A few weeks ago I was able to go on a spring break trip to the Rio Grande River in Big Bend National Park with a group of fellow outdoor lovers. I had never been farther west than Mississippi, so I was absolutely over the moon to be able to see more of the world. So I packed up my borrowed hiking bag and journeyed to the airport with one of my gracious religion professors here at PC. On the way we talked about everything from Holy Communion to veganism and I knew I had found myself a trip I would cherish.
We had been driving all of the day before to get from the airport in Odessa to the gear rental place. We had slept at the campsite nearby, featuring running water and countless other hippies, and were about to wake up and drive with the gear to the actual river, another hour and a half away. I woke up and caught the sunset over the distant sandy hills and felt myself needing to catch my breath from the beauty of it all. We hit the road with the gear and arrived at the Rio Grande River. It was green and murky, so we joked about it looking like “croc water”. It was evident however that the water was so pure that without the limestone, it would have been crystal clear. We set off paddling in our canoes and the majority of us quickly learned that re-applying sunscreen was not to be taken as a suggestion. After awhile we stopped for lunch on a rocky bank, regained some energy, and paddled until dinner time. There we set up camp and started a routine that would carry us through the week.
Each morning we began by having breakfast together (the oatmeal and black coffee was my lifeline) around our portable stove. We were able to witness the sun rising over the canyon walls while sharing our love for God’s creation over conversation. Eventually we packed up and put everything in the six canoes we had. Of course, my canoe had the portable bathroom canister… After everything was packed we would paddle until lunch so we could refuel and then resume paddling again until we hit the next bank that looked good for sleeping. Each night we would read an excerpt about God’s creation of nature, led by Dr. Bryant, and reflect. Personally I don’t think there’s any better relief from business of the world. We had no agenda, no homework, no meetings, and no deadlines. We simply traveled together discussing the divinity of nature, and I have never felt more at peace with my relationship with the Lord. I was able to worship Him throughout the trip as I saw marvelous canyons, animals, rocks, and sunsets. At one point I remember screaming internally “Lord, thank you for your creation!”
Finally we were wrapping up our trip, with the take out spot in sight. Apparently the trip had gone too smoothly because right at the last rapid my canoe flipped over. I was immediately submerged into the icy water, wearing my long johns under my clothes. Of course I panicked, dog paddling around, chasing my Sewanee water bottle down the river as Daniel, my boat partner, held the boat and all of our stuff together. Finally we were pulled in and Kennedy had to find me some dry clothes to put on. I felt like I was paralyzed with shock as Daniel started talking about how much worse it could have been (I was lucky to be paired with such an optimist- but it made me feel like a scared puppy with its tail between its legs). Finally we made it back to the rental place and found SHOWERS! I think I washed off seven extra layers of dust from body and three from my hair. There was a hip little tavern we got to eat at and man, veggie tacos have never tasted so good. We got to hangout for our final night at the campsite, playing cards and laughing about memories from the week.
I woke up with a full bladder at 6 am so I ventured out of my tent with a headlamp only to walk off of the ledge that marked the campsite. The 3 foot drop left my hips and arm bruised and scraped. Honestly, I though to myself, I cannot physically end a trip without doing something clumsy. I walked for 10 more minutes until I realized I was going in the complete opposite direction of the bathroom. Finally I turned myself around and made it. As I was walking back the sweet drizzle of rain began to fall, and I started to smile. The area had been in a bad drought and needed the rain more than anything. Soon after, we all woke up and decided to get out on the road quickly so we wouldn’t be soaked. We packed up the vans, I took the last 3 pictures on my disposable camera, and bid farewell to Far Flung Outdoor Center.
I thanked myself for taking the chance of a lifetime by going on this trip, and as I sit here typing this, I long to be back on the river.