Zac’s Big Bend Bachelor Party
Michael’s Photos @schmeeglez
Sam’s Photos @samnesiac
Welcome to the private page on my website to keep the info for Zac’s stag trip more organized than an email thread. Remember, only you can prevent information sprawl.
We are going to celebrate the last days of non-marital freedom of young Zac baby boi. He is so darling and deserves a big adventure. It’s a secret - don’t tell him anything.
My Current Headcount
12. Jack O. (Coming from ATX)
13. Jon S. (Coming from Santa Fe)
14. Marcus S. (Coming from ATX)
15. Johnny W. (Already in West Texas)
16. Grant H. (Coming from ATX)
17. Chris B. (Coming from ATX)
18. Kyle B. (Coming from ATX)
19. Craig F (Flying Into El Paso)
Zac C. (Guy getting married, coming from ATX)
Sam S. (Guide, taking his own Truck from San Antonio)
Bob M. (Flying from NY to El Paso)
John N. (Coming from ATX)
Wes E. (Coming from ATX)
Aaron B. (Coming from ATX)
Walker L. (Coming from ATX)
Michael W.(Coming from ATX)
Kent C. (Already in West Texas)
Where We're Going
As the first swath of Texas land to be designated a National Park in 1944, Big Bend covers 800,000+ acres on along the Rio Grande/Texas-Mexico border. There is also a 311,000-acre state park located adjacent, with the Terlingua Ghost Town sitting right between the two. The Chisos Mountain range is contained entirely within the boundaries of the National Park. This is the only mountain range in the United States to be fully contained within the boundary of a national park and the southernmost mountain range in the mainland United States. Rich in Native American, Spanish colonial, and Texan history, and home to a diversity of flora and fauna, the area’s abundant resources and beauty, including waterfalls, canyons, rock formations, deserts, and wildlife are among the most famous components of West Texas' reputation.
If you've never been out this way, you're going to love it. It's an incredible, scenic, and raw swath of country - you won't soon forget it. The fact that we're doing Zac's bachelor party out here instead of a drunken stammer down Bourbon St. is pretty thrilling to me. And the fact that y'all are going to be there with him to take in that scenery will no doubt mean the world to him. This is going to be great!
If you are driving from Santa Fe through El Paso, you will cross a BP checkpoint at Sierra Blanca an hour or so east of El Paso. If you drive south on 285 through Carlsbad you will not go through a checkpoint but will go through the Permian basin oil fields, which can be slow and dangerous with the big trucks. We will not go trough a BP checkpoint on the way into the park, but will on the way out. So what goes down south stays down south. Pack accordingly. :)
See a full list of border patrol stops in the area at the bottom of the webpage.
What We're Doing
So here's the plan, adventurers: we're going to canoe a small section of The Rio Grande.
The Rio Grande is no joke of a river. This isn’t just a float down the lazy river at Schlitterbahn - it’s a large, swift, potentially-dangerous river. Its proper name is Rio Bravo, which means The Wild River. That's why we've asked my good friend Sam Stavinoha to guide for us. When he's not a senior engineer at Rackspace, he leads river excursions out of Terlingua along that very river and he's a West Texas native so I figured we'd be in good hands.
We've also got two gentlemen in our crew who canoed the Mississippi together (one of whom currently lives near Big Bend), we have a police officer, potentially a DEA officer, and I was a crew chief for 3, 100-mile Boundary Water canoe trips in Minnesota/Canada so between us we can hopefully keep anyone from drowning.
Santa Elena Canyon
Santa Elena Canyon (see image above), downstream, is the most popular overnight trip in the National Park, not only because the put-in and take-out are easily accessed by vehicle, but because it is often considered the most dramatic & beautiful (like me). Santa Elena has the tallest cliffs in the park forming the canyon wall—up to 1,500 feet.
The first 13 meandering miles from the put-in at Lajitas give you a good look at the contrast between the riparian and desert ecosystem. The river becomes more technical in the last seven miles when you have entered the actual canyon. Two miles into the canyon, the largest rapid, the Rock Slide is classified as a Class IV rapid at certain water levels.
Our Plan A is to paddle upstream from the Santa Elena Canyon Trailhead, a few miles into the canyon, and then return back downstream (also known as a "boomerang" trip). If the water level is low, you do not have to fight the current much going upstream, making this trip quite leisurely. A backcountry use permit is required for all river trips, which Sam will help us secure; no fee is charged for day-use trips.
As such, we’ll be camping and cooking out. Please let us know ASAP if you have any dietary restrictions or medical conditions that we can keep an eye out for to make sure you have a safe and good time.
