Road Trip 2015: Big Bend National Park

January 11, 2015 § Leave a comment

Last day out west before the long drive back the next morning: Big Bend National Park.  Which was our destination, but by now just became a juicy, crimson cherry on top of a fudge sundae overflowing with caramel and vanilla and cinnamon and all sorts of other yummies.

BigBendStatePark1
I know that it’s a little bit silly to tear through such a large, rich national park in one day, but I think that we got a very good taste for it.  Last time I was there was over ten years ago, and all I remember is a lot of rocks.  The rocks didn’t change, but my appreciation for them did.

We started out driving all the way down to the Rio Grande River to see the Santa Elena Canyon.

BigBendStateParkSantaElenaCanyon1
It was a short, but highly enjoyable hike, with plenty of opportunities to scale up rocks and boulders you shouldn’t be scaling up.  As you make your way deeper into the canyon, it becomes more narrow (and thus seems even higher than it actually is), and it’s a really cool sensation.  I felt like an ant.  A very small ant.

BigBendStateParkSantaElenaCanyon2
Trailing back, we had a nice view of the river as the sun was peeking out from the clouds, and the flat plains that we would soon be driving back through.

BigBendStateParkSantaElenaCanyon
After the desert crossing (and successful avoidance of all road runners that hurled themselves under our little Fiat), we were back to the hilly terrain.  We decided for the Lost Mine hiking trail- one of the best decisions of my life.

It started off innocent enough, with a gradual ascent up the mountains via a long series of switchbacks.  And stones steps.  And a little bit of both.

BigBendStateParkLostMinesTrail
The weather was ideal for our hiking- very windy on one side of the mountain, eerily still on the other.  Just the right contrast between sun and clouds to keep us bundled, but not sweaty.  And the most amazing part of this became apparent once we reached the top level of the mountain two hours later:

BigBendStateParkLostMinesTrail2

Basically, we were standing on top of a very high mountain while watching the cold front (a very windy one, at that) roll in from one side.  And the cloud and wind patterns that it produced was not something that I would even know how to begin to describe- other than surreal, with a sprinkle of mysticism.  There was one mountain peak that had a perpetual shield of cloud around it, and it wouldn’t budge, even as everything around it was roaring and changing and shifting and alive.

 

BigBendStateParkLostMinesTop1
Reaching the top was not at all what I expected.  I was thinking of a regular mountaintop.  Instead, it was a rocky peak with sharp cliffs dropping off all around you, and a series of further mountains and abysses all around (as well as really large birds flying below you).

BigBendStateParkLostMinesTop
I guess it’s true what they say: everything is bigger in Texas.  These rocks were huge.

BigBendStateParkLostMinesTopUomo

Hiding in a nook away from the wind, we had a picnic and contemplated our place in life for a while.  Tossing apple seeds into the nothingness just below our feet, the insignificance and smallness of ourselves became very apparent.  A humbling reinforcement that we were faced with several times on this trip: the endless desert, the starry sky, the looming cliffs.  What are we, compared to nature?

Not much.

But also, what a thrill is it to be in a position to face this grandeur and bathe in its sublimity?  To, at the same time, be stopped in your tracks, yet lured in to explore every crevice?  To be inspired to live for this feeling, and to go seek it whenever, and wherever, possible?

That’s life, for me.

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