Big Bend National Park: things we do not always give thanks for.

The Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park, Texas.

Last weekend I hiked with friends in Big Bend National Park. Situated at the bottom of Texas, the Chisos Mountains reach for the sky, and structure a striking basin surrounded by peaks which soar to 8,000 feet. Very isolated and refreshingly tranquil, the Park lies about 10 hours driving time from the hustle and bustle of Houston. In the middle of the basin lies a restaurant and a lodge, and the rooms have no TV and no phones.

In Boquillas Canyon, where the Rio Grande has sliced sheer cliffs by erosion over millions of years, we came upon a lone horseman from Mexico who was checking the money cans. Some artists who live across the river in Mexico have created small statuettes of scorpions and roadrunners fashioned of copper wire, and placed them on large boulders along the hiking route. I bought a few things including some crystals of black tourmaline and smoky white quartz, and deposited the money in a rusty tin can (two dollars for these items plus six for a hiking stick made from a yucca and decorated with a painted red cardinal).

From the top of a hill the horseman called hauntingly to me as we returned to the car. “Senor, did you put some money in the cans?” I replied that I had, waved, and turned my back and drove away. We later discussed the lonely horseman plodding up and down the hill to collect the meager offerings left by US and international visitors. In his job (if he has one) he probably makes only a few dollars an hour, if that much.

And the few dollars he collected from the cans (the only dollars I saw were mine), go to his wife the artist to help raise the kids in Mexico. If I had to do it over, I would have left a twenty or a fifty in the cans, to help this horseman and his family. I forgot to realize what a wonderful country is ours, how lucky we are to live here, and that we are all rich by comparison with families from the undeveloped countries of the world. I missed an opportunity to help someone to hope.

The notch where water (when it rains) pours off from the Chisos basin to the plain below.

The next day, we hiked to the Window, a U-shaped opening where all the water from the basin drainage spills over a cliff…..if it rains……which happens rarely. On the way we saw a tarantula wandering haphazardly across the path, and he did not seemed stressed at all, even when I leaned down close to photograph those long hairy legs. Further along, in a scene from the Discovery channel, four gray deer walked directly toward us.

We stopped, fascinated by those large black eyes. When they realized humans were on their trail, they diverted into the long grass and brush. We remained perfectly still, peering over the brush at the deer. Suddenly one deer darted out onto the trail again and moved a couple of feet toward us, as if saying “Please move aside since you are blocking our trail”.

Then he dashed back into the brush. We were transfixed. Pretty soon one of his sisters tried the same maneuver and skittered onto the trail to confront us. When she departed we decided to get off the trail, but the game of chicken was over and the deer had retreated.

Tarantula challenging my hiking stick.

We also discussed the deer and the tarantulas that evening in the restaurant. I commented how fortunate we were to be able to hike in and see these creatures. And later that night, under a blaze of stars, I quietly gave thanks to God for my eyes and my legs. How many times in my life have I given thanks for my eyes and my legs? In all my gray nomad years, I could probably count the number on my two hands.

Why do we take the gift of life for granted? We ooh and aah over babies, because we are gazing at the gift of life. But then we tend to forget as we mull over the faucet leak, or grouse because we did not get that promotion, or complain that we have a shoulder pain, or that one of our children is rebelling. At Bible study, the prayer requests always seem to outnumber the praises. Why is it so? I shall endeavor in this Thanksgiving season to give thanks to God for my eyes and my legs……and for the gift of life.

The Gray Nomad.
Probing the practice of Christian believers….

Sun setting over Mexico, from Big Bend National Park.

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.” (Psalm 139, New King James version).

This blog is dedicated to Darby, my gifted grandson. If you would, please take 30 seconds to pray that God the Father will inject mercy and loving-kindness into his situation.

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15 comments on “Big Bend National Park: things we do not always give thanks for.”

  1. tom whittlesey says:

    Thanks my friend…… Getting away from everything to be quiet with the Father is sooooo rewarding, just what He longs for. The pics are incredible. Tom

    1. IanPalmer says:

      Tom that’s a good thought….to be alone with God is good for Him as well as for us. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Mary Ann says:

    Loved your blog. Have been to Big Bend before with the grandkids, and remember the wonderful time we had there. This is a great Thanksgiving blog, as we truly have so many things to be thankful for.

