Cattail Falls - Sept 27th, 2006
So Gary Lux and I were out in Terlingua at the Star Light Theatre one night. We were drinking on some of the finest margaritas I've ever had when we started talking to the bartender, Robert, and a local guy whom came in with his wife for Tango lessons...The local guy ended up being a park ranger at Big Bend.
We had been interested in visiting some of the things that are off the beaten path, so this was as good as time as any to inquire of some of them. They both insisted that we had to visit one place, Cattail Falls. They said that it wasn't on the map, so they would need to draw us directions. But of course, we had a few more margaritas and forgot the directions. A couple of days later, while on our Santa Elena Canyon River Rafting Trip,
we asked our guide if he could tell us where we could find the elusive Cattail Falls, and on our way through the park that day, he pointed out the road we should turn down.
So, a few days later, after a long day of mountain biking through the desert, we decided to head out and check out what the locals were getting all excited about.
We drove about 30 miles into the park, found the road, and parked my truck.
We had no idea where to go from here, but to follow a little trail towards the mountain that had some footprints...this is how it goes most of the time when you're in Big Bend...not too many visitors, so you just look out for any sign of foot traffic. So, we started along through the desert heading towards a mountain range that stood before us.
We finally found the main road that we should have been on, and from there it was a 2 mile hike through the desert and up and around hills. About 1.5 miles into it, we passed a couple and spoke with them momentarily. They said that we had a big surprise ahead of us and to walk in very quietly. They told us that in a tree, just right of the falls, that there was a bear hanging out. They took a couple of pictures, but all that I could see was black ball in a tree. So now we were a little excited and from there we pretty much tip-toed the last 1/2 mile. As we approached the falls, the scenery went from desert to something resembling a Bear Exhibit at the Zoo.
There was a waterfall, falling about 50-70 feet above us, huge boulders, and tall green trees all around us.
I still can't believe this place was in the middle of the desert of West Texas. We were still walking around slowly at this point looking for this bear when I saw the top of some trees moving across the creek. I figured we had startled the bear, and he was taking off up the mountain. After about 20 minutes of bear searching, we gave up, and Gary decided to take a dip in the pool under the water fall.
It was comparable to Barton Springs in Austin...about 65 degrees...so it took him about 10 minutes to actually get all the way in the water. We hung out for a while and then decided that there might be more to explore...it looked like there was a huge water hole just above us on the next level of the mountain. We hiked over to the area that we thought we had seen the bear shaking the tree. It was a long, dark and steep passage and with the bear still in our minds, we decided that his 3 inch lock blade knife wasn't going to cut it, so we turned back. We started our way out of the mountain pass about 100 yards when I heard something in the woods to the immediate right of us. I looked up in the tree, and what do you know, a big black blob hanging out on a 6 inch tree limb.
It took only about 10 seconds for him to notice us...we were standing directly below him. It looked like he was trying to get some acorns at the very tip top of the tree. He looked down at us and the poor guy just froze...he was more scared of us than we were of him...instead of a big intimidating animal, he was actually just bigger than a cub...probably about 150 pounds at most.
We hung out for about a minute longer snapping up pictures, and then decided to leave him in peace and head on out. It was our last day in West Texas and it couldn't have ended more perfectly in our minds...a cool little bear, a feeling of accomplishment as we hiked from the waterfall we had found in the middle of the desert, and just hanging out in one of the coolest places our planet has to offer.