One of my dear friends called me and said, “I have a crazy idea. You can totally say no.” She then asked my husband and me to come visit for the weekend to help out with a Latin club event on a Friday. Instead of saying no, we packed up the car, hauled along my husband’s student teacher, bribed our foster kiddo in the trip with the promise of visiting a horse show, and drove 13 hours to Atlanta. Yep, we drove 26 hours over the long President’s Day weekend and missed a day of work or classes each to help out with a Latin event and then sightsee in Atlanta. Totally crazy. Definitely nerds.
The border between Boquillas, Mexico, and Big Bend National Park reopened in April 2013. We hadn’t heard of Boquillas until we visited the park, which was several months after the border had reopened. Boquillas del Carmen is a small city of over 200 hundred people. The town began as a mining village in the 1800s when the Sierra del Carmen were actively mined for silver and iron. You can see evidence of the mining operations on the Marufo Vega trail, and the mining was in its heyday during the early 1900s. Then, the town’s numbers began to dwindle until the establishment of Big Bend National park in the 1944. Much of the town’s economy is dependent on tourism from border crossings.
The South Rim in the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park is our favorite site at any national park that we’ve visited to date, and we’ve certainly traveled to many a beautiful place. We often describe it as being on top of the Grand Canyon, except there’s no other side and no people. You’re on the edge of a steep cliff looking out over the desert floor and mountainous topography thousands of feet beneath you. Breathtaking. Majestic. Inspirational. Desolate. All these words, and so much more. The first time we camped on the rim, we spent a glorious hour watching two golden eagles soar and plummet and glide through the desert below. When we planned our trip to Big Bend, it was no wonder that we decided to stay on the rim for Christmas and the first nights of Chanukah. We didn’t exchange presents or light any menorahs, but the days were festive enough being in our favorite place.
I’ve wanted to hike the Marufo Vega Trail in Big Bend National Park each of the last three times I’ve been to the park. Marufo Vega (MV) is a 14-mile loop that I can now say is the hardest trail that I’ve ever hiked. To me, MV is more challenging than the Hermit’s Rest Trail in the Grand Canyon, a notoriously challenging trail that is unmaintained whereas MV is a maintained one. Maybe my memory of that trail is too remote, but MV is not forgiving. You climb 1,000 feet up, descend 1,000 feet, climb 1,000 feet, and descend it again, all in a 14-mile trail that has no shade, no water, and a gazillion spiny things. As unforgiving as the hike is, the hike is equally memorable and remarkable for its scenic beauty.
My husband and I often talk about zany things when we’re hiking a trail even if we’re more likely to hike in silence, admiring the general splendor of the outdoor world. Our hike up to the South Rim in Big Bend National Park started as a zany day.
We bought a stuffed toy marmot in Yosemite National Park at the end of our section hike on the Pacific Crest Trail after weeks of making up stories about the various marmots we had greeted on the trail. When you spend a month hiking, you start doing silly things, like greet marmots and make up stories about them. We felt a little silly purchasing a stuffed marmot for ourselves, but we have never regretted adopting him. After two and a half years, he’s still our mascot, scapegoat, brunt of jokes, and our regular road-trip companion.
Sunrise is one of my favorite times of day. I love how the colors blend and change dramatically against the dark stillness of the earth. Sometimes, like this morning when I was settled in the car as my husband drove, I play a game where I name the various colors in the sky. Midnight royal violet. Light spun gold. Dusky lavender. Cerulean. Bright aqua. Rose petal pink. Each new streak of color brings the hope for something wonderful to happen; dawn is the most optimistic time of the day.