I learned a number of things about my self during this chapter of our adventure: One, I don’t like landscapes without vegetation. Brose would say, “ah, that’s beautiful,” as we barreled down highway 118 at 80 mph, and I would reply, “well, its’ dramatic, awesome maybe, but I wouldn’t say, beautiful.” Then I would say, “stop looking at the scenery and watch the road.”
The directions to our Hip Camp location were, “you will see the entrance at address 53420, just north 1 mile of the outfitters and gas station.” Coyote Crossing is described as “a primitive base camp for Big Bend, Texas.” I would describe it as a dusty tract with two outhouses and just enough prickly pear cacti to make the trip to use one of them hazardous.
We introduced ourselves to our host, Rob, who was also dusty. A middle-aged man, with strawberry blond hair maybe, when clean, wearing shorts and sandals and a welcoming smile minus a couple of teeth. He immediately began a story about his twenty-year-old ambition to beat the Guinness Book of World Records for longest canoe trip. He canoed down the Missouri River, to the Mississippi River, into the Gulf, back up the Rio Grande, portaged 600 miles to Big Sur on the Pacific Coast. Then up the coast and reversing Lewis and Clark’s trek back to Kansas City (not sure which one.) He didn’t make it into Guinness, but along the way he got a job offer as a river guide on the Rio Grande. He took the job and settled in Terlingua, TX, where we now found ourselves.
Charlie’s first reaction to the camp site was to plow her entire body starting with both sides of her face through the dusty sand until she looked like a yellow lab and a really appealing tentmate. I was pretty anxious (I imagine Brose might use a different adjective) to set up camp before the sunset which was about an hour and a half off. But there was little I could do while Brose was hooking up his music and pulling out the beer cooler since I have neither the height nor the strength to pull our crap out of the truck. So I sort of spun around in circles moaning about all the dirt Charlie had on her and was getting on me and on our things and in our lungs.
Two, I’m not sure I like camping that much. It’s mostly a never-ending and very tedious scavenger hunt. Where are the matches, the cheese, the sponge, the dog’s water bottle, the paper towel, the comfy shoes, the hiking shoes, the flashlight, the dirty clothes to stuff in the sac to make the pillows, the headlamps (which we never found!)
One of the main reasons for camping in this god-forsaken country is that it is recognized as a Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association. So after a dinner of chicken burritos that we had picked up in Marathon, Tx (no point in trying to cook in the dark) we got into our dirt-filled tent and after a couple of hours of reading enjoyed the night sky that had as many stars in it as grains of sand on Charlie. Very soon the moon came out and the stars faded, and then maybe we slept for a minute.
Three, I’m not as young as I used to be. Years ago, a trail rated “moderate” might not have been sufficiently challenging for my fitness goals. Today it is life threatening. I have a hip problem, in addition to a back problem, an arm problem, a neck problem, eye problems and occasional stomach problems. I brought my “hiking” sticks for our first hike which were useless on the boulders we had to traverse and slide down or crawl up. It was depressing to stop to let the young families and fit couples pass us.
And that’s another thing. We drive 5 thousand miles to get away from it all, pull into one of the few trails in Big Bend State Park where you are allowed to bring a dog, and find ten other vehicles parked there. I was incensed at having found so much of America in one place. (I wonder. Maybe I don’t want to find America, after all.)