Wild Open Spaces: Reality Meets Expectation in the Chihuahuan Desert

Ursus americanus

Ursus americanus

There is within all of us, I think, a desire to rekindle our historic relationship with nature: a functioning piece, rather than a ruler. To journey to remote places that remind us of the scale of our cosmos, and to humble us with ancient architecture that has moved and adapted, and still stands. Or doesn't. It's an ongoing, evolving spectrum of cause and effect, manifesting in a continual state of entropy... This is the allure of the west. 

Wild spaces possess an undeniable ability to spark curiosity. This summer, I packed my bags and headed to Big Bend National Park, driven by a need to reset and pulled by a desire to immerse myself in miles of desert. As the blurred periphery of my drive changed from gray to green to tan, I found myself musing over the fact that people now follow roads like we once did rivers. The world has changed and adapted, not unlike natural processes. But what experiences do we lose in the process? As my vehicle approached 80 MPH, I wondered what it must have been like to see the world from a horse's back, yearning to see the next vista and the reward of finally reaching a destination you worked so hard to find. This is relatively a lost art - the journey is now an inconvenience; a necessary interlude between "here" and "there." 

As I pulled up to Persimmon Gap, with the whole of Big Bend opening up to me, I was struck by how alive the park was. Birds were everywhere, singing melodies that seemed to echo for miles. A small pack of javelina trotted several feet away. Roadrunners were darting in front of my car constantly. Century agave bloomed in mass, like desert firecrackers. This wasn't the West I expected, but here I was... surrounded by a landscape as vibrant as any forest. 

The delicate balance between expectation and reality would tug at my subconscious throughout the trip, as the unexpected became the ordinary with wildfires, hail storms, ephemeral waterfalls, bear cubs, and the nicest people you could hope to meet. The desert is a land of extremes, but this life in all it's variousness was more extreme than I could have ever imagined. 

"This is the sense of the desert hills, that there is room enough and time enough."
- Mary Austin