02 January, 2010
Big Bend (didn't bend enough!)
But let me begin with up until that point, things were pretty durn peachy. It was a pretty good two weeks, the first week was spent riding the rollers on a daily basis, sometimes 45 minutes, sometimes an hour. It was not great but at least I tolerated riding the rollers.
This year we-well Melissa actually-had an idea to spend Christmas break catching up with her best friend's (of two and change decades worth of knowing) family at Big Bend National Park. We took my truck and loaded her with all the gear and food a family of five can sustain for three days worth of winter camping and 11.5 hours of getting there and coming back. It was a tight fit but it all got shoe horned in. Thank goodness for a full-size Tundra.
There's an enclave of west Texas, Bohemian-wannabee, artsy expatriates with a knack of self-sustaining, locally producing behaviors colonizing in surrounding Marfa,
Alpine, and to some extent Fort Davis. When I was an undergrad at U.T. I did some racing out here and before they got all artsy, they were quaint and quintessentially west Texas (colloquialisms, no racism, great food, and that west Texas twang that pervades all art, music, and history). My friends Chip and Grant (and I), armed with Shiner Bocks, went out there one evening (when we were racing the Ft. Davis stage race) to see if we could see the mysterious Marfa lights. No such luck. Revisiting these places was sentimental and not the romantic ideal I had setup in my cerebral cortex; but it was cool nonetheless.
Speed is inversely proportionate to surrounding vegetative covering...
The first night we spent was hanging out with Melissa's uncle and his wife in Las Cruces, NM. I used to be stationed nearby at Holloman AFB in Alamogordo, NM and Las Cruces back then was almost but not quite as podunky as Alamogordo (although Las Cruces is home to the New Mexico State University Aggies). Now it's all grown up! Here's the views we had as we woke up and ogled the sights from their backyard overlooking the golf course. The background contains the Organ Mountains.
Finally we arrive...
We also packed firewood and kindling for three nights worth of catching up and getting our innate fix for howling at the moon. The winds were blowing when we arrived just a smidge before sundown and after we got our tents up (we now have to have separate tents for the boys and girls) I was sooo looking forward for producing water and carbon dioxide from combusting cellulose, but get this: there's no wood fires allowed at Big Bend (the desert's apparently like a tinderbox out here with various types of grasses, trees, and shrubs growing out of the sandy soil). This slight oversight would result in three, very cold, sub-freezing nights. I slept with a down vest, down jacket, beanie, leg warmers, khaki shorts, and socks-and I still got cold. Mason apparently doesn't get effected with the cold as I do.
This is what we woke up to: 38% humidity mixed with 32°F made for a miserable night of minimal REM sleep. This picture is as cold as it looks. Rugged though, ain't it?
The days were fine and warm enough though. First day out we went to Boquillas Canyon where we can see the quaint Mexican town of Boquillas right past the Rio Grande. I didn't snap pictures of Boquillas but I got the Rio Grande and the steep canyon walls resulting from eons of the erosive powers of hydrogen hydroxide.
Mason's in the foreground with his souvenir, bamboo chute.
Wednesday we go hiking on a trail called "The Window". It leads to a notch in the mountain where melting runoff carved its way through the low spot on the mountain thus giving spectators a window to the valley. Pretty awesome.
Broke my ankle here portaging the Moose on my shoulders over a kinda technical trail cut over the creek. Here's the beginning of the 5 mile, roundtrip, trail.
Here's our family shot with my non-weight bearing right leg in some serious pain...
After I hobble back to the lodge, we buy some souvenirs and snacks (they had the candy bar "Zero" there, I thought they went out of business!) and head out to the Santa Elena Canyon. The ride out to the Canyon again reminded me the uniqueness of the Lone Star State. The scenery coupled with our Sirius Radio channel of Outlaw country playing some outstanding Texas singer-songwriters made for a religified audio-visual experience. At the canyon, the sun's setting and the Moon is making herself known over some uknown clump of mountains.
Melissa got her moonlight hike in as well. The sheer drop-off off the canyon walls and the chalky ground cover highlighted by the near full moon made the hike back to the trailhead parking an illuminating, humbling, cosmic one-ness experience. Here's what we walked into...
To offset that, me and the kids took decent sized rocks and flung 'em into the Rio Grande. It made these cool, bassy splooshy sounds as it smacked the water (and sunk)while the tinny sound reverberated off the canyon walls. Surreal and humbling y'all a good combination. Here's what we walked out of...
One more freezing night because of no cloud cover and in the morning we packed our stuff, said our awkward goodbyes, and promptly got the hell out of Dodge. Once we arrived back at Mike and Kathy's we had a belly filling dinner with a quick sightseeing stop in the historic old town of Mesilla. At dinner we had an enlightening history of the Barber side of the family and settled back down at their house for the evening.
The ride back was exactly the reverse of the ride coming. The 11.5 hour drive back would be broken up with a play stop in Santa Fe where the kids would run around at the Rail Yard Park. We bought Raising Sand in Las Cruces to commemorate this trip. It's a duet of Robert Plant and Allison Krauss' efforts.
Other than the break occurring during my break, the break was great!