Day 1, 17 Jan 2020 – On the road to Big Bend National Park and the Big Bend Ultra 50k to be held on 19 Jan 2020.
We took the longish way from Houston, mostly for my benefit as a virgin explorer of the literally great (as in ginormous) state of Tejas. I-10 to US 90 was the chosen route so I could visit Langtry, a little Wild West town named after Lillie Langtry, the object of affection of a somewhat delusional yet oddly inspirational Judge Roy Bean.
Before Langtry, we made a stop at the Pecos River Bridge. Judge Bean was “The Law, West of the Pecos”, and hysterically enough, he apparently never followed any actual Texan laws nor ordinances. He mostly did whatever he wanted!
Interesting historical tidbit is the prize boxing fight Judge Bean finagled on a sandbar in the Rio Grande to avoid both the US and Mexican officials who’d banned this fight! Google it because I don’t feel like it.
And then of course, there is the case of him naming his town after a woman he’d never met but “loved”. Sadly, she never made a visit until after his death. But before you pass judgment on Judge Bean, here he is being blogged about in the year 2020. The man accomplished things you and I may never!
As we traveled farther away from the sprawling metropolis of Houston and past San Antonio (through which I mostly drooled taking an epic road nap), the highway stretched into desert landscape. I began to understand and appreciate the gritty adventurousness of the early pioneers who headed west.
Even in a fully loaded 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee, the miles were long. I imagined being in a covered wagon making the sojourn. How soft we’ve grown with all of our creature comforts. My biggest discomfort during the 10ish hour drive was reaching behind me trying to unzip the Yeti cooler to grab the Jarlsberg Dip for our crackers. 😂
Perhaps this is what draws me and many others to the desert to attempt things like summiting high peaks, running, and mountain biking long distances through unforgiving terrain and unpredictable weather.
Sometimes I feel the need to test my inner pioneer, my inner Judge Roy Bean. How much discomfort can I manage? There must be something hardwired within us that has us believing that suffering, sacrifice, and hard work are what makes us great…and that if we don’t believe in and attempt the impossible, then what? Give up and live small, resigned lives?
As we turned south from Marathon, TX towards Big Bend National Park, cell signal was spotty to non-existent. Thanks, T-Mobile. I mean that sincerely. At first, it was disconcerting, but then all that remained was space and peace and room for deep breaths.
After proudly marking Pusan on the map and grabbing a sugar loaded Starbucks pre-mixed mocha, we headed south to Big Bend!
The vastness of nothing but millions of years of geological transformations is incredibly intimidating and breathtaking. I felt a nervous energy growing within me! I’ve been to some epic places in the world so the nervousness took me by surprise. I chalked it up to “fear of the unknown”. Maybe it also wasn’t the BEST idea to read aloud stories from “Death in Big Bend” to pass the time. 🤣💀
Once enveloped by the majestic landscape of the Chihuahan desert, it was natural for us to drop our conversation volume to soft inside-voice whispers.
Stunning views like this beckoned me to take a gazillion pictures and this was even BEFORE we headed into the Chisos Mountains. My patient and understanding companion would simply smile and say, “Just you wait…there’s so much more!”
We entered Big Bend National Park through the Persimmon Gap Entrance heading towards the Chisos Mountains, our home for the next week.
As we climbed up and over the Chisos to reach the Basin, I was simply awe-struck. I’ve been to Yosemite, Tahoe, Mammoth, the Sonoran Desert, yet something about the Chisos is so compellingly unique. Maybe it’s the variegation of red round rocks to sharper edged grey rock faces, or the piney piñons growing alongside the prickly pear cacti, all in one grand vista. The panoramic view from the Basin is unforgettable. I felt literally cradled in the grandeur.
Our 10+ hour drive was rewarded with a glorious sunset. I looked forward to the days ahead, exploring this magical place. Funny that I wasn’t even focused on the race. Sleep came easily with the absence of artificial lighting, TVs, and smartphones. Alarms were not set for the next morning. 😍
Day 2: First Explorations!