Tag Archives: Big Bend National Park

Facts and Photos

A seldom recalled fact (except by me) is that for three years in mid-1960s, I wrote the column “Milford High School News” for The Milford Times in Milford, Michigan. Through my teen years, I also wrote articles for other junior and senior high school publications. I mention this here because the title of this post reminds me of high school verbiage: you know, “Roses and Cabbages” or something.  If I remember my columns accurately, I used plenty of passive voice, such as, ” the French Club had their spring dinner and a good time was had by all.”  I want now to write about the  hikes Tom and I have taken, the clear skies north of Sierra Vista, the kangaroo rat that jumped into our camper shell on a dark night, the Arizona sycamores, and much more.

However, I haven’t been able to clear my mind  sufficiently to write because, when I have access to the internet, I keep taking looks at my Facebook feed, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, and then I fret instead of write. We have so many problems: the attempted Muslim ban, the environment, the judiciary, the wall, women’s rights, and deranged tweets about Saturday Night Live, for god’s sake. I need to focus on what I know: There is truth and there is beauty (AKA facts and photos) and I am striving to hold onto both.

Facts I learned

  • It is generally agreed that there are four distinct desert regions in North America: Chihuahuan, Sonoran, Mojave, and Great Basin. Arizona claims to be the only state that  contains parts of all four deserts (for more information, see the article from The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum).
  • “By the time Big Bend National Park was established in 1944, there were virtually no resident bears in the Big Bend area.” However, in recent decades black bears have returned and there are approximately 8 to 12 adult bears living in the park now. (for more information, see Black Bears in Big Bend).
  • “The San Pedro River [near Sierra Vista, Arizona] is one of the last free flowing rivers in the Southwest. In 1995, the American Bird Conservancy recognized the San Pedro as its first ‘globally important bird area’ in the the United States, dubbing it the ‘largest and best example of riparian woodland remaining’ in the Southwest (from a brochure of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area).”
  • The Arizona sycamore (Platanus wrightii)  grows in the Sonoran desert “in riparian washes and canyon bottoms between 2,000 and 6,000 feet in elevation in Arizona, New Mexico and northwestern old Mexico” (see Arizona State University online publication for more information).

Photos I took

Arizona sycamore (Platanus wrightii), Ramsey Canyon Preserve

Arizona sycamore (Platanus wrightii), Ramsey Canyon Preserve

American kestrel (Falco sparverius), Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

American kestrel (Falco sparverius), Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Tom among the sacaton, San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area

Tom among the sacaton ( Sporobolus airoides), San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area

birds (I don't know their names), San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area

birds (I don’t know their names), San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area

sunset, Joshua Tree National Park

sunset, Joshua Tree National Park

Observation

I see turmoil, anger, confusion, and sadness in our public life now. I saw a great deal of scat on the desert trails where Tom and I walked.  I am an organic gardener, so I know that scat and other organic debris enriches the soil so beautiful plants can grow. I am going with that: We have scat now, but beautiful flowers will bloom, I do believe.

scat, Murray Springs Clovis Site, Arizona

scat, Murray Springs Clovis Site, Arizona

brittlebush (Encelia farinosa), Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

brittlebush (Encelia farinosa), Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

 

Big Bend National Park

Sierra Vista, Arizona

Last week my husband and I spent four nights camping in Big Bend National Park in Southwest Texas. The days and nights were so windy in the Chisos Basin Campground that, when we were away from our campsite, our brand new tent ripped and became airborne until some kindly neighbors caught it and secured it with our camp chairs and several rocks.

our tent, Chisos Basin Campground, not yet airborne

our tent, Chisos Basin Campground, not yet airborne

It was also cold. Note to daughter: Both day and night, I wore  up to five layers on the top–including my fancy Patagonia long underwear–and I was still cold!

keeping warm in Chisos Basin

keeping warm in Chisos Basin

Mostly, we didn’t hear the news. The wind and the cold cleansed us.  The rocks and the sky were grand, as always.  The desert and mountain plants and animals helped us focus on being close to the ground. We had to walk carefully on the rocks and gravel. (See Geology of Big Bend National Park for more information.) We had to bend close to inspect the plants, bark, and rocks. I took photographs to help us remember what we saw.

candelilla (Euphorbia antisyphitica)

candelilla (Euphorbia antisyphitica)

Chisos Mountain pricklypear (Opuntia chisosensis)

Chisos Mountain pricklypear (Opuntia chisosensis)

cholla (Cylindropuntia imbricata?

cholla (Cylindropuntia imbricata?)

giant dagger yucca (Yucca faxoniana)

giant dagger yucca (Yucca faxoniana)

Carmen Mountains white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus carminis)

Carmen Mountains white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus carminis)

View fromLost Mine Trail, Big Bend N.P.

View from Lost Mine Trail, Big Bend N.P.

The Window, Chisos Basin, Big Bend N.P.

The Window, Chisos Basin, Big Bend N.P.

There is so much more to learn: how volcanoes helped build the Chisos Basin, why the black bears came back to the park, who was that snake we saw in the rocks (he looked like the little ones in my garden), and what will be the impact of climate change on this and other natural sanctuaries? Luckily, Tom and I always find enthusiastic and knowledgeable National Park Service workers to help us with our questions.

another friendly and informative park service ranger

another friendly and informative park service ranger

Sometimes, especially now, I feel uneasy and unsafe in this world, but not from the  slippery rocks or bears or lions. I feel uneasy and unsafe about any who would try to take away our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and our public lands. However, I will keep walking and talking and working to help protect this lovely land and its people.

dangers that I prefer

dangers that I prefer