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Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #195 on: January 05, 2018, 02:23:52 AM »
Epilogue: Chisos Mining Company Motel, Terlingua


Mule Ears and Scott helped me pile all my gear, and my unopened Bear Vault, inside their tiny rental car already fully loaded with their own backpacking gear. Neither one complained about my filth and stink. They did, however, feed me – from their own traveling stash – all the barbecue I could eat. We stopped at the Chisos Mining Company Motel in Terlingua so Mule Ears and Scott could check in, and I could switch my reservation from December 16 to that night. Scott stayed behind to finish packing for tomorrow’s early morning start of their long backpacking trip through the Quemadas to Mariscal Mountain and back. He showed me what he’d planned for our shared dinner in the Fresno Creek drainage, two nights hence. It was magnificent and outrageous and I was, again, heartbroken, ashamed, and grateful, all at the same time. Leaving Scott to finish packing, Mule Ears and I drove to the Mesa de Anguila trailhead where I retrieved my RAV4 from the gravel parking lot, exactly where Homer Wilson had seen it several days earlier. As I pulled into the long side parking lot of the motel some minutes later, Mule Ears flagged me down and thrust a cold beer through my passenger window, “and there's more where that came from.” No kinder words were ever spoken. I headed to my room in the far back buildings, threw my small suitcase inside, took a long hot shower, inspected my knee and my shoulder and the lump on my head and the hole where my tooth had formerly been, and then changed into clean clothes and a clean ace bandage for my knee.


The three of us spent the evening at the Starlight Theater, swapping stories of our younger years, our lives at home, some surprising shared professional interests, and our ongoing adventures in the wilderness – well lubricated by excellent food and abundant drink – and then retired to our rooms at a reasonably decent hour. I was exhausted after a long trip; they were conserving their energies before beginning their own. We agreed to meet the next morning at the Chile Pepper Café in Study Butte when it opened at 8am for a last breakfast before heading our separate ways. I never mentioned the kitten: what would I say? I couldn’t even explain the events to myself.


The air was absolutely frigid as I walked up the steps to my motel room after our night at the Starlight Theater. The sky was cloudless and billions of stars burned brightly in the pitch-black sky. Starlight theater, indeed.  I paused and felt the chill flowing down the collar of my down vest. Mule Ears and Scott were going to be awfully cold during their trip, but it looked like they’d be dry. The weather system had blown through. I closed the door tight against the cold, walked over to the room’s heater and turned it to high. Then I sat down at the tiny table and resumed scribbling in my journal, trying to craft the beginning of my trip report.


As you can probably tell by now, I write trip reports not just to record routes and gear and wilderness conditions, I write trip reports to help me understand myself, my experiences, and the world. To make sense of a flood of random, often conflicting events and emotions and echoes of other times and places and ideas that I experience while in the wilderness. I write from the notes in my journals. But I rarely know exactly what I’m going to say until I type the words. Sometimes events that seem unrelated at the time I experience them, later take on meaningful shape and pattern and relationship as I type. Sometimes they don’t. But, still, I give it my best shot. 


And then sometimes, it’s not me that sees the pattern, but someone else, someone on the outside, someone not so involved in the events as to be blinded by them.  I was several days into this trip report for Big Bend Chat when I posted the entry describing my deeply upsetting encounter with Olivia Felix. I was still flailing, trying to make sense of it all. Later that evening a Big Bend Chat user – Hang10er – wrote:


“Your encounter with that cat is almost like a metaphor (I think that's the right word) for the sacrifices that people who have lived in that part of the country most certainly had to make.  Having to face hard choices to insure THEY survived.  It's like the big Kahuna picked you and said, "He deserves to have an experience close to what people of the past had".


THAT made sense. It was the wisest thing anyone had said about my experiences on this trip. Every moment of my trip this year through the wilderness of Big Bend – by water or land – was shot through with the awareness of how remote, how harsh, how unforgiving these places were, and how tough people had to be to survive there. There was little room for error and none for the emotional luxuries we, in our indescribably comfortable lives, now take for granted.


