Section 10: Rio Grande Village to Langtry
The walkers got lucky today. The Black Gap Wildlife Management Area controls about 25 miles along the Rio, which meant we walked all day on public lands. Texas Parks and Wildlife maintain roads next to the river as well as a number of campsites and shelters. It made such a difference to be able to move quickly on a road.
Wow, remember the luxury of roads?
The river was swallowed up in the terrain somewhere to our side, while we zigzagged north. It's usually difficult to match the pace between the boaters and hikers but our roundabout route miraculously kept us in line and we arrived at our rendezvous spot at similar times. Finally the boaters were freed from having to match their pace to ours.
An ode to Nikki Long. She strides forward with steps that skip a beat, letting the ground become a playground for her desire to launch from one attraction to the next. Every rock is a potential find, and is examined with keen interest to determine where it ranks on today’s scale of nifty rocks. One rock is orange, marbled like Colby Cheese, another rock bubbles brown with a waxy sheen, a third swirls grey and black. Her tool of trade? A painted walking stick from Big Bend. She pushes each object back and forth with the heel of her stick deciding it’s worth as an object for further inquiry or simply concluding her appraisal. In between inspections she runs, out of glee but also with pointed dedication to the main passion in her life, running. Every critter she passes is a character with a story years in the making. The jackrabbit is Robinson. We’ve seen him before. The cow, a friend (although not always that’s for sure). The lizard, Lizzy, or when she’s not around, her speedy pal Milly. Unfortunately, the rabbit, the cow, and the lizard reversed their storyline by accelerating to a fluster in the opposite direction. It’s never a bummer to see a character go because Nikki’s rebound is almost as quick. She’s movin’ on!
Lunch on a giant limestone ledge! It overlooked the river with a lower set of ledges just shallow enough to pull up the boats. By the time we stop our hunger is nearly overwhelming. We get out all the staples: refried beans, tortillas, cheese, salsa, leftovers, fruit. And Kim adds her own concoctions.
Kim, are you trying out your witch doctor recipes on us again?
Both sides of the river are heavily grazed by livestock and their network of trails run everywhere. After lunch we followed one of these trails as it putzed along a ledge overlooking the river. For a time, the hikers and boaters were able to do their thing side by side.
We were finally making up miles! We passed on old Candelilla wax factory that sat abandoned on a cliff. A couple other ramshackle structures were all that was left of the once hopping fishing camps. Even the Mexican side seemed deserted. The canyon walls are too high to allow for the overburdens of civilization on this remote area. A few cows clung to the banks, forging the river in select spots to get what little food they could find. The farther downstream we got, the more of their ribs we could count. This is not an easy environment to squeeze life out of.
By evening however the canyon had narrowed yet again, leaving no other option than to push through the swathe of bramble. At least there seemed to be less cane here, the thorn bushes must be winning out. It also appeared that Parks and Wildlife had put some effort into eradicating the invasive species. If we were lucky one of the animal trails would climb 50 ft up the canyon slopes where we could rock hop forward.
Another set of wide ledges made for an excellent camp spot. The rock was still warm and Tenny, Claire and Nikki decided to cowboy camp under the stars. Claire and Kim had both been viciously sunburned and Nikki and Tenny were covered in a spiderweb of cuts and scratches. Only Fred seemed immune to the pain of the day or maybe he just doesn’t feel the same need to complain! We doctored our injuries with our dwindling supply of lotion and salves and settled in.