On the road again
Going places that I’ve never been
Seeing things that I may never see again
I can’t wait to get on the road again
First a side note. As I mentioned in our last journal, I spent a considerable amount of time in my misguided youth hanging around the beaches of Southern California and conniving ways to acquire various surfboards with virtually no money. I and most of my buddies made them ourselves from the castoff debris of the legitimate surfboard manufacturing industry. Below is a very old photo sent to me of a young Bill in the garage surf shop of a school friend.
Yep, folks…..that lanky and somewhat dorky 13 year old is the rather sophisticated and cosmopolitan fellow you know today. There is indeed hope for all.
Saturday, February 5, 2011: Hopping on US-90 we reluctantly left Fort Clark Springs and continued our trek west. At 0930 it is clear, there is no wind and temperatures are in the mid 30’s.
During the day’s travel we passed the following interesting places, all of which we have enjoyed on previous trips and highly recommend.
- Lake Amistad National Recreation Area–http://www.nps.gov/amis/index.htm
- Seminole Canyon State Park– http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/seminole_canyon/
- Davis Mountains State Park– http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/davis_mountains/
- Judge Roy Bean’s Saloon and Court House–http://www.judgeroybean.com/jrbhistory.html
Encountered our second Border Patrol checkpoint of the trip and again passed without incident.
Good thing I wasn’t wearing that serape and sombrero that I picked up in Del Rio.
All along US-90 there were parallel single lane dirt roads. Periodically we would come across a Border Patrol truck dragging some tires chained together apparently to smooth out the road. This would create large plumes of dust which could be seen for many miles.
We couldn’t figure it out until we learned that the tire dragging process was accomplished every afternoon to obliterate any residual footprints so any fresh human activity could be detected the next morning. Seemed like a rather labor intensive and archaic way to detect illegal alien traffic but I guess it must be effective.
After gassing up with $3.60/Gallon fuel at the Last Stop Gas Station in Marathon, Texas we headed south on TX-385 and an hour later arrived at Big Bend National Park.
Flashing our Senior Pass we motored past the gate. The long drive into the interior of this vast National Park was made easier by the recent pavement due to Stimulus Money. In addition new and accommodating scenic overlooks have been added to make enjoying the scenery along the drive safer and more pleasant.
An hour later we arrived at our intended campground near Rio Grande Village where we selected a very nice spot for our stay.
As in most National Park Campgrounds, the sites do not feature any hookups so back to dry camping for the next few days. The weather looked to be clear and temperate so we shouldn’t need to run the heater. In addition, there were coin operated showers in the village down the road. The campground was right on the Rio Grande River and only about 200 yards from Mexico. After setting up camp, Kit and I took the short walk down the trail to the river overlook.
Folks, that is the country of Mexico across that very narrow and somewhat shallow watery border. However there was not a manmade barrier or sign anywhere around. After careful observation I did notice a line of sombreros that seemed to float across the river……weird. I guess the harsh environment and steep cliffs would keep all but the most intrepid illegal alien from finding their way north and landing in Roswell, New Mexico.
There are many trails that lead from the campground; one of the more popular ones is a nature trail that starts out crossing a small backwater of the Rio Grande.
This area is reported to be prime bird watching habitat although we noticed little activity this afternoon.
Perhaps we will have to return tomorrow and sit quietly in the predawn darkness to await sunrise and then, possibly we may have better luck. Proper decorum prevents me from reporting how this suggestion was taken by Kit.
On an earlier trek we noticed some activity across the river.
These fellows appeared to be diligently working on some kind of task as their transportation waited patiently nearby. Pulling out our binoculars we observed they were working on some kind of handmade crafts. Sure enough a short distance further down the trail we encountered this display of Mexican hiking staffs and other crafts for sale.
On closer examination we were intrigued by the artwork on the “Sotol” staffs and the brightly painted rocks as well as the intricate handwork of the wire scorpions.
The “store” operated on the honor system as the merchants were across the river and there was no one else around but Kit and I. There was a price list on the ground held down by stones and an old soda bottle for depositing payment of your purchase. Oh, I should mention that there is no official crossing anywhere along the 119 mile border within Big Bend National Park. So apparently the merchants would swim across the river under cover of darkness, collect the day’s proceeds, replenish the inventory, and swim back to Mexico all before daybreak. I guess NAFTA really does work!
Before returning to camp, we stopped to enjoy the sunset across the Rio Grande.
Then as an added treat we enjoyed how the waning sun illuminated the far mountains through a valley window. The following picture does not do justice to the intense colors that changed hue as the sun fell. Or, for that matter the broad expanse of this beautiful sight.
Back at camp we enjoyed a nice meal and turned in early. Funny thing about dry camping; we tend to go to bed and wake up in rhythm with the sun and not the clock. Around midnight, I woke to take care of age related business and then stepped outside to admire the brilliant stars in the inky black night sky. Big Bend is a “dark skies” park so any artificial lighting is kept to a minimum. What a spectacular sight…..the stars at night are indeed big and bright deep in the heart of Texas! To add even more magic to the moment, there was a chorus of coyote howls and yelps that appeared to come from all directions.
I fumbled for my star wheel and was able to pick out a few constellations. However, I really wanted to see Pluto because I hear the star wonks have decreed it is no longer a planet, but rather some kind of galactic oddity. Pluto refused to show her face…..or maybe my star wheel was missing a spoke or two.
Back in the warm bed, I fell asleep and dreamt about the exploration that lay ahead. It has been a very nice first day at Big Bend National Park……stay tuned for the rest of the story.
Kit’s Corner: We picked a great time to come to Big Bend. The temps were warm, the breeze very nice and refreshing – and the campground was perfect. We used the generator just a bit in the morning and evening to take the chill off; the rest of the days were nice and comfortable. We were anxious to check out all the park had to offer.
Love, Dad/Bill/Poppy and Mom/Kit/Guma