I was staying in Fort Stockton, so I awoke at 6am and filled out the permit and solo hiker form on El Campo, an online form that allows you to prefill all your permit details to make the process more seamless at the Ranger Station. I was on the road by 6:30am, and easily made the Panther Junction Visitors Center by 9am (the views starting at Marathon were gorgeous).
Not too many people were there, and my permit was handled very quickly (I am sure aided by completed El Campo forms). Pictures of my face, backpack and boots were taken in case of rescue purposes. Despite expectations of getting no water details, the nice Ranger who took care of me actually gave water information (dripping at Boot Canyon and reliable at Upper Juniper Canyon and Fresno Creek).
I headed over to the Basin and got a campsite for the night and set up my tent. By 10:30am I was on my way down the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive for caching at Homer Wilson Ranch and site seeing. I cached 2.5 gallons of water and food in the bear boxes on the trail down to the ranch.
I then drove down the Scenic Drive and took in the following sites:
- Sotol Vista
- Lower Burro Mesa Pouroff: Where water falls off a volcanic cliff instead of a waterfall (no water in February).
- Tuff Canyon: a small, neat canyon carved out of volcanic tuff instead of just a wide wash of hard desert floor
- Mule Ear Vista
- Castolon Visitors Center: an old military post on the Rio Grande
- Santa Elena Canyon: a really neat 1,000′ canyon that the Rio Grande carved. Mexico is right across the river – < 100′ away.
The weather was great (80 degrees). For the return trip, I took Old Maverick Road, an old washboard track that takes you near Terlingua. After returning to my campsite, I took in the Ranger talk at the lodge at 5:30pm (informative and entertaining) and had dinner. The sunset from my table at the lodge restaurant was beautiful.
The Space Station flew over the campground at 8:15pm that night, which was pretty cool.