The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.
Cottonwood Campground, Big Bend National Park, Texas
When my wife and I left Rio Grande Village Campground for Cottonwood Campground on the western side of Big Bend National Park we drove north on Park Rte. 12 to Panther Junction Visitor Center. Here we turned onto Gano Springs Road and headed west to Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. We turned south on this road that was intentionally laid out, as the name suggests, in order to showcase the most interesting landscape features of the park.
These white rocks are striking. A ranger told me they are the remnants of lava from an ancient volcanic eruption.
Then there is the formation named ‘Mule Ears’. But I like my own name better. ‘Batman’. Doesn’t it look like Batman peeking over the mountains to see what the bad guys are doing?
Here are some more interesting formations along Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.
Born and raised in the Midwest, views such as these amaze me. The desert floor, the cacti and other scrub, the varying contours and colors of the rocks, the crystal blue quality of the sky on a sunny day. God put a lot of detailed work into this one little remote corner of the world.
There are gravel roads like this all through the park.
They are recommended for four-wheel drive vehicles only and can get pretty rough, so we didn’t venture very far on any of them. But a lot of people do. You can get a backcountry permit and camp out in the desert for weeks at a time. I talked to some people who do this, become a desert hermit for a short time. They take small compact solar arrays with them that unfold and look quite impressive. With all the sunshine, the desert is the perfect place for solar panels. These hermits have all the electricity they need out in the middle of nowhere. I met one man who had a small solar array set up on top of his RV and connected to some military-grade batteries. He said he could charge those batteries up and run anything off them he liked – his microwave or air conditioning, anything. I would like to try this sometime, just drive off into the desert away from everybody and camp.
One reason for doing this is the skies. The night skies are pretty amazing even in the campgrounds. Big Bend NP observes dark sky protocols and keep the light at night down to a minimum. But out in the middle of the desert there would be absolutely no light pollution whatsoever. I can’t imagine how glorious the stars would look there. Even in the campground I would lay flat on my back at night and stare up at the sky. Very restorative. I would advise anyone to get as far away as possible from light sources on some clear night and just gaze upward.
The Max Rosswell Scenic Drive ends at the Cottonwood Campground. The campground got its name from the cottonwood trees that shade it.
This rock formation dominates the campground.
Like Rio Grande Village, Cottonwood is on the Rio Grande River. The cottonwood trees are there because of the river. It created a ribbon of green on both sides as it twisted through the desert.
There must be a ranch on the Mexican side of the river across from the campground. I saw cattle grazing and horses roaming free.
The campground store is at the site of an old ranch. The park has left some old equipment once used there for people to see.
Like all national park campgrounds, there are no hook-ups. And the RV size is restricted, but I forget what the size limit is. That’s because our unit is so small we fit in just about everywhere.
There is a section of the campground set aside for groups. While we were there a group of college students were present. They were very quiet and respectful. They were there to enjoy and study nature, not to party. College students get a lot of bad press because of the drunken antics that take place during spring break and at fraternities. I’m sure most college students are serious and decorous. This particular group was a pleasure to be around.
The next Location is Cottonwood Campground 2 in Big Bend National Park, Texas.