Texas Wants You Anyway

On February 23, 2008, in Uncategorized, by Meghan
You say you’re not from Texas,
Man as if I couldn’t tell,
You think you pull your boots on right,
And wear your hat so well,
So pardon me my laughter,
‘Cause I sure do understand,
Even Moses got excited,
When he saw the promised land,
That’s right you’re not from Texas,
That’s right you’re not from Texas,
That’s right you’re not from Texas,
But Texas wants you anyway.
(Lyle Lovett, “That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas)”)

By late-morning of our first day in Big Bend, we were beginning the easy, meandering climb up the famous Lost Mine Trail, which traces its way through the depths of the Chisos Mountains, the central mountain range in Big Bend’s expansive 801,000 protected west Texas acres. 1,100 feet and 2.5 miles later, the Lost Mine Trail led us to the end of a ridge adjacent to the still taller Lost Mine Peak.

There’s a local legend about the Lost Mine Trail. According to the legend, the surrounding mountains once housed a secret mine in which workers were blindfolded before being brought to the mine to work. When the mine closed, its entrance was sealed, and no one today knows where the mine is. Except, EXCEPT! If you stand at a single place about 40 miles away (where the Rio Grande bends just so) on Easter morning, from that vantage point, the first sun beams will strike the Chisos Mountains on the exact spot of the lost mine.

We saw no remnants of the lost mine, but we did our fair share of ogling about everything else out there. A north front had rolled through the previous day, and its remnants kept the day cool and breezy, but amazingly sunny and clear. We wagered bets on how far we could see. 100 miles? 150 miles? 200 miles, just maybe?

(My sweetie self-portraited us from the end of the Lost Mine Trail. Yes, we’re wearing matching hats.)

After a few hours of playing in the mountains, we made a beeline for the Rio Grande Village Campground, where we would camp for the night. Rio Grande Village sits in the wide open desert, next to its namesake, the Rio Grande (Don’t let its name fool you; the Rio Grande is nothing but un rio poco except during the summer monsoon season.), which also serves as the international border seperating the U.S. from Mexico.

Shhh, don’t tell anyone (Actually, I want everyone to know this. If you ever visit Big Bend, you must do this!), but my favorite sunset spot in Big Bend was just around the corner from our campsite. When the sun sunk low on the horizon, and the shadows drew long, and the cool air began to settle into the low spots on the land, we climbed a tiny ridge on the Rio Grande Village Nature Trail with a camera and a bottle of wine. As the sun fell out of the sky, it backlit the nearby (and Mexican) Sierra del Carmen Mountains a fiery series of pink, then orange, then grayish-purple. We watched the display, Mother Nature’s version of July 4th fireworks I’m sure, while sipping wine atop the ridge.

(Here’s one of my sweetie’s photos of the Sierra del Carmen Mountains in Mexico being backlit by the sunset.)

Day two in Big Bend brought more adventure. We spent a better portion of this day exploring an area called Ernst Tinaja. To get to this area, we first creeped and crawled and bumped our rental car about 5 miles along a rocky, sandy dirt road. Then, we walked upstream in a dry creek bed, called an arroyo in these parts, until the creek bed tightened into a narrow canyon. Once the canyon narrowed, it was characterized by gray limestone, smoothly slickrocked by the torrents of water that flow through during the summer monsoons. Here and there, deep pockets are carved into the smooth limestone over thousands of years of flooding. Even when it hasn’t rained in months, these deep pockets, or tinajas in Spanish, hold pools of water. Ernst Tinaja, named after the fellow who homesteaded this area during the early 1800’s, is one of these pools, and a big one.

(My sweetie photographed a reflection of me in the water of Ernst Tinaja. I was standing above the tinaja.)

After visiting Ernst Tinaja, we continued exploring (Off route and off trail, which I don’t recommend folks doing unless they have local area knowledge or off trail desert travel experience.) our way up the canyon, playing on the slickrock as we went. After perhaps a mile, we reached the head of the canyon and the open desert beyond it. From there, we first followed a faint trail and then later an old road that traced their ways through the desert, along one of the canyon rims. As we walked, we could look straight down into the canyon where we had just been. We eventually diverged from the old road and walked cross country back to our car.

As this day ended, we found ourselves at a backcountry car campsite in a new area of the park called the Grapevine Hills. After dinner, we layed in the tent, sans fly, and gazed at the sky. Out there, there was, quite literally, no light pollution. As such, there are so many stars that it can be a challenge to locate the famliar constellations. Wintertime Orion and persistent Cassiopeia get lost in a sea of pinpricked white on a black so dark that it’s almost blue. As I watched the sky that night, I was contented by the thought of being in Big Bend. I may not be from Texas, and I may not even live there anymore, but, I was sure that Texas still wanted me there anyways.


7 Responses to “Texas Wants You Anyway”

  1. KendraBo says:

    Beautiful descriptions and beautiful photos! Like Olga said, Texas was never high on my list of places I wanted to see until you lifted the veil. Full of history and rugged beauty. I loved the mine legend. Thanks so much for sharing your trip with us, MegaMillions.

  2. JeffO says:

    Nice write-up. Made me feel like I was in the desert when I read it.
    Great photos.

  3. Audrey says:

    i really really love that texas song!! i have this fascination with texas and i’ve barely spent any time there and certainly none not in the cities of austin and dalls. i can’t say what it is that excites me about the place!! but i want to go to where you just were!!

  4. olga says:

    What beautiful picture of your reflection in the lake! Your Sweety has a nag for it – or for you:)

  5. Journey to a Centum says:

    I’ve learned to discover the beauty within. This can be true for people as well as the various landscapes of the world. There was a time when I would have called the area you were visiting in Texas a dirt bowl and the armpit of the nation. It’s not until you have a chance to explore and discover the flora and fauna that you can truly appreciate what lies before you.

    Michelle and I both lived on the Western Slope of Colorado for a year. The first time I saw the Mesas and valleys my impression was that it was barren wasteland. It didn’t take me long to realize the beauty of the landscape, animals, and vegetation. From this experience I understand the draw that Texas has on you.

    Great pictures! Thank you for sharing your experience.

    Trail Scat

  6. Backofpack says:

    Well, now. My sweetie said it all, just read his comment and pretend it’s mine, okay?

  7. Meghan says:

    Hi everyone!

    Kendrabo- Well, then, get yer’ lil’ fanny down there to that Lone Star state!

    JeffO- Yeah, but you WERE in the desert, just a Californian desert!

    Audrey- I know, that Texas fascination is something, isn’t it?

    Olga- 😉

    Eric (and Michelle, I suppose)- Sometimes, I think it’s all about scale. When I flew over Big Bend in airplane, it was much less attractive that exploring its various nooks and crannies.

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