Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Shoot first, ask questions later

Here I am in Texas. In Big Bend National Park, actually. The irony now is that there is absolutely no cell phone service for at least 30 miles, but there IS free wifi. So.
We've been over a week on the road now, and I love this life of no agenda, sleeping outside, facing the elements. And we've certainly faced them. It reminds me that I'm alive- it makes me realize that mother nature is so much more powerful than people give her credit for- the extremes, and the way the weather can change in a heartbeat. Living outside of walls and roof is the only way you could ever truly understand this.
We left Cloudcroft freezing cold and wound our way down the mountains and east.

We headed out to Bottomless Lakes State Park, just past Roswell. I've always wanted to see Roswell- I have a fascination with anything to do with the cosmos. Bottomless Lakes is a cool place because the lakes were formed by sinkholes, and they are full of gypsum (and they are not, in fact, bottomless). It was quite the abrupt weather change, rolling up to the park. It was pushing 100 degrees (and we'd come from 40ish). Luckily one of the lakes that we camped near had a swimming area complete with sandy beach, so it was

nice to just relax and enjoy that. The water was freezing cold but it felt so good compared to the sun. The weather stayed warm even after sunset, and the stars were super bright. I was even able to do yoga on the beach, under the stars. That felt really nice, being able to look up at the night sky from triangle pose... ah, yes. So all was nice. Then about 2 a.m. I woke up abruptly to the tent bowing in on us. The winds had reached 30 or 40 mph. It was extreme, and at the same time a cold front was moving in, so the temperature dropped into the 30s or 40s within half an hour. Frigid winds and bending tent poles kept us up for hours. We couldn't jump in the car because the car is full of junk. So we just hoped the tent poles wouldn't break. We unzipped the "windows" to let the air flow through, and that helped a bit. I can't even explain how intense the whole experience was. It actually felt like the wind could have picked us up. Finally the wind calmed enough to doze a little.

The next morning we took the bike (in freezing cold) into Roswell to check it out. The UFO museum there is a trip. It posts sworn statements from eye witnesses the night of the crash, and the President's radio broadcast that night. It also displays newspaper articles from that week. There are photographs of UFO's, and all sorts of interesting displays. There's also a research library open to the public. I was sort of hoping to get abducted or something, but no such luck.
That night the wind was a little bit nicer to us, but it certainly made its presence known. The next day we headed down to Carlsbad Caverns. We didn't make it in time to hit the caves before they closed for the day. We camped in White's City just outside the park, and it was overpriced and really weird. The whole "town" right there is completely run down. Apparently there is also no fire department to respond to emergencies. We are getting more and more remote as we go. The wind reared her majestic face again that night.

It woke us up just as the sun was rising (thankfully, because sunrise was beautiful), but it was so bad this time that we actually had to rush to get our tent taken down and pack up the car. It was really hard because everything was blowing like crazy, and you could barely keep your feet on the ground. As I was putting the tent in the trunk, a gust of wind slammed the trunk into my face- right between my eyes, to give me a nasty gash, blood and all.

So after getting everything shoved away, we took the bike up to the caverns just in time for them to open. It was crazy because we were alone in the caverns for most of the hike (it's a self guided thing). The stillness of the caverns was profound. Carlsbad is one of the largest by volume caves in the US- so the rooms were HUGE and expansive. I felt so much peace with the earth all around me like that. What a great morning.
That day's drive brought us into Texas- oh the flat dry expanse, and oh the oil trucks and oil rigs and oil everything. We stopped in Pecos, and a couple other tiny Texan places. (Good luck finding tofu off west Texas highways!!) That night brought us to Balmorhea State Park (a pricey place, for sure). The wind was nicer to us that night, and we were able to see the night skies quite easily. The coyotes sang me into and out of sleep all night long (I love that).
That brings us to yesterday. We headed straight to Big Bend NP. We stopped along the way. Alpine was the coolest little town so far. A great bookstore called Front Street. Check it out if you have the chance!

So we finally made it to the campsite around 5 p.m. and it was still 100 degrees. So hot and dry. This is the least visited National Park- it's in the desert, it's completely remote. And we are a stone's throw across

the Rio Grande to Mexico. The border used to be open, and apparently the little Mexican town just across the river is in trouble because their entire economy revolved around tourism from this park. It's pretty sad. They warn you that you can be arrested if you buy crafts from people selling them at the river- illegal commerce. So you see all these crafts laying on rocks (with no people around) and jars for money because they want you to just leave it there and take the item. If they catch you with these items, they confiscate them and fine you. So sad.
We went to a ranger presentation last night about the history of the last frontier, and the Texas Rangers. It was pretty awesome. I really wished my dad and brother could have been there with me for that. They would have LOVED it. The NP Ranger told stories of the wild frontier, and talked a lot about the type of person it takes to live in a place like this: rugged, courageous, forbidding, rough, etc. I like that alot. I like the idea of being at frontiers, of choosing to go forward into unexplored area or of running away.
So after a good nights sleep, and a twilight view of the Rio Grande, and bullfrogs and trespassing burros singing all night, we tried to find an owl we heard calling this morning (no luck) and then made our way to the hot springs (yes, yes!). They are amazing. Sitting flush up

against the River, you can bask in 105 degree water while staring across the river at Mexico and envying the birds that cross so freely. Ah, so nice.
And that just about catches everything up. Love from the last frontier!

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