Cenizo Journal Fall 2021 - Page 23

are not even close to the first people here and we will not be the last . This land is greater than us and as such we owe it respect .
Big Bend is known for its challenging backroads and the River Road does not disappoint . Fifty-one miles of high clearance fourwheel drive make for an all-day adventure . There are numerous primitive campsites along this route , five of which allow horses .
Parking just inside the west intersection of Ross Maxwell and River Road , we ride toward the Buenos Aires campsite . Sunset not far behind , exploring washouts and hidden canyons as we go . We step carefully through rocks and boulders caressed by water over thousands of years .
Arriving at Buenos Aires , the Rio Grande teases from below and our view wanders into Mexico . The river is protected here . Brush surrounds her , forming an almost impenetrable wall . I wonder as I gaze upon her , how long does it take to heal ? To become whole again .
The Big Bend area has been “ healing ” for thousands of years . There are the things you can see : signs of prehistoric volcanic activity , leftover effects of warring Native tribes , Mexicans , Americans , overgrazing and mining . And there are the things you can ’ t see , those less visible .
Today the Rio Grande is a shell of what she once was . A result of things happening far , far away from the Big Bend . Reservoirs and diversions upstream , created to make this river our own , pull from her power . At least seven species of fish have disappeared from the Rio Grande over the past decade . Yet she survives and to know her secrets would be a gift .
One hundred years ago under the full moon , the Comanches rode down from the plains each fall to raid Mexican villages - leaving a trail a mile wide in some places . Travelers to Big Bend taking Highway 385 out of Fort Stockton essentially follow this path today .
Down in the park itself , the La Clocha campsite is the general area where thousands of Comanche warriors are thought to have crossed the Rio Grande on this trek to Mexico . So , of course it had to be ridden .
Approaching now from River Road east , I saddled up and took off down the 2.6 miles to La Clocha . Horse moving at a slow , easy pace - the heat stretching each mile into two . It is noticeably warmer near the river , by at least 10 degrees .
The surrounding land articulates desert at every turn , but the river is an oasis encased in thick green . I don ’ t want to leave . The Rio Grande is shallow here and you can easily imagine horses crossing ... churning up mud and water . Splashing as they go .
Did the Comanche announce their presence with piercing war cries , or did they approach in silence , waking their victims in terror under the full moon ? As we pondered this and other life mysteries , my horse drank from the river , and I drank from the can . We smiled ... both of us .
So again , I ask - how long does it take to heal , and how long to forget ? I don ’ t know . I only know this desert renews . I sit in silence and it knows me , it eases my mind . This vastness filled with intimacy calms .
And as this land recovers and grows , filled with persistence and wonder , I will also make my path and move on . Different , but still beautiful as the desert and river around me . And I think I will go silently and surprise you in the night .
Cenizo Fall 2021