Lions and Bears and Hiking…Oh My!

So, it’s been fun this week with all my birthday posts.  I hope that you’ve been enjoying them.  When it came to picking topics, some were easy–the topics that is, not the people ;- ) others were a bit more challenging and in those cases, I emailed or texted the birthday people to see if they had any suggestions.  Most didn’t or were vague.  Emily, however, had a whole list and when I was reading her email, it made me laugh out loud and immediately relive some of my most memorable moments in college (Go Buffs!).  Here are some of the suggestions that Em suggested:

Funny story, let’s see.  There’s:

why not to take Sherry to the grocery when she’s on pain pills, why not to drink Mescal at a goat roast, why Sherry SHOULD NEVER (yes, she put that in caps!) be allowed to give up caffeine for Lent, the fire that wouldn’t die in Palo Duro Canyon and (can’t believe it was the same night) the hillbillies with axes cutting down the trees, a sad story about our Kansas trip for a wedding when John-John died, the many late nights studying at IHOP, drinking too much at Hummers and then going to IHOP (two totally different experiences: IHOP to study and IHOP b/c of drunkenness).

This, of course, got me to thinking about the capture of Fredtu (and what happened to FredOne), Akiko & Fredtu, Scary Movie night (and no, I don’t mean Scary Movie…I mean The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, The Amityville Horror, and everything by Stephen King, namely It, Pet Cemetery, and The Shining), but I started thinking about all of camping trips and the story that I’m wrapping birthday week up with takes place in Big Bend National Park.

I was a member of the WTAMU Geology Club.  Did I ever take a Geology class?  No.  I lived with Emily, who was a Geology major and El Presidente of the Geology Club.  So I was told I was joining and somehow I ended up as an officer.  One weekend we packed our things and the Geology Club took a short 7 hour drive over 420 miles from Canyon to Bend.

The first day we essentially set up camp so that we could have a full day of exploring the next day.  Exploring is right!  We did a significant amount of hiking through canyons, observing/discovering/learning about the geographic formations and how a river can significant alter the landscape (hello! just look at The Grand Canyon!), truly amazing, given that there were parts of the Rio Grande that were so shallow and narrow, crossing into Mexico wouldn’t have even gotten our knees wet!  As the afternoon wore on, our professor asked if we wanted to watch the sunset through The Window.

What’s The Window?  The Window, he explained, was a spot where two mountains converged and the sun set directly in the gap between them.  It’s magical, he said.  It’ll be fun, he said.

Here’s the description from of The Window Viewing Trail The National Parks Big Bend website:

Difficulty: Easy; 0.3 mile round trip.  This easy, paved wheelchair accessible trail circles a low hill with excellent views of the mountain peaks surrounding the Chisos Basin, and a view through the window. Benches along the trail offer a place to sit and enjoy a classic Big Bend sunset.

We drive to a parking spot nearby and there are two signs: one pointing the direction for the handicap accessible area.  The other read The Window Trail with another arrow.  What the handicapped accessible sign neglected to mention is that it was the viewing area to watch the sunset in The Window.

So where were we headed, you ask?  To. THE. WINDOW.  I would like to interject here, kids, that questioning is a good thing.  Why?  Because our entire group of college students just blindly followed our professor down, down, down a steep, rocky, winding trail.  Okay.  Fine.  We can handle this.  Down, down, down we walk.  The sun is now starting to descend and we can tell that this is going to be grea—WAIT A MINUTE!  Are we heading to The Window?  No, no, the professor insists, he’s sure the viewing area is around here somewhere.  A little further down, down, down.  Soon (and by soon I mean like an hour into our walk) we realize that we are, in fact, heading to The Window itself.  Even better view, he said.  Front row seats, he said.

Here’s the The Window Trail description:

Difficulty: Moderate; Distance:, 5.6 miles round trip.  This trail descends through Oak Creek Canyon to the Window pour-off which frames panoramic desert vistas. During wetter periods Oak Creek may be flowing, and must be crossed several times. Use caution on this trail: the top of the Window pour-off is slickrock with no railings, and the return hike is uphill.

Moderate…if you’re a hiker!  Path is narrowing and getting steeper and twilight is now descending upon us.  Did I mention the signs warning of bears and mountain lions?

hahahaha...we're all gonna be eaten...

hahahaha…we’re all gonna be eaten…

Oh yeah.  Like every 50 feet.  Serving as a reminder that we are getting further and further away from safety and further and further into the wild.  At this point, there’s a bit of grumbling and a bit of questioning.  But we push on further and further down and…now…we’re moving at a quicker pace.  Hurry or we’ll miss it, he said.  Almost there, he said.

The Sun is Almost In Place..

The Sun is Almost In Place..

We didn’t make it all the way to the bottom before the sun sank.  But we did find a great little ledge where we could all watch.  We were probably as close as we could get without climbing gear.  It was spectacular and serene and awe-inspiring to just soak it all in.  It was…dark.

DARK.  Oh yeah, that’s what happens when the sun sets.  IT GETS DARK.  So now here we are.  Standing in the dark…realizing that the only way back was up.  Up. Back up the trail we had spent the last 75 minutes hiking down.  Sigh.  ARE YOU @&%$*#)&$ KIDDING ME??? Back through the mountain lions and bears, who undoubtedly would be hungry and hunting at twilight.  I don’t care what anyone says, EVERYONE jumped every time we heard a twig snap or a bird flutter by.  Of course, we were all out of shape and trust me when I say that there were frequent stops on the way back up, up, up, up to the van.  Of course, a twig off in the darkness would snap and urge us to suck it up and keep moving.  After what seemed an eternity, (but was closer to 90 minutes) we were back a very familiar and welcomed sight: the van.

Since we were camping, I’m quite sure dinner included s’mores, but believe me when I tell you that we earned every. single. bite.

NOT a Big Bend S'more...but no matter where you have 'em, they're a campsite MUST!

NOT a Big Bend S’more…but no matter where you have ’em, they’re a camping/open fire MUST HAVE!

This s’more’s for you Em!  Happy birthday!

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