We Gonna Canoe, Bitches
gonna canoe so hard
Friday Night Lodging
Kent did some great legwork on finding the right place for us on Friday night. It’s a tough task given the lack of total resources in Terlingua, but he found us a pretty cool spot called The Red Buffalo Tipi, The Otter Den Tipi, & we’ll have the adjacent Campground. Yep. Tipis. Some of you may remember the tipi that was in the backyard at our house all those years. I miss having that thing to sit around in and bullshit the night away. Well here’s our chance to relive those old glory days! The owner is giving us a pretty good deal too that only comes out to $15/person for the night.
Our lodging is located at Living Rock Rentals, on the hill above Terlingua Ghost Town, a short walk from The Starlight Theater Restaurant. Living Rock has an incredible and unique vista of the Big Bend region, magnificent sunrises and sunsets with night skies filled with stars. We’ll have a composting toilet and outdoor bathhouse.
When you get a chance, send $15 over to Kent’s PayPal since he was the man who booked the reservation for us.
Friday on the road you’ll be on your own. We’ll have a crew dinner meeting at The Starlight in Terlingua to meet with Sam and talk about the particulars.
Saturday we’re only planning one big group meal. If you’re the kind of person that needs a lot of fuel, be sure to bring your nuts, nutrition bars, pack a sandwich, whatever. For dinner we’ll be having tacos. We only had one vegetarian request so that’ll be accounted for.
Sunday we’re only planning one big group meal at breakfast. Lunch and all other food will be handled back on the road.
Since we have limited time, we'll need to stay pretty true to the schedule we map out. Of course we want this to be as relaxed and fun as possible too, so let's always shoot for balance.
8:00AM Leave from Zac and my house in Austin (plenty of street parking) and head to Terlingua Ghost Town
We’ll be driving in Walker Lukens’ glorious tour van from the hill country to the desert.
It'll probably take about 8.5 hours with reasonable stopping so we should be able to see the incredible Terlingua sunset and head to the Starlight Theater for dinner, drinks, and music
See more about our Friday lodging above.
Bullshitting the night away.
Fly into El Paso, get your rental car and meet us in Terlingua.
Coordinate with Bob if you want to carpool/discuss other flying plans
There won't be good phone service on the way to and in Terlingua so we'll need to coordinate where we're meeting once we have the lodging address figured out
We're working a few angles in Terlingua, either camping or staying at a small hotel
Backup plan if you ever get lost/separated is to meet at the Starlight
West Texas/New Mexico Crew
We'll figure out where we're going to meet up
Get outfitted early in the AM and drive to our launch point.
We'll need to rent the canoes, PFDs, and shuttle/trailer from Far Flung Outfitters
I'll follow up with pricing once that's confirmed
Sam is making our reservations with the outpost
Get on the water by 9AM
Our final plan will largely depend on the water levels. They don't announce when they're releasing water from the Conchos in Mexico, which is why we're making two water level dependent plans.
Plan A (as mentioned before) is to head to the national park side and do an overnight boomerang trip a few miles up stream in Santa Elena Canyon (very scenic) and camp near some fresh waterfalls, camp, paddle back downstream on Sunday
Plan B is the head down past Lajitas for an overnight boomerang trip on the state park side, where there's lots of wild looking volcanic rock.
We'll have breakfast, break camp, and paddle back to our launch point
We'll drive back from Terlingua, likely getting into Austin quite late
I'd suggest you make arrangements to fly out Monday as there are a lot of variables that could cause you to miss a flight on Sunday
West Texas/New Mexico Crew
You'll be fine
Hopefully this provides you some helpful information. There will be more to come. I’ll update the link and let everyone know when there are steamy fresh details for yer butts.
Bob and I have spoken at length about this and our goal is to keep this trip, especially for what kind of trip it is, incredibly cheap in comparison to other bachelor parties. Based on the total costs of canoe rentals, shuttles/drivers, food, and gas, we’re anticipating this trip being in the range of $300 a person. Bob had the idea of everyone taking out $300 in cash so we can all divvy and settle up in person. If you’ve already sent Kent something on PayPal, that’s fine.
If you happen to be someone who can take on one of the expenses on the way out, then all the better. If you’re not someone who can take on expenses on the way out, that’s fine and there’s no need to be a hero. Let us know if you have any questions/concerns about this! Better to talk through it now than run into surprises later.
We also have the option of using Splitwise, but we’ll cross that bridge if we need to. Cash should work fine for now.
River-Guide-Sam’s Packing List
Remember, this Is An Ambitious Packing List. Do the best with what you’ve got.
“I'll say this again somewhere, but I've been crafting and curating my collection of camping gear for about 12 years now. The first time I went on a river trip in Big Bend I brought almost nothing with me and trusted my dad to take care of things. Those trips were rough.
