Big Bend is the least visited of our national parks. In 2016, it saw just 388,290 visitors, compared to the 11,312,786 who went to the most visited, Great Smoky Mountains. This is not a surprise, given its location in an almost-forgotten corner of Texas, an 8.5 hour drive from Dallas, if you speed and don’t stop to eat or gas up. The drive down is a wasteland of oil fields and abandoned towns. But don’t be deterred; the park is worth the effort it takes to get there.
What to do when you get there? You can stay in the lodge and hope to see a javelina. You can cross to Mexico, legally via the Boquillas entrance or illegally by wading across the Rio Grande. But mostly, you go to Big Bend to hike. My first day, I did a four-mile hike in the morning up the Lost Mine trail and a five-mile hike in the afternoon to the Window. The second day I did a 15 mile hike up to Emory Peak, down around the South Rim, and back to the Chisos Basin via the Laguna Meadows trail. The last morning was only a quick two-mile (if that) walk to the end of Santa Elena Canyon and back. I would have loved to spend more time lying on the banks of the Rio Grande, soaking up the sunshine before heading back to the 20-degree Boulder weather, but that 8.5 hour drive lie ahead. Continue reading →
English has no shortage of homonyms that can easily cause confusion for someone trying to learn this language. But they can almost as easily cause confusion among native speakers as well.
On our way into mountains last Sunday to hike Grays and Torreys peaks, my two girlfriends and I saw a sign on I-70 just like this one.
All three of us had the same thought – we need to bring the car from 75 mph to a complete stop in the middle of the highway and get out of the car right now to see what we are missing! Surely if CDOT felt the need to tell us (in such a cheeky way) that we should remain in the vehicle, something important and exciting must be happening along the roadside. And then 20 seconds later, we non-smokers realized we had all misunderstood which “butt” the sign meant. Continue reading →
Of the many ways in which my body has started falling apart as I enter middle age, the knee pain I recently acquired has been the most unexpected. I’m not a runner, nor am I terribly athletic or active in any way, so it’s not as if my knees have taken a pounding over the last 37 years. But I have had a lifelong habit of sitting on my feet, so maybe I shouldn’t have been all that surprised when last November it started taking me several minutes to fully stretch my legs out again after I had been curled up. Or when in December I found I was no longer able to fully tuck my right leg under me without piercing pain. Or when in January, some parts of the bones started sticking out awkwardly from my knee cap.
Luckily, a simple knee brace from the drugstore and intense vigilance to my posture while seated made these problems a thing of the past by spring. And so two weeks ago I thought that climbing a 14er, something I haven’t done in over five years, would be a good idea. You may think the hard part is going uphill for three hours gulping at the oxygen-deprived air, certain you can’t possibly force yourself to engage your thigh muscle to bring your foot up one more time, but you’d be mistaken. Downhill is the real torture, especially on your knees. Gravity pulls you down, faster and faster, forcing you to keep going, making your feet move so quickly that you don’t even know if your next step will be on a loose pile of rocks that will go flying out from under you or on a solid chunk of unyielding granite that slams all your body weight into your already wasted knees. Most often it’s the latter, over and over and over. As many times as I had to stop to fill my lungs on the way up, I had to stop to massage and stretch out my knees on the way down. Continue reading →