely have loud neighbors. If you instead go to the office at Panther Junction and ask for a backcountry drive up site, you’ll pay $12 for a full week! No facilities, but plenty of nature and solitude… now that’s my kind of experience.

ARS_BBNP_150408_9837

If you need the amenities of home, well you too are in luck! The Chisos Mountain Lodge offers several rooms and private cabins, nestled in the beautiful Chisos Basin, at reasonable nightly rates. And with a restaurant just a short walk away, it’s quite a comfortable stay. We prefer to get away and rough it, but to each their own…

camping in the desert on the dodson trail, big bend national park, texas

What To Do

Hiking is one of the most common and popular activities at Big Bend. There are hundreds of miles of trails that span every ecosystem of the area including the surprisingly robust Chihuahuan Desert, the high mountain desert plateau of the Chisos Mountains, and the flood plains of the mighty Rio Grande river. Be advised though, depending upon what time of year you visit, it is recommended that you bring 1 gallon of water per person per day you will be out.

ARS_BBNP_150406_7799

ARS_BBNP_150406_7790

ARS_BBNP_150408_9929

Bird Watching is another popular activity in and around the park. Big Bend’s location, near the 100th meridian in the middle of the continent and along a migration route, is ideal for bird diversity throughout the year. It is also the year round home to some fascinating species, like the Peregrine Falcon, Mexican Jay, Colima Warbler, and Roadrunner.

ARS_BBNP_150408_9788

Backpacking

With 42 backcountry campsites in the Chisos mountains accessible only by foot, Big Bend boasts some pretty epic backpacking. However, due to rocky conditions, high temps, very dry air, and the extreme remoteness of the backcountry, novice backpackers are discouraged from testing their limits here. Each year, park rangers respond to emergencies when hikers are not prepared for the heat and extreme conditions of the desert. Please be sure to check in with the backcountry permit office before embarking on your journey… permits are required and will give you a heads up on any dangers you might encounter.

ARS_BBNP_20151118_3697

ARS_BBNP_150405_7747

Stargazing

Big Bend is known as one of the most outstanding places in North America for star gazing.  In fact, it has the least light pollution of any other National Park unit in the lower 48 (according to NPS). This is the best of surprises to visitors when they see the Milky Way in its full glory for perhaps the first time in their life. Realistically one can see approximately 2000 stars on a clear night here compared to perhaps a few hundred in a medium sized city.

So if you’re in to astrophotography like me, this is the place for you! You might even want to consider joining me for my annual Big Bend night and landscape workshop.

Starrs over the Chisos

ARS_BBNP_20151116_2076

ARS_BBNP_20151118_3855

ARS_BBNP_20151116_2047

There really is nothing like Big Bend. You have to see and experience it to understand. And as you’ll surely come across, those who have been, never stop making their pilgrimages back to that magical swath of desert. Some more frequently than others, but it is said that “you never go to Big Bend just once in your lifetime.”

What to See

I’m guessing if you’ve read this far, you’re in. “So,” you might be asking, “what are the main sights to see?” Well, there are several very famous spots, but just know that there are also many hidden gems in Big Bend that may not be on any of your maps or guidebooks. That’s okay, you can definitely find some them… you just have to be a little resourceful and very respectful of these precious few secret places. People are usually happy to share their favorite off-map trails.

Since this is simply an introduction, and by no means a comprehensive guide, I will only mention a few of my favorite spots. I’ll leave the rest up to you… And if you’re really interested in a guided experience, and you’d like to see all of my favorite secret spots, come with me in March!

The Dodson Trail gives you unparalleled views of the Chihuahuan Desert and Mexico to the South.

panoramic view of the chihuahuan desert from the dodson trail, big bend national park, texas

The River Road is a most exciting (but very dangerous) 4×4 road that gives you access to the most remote campsites in the park, but also some of my favorite views. Be warned that this is an incredibly remote, oft void of any human activity for days, 4 wheel drive high clearance vehicle road. Many people have gotten themselves stuck out here and had to hike for days to get out without ever seeing another soul… Not naming any names here…

tent camping at dusk on the rio grande and the chisos mountains in big bend national park, texas

rio grande and the chisos mountains in big bend national park, texas

The view from Emory Peak is quite spectacular. It’s the tallest point in the park at just over 7,800 feet.

