Sunday, August 22, 2010

Big Bend 3 of 6

Day 3

As the sun came up, I was walking the couple of miles back to I-10. In the night, I had resolved to offer my third day as a final push for Big Bend and if I wasn’t picked up, I’d continue west to Balmorhea, the campground Alicia had told me about, and try camping on the lake there. By mid morning, I was sitting in the shadow of the underpass beneath the interstate, reading a book and propping up a piece of scrap cardboard that said “B. Bend” in blue ink. I wouldn’t chance rides from anyone not going directly there.

My shoulder’s were tender from the excess I had packed and my feet ached from the blisters I had drained and duct taped before setting off, but the morning was breezy and cool and I had plenty of water as long as I wasn’t burning it out of my body in the sun. Hours went by before Scott picked me up. Here’s how I remember him:

Scott was a 23 year old college student from Indiana who had worked in Big Bend over the summer. He was on his way there to pick up his remaining belongings and had he not stopped, I probably wouldn’t have made it to the national park or I’d still be there trying to get back out. Conversation was pleasant in our two hours together but our topic of discussion quickly turned to something I had hoped to avoid: politics. It was inevitable, I suppose. He was a business student at a Christian college, and I’m a heathen quasi socialist but we remained civil, he not directly revealing his Christian conservatism and I not directly revealing my liberal desire to choke Christian conservatives until their eyes bulge from their heads and they are dead. He let me out at the Chisos Basin and I found a campsite to call home for the next few days.

The Chisos Basin is a beautiful volcanic crater surrounded by orange mountains, the remnants of magma cooling directly into igneous rock. (That’s not why the mountains are orange, you silly animal. I’m guessing that’s due to the oxidization of molecular iron in the rock, but I could be wrong. Feldspars in granite are kind of the same color and they’re not rusty, so . . . whatever.) Their encapsulating grandeur will have to just live in my memory because these images lack the four other senses that made me spend so much time with my eyes skyward.

I stopped at the ranger station and bought a topographical map of the area that showed area trails in the basin. “The Window” was apparently a sight not to miss and since my ambitious Grizzly Adams agenda had been castrated by the sun, I equipped a daypack and hiked the 4.4 miles to this point of interest I’d heard so much about. This is the only picture I took of myself:

Spectacular. A small stream cut through shadowy canyons to trickle out into the vast open. A strong wind blew in through the Window's steep aperture and between it and the bubbling spring, there was only nature. It was getting dark and because I had an irrational fear of being mauled to death by a black bear or mountain lion, I started back. I was just becoming comfortable with the fact that an animal would not kill me and, in fact, was enjoying the rare sighting of a slate-throated redstart when I heard a thrashing in the sloping vegetation beside me. I instinctively made a guttural protest in its direction and it thrashed even more. I walked faster, careful not to run. There was another rustling as whatever the thing was kept pace with me so I stopped moving and the sound continued on. I was rethinking my ignoring a trail warning that advised not to hike the Window near dark, when the ominous sound stepped out of the bushes and became a black bear. I surprised myself by not panicking, though I did take a few absent steps backward. It was a juvenile and what filled me with the most dread was the potential for a bigger and more aggressive mama bear into tow. But manliness aside, there was still a bear blocking my path. The ferocious man killer stood in the trail and stared at me with demonic red eyes, blood and gore (in my mind) dripped from its bared jowls and it pawed the earth with only just contained energy, so I took the opportunity to slowly uncap my camera and snap this picture.

It didn’t move and I certainly wasn’t going to squeeze past it so I reached down and picked up several rocks then raised my arms above my head and roared. The poor thing bounced in dopey surprise and clumsily tried to hide its awkward bulk in the bushes, where it could still watch me. I ventured a few steps and guiltily tossed a rock at the ground where it was hiding and it ran off for good. I didn’t hear much brush rustling, though, so I knew he was probably just hiding better. I still feel guilty for scaring it. It was just a curious kid.


JennAventures said...

Threat Down: BEARS!!!!!!

Silly Swedish Skier Says So said...

In all my mountain time (which is significant) I've never seen a bear. I'm pretty ok with that. Your little black bear is terribly cute (in a picture.) I have an acquaintance that rode is bike drunk into a bear once though. I don't recommend you do that.

Julie Buz. said...

This made me laugh so hard... (you, the rocks, the roaring, the descriptions of it all)... I hope there's notihing wrong with that. :o)

f8hasit said...

" and I’m a heathen quasi socialist but we remained civil, he not directly revealing his Christian conservatism and I not directly revealing my liberal desire to choke Christian conservatives until their eyes bulge from their heads and they are dead."

Does this mean that you'll no longer be my friend if I decide to lean towards the right side? I don't particularly want my eyes to bulge from my head. Nor be dead.

LOVE this tour of your adventure. Love it!

Heather said...

Of all the things you was worried about, there it was right in front of you! Well now that you conquered the bear, can't wait to hear what is next!

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