rio crossing

Facing into the moonlit wilderness I unzipped. In the solitude under the southern sky all seemed at peace and just beyond a line of cottonwoods I could hear the famous river passing by. I knew the water ran swiftly at this point and the melody of the slight rapids was as lovely as the pale clouds high above. The mighty south Texas desert was to my back and the ruthless beauty I had witnessed today now rose up in an ironic fantasy of a cold and threatening North Sea tide.

My day had begun 150 miles to the west in the humble outpost called Terlingua. The landscape is rugged and like how I suppose a moonscape might appear. The vegetation is mostly nonexistent but everywhere is huge stone and sand deposits that suggest some titanic construction toys had been pushed about in a fabulously huge sandbox but suddenly the giant children who made the toys go were called away leaving a scared and helter-skelter scene. Likewise the built environment embraces the poverty of the scene to great effect. Houses, trailers, sheds and corrals are strewn across the landscape with an apparent remarkable lack of planning.. Flags wave their tribute to Texas and other heart-felt allegiances Water tanks perched precariously on oil drums lean against the trailers while motor bikes and horses lurk nearby. Interestingly the cultural vibe of the settlement is proud, independent and with a whiff of the hippie mentality. Painted on the side of the roadside VFW here: Bikers Welcome.

Before slipping into Big Bend National Park and losing the last vestiges of cell coverage I phoned Barbara as I have most days of this journey.  Before hanging up I told her how valuable this journey has been and how appreciative I am of her support. Indeed, these weeks have been as uplifting as any I remember in my life.

My ride across the interior of the park took far longer than it might. With a new found liberty to stop, look, smell and snap shots across this monster sized state, my rig is frequently at the side of the road. At a point I was out in the desert gazing north at huge handsome outcroppings. The late morning was still overcast from a cover of high clouds which kept the temps in the low 50’s. From the right of my line of sight appeared a creature not twenty feet away; a tall healthy adult coyote! Without fear he stood, stared and posed. In response I stared back with a silly grin and a whistle usually reserved for LuLu. My fellow traveler slipped into some brush for another long look at the Shack gleaming in the midst of the lonely frontier then ambled on. I was thrilled!

After setting up the trailer I set off for the isolation of the Boquillias Canyon trail. On the way I watched two men cross the river, one in a row boat and the other on horseback. They were checking on the cash boxes next to the hand crafted souvenirs they laid out at a wayside to earn some cash from the few visitors that stray that far from the tourist enclaves. Their small village of the same name as the canyon could be seen in colorful array across the hillside on opposing bank. Later I hiked up the stony trail, across an outcropping and then down again until I was on the very banks of the iconic river. Across the water three horses kicked up playfully in a makeshift corral. The sheer canyon walls rose in the afternoon sun as a solitary figure, a woman hiker, walked toward me. We met and for 20 minutes held an animated conversation in the midst of the most remote and remarkable setting. When she parted I reflected that in the previous two weeks I had spoken fewer words in all my social moments then at this chance encounter.

So tonight I grilled up some salmon, drank some Washington merlot, read my book, took a moonlit whizz and now wrote these words.

The Rio is grand.