ARS_BBNP_150408_9804

The area around Panther Junction provides amazing views for sunset and sunrise. You can look back into the desert to the North or watch the light dance on the Chisos to the South. Either way, you won’t be disappointed. Dusk and dawn out here is well worth losing sleep, I promise.

colorful dawn over the chihuahuan desert in big bend national park, texas

Santa Elena Canyon is one of the most famous sights in the park. Ansel Adams even photographed this… it is a must see.

sunrise on santa elena canyon and rio grande in big bend national park, texas

ARS_BBNP_150405_7739

There is so much information on this lesser-known park, I could seriously spend months writing about this special place, revealing so many of its secrets. But here’s where I leave you… with a simple call to action. Go. See. Explore for yourself, and experience why this is one of America’s greatest treasures!

— andrew

P.S. with all of these #findyourpark posts of late (and many more upcoming), I wanted to let you know about a wonderful organization that works hard to help preserve our Nation’s most magical places, The National Park Foundation. In honor of the NPS Centennial this year, I have put together a special collection of (some never before seen) my favorite National Park prints. Please check it out and know that 5% of all the profits from the sale of this artwork will be donated to the Foundation. We will be visiting almost all of the 59 National Parks this year, so check back often as we will be updating the page regularly. Thank you so much for your support!


 
Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
Big Bend NP // Night/ Landscape // 2016
Isle of Skye // S C O T L A N D // 2016
Highlands // S C O T L A N D // 2016
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
Image Brief // Andrew R. Slaton
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew R. Slaton | photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2016
 
 
Standard
photography, random thought, travel

Winter in Big Bend

We just returned from our annual birthday trip for Ellen to Big Bend. And this one was extra special.

It’s always a special experience to spend time in nature at one of our national treasures. But Ellen and I are making some big changes in our businesses and life together, and we needed time to “recharge our batteries.”

See, we get our energy from alone time. I guess that’s the classic definition of introverts. But we’re not exactly classic introverts. We love people and social situations… we just don’t exactly get our energy from others.

The last few months have been busy with preparing to go on the road full time… getting rid of a lot of “stuff”, cold calling potential brand sponsors and partners, working overtime to increase our social presence, etc. It’s been so fun, but also utterly exhausting. It’s been work, I guess you could say. :)

So we headed out to the desert for 10 days or so. To of course get a little work done, but mostly to relax and recharge.

ARS_BBNP_20151115_9512

ARS_BBNP_20151112_0001

ARS_BBNP_20151112_0045

ARS_BBNP_20151112_0056

ARS_BBNP_20151112_0083

ARS_BBNP_20151112_9449

ARS_BBNP_20151112_0110

ARS_BBNP_20151112_0113

ARS_BBNP_20151113_0194

ARS_BBNP_20151113_0198

ARS_BBNP_20151113_0308

ARS_BBNP_20151114_0371

ARS_BBNP_20151114_0404

And as a bonus, a few great friends showed up to spend a little QT with us…

ARS_BBNP_20151114_0723

ARS_BBNP_20151114_0834

ARS_BBNP_20151115_1732

ARS_BBNP_20151115_1793

ARS_BBNP_20151115_1837

ARS_BBNP_20151115_1885

ARS_BBNP_20151116_1911

I finally started a series I’ve been wanting to do for a while now. Dave is the first installation of a portrait series I’m doing of National Park volunteers. Now, whenever we visit a park, I aim to meet and photograph one of our many wonderful volunteers. They give their time to help provide information to visitors and to keep the parks clean. Thanks Dave for your service, and for being my first!