I come from two hard families. Depression-era farmers that almost didn’t make it through. Both are from immigrant stock. My father’s forbears came from England and Ireland to Virginia in the 1600’s, then on to North Carolina, and then the poorer relations left to help found Nashville, and finally, my great-grandfather left Tennessee on foot, as a very young man right after the Civil War, to head to Texas to make his fortune.  Things didn’t turn out as he hoped: the family whose wagon he eventually hitched a ride with was ambushed by Comanches near Georgetown and only he and one other person escaped unharmed. Texas suddenly seemed not so appealing and he headed back, on foot, to his family in Tennessee. Along the way he stayed a few nights with a family named Parker near Groesbeck, Texas, whose relatives had built a family compound near there many years before.  My great-grandfather made it back to Tennessee, married, and raised a family. Twenty-five years later, after the death of his wife to scarlet fever, he uprooted his Tennessee family and took his children, his brother, and his father (a carpenter) back to Texas with him, this time landing in Era, Texas where he took up, among other things, cotton farming in the 1890’s. The land stayed in the family – through two world wars, the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and innumerable smaller national economic collapses and personal tragedies - until just a few years ago. I still have my great-great-grandfather Reuben’s level and his plane, both of which he made with his own hands from Tennessee hickory.


My mother’s family is of English and Scottish and German descent. I don’t know when they came to America, but I do know they came to southwest Oklahoma in a covered wagon in the 1880’s and became cotton farmers and ranchers on what was then Indian land. They, too, weathered all the trials and plagues of the era, and the land is still in my family. My great-grandfather John was a very successful farmer and rancher who once did business with a canny Quahadi Comanche war chief who, after surrendering to the US Cavalry in 1875 and being imprisoned at Fort Sill in what was then Indian Territory, went on to settle nearby in Cache, Oklahoma and become a successful rancher and businessman in the white world. His name was Quanah Parker, the son of Cynthia Ann Parker, a white woman captured and adopted into the Nokoni Comanche tribe after an Indian raid on her family’s “fort” near Groesbeck, Texas in 1836.


It’s a small world. And often a harsh one.


I am the beneficiary, the product, of so many sacrifices and so much suffering and heartache undergone by others, not just my ancestors but others not even related to me who have helped build the world I've inherited. Am I worthy? I often wonder how I would measure up if I faced the same hardships as my forebears, the hardships faced by most immigrants and pioneers. In some ways, my trips into the wilderness are tests to find out just how big a man I am. The answer I got from this trip was: not as big as I would like to be. Judged by my standards – and aren’t our own standards the ones that we have to satisfy? – I failed both morally and physically. By the time Mule Ears and Scott rescued me from the desert, I was a broken man. Not just my body, but my heart. I finally did mind that it hurt. I had made decisions to abandon many things, including my long-planned trip and a tiny sweet kitten, but I had not yet made my peace. That would take a long time. Big Bend is a tough place, an unforgiving place, a dangerous place for the weak.


Here’s to the survivors.



« Last Edit: January 18, 2018, 12:46:46 PM by House Made of Dawn »
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline Jalco

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #196 on: January 05, 2018, 07:08:08 AM »
HMoD, my wife and I were in Bolzano, Italy over the Christmas holidays and were able to tour the local museum, dedicated to Otzi.  The mummy is on display.  Very interesting!

We were in Italy as guests of my son (Army posting) and his wife.  She has done some amazing work tracing our family tree back through the ages and across the continents.  I have never really pondered the arc of history represented there, but, like you, I wonder if I could measure up to my forebears.  Or would they consider me soft.

I have truly enjoyed your narrative.  I'm sure YOUR literary forebears are smiling  :eusa_clap:
« Last Edit: January 05, 2018, 07:27:41 AM by Jalco »

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Offline Hang10er

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #197 on: January 05, 2018, 08:35:41 AM »
The trials and challenges our forefathers faced, they trained for from the day they were born.  I don't think you can compare how we measure up to them the same way they did. 

You can read the Big Bend Chat forum, do some hikes with fully loaded packs and go out and do the OML.  Yet an adventure like what HMOD took on is something way more.  In my opinion, he did it not only as a physical quest, but he, because of his personality, put himself there mentally. He didn't just paddle down the river and walk across the desert, he journeyed thru there spiritually.  I think the miles took a toll on his body, but the trip took a lot out of him mentally as well. 

Side note, I think he could have made it, but at what price?  Permanent damage?  I think he evaluated his situation, took in account all his options and made a decision, in my eyes, the right one.  If one of his relatives in the 1800's was in the same situation and had the option of getting a ride out, I'm sure they would have took it.  Imagine if he wrote that he continued on and at some later point in the trip, his knee worsened and he had to take some other option; calling for rescue, limping out with a worse injury.  I know a lot of people on here would be thinking, "Hmmm, maybe he should have ended the trip earlier."

