More Power to You!
Trip Start Sep 20, 2007
150Trip End May 16, 2008
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Day 1, or is that 2, of touring Big Bend National Park. I'm not sure if last night's Baja 500 X 10 ⁻ ¹ counted as a day of touring.
The day started off real early. I mean....really, really early. Awake by 5 am. Not by choice. Out of bed by 5h45. On the road by 6h30. Did the ½ Baja 500 X 10 ⁻ ¹ (That's 25 kms for you non-mathematicians). Also for you non race fans the Baja 500 is a 500 km cross desert race that starts and ends in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. My ET is getting better. I feel the bumps less if I go faster
At Santa Elena Canyon you can climb up part of the mountain and follow a trail along the canyon wall. There are 5 or 6 flights of concrete steps to get you to the plateau overlooking the river. To get to the trailhead you have to cross a stream. Like all well used stream crossings somebody has come before you and inserted medium size rocks for you to walk on. The trick is to not fall in. Soggy socks and shoes do not make good walking attire.
Being a photographer is a lot of work. I climbed up and down those stairs at least a dozen times to get the different angles of the rising sun. And it's not like you can tell the sun to hold it while you reposition yourself to get a different angle. I wish I could have cloned myself so that I could be on the plateau, by the river, 15 kms away and a few other positions to get all the different shots I would have liked to get
The trail followed the river into the canyon along the plateau for less than a kilometre when it came to an abrupt stop. The canyon wall and the river ended the trail. It would be a splendid place to go canoeing or kayaking with the canyon walls soaring to the sky on each side of you. Duh! Am I an idiot? As I'm writing this I'm looking at a map of the park to see where the canyon heads and realized that the river I've been taking pictures of is the Rio Grande. The left canyon wall is in Mexico and the right side is in the USA. I assumed it was some tributary.
After hiking to the end of the trail I returned to the top of the plateau at the beginning of the trail, rested and had a snack. Being a photographer is tiring. As I'm about to leave an older couple have climbed to the top of the steps. I hear the man speak to his wife in French. So when he says Hi, I say Bonjour. No reaction. His wife says Hi, I say Allô. No reaction. They walk away. I pack my things and start walking down when 4 people are at the top of the stairs and are going to take a group photo
After I tell them I'm from Calgary they indicate that they are going to Banff in July. They ask if I could be their tour guide. I gave them my card. They were interested in my travel blog and then they can contact me when they get to Calgary. Every time I pass out a business card with my blog address and then talk about the people I've met I worry that I won't relate the story the right way. I asked for their names, but my brain has a hard time remembering names, and in this case, I wouldn't know how to spell their Indian names.
I climb down the stairs for the last time and make my way to the parking lot
The scenic drive has stops along it with signs explaining what you are seeing. The pictures will hopefully be titled what the areas are. At Tuff Canyon I decide to hike down into the canyon and see the rock formations. The sign at the top of the canyon talks about the volcanic activity that created the canyon. The volcanic and other various rocks are quite interesting. I stop for some water and notice some rocks with crystals in them. DIAMONDS! Carbon + Heat (Volcano) + Compression = Diamonds. Right? I think that's what I remember from Chemistry class. I'll have to talk to Katrine the Geophysics student or even Dr. Bob Gaines, the Geology Professor I met in Charlotte and lives in California, to see if my thinking is correct. I probably wouldn't know a diamond in the rough if it was right in front of me. I contacted Bob as he had indicated in Charlotte that he knew of a number of places in the west that I might want to visit
Now back to my potential diamonds. Now theoretically, if I had found a diamond in this canyon, I wouldn't leave it there. But this is a National Park with rules about taking rocks, plants, etc. So I couldn't tell people exactly where I found it. If I lied and said I found it outside the park they would want to know where. Then I would need to find a similar rock formation. Diamonds don't grow just anywhere. Lies and greed. A bad combination. Maybe it's better that I didn't find a diamond. Reduces the temptation to create some crazy story.
I get to the end of the canyon and I have a choice. Go back the way I came. The right way. Or do what a few other people have done. I notice along one side that it's possible to reach the top with a little climbing effort. I decide to go scrambling. I am wearing the new hiking shoes that I bought in Orlando. They're great for when it's hot out as they are well vented but give minimal ankle support like hiking boots
I continue on my journey, meeting various people at the various stops. Within the park there are also roads that are marked "primitive". The map says they are for 4X4, high clearance vehicles. They lead to various back-country campsites along the Rio Grande. I make a turn onto one of these and stop. The map shows that the road will get me to my destination, the Rio Grande Village. I have a choice, the low road...the scenic, primitive, slow going road, or, the high road...the slightly less scenic, paved, faster road?
I took the high road. I wasn't prepared to take the low road. I had the vehicle, though my tires are not optimal for the off-roading, but I didn't have enough water and other survival gear for the trip in case of an emergency.
As in life, the low road is very tempting as it will probably give the best experience, but we have to be prepared. We have to sometimes chose to take the less favoured road, the high road, until we are better prepared.
