We arrived in Big Bend National Park, TX last Saturday, the 27th of November. We had spent Thanksgiving in Seminole Canyon and got to spend a post-Thanksgiving day with some new friends. We were invited by three camping Mennonite families to share a ranch/Mexican meal over their fire and then they sung accapella as we ate apple crisp baked by Dutch oven over the coals. An unexpected bit of magic.
Anyway, on to Big Bend. We drove on Hwy 90 all the way from Seminole Canyon to Marathon, TX and then took a left on Hwy 385. Arriving in the park, it took us about another hour just to reach our campground. Big Bend, all 801,163 acres of it, is bigger than the state of Rhode Island. I learned later that the road into Big Bend, and the different forks it takes, were Comanche war trails.
There is so much to do and see, that it cannot be done in a week. We have done very little official school as we have chosen nature study and phys. ed as more important. We have gone to several interpretive talks/hikes that are very educational. We are learning our Chihuahuan desert plants-sotol (baked in a pit 1-2 days makes ancient energy bars), lechuguilla (only found in the Chihuahuan desert), prickly pear cactus, octillo, century plant (used for tequila), candellila (wax). We are learning about the Chihuahuan desert in general and that it’s place as one of four in North America. We are learning about the habits of wild animals, like mountain lions, rattlesnakes and bears. We learned about Texas Rangers Wednesday night. Next on the list is learning about Big Bend’s geological diversity.
And I learned that some fears are worth being acknowledged and set aside. I was very afraid of going into “mountain lion” territory. There are approximately 24 in the park and by tracking them for a number of years they have discovered that about 75% of the time these big kitties are within 300 yards of the trails, especially in the Chiso Mountain region. So they know you are there, when you are there. And yet there have only been 3 attacks in the last 20 years, and in all three of them either A.) The humans were doing something unwise or B.) The lion had something wrong with it. We found all this out because the first morning after we got to Big Bend, we went on a delightful nature hike with Ranger Smith, right in lion territory. It was good to face my fears head on, and just make the conscious effort in general to not be so afraid. Knowledge and love are the enemies of fear, right?
Food-wise we still have 1/2 a gallon of raw milk that we are rationing. Our good food is running out and the Big Bend options are junky food at gourmet prices. I guess they get away with it because it would take you over an hour to go to the nearest grocery store. So I am trying to have good food with junky food to stretch it a bit longer. So sprouted beans with junky-soybean-oil-white-enriched-flour tortillas and factory farmed cheese. Grass-fed beef (sloppy joe style) with white rice. Frittatas made with organic potatoes and onions but factory-farm-wouldn’t-dare-eat-raw eggs. You get the picture:-) Necessity is the mother of invention though. I made up a killer soup, that Nate loved, with my available ingredients. Kind of a sausage, squash, sweet potato, onion and coconut milk spicy soup.
Tomorrow we head out for the McDonald Observatory and Fort Davis, TX in the hopes of catching a “star party” in the desert and brushing up on our astronomy. But not before we take one more hike to our favorite family spot here in Big Bend. The Hot Springs, a natural hot-tub that sits right on the Rio Grande River. The favorite thing to do, for those who are not faint of heart or have broken arms, is to jump into the frigid waters of the Rio and swim back to the “hot tub.”