Summer 2010 Writing Contest Entry
The van that stopped for us was heading all the way to the Big Bend. My roommate, Terry, and I had
started the cross state hitchhike from Sherman just the day before. Now, late afternoon, we swept along
the long road from Marathon quickly to be enveloped by the shadows of Chisos Mountains.
The summer of '81 was a turning point for me, and the trip to the Big Bend was a turning point for that
summer. I imagined I could recreate memories of childhood summers spent camping in the Basin. In
my mind a tow headed 12 year old, is cavalierly prancing, precariously close to the window looking out
from the Chisos basin.
That afternoon found our ride stopping in a lonely spot. A bickering married couple, their kindness was
offset by the dentist-drill birdsong of their endless argument. When the van stopped, I scrambled to get
out and walked a steady clip until the drone of their conflict was rebuked by silence.
The mountains were draped in orange and titian by the light of the dying day. A battered volume of
Castaneda in hand I was determined to use the last rays of the sun to re-read a well thumbed chapter.
Instead I found myself facing the wall of mountains. The falling sun dragged sharp lines across their
faces and I fell entranced at the magic lantern show of sunset.
I'm not sure what started it. The spectacle of light and shadow, the recent loss of my parents, the loss of
what I thought was the love of my life, any of a thousand imagined affronts. I felt an unfamiliar sting
and, unbidden, my eyes flooded with tears. Never a pretty crier, I gasped and gagged and swallowed
hard against the tears. I don't know for how long, but I wept like a child.
The angry couple had parked near the dilapidated ruins of an ancient hotel. At the foot of the modest
hill, hot springs bubbled up through the a long neglected masonry bath. I threw my sleeping bag
alongside the van and soon found myself staring at a high afternoon moon.
As the horizon swallowed the sun Terry and I picked our way down to the hot springs. A few other
campers were already in the steamy waters. We met awkwardly in the well worn spot. In memory that
night becomes mystic and those strangers, old friends. We talked for hours. Wet bodies released
columns of steam that softened the light of a disinterested moon.
Later exhausted, wet and grimy I laid down on top of my sleeping bag and stared at the myriad stars as
I span on the planet beneath them. I was content at the center of the universe, yet the interests of my
heart seemed far away. With a modest surprise I remembered that the stroke of midnight had ushered in
my birthday, I was 21 years old.
The spectacular dawn hammered into the campsite and I woke up knowing what I would do. I found
Terry already making coffee. I gave him my second canteen, and half the jerky I had. The angry couple,
quiet in repose, still slept as I picked my way out of the campsite.
I put my thumb out on the long road to Marathon, the morning sun at my back. I had no idea then, that I
would never see Terry again. No notion that I would never return to College. Never see the girl I lost.
Moments lost to me, like my parents, like my new friends from the hot spring. Yet now, the sun across
my shoulders and the Chisos behind me, I felt I was slipping from the loving embrace of home.
Most years I bring my family to the mountains. Driving a sleek automobile I dwell on my loved ones
lost in the fabric of time while the Big Bend stands apparently unchanged. The fluid lives of the
mountains, measured in eons, hardly note our puny, flickering flame. I know there is no constant but
change but I also know the Big Bend will be there for me. All my days, and all the days of Texas. The
Big Bend remains, resolute.
There are some views you just can't take in all at once. Like a dazzling sunset or breathtaking field of wildflowers—you just can't appreciate such beauty in the moment, a moment that is often over before you realize it, the forms and colors of that marvelous vista already fading in your memory. Perhaps it was with the goal of preserving such scenes that the first camera was invented, a goal that you may still share when you visit a place as beautiful as Big Bend and the surrounding area. Why not take a look through our new and improved photo galleries to see what amazing sights have been preserved by astounded visitors and appreciative locals? When you see the mountains, plains, flora, and fauna displayed in those images, you'll be glad the gallery contributors took their camera along.
Among the many activities available in Big Bend National Park that highlight the region's diversity of wildlife, birding can be enjoyable and promising. Big Bend engulfs a vast area, bounded by the the rushing Rio Grande valley to the south, containing high peaks in the Chisos Mountains, and boasting both desert and forest climates between the two. It embodies the very diversity that makes America great, providing countless opportunities to spot more than 450 birds in one area.
What are your new year's resolutions for 2012? Did you keep your resolutions for 2011? While the top resolutions each year include losing weight, learning something new, traveling, or getting out of debt, here's a new challenge you can take on this year: spot all the bird species in Big Bend National Park.
Big Bend has some of the most spectacular scenery in Texas, if not the entire US. Our big sky country rivals any other state and our night skies are as dark as anywhere for excellent star gazing. The beautiful light and great scenery make for a photographer’s paradise.
There are many things you may love to do in Big Bend National Park in the heat of summer, but running or jogging is probably not one of them. With 90+ degree temperatures, there simply is no such thing as a nice July run in West Texas. With the dry weather we've had this year, you have truly hostile workout conditions. That all changes this time of year, though, as temperatures drop and the sun gives us a break for a few months. What a great time to get out on some trails in Big Bend!