Monday, January 27, 2014

Deep in the heart of Texas

It's been a combination of long hours on the road, no electricity, and no internet (in Kerrville, Texas? Seriously?) that's kept this space blank for a few days, but hold onto your 10-gallon hats. I've been to Big Bend National Park and, while I don't know this for a fact, would guess it's bigger than some states. It took me 12 hours from the time I left the campground in Marathon until I returned, one tired little doggie. 

Uninspiring but included to show the plant, a yucca I think, because it makes me think of a Wookie. With a topknot.

The park is vast, empty land punctuated by greatly differing terrains, from these gentle swells... rougher intrusions...

...isolated monoliths...

...and the twin peaks of the Mule Ears formation.

Muted tones against a brilliant sky...

...and monotone eruptions add depth and contrast to unending vistas.

A shot that's probably been taken a million times, but pretty wonderful anyway.

The trickle of the Rio Grande, the only place I saw water outside of a drinking fountain. That's Mexico on the left.

Smaller in scale but no less compelling are close views of the vegetation that manages to exist in this desert landscape.
An empty seed pod

I couldn't find the name of this flower with two distinct colors and fuzzy buds.

A version of prickly pear cactus bears these fuzzy pods that beg to be stroked, but will impale you as much as the more common cacti spines.

The skeleton of a prickly pear cactus.

Rainbow cacti usually grow as a single stem but older plants may branch. Their spines range in color from rosy pink to orange.

These four seed pods in varying stage of disintegration are from the same plant.

The agave plant, with which I am intimately familiar after digging and transplanting more than 100 last summer at Petrified Forest. Here's the interesting thing: those are holographic-like ghostly spines on the leaf in the back. You can see them but they have no depth or dimension.
This leaf has not yet unwrapped itself.

The central leaves have separated and are just unfurling.

These two photos are of a damaged agave leaf. Interesting texture.

One more damaged agave leaf, showing its fibrous internal structure.

 I came across an unexpected, isolated cemetery.
The grave of pioneer Nina Seawell Hannold, who died of uremic poisoning contracted during pregnancy, and who asked to be buried overlooking the spring where she read to her children in the shade of the cottonwoods.

Then there was this beggar of a roadrunner, looking for handouts instead of being off killing lizards.

Night was fast approaching as I made my way the final 70 miles back to my campground. I'd thought I might like to volunteer at Big Bend next winter but the distances between everything are too vast. It's 40 miles from the park boundary to Marathon, a tiny town, and park headquarters are another 30 on top of that. It's a beautiful place, one that I'm happy I visited, but just too far from anything for me.

Thought of the day:

Big Bend is a land of strong beauty — often savage and always imposing. It is magnificent. The bold mountains rear abruptly against the endless blue sky with traceries of white clouds. The “Long Look” never fades. The enticing view to the horizon ends in a haze of gray or blue or brown as the sky eats up the land. The land disappears but the sky is still there, the forever edge of the world that is always inviting.
(Lon Garrison, 1983; (served as the second superintendent, 1952-1955)