Leave it to Lynne to have some fancy app on her phone that tells the exact position the moon will be setting on any given day. She had done her homework to learn that it would be setting right in the crack of Santa Elena Canyon on the morning after the full moon….as I understand it, a one out of 365 day chance to hit the “sweet spot.” Serendipity would also intervene to have this moon setting converge with the sunrise.
We discussed our plan the night before. Santa Elena Canyon was a good hour and a half drive from the Rio Grande Village campground. We were on the east side, and the canyon was on the far west side, so we would need to drive the width of the park. Due to the recent return of Daylight Savings Time, sunrise wasn’t scheduled until 8:00am, however we were not sure how long the drive would take (I worried needlessly about the 45mph park speed limit, it would appear. 😉 ) We agreed to leave at 5:45am, and in spite of being the earliest wake-up call of the entire vacation, it was the only one we both made on time.
The Ross Maxwell Scenic drive was beautiful and surreal by the starlight and the brightest moon I have ever seen. We passed through some ethereal looking mountain shadows before reaching the Santa Elena parking lot. By now, it was 7:30am, so we wasted no time making the short hike to the mouth of the canyon. The moon was just beginning to descend right into the crack as predicted! It was the most incredible sensory feeling to stand on the bank of the river and watch the shimmering moonlight on the water, as the moon dropped quickly right into the slot of the canyon. Meanwhile, the sky over my shoulder was beginning to glow with red and orange from the rising sun. It was a moment “in the zone.” I kept hearing Ramblin’ Jack Elliot in my head singing, “Did you ever stand and shiver, just because you were lookin’ at a river.”
After the moon was down and the sun was up, we headed off for the canyon hike. A series of switchbacks lead us up over the canyon rim for some gorgeous views of the canyon. The trail then gradually sloped back down to the river, winding over and around some large boulders. Finally, the trail came to an end where the canyon wall meets the river at one of the narrowest spots along the seven mile canyon.
And thus concludes my “Big Bend Top Ten” series. I said goodbye to my trail riding friend Lynne and her sidekick Millie in the RV Village Campground parking lot, as we headed off in different directions; Lynne is northeast bound to find Hill Country wildflowers, and I will keep going west until Texas calls me back home again…
Meanwhile, here are a few parting shots of The Big Bend National Park:
Some trails are happy ones,
Others are blue.
It’s the way you ride the trail that counts,
Here’s a happy one for you.
Happy trails to you, ’till we meet again. ~ Dale Evans & Roy Rogers