Couple living in RV has a few days to kill, decides to go to Big Bend National Park on a whim.
While traveling west through the Texas hill country, the couple realizes they need a newbie crash course in RV knowledge, they book one in Albuquerque. Not off course, just gives them extra time to meander.
They thunder into the Rio Grande Village in the late afternoon heat and manage to plug into electricity, hookup to city water and sewer (for gray water only, not brave enough to use the toilet yet).
A quick evening hike delivers views of the river, the menacing setting sun, and glistening rock mountains that establish themselves in tiers of colors and elevations. The night is pleasant- with lights, air conditioning, and cold water flowing from the sinks and shower.
Morning breaks and its time to pack up camp, which takes longer and is much sweatier than planned. Success finally comes and the hose and giant slinky are clean and packed away and an apple and some almonds are shared for breakfast (after washing hands of course). Water has been filtered (Berkey filters are top notch) and is being drunken liberally.
8:40 am and the couple is waiting by the gates of the Banquilla crossing and the sun is intensifying. 9:00 exactly and two park rangers arrive and open the gates and the couple walks down to the river.
$5 each for the row boat across, $5 each for the burro ride to the village of Banquilla, and a $20 tip for Daniel, the couple’s guide and “interpreter”, who swatted the donkeys along the sandy path and showed the couple the highlights of the village, which were the church, the views, and Jose Falcon’s restaurant.
10:00 am and the couple is sitting on a wonderful patio overlooking the mountainous scrubland, drinking margaritas and micheladas, and listening to an old vaquero pick a guitar and sing.
The ride back to the river is hotter still but the riders are now seasoned and urging their burros onward without Daniel’s help this time. The rowboat back to Texas takes all of the twenty seconds and the river is shallow and looks passable by foot. Hand your passport to the border agent, claim the apron you purchased in Mexico, and off you go down the road- easy enough.
Twenty miles away but still along the Rio Grande are the natural hot springs, which is the couple’s next stop. The narrow road is impassable by RV so the couple walk a mile or so under the relentless Texas sun, an umbrella brought along as the only available shade.
The hot springs were hot but the river was cool, and jumping back and forth was a crude, yet fun, spa treatment. The Rio Grande surged and had a stiff current there, and Mexico was feet away and its shore was covered with corn stalks and tall grass.
The couple chatted up a British expat who had just moved from Red Hook and was wanting to now live on the west coast, and had just recently helped build a cedar fence on a ranch in Alpine, TX. An interesting fellow.
The afternoon heat billowed in and the couple camped under some cottonwoods, this time without hookups, and the reality of a sweaty nights sleep set in. Ice cubes on the neck and wrists eased the situation.
The days are hot in the desert, but the nights are cool and the couple awoke at sunrise with the RV windows open and the fresh air encouraging their mood.
A final, early morning hike of Santa Elena Canyon before the scenic drive to the Ghost Town of Terlingua, TX and out of Big Bend.
The start of the hike had a number of steep switch backs, then the trail leveled out while the canyon walls towered above like skyscrapers. Near the river at the base of the canyon bushes and grass were nourished and green, while up above on the angled slopes gritty cactus and yucca clung heroically to life.
Above the inclined scrub line the canyon went vertical and the rocks were smoothed and painted by the worship of the wind and its Creator. At the same time an awe inspiring inspiration prevailed, the layers of hues and textures gleamed eternal, and all was certainly sculpted and dyed by God’s own hand.
The couple wanted to believe that perhaps the majesty of the scenery was the same now as in the Beginning, but that would be untrue. The only connection would be the joy and wonderment in a human heart to be a part of God’s creation, the feeling remained forever kept inside.