Marathon Motel & RV Park
Marathon: Loved the small, quiet town. The Marathon Motel and RV Park was a delightful little place with a quaint courtyard with fireplace and fountain. We enjoyed the town’s bookstore (Jazy got a book, signed as Mrs. Harding suggested), the French Grocer, and the historic Gage Hotel. We met folks at the grocery and the gas station, all headed to Big Bend.
On the way to Big Bend though, we only saw about 2 cars! It was such a sprawling desert with no trees and occasional mountains. Upon taking the 7 mile detour for Hallie Stillwell’s Hall of Fame (since we fancy ourselves pioneer women, we had to go!), we saw just a store and RV park (parking in the desert), and the little 3-room museum –nothing else.
The gas pump had a sign that said, “The price of gas is double what the pump shows” since I guess it didn’t go to over $4 a gallon. Loved the little museum (get the key from the store next door) and then returned to the store for key return, Hallie’s book, and a chat with her son-in-law who owned the store.
Hallie Stillwell's Hall of Fame
Then off to Big Bend where we stopped for Fossil overlooks, etc. When we arrived at the National Park Entrance, the gatehouse was closed, the visitor’s center closed- June is not high season in the desert. The outside temperature measured 118. About 30 miles later we reached the Panther Junction Visitor’s Center (Mile Post 0) with 5 minutes until closing. We bought a few books and postcards and headed up, up, UP to Chisos Basin Campground (7 miles up to over 5,000 ft). Poor Ciao Baby had to cool off for a long time after that, but only lost a little AT fluid.
The campground had many tent campers and a few RV’s.
We met a group of teachers when they asked about 9pm if they could borrow a lighter for their stove. From Baton Rouge they had brought some inner-city students to see the wilds. We let them borrow a lighter and gave them a box of matches, but I had this nagging feeling. Finally, when Jazy insisted that she had not scoped out their site to assess their supplies, we took a walk and just checked in on them. Sure enough, it turned out they had no fuel for their stove since their group had split in 2 - so we insisted that they borrow our Coleman propane stove with plenty of fuel. As requested, they left it by our rig in the morning. That made us feel good to help (and that someone could use that stove that I’d wanted to leave home).
Stillwell Store that Hallie created
Have you ever seen stars without light pollution? Incredible! So we snuck out the roof vent onto the top of the RV and lay up there amazed at the glory of it all.
This is after we saw sunset through “The Window” from atop our RV. Very handy that Ciao Baby!
Historic Gage Hotel- Marathon, TX
With all the excitement and the heat (no hookups and we really felt bad running the generator up there with all the tenters and the silence), we had trouble sleeping. The wind roared down the mountain in the night (I remember reading about that wind!) which was a bit scary. So all this is to say that 8:30 am, when I insisted the kids get out of bed, was late, late, LATE for a hike to The Window (5.2 miles). By 10am we were finally ready to start and we barely made it back by 12:30 pm. I really was praying near the end for a couple of my kids – wasn’t sure they were going to make it in the heat (and not sure how far I could carry them- only about 5 other people on the entire trail). Uphill at the end, of course. But we took lots of water and were so thrilled to make it back.
We learned a few lessons.
Early is the only time to do anything in June in the dessert. After noon, you can do nothing but hide in the RV, praying the AC keeps working. It is still so HOT in the back of the RV (101 inside) at 7:30 pm as we await the setting sun (AC has been on for hours- curtains are drawn).
Hallie Stillwell's Son-in-Law in Stillwell Store
We’re going to sleep early and arising at 5am to get out of here! I hope to return for a Christmas or Spring Break one year. Beautiful, rugged, isolated, amazing canyons, fresh, pure. What a gift this National Park is to the people who make it far enough to experience it! Meanwhile, we hope to make it out alive. We’re at the Rio Grande Valley Campground with full hookups tonight.
The kids put popcorn outside to see if it would pop in the bag on the pavement.
Lia is convinced that some did. The cold water burned us as it was heated by the hose in the sun. 117 outside (not on the sun side) required a picture of the thermometer. We’ll come back some other time to really see more.
117 outside- Big Bend
Next, we’re headed to McDonald Observatory and higher ground.