Thursday, 4/8/21: Today is HOT! Tomorrow HOT!

Our dashboard thermometer topping out at 100º. (The date on the dashboard is a day off - it is now fixed).

Well, the weather gods reneged on their promise of a slight moderation. We reached the dreaded 100º mark today. But it wasn’t as bad as it sounds because our benefactor, Good Fortune, came to our rescue again. Here’s the story.

Yesterday’s crisis threw us off our game a bit. That, and the fact that it was freezing cold when we woke up, lulled us into complacency. We didn’t hit the road until 11 am. By noon, the mercury had edged into the 90º zone. But the drive, in our air conditioned van, was inspiring with the grand Big Bend National Park scenery.

At the Big Bend entrance gate, Good Fortune stepped up to the plate one more time. We saw a giant sign listing all the very hefty entrance fees. Jeez, this place was insanely expensive - $50 a car, $20 per person, etc. Well, I just waved my old geezer card at them like a magic wand, and with a big Texas smile we were given maps and a newsletter and sent on our way without even a tiny dent in my wallet.

The drive through pristine Big Bend National Park is a religious experience.

Of course, we had to stop at every turn out, read every info plaque, and take lots of photos of rocks. Our ultimate destination was the Santa Elena Canyon, where the Rio Grande cuts through a gorgeous narrow canyon. There is a short, but spectacular trail there.

It was 95º when we reached the trailhead parking lot, so we loaded up our packs with water and bravely headed down, well actually up, the trail. The first leg of the trail switchbacked up the canyon wall. This looked to be a grueling hike, and looks were not deceiving. The amazing view kept up our fortitude and we plugged along.

The trail petered out at the banks of the Rio Grande. A couple of people took their shoes off and waded in the water. We followed suit. The water was refreshing and a canyon breeze felt wonderful.

Then we got the bright idea to walk up river through the canyon, just to see what was around the next bend. It was so nice and cool deep down in the canyon, wading in the river that never got more than knee deep, that we kept going and going and going. The sandy bottom slowly gave way to gravel. We were forced to put our shoes back on.

Finally, we rounded one last bend and saw a huge cave halfway up the Mexican canyon wall. I speculated that this must be where the Mexican coyotes bring illegals to cross the river. It would be the only way to reach the river from that tall vertical canyon wall. Well, not really. I couldn’t tell if the cave actually went anywhere. It just made for an thrilling day dream.

I did, I admit it, I touched the Mexican monolith canyon wall. Don’t tell anyone. We saw a sign warning that crossing the border is a $5000 fine.

There were just a handful of people that drifted up the river with us. One couple, originally from Alaska, but now based somewhere on the Chesapeake Bay, struck up a conversation with us. They had visited 130 countries and all 50 US states. Wow, they really put our paltry 12 countries to shame.

And what was their all-time rave-fav country? Turkey, hands down they said - beautiful, cheap, and super friendly. They also loved Georgia, the up and coming hot tourist destination (That’s Georgia the former USSR satellite country, not the US state). I will have to see if my sister is game to hit Turkey if/when we can travel again.

The Santa Elena Canyon cut by the Rio Grande River. Wanda showing the way down the River. The left wall is Mexico.

A guide with 5 or 6 canoes in tow and down the river. There was barely enough water and they had to get out a drag a couple of times.

As we rounded the last bend before turning back, we found this big cave opening. I wondered if it had another opening on the other side of the big canyon wall.

Oh boy - another selfie.

We returned to V-Jer around 7 pm. Another drum roll....... Ah, yes, all is intact. Whew!!!! It was still 97º. We turned on the air conditioner in V-Jer for only the second time ever. It was heavenly. Just across the road from us, is the only grocery store in the entire region. Although not very large, it was jammed with all sorts of goodies, including RV hardware supplies. I picked up on some more great tent stakes - strong metal spikes that can be driven into gravel and stay put.

And Big Bend National Park? Was it worth the drive and the heat. Absolutely. This place is amazing. Each of the thousand peaks has its own character, colors, and odd shape. The best part is the vast pristine desert wilderness that is completely unmarred by the junkiness of crappy urbanization. Big Bend just puts a smile on my face that will take plastic surgery to remove (Yeah yeah, I stole that from Chevy Chase in “Vacation”).

One last thing. We have developed such an intimate relationship with our mischievous gremlin and our guardian angel, we decided to give them names. I looked up a bit on Mexican mythology. El Diablo was too strong. Our little guy is more playfully naughty than evil. Duende is a Latin American mischievous gremlin or goblin. Not my favorite pet name, but it will have to do - Duende it is. Tata Duende is the mythical guardian of forest animals and people - a good duende. It means grandfather goblin. I like that, but will shorten it to just Tata. Tata does his best to undo what Duende does.

Dave and Wanda

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