big bend birthday, year 2

if something happens at the same time two years in a row, does it become tradition?  could we say “our annual big bend birthday extravaganza”?  well, i’m going to.  starting now.

elle and i took our annual big bend birthday extravaganza a little early this year.  you see, some friends of ours decided to get married out in marathon at the gage hotel the day before elle’s birthday.  “great!” we thought.

another good excuse to create/ continue, a short-run, but beloved “tradition”.

“what do you want to do for your birthday?”  i enthusiastically asked elle a few weeks before her birthday last year.

“i wanna go backpackin’!”  she screeched back.

well, there aren’t many places to go backpacking in texas, unfortunately.  and my favorite place, big bend national park is about a nine hour drive from dallas.

so… in spite of the drive, we decided we would hike the chisos mountains of big bend (see sharing big bend).

this year, it really wasn’t much different.  her enthusiasm was the same; wide-eyed, youthful, jubilant.

the main difference was that we decided to wander the desert this time, instead of the mountains.

we camped at a bend in the river, so our view (even though camping in texas), we could see the rio grande, mexico, and then the chisos in texas.  it’s one of my favorite views in the park.  makes you think a lot about borders and survival, and how small we really are…

as night fell, the stars caught our attention.  oh the stars.

the next day we woke up and my front left tire was completely flat.  the road we were on claims many tires, and personally, it has claimed more tires (and cars for that matter) than i care to remember.  the river road.  it’s a 50+ mile long 4×4 “road”, if you can call it that in some places.

three years ago, my fourth vehicle found it’s final resting place on that road.  long story… i’ll tell the whole thing if you ask me.

anyway, back to the task at hand… i put the donut tire on, and we fled the chihuahuan desert to find a new tire.

we had fun on the drive to alpine.  elle was a belle about it.  even though it killed an entire day for us.

there may or may not have been a few swigs of wine on the way back from alpine, but i’ll never tell.

the next day we hiked into santa elena canyon, one of the park’s many popular attractions.

later that day, we also hiked one of the hidden gems of big bend, cattail falls.

and then later that evening, we did another short hike up the lost mine trail in the chisos.

that night we stayed at grapevine hills, just like we did the first night one year before.

it caused us to be a bit reflective, and think on the past year.  and laugh a bit at how far we’ve come together.

we had some dinner and some wine, and talked about where we are going.  love and marriage, etc.  life.  together.

we can do this.  life together.  some of it will be mountain tops, and some will be the lowlands.  but we seem to have a knack, and more than that, a commitment, to hiking through all of it together.  and i think that’s pretty stinking beautiful.

we woke up bright and early.

we had to leave that day to make my friend’s rehearsal dinner in marfa that evening.

but we had just enough time for one more hike…

our sojourn to balanced rock wasn’t very long but we took our time, it was beautiful.

winding through earthen spires of stone and sage and sotol.  the desert began to funnel us toward something.  neither of us had hiked this before though, so we didn’t know where or what.  but we kept going, though the landscape at times was eerie and foreboding.

along the way, ellie would jump up on the tallest rock around and scream with joy.

and that made me smile.  how couldn’t it?

and then we reached balanced rock.  it’s somewhat of a big bend cliche.

but then again, aren’t cliches cliche for a reason?

it was really amazing.  like the stonehenge of the desert, though clearly not human-born.

massive boulders balanced perfectly with one another for centuries, millennia.

resting on one another.  creating something good.  awe-inspiring.

all images and content © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2010