I think it's a special person (and a LOT of them are on this site) that can not just "VISIT" the area, but can get out and become a part of the area.  Someone that can feel it, experience the beauty and recognize the power and danger of it all.  See the majestic views and understand the hardships.   

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Offline PacingTheCage

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #198 on: January 05, 2018, 08:57:53 AM »
What a great story written by an incredible storyteller!  I am in awe of you.  Your accomplisments on your trip are simply inspiring.  So many lessons you have shared with all of us.  Thank you. Thank you.  Thank you.  Can't wait to follow your next adventure and , hopefully, some of your footsteps!

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Offline iCe

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #199 on: January 05, 2018, 10:11:04 AM »
A great story teller has the ability to pull the audience in both mentally and physically (we feel the emotions). You accomplished that in spades HMoD. I have no doubt that we all waited anxiously for the next segment, felt the sadness when you turned away from La Noria (and other places), and felt all of the emotional peaks and valleys that this roller coaster of a story had to tell.


 :eusa_clap: :notworthy: :great:  to you HMoD... what an epic journey you had... thanks for letting us tag along

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Offline Talusman

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #200 on: January 05, 2018, 10:15:42 AM »
I was already carrying a year’s worth of humiliation on my back and I didn’t need one ounce more. 
[END]

In NO sense of the word can I see either of these two trips as being "humiliating" to anyone who might have an inkling of what you planned and accomplished. As El Hombre said, "if it was easy anyone could (or would) be doing it". You should be writing a book on these travels. Epic stuff. Respect.
"To Think is easy. To Act is difficult. To Act as one Thinks is the most difficult!"

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Offline RichardM

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #201 on: January 05, 2018, 10:54:49 AM »
Truly epic. Epitomizes the old cliche "it's the journey, not the destination, that is most important."

P.S. I went on a resizing spree and shrank a lot of your attached photos.

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Offline presidio

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #202 on: January 05, 2018, 01:14:55 PM »
Epilogue: Chisos Mining Company Motel, Terlingua

I often wonder how I would measure up if I faced the same hardships as my forebears, the hardships faced by most immigrants and pioneers. In some ways, my trips into the wilderness are tests to find out just how big a man I am. The answer I got from this trip was: not as big as I would like to be. Judged by my standards – and aren’t our own standards the ones that we have to satisfy – I failed both morally and physically. By the time Mule Ears and Scott rescued me from the desert, I was a broken man. Not just my body, but my heart. I finally did mind that it hurt. I had made decisions to abandon many things, including my trip and a kitten, but I had not yet made my peace. That would take a long time. Big Bend is a tough place, an unforgiving place, a dangerous place for the weak.

You are too hard on yourself by at least several orders of magnitude.

A superlative adventure is not a glass half empty simply because the ending was unanticipated and disappointing but, rather, is a glass overflowing with accomplishment far beyond measure.
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<  presidio  >
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Wendell (Garret Dillahunt): It's a mess, ain't it, sheriff?
Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones): If it ain't, it'll do till the mess gets here.
--No Country for Old Men (2007)

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Offline horns93

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #203 on: January 05, 2018, 03:10:24 PM »
Chin up, HMoD. IMO it took brass balls to even plan a solo trip of this magnitude. And travelling the length of the park via the river sounds like an amazing journey.

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Offline jasonmerlo

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #204 on: January 05, 2018, 07:27:46 PM »
I keep seeing the word accomplishment, and it was a great one, but the word that describes it best in my eyes is experience. It was an incredible experience that very very few people will ever have. I am envious of it. HMOD, if you go back next year and make your destination you have to write a book, a three part book. It would be amazing and I know everyone here would buy a copy, and probably lots more. You have the writing chops to do it.


Sent from my iPhone using Big Bend Chat

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Offline Demon Deacon

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #205 on: January 05, 2018, 10:05:35 PM »
House:

I hereby bequeath to you all of my unused nights in the park for 2018 (we know “they” read this, so I’m sure that this is official and how it works), so that you can plan something equally as challenging, fulfilling, enlightening, and rewarding.

And as for your spirits, they should be full. I’m barely 38 years on in this world, and you sir have set about doing and actually accomplished things in the past month, let alone throughout your entire existence, that I would not even be able to begin to contemplate. No one and nothing can take that from you.

