Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Down Souf, Out West

After 24 hours in Marfa it was on to Big Bend National Park. We took the scenic route down 67 past a border checkpoint to Presidio, a border town of winding streets, cheap concrete buildings and the ruins of a previous boom and bust.

Traveling east along the border we wound around and through Big Bend State Park, which is certainly as beautiful as the more renown National Park. A local joke is that Texas bought the land for Big Bend to give to the federals so Texas could have a national park. There was no lack of potential vistas to choose from.

On the small stretch between the two parks is Terlingua, a little scrap of dust and summer homes known for "Old Terlingua Ghost Town"; eight buildings jammed together as the best tourist trap they could muster. Coming from the other direction, a couple of Terligua cops decided the look of our long-haired hippie driver was too much to not pass up and promptly pulled in front of us across the highway.

Sons of bitches could have really fucked up if we didn't immediately pull off the road. The worst part was their insistence that they had caught us "going 59 in a 50" when they were coming straight for us on the freeway. I'll call bullshit on that any day.

After a requisite ball-busting they issued us all tickets for half-assed infractions- speeding through "This won't go on your record, this won't affect your ability to get a job, just mail it in and you won't have to come back for a court appearance." Their weariness was as cheap as the Xerox list of "prices" for tickets that they shoved at us as they repeated their mantra for each of us separated by ten feet along the dusty ditch.

Beautiful place to stop and have a moment to think though. Not really worth the hundred dollar a head drive-thru tax.

Nice view. Bad company.

Cheezy Terlingua Teepee

Into the park and up to Panther Junction. We could see the Chisos mountains rise to the south and the ridge along the Rio Grande in the distance. The Chihuahuan desert stretched out to the north. After talking with Libby, a Yankee working in the middle of the Texas desert on a park service transfer, we decided not to take her pleading best advise to use an actual campsite. The backcountry pass we were issued covered about 30 square miles in the northeastern part of the park along the Sierra del Caballo Muerto (Ridge of Dead Horses).

The radio dial went all the way around without a station.

The desolate landscape of the Chihuahuan desert grew more sparse as we descended into the basin. Cacti and scrub brush disappeared, leaving small yucca plants and perma-dry bushes to populate the rocky soil. Turning onto a dirt road with trepidation, we headed toward Dagger Flats, a micro-ecosystem of Giant Dagger Yucca, some reaching 6-8 feet tall with a trunk like an oil drum.

Now, Dale may be a smart guy. He definitely convinced us to go back to Cu when it looked like it sucked and that counts for something. He also has a job that he is presumably good at. Unfortunately he began the trip with a mashed windshield due to cell phone driving and a low-hanging branch on his own block back in Houston. Now, you can still drive with a hell of a lot of cracks in your windshield. You can't drive with two flat tires though- and you sure as shit shouldn't get two flat tires in the middle of nowhere driving to a place called Dagger Flats along the Ridge of Dead Horses. As we waited at the end of the trail for a good hour we pontificated on the possible results of an off-road excursion in such a god-forsaken place. Broken axle? Flipped Jeep? Caught on a rock? At least when we could see them drive up before the sun set we knew we weren't totally fucked.

We set up camp on the other edge of a thicket composed of several types of thorned dry bushes, yucca and minuscule cacti. Everything reached out to scratch you. They wanted blood.

A wide arroyo opened up on the other side of the thicket, leaving a boulevard strewn with petrified wood through the canyon. Lined with a forest of yucca, the surreal foliage is unique in the whole of the earth. Confined to one specific location, giants were created by their isolation, evolving over a thousand years.

The night would come...


Anonymous said...

This is why people don't mess with Texas.

Thanks for the entertaining post! I've always wanted to go to BBNP>

Anonymous said...

Beautiful. Never been there. $100. a head to go through it? Damn!