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Rio Grande – Off The Wall

Rio Grande river at Big Bend National Park, looking southeast. Mexico is on the right (5/1/17)

Rio Grande river at Big Bend National Park in Texas, looking southeast. Mexico is on the right (5/1/17)

Man may seek such [wilderness] scenes and find pleasure in the discovery, but there is a mysterious fear that comes over him and hurries him away. The sublime features of nature are too severe for a lone man to look upon and be happy. ~~~ Thomas Cole (1820’s) as quoted in Nash (p.79)

What shall we do with a man who is afraid of the woods, their solitude and darkness? What salvation is there for him? ~~~ Henry David Thoreau, quoted in Nash (p.91)

Yesterday marked one month since we began our adventure, so I thought I should post brief observations and some photos of where we’ve been.

Overall, its been incredible and far better than I had imagined.

I am experiencing incredible landscapes and everyone I’ve run into is friendly and interesting. I am sleeping and eating well, walking more, drinking less, and haven’t had a bad day or heartburn, not even once. My buddy Bouy is having a blast – chasing elk is his latest game – and actually enjoys his little bed-cave in the van. The van is running great and all systems working. BTW, we are camping on National Forest or Bureau of Land Management lands, for FREE!

On the downside, we’ve run into a lot of extreme weather. After a beautiful day in Shenandoah National Park, we had a week of cold rain and fog along the Blue Ridge. In trying to drive away from that mountain weather, we hit tornadoes, golf ball size hail, 50 mph winds and flash floods in Little Rock Arkansas. After that, we had record low temperatures in the desert in Texas (28!), harsh high winds and heat conditions in the desert at Big Bend National Park, lightning storms in Arizona, and even snow in Flagstaff Arizona! All in just one month! (and it looks like we left Big Bend NP and Chisos Basin just before the wildfire!)

I’m having slight altitude adjustment issues camping here at 7,000 feet – light-headed, shortness of breath easily, and not much stamina.

Also, I am reading and writing less. Just finished re-reading Roderick Nash’s classic “Wilderness and the American Mind”. Visited an excellent local bookstore here in Flagstaff and picked up a copy of another classic I never read: “Water and the West” by Norris Hundley Jr. about the history of the Colorado River Compact. I’m only on Chapter 4, but there are echoes and huge ironic historic parallels between early 20th century advocacy for an “All American Canal” and the current debate over Trump’s Wall.

Here’s a flavor of the history from Hundley: in response to the use of Oriental labor on the Mexican Delta by LA Times publisher Chandler to build competing water infrastructure to benefit the development of Mexican lands  – another irony in light of the movie classic “Chinatown” – California Imperial Valley residents claimed that Chandler was using “Japs and Chinamen” to steal water that belonged to “red blooded, free Americans“. Asiatics and Mexicans were denounced and said to “undermine our social standards, destroy the efficiency of our schools, and fill our courtrooms”. They accused Chandler of “betraying the real American workman” and “subjecting Americans to unsanitary conditions”. In early 1900’s testimony:

Who wants to drink from a stream when he knows that there are 7,000 Chinamen, Japs, and Mexicans camped on that stream a few miles above in Mexico?” (page 33-34).

Sound familiar? An historical continuum of deplorable racism.

We ran into US Border Patrol twice in Texas, and were screened by dogs and forced to stop and answer questions at one checkpoint. I took strong exception to this with the agents. They didn’t understand why I was concerned and told me that illegal migrants travel 7 miles across the desert at this specific point. My thought – which I didn’t share with the agent – was that anyone who could travel 7 miles across that desert should be exactly the kind of people we embrace and reward with citizenship- smart, brave, tough, determined, hard working, strong and committed.

At Big Bed National Park, I met a Rio Grande river tour guide as he was loading canoes onto his trailer at the end of the day. We had a good conversation about the river and the region. He suggested I spend the night nearby in an old ghost town named Terlingua. He said that it was the cultural center of the region and that I should be sure to spend some time and have a few beers and music on the front porch. He also advised that I drive along the Rio Grande river on RT. 170 for some spectacular scenery on my way north.  I forgot to ask him about the green color of the river, and whether that was a result of eutrophication or minerals or some other reason.

I took the man’s superb advice. We easily found the front porch. I had beers and conversations with the, lets say, very interesting locals, and met a lot of cool dogs too. We had live music, a burger, and beers at the Starlight Theater – and Monday was 2 burgers for 1 night so Bouy got meat instead of his kibble!

Here’s some of what I saw along the Rio Grande – where is Trump going to build the Wall here?:

Big Bend Park ranger warned us about Javelina's, who had been coming down from the mountains and killing dogs. Just before we shot this photos along the Rio Grande, Bouy chased 2 Javelina's along the riverbank! Those fat pig looking animals are very, very fast! He came back 10 minutes later with his tongue hanging out of his head, desperate for water!

Big Bend Park ranger warned us about Javelina’s, who had been coming down from the mountains and killing dogs. Just before we shot this photos along the Rio Grande, Bouy chased 2 Javelina’s along the riverbank! Those fat pig looking animals are very, very fast! He came back 10 minutes later with his tongue hanging out of his head, desperate for water!

I wish I wrote down the name of the mountains and this pass. River in green foreground (5/2/17)

I wish I wrote down the name of the mountains and this pass. River in green foreground (5/2/17)

Mexico is on the left - I hear NPD story this morning that a wall would block migrations of lynx and jaguar's and unknown other migratory species, leading to extirpation and extinctions. Scientists say they are hassled by US Border Patrol and their monitoring equipment is vandalized. WORST OF ALL, in 2005, Congress authorized Homeland Security to waive NEPA, the Endangered Species Act and other environmental Lawes to expedite construction of the wall!

Mexico is on the left – I heard an NPR story this morning that a wall would block migrations of lynx and jaguar and unknown other migratory species, leading to extirpation and extinctions. Scientists say they are hassled by US Border Patrol and their monitoring equipment is vandalized. WORST OF ALL, in 2005, Congress authorized Homeland Security to waive NEPA, the Endangered Species Act and other environmental Lawes to expedite construction of the wall!

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All for now – next post we show places in New Mexico and Arizona.

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