Monday, January 25, 2010
BIG BEND COUNTRY
We rode through 150 miles of repetitive Texas, with
three small desert towns, Marfa, Presidio and Lajitas. There was nothing between them but an occasional falling down shack and cactus. In that last stretch, we saw naught but an unmanned satellite blimp, tethered to a building watching for illegals. I was tempted to get up on a tall cactus and pirouette just to change their scene.
Here people are rich in solitude. And tough. You had to be tough to survive. Many didn't.
From the park entrance it was yet another 35 to the Cottonwood Campground nearest the great Elena Canyon scoured by millions of years of the mighty Rio Grande, pushing its way south through the cracks in the fortress known as the Chisos Mountains.
Its winter here and our first day was 83 degrees, most likely unusual weather. We watched the javalinas play, and did some bird watching. Many northern birds winter here. It seemed out of place to see cardinals, their red feathers flashing, in the dry river rushes.
This coyote was unafraid of humans.
The following day, cooler at 67, we hiked the Elena Canyon to a point where no passage was possible.
The sheer, 1500 foot walls, stretch on either side of this gap for miles between the U.S. side and Mexico.
Our hike began up this switchback cemented path that quickly changed to natural rock at about the half way mark.
We stopped to rest and I had to wiggle my toes in the great Rio Grande.
This vast park, contains 800,000 acres and stretches over two time zones. Sheer river canyons, rushing wild rivers, breathtaking mountain vistas, sculpted mesas and desert lowlands comprise this unique wilderness that borders Mexico.
We also hiked to a special place on the river bank to look at the Mexican town of Santa Elena, across from us. From his last visit in 1997, Jim remembered this friendly border crossing, where no customs or immigration services were necessary. You hiked to the bank and for a couple of dollars a Mexican with a row boat would take you to Santa Elena where you could have lunch, or frequent a cantina for a couple hours of drinks and music, then be rowed back to the park. That charming experience was forever lost after 911.
We drove East out of the park for more views, but it really begs a week, at minimum, to appreciate what this special park has to offer.