ARS_BBNP_20151116_1914   ARS_BBNP_20151116_1920   ARS_BBNP_20151116_1930

ARS_BBNP_20151116_1996

ARS_BBNP_20151116_2012

ARS_BBNP_20151116_2014

ARS_BBNP_20151116_2023

ARS_BBNP_20151116_2029

ARS_BBNP_20151116_2032

ARS_BBNP_20151116_2038

ARS_BBNP_20151116_2047

ARS_BBNP_20151117_3521

ARS_BBNP_20151118_3568

ARS_BBNP_20151118_3574

ARS_BBNP_20151118_3580

ARS_BBNP_20151118_3586

ARS_BBNP_20151118_3697

ARS_BBNP_20151118_9519

ARS_BBNP_20151118_3720

ARS_BBNP_20151118_3855

ARS_BBNP_20151118_3865

ARS_BBNP_20151119_3900

ARS_BBNP_20151112_9988

It feels like we never have enough time in Big Bend. But it is our “home” park, so when we hit the road full time, I know we will make it a base of sorts. Big Bend is a really special place. If you’ve never been, you need to add it to your park bucket list. Better yet, come with us in March and expand your photographic skills.

Hope to see you all out in the desert soon!

— andrew


 
Join me on an amazing adventure… check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
Big Bend NP // Night/ Landscape // 2016
Isle of Skye // S C O T L A N D // 2016
Highlands // S C O T L A N D // 2016
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
Image Brief // Andrew R. Slaton
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew R. Slaton | photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2015
 
 
Standard
photography, travel

Big Bend // R+R

stars over the chisos basin in big bend national park, texas

You can’t travel all the way to Marathon, TX for work and not at least spend a night or two under the stars in Big Bend.

So after our interior shoot for the Gage Hotel, we did just that.  And I barely even picked up my cameras.  I know, hard to believe… but it’s true.

A lone coyote wanders the desert in Big Bend National Park, Texas

We did see a coyote wandering the lonely draws and bluffs in the iconic desert landscape… so of course I had to snap one…

ARS_ESY_20140131_6941

And then we did a quick Ellen Slaton | yoga commercial shoot for my wife’s new venture.

She recently finished teacher training here in Dallas and is now a certified yoga instructor!

ARS_ESY_20140131_6953

Her heart is to “love others through the practice of yoga and perhaps share a bit of the peace I find when I can escape to my mat, chill out my brain, listen to the Lord, & find strength…”

Thankfully, we found a little peace in the desert that weekend after a long week of working hard.  It’s important sometimes for me to set my camera down and use my own God-given senses.  It doesn’t happen often enough… but now I’m making a conscious effort.

— andrew

___________________________________________________________________________________________________
 
If you are interested in learning more about photography, taking your art to a new level please check out my new workshop dates:
 
Big Bend Photographic Tour/ Workshops 2014
More Destination Photo Tours/ Workshops 2014
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // andrew r. slaton
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
andrew r. slaton // photographer // printsFor assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.comThanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2014
Standard
art, landscape, photography, random thought, travel, workshop, writing

big bend // revisited… part 2

Once again, I woke up before the sun…

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0076

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0077

And witnessed a spectacular sunrise over the Chihuahuan Desert, with both Texas and Mexico in view.

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0078

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0079

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0080

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0081

Everything in the desert seems to want to hurt you.  It’s an amazingly inhospitable place.

Maybe that’s why I love it.  It continually screams at me to leave, and I, unrepentantly scream back at it, “no!”

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0082

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0083

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0084

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0085

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0086

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0087

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0088

Mariscal mine settlement.  When you visit this small village (seriously) in the middle of nowhere… it really does make you think about how beautifully tough our forefathers must have been.

This place is so difficult to get to and remote, that few people even nowadays visit.  What with our air conditioned cars and four wheel drive.

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0089

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0090

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0091

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0092

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0093

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0094

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0095

So I finnally exited the River Road and hit pavement.  It’s funny the feeling you get when you’ve only felt super bumpy, unimproved dirt tracks underneath you for two days – driving 20 miles an hour, because if you drove any faster you’d surely bottom out or receive a flat for your insolence and disrespect to the road – finally being lifted up on to the smooth ride of a highway, and potential speed of 65.  I love it.  Kinda feels like you just won the lottery.  Undeserved and glorious.  Thankful you made it off that God-forsaken death trap of a road.  The reverse can also be true.  I LOVE THE RIVER ROAD!!

