The Southwestern U.S. is new to us, given our Northern heritage. One of the reasons we were excited about the Juárez assignment was the opportunity to do some exploring North of the border, and this week we got started. Here’s a map of the route we drove:
We started off with a few nights of camping in Big Bend National Park. It’s bounded on one side by the Rio Grande, and is basically a massive desert plain with an island of towering mountains right in the middle. Up in the mountains there are evergreen forests, the plain is thick with grasses, yucca and cacti, and the river valley had palms and thick bamboo groves. It was neat to see such distinct eco-systems so close to each other. Here are some photos:
After a few days of sleeping on the ground we were ready for a change of pace. We headed to Marfa, TX for a night. It’s a bustling metropolis that is home to 2121 people, and that also happens to be the spiritual and home of the Minimalist Art movement in America. You know when you see a white canvas hanging on a museum wall with like a single line drawn across it? That’s minimalism. Apparently back in the 70s a number of prominent Minimalist artists moved out to rural Texas, drawn to the stark (one might say minimalist) landscape. They set up shop in Marfa, and now this sleepy little crossroads is home to galleries, bookstores, theaters, coffee shops, and fantastic restaurants galore. We had fun, and I even saw a few pieces of art that I didn’t find ridiculously confusing.
After Marfa we blazed a trail North over mountain and desert, going for hours at a time without even a radio station that we could pick up (forget cell phone signal). We stopped at Fort Davis, which was built to protect the San Antonio to El Paso road from Apache raiders, and was home to many of the famous Buffalo Soldiers. We even got to see an introductory video narrated by Kareem Abdul Jabbar in cowboy getup….
Our next stop was Carlsbad, NM, where the main attractions are the impressive number of Chinese Buffet restaurants, and Carlsbad Caverns. We partook of both, and the Caverns were the more memorable. The main caves are located about 80 stories below ground, and the elevators were broken, so we did it on foot. It was a long walk both directions, which left a lot of time for thinking. Being fairly well read I know that there are a lot of things to worry about when you go hiking underground. Balrogs, for one thing (see The Fellowship of The Ring). Also, armies of little men under the enchantment of a green witch who are planning an invasion of the surface (see The Silver Chair). We found neither of these things, and when we started seeing the rock formations I forgot my fears. The pictures speak for themselves:
After Carlsbad we headed West for home, the dog, and another week of work. It was a great trip, and we look forward to more.