Ugh, finally.

It’s felt like forever since I got that feeling. The feeling I get when I enter a place and feel totally dwarfed by its magnitude, and in doing so realize how insignificant my own existence is. I got a sweet hit of that on my last journey, and finally found it again in Big Bend national park, in southwest Texas.

After overnighting in Del Rio, Texas, it was still a pretty substantial drive westward for me to hit big bend. So I got up early, watched the sun rise, showered at ye olde planet fitness, and began my trek.

It was a nice start to the day, which made the three and a half hour drive in seem short. The scenery was hard to come by until I came closer, and hills, mountains, and various greenery became more prevalent.

I entered the park from the Northeast entrance, not feeling overly impressed with the scenery thus far. However, after continuing the drive down in to the heart of the park, my opinion changed.

My first stop on the trip down was to an archaeological exhibit showcasing the park’s natural history for the last few hundred million years, no big. Waaay back in the day, the whole area was underwater, as evidenced by fossils of seashells and other marine life. As time went on, the area became a shallow bay, then wide gulf, then river, then floodplain, until it ended up as what we have here today as mountains rose.

The area was inhabited by diverse amounts of life including prehistoric dinosaurs.

The exhibit took great pleasure in informing me that although Tyrannosaurus Rex was present in this area, it was dwarfed by an even greater apex predator.

Moving forward from the exhibit, you can walk a short path up to get an overview of the park’s peaks, which used to comprise a giant volcano.

I traveled further into the park to the Rio Grande village, hoping to catch a glimpse of the river that separates the United States from Mexico.

I checked out the overlook viewpoint and then hiked the Boquillas canyon overlook trail, and was surprised at how shallow and tame the river was along the way. I had imagined the Rio Grande to be a vast, powerful river that separated our two countries. And I suppose it is, and was. But in my minute experience at the park this week, the thing was less intimidating than the Delaware river. You could just walk across it.

And many were — Mexicans had traveled secretly, or not so secretly, to set up shop and sell wares on the US side.

Along the way, I was pleased to see wild horses and donkeys dotting the trails.

It was a great hike, but man, was it hot! It didn’t help that I had arrived at about noon, and it was pushing 90. The sun was roasting me, but it was totally worth it.

I backtracked up and over to the next leg of the park where the focus was all about those mountains, Chisos Basin. This area was elevated and cooler than the last. The attraction here is a feature called The Window, an opening of the rock face that allows you to see beyond. Check it out —

Lots of cool plant life to see here, too.

Next on the list of park must-dos was the long, winding, Ross Maxwell scenic drive. I took the Prius for a spin and had a grand old time.

The drive ends with these huge canyon walls towering over you, and if you really go to the end there’s a hike into the Santa Elena canyon for another glimpse at the Rio Grande.

This was the best part of the trip for me: nevermind the physical exertion, or the fact that it was still sweltering in the nineties over here; the hike down into the canyon of the Rio Grande was phenomenal and extremely rewarding. I even took a walk across the river into Mexico.

On the walk out, it felt like things had changed.

It’s no secret that I suffer from the trials and tribulations of what I’d refer to as a low physical aptitude: after a sedentary childhood where physical activity was disincentivized, a major back injury, and hitting my couch for a year with the pandemic, I was left feeling pretty hopeless and disconnected from my body. Experiences like this help to remind me of the rewards that can come along with hoofin’ it.

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did!