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0096

So I spent the next several hours scouting a few different locations.  The first being my evening “epic” Big Bend landscape, that attempts to sum up the place.  Tough indeed, if you’ve ever been to BBNP.

The second shot was a night, road photograph I’ve had in my mind on this trip.  I got one in RMNP, but really wanted to try one here.  I had several nice spots from which to choose.

The third and fourth theoretically could be the same spot.  One shot would be in the very early morning hours… a star picture.  And the other was a morning “epic” Big Bend landscape.

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0097

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0098

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0099

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0100

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0101

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0102

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0103

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0104

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0105

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0106

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0107

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0108

I finished my scouting with several hours to spare, so I decided to hike to one of my favorite little spots in the park, Cattail Falls.

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0109

I always go when water is scarce, so I’ve never come away with the waterfall picture I want, but it’s a great little hike and the only place I’ve ever seen a bear in the park.

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0110

By the time I got back, it was late afternoon… time to begin my work for the evening.

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0111

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0112

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0113

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0114

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0115

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0116

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0117

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0118

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0134

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0119

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0120

I ended up with a few shots I like, so I called it a night… at least get a few hours of sleep.  Back up at 4 a.m. to shoot the stars and catch what would be a gorgeous sunrise.

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0121

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0122

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0136

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0124

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0125

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0126

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0127

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0128

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0129

That morning was a sunrise-to-end-all-sunrises.  At this point, it was as good a time as any to quit while I felt ahead.

And besides, I was into my third week of being on the road…. living out of my Subaru, eating lots of peanut butter and honey, sleeping alone (an activity I used to love – that I am now quite weary of) on the hard ground.

It was time to go home.  Hard to leave, but definitely time.

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0130

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0131

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0132

So I composed my last shots of the desert and mountains of Big Bend National Park, and bid it farewell… this time thankfully, it won’t be so long between visits…

If you are interested in learning more about photography, taking your art to a new level, and/ or Big Bend photography tours and workshops, please check out my new workshop dates:

Big Bend Photographic Tour/ Workshops 2013-2014

More Destination Photo Tours/ Workshops 2013-2014

If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:

Tandem Stills + Motion // andrew r. slaton

If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:

andrew r. slaton // photographer // prints

For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com

Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!

all images + content © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2013

Standard
art, landscape, photography, random thought, travel, workshop, writing

big bend // revisited

It didn’t take long to get back into the rhythm of Big Bend.

After all, it had only been 18 or so months.

But this lesser-known National Park, in the middle-of-freaking-nowehere on the border of Texas and Mexico, has been a refuge for me for the last 10 years.

In many senses of the word, I found myself in Big Bend.

I’ve found myself lost in the middle of the desert in 110 degree heat.

I’ve found myself 18 miles from any person or paved road in a almost completely submerged truck… in 110 degree heat.

I’ve found myself purposefully leaving civilization and humanity.

I’ve found myself at the top of the world on the South Rim looking out on the expanse of the Chihuahuan Desert of Texas and Mexico, in awe.

I’ve found myself coming to terms with my insecurities and problems.

I’ve found myself watching a total lunar eclipse from the South Rim of the Chisos Mountains.

I’ve found myself spending New Years Eve alone atop the Dodson Trail, happy as a clam.

I’ve found myself sharing my alone time for the first time with my (then) future wife.

I’ve found myself kissing said future wife in Boot Canyon in the fall with the maple leaves ablaze around us.

I’ve found myself returning annually to celebrate her birthday.

I’ve found myself pushing the limits on how many miles I can hike in 1 day… turns out, it’s at least 18 miles… done on two different trips :)

I’ve found myself chasing a black bear in a desert oasis.

I’ve found myself standing in the middle of the Rio Grande alone at 4 o’clock in the morning to get a star picture of Santa Elena Canyon.

