Ernst Tinaja – No Place for Old Men

There are spots of incredible beauty hidden in the desert of Big Bend National Park. Locations so remote on two-track roads so difficult to drive that most tourists will never see them, not matter how many times they return to Big Bend. When Jack and I began planning our trip last fall we new of several spots that would test our hiking skills and physical endurance and also of a few that might test our vehicle’s endurance. Little did we know just how much of a test “Ernst Tinaja” would be.

Ernst Tinaja Map

The deep desert of far West Texas is no place for old men, unless you come well-prepared with a high-clearance, all-wheel drive vehicle, lots of water and emergency supplies. Cell phone service is spotty at best and the nearest service station is 50 miles north. When the park map calls a road “primitive”, they mean just exactly that.

The Ernst Tinaja trail lies  about 8 miles north of the park’s Rio Grande Village visitor center along the Old Ore Road, which is less of a “road’ and more of a hundred year old “wagon trail” running along the western edge of the Dead Horse Mountains. This extremely rough two-track road runs about 6 miles north through a series of cut-backs, washes and gravel slopes with enough sharp rocks to puncture even the toughest of steel-belt radial tires, unless you’re very careful.

No Place for Old Men

What we thought would be a quick thirty minute drive to the trail head turned into a three-hour torture test for the Forester’s tires and for our aching backs. There were spots so covered in sharp rocks that we had to stop and do a little “hand grading” of the road before we would dare drive over it. Though we were prepared with a full-size spare and high-lift jack, a flat tire out here would have been almost impossible to change due to the rugged terrain. Those were the toughest six miles I had ever driven since my younger days running the “Press On Regardless” rally in Michigan’s upper peninsula.

Ernst Tinaja

Ernst Tinaja – Big Bend National Park, Texas
Copyright © 2011 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 32mm, f/14 for 1/40th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

We finally arrived at the trailhead about 2-1/2 hours later in the day than we had wanted to but we were determined to hike the short trail up the wash to photograph the formations. The word “Tinaja” is Spanish for “large earthen jar” and Ernst Tinaja is one of the deep desert’s few springs in the park. The geology of the local area is unique since the Dead Horse Mountains were formed millions of years ago by a dramatic uplift of the limestone layers which created a series of sharp folds evident in the image below. I’ve never seen geology this dramatic before and the beauty of Ernst Tinaja was well worth the long, difficult drive.

Now for the drive back!

Limestone Folds

Limestone Folds – Big Bend National Park, Texas
Copyright © 2011 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 73mm, f/14 for 1/20th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

2 thoughts on “Ernst Tinaja – No Place for Old Men

  1. Beautiful work, Jeff. I think it is terrible how the state parks discriminate against old men like me. They should have 4 lane highways leading to this spectacular scenery. Gonna have to do something about that. 🙂 Guess I might have to skip that trip.

    Wes

  2. Nicely done, both in the adventure and the images. The last time I took the old ore road with a friend in his 4×4 Tahoe, we flatted 4 of the 5 tires on his truck. To say it was an adventure is an understatement. But… fortunately, we are all fairly expert outdoorsmen and other than having to consider walking out (yuck) once or twice it all turned out OK.

    Have you read Death in the Big Bend??? Very sobering.

Comments are closed.