Big Bend Chat

Big Bend National Park Q&A => Campgrounds => Topic started by: CubScoutMom on November 03, 2013, 03:52:40 PM

Title: Help! Please? :)
Post by: CubScoutMom on November 03, 2013, 03:52:40 PM
So we want to go camping over Spring Break...  I'm guessing you get that a lot 'round here.   :icon_lol:    But please, I'm in over my head and need some help!

My husband and I aren't completely new to camping though it was car camping and some canoe trips pre-kid.  We have never all gone at the same time or for more than a couple of nights.  We have 3 boys (will be 13, 9 and 5 come March).  I've been car camping through Cub Scouts a fair bit with son #2.  We've recently started bringing son #3.  Son #1 hasn't been camping with us, but seems positive about the trip.  Add to all of this that my husband is not a fan of RVs and doesn't want to be stacked on top of other people, yet he does want to be able to take a shower on occasion.   So...

When I first logged on last night (11-2), there seemed to be quite a few reservable sites available, but then a bit later there was nothing.  What was going on?

If we left Thursday night and got there Friday morning, would that be good enough to get a first-come, first-served site?  Would it be significantly better to get there Thursday morning?

How is the drive from Houston?

Where should we try to get a site?  We just replaced an old Coleman 4P with a Kelty 6P that has a "vestibule."  But I'm thinking of putting the 13 year old boy in the Coleman all by himself.  He's moody.

If we end up at a place with no showers, how far of a drive is it to some showers?

Keeping in mind the ages of my kids, are there hikes we could all go on?  If so, which ones and where do they start?  If you want to go on a hike that doesn't start at your site, what do you do?

Any recommendations for other places for us to go in March, in case this isn't going to work?

And finally, are we just plain crazy?  Because it is starting to feel like that!   :icon_eek:
Title: Re: Help! Please? :)
Post by: badknees on November 03, 2013, 04:29:58 PM
So we want to go camping over Spring Break...  I'm guessing you get that a lot 'round here.   :icon_lol:    But please, I'm in over my head and need some help!

My husband and I aren't completely new to camping though it was car camping and some canoe trips pre-kid.  We have never all gone at the same time or for more than a couple of nights.  We have 3 boys (will be 13, 9 and 5 come March).  I've been car camping through Cub Scouts a fair bit with son #2.  We've recently started bringing son #3.  Son #1 hasn't been camping with us, but seems positive about the trip.  Add to all of this that my husband is not a fan of RVs and doesn't want to be stacked on top of other people, yet he does want to be able to take a shower on occasion.   So...

When I first logged on last night (11-2), there seemed to be quite a few reservable sites available, but then a bit later there was nothing.  What was going on?

The reservables may be full by now. There are a lot of first come sites. Try it again....

If we left Thursday night and got there Friday morning, would that be good enough to get a first-come, first-served site?  Would it be significantly better to get there Thursday morning?

Spring break spans more than 1 week, so depends on which week you're planning. Friday mornings seem to be a departure date, and I have been lucky arriving on Friday's. Bear in mind that the Basin Campgound fills first.

How is the drive from Houston?

Depending on your H location- up to 10 1/2 hours. It is what you make it.

Where should we try to get a site?  We just replaced an old Coleman 4P with a Kelty 6P that has a "vestibule."  But I'm thinking of putting the 13 year old boy in the Coleman all by himself.  He's moody.

All 3 organized campgrounds have pluses and minuses. Check the NP web pages for descriptions. http://www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/campgrounds.htm (http://www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/campgrounds.htm) You can always camp at a primitive roadside campsite for a more private adventure. Absolutely no facilities though. - Like dig a hole none.  
If we end up at a place with no showers, how far of a drive is it to some showers?

From an organized campground, your best case scenario is 30ish miles one way.

Keeping in mind the ages of my kids, are there hikes we could all go on? Absolutely  If so, which ones and where do they start? Some good suggestions so far, I'd add Bouquillas Canyon, Hot Springs, Tuff Canyon and Burro Mesa Pouroff. These are short if the 5 yr old tires out.  If you want to go on a hike that doesn't start at your site, what do you do? Drive to and park.

Any recommendations for other places for us to go in March, in case this isn't going to work?

