San Jacinto Spring trickling from a cliff face in the Big Bend National Park.


San Jacinto Spring is an oddity, even in a lonesome land where an unexpected surprise waits beyond most every surrounding rise or contour. So much so, that getting a decent photograph amid such a juxtaposition of color and composition can be a real challenge in itself.

Nestled hard along the western bluffs of the Punta de la Sierra, this is not a locale you are usually passing through to get to someplace else.

To the east are the high, multi-hued cliffs of the sierra and to the south a series of near impassable pour offs consisting of darkened volcanic rock. Your western access is blocked by a natural maze of eroded hills and arroyos snaking to and fro like a large basketful of writhing, restless serpents.

Only to the north lies a comparatively easy route in and out. Yet for that one true path another half dozen others lurk to mislead the sojourner into somewhere he, or she, really does not want to be.

Many years ago, a trail once ran that direction and faint remnants of it can still be found. That, along with hard-earned knowledge of this area is what will keep you on the straight and narrow. A loop of sorts is possible in crossing the Smoky Creek Basin to the spring of the same name, down through the San Jacinto and to yet another spot hidden among those treacherous folds called La Casita.

But to do so you have to know the trick in how and where to take to the high ground west of La Casita, because on one side you have those pour offs and to the other lies that same basketful of contorting snakes.

In fact if you know your business and the network of trails that once existed through here, you can actually launch from Mule Ears Overlook and make the loop in one day. But as the old saying goes, you better eat your Wheaties and be prepared for a long, hard day of moving fast and neglecting many of the sights deserving a second look.

And again, you have to know this country as few others do or bring along someone who does. Be discerning in that, as the quickest road to disaster out here is to overestimate yourself and underestimate what will swallow you whole given half a chance.

As my grandfather used to say: “This desert is like being in love with a beautiful woman who is always trying to kill you.”

Best to enjoy that beauty in small sups or it’ll poison you for sure.


God bless to all,

Ben H. English
Alpine, Texas

USMC: 1976-1983
THP: 1986-2008
HS Teacher: 2008-2010
Author 2017-Present
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‘Graying but still game’