Vista Del Bofecillos

300,000 acres of emptiness

Big Bend Ranch State Park is not so much an attraction as it is an enormously sprawling expanse of desert beginning at a mountain range and dropping into the Colorado River. Attractions and accessibility are what they have at National Parks. The interior of the Ranch has “roads” cut into the rocky soil with a speed limit unnecessarily posted at 25 mph. Good luck rolling at that speed and not have your vehicle shook apart. Late in the afternoon and 1800 miles out of Bradenton, we crawled into the park, permit in hand, for reasons we do not quite understand.

First night in the Trango 4

The wind whips up from the Chihuahua Desert in Mexico while the sun beats down relentlessly in a blue sky. The low overcast that greeted us when we arrived was blown out overnight. Transitioning from long-haul interstate travelers to back country living takes up most of the day. And the respiratory illness makes every task happen in slow motion. The new Trango 4 tent hunkered down on the plateau seemingly oblivious to the wind. A hands-and-knees entry is the price we would pay for security in the elements.

Sunrise behind the Bofecillos in a cold and windy morning.

Eric drove the truck for most of the interstate while Sheri finished recovering. Eric picked up where Sheri started a week ago, shaking under a pile of blankets. It will work itself out but without any home comforts. We longingly imagine homes with more than one bathroom where you don’t have to duck and squat to fall into bed. We’d give up our two cans of Miller High Life for a primitive bath house but there are none in sight, just a makeshift bucket on the leeward side of the truck.

Cacti own this land.

For Eric, a nonfiction biography about Wyatt Earp helps pass the hours. Just a hundred a fifty years ago people traversed and lived off this land with just a horse, the clothes on their backs, and a pistol. We often hear contemporary philosophers lamenting the loss of the American frontier. But there is no place you can escape and start over in America today; especially if you have a digital fingerprint. Sadly, all is known or can be found.

Mexico a few miles to the south with the Colorado Canyon hidden out there somewhere.

Beyond the discomfort is a landscape stunningly desolate and beautiful. Our park permit rests in the driver’s side window with no chance whatsoever that anyone will be checking on it.

Everything but the kitchen sink – no, actually we have a kitchen sink.

The “Complex Map” of the Ranch gives the lay of the land – ranger stations, campsites, trailheads. If you want to know what’s not on that map, you pop for the $10 topo where every millimeter of the park is marked. Vista del Bofecillos is 20 miles from historic Fort Leaton, mostly jogging over washboard gravel roads, with a last mile rugged climb to the Vista. It was 9 hours of hoofing it from the Best Western in Kerrville, TX, through Ft. Stockton for library, gas and supplies, then down to Presidio for firewood and into Ft. Leaton to check in and make camp by 5pm.

Sleepy Fort Leaton seemed abandoned but is actually park HQ.

With Eric full blown, Sheri studied the area and found a “trace road” near camp. It was a recovery walk among the cacti where every variety except Saguaro and Organ Pipe were in a dormant phase of their lifecycle. The only footprints were paw and the only sounds were from vigorous wind and crunching Hokas. It was a Hills are Alive moment, but instead of Alps it was Bofecillos and instead of the sound music, it was the sound of silence. An unfamiliar feeling of Alone.

Table with a view please.