Once upon a time we packed tents and provisions on our backs, ventured into the woods and up the mountains. We ate freeze dried meals (mostly pasta) cooked on miniature stoves and slept on the ground. In the beginning there were six (6) of us from St. John’s Episcopal Church who sought the experiences only the wilderness provides and spiritual fellowship among friends. Today, and twenty-one (21) years later, the St. John’s Men’s Group has thirty (30) members who annually trek to remote locations like Big Bend, the Guadalupe Mountains, Ft. Davis, among others.
Our group has evolved in ways other than age. We no longer take overnight hikes on the trail, settling instead for day hikes. Originally we had packs, now we have generators. The soft glow of campfires and flash lights have been replaced by fluorescent strip lighting. Grills, ovens, freezers and deep fryers provide prime rib, fried catfish, baked potatoes, hot pecan pie and ice cream in lieu of the ever-so-tasty pre-packaged MRE (Meals Ready to Eat). Vasque and Raichle hiking boots have been set aside for motorcycle leather and, of course, Harleys. We now resemble a motorcycle gang with logistical support.
The good side to this evolution is we have broadened our reach to many and our participation is the highest it has ever been. We always have a great time smoking cigars, discussing the world’s problems to the hum of generators.
I took my cycle, a mid-grade Specialized touring bike and rode two solo trips last weekend on this year’s Big Bend trip. That is me in the picture having completed a 45-mile trip from the Chisos Mountain Lodge to St. Elena Canyon. Afterwards, that night, prime rib, pecan pie and ice cream were great! Thank you Honda generators!
If you’ve never been to Big Bend, you owe it to yourself to go. There is nothing like it on earth. The light plays on the desert terrain in magnificent ways, treating your eyes to reds, violets and ochre shades. The scenery may look barren but the wildlife and vegetation are filled with remarkable color and pattern. This time of year Desert Marigold are in bloom and the reddish fruit of the Prickly Pear is ready to be plucked and eaten. Giant Horse Lubber Grasshoppers are especially friendly. They are predominantly black with yellow highlights, sage green wings and a bright pink salmon underwing.
I came away this year with this piece of insight: pat answers to complicated questions seem naïve. Big Bend makes you think!
I hope my daily paintings from Big Bend entice your travel.