|Leaving the beautiful beaches behind on South Padre Island, we headed back towards San Antonio and the gorgeous Hill Country. All too soon the Hill Country was behind us and we were facing mile upon mile of nothing but mesquite, cactus, creosote bushes, an oil rig here and there and towns few and far between. We debated about making the trek down to Big Bend National Park in the very southwestern tip of Texas and after much discussion and map reading, we finally decided to park the motor home in a nice RV Park in Fort Stockton, the gateway to Big Bend and spend the day in the car driving down and back, all in one day...a smart decision, we're not so sure today but it was a beautiful trip and one we're glad we made. The 130 miles to the Park is more of the same scenery we'd been in the days before at elevations of 1800 feet but we could see the towering mountains in the distance, nearly 8,000 feet high poking way up above the flatness of the desert which spurred us to continue our journey. Arriving in the Park, we saw magnificent scenery and got our first look at the Rio Grande River which is about the color of pea soup and moving so slow you're not sure it is moving at all. The Chisos Mountains which divide Texas from Mexico are majestic peaks formed by volcanoes more than 30 million years ago where a once deep ocean trough had been which extended from present-day Arkansas to West Texas. And the Rio Grande which was formed nearly 2 million years ago continues to carve through the vast mountain range creating the border between the two countries. As you might imagine, the towering peaks make for a formidable fence where there seems to be no trouble with illegals entering the U.S. in the area. The 800,000 acres were designated as a National Park in 1944 and preserves the most representative example of the Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem in the U.S., with over 2100 species of plants from the desert floor to the mountain tops. The Park also is host to many wild animals and reptiles but we only saw one big Mule Deer buck and a snake. We made the entire loop through the park and back to the motor home, about 400 miles with stops to see the beauty and history of the park and what it had been before it was put into the National Park System. Many of the people who lived in the area were Mexicans although there were several big ranches owned by Americans. One of the most interesting was Gilberto Luna who raised 9 children in the little rock hut shown in the photo. The hut was 20 feet long and 10 feet wide but only 4 feet high at it's tallest peak (not something my 5'5" fame could stand up straight in)! The back of the house was a huge boulder and it was one room. We're not sure what happened to his wife. Mike thought he read somewhere that she had died but I swear she ran off into the desert screaming wildly, having gone crazy trying to raise 9 children in that tiny space! Driving through the desert on the way home, we came upon an area where there were hundreds of shacks, 5th wheels, motor homes and campers parked all over the desert. Stopping at a run down American Legion building where 2 guys were sitting outside, we got out to visit and and find out what the deal was. They both lived in the area and said that most people who lived out there were retired or on disability and wanted and needed to live cheap. Property sold for $300 an acre to $1000 an acre (if you were lucky enough to have power close by), no wells, drinking water had to be brought in from the nearest town which was 40 miles away and for the rest of your water supply, everyone had set up "catch basins" in big black rubber tubs to collect rain water in a country that very rarely gets rain! When Mike asked if you could drill a well he was told 'sure if you have the $50,000 to do it' as the water is 1500 feet deep! Happy we had made the trip, our "plans made in jello" soon changed and we decided to stay an extra day and rest up rather than get behind the wheel and start our journey to Albuquerque and Santa Fe. We arrived back home to find an email from some Facebook friends who were parked right next to us for an overnight. Spending a couple of hours together, we wished them good night, safe travels and hopes to meet again. Sitting out enjoying the beautiful morning with our coffee, they were hitching up to head out and came over to say goodbye. Two hours later they finally pulled out after sharing tips, road stories and Mike and Bill sharing "war" stories as they both served in the Army at the same time. Belonging to several Rving Groups on Facebook and seeing people's posts, it was so fun to be able to meet face to face, something not many people ever get to do. Just another reason to love what we are doing.