So it seemed like a worthwhile trip from the Stillwell Ranch, where we are staying. It’s only 23 miles down FM (Farm to Market) 2627, through the Black Gap Wildlife Management Area.
We settled into our little Saturn and set out through some truly magnificent scenery in the wild desert country just outside Big Bend National Park. The road was well surfaced and maintained, and some recent rock slides had been cleaned off, so we were confident that the road led to someplace significant. But as we approached the river, there appeared a sign reading “Dead End.” Surely enough, just over the next hill the road ended.
Within sight to the left, there was a little town, consisting mostly of mobile homes, but blocked off by a big gate. On the other side, a locked gate led to the Heath Canyon Ranch. Straight ahead was a bridge over the river, which was also blocked off and obviously closed. There was no view of the “wild and scenic” river.
Back at the campground, I asked the proprietor about what we had seen. He told me that a company used to mine feldspar across the river in Mexico, and that the ore was brought across the bridge into the U.S. There had been a Border Patrol point of entry there. But about ten or twelve years ago, the mine was shut down, the bridge was closed, and the Border Patrol moved out. The three hundred people who lived in La Linda also moved out, leaving it as a modern-day ghost town.
The only sign of civilization there now is a telephone booth by the side of the road. But there’s nobody there to call. On the other end of the bridge there is a little dirt road leading into the mountains, but the only thing lying ahead for hundreds of miles is the Chihuahua Desert.
We never would have discovered, or solved, this mystery if it hadn’t been “spring break” week. We had planned to stay at one of the campgrounds in the national park, but they were all full. So we wound up just outside the gate, five miles down the farm-to-market road at the Stillwell Ranch.
You know that Big Bend is a huge area when you come to the entrance gate. After being welcomed to the park, you are informed that the park headquarters and visitor center is 27 miles farther down the road. I should say “up” the road, because it’s mostly uphill into the Chisos Mountains. From the visitor center, you will drive 20 or 30 miles to any other destination in the park.
This has not been our first visit to the park. We have been here a couple of times before, and it’s well worth the trip. The dining room at the Chisos Basin Lodge serves up huge hamburgers, which satisfy the kind of appetite you work up sightseeing in this vast area of awesome scenery. It’s one of our favorite places to stop. But this week, “spring breakers,” who seem to be of all ages, fill up the restaurant, the parking lots, the visitor centers, and the roads.
So we wound up outside the gate, at the private campground which still offers magnificent views and such amenities as water, electric, and sewer hookups which are unavailable inside the park.
Our thanks to the spring breakers. If it hadn’t been for them, we never would have traveled down the empty stretches of FM 2627 to the mysterious dead end, and would never have seen La Linda.
Our thanks too to the National Park Service for not updating its maps. It was their little knife-and-fork symbol that led me to think there would be some exotic dessert waiting at La Linda.
And our thanks to the United States of America, for setting aside spectacular areas of God’s creation for us to visit.
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