Oh, I love it how this Journey continues to create opportunities to see life as it is
My next stop was the Sotol Vista Overlook. The truck next to me has a Saskatchewan Rough Riders plate at the front. Guess where they're from? The lady sitting in the front seat has the passenger door open. I say Hi and "You must be from Saskatchewan?". She says they're from Regina, they're traveling with friends from Camrose, Alberta. They're making their way to Port Alberni, BC to see their son. I have a feeling we are going to meet again. Port Alberni is next door to where my sister Murielle just bought a house in Lantzville, BC. The house my sister and her boyfriend bought is on an acreage and there's a garage with a canopy to store an RV under. They take possession April 1. The week before I plan on being there. Their place has an ocean view. I may never leave!
My day isn't even half over. Guess you're getting a book to read today.
The scenic drive over, I decide to head to the far east side of the Park to the Rio Grande Village. At the mid-point is Panther Junction. The road branches off here towards the main highway at Marathon, where I came in from. From this point to the Village the elevation drops about 700 metres
It's a 32 km drive from Panther Junction to the Village. I stop at various intervals to take pictures. I come up to a tunnel and want to stop to take a picture, but don't. I'll do it on my drive back. I walk around the Rio Grande Village and stop in at the store to grab something to eat. The guy at the store makes a comment about the weather. The temperature indicator in my truck says it's 33 out. That's on the plus side. Yes, I am rubbing it in for all you northern folks. It's also awesome in that the humidity is very low. Not like it was in Florida when it was in the 30's and the humidity was 100%. This was bearable.
The guy at the store mentions that they are RVers. They head north during the summer when it gets too hot here. He says he's getting tired of it always being summer. I think he was joking
I walk to the boat launch. I finally see the Rio Grande. Actually, I had seen it last night and this morning, but didn't realize that until I started writing about Santa Elena Canyon. It's not as wide as I thought it would be. Expectations again!
Further east from the Village is Boquillas Canyon Overlook. The end of the line. There are signs warning you not to purchase goods sold by the Mexicans. They either cross the river, illegally, and try and sell you their goods, or they try and entice you to cross over to their side of the river and buy their stuff. If you cross into Mexico, you can't, legally, come back. The penalty is a $5000 fine and/or 1 year in jail. They'll also confiscate whatever you bought
At the Overlook there are some Mexican goods laying around. I notice 2 Mexicans wading across the Rio Grande. The water goes to their knees. I take a few pictures and then they are back at the overlook. The penalty for the Mexicans is to be deported back to Mexico
Time to head back to the trailer for a nap. It's only noon and I'm exhausted. I go through the tunnel and stop on the other side to take a picture. There are two motorcyclists there. They look female. The younger one of them is getting naked. OK. Not naked. She kept her sports bra on. Wearing full riding gear when it's 30+ degrees out is not comfortable. She has a mesh riding jacket like mine. She was taking the lining out so that the air could pass through it. The older woman is riding a Burgman scooter. I had thought of buying one before I bought my cruiser. As she stated, she looks like a dork, but it gets her where she wants to go. I say I wish I had my motorcycle. This place is perfect for cruising. They're both from the east side of Texas. The older woman received her motorcycle license last August, the younger woman in January. She has a road bike. This is the first time that she really rides it. They're here with a few other people, but they have off-road bikes and are gone on the primitive roads. They're staying at the same campground that I'm at.
Back at the trailer I take a nap
At 5 o'clock I take a drive to Chisos Basin. There's a lodge and campground there. They're located at the top of one of the mountains. I figure it would be a great place to take sunset pictures. On the main road I cross paths with a group of motorcyclists. The two woman I met at noon are part of the group. I arrive at the turnoff to Chisos Basin. There's a warning sign. The road is not recommended for trailers longer than 20 feet and RVs over 24 feet because of sharp curves and steep grades. I start up the 10 km drive. The road is quite steep with numerous hairpin curves. I arrive at the top at 6. I have a problem. The road ends at the lodge. There's a road branching off and leads down to the campground. This is "literally", a basin. Looks like the inside of a volcano. To the west there is what they call, The Window, that allows for a view of the horizon, but 90% of the remaining view is of mountain ridges.
It's very beautiful, but I'm not going to get the sunset pictures that I want. The sun sets in 40 minutes. I decide to go the Sotol Overlook that is about 45 kms away. I race over there. Literally. There's no traffic. Yes, I was going slightly over the Parks posted speed limit. Guilty as charged. The things I do to get some photos
I took over 350 pictures today. A daily record. I scanned them and I'll delete about 50 that really are no good. What I envisioned as I was taking the picture didn't come through in the photos. It'll be difficult sorting through the other ones. A lot of them are similar, but with slightly different angles or settings. Somebody else will have to be the judge of them because I can't decide. They still don't do justice to what I actually saw.
I figured out why I run out of energy so quickly. If I have too many long days like this you would all have to join the novel of the day club. There's a print function for the blog. I went to print preview and it's almost 200 pages long when you include thumbnails of the pictures, 140 pages of single spaced, small font writing.
I was reminded by someone (ok, it was my mom) that as a kid I was extremely quiet and never said anything. I replied that I'm a giant sponge. Sponges don't talk. All they do is absorb stuff. All my life I sat there and listened and observed and absorbed all that was around me. You have to squeeze the sponge to have whatever is in it to come out. I guess I'm getting squeezed. The big question is, Who's doing the squeezing? The second question is, Why am I being squeezed now?
Think It! Feel It! Live It!