Stopped at (well, near) the Border!
In my last post I wrote about our stop at the charming and scenic town of Fredericksburg, Texas. After spending a week there, we continued our trek toward Big Bend National Park. Just prior to Big Bend, we visited Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site.
Well this was an unexpected and surprisingly unnerving occurrence. Just outside of the town of Comstock, about a half hour from our campground, we ran into our first ever immigration check-point. Traffic was being detoured into a US Customs and Border Protection facility. This is what we saw as we approached:
It was one of those situations where even though we had done nothing wrong, we felt very guilty.
As you approach, you are greeted by a large wall of cameras, gizmos, and ominous looking ray-gun-shaped devices.. all directed at you! Then you are directed into a bay where half a dozen, gun-totting agents swarm your vehicle. It's plain to see, they are not here to entertain us. When I rolled down my window a very intimidating and dour-looking officer approached. He (purposefully) stood inches from my face and began peppering me with questions such as: why were we in this part of the country, where were we heading (hard to answer easily since we are planning on seeing the country), and where we lived (again, hard to answer because this was our home). At one point during my interrogation I momentarily broke eye-contact and glanced into my side-view mirror where I saw an officer with a patrol dog was sniffing the underbelly of my RV. As beads of sweat formed on my forehead and my tongue swelled to twice its normal size, I managed (mangled?) to answer all his questions. In hindsight, when the officer pointed to my RV and lightheartedly asked, "how many people do you have hidden back there?", I probably shouldn't have answered "You mean on this trip??"
After a few tense, breath-holding moments, he waved us on and wished us safe travels. Whew!
SEMINOLE CANYON STATE PARK & CAMPGROUND:
Even after the unplanned checkpoint, the drive was a leisurely four hours through some beautiful country. Seminole Canyon is nestled against the Rio Grande river. Upon arrival, visitors are greeted by the "The Maker of Peace" statue created by Bill Worrell.
This 13-foot statue represents a Native American shaman praying for peace and protection to those who walk upon the jagged rocks strewn all over this canyon.
It was rather rustic. Like most state park campgrounds, it was probably built around thirty years ago.
Not much to look at, but it had all the essentials: electricity, water and a pump station all at a reasonable price. Another cool thing about this area is that it's a "dark sky" region, so looking into the night sky brings a hearty admiration for the paint brush of our Creator.
But close by was something else almost as awe-inspiring. This park was established to protect some of the oldest Native American cave art in the world!
These paintings date back to over 8,000 years ago. It takes you back to a time when Ice-Age hunters pursued now-extinct species of woolly mammoths, horses, camels, and bison across these rugged plains, almost 6,000 years before European settlers arrived in this area. The roofs of these overhangs are still blackened from the fires hunters used to provide heat and cook their food. We are seeing these surroundings just as they saw it.
Questions swirl as you look upon these drawings. What message(s) were they trying to convey? Were they created to brightened these drab rock walls or are they some sort of ceremonial offering to their Creator? Were they created all at once or added to by each passing tribe? Why do all the creatures looked strangely disproportioned? Odd shapes, creatures with exaggerated horns, elongated wings, out-stretched legs. I can't make heads-or-tails of it (no pun intended). They could easily be confused with something an elementary school child created, yet these paintings slowly draw you in as if they were about to whisper a secret in your ear. But alas, the exact meaning of these paintings are buried with the people who painted them.
The guided tour begins at the Visitor Center and is about a one mile fairly-rugged (but not difficult) hike out to the site. The canyon is striking with its limestone of various colors from black and gray, to oranges and yellows.The ranger told us that the pictographs appear "washed out" during the 10 am tour and really vibrant for the 3pm tour, so plan accordingly! The Visitor Center also has a museum where you can see many of the artifacts archeologists have discovered here such as stone tools, bones, pottery, sandals and straw mats.
Also, if you enjoy hiking, there are many scenic trails you can hike in the park. We hiked the Rio Grande Overlook trail. It was the longest trail in the park and for us, turned out to be almost 8 miles in length (don't ask). It was worth every painful step.
This was a remarkable place and should not be missed. It boggled my mind to think of the tenacity, skill and knowledge these hunters possessed to survive in such an inhospitable environment. And here I grumble when the closest Walmart is over 5 miles away! These were truly remarkable people.
We spent four nights here. There isn't much else to do in the area so a one or two night stay would suffice if time was a factor.
From here we traveled to Big Bend State Park where we had our first real "WOW!" moment. Big Bend is a breathtaking place which I'll discuss in my next blog post.
See you on down the road!