Big Bend, TX

Chisos Mountains under cloud
Chisos Mountains under cloud

Big Bend, TX

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Elephant Tusk under cloud
Elephant Tusk under cloud

Big Bend, TX

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Sierra del Carmen at dawn
Sierra del Carmen at dawn

Big Bend, TX

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Sierra del Carmen at sunset
Sierra del Carmen at sunset

Big Bend, TX

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Chisos Mountains from Solis
Chisos Mountains from Solis

Big Bend, TX

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Elephant Tusk from Solis
Elephant Tusk from Solis

Big Bend, TX

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Chisos Mountains in predawn mist
Chisos Mountains in predawn mist

Big Bend, TX

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Elephant Tusk in predawn mist
Elephant Tusk in predawn mist

Big Bend, TX

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Emory Peak in predawn mist
Emory Peak in predawn mist

Big Bend, TX

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Late December at Big Bend National Park, along the Rio Grande in southwestern Texas: colder than you’d think (low 50s by day, low 20s by night), and more popular than you’d think (campgrounds full).

 

But Big Bend is an enormous park—I spent 12 days there without ever leaving the park boundaries—and the crowds are drawn to the central spectacular feature, the Chisos Mountains, a gargantuan igneous intrusion rising 3000 feet above the already high plateau.

My habit is to go where people aren’t, so in this gallery you won’t see photos from inside the dramatic but high-traffic Chisos Basin. Instead I shot the Chisos range from a silent and solitary distance: 10, 20, even 30 miles away.

 

The other mountains my camera kept pulling me back to were at least as far away, and less accessible: the Sierra del Carmen range, the highest and most characteristic stretch of which lies across the Rio Grande, in Mexico.

 

Camping as far as I could get off the beaten path (for 36 hours I might have been the last man on earth), at Solis near the southern tip of the park—the very bend of the Big Bend—I discovered a cluster of old stone cabins, maybe early 20th century and certainly pre-park, perched on top of a bluff overlooking the Rio Grande, and with a fine view north toward the distant Chisos. It must have been a hard life, but a beautiful one.

STUART GELZER photography