Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Before Ann and Bob's December departure for Arizona, they treated us to a grand tour of Big Bend National Park and outlying areas!  We packed snacks and got a 10:00 a.m. start for the 108 mile drive south.  We took Highway 118 to Study Butte.  Study is pronounced Stewdy.  Study Butte at first glance appears to consist of a gas station, R.V. Park, and a few motels sprinkled along Highway 118.  Across the road within view is the occupied ghost town of Terlingua.  We stopped in Terlingua to check it out and then headed into the national park. The park is over 800,000 acres of desert lands!  Some of the higher elevation mountains are wooded with evergreen trees.  We were treated to a superb lunch at the park hotel lodge.  Ann and Bob took us to an overlook at Boquillas Canyon where we looked across the Rio Grande into Mexico.  On the map it is designated as Boquillas del Carmen, Mexico.  We circled through the park and as evening came returned north on Highway 385 to Marathon and on into Alpine.  Although we hadn't been out of the country, we had to go through a border patrol check station on our trip north!  There was a southbound station, also.         
There are large expanses of desert flora, with mountains at a distance.  People living outside of the park have homes in the desert.  Some have to generate their own electricity and haul water from other locations.  There is a local saying about why people choose to live in the desert. It's said that some people are running away from something and others are running towards something.  Whatever the ones are running from eventually catches up with them and they leave.  Those that are running toward something stay!  The desert has a serenity recognized by some people.  An appreciation for it might have to be acquired through living with the desert for awhile and slowing life to its pace.  Roy and I acquired a love of the desert during our years living in Idaho. 
This pathway made me think of the 3 day trek that illegal aliens from Mexico are said to make near Nogales, Arizona in an attempt to live in the United States.  It makes me appreciate how badly they want to escape Mexico and how privileged we are to live here.  We've heard that it is common practice for American citizens living close to the border of Mexico to leave a cooler with nonperishable foods and jugs of water for Mexicans making the crossing.  This is done at least in part to keep them from approaching one's home.  Have you ever wondered how different your life would be depending on what country or even what state you were born in?
This is the small business section of Terlingua.  It consists primarily of a gift shop. 
When researching Terlingua online, I came across the website of Dr. Doug, Borderline Mental Therapist: .  He offers guided group therapy sessions on the porch in Terlingua.  I was thrilled to see him on the porch and get a chance to meet him.  Check out his well done website!
Terlingua means three languages!  The languages at the time of its founding would have been English, Spanish, and Native American.  There are many ruins of small stone cabins from the 1800s, when Terlingua was a mercury mining town.  My first impression is that working with mercury at that time couldn't have been good for one's health!  Like me you are probably thinking that the primary use for mercury is thermometers.  My Internet research indicates that mercury was used as a fungicide until 1970, at which time it was banned for that use in the United States.  The current population of Terlingua is 58.  It has a view of the desert and mountains that could captivate one into staying! 
This is Boquillas Canyon Overlook, the Rio Grande River, and the border of Mexico!  There was a Mexican man across the river who waved to us.  He had a wooden rowboat on the shore.  Being on opposite sides of the river and knowing that we couldn't legally cross it for political reasons was a strange feeling.  The river, the land, and the trees are all just things of nature.  It's hard to conceive that crossing the river has severe consequences.  The uneasy feelings are compounded by knowing that the danger isn't from a challenge set forth by nature, but from government sanctions!  What a profound feeling!  
With all that said, a citizen of Mexico crosses the border to place trinkets out for sale.  They technically are illegal to buy.  He either thinks Americans are rich or will be generous in that many of the small items for sale are priced at $6.00!  The person may make them, but part of me has to question whether they are purchased wholesale.  Click on the picture to enlarge it and see the items better.
Not just one rock had trinkets, but all the large rocks along the overlook!  Ann and Bob lived in this area for 20 plus years, when the borders were open.  Citizens from both sides crossed the borders freely to visit and do business.
This is the Rio Grande looking to the southwest.  The community of Boquillas del Carmen can't be seen from the overlook other than glimpses of a few rooftops.
This is an Internet picture of Boquillas del Carmen taken from another American overlook.  Where we stood windows and doors couldn't be seen.  When I saw glimpses of the rooftops, they didn't register as buildings in a community.  They appeared to be large weathered wooden box shaped sheds of unusual colors.
This is an Internet picture of the main street of Boquillas del Carmen.  I saw on the Internet that the park was going to open a legal crossing to Boquillas in April 2012.  The customs station is built, but the crossing still isn't open.  The creation of a legal crossing here has been very controversial.      
This is an interesting map showing the extent of the Chihuahuan Desert.  In researching the desert I learned that there are four North American deserts:  Chihuahuan, Sonoran, Mohave, and Great Basin.  Now we know!