Blue Creek Trail

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I checked in at the Persimmon Gap entrance to Big Bend National Park and paid my $20 vehicle fee, then drove to the main ranger station at Panther Junction to get my back-country permit. They completed a solo hiker form, which included all my details, my vehicle, my gear and pack and boots, and food and water. A cute young curly-haired ranger took photos of me: one of me from the front, one of my boot print, and one of me wearing my backpack. She got down on her knees to take the photo of the sole of my boot, and the other rangers joked that she was the only one young enough to get down that close to the floor. I told them “my wife will be very happy to know that you are taking such great care of me.”

Following all that paperwork and stuff, I drove to the Homer Wilson Ranch House, on the road to Castolon, where I parked my pickup at the trailhead and loaded up my gear. I hiked about a mile up the Blue Creek Trail until I found a good camping spot, up above any potential water flow. It made me nervous that my spot straddled a game trail. I just hoped all the scary animals were hibernating since it would be too hard to find another clear spot without rocks or ocotillo or catclaw.

Once I stopped moving and the sun dropped I got cold, so by 6:30 I was already into my sleeping bag. I slept with a stocking cap pulled down over my ears and gloves on my hands. I was cozy.

My new gear for this trip: Black Diamond trekking poles, Big Agnes 2”-thick air mattress, Keen Voyageur hiking boots, smart-wool socks, RailRiders Versa-Tac pants, and waterproof stuff bag for my sleeping bag (I lost the original bag on the Pecos Wilderness trip).


Thursday, February 11, 2010

I was surprisingly comfortable all night; sleeping much warmer than I expected. My new air mattress was cushy and warm. It started raining about 6:45 AM, and it continued raining on-and-off all morning. But I finally had to go outside to take care of personal business. I couldn’t wait any longer.

Outside, there was no evidence of rain save the cloudy sky. No dampness on the ground or on the plants. The desert drank it up immediately, as if sucking it directly out of the air before it had a chance to make contact. The only evidence of rain were the water drops on the roof of my tent.

During the next lull in the rain I got dressed and ready to move. I hiked at a leisurely pace northwest up the Blue Creek Trail toward the Chisos Basin. My goal was the Laguna Meadow Trail and I was hoping to get a big sweeping view from up on top. However, after an hour the clouds started sprinkling again, which soon turned into rain, which eventually turned into sleet.

Soon I was as wet on the inside of my rain jacket as on the outside, and feeling very cold. I sat down under a big oak tree to eat a Cliff Bar and hope for a break in the weather, but it just got worse. I thought to myself, I need better rain gear. I finally gave up, turned around, and started back toward my camp.

Once I got back to camp I still had plenty of daylight left, so I read Edward Abbey (Desert Solitaire) and wrote in my journal. And I read from my Daily Bible about Balaam. The introduction said something interesting: “Balaam obviously knows God’s will, but he is so intrigued by the possibility of wealth that he hopes God will change his mind.”

I often worry about that sort of thing – am I praying for God’s will, or for God’s endorsement of my own will.

At 6:30 I finally went back outside to eat a sausage-and-cheese sandwich and drink a Jet Boil of coffee. It was still cold outside, but the quiet and stillness was pleasant.


Friday, February 12, 2010

It was bright and clear. I had hoped the sun would hit my tent to warm everything before I started packing, but I didn’t wait for it. It was a good thing I didn’t wait. I didn’t encounter direct sunlight until I’d walked half-way out of the canyon.

Later, over lunch at Ft. Stockton, I read from my Daily Bible, Deuteronomy 4, when Moses said, “If you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

I pause every time I read that phrase because it makes me happy. All over the world, all through history, people have gone to great lengths to find God. They make pilgrimages, get instructions from wise leaders, read books, study ancient wisdom, learn new insights, travel to holy places, to find God. I do all of that, too. Yet God promised that if we seek him we can find him. It isn’t a puzzle or a secret code or a mystical insight available only to the enlightened elite; God is there for all who seek him. I believe the important word is “seek.” While I believe God is everywhere, he isn’t knowable unless we seek him out.

I admit I don’t know what all that entails. I don’t know how to seek with ALL my heart and ALL my soul. I am such a cautious reserved person I don’t know how to commit ALL my forces, ALL my energy, ALL my talent, ALL my heart and soul to anything. But one thing I do know about seeking God is that it demands intentionality on our part. We have to seek him on purpose. I can at least do that much.

Which brings me back to my backpacking trip. I have learned that I seek God best when my feet are moving, whether running down the road or hiking down the trail. So I will keep going back to the road and trail as long as my knees and feet and heart will let me.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32


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