Posts Tagged ‘Old Ore Road’

The Back Country Guide to the Dirt Roads of Big Bend National Park tells us that lead, zinc, and silver ore were hauled from near Boquillas Canyon, where Larry hiked yesterday, to the town of Marathon in the early 1900s. Most of the road has been paved for a very long time and became US 385 but the southern portion of it remains unpaved and unimproved. The same book says it is passable to high clearance vehicles and that 4WD may or may not be needed. It is 26.4 miles long, passes a number of historic sites, and will be today’s adventure.

The book gives mileages to each of the points of interest and begins its tale with “The early morning sun bathes the view in a magnificent oblique light creating a scene that is as good for the soul as it is for photographs.” What more could we ask for??

We packed a light lunch with plenty to drink, the guidebook and park map, cameras and binoculars, sturdy shoes and layers of clothing against the strong winds.  Our first side trio was to Ernst Tinaja, a catch basin in a rock formation at the upper end of a wash. There were two holes there, both containing water. The larger one is deep and steep-sided and the book warns that many animals have fallen in and drowned. The geology on the way up the wash, which turned into a narrow canyon, was fascinating. The layers of rock were not just tilted and uplifted, but actually folded, even bands that were six to eight inches thick.

We were ready to ride again for a while after that scramble and we found the area overlooking an old WWI army camp set up near this tinaja. There is little sign now of all of the activity which must have taken place here.

On we went, down into washes, along the braided streams of several washes, back up the other side, out onto ridge tops with magnificent views, then back into the bottom lands. On and on. And on and on. Up and down, narrow, rocky, rough, bone-jarring. Not. Much. Fun.

By now we have a fair amount of experience with desert roads but this was by far the most challenging, most uncomfortable, and most unending road yet. The side trips made it 30 miles or more and that’s not counting what we covered on foot. At no time did the road get better. The most enjoyable part of the road were the speed limit signs posted at either end. They both said 25 mph and I don’t think we ever reached half of that.

We did find the remains of an old ranch, even the hand-dug well and fallen-over windmill, but that was only after a scramble through almost impenetrable desert brush. Remember that if it doesn’t sting, poke, stink, or pierce, it ain’t a desert plant!

The last half-dozen miles took an hour to cover. By then we were so tired of bouncing we were punchy. I tried composing this blog in my head and the only thing that’s printable is Dang, that’s a rough road! I was wishing my PT friend was nearby. Everything from T-12 to the base of my skull was in serious need of a thorough massage. Either every vertebra has been worn smooth and I should be pain free for the foreseeable future or else every muscle fiber is going to seize up about midnight.

We finally made it back to the trailer…forty five miles from where we hit a paved road…and managed to have a light supper. We decided that Grampa’s Cold Cure was also a pretty decent muscle relaxant so we each sipped one and went to bed.


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