Hi everyone! These past 10 days have been quite eventful to say the least. Towards the end of orientation, the group was blessed with the opportunity to visit one of Texas’s finest truck-stop showers (I don’t mean that sarcastically, it was surprisingly nice). After clearing away all of our dirt, we embarked on a 5 hour car ride to Big Bend Ranch State Park. Though the van was stiflingly hot, we made it through by listening to music and audio books selected by the instructors. Upon arriving at our campsite for a day and a half of prep for our hike, we first entered the waters of the Rio Grande (or Bravo) for a cold but exciting time. We began our trek in the midst of blistering southwestern Texas heat. On our first day we hiked five miles, with the most memorable moment taking place at our campsite for evening. We hiked all afternoon to reach our first water source (the only water we had seen yet in this barren desert), to find the water marked on the map to be a small pool of days or weeks old rain water at the bottom of a climbable cliff. After setting our heavy bags down, our group descended to the pool of water, and under the guide of our instructor Luis, we gave thanks to the water for allowing us the ability to continue our hike with replenished resources. This was the only source of water we had seen the whole day, and were grateful that we were able to find this minuscule source of water with the help of our map. That night we camped higher up, next to old ruins, overlooking the valley, awaking to a beautiful sunrise just outside our tents. Our cook groups took charge of both dinner and breakfast, using Whisper-Light (maybe the spelling is correct) stoves to cook up masterpieces, such as spicy couscous and cheesy quinoa. The next day, we upped the ante, hiking 8.5 miles to our second water source. The beginning of the day started off as we had planned, we stopped for lunch at an abandoned mine, and took time to watercolor something we especially appreciated in the area. The second half of our day we encountered a surprise water source that wasn’t on the map. We stopped here to relax and replenish our dwindling supplies, from a taxing day under the Texas sun. We were really entrenched in the moment as the water source was breathtaking and we were proud of what we had already accomplished. But then Maddie gave us a reality check, and we continued the final two miles of our hike that day. That evening, we camped along the ruins of a sheep farm from the 1930’s, encountering friendly creatures such as javelins and tiny scorpions (eliciting gasps and shrieks from some of our group). Our cook groups again took charge, excelling in back-country cooking. On our last full day, again hiking 8.5 miles, we dealt with a wide variety of terrains, from steep hills to rock faces to walking on the sandy wash of the Rio Grande. The group encountered more javelins and a wild horse. That evening, as we’re sure many other Yaks will discuss, the weather of southwest Texas took an ever so slight turn, it was raining in the desert. As we struggled to set up our tents against the powerful winds, our instructors and fellow group members lent hands so that we could all hammer our spikes into solid rock. That night, under the constant gushes of wind and occasional rain (some of the only rainfall this region will see all year), we all sought cover in our tents and bonded by playing games from our tents. Our final morning (today, March 11th, or whenever this is posted) we awoke in the early hours to the moon. After attempting to bushwhack through the river bed, we ascended onto the tops of the cliffs, making our way back to the car park. We were all so proud of the distance we covered, and celebrated with ice cream sandwiches. Upon returning to the campsite we had prepped from, we all plunged into the Rio Grande once again, appreciating the opportunity it gave us to shed ourselves of the layers of dirt we had accumulated. Tomorrow we will continue on the Rio Grande, but this time by water (on canoes) for five days. We look forward to the challenges ahead, and being able to have a deeper look at the Rio Grande. But for now, we are off to indulge in some wonderful local Mexican food.
-Matthew & Tyler