Section 8: Fort Hancock to Presidio
Morale was still high from yesterday’s miracle and we were up and hiking with minimal fuss. The road in was perfect. Fred had opened the gates to an entire kingdom.
How many times can we say thank you?
The landscapes were big and like nothing we’ve seen so far this trip. Giant plateaus, bluffs, rock escarpments, mesas, canyons. The morning scapes looked straight out of Utah, rock pyramids with rusty red and chalky white striations. We foolishly tried to cross county at one point and had to navigate a spiderweb of drains that forced us up and down.
Because it’s a private road, we didn’t see a single vehicle all day. Unlike the typical roads out here this one was wide and blasted straight through all the topography. It was made for heavy loads, probably the oil trucks that Fred said frequent the area. It was an enormous relief to have explicit permission to be here and to have Fred’s name to drop if anyone were to challenge our presence. It felt so comforting after the constant uneasiness of the last week.
Gotta comment on Soldier’s Mesa. Halfway through the day we reached a fantastic formation, of monstrous scale. From bottom up the mesa began as a gradual, yellow-green slope that abruptly switched to a dark brown, resistant cliff, which was maybe 400 vertical feet high. The cliff lined the rim of the mesa like a cinched belt that held the formation together. Above the cliffs there was nothing, we assumed it was flat as a pancake up there. Absolutely stunning profile!
Conversation was light, energetic and humorous as we bounced along. You can always tell how happy we are with the hiking and each other by whether or not we have any energy for goofing around. Today we had it - lots of laughter, prancing, and jokes. Our mood matched our surroundings.
At one point the towering cliffs that had surrounded us all day began to narrow and before we knew it we were walking through a formation reminiscent of a slot canyon. The rock was a dark mahogany brown and looked completely different from, again, anything we had seen before. The road so frequently carved a channel through rock outcroppings and we thought the slot canyon effect was due to a man made incision. Nope! It was a real slot canyon. At the end was a tunnel that carved through the remaining rock. It looked like the Mines of Moria.
We were told this is the only tunnel in the state of Texas. Can that really be true?
God this place is cool!
A short distance later we approached the Coal Mine Ranch, Fred’s home and our next water fill-up per his invitation. It’s extremely intimidating to approach a ranch in the middle of nowhere on foot, even if you have been invited. We nervously called out greetings and stood just inside the gate, not wanting to intrude further without announcing ourselves. After a couple minutes of anxious shuffling on our part, a woman came out of one of the houses and greeted us. We told her that we had met Fred yesterday and he had invited us to stop by and grab water.
She understood the name Fred but nothing else, asking “Hablas español?” We could only shake our heads in disappointment feeling like total assholes. How do we still not know much Spanish? It is the biggest regret of our trip.
We all smiled at each other and laughed over the difficulty and she pointed towards another house that supposedly belonged to Fred. Gracias senora. Lo siento por nuestro mal Español!
We didn’t see anyone over by Fred’s but there was a sink and we gratefully filled up a couple liters. Next water Candelaria! We left a note thanking Fred and slunk away, feeling bad that we had left so quickly and hadn’t been able to thank him in person. He truly saved us on this trip and we could not be more grateful.
We made it a couple miles more before calling it quits. We’re tired from the long day and happily set up camp feeling pretty safe out in this remote and hilly landscape. Fred is only a couple miles away and we’re almost out of this section and back into towns. Feeling good for now. It’s wonderfully relaxing after so many nights of anxiety and stress.
Our nightly check in with Robert. Earlier we came to a sign that informed us that we have now entered Presidio County, which means our faithful Fort Hancock contacts, like Robert, are now two counties away. Does he still love us? We have consistently sent him a “we’re okay" message on our GPS device every morning and night and fortunately tonight he confirmed that we should keep the updates coming. Even though we’re out of his county he would still be the one called in to search for our bodies. Not sure if he’s joking or not but yay he still loves us! We have perpetual anxiety that the many wonderful people we meet will forget us when we leave their area. (One of the downfalls of a linear hike).