And finally, are we just plain crazy?  Because it is starting to feel like that!   :icon_eek:

You can do this. You won't regret it.
Title: Re: Help! Please? :)
Post by: CubScoutMom on November 03, 2013, 05:31:11 PM
Spring break spans more than 1 week, so depends on which week you're planning. Friday mornings seem to be a departure date, and I have been lucky arriving on Friday's. Bear in mind that the Basin Campgound fills first.

I've checked the calendars for several major Texas universities and a lot of ISDs and they are all the same?  I thought they were spread out too, but they don't seem to be. 

Also, why is the Basin Campground so popular? 

Depending on your H location- up to 10 1/2 hours. It is what you make it.

We are NW of Houston, off 290, in Cypress.

Title: Re: Help! Please? :)
Post by: CubScoutMom on November 03, 2013, 05:32:58 PM
You can do this. You won't regret it.

I'm hoping so!  The pictures I have been looking at are amazing!!! 

Title: Re: Help! Please? :)
Post by: Beatrice on November 03, 2013, 06:28:30 PM
People come from all over, well past Texas, to visit Big Bend over Spring Break, which makes for a busy March.

You say your husband doesn't like RVs and doesn't like being stacked on top of each other and you have some car camping experience but not all together. Your children are 5, 8, and 11.

I would recommend for this visit that you plan on camping at the Rio Grande Village (RGV).

There are three campgrounds, many primitive sites, and then backpacking opportunities. During March, they fill up. You'll be packed in at any of the campgrounds. Not like sardines, but not like remote wilderness. The Basin is the campground in the central part of the park and it is cooler up in the mountain, so it serves the needs of many of the people who post to this forum. However, it doesn't have showers and it does have bears and mountain lions. That isn't a great combo for inexperienced kiddos in my opinion. Cottonwood is known for it's quiet and lack of amenities (it doesn't allow any generators, for example) which makes it a favorite of some, but if you're going to be packed in like sardines on one end of the park, I think the end with the toilets and showers is preferable to the one with the port-a-potties.

RGV is near many family-friendly hikes including the nature trail, Boquillas Canyon and the sand slide, the hot springs, and the river road. It has a store, many other kids, toilets and showers. I think for the circumstances, especially over Spring Break, it is a great introduction to Big Bend.

If you can arrive between 4 and 6 in the morning, you shouldn't have a problem getting a campsite as that's when many people start packing up and going home.

This is a totally doable vacation that the whole family will love. Get the kids' passports ordered so you can go over to Boquillas, Mexico and eat some tacos while you're there!
Title: Re: Help! Please? :)
Post by: Desert_Dave on November 03, 2013, 06:43:00 PM
Quote
Also, why is the Basin Campground so popular? 


The Basin campground is popular for many reasons;

Primarily because it is the only campground situated in the higher elevation mountain region of the park.  The Chisos Mountain Basin is often much cooler than other parts of the park especially during the summer.  It is also a close proximity to some of the more popular hikes such as, the Window trail, Lost Mine, Emory Peak/South Rim etc.  Furthermore, it is the closest campground to the lodge (the only restaurant in the park).

Spring break is the busiest time for Big Bend NP, but considering BBNP is one of the least visited parks in the US, there should always be some place to set-up. 

The other two established campgrounds are Cottonwood, and Rio Grande Village, both are situated on the south along the Rio Grande. 

As others have probably mentioned, there are many "primitive" car camping sites along the many unpaved roads in the park.  Lots of good info on this site about the different locations, and in the spring the heat will not be so oppressive as to rule out camping at lower elevations.

As far as a shower,  your options are pretty limited.  You could always try to reserve one night in the lodge (but they book up far in advance).  Or you can always take a "field shower"  AKA: baby-wipes

Edit:  I forgot about the showers at RGV
Title: Re: Help! Please? :)
Post by: CubScoutMom on November 03, 2013, 07:27:23 PM
The Basin... doesn't have showers and it does have bears and mountain lions.  Cottonwood... I think the end with the toilets and showers is preferable to the one with the port-a-potties.

RGV is near many family-friendly hikes including the nature trail, Boquillas Canyon and the sand slide, the hot springs, and the river road. It has a store, many other kids, toilets and showers. I think for the circumstances, especially over Spring Break, it is a great introduction to Big Bend.

All VERY GOOD points!  And exactly what I needed to know.

Quote
If you can arrive between 4 and 6 in the morning, you shouldn't have a problem getting a campsite as that's when many people start packing up and going home.

