Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Big Bend 2022

Two weeks ago I went to Big Bend National Park with school and had THE BEST TIME!!!  

A couple of years ago Sharon (one of my co-workers) and I were talking about how great it is to get kids outside and out of their comfort zones a bit (at the time we were at Prude Ranch in West Texas) and threw out the idea of taking them camping.  Well... 2 years later we MADE IT HAPPEN!!!  I'm taking ZERO PERCENT credit for any of this - Sharon is an incredible teacher who completely planned and executed this trip for her STEM science class - I was simply along for the chaperone ride ;)  Sharon and her family are big-time campers and so she knew the ins and outs of things but planning for and taking a group of 8th graders is a whole different ballgame and I stand in awe of her!  FOR REAL!

We had 13 students (it was a larger group but a few couldn't come for various reasons) and 8 adults and we set off in 4 suburbans at 4;45 on a Monday morning.  We had met the afternoon before to pack the SUVs (and do a quick bag check to make sure that the kids had the essentials) and we drove pretty much a solid 9 or so hours to get to Big Bend National Park. 

Despite a near collision with a recliner in the road, a naked man on the side of the highway and a couple of convenience store bathroom/gas breaks we made it to Big Bend by late afternoon ready to explore and set up camp.

We borrowed tents from the boy scouts (Sharon's boys all did scouting) and the students had all practiced setting them up at school in the weeks leading up to the trip and I was SO IMPRESSED with how well they all got their tents set up and staked.  This was the girls campsite and then there was a cooking/picnic table area to the right and then the boys campsite.   

I ended up having my own tent and after returning the backpacking "bed roll" thing and exchanging it for a MUCH bigger and cushier self-inflating mattress pad thing I slept GREAT!  It was suuuuuuper windy one night and colder than I had anticipated but there is NOTHING better than sleeping in cold, fresh air even if you can hear critters rummaging around outside in the middle of the night ;) hahaha

The meals were probably the part I was most impressed with.  The kids were divided up into 4 "tribes" and they were each assigned meals to plan.  They had to find recipes that would work in outdoor dutch ovens, make grocery lists and even shop for the ingredients.  Adults helped kind of coordinate and supervise the actual cooking but overall the kids really handled it and WE ATE WELL!

The first night we had dehydrated backpacking meals that really weren't as bad as I had anticipated ;)  They were reminiscent of canned spaghettios and could have been A LOT worse.

The second night I helped a group make beef stroganoff.  This won the dinner cooking competition and turned out SO GOOD!

The third night we had chicken pot pie which was so good as well!

We even had a dessert cookoff on two of the nights... monkey bread vs peach cobbler one night and then smores cake vs smores brownies on another night.

We had oatmeal one morning, homemade biscuits and gravy and bacon the second morning and breakfast tacos on the last morning - I'm still thinking about those tacos!!!

For lunches we made sandwiches and we had TONS of snacks for the kids to have whenever and bring on hikes and stuff.  We kept cold food in some giant coolers in one of the suburbans and dry stuff went in the bear boxes at our campsite.

Teams also shared duties for meal cleanup - prepping hot water, getting the tubs ready to wash dishes, cleaning the dutch ovens, etc.  I think the biggest "surprise" for me was how long meal cleanup took but the kids were pros by the end.

We had a potable water spicket at our campsite but you couldn't dump any dirty water out there so we'd have to walk the basins, dutch ovens, etc. up to the little wash station at the bathroom area.

As far as activities - one day we drove over to Terlingua, met up with a canoe company and set out for a day on the Rio Grande.

We canoed about 6 miles down the river and it was STUNNING!  

We stopped about halfway and the kids hung out in the water, we had an awesome lunch set up by the guides and then we went on a "quick hike" led by Ernesto who I think may ACTUALLY be the most interesting man in the world ;)

The "little hike" led by Ernesto took ups up to this crest area and this is the point where I literally thought I might die.  It was CRAZY HOT up there but look at that view!!!

We hiked back down and had the option of taking a dip in a hot spring but most of us made a beeline for the Rio Grande because we were SO HOT. hahaha

We sat/laid in the river for a bit and then got back in our canoes for the second half of the trip.

