We were amused and dubious as we pulled into Loma Paloma RV Park. There was no apparent official entrance, and no apparent office to go and check in. We stopped in front of an RV where a woman was sitting in a chair, enjoying the warm afternoon sunshine. “Where do we check in?” we asked. She just laughed and said to just pick a spot and that the owner would find us. As she finished telling us that, a woman named Maxine pulled up in a golf cart and repeated exactly what we’d just been told. And so we looked around the very large, mostly empty dirt lot and picked a spot on the edge, away from the small smattering of RVs.
We had full hook ups, almost no cell service, no wi-fi, not a blade of grass nor a drop of shade. There was not one rule about dogs…no leashes, no areas to keep them in or out of. We were in the arid and barren West Texas area near Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park. The RV park butted up against BLM (government lands) lands that stretched for more miles than the eye could see. There were some trail marks from where people had been dirt biking or 4 wheeling. We were on the other side of nowhere, and it didn’t take long for us to feel all at home, wishing we were staying more than 4 nights.
The first full day there we explored the state park. Dogs are allowed on the trails in state parks, so we were pretty happy about that. We enjoyed a trail that took us over rocks and boulders and down to the Rio Grande River. It was simply beautiful and best of all, quiet. Super quiet! The dogs enjoyed a bit of splashing in the river and quenching their thirst. Alice would have loved to hunt down every scent she smelled, and Charlie would have liked to pounce on her for a wrestling match, but….leash rules in the park.
Another hike took us into Closed Canyon where the temperatures dropped dramatically once we left the sunny trail and headed into the shady canyon. It was beautiful and fascinating, and the exercise was good for all of us.
Being back in our RV park at the end of the day was a relief. We were tired and hungry and we settled into our chairs outside as the temperatures dropped and the sun began to set in a very colorful way. The early evening walk with the dogs was out into the BLM lands…free, off leash…we were all happy about that.
The next day was a long day that included driving through the state park and to Big Bend National Park. We did a ton of driving and sightseeing. Just a little walking. With much stricter rules about dogs in the national parks we could only walk the pups around parking lots and on paved roads. So we made the best of it and let them stretch their legs at each view point we stopped to take in. There were quite a few. Big Bend offers some truly beautiful and varying landscapes. The entire area has mesas, valleys, mountains and plains. We drove through them all, had our breath taken away by the vistas, and again, best of all….enjoyed the profound silence.
On our way home from the national park we stopped for an early dinner in Lajitas, a town that lies between the national and state parks. We had found a dog friendly restaurant there the previous day, and so decided to enjoy another dinner out with the pups at this surprising little oasis, truly on the other side of nowhere.
We had one more day to enjoy this stark new home. The dogs ran free, playing with other dog residents, running to visit people who looked interesting, and even going to the door of a nearby RV that they knew had a dog in it. They were like children begging for a friend to come out and play. For us the day was spent cleaning the RV and Jeep and getting all the laundry done. There was also a run into town and get some groceries and taking the dogs for a walk around the historic Fort Leaton.
That afternoon we met the other park residents for happy hour at the Lizard Lounge; a long table with plastic chairs under a metal awning, smack in the middle of the park. It was lovely to meet other people, some who make their way down every year for the winter season, some who had come for a week and stayed a month, and us, who thought 4 days would be enough and wished we could have stayed a couple of weeks. We shared our travel stories. Nobody was yearning for home. And then we said our good-byes and wondered back to our RV, the dogs following us. We felt a little wild, free and grubby, and we liked it. As the sun began to set I climbed onto the roof of the RV and took some pictures.
We departed the next morning as soon as we had taken the dogs for their morning walk. The long drive ahead gave us plenty of time to mull over how much each RV park becomes home, and how, while we love the luxuries of upscale RV parks, would give all that up in a heartbeat to have space, freedom and quiet. If we make our way down that way again, we will definitely be there a couple of weeks, with nothing in particular to do, just enjoying being on the other side of nowhere, in the silence…with free dogs.