The above image was shot in morning's first light in the Chihuahuan desert. I had made the long drive to Big Bend National Park the previous day, and had hiked most of the day thinking I would end up in a comfy bed at a hotel somewhere for the night. At the last unprepared minute, I decided I wanted to shoot the sunrise the next morning. I had Kipper the Kelpie with me and a cot, not much else. The sun had already gone into hiding, so all I could see was what my truck headlights illuminating the path as I drove down a lonely gravel road looking for a spot in this empty portion of the park to camp for the night. Finding a suitable spot in the absolute dark of the moonless desert, I put the cot up and piled on all the blankets I had, then Kipper and I snuggled in together for warmth against the cold desert night air that crept in to chill us. The absence of a moon that night, and with no artificial light to be seen, made the desert night pitch black except for the starlight of a million points of light, twinkling like diamonds against a dark indigo sky. The stars of the Milky Way are so numerous, it provides its own type of blanket in which to wrap intellectual thoughts up in. The silence of the desert was welcoming, a quite departure from what I am conditioned to hearing on a night in Los Angeles. Only the gentle wind filtering through the thorny branches of the agave and ocotillo could be heard. An occasional sound, heard only by Kipper's ears, caused her to lift her head and nose the wind to catch the scent of a possible intruder. With Kipper on patrol, I drifted off to sleep. Thankfully Kipper's stirring awoke me just in time to see dark purple rays of light in the distance to the east. I hurried to setup my tripod in anticipation of the light show the desert was about to provide. Light in the desert has mysterious qualities, it is an ever changing and delightful sight to behold. Every few moments the quiet purple hues of day's dawning morphed into pinks and blues and orange streaks across the sky. The light began to illuminate my surroundings, and since I had set camp in the total darkness of night, I did not know what would greet me this morning. What a magically pleasant surprise the sunrise revealed to me since my previous night time arrival. The perfectly painted picture of the Chihuahuan Desert that Kipper and I had slumbered in. It was truly breathtaking. A moment in time I will always cherish. A simple event of sunrise in the desert reminded me of just how incredibly awesome and big God is. I only wish I was better at low light photography to mirror what He created and I had the gift to experience. Next time.
The sun rise bathed my surroundings in its orange glow as I got a first glimpse since my night in this desert.
We loaded up and to the "Hot Springs" along the lower reaches of the park boundry by the Rio Grande River. In the 1930's, Big Bend was privately owned by several families. One rancher decided to make the Hot Springs on his property a resort for the rich and famous. Below is a picture of the post office built to service as the market and resort office. The other buildings there were potentially a part of the resort which never fully took off. Keep in mind that Big Bend is truly in the middle of no where. To have had the mind to develop that area into a resort was boldly innovative for that time. I am glad it didn't work so we can enjoy the park in it rare undeveloped beauty. It is sad that in 1945 , the government literally "took" it away from the landowners so they could turn it into the National Park it is today.
These three buildings are only what remain of one man's dream, and the only buildings in this area for miles. The rock facade of the building above, was to be the resort inn. After following a short path flanked by tall, deep green colored Georgia Cane (Some might call it bamboo) that line the river's banks for miles, you will pass the angular, eroded cliffs, where cliff swallows choose to build their river mud nests up to fifty-feet high on the walls to your left, you then end up at the hot springs sitting as they did in the 1930's surrounded by the fast moving current of the Rio Grande River. These springs run at a constant 105 degree temperature year round.
Below is the mouth of Santa Elena Canyon, with its cliffs rising straight up to 1,800 feet above the river's surface. Downstream a few miles, is the little town of Santa Elena, Mexico, where at a time before 9/11, you could pay a few dollars to be rowed across the river and enjoy a Mexican dinner amidst vaqueros riding horses down the middle of the streets with holstered six guns.
Thank you for joining me on my trip to these magnificent places. Part two of Big Bend and Terlingua coming soon...so stay tuned!