Yes, I got out to Big Bend. In fact, I've been there nearly a dozen times starting from when I was a freshman in college. I'll share a few highlights in this post. Many of the stories in my book emanate from actual experiences during these visits.
My first introduction to that part of the world was through a fraternity brother and close friend. His grandparents homesteaded their ranch located between Ft. Stockton and Marathon where initially they raised sheep. Visiting during spring break, a small group of us stayed out at the ranch, rode horses up into the Glass Mountains, and took several days exploring further south to the Mexican border. We visited Big Bend. He knew many of the characters and much of the history of the area and with plenty of drive time, did some great story telling as we traveled through territory rich with tales from a time gone by.
After graduation, a few business associates and I met up with my college buddy and one of his local friends to float the Santa Elena Canyon. The Rio Grande was flooding at the time and the trip through the canyon was absolutely incredible. That time, we camped in the park four or five days and enjoyed hiking some of the trails and taking in the wide open spaces.
The next time I was to visit Big Bend was with my young family. They had long wanted to go camping and with all three of them being native Texans, it occurred we ought to explore their own state. We pitched tents in the Cottonwood Campground and spent our days hiking, exploring, and learning. One of the highlights of that trip was being there after a period of rain which caused the desert to bloom. A picture of my entire crew standing beside a huge, spindly, woody, Ocotillo cactus loaded with red-orange blooms is a keepsake. We, too, floated the Santa Elena Canyon, which is pictured on the cover of my novel. This time the water was low causing us to have to carry the raft over more than a few rocky areas of the river.
When my son was in Boy Scouts, our troop managed a four-day adventure weekend for fathers and sons to Big Bend. Nearly 80 of us camped at Rio Grande Village. Again we floated the canyon, hiked trails, and even had an astronomer from nearby Davis Mountain Observatory come one evening to help the boys earn the Astronomy merit badge.
|The Gage Hotel Rocking Chairs|
One of the more recent trips to Big Bend celebrated my wife. She was having a birthday and I asked her where she wanted to go. Expecting Hawaii because we love it so, imagine my surprise when she said Big Bend. We spent a week in early December and based out of The Gage Hotel in Marathon. It was a magical time, one we'll never forget. A freak heavy snowfall hindered traveling the hour south into Big Bend for two days. The picture at right is from the porch of the hotel the night the snow started falling.
Once the snow melted enough for us to hike, something my wife wanted to do for her birthday, we took on The Lost Mine Trail. Buck and Liz hike the same trail in this story and I mention Liz taking her camera and all the wildflowers. Although the season in the book differs from when we were there, here is one example of a specimen we photographed following moisture the snow brought to that trail:
For me, there is a mystical almost other-world element to the area. That's one of the things that made me want to revisit it with my friends Buck Cheyne and Elizabeth Harrington... and share it with YOU.