On Friday?  We could do that fairly easily.  So we head to the RGV first off and do what?  Is there an office?  Will there be a line?  Do we walk around and look for people leaving?  I guess I'm asking, what should I expect upon arrival?

Quote
This is a totally doable vacation that the whole family will love. Get the kids' passports ordered so you can go over to Boquillas, Mexico and eat some tacos while you're there!

I plan to keep checking for a cancellation that I can snag.  I am okay with just showing up without a reservation, but I'm not sure about my husband.  I booked a campsite at Enchanted Rock, just in case.  There were only 4 left and the cancellation penalty is only $5!  I'm just not sure that it would be worth a week long trip.
Title: Re: Help! Please? :)
Post by: CubScoutMom on November 03, 2013, 07:37:04 PM
Desert_Dave, thanks for the info!  I'm thinking most of that sounds like something for a repeat visit when my kids are a bit older and more experienced.  For this trip, I'm wanting to get away from the TV and video games and even baseball.  I want to be outside before it gets crazy hot, go on a couple of reasonable hikes and just hang out with my family.  No schedules!!!
Title: Re: Help! Please? :)
Post by: VivaTerlingua on November 03, 2013, 07:55:46 PM
There's always the option of camping outside of the park.  There are several places around Terlingua that offer camping, here's one example http://www.ranchotopanga.com/index.html (http://www.ranchotopanga.com/index.html).  The downside is, depending on which part of the park you're going to for the day, it's a 30-60 minute drive.  But with a 5 year old I can't imagine you're going to be doing any long hikes, so you should have time for the drive.  There are also a few place to eat around Terlingua if you don't want to cook every night.
Title: Re: Help! Please? :)
Post by: Geezer on November 03, 2013, 10:03:02 PM
If you opt for Cottonwood (and the no generator rule is great!), you could make a run to Study Butte after a few days for a shower. Think the place is called Study Butte Motor Inn. If that's not right, some other geezer will correct me. They charge, but not much, and you'll think it's worth triple the money by that time. Then you could drive on down to Terlingua, look around and have supper at the Starlight. The view of Chisos Mtns. from front porch of the Starlight is hard to beat. There are lots of short hikes off Ross Maxwell Drive, the main route to and from Cottonwood.

Geezer
Title: Re: Help! Please? :)
Post by: WayPoint15 on November 04, 2013, 06:22:43 AM
Showered at BBMI many times, $2.00.  Take lots of quarters.
Title: Re: Help! Please? :)
Post by: catz on November 04, 2013, 11:53:09 AM
You can also get a shower at the Basin Lodge, provided someone has checked out and before the room has been cleaned and set up for the next guest.
Title: Re: Help! Please? :)
Post by: fartymarty on November 04, 2013, 12:30:06 PM
You can also get a shower at the Basin Lodge, provided someone has checked out and before the room has been cleaned and set up for the next guest.

I've heard of this many times, but it has always seemed problematic and almost un-workable. To those that have done this I ask, what exactly did you do to accomplish this?.. go to the lodge counter at 7:00-7:30AM and ask if something is available and then just stand around until it is?..or what?  How much $ to do they charge for this? Did this seem like a regular policy or just employees making a little cash on the side? (clue: Do they offer a receipt?) Did you ever head to the room and find the cleaning crew there already or do they set one room aside and service that room only after the morning shower rush is over?
Title: Re: Help! Please? :)
Post by: RichardM on November 04, 2013, 01:13:06 PM
You can also get a shower at the Basin Lodge, provided someone has checked out and before the room has been cleaned and set up for the next guest.

I've heard of this many times, but it has always seemed problematic and almost un-workable. To those that have done this I ask, what exactly did you do to accomplish this?.. go to the lodge counter at 7:00-7:30AM and ask if something is available and then just stand around until it is?..or what?  How much $ to do they charge for this? Did this seem like a regular policy or just employees making a little cash on the side? (clue: Do they offer a receipt?) Did you ever head to the room and find the cleaning crew there already or do they set one room aside and service that room only after the morning shower rush is over?

I would imagine it's subject to room availability and is a regular policy. Feel free to call and verify (432-477-2291).

