Even with the late-night stargazing we woke up early and packed up camp. (D) A Bewick’s Wren stopped by to see us off and we were moving. The hike down was much easier and the grades not as steep. Spotted Towhee were by far the most numerous bird this morning but, we would regularly find a Greater Roadrunner out in front of us. We hiked the remainder of the Southwest Rim Trail and then the last 3.3 miles were on the Laguna Meadows Trail. The lack of steep terrain on the descent meant that we were in low, exposed scrub more than shaded canyon woods. However, we had made pretty good progress on drinking our water so our packs felt significantly lighter. We reached the bottom, grabbed some ice cream at the visitor’s center (C), and then loaded up for our next destination.
The promise of a shower after backpacking always raises the spirits but, we decided to delay cleanliness for a couple hours because of where the shower was located, Rio Grande Village. (E) Located to the east of the Chisos Mountains, this small campground sits adjacent to the Rio Grande, just across the border from the Mexican town of Boquillas del Carmen. Being a few thousand feet below the morning hike on mountain trails, there would be little, if any respite from the heat making any satisfaction from a shower very temporary.
Once we pulled in, it was pretty obvious that this campground was getting ready to close for the season. There were no more than 5 other campers in a large and sprawling campground. However, the desolation meant that wildlife had moved in and inhabited open areas very close to our campsite. As a result, this area provided the best birding of the trip. Roadrunners, doves, tanagers, and woodpeckers were everywhere. The fiery, red Vermilion Flycatchers were so abundant, I stopped counting. The highlight would have been the Gray Hawks soaring above the treetops if not for a resident hawk located just down the path. Common Black Hawks have nested in this campground for years (the NPS has their nesting area well defined and protected) making this little patch on the Rio Grande River one of only two places in the United States where you can see these all-black raptors. After watching the parent move around in its nest, we headed back to our campsite. Aly promptly laid out the tent’s footprint in the shade and took a siesta. I wandered around the campsite taking pictures until the evening when we finally did get our shower.
We ended our evening with a short but, stunning hike on the Rio Grande Village Nature Trail (F) and watched the sun set over the mountains. When we returned to our tent, a little playback brought Lesser Nighthawks, Western Screech-Owl and the tiny Elf Owl to trees near our tent. After failing to find them perched and almost have a flying owl run into my head, we settled into our tent and called it a night.
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