Sunday, June 06, 2004

Big Bend Rocks!

Sorry it has taken me a while to get back in the groove of things. In fact, I almost gave a thought to just not picking up the "pen" again for the old blog. I am a true Gemini, but according to the whiz kids at the McDonald Observatory, I am really Taurus because the constellations have changed over the years, etc. etc. Speaking of the Observatory, the Kman and I attended a star party a week ago that was just almost perfect (no clouds, but the moon was a little bright). Learned lots about astronomy and saw several astral events, including a fly-by of the space station. Looked like a falling star scooting horizontally across the lower northern sky. Still amazes me that people take things like the space station as everyday events. Maybe it's because I saw the first man in space, the first moonwalk, that I still hold such happenings as awe-inspiring. May I never get as jaded as some of the teen-aged audience that evening. The return trip late in the night with moonlight playing hide-and-seek around the mountain shadows was eerie but beautiful. We were ever watchful for the "suicide pigs" and other nocturnal creatures darting across the road.

Next day found us eating an early breakfast in Marathon, with the best freshly made salsa I have tasted in a while - I dressed my scrambled eggs in the deliciously chopped tomatoes and chiles. Sitting outside on the small patio, I could see the mountains of Big Bend in the distance. So quiet, peaceful. A couple of cowboys were talking over cups of strong coffee, and I listened to their west Texas twang with affection. On the tabletop were some petitions to stop water mining in the Bend area. Water is the most precious commodity in this desert biosphere.

After breakfast, we headed into Big Bend National Park. Absolutely stunning scenery, something out of an old west postcard. Persimmon trees with russet orange bark in beautiful contrast with bright green leaves. Desert yuccas, agave, and century plants as big as horses, all are paint strokes on this raw Texas canvas.

For my 50th birthday, I climbed a mountain. Literally. Took the Lost Mines Trail which is 2.5 miles one way of rocky switch-back climbing. The roundtrip took 3 hours. Up on the top, you could walk from side to side and see breathtaking miles of scenery. Kman and I were wise and carried large canteens of water. Wished we had also packed a lunch, I was starving by the time we got back down. Only thing edible for the next 2 hours was a couple of granola bars, two packages of beef jerky and some beer we had stashed in the cooler. Such a feast we had.

Later, that same day we hiked up and down into the Santa Elena Canyon. By the time we arrived, Santa Elena was 103 degrees in the shade. That which does not kill us...

Santa Elena Canyon"

Santa Elena Canyon"

The Rio Grande was quite low, and should have been renamed the Brown/Green Creek. Sad, a once proud and virile waterway, now a murky shallow puddle in most places. I suppose with a big rain, it might briefly resemble its salad days. All that's left of most rafting companies are just billboards creaking in the dry dusty wind, vacant buildings with faded paintings advertising white water excitement. The only ripple in the water we saw on this day was from a large turtle, partially submerged and looking for bugs.

Last leg of the day was spent at Terlingua. I had imagined this place as something magical, and I tried in vain to hear strains of Jerry Jeff's voice on the wind. Mostly, it was ratty old trailers and lean-to shanties. The original company store of the mining company is there, and the strange little cemetery with its mostly hispanic tenants are the only reminders of a once bustling mining town. Bought us each a tee-shirt at the Terlingua Trading Post.

The next day we had plans to return to the park, but a wounded Conestoga Wagon ( the Expedition) required a rescue from Van the Tire Guy. Dead battery. We left it for burial in Alpine. Fortunately, we were not still in the badlands of Big Bend when the juice ran out. I had forgotten how seriously tight small Texas towns roll up the sidewalks on Sunday evening. Whole pieces of concrete curl up and under the buildings right from underneath your feet if you aren't careful.

Since we got a late start that morning, we opted to leave early and drive to Langtry and see Judge Roy Bean's establishment honoring Lillie Langtry. There is a great little museum in Langtry, the actual old saloon building, and the Judge's homeplace which he called "The Opera House". Museum has small interactive kiosks along the wall with wonderful stories and flickering old time movies to watch. Out back, there is a nice cactus garden with lots of different species of the desert flora.

The Jersey Lilly"

After paying our respects to the Judge, we headed off to Brackettville and to visit Alamo Village. Alamo Village was originally constructed for the movie set of John Wayne's Alamo motion picture. Took 2 years to build, and it is an authentic replica of the church and fort at the time of the battle. Just down from the Alamo, there is an old western town that makes you feel like you just stepped onto the Streets of Laredo, 1885. Lots of fun, and if it hadn't been so darned hot, we would have stayed and played some more.

Later I will regale you more with tantalizing stories of the Border Patrol and small dogs I met. Will post some more pics when I get them scanned. Forgot to ask for them on disc -would have been much easier. Blame it on the half-century birthday.