Thursday, April 21, 2005

Visiting God's Country

I am here at work, not wanting to be at work, because I spent last week on vacation, and it was such a nice vacation....sigh. We went to West Texas and hubbed out of my father-in-law's house in Pecos. We camped out two nights at
Davis Mountains State Park, and then two nights at Big Bend National Park. We could've easily stayed another week.

The first night in the Davis Mountains, we were in over our heads -- literally. Our heaviest sleeping bag is
rated to 35'F. We were expecting overnight lows in the low 40's, maybe upper 30's. We were so cold, we slept with our heads tucked under the covers, trying to hold on to as much body heat as possible.

In the early morning, my husband had had all that he could take, and he went to the Suburban to warm up (leaving his sleeping bag spread out over the girls). The Suburban's rearview mirror has a digital thermometer, and he said at 5:30 that morning, it was registering 28'F!!!! No wonder we were freezing our buns off!

The second night we were better prepared. DH put two sleeping bags in the Suburban for him and DS. We zipped two bags together for me to share with both girls, and then we laid the 5th bag over us. We were quite toasty.

But, seeing that her efforts to freeze us were being thwarted, Mother Nature threw something else at us. Around midnight, I awoke to the sound of a freight train bearing down on us! Winds had picked up tremendously, and gusts were shaking our cabin tent back and forth like a carnival ride.

During a lull in the storm, DH came out and asked if we wanted to get in the Suburban. Both girls were still sleeping, so I opted to stay in the tent. I suspect the Suburban was probably shaking even more violently than the tent, since wind was able to sweep underneath it. Surprisingly, the tent held. Oh, and so did the Suburban.

At Big Bend, we stayed in the Chisos Mountains Basin campground. The first night there was Part II of the wind storm. How was I supposed to listen for hungry bears if the blasted wind was going to constantly rustle the tent to and fro? At least it was only in the mid-40's.

And happily, the second night in the Basin was quiet and comfortable. One good night's rest out of four. Jeez!

While at the Davis Mountains, we took the kids to our favorite picnic spot, The Rockpile. The kids are all finally physically mature enough to do some serious climbing -- and to get into some serious trouble. We were constantly reminding them to wait for everyone, to not run ahead, etc.

I also discovered that I can be a little phobic. While they had already started climbing, I was trying to situate my digital camera bag onto my belt. They got to quite an altitude before I even started, and I felt rushed to catch up. But when I surveyed the path they'd taken, I suddenly found myself momentarily paralyzed by fear.

It seemed like I couldn't properly gauge distance, that my depth perception was off. How was I going to keep from falling if I couldn't even predict when my foot was going to land on rock? It was very strange.

I'd climbed it before, though, so I pretty much told my fears to shut up and I started up the rock anyway. After I got started, I was okay the rest of the way.

We also found a couple of places where we could go on a horseback ride. Prude Guest Ranch charged $20/person, but kids under 6 weren't allowed. Lajitas Stables was more expensive, but they didn't have a problem with letting a 4-year-old ride.

Torn between the cost and the knowledge that I would be terribly disappointed if I didn't get to ride a horse, DH offered to let me go on a ride by myself. I thought about it, but I knew that the kids wanted to ride, especially DS. They'd be just as disappointed as I would be.

So I convinced DH to forget about the money and let's all go. DS rode double with me, on a tall sorrel named Riddler, and we all had a good time.

At Big Bend, we didn't have much time to do a whole lot. We took one of the shorter, easier hikes to the Hot Spring that flows into the Rio Grande. DH and the kids got soaked while I walked around and took pictures.

Spring, by the way, is the time to visit Big Bend, if you ever get a chance to go. The wildflowers were absolutely breathtaking. The prickly pear were only beginning to spring forth; had we waited a week or two, I think we would have really been in for a show! (I'm not a religious person, but I have to say that I think God really enjoys showing off this time of year.)

We got just enough of a taste of Big Bend to know that we want to go back this summer and really hit the trails. I sent out an email earlier this morning to DH's brothers and sisters, to see if any of them are brave enough to join us. We'll see who bites....


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