Big Bend, Part 2
We got up early on our second full day at Big Bend to see if we could get some good sunrise pictures and to be in position near the Rio Grande soon after sunrise. I didn't really have a spot selected to photograph the sunrise because I expected nothing but clear skies, which make for rather boring sunrise pictures. Fortunately, when we got up, there were some clouds in the sky.
We hurried as much as we could to get into the park from our hotel on the west side of the park to the southern portion of the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. The sky to the east of the park had a lot of clouds and I was actually thinking they would block any nice sunrise. I was surprised when we came around a curve and past a hill and saw this. And this was looking away from the sunrise. After taking this image, I turned around...
and saw this. Not bad for thinking there wasn't going to be much of a sunrise. Never give up hope.
Sunrise on Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive
The place I really wanted to get to for right after sunrise was a spot we had scoped out the day before. The location was on a bluff above the Rio Grande. I was hoping to get a picture of the Sierra Ponce Mountains that lie just south of the Rio Grande with the sun shining on the ramparts. We got there a little early and I managed to find a decent spot with some foreground interest. After waiting 15 minutes or so, the mountains gave off an orange glow.
Rio Grande, Sierra Ponce, and Santa Elena CanyonBig Bend NP
When we first got to this spot and while I looking for some foreground interest, Denise was scanning the river in front of us and spotted something getting a drink out of the river--it looked like a mountain lion. I put a telephoto lens on my camera and snapped off some shots while Denise ran back to the truck for her binoculars. I wasn't sure at the time if I captured anything (I didn't have my super-zoom with me; I wasn't expecting far-off wildlife). When we got back to our hotel room later that night, I loaded up some pictures to my iPad and saw this. Later that day we told a park ranger about our sighting and he seemed pretty surprised we had seen a mountain lion down by the river.
The Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive has a number of other interesting places to see and photograph. Most of them face west and are best photographed in the afternoon hours. There are so many things to see on the drive that they can't all be done in one afternoon. So, we made numerous trips up and down that road. Here are a couple of the more interesting features.
One feature that's hard to miss is Cerro Castellan. It is the remnant of a volcano from many years ago and stands 1000 feet above the surrounding desert. Across the road from the peak are what I call "tuff dunes." Tuff is compressed volcanic ash. Further up the road is Tuff Canyon, which was carved by Blue Creek out of this compressed ash. I found the ash dunes more interesting and found a composition with the tuff and the volcanic remnant in the background.
Tuff 'n' Cerro CastellanBig Bend NP
Not too far from Cerra Castellan is a spur road to a vista for the twin peaks called Mule Ears. The Mule Ears can be seen from a number of places along the Ross Maxwell. A little further south from the official Mule Ears Viewpoint, a different angle on the peaks can be seen directly from the road.
Mule Ears Mule Ears and Octillo
I'll have one more blog post on Big Bend in a view days. Please come back again.
Keywords: Big Bend, Big Bend National Park, Cerro Castellan, Mule Ears, Sierra Ponce, Texas, mountain lion, tuff
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