I’ve found myself (more times than I can remember) talking with the God of the universe in all the glory of His creation.

I’ve found myself entering the park ill, leaving well… entering heavy hearted, leaving renewed… entering empty, leaving full.

Big Bend is a very special place to me.

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0001

I arrived in the middle of the day, so no sweeping, epic landscapes available to shoot.

I set up camp and focused on the details.

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0002

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0003

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0004

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0005

I decided to start with Santa Elena that evening, so I hiked out to scout my location.

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0006

Done.  That was quick.

I then went to Mule Ears overlook to hike the desert a bit.

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0007

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0008

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0009

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0010

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0011

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0012

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0013

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0014

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0015

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0016

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0017

Made friends with a black-tailed jackrabbit, then headed off to catch the sun going down at Santa Elena Canyon.

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0018

I went back to camp to shoot a few desert star pictures.

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0019

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0020

Got up well before the sun (4am) to shoot a star picture of Santa Elena.

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0021

Bats flew all around me as I stood in the middle of the Rio Grande until sunrise.

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0022

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0023

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0024

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0025

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0026

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0027

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0028

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0029

The sun rose high quickly.  So I moved on and headed for the infamous River Road.

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0030

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0031

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0032

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0033

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0034

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0035

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0036

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0037

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0038

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0039

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0040

Prickly Pear Cactus flowering late.

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0041

I hiked Pine Canyon.

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0042

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0043

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0044

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0045

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0046

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0047

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0048

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0049

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0050

After driving several hours on the River Road (where I drowned my truck a few years ago), I arrived at one of my old favorite campsites, Jewels Camp.

It overlooks the Rio Grande, Mexico, and the Chisos Mountains.

I would come to learn (the next day on my way out) by a border patrol agent who searched my car, that it also happens to be a favorite spot for the cartels to smuggle drugs into the U.S.

Good thing I slept that night with my .45.

On a serious note though, I have NEVER had any problems in Mexico, Big Bend, or on the River Road.  I think it’s important to draw from experience rather than fear.

Okay, so back to my trip….

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0133

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0053

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0055

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0057

Evening at Jewels was gorgeous, as it always seems to be.  The colors of the desert come alive at dusk.

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0058

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0059

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0060

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0062

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0063

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0064

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0065

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0066

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0067

I read a little that evening, and then crashed.  All this getting up at 4 a.m., hiking all day, then going to bed at 10 p.m. was truly exhausting.

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0068

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0069

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0070

But I was there to work… so before I could go to bed for the night, I had a few star pics I wanted to capture…

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0071

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0072

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0073

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0074

ARS_BBNP_blog_0713_0075

I slept SO well that night, once I actually went to sleep.  And I would need it… the rest of the trip would be jam-packed and one of the most productive adventures in Big Bend yet!

Stay tuned for the second (and possibly) third part of Big Bend // revisited!!

If you are interested in learning more about photography, taking your art to a new level, and/ or Big Bend photography tours and workshops, please check out my new workshop dates:

Big Bend Photographic Tour/ Workshops 2013-2014

More Destination Photo Tours/ Workshops 2013-2014

If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:

Tandem Stills + Motion // andrew r. slaton

If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:

andrew r. slaton // photographer // prints

For assignment work requests, please email me:  andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com

Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!

all images + content © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2013

Standard
art, photography, random thought, travel, writing

big bend birthday, year 2

if something happens at the same time two years in a row, does it become tradition?  could we say “our annual big bend birthday extravaganza”?  well, i’m going to.  starting now.

elle and i took our annual big bend birthday extravaganza a little early this year.  you see, some friends of ours decided to get married out in marathon at the gage hotel the day before elle’s birthday.  “great!” we thought.

another good excuse to create/ continue, a short-run, but beloved “tradition”.

“what do you want to do for your birthday?”  i enthusiastically asked elle a few weeks before her birthday last year.