The next morning started off FREEZING and we hiked the "Lost Mine Trail" which had a trailhead pretty close to where we were camping. 

Girls group ready to head out!

The lost mine trail was about 2.5 miles long to the top and gained about 1200 feet in elevation.  

When we got to the top you walked across that little path looking thing to an even higher point where we stopped, hung out, had a snack, etc. 

It was STUNNING up there but SUPER WINDY and while I was hanging out eating a Cliff bar the intrusive thoughts landed in my brain and I started panicking about having to walk back across that little path.  I really thought that we were all going to be blown right off the mountain and I "ALMOST" dropped to my knees to crawl - hahaha

In the pic below thought you'll see that even after making it to the other side when a group of sweet boys asked me to come BACK OUT THERE to take their picture I obliged because #sucker

WORTH IT (kind of, if I think about it too much my knees get a teeny bit wobbly - hahahaha)

We got back to camp for lunch and then headed out to the visitors center to do some souvenir shopping and then back to camp to hang out.  Honestly, the hang out at camp time was some of my FAVORITE (this day and the day before).  We don't allow the kids to bring phones/electronics with them on the trip and it's SO FUN to see them play, interact, be creative and connect with no distractions to get in the way.

There was lots of volleyball, "human basketball hoop", cards, etc. and it was GLORIOUS.

They also had skits they performed, devotions they gave and a few other team activities to fill some of the at camp time. After dinner we also had some INCREDIBLE time learning about astronomy where I was blown away not only by their knowledge but by the sky itself. It's unlike ANYTHING I'd seen before - so many shooting stars!

The astronomy time was led by a parent (his girls are older, but both attend/attended MCA) whose passion is astronomy.  He brought lessons, his telescope and all kinds of cool things to show/teach the kids.  He also brought his equipment to take incredible photos...

On the last day we had tacos, packed up camp, did one last hike (balanced rock)...

... and then loaded up to head home.  Sharon and I shifted some gear around so we could take all 6 girls in the car with us and we laughed, sang and giggled the entire 9  hours home.  We also had to stop to properly introduce the girls to the greatness that is the Dairy Queen dipped cone ;)  With a few pitstops (including one where we made friends with some SUPER cute campers!) along the way we rolled into school right around 11:30 p.m. dirty, exhausted and SO HAPPY! (Did I mention nobody had showered the entire time - hahaha)

We called this trip our "Maiden Voyage" and we couldn't have asked for a better time or better group of kids to adventure with.  What a privilege to get to get outside and explore and make some pretty special memories - can't wait for next year!

I tried to cover pretty much everything but if you have questions let me know in the comments!


  1. There are fewer things more enjoyable than sitting out under the stars like you did. It always made me more aware of God's majesty. I miss camping, but do not think I could handle no showers!

  2. I have no words. You are a rock star. An absolute amazing mom and teacher. The very best. I mean...that would have killed me. Dead.

  3. This gave me chills, seriously! What an experience for everyone! In real time on IG I freaked out that you were canoeing/swimming in the Rio Grande, so cool. I've been camper camping with friends a handful of times and I'm always laughing that we spend so much time preparing meals, it's like they all run together but you're so hungry from being active so it works! :)

  4. This is so inspirational! I love this trip for the adults and the students! Well done!!

  5. This is INCREDIBLE!!!! What an amazing experience to offer your students! Lots of memories made :)

  6. Wow! What a great trip! So many memories that I know the students loved every minute of it!

  7. What an awesome experience for those kiddos!! My daughter headed out (from East Tennessee) to Big Bend with two of her friends over spring break this year. I can’t wait to share this post with her and ask if she had any of your same experiences. Those kids sure are lucky to have teachers and adults in their life that invest in them in this way :)

  8. That sounds like you had a wonderful time! I feel the same way whenever we hike on ride trails above the tree line... I always fear I'm going to fall to my death. What incredible views though!

  9. This looks amazing! I just sent this to my husband hoping we could do a trip like this next spring! I think a post on everything you packed/would need for a trip like this would be lots of fun!

  10. What amazing memories for these kids (and chaperones!!!) You are a stronger woman than I...I thought I was going above and beyond for a zoo field trip!


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