Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Big Bend National Park

As you may notice from the heading, we have made it to the park, and it is HOT. Yesterday's temperature reached 101 degrees. We are learning fast how to live in this desert climate, and that the best time to be outside is early morning or evening. Fortunately there is a cool breeze coming in our windows at night and we can then turn off the air conditioning. We took our first hike in the park last evening at sunset. Big Bend is famous for its sunsets. The building below is the campground store.
The trail we took brought us to some wetlands and our first view of the Rio Grande River. The river separates the United States from Mexico. From the highest point on this trail we could look down on a small Mexican village. Also, while on this trail, we had our first exposure to the mobile Mexican store.
 There is usually a note with these trinkets asking for a donation, and a soda can is placed nearby for the money. We have read in the park literature that it is illegal to purchase these items, but it is hard to pass up the pleas for money. I am given to understand that Mexicans, if they happen to have a job, earn $1.00 a day. In the past twenty years the United States has developed the Big Bend International Fire Fighting Team, to fight forest fires in the park. Mexicans from the nearby villages have been trained to fight forest fires in the park, as while as all over our nation. They usually earn $10-$15.00 an hour. Unfortunately that still does not begin to address the issue of poverty in Mexico. This morning, while visiting Hot Springs, we watched as a little Mexican boy crossed the Rio Grand River and laid out some items on the ground near us. He smiled shyly at us, set down a donation can, and then forded the river back to his village. While standing there and watching him we glanced down into the river and saw a large water snake. Fortunately it was not near the little boy.
I mentioned Hot Springs, a place which we hiked to this morning. Between 1930 and 1940 this was an active tourist spot. Many people came there to soak in, what was thought to be, the healing waters. The stone buildings of the grocery store and motor court are still there. There was a bathhouse over the springs but that is gone now. John and I were surprised to see many people there in the springs. I removed my shoes and socks to join them. It was like a giant hot tub!

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