Ebenezer Bryce, an early Mormon settler for whom Bryce National Park was named, once said of the terrain surrounding his home, "Hell of a place to lose a cow." That could be said of several places in the southwest. The one that came to my mind this morning is Big Bend, down in Texas. It covers a hell of a lot of territory, over one million acres of public land. Hell is an apt description on a hot day in this back country. It's the kind of country that comes with brochures on "How to Survive in the Desert." Water, being the key word. A lot of it. More than you might think. But, it's a beautiful place to be.
If you head down that way, you might want to stock up on victuals in Marathon. Marathon is a cool little town on the edge of the park with a beautiful hotel and some fun shops. It was the first time I'd run across a sign on the door of a shop stating, "Closed from 1:00 to 4:00." Siesta. I wished the shop was open, but even more, I wished I lived someplace where siesta was part of the natural flow of the day. Sounded good to me.
The first night, we settled in for a spirited game of gin rummy, at the picnic table, by lantern light. Later, we talked about the signs. You know those feelings you have that tell you when someone else is present? In this case, it was something else. Quite a few somethings. The Universe has a way of sending along additional information in case you've ignored the first communique. So, a sudden burst of wind came through and across our table. We managed to hold on to most of the cards, but a couple of stragglers left, landing somewhere on the ground amongst the trees, away from the table. We went after them with the lantern, only to discover that, indeed, we were not alone. A small herd of javelinas were quietly munching their way closer and closer to our picnic table. About a dozen of them. They were so close by the time the wind came up that they could have hopped up on the table and said, "What's for supper?" We did not want to be supper. We slowly moved toward the van, one walking forward, the other walking backward, checking the trail between us and the van, not to mention our back trail. It seemed a lot longer than I know it was. We must have looked like a couple of the Three Stooges. Had either of us been startled, it would have quickly become mayhem, possibly resulting in flesh wounds. Needless to say, we made it into the van, piling in with the thought of javelinas nipping at our heels. I am here, writing this, so all's well that end's well. We had been warned, yes. The brochures said they were out there. On subsequent nights, we watched as they foraged their way through the campground from one end to the other. It was a nightly ritual.
Every where you go in Big Bend constitutes a day trip. This is a big place, as I mentioned. A few days later, we needed to lay in some supplies, so we headed to Castolon, a historic little town with a general store called the Harmonia. That it was. Few choices, but a nice place. I love back country stores, still serving the people in the most fundamental ways. We bought supplies, I made a few calls home on the payphone outside, and then we headed back.
A note for clarification: the photography in the body of this posting is not my own. I borrowed it from a Big Bend website.