The US/Mexico Border Daily
Section Nine: Presidio to Rio Grande Village
Section 9: Presidio to Rio Grande Village
Even with our best attempt at leaving the hotel early, all of the morning still managed to slip away from us. We’d been so far out of town that we hadn’t been able to get our normal chores of resupply, laundry and post office done and we scrambled to stuff them all into a couple hours time. It’s difficult to get around on foot. Crazy that it’s one of the bigger towns in this part of the country.
First groceries. Bringing our backpacks into the grocery store is always a scene. Either you blunder into everything and everyone wearing it on your back or you dump it into a shopping cart and stuff your groceries in around it. You are ungainly either way. We got plenty of looks as navigated the aisles but finally we were resupplied and on our way!
Claire got to the post office just before it closed while Tenny started the laundry. We had to run our clothes through the washer twice because they were so filthy from the last section. We’re going to start needing some replacements soon, the legs of Tenny’s pants are barely attached and our socks are just scraps of fabric. We made it out of town smelling strongly of detergent. At least it’s a new smell.
After a couple miles hiking along the highway we reached the Big Bend State Park Visitors Center, a small office set up in an old fort that is now a state historic site. In the early 1900s Fort Leaton existed as a trading post. It was fortified against many dangers, including the one posed by the bandits and outlaws that roamed the area, drawn to the lawlessness of the borderlands. Interesting to think about how the border has had a long history of serving as a flashpoint for strife.
Why is it easy to forget that our current hysteria is just one episode of a long story?
Being here at the Visitor Center meant we were finally in Big Bend! It’s a section we have been looking forward to since the start. We went in to get our permits for camping but they don’t get many walkers and weren’t entirely sure what to do with us. Despite the confusion the handful of employees we spoke to were awesome and kind enough to exchange the $11 in quarters we had been lugging since the laundromat for much lighter dollar bills!
Back to the road. It was stupefyingly hot. The heat rolled off the black asphalt in waves as we trudged. A steady stream of recreational vehicles flew by, RVs, trucks with bicycles on back, boaters, Park Rangers. Clearly we are in a park! The landscapes grew bigger as they stacked up to a zenith somewhere in the distance.
Did we mention this is gonna be great!?
The river had ample amounts of water, finally it was big, wide and cleared it's path in one fell swoop. Woohoo for parks!
It was also humid and the first time we had felt palpable moisture in the air this trip. Eeek. We couldn’t guzzle water fast enough to keep up with our sweat loss. The humidity was infused with the smell of wildflowers and aromas of pungent new growth. What a treat after lengthy dry heat. A rainbow lit up the sky against the distant dark clouds that occasionally flashed with lightning. More beauty! We were on cloud nine!
It was dark and we were still hiking. Lights twinkled from houses, some from the town of Redford, others in larger number over in Mexico. We made it to our destination, an Outward Bound campus where we had been invited to stay. Outward Bound is a program where instructors and students explore the outdoors in an organized, fun, and educational fashion and lucky for us, they have a base in Big Bend. We didn’t know who would be there, especially after dark, but when we walked in there were enough people milling around to direct us to Morgan, one of the group leaders. We also found Rachel, another leader that was close friends with Sally, one of Claire’s best friends from childhood! We had no idea she would be there but what a good surprise.
Morgan drove us to the staff quarters where we met Ollie and Adam. They gave us all the amenities we needed. We pitched our tent out back, feeling so at ease that we left the fly off for the first time on this trip. This is the safest we’ve felt camping yet, mostly because Big Bend has such a great reputation compared to other sections of the border. Ollie invited us over for a drink which we were more than happy to accept. He told us that he stocks up on drinks and groceries when he visits Ojinana because it’s so much cheaper than the US. We sat outside on the porch and enjoyed swapping stories. Ellie, another Outward Bound staffer joined us. Ahh new friends and good conversation!
This branch of Outward Bound is a flagship program, they opened this location a little over a year ago. Half the year they run programs down here, the other half up in Minnesota. The students we met earlier were trying to acclimatize to the desert heat after months of snowshoeing and dog sledding. Wow. We were still trying to adjust too. We all had things to add about the borderlands. They thought Big Bend was becoming more and more popular with tourists, especially with everyone’s focus on the border. Border Patrol gave Outward Bound staff a presentation on border activity since their headquarters are within a mile of the border. The agents told them that the local cartel knows that Outward Bound is here and has already seen them but that they won’t give them any trouble. Both Ollie and Ellie said they hadn’t had any issues and that they go to Mexico frequently.