This list does not include common goods-- this is only what each person needs to bring for themselves. I will make some suggestions about brands/products, but don't take me too seriously. If you don't already own something, just get something that works and has decent reviews, or borrow. For those of you that are traveling in, lets coordinate in WhatsApp and make sure we have you covered gear-wise, so you don't have to travel with a bunch of gear. If you have any questions/concerns please ask me sooner than later. I can help people borrow gear, or find good deals online. Also, Far Flung Outdoor Center rents gear: tents, sleeping pads, etc. I am happy to consult anyone about any gear they're looking for. Just email or WhatsApp me. Since I still work for them on occasion, I should be able to get markdowns on a lot of this, including the canoe rental cost. However, I don't think I can get a discount on the shuttle.”
“The following items are very necessary. Buy them, or beg, steal, or borrow to acquire. These will be near and dear to you while we're on the river.”
20-35 oz personal water bottle. Can't go wrong with a hydroflask
Insulated (aka double walled) stainless steel bottles are preferred-- you can leave these out in the sun without worrying about having to drink 100℉ water. Or just keep your bottle out of the sun :)
Optional: Cheap sunglasses. You will probably lose your Raybans in the river.
Headlamp. Petzl or Black Diamond are good options
River shoes. You can wear some old sneakers, or, if you want to be happy, wear chacos or tevas, or any other strong sandal. Strong as in, will strap to your foot in such a way that your foot can be submerged in a foot of mud, and when you pull your foot out the sandal comes with it instead of staying in the mud. These will be the only footwear you have for 3 days. I'd prefer to see people in old Vans than in the water shoes they sell at HEB. No flip flops or shitty sandals because that results in sadness
Cup. Not your water bottle. This is for drinking wine, whiskey, coffee, juice. Of course you can use your bottle, but a nicely portable and durable camp cup is worth having.
Knife. Leatherman or equivalent. You will use this to cut rope, or maybe onions
Spork. Basically some kind of all purpose camping utensil for pushing food around on a plate or frisbee that can also be used to shovel food into your mouth
Lighter. Everybody should bring at least one because fire.
Sleeping comfortably and safely is important:
A freestanding tent with a rain fly. As opposed to a non-freestanding tent, which is typically a glorified piece of tarp that requires guy lines to stay upright. Coordinate with your lover(s)
Sleeping bag. Could be as cold as 35 at night. Deserts are crazy!
Sleeping pad aka camp mattress. I've had my Thermarest pro-lite plus for 9 years. FFOC rents paco pads.
Look for quick drying and technical apparel. Think about features like packability (like down jackets) and quick drying fabrics.
Think about your apparel separated into "river clothes" and "camp clothes". Some can be both, some can't. Think about being comfortable at camp.
Think about protecting yourself from the elements but keeping your number of items to a minimum. This is where technical apparel really shines-- many uses and functions well in many different environments.
quick drying pants
quick drying shorts
long sleeve shirt(s) to wear while paddling
extra camp-only shirt
wool socks (for sleeping only)
down jacket or a hoody
water resistant or waterproof outerwear top (like a packable poncho)
A few other optional niceties
personal pelican case (for cigarettes, camera, phone and other small quick access items)
Straps are really important but I don't expect everyone to go out and buy straps
although I will mention it would be super helpful if everyone brought a couple. perhaps a couple 9 footers. whatever you have. ratcheting straps are annoying, dont bring those. bring buckle straps like the ones in the nrs.com link
personal dry bag (for clothing)
we can rent big dry bags from far flung for sleeping bags and tents
gear sacks / stuff sacks
for clothing. nothing better than putting bags inside of bags
This is the core list. Think durability, simplicity, and minimizing volume.
Weather In Big Bend
Resources & Info
Marfa Public Radio - for local news & happenings
Far Flung Outdoor Center - our outfitters
Cacti of Texas: A Field Guide - I have this book and will be bringing it, it’s excellent
Interesting new documentary about the pipeline in West Texas
El Cosmico Hotel in Marfa - aka, How Liz Lambert Helped Marfa Become An Instagrammable Destination-Wedding Spot
Marfa Brands Soap - expensive soap that smells delightful to send home to your S.O.
Border Patrol Checkpoint Locations
Marfa - located 4.5 miles south of Marfa on U.S. Route 67 --30°15′06.43″N 104°02′57.88″W
Alpine - located 10 miles south of Alpine on Texas State Highway 118. --30°11′54″N 103°34′46″W
U.S. Route 62 – 33 miles east of El Paso. --31°49′34.6″N 105°55′04.8″W
Sierra Blanca - located between El Paso and Van Horn, 5 miles west of Sierra Blanca on Interstate 10. --31°11′29.84″N105°25′46.83″W