The head of the Lost Mine Trail is located by a parking lot on
the road leading to the Chisos Basin. It is not clear if the Lost
Mine is lost or if it never really existed. There are plenty of wild rumors
about "lost" mines and buried caches of gold and older valuables
throughout the Southwest. You will probably not find the lost mine
when you take this trail but there are plenty of other things to see
on this hike. You can pick up a guide prepared by the Big Bend
Natural History Association that points out and describes many
interesting features encountered on the trail. The trail is a dead
end and the round trip distance is 4.6 miles. The last portion of the
hike is rather steep and rocky so sturdy shoes or hiking boots are
recommended. The end of the trail has a wonderful view and is a good
place to take a rest before starting the downhill journey back to the
You will encounter many different gymnosperms on this hike.
Gymnosperm means "naked seed" and refers to plants that produce
seeds but do not enclose them in a structure called a "carpel" as in
angiosperms ("covered seed"). There are not nearly as many species of
gymnosperms as angiosperms (flowering plants), but they include such
well-known plants as pines, spruces, firs, junipers, redwoods, and
cycads and some others not so well-known.
Pinus cembroides (Mexican Pinyon Pine) is in the Pinaceae
(Pine Family) and occurs at higher elevations. It is found mainly in
northern Mexico; in the U.S. it is found only in Texas. The seeds are edible
but have a thick coat.
Juniperus deppeana (Alligator juniper) in the Cupressaceae
has bark resembling the hide of an alligator, which is the source of the
common name. The leaves are small, scalelike and overlapping as
opposed to needlelike as in pines. The cones are smaller, smoother and
more spherical than pine cones.
Juniperus flaccida (Weeping Juniper) appears to be wilted,
but that is its normal condition. This plant grows in Mexico but in
the U.S., you can only find it in the Chisos Mountains.
Fairly early in the hike you can see the road as it goes through
Green Gulch into the Chisos Basin. The cliff to the right is your
Notice how slope aspect can affect vegetation in the image below.
The tree- and shrub -overed slope at the very left is north-facing (and hence cooler)
while the south-facing (hotter) slope facing it has very few shrubs and
You will encounter open grassy areas.
There are many breath-taking views on this trail and if you are
not in shape, you are not going to have much to spare at this
Rhus virens (Evergreen sumac, tobacco sumac) is found
along this trail and in many areas of Big Bend. It is a member of the
same family as poison ivy and poison sumac, the (Anacardiaceae)
but it is not toxic and has been used medicinally. The Comanche
Indians supposedly mixed dried leaves of this plant with tobacco for
When you get near the end of the trail, you can see a few tall
pine trees in the distance. There are Pinus ponderosa
(Ponderosa pine) and they are somewhat out of place. Ponderosa pines
are typically found in moister regions of the Western U.S. The few
scattered ones in Big Bend are probably survivors from a time when
the climate in Big Bend was wetter than it is currently. There are
still a few spots where these plants have found enough moisture and
shelter from the sun to survive. It serves to make the point that
climates do change and that vegetation distributions reflect these
Well, you have reached the end of trail, so sit down, have a break,
and take a good look around before starting the descent back to the
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