“i wanna go backpackin’!”  she screeched back.

well, there aren’t many places to go backpacking in texas, unfortunately.  and my favorite place, big bend national park is about a nine hour drive from dallas.

so… in spite of the drive, we decided we would hike the chisos mountains of big bend (see sharing big bend).

this year, it really wasn’t much different.  her enthusiasm was the same; wide-eyed, youthful, jubilant.

the main difference was that we decided to wander the desert this time, instead of the mountains.

we camped at a bend in the river, so our view (even though camping in texas), we could see the rio grande, mexico, and then the chisos in texas.  it’s one of my favorite views in the park.  makes you think a lot about borders and survival, and how small we really are…

as night fell, the stars caught our attention.  oh the stars.

the next day we woke up and my front left tire was completely flat.  the road we were on claims many tires, and personally, it has claimed more tires (and cars for that matter) than i care to remember.  the river road.  it’s a 50+ mile long 4×4 “road”, if you can call it that in some places.

three years ago, my fourth vehicle found it’s final resting place on that road.  long story… i’ll tell the whole thing if you ask me.

anyway, back to the task at hand… i put the donut tire on, and we fled the chihuahuan desert to find a new tire.

we had fun on the drive to alpine.  elle was a belle about it.  even though it killed an entire day for us.

there may or may not have been a few swigs of wine on the way back from alpine, but i’ll never tell.

the next day we hiked into santa elena canyon, one of the park’s many popular attractions.

later that day, we also hiked one of the hidden gems of big bend, cattail falls.

and then later that evening, we did another short hike up the lost mine trail in the chisos.

that night we stayed at grapevine hills, just like we did the first night one year before.

it caused us to be a bit reflective, and think on the past year.  and laugh a bit at how far we’ve come together.

we had some dinner and some wine, and talked about where we are going.  love and marriage, etc.  life.  together.

we can do this.  life together.  some of it will be mountain tops, and some will be the lowlands.  but we seem to have a knack, and more than that, a commitment, to hiking through all of it together.  and i think that’s pretty stinking beautiful.

we woke up bright and early.

we had to leave that day to make my friend’s rehearsal dinner in marfa that evening.

but we had just enough time for one more hike…

our sojourn to balanced rock wasn’t very long but we took our time, it was beautiful.

winding through earthen spires of stone and sage and sotol.  the desert began to funnel us toward something.  neither of us had hiked this before though, so we didn’t know where or what.  but we kept going, though the landscape at times was eerie and foreboding.

along the way, ellie would jump up on the tallest rock around and scream with joy.

and that made me smile.  how couldn’t it?

and then we reached balanced rock.  it’s somewhat of a big bend cliche.

but then again, aren’t cliches cliche for a reason?

it was really amazing.  like the stonehenge of the desert, though clearly not human-born.

massive boulders balanced perfectly with one another for centuries, millennia.

resting on one another.  creating something good.  awe-inspiring.

all images and content © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2010

Standard
music, photography, random thought, travel, writing

sharing big bend

i’ve said it before; i don’t share my sacred places.  there are a select few places that i go multiple times a year to get away, clear my head, and recharge my batteries.  big bend national park is one of those places.

wyoming is as well.  and as it was, i entertained company (my brother) in october.  it was a new experience.  and a good one.  i’d even say refreshing.

so again, a few weeks ago, it was time to share.

my girlfriend elle had a birthday coming up.  i wanted to do something special for her…

“let’s go backpacking!” she said.

and so it was.  big bend, here we come!

_MG_4478AS

_MG_4492AS

_MG_4504AS

_MG_4507AS

_MG_4513AS

_MG_4531AS

_MG_4539AS

_MG_4546AS

_MG_4550AS

_MG_4563AS

_MG_4564AS

_MG_4567AS

_MG_4577AS

_MG_4604AS

_MG_4614AS

_MG_4620AS

_MG_4654AS

_MG_4659AS

_MG_4667AS

_MG_4673AS

elle had a great birthday, she said.  and i had more fun than i ever imagined… sharing one of these places that i thought was mine.

i think i’m beginning to like this “sharing” thing…

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2009

Standard