• Ngoc X Doan

The First National Park Visit During Our Cross-Country Trip

Updated: May 21, 2020

One of my goals for this trip is to visit National Parks. We spent the first 3 weeks living on the road as a practice round. We are still trying to get used to our new lifestyle with limited resources. We may never get used to it. And that's okay.

This week our blog features Big Bend National Park!

Map of Week 4

Week 4 - First National Park Visit

Big Bend National Park was so beautiful. Our friends recommended Big Bend because we're taking the southern route to the West Coast. Big Bend is located in the Chihuahuan Desert. It is also on the border of Mexico. Big Bend is known for its dark night skies. We stayed two nights. Both nights were mostly cloudy, but we still saw a lot of stars!

We went on an ovo-vegetarian (no meat) diet at Big Bend.

We prepared Porcini Mushroom Pasta on our first day. If you read our previous blog, we brought pasta and mushrooms from Italy! Here is a pro tip: remember to hydrate your dried mushrooms hours before you want to eat. Don't be like us. We hydrated our mushrooms when we got hungry. Our dried mushrooms had a bad smell while soaking in water. Ironically, other hikers kept asking what we were making because it smelled so good. They probably smelled our garlic pasta sauce. Luckily, our pasta actually tasted good. Cooking with one burner requires extra thinking and planning. Our butane ran out half way, but we had a spare one. We ended up eating our first meal at 3:30 PM. It took us 2 hours to cook and clean. Was it worth it? Oh, yes!

Pro Tip: Cooking in the dessert, one needs to find a shaded spot. Lucky us, we stopped at the only picnic location in the park that has 2 pergolas. Shade equals happiness in the desert. The location is Santa Elena Canyon River Access Picnic Area, for those who want to visit Big Bend. By the time we were done eating, other hikers already left. They brought sandwiches and granola bars. We're just glad we can now say we cooked pasta at a National Park!

Also, I've never spent so little water washing dishes. When you have limited water supply in your tiny home, you get creative and become good at conserving it!

A little puppy came to visit after we finished lunch.

Other times, we had yogurt and fruits to make it quick and easy.

Pro tip: using less water and spend less time cooking = more sleeping time!

Random food discovery: green apples and raw honey taste so good together.

On our last day at Big Bend, we reheated our leftover pasta. We also finished our mixed greens with nuts! It was a nice change from all the BBQ we had lately.

Pro tip: small squat folding chair is a lifesaver!

No access to showers at Big Bend

Mark used our tiny sink to wash his hair after a long day bathing in the sun.

Hot Springs at Big Bend is a must do

The last activity we did was spending time at the Langford Hot Springs. We arrived around 10:30AM - just before it got crowded. It was a great way to end our visit at Big Bend.

Fun Fact: Mexico is on the other side of the river.

Photography - Behind the scenes

We practice squatting (unintentionally) and take photos at the same time. Mark used water in the Rio Grande river to clean our tripod.

Hiking in the Desert

We only had time to do one short hike. We chose to hike the Santa Elena Canyon Trail. We made it to the end to see the iconic/money shot view of Big Bend!

Vegetation at Big Bend

What can I say...? I love plants.

Photography - Dark Sky with Stars

We weren't lucky with clear night sky at Big Bend, but we still saw a lot of stars.

It was pitch black at the park. I tried so hard to open my eyes to see the ground, but I only saw blackness. We needed to move our tiny home around a few times in order to find a good spot to look at stars. While taking photos, I heard animal rustling sounds around me. Some photo sessions were cut short, because I was scared of snakes. I didn't see any. After reading about snakes at Big Bend, I was paranoid. It was cold and windy, but it didn't stop me from getting these night shots.

Big Bend, I'm coming back to visit you again!

Life at Big Bend in our Tiny Home

Glamorous shots of tiny home life minus the struggles of living on the road and in remote areas

Week 4 Tiny Home Adventures

Common Questions: Where do you shower? Do you have a shower in your tiny home?

We thought about installing a shower. We did our research. In the end, we decided to go with showering at Planet Fitness. Planet Fitness Black Card membership allows the cardholder to bring a guest, unlimited, at any locations in the U.S. The monthly fee is $22.99. There is an annual fee of $39 end of April. It is a great deal to be able to workout and shower at the same time!

We were surprised that Planet Fitness is everywhere - just not at Big Bend. One of the biggest perks is that they have free Wi-Fi. Whenever we have extra time, we squeeze in a workout session. We probably should try to burn off those excess calories from BBQ and fried chickens meals... On top of showering and working out, we also charge our devices, refill our water bottles, upload/download images and sometimes write our blog!

Week 4 - Tiny Home Lifestyle

1. We are still struggling to get used to showering at the gym. We have been visiting a decent number of Planet Fitness locations and none have the same layout. My brain has to work extra hard to figure out where everything is located at each gym. We have not been to the same Planet Fitness more than 3 times and rarely twice. I still feel shy walking into the gym to shower/workout even though no one cares. However, I have become good at pretending that I know where I'm going. It is a strange feeling when you go to shower, but your bathroom/shower layout changes everyday!

Showering at a gym can be unpredictable. Some days, showers at Planet Fitness only run hot water. I didn't think this was possible. Sometimes, the water pressure is weak. Sometimes, the shower curtains are not clean. Fancy locations have double curtains or plexiglass door, but I still prefer double curtains! Sometimes, the water is icy cold. I like to blame Mark on using all the hot water as if we were living in our condo. Maybe cold showers are not too bad after all. It's better for your skin, some people told me. The good thing is gym showers are usually empty. Plus, I get to choose which shower I like better. Happiest shower days are days where I get good water temperature, water pressure, two shower curtains, paper towels to wipe down my wet bottles and sandals, and have access to a hairdryer!

2. A trip to the gym to shower takes time and prep work. I have a list of things I need to bring: towel, shower sandals, toiletries, change of clothes, skin care products (this is a must!), lock, and the list goes on. Somehow, I always manage to forget multiple items! Going back to the trailer isn't an option for me since I get swiped in as a guest. If we ever do this again in the future, I'm going to be the account holder.

Chances of losing/forgetting things in the gym is very high. I have been trying to make sure I double check every time I leave. We can be miles away from gym within an hour or so! Mark already forgot his lock at one of the gyms - luckily it wasn't something important enough to back track. First time, I showered at Planet Fitness, I forgot to bring body wash . The location did not have soap in the shower. I had to use hand soap from the sink. I stored foamed soap in a paper towel. You can go ahead and judge me. It had to be done...It was either hand soap or no soap! I didn't think going to shower requires this much effort and planning. Planet Fitness, thanks for keeping my brain from going on "cruise control" mode.