Closed Canyon: Hike at Big Bend Ranch State Park

Mouth of the canyon.
Mouth of the canyon.

I recommend this hike to anyone either staying near the park or passing through on FM 170. It’s a relatively easy 1.5 mile round trip hike into a 200 foot gorge. The trailhead is right off FM 170 and well-marked with little cairns until the canyon appears.

The air is cool and still in the quiet depths of the canyon. It’s quite the change from the windy mountains outside.

I hiked the canyon until I reached an impassable drop off. According to one book I read, the drop off is twenty feet at two stages. You’ll know when you’ve hit it. Without equipment, there is not a method to safely descend.

Also, before that drop, there is a ten foot high pour-off. Don’t feel compelled to make that descent if it looks too difficult. The rocks are really slippery smooth at that point, and the views don’t change much the further in you get.

I wouldn’t go near the canyon during a storm. I can only imagine how the water gets whipping around the narrow canyon. Dangerous!

Some of the vegetation you'll see.
Some of the vegetation you’ll see.
This cave is way up high on the western wall of the canyon.
This cave is way up high on the western wall of the canyon.
Some parts are quite narrow!
Some parts are quite narrow!

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Contrabando Movie Set

There's like six feet of river bed deposits in the back of this set piece. It's made of concrete and chicken wire. If I were gonna build a house, that's what I would use.
There’s like six feet of river bed deposits in the back of this set piece. It’s made of concrete and chicken wire. If I were gonna build a house, that’s what I would use. And plywood. Always the plywood.

Imagine my delight to see where 1994’s Gambler V: Playing for Keeps was filmed! Ever since I experienced the cinematic masterpiece, I have pined away for the day I could visit the set and stand where such creative genius had been. I could hear an echo of Kenny Rogers warning me about knowing when to hold them and when to fold them. When to walk away. When to run.

Sage advice. I’m not sure it’s helped me in any fashion whatsoever, but it sounds like excellent advice. Wait a minute. Something just hit me. THIS IS JUST A PACK OF CONCLUSORY STATEMENTS BY KENNY ROGERS. He doesn’t tell us how to get to these conclusions. Ugh, he reminds me of my Econ 101 professor when he told the class that his stupid graphs were intuitive. IF THE GRAPHS ARE INTUITIVE, WHY DO WE NEED TO BE TAUGHT THE CONCEPTS? This is a serious breach in logic, if you ask me. I don’t think that my professor understood the word “intuitive.” He must have been confusing it with a joke/not particularly illustrative of the concept/poorly-executed/irrelevant to the discussion.

I got a freaking 42 on my mid-term. It was a B. I didn’t (1) appreciate the mind games being played with that kind of curve and (2) a B. Because screw that! I ended the class with an AB due to that B.

Man, I am sure glad I got that off my chest. I must have been carrying around latent anger towards my Econ 101 professor all these years.

I hope they play Gambler V: Playing for Keeps at my 20 year high school reunion.

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Rio Grande next to the movie set. Up the road there's a warning sign about how it's a $5,000 fine to run over and touch Mexico and then reenter the country illegally.
Rio Grande next to the movie set. Up the road there’s a warning sign about how it’s a $5,000 fine to run over and touch Mexico and then reenter the country illegally.
I think this was was made of adobe, unlike the rest of the set.
I think this was was made of adobe, unlike the rest of the set.

Tiny things in Big Bend Ranch State Park

Big Bend Ranch State Park is located in the Chihuahuan Desert. With all the giant rocks, mountains, and expanses before you, it’s easy to pass by the tiny things.

Tiny star.

Tiny star-shaped pod.
Ants. They are tiny, even when they are kinda big for the ant family.
Ants. They are tiny, even when they are kinda big for the ant family.
Bitty grasses in a tiny puddle.
Bitty grasses in a tiny puddle.
Tiny tunas on a Christmas Cactus. These look like they might be normal-size prickly pear tunas. But, they were smaller than a dime. MACRO PHOTOGRAPHY IN ACTION!
Tiny tunas. These look like they might be normal-size prickly pear tunas. But, they were smaller than a dime. MACRO PHOTOGRAPHY IN ACTION!
Thin stripes of lichen.
Thin stripes of lichen. Just learned that lichens grow at a rate of 1/2 inch per year. These lichens are ancient, then, considering how slowly growth occurs in the Chihuahuan Desert.

Big Bend Ranch State Park: Hikes for kids

When I read about hiking online, I get all confused about the ratings of difficulty. So, this is my best attempt at advising parental units on which trails might work out if you’d like to bring the kiddos to this state park.

My husband and I took a 4-year-old (okay, he’s almost 5) adventuresome child on these trails and finished them without much trouble. We brought along a 3 wheeled jogging/hiking stroller for longer hikes. We did a hike in Lajitas towards the wax factory. I do not recommend that trail as a hike. It is boring. And tedious. Seriously, we did it for exercise only. It’s best for mountain bikers.

The recommended trails:

1. Nature path near Sauceda Ranch (Easy with some hand-holding.)
2. Cinco Tinajas and Ojito Adentro (Will need to help children up and down trail.)
3. Horsetrap Trail (Heavy duty jogging stroller required for smaller children, as it is a 5 mile hike.)
4. Closed canyon (Mainly easy; gets more challenging the deeper you go. We had to pass the kid between us to get him up and down the canyon in some parts. Yes, like a piece of luggage.)

Other than the Horsetrap Trail, the others are impassable with a stroller of any kind due to trail conditions. If you are just driving through the state park on FM 170, it is worth your time to stop at Closed Canyon. If you stay at the Sauceda Ranch, the other three trails should keep you occupied during a short stay.

Here are some pictures to give you an idea of what you might see on the trails.

1. Nature Path: Sorry, no pics. We arrived at 4:30 and hiked at 5:15-6:00. Not much light available in evening on 12/21 (winter solstice).

2. Cinco Tinajas and Ojito Adentro

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Ojito Adentro
Ojito Adentro
Ojito Andentro trail
Ojito Andentro trail

3. Horsetrap Trail

View once you hike up.
View once you hike up.
Snack time on trail.
Snack time on trail.

4. Closed Canyon

Kid sliding down wall at Closed Canyon.
Kid sliding down wall at Closed Canyon.

 

Parent dangling from wall of Closed Canyon.
Parent dangling from wall of Closed Canyon.