    1. IanPalmer says:

      Hi Mary Ann. Do you remember the South Rim, where the cliffs drop off over a thousand feet, but it was covered in mist, and we could not see the edge! We crawled forward on hands and knees until we could peer over the drop off! It was scary.

  3. Van den Bulke Anne-Francoise says:

    Hi Ian, very glad to read you enjoyed a new hiking experience and that it gave you new evidence of God’s creation luxuriousness.
    Here in the African savanna with its gorgeous landscapes and the wild fauna present, my life is a daily thanksgiving, and with all this I’m continuously thanking and praising God for all his creation and for giving me access to all this.
    Kind regards.

    1. IanPalmer says:

      Hi Anne-Francoise. Wow! you are certainly in a rich part of God’s creation in the African savanna. Maybe one day……
      Thank you for sharing.

      1. Anne-Françoise says:

        I’ll be in the African savanna to live this Xmas. I’ll share with the Africans the peace of Christmas, and try to spread the African light over the whole world. The Africans have a very strong faith in God that is a daily lesson for us.

  4. Sheila Thompson says:

    This is beautiful, Ian. Beautiful in your observations, decisions and the photos. God is truly amazing in who He is and all that He does. Just this week at work I was visiting with a friend and we decided to start a prayer journal as we recognized that when we meet together each week we have a multitude of requests, but seldom remember the past requests that God has answered. Also, the blessings that we didn’t ask for, but God in His love has lavished us with. Ian, as you shared this experience I felt as though I was able to share a bit of it with you. Thanks! Happy Thanksgiving.

    1. IanPalmer says:

      Hi Sheila, I think its a matter of perspective. I once saw a lady tilt her face upward, just to feel the sun’s warmth. She wasn’t taking anything for granted. I try to thank God that I can think. If we add some emphasis to things like this, the dripping faucet seems to be a smaller negative in a larger positive picture.

  5. Ian, wishing I could have joined you on this hike. One of your national park founders John Muir said we all need to experience wilderness regularly or we will be in danger of losing our soul. I read that when we visited Yellowstone together. Our dad used to say he went to the beloved Flinders ranges to recharge his battery, which I’m sure is what John Muir was referring to. Those of us who live in the bush perhaps have more reason than most for acknowledging our Creator’s handiwork. Cheers from OZ.

    1. IanPalmer says:

      Clive, that’s a great quote by John Muir……I had forgotten that. It is definitely soul-refreshing to me when I hike in the wilds. Thank you for sharing. Cheers.

  6. Julian Pfitzner says:

    I remember walking with Wendy through parts of Big Bend National Park way back in 1972. Wendy was extremely worried about snakes so we walked cautiously on a very hot day along parts of the Rio Grande.Because of our concern we may not have been as conscious of the beauty of the Park as we could have been!

    On a lovely warm day in South Australia I can hear the warbling of our resident magpie whose call is particularly beautiful and evocative in the morning. We had a friendship group (22 people) pre-Christmas meal last night in our backyard and most people commented on how lovely our garden looked. We are blessed to have a place where we can relax and enjoy what we, with God’s help, have managed to create.

    1. IanPalmer says:

      Hi Julian, you must have been to Big Bend when it was not winter. It does get terribly hot in summer (and even spring or fall). I do recall your lovely garden, and wish I could have been transported there for your party and your terrific friends.

  7. Big Bend National Park is a good place to visit and camp. Its scenery and plant life is truly stunning. There is something for everyone. The place is home to 11 species of amphibians, 56 species of reptiles, 41 species of fish, 75 species of mammals, 455 species of birds, and about 3,700 species of insects. Simply a great place to spend holidays. Plenty of the sites like have maintained information about such places.

    1. IanPalmer says:

      Thanks for the info Steela. I havent camped there, but have stayed at the Lodge 3 or 4 times. My favorite hike and view is the South Rim, which I missed this time….gotta go back there.


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