And you don’t need me to say it, but hold your head high. And if you are at the Starlight anywhere between 1/14/18 and 1/19/18, the drinks are on me. While that seems unlikely, given the recency  of your travails, the offer stands indefinitely for when you are in or around Alexandria, VA. There’s less desert here for sure, but we do have M&M’s for your dessert desires.
« Last Edit: January 05, 2018, 10:13:29 PM by Demon Deacon »

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #206 on: January 06, 2018, 11:45:08 PM »
House:

I hereby bequeath to you all of my unused nights in the park for 2018 (we know “they” read this, so I’m sure that this is official and how it works), so that you can plan something equally as challenging, fulfilling, enlightening, and rewarding.

And as for your spirits, they should be full. I’m barely 38 years on in this world, and you sir have set about doing and actually accomplished things in the past month, let alone throughout your entire existence, that I would not even be able to begin to contemplate. No one and nothing can take that from you.

And you don’t need me to say it, but hold your head high. And if you are at the Starlight anywhere between 1/14/18 and 1/19/18, the drinks are on me. While that seems unlikely, given the recency  of your travails, the offer stands indefinitely for when you are in or around Alexandria, VA. There’s less desert here for sure, but we do have M&M’s for your dessert desires.

Deacon,

I might just take you up on that.  I had a relative at Jamestown, and my direct ancestors first made their New World stake in Isle of Wight County, VA, on the Blackwater River. I've never been there, but I plan on heading that way in the next year or two. And even though my kids have cousins in D.C., only one of them has ever been there. We're due for a visit.   :great:
« Last Edit: January 07, 2018, 12:46:32 AM by House Made of Dawn »
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #207 on: January 07, 2018, 12:28:44 AM »
Good folks:

I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciate all the love. I can barely stand to re-read my own writing, but I get that we're all bound by our love of Big Bend, of wilderness, of the rough adventure that comes from taking on a hostile but beautiful land that only gives up its secrets to those that meet it on its own terms. Trip reports give us an opportunity to come together and celebrate those qualities. I love our celebrations.

That said, I think you may be over-estimating me. Let's do a little reality check:

1. I am, at best, a moderately talented wilderness traveler. There are many, many other people on this forum that are vastly better at it than I am. That is not false modesty; that is the truth.
2. You CAN do what I do. Unless you have serious physical compromises or crippling phobias, you can do this. I promise you. I am not particularly fit, and I AM particularly old.
3. If I have any unique gifts, they are perhaps in three areas. First, I have a great deal of chutzpah. I was born with that. Some would say I am a little crazy, but I think you could easily be as crazy (or as optimistic) as me if you so chose. Second, I have been blessed with an incredible family and incredible friends that love and support me, making these crazy trips possible. Third, it seems I can put my experiences into words that many people find meaningful. Let's not over-analyze that right now, but do let me make this last point: words are not deeds. Don't make more of what I've done that it deserves. Every single week (well, every single week when the weather in Big Bend won't kill you) there are amazing trips taken and reported on BBC, trips that are as difficult in their own way, and often more so, than mine. I've read dozens of them.

I've just spent all of yesterday evening and most of today at memorials for a dear friend of 30 years, a man a decade younger than me, who just died of cancer. A force of nature, he'd had cancer for ten years and told no one but his wife and closest family. Don't wait, don't procrastinate. Doing is more important than wording. So, go, do. Trust me, the best trip ever taken in Big Bend will always be the one you take yourself.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2018, 12:42:15 PM by House Made of Dawn »
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #208 on: January 07, 2018, 12:56:20 AM »
As for me......I'll be back.

"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline Slimkitty

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #209 on: January 07, 2018, 02:22:43 AM »
House, I’ve met you in person, and from that meeting alone I would never have expected you would be in the midst of an epic adventure.  Our run in was so unexpected...you were so pleasant and warm to us.  Had I not already known of your previous adventures on BBC I wouldn’t have ever guessed what you were up to.  However, in your telling of this adventure,  it’s easy to see how the same gentle man who entertained my baby boy by the laundry machines could also prove to be a tough as nails adventurer.  You wear your heart on your sleeve, and you pour that out in your writing.  In you I saw a love for life and nature. That in turn is reflected in every paragraph you write. Your curiosity about, well, every single thing you seem to come across is both baffling and a source of inspiration to me.  I hope in the coming years my little family can develop into adventurers like yourself.  Do me a favor and contact me if you ever find yourself visiting family here in the Delta!


Sent from the future.

 


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