About the showers: The $5.65 is for an unlimited amount of time in a room in the Chisos Mountain Lodge. As far as I know, there are no coin-operated showers in the Basin. Basically, they let you have access to a Chisos Mountain Lodge room that another guest has already checked out of, but has not yet been cleaned by housekeeping. As long as you are out my 10 am, you can take however long a shower you want. You just ask at the desk at the lodge and they even give you a towel, soap, and shampoo! I was in heaven. I also made myself and drank some of the free coffee that was still in the room. Because of the drought, however, I did limit myself to take a 10 minute shower.

I figured it was worth $5.65 to take an unlimited shower .5 miles away from my campsite, instead of driving 60 miles round trip to take a $1.50 4-minute cold shower in Rio Grande.

@Don H, they told us at the lodge to come by around 10:00 am, although we went on Sunday around 9:30 and didn't have a problem.  It was $5.63 and they let you use a room where the people had checked out but that the cleaning crew had not been in yet.  They even give you a clean towel to use.
Title: Re: Help! Please? :)
Post by: fartymarty on November 04, 2013, 05:06:37 PM
I would imagine it's subject to room availability and is a regular policy. Feel free to call and verify (432-477-2291).

No need to call, those posts are enough for me, Thanks Richard! That will certainly save me some time and gas in the future.
Title: Re: Help! Please? :)
Post by: Beatrice on November 05, 2013, 07:29:52 AM
Quote
If you can arrive between 4 and 6 in the morning, you shouldn't have a problem getting a campsite as that's when many people start packing up and going home.
On Friday?  We could do that fairly easily.  So we head to the RGV first off and do what?  Is there an office?  Will there be a line?  Do we walk around and look for people leaving?  I guess I'm asking, what should I expect upon arrival?
People start packing up to head on before sunrise. You will get there when it is dark and most are still sleeping, so cut your headlights asap (and your engine if it is loud like a diesel), then just wait.

When you see flashlights or lanterns moving about, watch to see if they are packing up. If they are, go up to them and ask if you can have the site when they're done. If they say yes, put something heavy of yours there (both to be visible and so it doesn't blow away) to claim the site, then go back to your car and wait until they leave.

Then you can set up camp and go fill out the form at the board at the entrance to the campground saying you claimed that campsite.

Quote
Quote
This is a totally doable vacation that the whole family will love. Get the kids' passports ordered so you can go over to Boquillas, Mexico and eat some tacos while you're there!

I plan to keep checking for a cancellation that I can snag.  I am okay with just showing up without a reservation, but I'm not sure about my husband.  I booked a campsite at Enchanted Rock, just in case.  There were only 4 left and the cancellation penalty is only $5!  I'm just not sure that it would be worth a week long trip.
You don't need to be worried about showing up without a  reservation. Half the campground sites are not able to be reserved so someone will be leaving one of them for you to claim. If you can get there as they're leaving, which you said you can, you won't have a problem.

Then the primitive campsites are available as they can only be reserved 24 hours in advance and in person, so if you're striking out then be at the RGV visitor center at 8:30 when they open to get one of those sites.

Then if all see fails, you can get a Primitive site for the following night forward and the Stillwell store has unending availability near Persimmon Gap.

And you can do this all again the next day if you don't like what you end up with.

You will get a campsite. Keep trying to get the reservation, but don't worry about going elsewhere if you don't get a reservation.
Title: Re: Help! Please? :)
Post by: RichardM on November 05, 2013, 08:33:31 AM
Quote
If you can arrive between 4 and 6 in the morning, you shouldn't have a problem getting a campsite as that's when many people start packing up and going home.
On Friday?  We could do that fairly easily.  So we head to the RGV first off and do what?  Is there an office?  Will there be a line?  Do we walk around and look for people leaving?  I guess I'm asking, what should I expect upon arrival?
People start packing up to head on before sunrise. You will get there when it is dark and most are still sleeping, so cut your headlights asap (and your engine if it is loud like a diesel), then just wait.

When you see flashlights or lanterns moving about, watch to see if they are packing up. If they are, go up to them and ask if you can have the site when they're done. If they say yes, put something heavy of yours there (both to be visible and so it doesn't blow away) to claim the site, then go back to your car and wait until they leave.

Then you can set up camp and go fill out the form at the board at the entrance to the campground saying you claimed that campsite.
Pick up the form as you enter the campground. As soon as you find a site, you claim it by putting the tear-off portion of the form on the post for the campsite. If there is no form on the post, people will assume the site is still available. The campground host comes around and verifies each form. If you are looking for a site in daylight hours, find the host ASAP and he can help you find one. They do a pretty good job of keeping track of which sites are coming open.

