Traveling through Texas is pretty much unavoidable if you’re heading west as we were, and it’s a BIG state! It’s not one of our favorite states to visit, but there are a few locations that we really like, and Austin is one of them. And we had friends who were currently there, so it was a no-brainer to go there again. As usual we stayed at McKinney Falls State Park which is a great park and has easy access to Austin. This was just a quick 3-night stay, but we made sure to meet up with our friends Brian and Maria (The Roaming Pint) one night at a very cool restaurant they suggested called the Whip In. We are also joined by one-half of Ardent Camper – Josh. Wife Marie was off on a business trip so we sadly didn’t get to meet her this time.
And what else do you eat when in Austin, but BBQ! There are so many different options to choose from, but we picked a food truck called Valentina’s that is relatively new but had some really great reviews on Yelp. We had amazing timing as there were only 2 people in line when we got there, but within minutes there were about 20 people in line behind us. It’s BYOB so we prepared ahead and brought a cooler. Deas got the brisket sandwich and I got 2 tacos. It was all delicious.
Deas was REALLY excited about his brisket!
We met up with Brian one more time on our last night at Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company, which had great beer and was super dog friendly.
Next stop for us was Big Bend National Park, which was a long 7 hours away (Texas is BIG). We got an early start, took turns driving, and made it to Marathon, TX which is just about an hour outside of Big Bend. Marathon is a tiny little town but had an RV park (Marathon Motel & RV Park) and a super cool little bar (White Buffalo Bar) right down the street.
The next morning we got up early and headed into the park to try to get a spot in the Rio Grande Village campground which is first-come-first-served. There were only a handful of sites left that would fit us so we were very happy we were able to snag one.
We spent the first afternoon exploring by car, taking in all the beautiful scenery.
Big Bend is right on the border with Mexico, and there is a Rio Grand overlook a short drive from the campground. The Mexican people frequently cross over the river via horse back and leave small trinkets for sale on the US side.
There was a plastic jar you could put money in if you wanted to buy one of the items. And you could clearly see the Mexicans hanging out with their horses right on the other side of the river.
The next day we did the Hot Springs Canyon Hike along the Rio Grande River, which starts out near some ruins from a resort which was built for people visiting the hot springs.
There was also another one of those trinket stands….I’m still kind of mad I didn’t buy one of these “No Wall” koozies!
Also near the beginning of the trail you can walk right down to the river. There was a group of people on a canoe trip that stopped here for lunch and left their canoes on the riverbank.
And one of them was nice enough to offer to take a picture of me and Deas together.
A short walk down the trail is the pool for soaking in the hot springs. It was pretty warm the day we did this hike so it wasn’t too appealing to us at the time, but what a great place to take a soak!
The hike was filled with beautiful views of the Rio Grande and Mexico on the other side.
At some point I realized that a couple I follow on Instagram – Ryan and Rebecca of Our Streamlined Life – was also in Big Bend. I sent them a message and we made plans for them to join us at our campsite one night. We really hit it off with them and had a great time. We made plans to meet again for lunch the next day as well – hope to run into them again somewhere!
Big Bend is a huge park, and our campground was on the southeast side of the park. We wanted to see other areas, so one afternoon we drove over to the west side of the park. We stopped at Santa Elena Canyon, which has a very popular hike into the canyon. But we had the dogs in the car with us and it was too hot to leave them, so we had to settle from just looking at the canyon from a slight distance.
Then we drove along the 13-mile dirt Old Maverick Road.
The scenery everywhere was gorgeous.
As we were driving down the road I noticed something on the map that said “Luna’s Jacal.” Once we got to that spot on the map, we saw this tiny little structure.
A nearby sign explained that this is actually a house built by a man named Gilberto Luna, and he raised his family here. He lived here until he died until 1947, at the age of 108! And we think living in an RV is tiny living….
Since we were already on the west side of the park, we took a quick drive to the nearby town of Terlingua. This is a quirky little town with a funky vibe, and I wish we could have spent more time there. We only had an hour or so before we had to head back to the RV, but we had a couple of beers at the Starlight Theater and enjoyed talking to some of the locals and petting their dogs.
Our last night in Big Bend, we took a short hike from our campground to the top of a nearby hill, which we heard was a great place to watch the sunset. And it was!
We would have liked to spend a few more days in Big Bend, but we had a reservation in San Diego coming up, and still had many more miles to go before we got there, so we had to go. On our way out of town we drove past the famous Prada “store” in Marfa. But since we had such a long drive planned for that day, we didn’t stop. Instead, I just waved at it as we drove by. See ya later, Texas!