If you gave a child a piece of chocolate shaped like Texas, she would probably bite off the trans-Pecos bulge first. It isn’t a lot of Texas, but it is a lot of natural land. It is all Chihuahuan desert, with creosote, ocotillos, and yuccas of so many kinds. It does not have the iconic saguaros of the Sonoran desert, but it does have the serenity of all deserts. It is a landscape where the nocturnal animals reign. The middle of the day is too hot even for the harvester ants.
A desert’s beauty is large, but its life is largely hidden, especially if you blast west from San Antonio on Interstate 10 at the legal speed limit of 80 miles an hour. We took I-10 out of San Antonio, bending north, then west, speeding past Boerne, Kerrville, and Junction before crashing in a small, clean, Indian-owned motel in Sonora. We had covered only 370 miles or so from Houston, and were ready for a break. We had 280 miles to go before we reached Panther Junction, deep in Big Bend National Park, but only about a hundred to cross the Pecos river, just before ranch road 349, with windmills all along the cliff crests.
We turned south, straight towards the Mexican border at Fort Stockton. This landscape is cut by water, defined by water, longing for water. But still, we were surprised to see flood gauges in the middle of apparent prairies. A ways before we hit Marathon, we drove right into the leavings of yesterday’s ice storm. The fences, signs, trees grasses, all had received a heavy icing, which they were now slowly shaking. We put on heavy coats and danced on the shards. Nearby were buffalo with even heavier coats.
We stopped for lunch in Marathon, photographed a great cowboy hat and the probably rich local wearing it. We hear they fly in from miles around to the Gage Hotel, and this taco joint next to it.
Cell phones had long been out of service, but Philip managed to text Raph and surprise him at the base of the Lost Mine Trail. Our adventure had begun.