You can put a credit card number on the form you turn in as opposed to cash. It takes several months for them to process those, so you can think of it as a free loan. :icon_wink:
Title: Re: Help! Please? :)
Post by: CubScoutMom on November 05, 2013, 08:17:13 PM
Then if all see fails, you can get a Primitive site for the following night forward and the Stillwell store has unending availability near Persimmon Gap.

In the "if all else fails" train of thought, I booked a site in RGV for 3 nights, starting on the Friday before Spring Break.  It is in an open area, but it is ours and it gives us several days to snag an unreservable site that someone is vacating.  In the grand scheme of things, the site fee is minor. 

Richard - I think my boys are going to LOVE the site-scouting part.  I can hear the Mission Impossible music in my head already.
Title: Re: Help! Please? :)
Post by: Beatrice on November 05, 2013, 08:27:32 PM
Then if all see fails, you can get a Primitive site for the following night forward and the Stillwell store has unending availability near Persimmon Gap.

In the "if all else fails" train of thought, I booked a site in RGV for 3 nights, starting on the Friday before Spring Break.  It is in an open area, but it is ours and it gives us several days to snag an unreservable site that someone is vacating.  In the grand scheme of things, the site fee is minor. 

Richard - I think my boys are going to LOVE the site-scouting part.  I can hear the Mission Impossible music in my head already.
Absolutely!
Let them know if you find another site and don't use it. It'll be in high demand and someone else will be happy for your cancellation, even if it is last minute.
Title: Re: Help! Please? :)
Post by: CubScoutMom on November 05, 2013, 09:15:09 PM
Absolutely!
Let them know if you find another site and don't use it. It'll be in high demand and someone else will be happy for your cancellation, even if it is last minute.

Of course.  :) 

As of right now, my plan is to keep checking for a cancellation.  If I'm not able to get a reservable site for either longer or for the whole week, then I show up EARLY Friday morning, drive around, and pray.  If I don't get a non-reservable site, then I have the one I booked and we make camp and try again on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday morning as needed.  After that, I guess Stillwell?  But at least this way my husband will agree to load all of us and all of our crap in the car and drive 10+ hours.   :icon_lol:
Title: Re: Help! Please? :)
Post by: Beatrice on November 05, 2013, 10:52:25 PM
Absolutely!
Let them know if you find another site and don't use it. It'll be in high demand and someone else will be happy for your cancellation, even if it is last minute.

Of course.  :) 

As of right now, my plan is to keep checking for a cancellation.  If I'm not able to get a reservable site for either longer or for the whole week, then I show up EARLY Friday morning, drive around, and pray.  If I don't get a non-reservable site, then I have the one I booked and we make camp and try again on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday morning as needed.  After that, I guess Stillwell?  But at least this way my husband will agree to load all of us and all of our crap in the car and drive 10+ hours.   :icon_lol:
I think you are set!
Everything else is icing.  :icon_biggrin:
Title: Re: Help! Please? :)
Post by: dprather on December 16, 2013, 04:49:23 PM
"How is the drive from Houston?"

I'm from Liberty, Texas, so I know the drive from Houston pretty well.

I do not envy the drive with young ones.  I'm able to make the drive because I am so eager to get back to Big Bend.

Plan on about 10-11 hours with stops.


Ya'll are going to have a great time!

Try camping at one of the more remote places at least one night. 

Title: Re: Help! Please? :)
Post by: The Scorpion on December 16, 2013, 07:43:57 PM
Not sure if any has ever posted this or even knows about it. When you are trolling the camp sites looking for a site, you might see an empty site with a yellow tag with dates like 25-28. If you are there on the 23rd, then take the site from the 23rd to the morning of the 25th then find another site. The camp host will put a "reserved for " dates on the post before someone is due to check in.
But before you unload all the gear and set up the tent, double check with the camp host. Always be very polite to them and they will usually tell you to go ahead and set up but will tell you to be out of the site the people who made the reservations are to show up.

Stingrey and I were circling the basin camp ground and we stopped and the camp host told us we could take the site we were parked in front of for 2 days then we would have to move, lucky for us on day 2 someone bugged out a few days early from their site so we packed up and moved over to that one :)

James