January, 2013. Wrapping Up Texas At Big Bend National Park

Posted on January 20, 2013

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IMG_0810In case you didn’t know, Texas is one big-a_ _ state.

We’ve been retracing some of last year’s steps through the hill country of Texas, visiting friends and revisiting some favorite areas, and venturing into new ones, too.

And we’ve been driving, and driving, and driving and…
One thing stands out in the busy industrial and commercial Austin-San Antonio corridor – the surprising juxtaposition of country and commercial development.
It’s not unusual to see a windmill sprouting up in the middle of a landscaped island in a shopping center parking lot – a reminder that the stores sit on land once roamed by cows not so long ago.

Cows feed in a small field between our RV park and a facility manufacturing concrete supports for bridges.

Cows feed in a small field between our RV park and a facility manufacturing concrete supports for bridges.

And speaking of livestock, pastureland often butts up to industrial sites, providing that split personality that describes the more urban areas of Texas.

Anyone with an acre or two has a “ranch”, usually populated by a few goat and a handful of chickens; anyone with 20 acres or more adds a few head of cattle to the mix.

But once you head into West Texas, heading toward Big Bend National Park, things change in a hurry.

IMG_0797Miles and miles and miles of open space punctuated by bluffs, or whatever they’re called – smoothly sculptured by the wind and rain, often flat on top with gullies down the sides scored by water run-off; odd shapes and textures sprouting up out of a flat landscape marked mostly with windmills, hunting stands, wildlife feeders, and scrub brush.IMG_0793

LLLAnd we drove past ranches, so isolated you wonder how they – especially the women – stand it.

Triple L Ranch specializing in black Herefords; Boss Ranch combining cattle breeding with hunting; Stovall Ranch featuring Desert Mule Deer hunts on its 70,000 acres.

big bend 1It’s miles and miles between ranches – it’s miles and miles between anything and anything else.

But the closer you get to the Big Bend area the more beautiful the landscape becomes – more colorful, more majestic, more rugged, more imposing.

Big Bend National Park features broad expanses of Chihuahuan Desert scrubland  interspersed with smaller areas of grass and high-elevation woodland in the Chisos Mountains. It is bordered on the south by the Rio Grande River – the dividing line between Mexico and the United States.

While Big Bend has been home to diverse populations for many centuries, Mexican settlers began farming on both banks of the river’s floodplain around 1900. Anglo-Americans joined in the farming after 1920, when boundary unrest ended.

Today, you can drive your car along portions of the Comanche Trail, the same route that Comanche warriors once traveled on raids into Mexico.

Bill stands beside the Rio Grande, with Mexico in the background.

Bill stands beside the Rio Grande, with Mexico in the background.

photo (2)And speaking of trails, the Border Patrol is a constant presence.  They maintain miles and miles of groomed sand strips along the highway, used, we guessed, to spot the footprints of walkers.  The walkers would certainly be illegals who managed to get across the Rio Grande – no one takes a leisurely stroll out here.

Probably they would head for the highway, having arranged before they left Mexico for someone to pick them up.

This is quite a place, and I’m glad we took the time to visit, but…I wouldn’t want to live here.

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Posted in: Travel - Texas