Nature’s Edge

Sometimes on these trips I get wrapped up in waxing poetic on everything and finding interesting tidbits of odd information and generally making all this about me. Then I am literally brought to my knees by the wonder of a created world shaped and changed in ways more various than I can name by forces so determined and so powerful that I am humbled and made small.  The natural world is like that.

If you find the Pecos River on a map and follow it south to where it empties into the Rio Grande, you will see “Seminole Canyon State Park.” The two dimensions of the map are powerless to show you, however, Seminole Canyon.  Actually it is but one, albeit the largest, of several canyons, arroyos and washes rent through sandstone, then limestone as the wash waters and rivers of southwest Texas look for a way out.  All of this was sea at one point, accounting for the limestone, then lush hardwood forest, and finally windswept, dry sandstone and sage and ocotillo and switchgrass. While the flora and geologic composition changed, the water stayed, forced into ever narrowing spaces until it simply had had enough.  It fought back and continues to fight today, joining the wind in a two part effort to remove the land that has confined it.  On the walls it has carved clean ancient people drew stories of the land, their struggle and their celebration.  Graffiti.  Though one suspects forgiveness is in order when there is no other substrate upon which to record your civilization.

There are really three main canyons here, Seminole, Presa, and the Rio Grande/Amistad reservoir where they empty.  If I wasn’t sufficiently humbled by the natural wonder of the place, consider this: the name “Seminole” is in honor of the black Seminole Scouts from Florida.  When Andrew Jackson and his party sought to cleanse the south of Indians, these people were chased across the Gulf of Mexico, avoiding the trail of tears but nonetheless alone now on the Texas coast and without the benefit of familiar surroundings.  Their unique skill set was in tracking and, eventually, the US Army, ironically enough, employed them at Fort Clark where they served admirably doing their scouting and whatnot around these lands.  They protected the sheep ranchers and settlers from marauding Indians and not one single scout was ever killed in the performance of his duties. From 1874 to 1914 they did their thing and they did it admirably.  But continued racial tension in the south, and the absence of marauding Indians, meant this was no longer a place for them.  They were effectively chased out again by a culture not yet ready to accept them and a world no longer in need of their particular skills.  So they left and went to Mexico where their line still thrives today. So I am enjoying this ground they fought to protect and we chased them off of – doing nothing in penance for that except naming the damn canyon after them.

I hiked about 6 miles along the canyon rim and back up to the highlands above Presa Canyon and along the original roadbed for the second transcontinental railroad.  I flushed quail, interrupted fox and javelina, stared at the blooming, arid landscape and felt smaller, but no less blessed, by the moment. Driving back north to pick up Foster, the mid-morning sun lit the sandstone bluffs and they glowed like pale white hands holding this ground, holding this edge, in nature’s ever changing grasp.

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