Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Big Bend National Park to the Copper Canyons of Mexico

We were excited to be heading into Big Bend National Park after spending what seemed like years in Del Rio chasing down a short in La Gitana's electrical system and then going across the border to Acuña, MX, to get all our permits. Crossing the Rio Grande we were startled to find ourselves in a scene from the movie "No Country for Old Men.'' Back in the US on our way to Big Bend, we saw a lot more terrain that looked just like the movie. It's a great movie, by the way, so if you haven't seen it, do so.

Big Bend is 801,701 acres of some of the most spectacular vistas we have ever seen. It includes the entire Chisos Mountain Range, where raging volcanoes created an incredible mix of desert, rock piles, and jagged peaks. The park is full of wildlife. Going in we saw our first band of javelinas, an animal that looks a lot like a small pig. But they're not pigs, the rangers insist, they are completely unrelated animals, collared peccaries, and are found in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, as well as Mexico. Looked like pigs to us! We also saw coyotes and a bobcat, but never saw the mountain lions that also inhabit the park.

Jim was in campground bathroom brushing his teeth, when a kind of rough looking guy tried to start up a conversation with him. Jim was answering in monosylables, until the dude pointed to the miner's light Jim was wearing and asked, "Where you bought that light?" His accent intrigued Jim so he asked where he was from.
"Laugh'yet, Loosiana, I'm a Cajun," the guy laughed. 'Keith Meaux's my name. Thats M E A U X like in Geaux Cajuns." That broke the ice and Jim was still talking with him when Angie got worried and came looking for him. Jim introduced them, and then went back to the van. Angie learned how much Keith loved to talk (maybe because he was traveling alone with his dog Missy, a Golden Retriever that Angie fell in love with.).
She found out he was a pharmacist (My daddy and grandaddy were both pharmacists, he said), and that he loves to travel. He's been all over the U.S., either on his Sportster Harley, or when he has his wife, kids, or dog with him, in his pick up truck with a cap on the back. He's a true Cajun. His son is studying photography in Las Cruces, and he was going to pick him up to bring him home for Christmas, but taking his time.

Another highlight of Big Bend was going to the hot springs. We had to drive La Gitana down a bumpy, rocky road, then walk down a trail past ruined buildings and cliffs marked with birds' nests of clay, pictographs, and petroglyphs to the banks of the Rio Grande, where we found an old salt soaking in the 105 degree weather and one of the Mexicans who wade across at every tourist point to sell their "contraband" handmade walking sticks to the tourists squatting by his side. Until 9/11 this mixing of tourists and Mexicans who live in isolated pueblos in the Coahuila and Chihuahua deserts was encouraged, but now they are considered security risks to the US. We basked in the water, and if you got too warm, you coud drop a leg over the rock into the Rio Grande, or even take a dip if you didn't mind the pollution.

As we left the park, a wonderful pink apparition rose before our eyes. It was Kathy's Kosmic Kowgirl Kafe. Unfortunately the Kafe was closed and we didn't get to see the Kosmic Kowgirl, but there were three women there playing guitars and singing folksongs. They sang a couple for us and Jim was tempted to get out his guitar and join them, but we had to push on for the border.

The first part of Chihuahua, between Presidio and the city of Chihuahua, was some of the most desolate country we have encountered. It could have been used for a movie set on the moon. But as we drove further south, things began to look more prosperous. First we saw vegetation, then farms and ranches with more cattle than we had seen in Texas, and orchards of pecan and apple trees.

We hoped to bypass the city itself, with its 1,100.000 people, but Jim managed to get us right in the middle of it looking for a
Wal-Mart to buy an extra water jug.

Heading out towards Creel, and the Barrancas de Cobre (copper canyons) we left the farm land and began to climb into evergreen covered mountains. The mountains and canyons here (the canyons are 4 times larger than the Grand
Canyon and the deepest one is deeper) are the home of the Tarahumara Indians, perhaps the most reclusive and traditional Indians in North America. They are reputed to be shy and even hostile to outsiders, but Angie managed to get some great portraits, which you'll have to wait for our next downloatd to see.

That's all for now from the fotogypsies. Happy Holidays!

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