If you're heading to the Big Bend area, then one of the best ways to appreciate and explore the vastness of Big Bend, learn about the geology and history of the area, and take in some unbelievable scenery is to go on an off road tour in an 4x4 off road vehicle. On our last trip to Big Bend, we stayed in the outstanding and very unique Ten Bits Ranch B&B and took one of their Big Bend area off road tours - what a blast! Ten Bits Ranch offers specialty guided tours involving geology, paleontology, historical, and archeological hiking and 4x4 SUV tours personally guided by one of their staff.
After a good breakfast, the four of us loaded into the Ten Bit's Ranch two 4x4 Chevy Trackers for an off road tour to explore and learn about a small but unique portion of the Big Bend area. Jennifer, the owner of Ten Bits, and one of her guides Buckner were our guides for the day and they made the trip very interesting and informative by sharing their wealth of knowledge about the geology, history of the area, plants, animals, and ecology of the Chiluahuan Desert as well some intriguing information about some of the local characters and events.
We took a 20 mile primitive-road journey from Ten Bits Ranch to Terlingua Creek then back making several stops in between to learn something new and interesting or to take in the panoramic vistas.
Our three hour tour with Big Bend Expeditions took us through some very unique and diverse desert and mountain ranges with a vast array of rock and intriguing geological formations as well vegetation and fauna of all of shapes and colors. It's impossible to describe the vastness and diversity that we experienced during this tour and pictures don't come close to doing it justice.
The land is rich with history of millions of years of evolution of people and cultures (Native American Indians, Spanish, Mexican, and Texans) as well as volcanic eruptions. The land has been sculptured over time by wind, water mining, farming, droughts, uplifting, erosion, and torrential rains - all of which have helped create unique and unusual formations with bands of striations of reds, buffs, purples, blacks, and grays.
Our tour was a geologists dream and a very informative geology lesson as we learned about the impact of volcanic eruptions to earthquakes to uplifting and the impact it had on forming this unusual terrain that you won't see anywhere else in Texas. As the tour progresses you start to get a sense of the vastness and timelessness and everywhere you look are clues to the earths evolution and history from the sea bed to tall volcanic domes, all with evidence of all the forces of nature like wind and water erosion.
We rode past the Valley of the Moon where astornauts trained (this is an interesting article about their trip to Big Bend in 1964), kissing rocks, the needle (or finger as the locals call it!), and more, The deeper we got into the tour, the more we started to appreciate the beauty, vastness, diversity, rich colors, impact of nature, and ruggedness of this area.
Over time the wildlife and fauna has evolved and survived harsh conditions and the desert plants are normally alive with rich desert pastels of reds, pinks, greens, and more. It doesn't take long to appreciate how anything can live out here and you start to notice that even those nasty looking cactus have some stunning colors. Speaking of survival, on our tour we drove past the homes of some rugged individuals who call this harsh terrain their home. They deal with severe conditions of heat, cold, rain, and wind as well as the lack of water, utilities, and other necessities (cable TV, swimming pools, Wi-Fi, cell phones, Wal Mart, etc.) us city folks can't go without for more than a few hours. They leverage the desert for building supplies, the sun for electricity, and the rain (if there is any and 2011 was a severe drought) for drinking water. And it's a close knit group of rugged individualists and real characters that you can count on to offer help when needed. And some aren't real happy about commerial use of their desert!
In addition to the off road tour that we took, Big Bend Expeditions offers:
Before, during, and after our stay at Ten Bits Ranch, we had a fantastic eight days golfing, taking an ATV tour, listening to some outstanding music during a two day music festival, hiking in Big Bend, and more - check our article on Big Bend Adventure Weekend.