Big Bend National Park

Perhaps it’s the upcoming election. Perhaps it’s the San Antonio suburban sprawl. Perhaps it’s the books we’ve been reading lately (and, please, allow me to highly recommend both The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight by Thom Hartmann and Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer). But we needed to unplug this weekend.

So we packed up the car and headed out nearly 500 miles to Big Bend National Park.

We experienced a few bloopers. Like when we were driving a particularly desolate stretch of highway, already fully cloaked in the darkness of night, and Isla’s sweet, precious voice chimed in from the back seat. “Um. Mommy? Daddy? I just farted, but then it was diarrhea.” Or when we finally set up camp, literally in the middle of nowhere, with the nearest modern convenience store easily 75 miles away, and realized we’d forgotten Asher’s nighttime pull-ups. With no way to do laundry (unless a good rinse followed by draping over a tree branch constitutes laundry, because we did do that), no bath, no shower and limited clothing and blankets, we just sort of decided to accept/ignore the smell of urine.

Overall, though, our weekend adventure with Mother Nature was hugely successful. Isla, at age 6.5, is already an ideal camp mate. She’s fun, fearless and incredibly helpful. Asher’s gifts emerged out on the trails, where his uninterrupted chatter proved energizing and encouraging.

Elliot and I weren’t sure about camping as just us. In the past, we’ve camped with other families. We love the shared responsibility of food prep, the comraderie for both adults and kids, the collective experience. But we just really needed to get out there this weekend, so we pulled one of our classic moves of not planning and just going with it. And it worked.

We saw desert valleys, mountaintops, the Rio Grande river bordering Mexico, a mud-bottom hot spring, shooting stars (4), a beaver dam (1), rabbits (3), coyotes (1), javelinas (4), stick bugs (2 dead, 2 alive), tarantulas (2), 100’s of moths and butterflies, black crickets whose wings flash bright red and make a distinctive clicking sound as they jump, wild flowers in every shade of the rainbow, a rainbow, a brilliant, star-filled night sky….

We called out, and the mountains answered.


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