The next morning it was cold. Oh, and it was Thanksgiving Day! I was thankful to put my clothes at the bottom of my sleeping bag before I put them on. That’s how cold I was, but I didn’t even know what was coming as far as cold goes! We had a full day of hiking planned, and everyone was up and Adam. Hey, what is “Up and Adam” all about? Weird, that’s what. Okay, I just looked it up. It’s actually “Up and at ’em” and an unreliable source says that it came from motivating troops to get out of the trenches in World War 1. Sorry for the tangent, but I like to know these things (or sort of know since I can’t verify my source.) Also, I think it’s funny that my whole life I thought it was “Adam.”
We ate cereal and milk as quick as we could, and by the time we were finished making the lunch sandwiches the sun was warming our backs. I was smiling. Today we were going to Grapevine Hills. This is Big Bend-speak for the hike with the big balancing rock at the end of the trail. Actually there are several balancing rocks plus one giant awesome photo-op rock. This is what we call a “Desert Hike,” and it is a great hike for kids! It’s only 2.2 miles round trip (I promise), and the end of the trail provides lots of boulder climbing options.
Getting there is fun too, because you drive for a while and then turn on a dirt road. Then you drive 6 miles down the dirt road in the middle of the desert. The desert beauty made me glance back at my offspring and check my water supply. We hadn’t had cell phone service since we had arrived in Chisos Basin, and all of a sudden I saw bars on my phone so I called our parents to say Happy Thanksgiving. We managed to talk briefly to all of them, and they were all watching parades and cooking for the big feast. We were in such a different place. The cactus and the mountains were giving us their own parade, and I felt as though I never wanted to leave this desolate place.
It truly is a desert hike. The children loved the expansiveness of it. It began flat, rocky, and sunny, and I could see that our children thought the world was theirs. I watched them run a bit, and we would let them because we could still see them. Then they would walk and talk to each other. Their eyes were wide open, and they were seeing it all. I said a prayer of thanks for seeing them see. Jesus was right when he said that children were a gift. Children can give you new eyes to see if you let them. It’s what God wants. They were laughing at the poky spines and needles on all the different cacti. I was teasing them with a Dr. Seuss line, and they asked for a photo.
As we hiked, the mountains slowly formed around us. Pretty soon we were surrounded by boulder collections. I was keeping my eyes open for mountain lions. The scenery begged for a mountain lion. I wasn’t begging, but I thought just maybe if it was far away enough, I wouldn’t mind seeing one.
Our little one, Claire who was quietly riding on her dad’s shoulders, suddenly burst out with, “Daddy!!! A purple cactus!! OH, another one. There’s one too!” It was so cute. New eyes.
Suddenly, the trail begins to go upward, and some mild climbing is in order. This is where the kids either get excited and leave you behind or start asking for help depending on their age. Most of mine did the former, and I was happy to let them thinking, They know to watch for snakes, right?
We made it to the top of the trail, and the view is lovely and truly expansive. The big balancing rock is large and precarious in a solid-kind of way. You want to just sit and stare at it and wonder how it got there and why it is shaped like it is and if it will fall someday but you know all will be well if it does (as long as you aren’t under it). I just realized: that is a pretty good description of my faith! Thanks be to God. So, there is peace and quietness in the view. That is until the whole of your family group arrives and people start doling out lunch. And then you start taking family photos and nothing is peaceful or quiet or cooperative.
We stayed for a while taking photos, eating, and letting the kids explore. Then it was time for the descent, and everyone was still energetic. The older kids ran ahead, and I found myself in the middle of our group quite alone for a bit. It was wonderful and it felt dangerous. We hadn’t seen any wildlife, but my eyes kept scanning the boulders for unknown friends.
It was a lovely hike, and I don’t think you should even go to Big Bend if you aren’t planning to do this hike. (Unless you are unable to hike.) Just go ahead and plan your adventure. It’s time. There’s no better place to do some thanksgiving.
Pack your bag, get your water, and open your eyes. Life awaits…
To be continued…