Friday, 4/9/21: Wildfire!

How sad, a wildfire is burning in the central Chisos Mountains area. This isn’t Duende’s doing, it is El Diablo. Interestingly, a group of Mexican fire fighters named the Los Diablos Fire Unit, is helping to contain the fire.

It was 59º when I donned my fleece zip-up jacket this morning. It was warmer than yesterday’s daybreak, but still cold. You can’t bottle up this coolness for later, so today, we got an early start. We pushed off for Big Bend around 8 am, but not before Wanda did a load or two of wash in the hand washer.

The big news around here is the wildfire that started in the central Chisos Mountains area yesterday afternoon. The origin is unknown, however, with no lightning strikes for weeks, human activity is suspected. My original plan was to visit the two canyons, one on each side of the huge park, then explore the Chisos Mountains on our last day, tomorrow. We already enjoyed the western Santa Elena Canyon yesterday. Today was the eastern Boquillas Canyon. I don’t know about the central Chisos Mountains area tomorrow as some of the trails were closed and some backcountry campsites have been evacuated. The entire Chisos area could be closed if the fire spreads.

Boquillas Canyon is another spectacular canyon carved by the Rio Grande River. Just before entering the canyon, the river banks in either side of the river are low sandy beaches. The Mexican town of Boquillas del Carmen is just up a dirt road about a quarter mile from the river. Normally, this extremely remote village is completely dependent on American tourists crossing the river. There is a special tiny customs office right there to make it all on the up-and-up. The office was closed. Crossing was prohibited. COVID strikes again.

That didn’t stop the desperate Mexicans from coming over to sell trinkets, tamales, and horseback rides. ICE and the Federales seem to look the other way as there isn’t any other way for the town to survive.

At the beginning of the canyon an older gentleman, who called himself the “Singing Jesus” belted out songs that wonderfully echoed off the canyon walls. He stayed on the Mexican side, but had a donation bucket on our side. I slipped him a buck. Sadly, I was the only person to do so. We also bought a trinket for $6.

It was the hot freshly made tamales that were the real gems. We picked them up on our way out of the canyon because we had salsa back at the van. We have never had a bad tamale in Mexico and these kept our streak going. They were delicious.

Anyway, back to the Canyon. This time we brought our water sandals. Good thing because, like at Santa Elena, we were able to extend our walk after the trail ended, by walking down the river, in the river. Again, the cool Rio Grande water kept the intensifying heat at bay.

After a while, we found a trail along the river and returned to land. It was through a dense thicket of tall prickly bushes that kept reaching out to grab us and pull us into their clutches when we heard a loud thumping sound behind us. Out of nowhere, a Mexican outfitter riding a horse practically ran us over. He was from Boquillas and was looking for a lost group of riders. He ran an outfitter business and I think the group he was looking for was a bunch of lost gringo customers.

The canyon hike was another amazing Big Bend adventure. The trinket, a wire replica of a Prickly Pear plant, will set on our dashboard for many miles, and the tamales satiated our bellies, at least for a short time. The Boquillas Canyon was gorgeous.

The dramatic Boquillas Canyon on the eastern end of Big Bend National Park.

Boquillas del Carmen is just a quarter mile on the other side of the river bank. In pre-COVID times, we would have crossed over and gotten a burrito in the town.

The outfitter from the Boquillas del Carmen, looking for some lost horseback riders.

Still looking.

We made a nice snack out of our tamales. They were expensive - 6 tamales for $10, but they were fresh, hot, and delicious. All-in-all, we left the Mexican struggling economy with $17 or about 340 pesos.

When we started up the van I noticed that Duende had paid us another visit. The van’s outside temperature gauge was stuck at 70º. We could feel that was wrong. I tried playing around with the settings, but nothing worked. And Duende wasn’t done playin’ around yet. We drove down to the Village Campground to hike the Rio Grande overlook trail that starts there. By this time, the sun was pouring on the coals.

After trudging up the side of what seemed like Mount Everest, a rogue gust of wind grabbed my cap and flung it down the steep cliff side. With precious little hair on the top of my head for protection, this was serious business. We picked our way up and down that cliff side for 20 minutes to no avail. I started to get a bit woozy from the exposure.

Finally, I made one final glance before making a bee-line for the van, when Tata felt sorry for me and placed an identical hat just 10 feet from my feet, completely out in the open where I couldn’t miss it. This had to be the explanation because I had gone over that exact spot with a fine-tooth comb and found only rocks. I poured some bottled water into the hat, cinched it down tight, and we moved on.

The Rio Grande overlook, where I lost my hat. Notice the pool of murky water. This wetland had a boardwalk through it. It is the only spot that I actually saw fish.

The fancy boardwalk over the wetland.

These curious fish dug rather deep round holes of a diameter not much bigger than their length, and they kind of just sat inside them. This guy wandered outside of his hole to come to the surface and pose for me.

Several of these trinket “layouts” were set up in the area of the canyon and the overlook. A few were manned, but most operated on the honor system. Everything was priced and a bucket to put the money in was placed nearby. It was way too hot to tend the setups.

A real Prickly Pear. Our camping buddies, Tom and Babs, heard from somewhere, that they are real tasty steamed. Well, I don’t know about that. There ain’t a lot of meat on them there bones.

Back at the van, Tata again assisted us. About five miles down the road, the van’s temperature reading jumped from 70º to 97º. We were back in business, baby, thanks to Tata.

Our ride back to V-Jer, where again, all was well.

Dave and Wanda

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