Pretty much all the roads in the park are accessible by most vehicles. But Glenn wanted a “skull and crossbones” type trail to take the Jeep down. Most all the roads had warning signs to beware of flash floods during a rainstorm. Hey, it was the desert, what rain could there be? We found a road on the park map marked “Not Park Maintained.” That was what he was looking for. At the beginning of the trail a hand lettered sign said something like ‘proceed at your own risk.’ Glenn grinned real big and off we went.
Being in the Chisos Mountains in that far corner of Texas is like going back in time. Stone water troughs beside skeletons of wooden windmills mark where pioneers tried to create civilization. By and large, that didn’t work out. It is a harsh environment, suited for rattlesnakes and javelina, a herd of which roamed through the motel grounds every evening at dusk. The little pigs, not the snakes, of course.
Many of the maintained trails led to the Rio Grande. It was kind of odd standing there on the bank of that slow, muddy river knowing one could throw a rock to Mexico. Somehow we got off on what we thought was a road but turned out to be a sandy river bottom, likely an area the Rio Grande had run at some time before changing course or maybe just a sand bar. I was driving and did all right until it got pretty deep and I knew it would be better for Glenn to drive. That was wild, spinning tires, slinging sand, and inching forward. Getting back on the gravel road was a relief.
The scenery is majestic, worthy of the National Park status. But the land is as harsh as it is beautiful. However, there is a true peace there. Artists come to paint, hikers to hike. Us, we ride around. The rumble of the V8 Jeep sort of shattered that peace as we motored off into the back country.
The “unmaintained” trail was one of those places often called a “wash’ or an “arroyo.” Basically, it was a dry creek bed filled with sand and rocks fallen from who knows where. Glenn drove very slowly, picking our way through the obstacles. Often you could see where some off road maniac rolled a rock into a gap so tires could get across. Several times we were at such a sideways angle I could put my foot out and touch the rock. It was a slow go and Glenn loved it.
Then, some dark clouds blocked out the sun. In the distance we could see rain. There we were, in a dry creek bed which would likely carry one of those forewarned flash floods. We got nervous, but there was nothing to do but keep going and get out of there while the clouds grew ever closer. A couple of times we could smell rain. I cannot lie, I was scared.
At long last we emerged from the trail onto the top of a mesa. What a huge relief! Glenn conquered the extreme trail and the Jeep came out unscathed. He climbed up on the Jeep to get a look around and had a beer. I’m sure I had a Diet Sprite. A few raindrops fell on us, but we didn’t care. We made it out all right. That Jeep is long gone, but recently I found the photos and thought I'd share the story.