Hi-Ho, Hueco…

It’s off to work I go…

I have just finished up two straight weeks of blissful vacation, where I rambled and roamed to my hearts content.  I visited three National Parks, found ten things to love about Big Bend, climbed the highest mountain in Texas, and discovered pitfalls in the Bat Cave.  I had so much fun on this vacation, yet I spent less money than any vacation ever.

At the first Friday night toast “To Being on Vacation” in the Balmorhea campground,  I began to spring free like a rubber band that had been wound around and around into a knot.  Now, as I drive toward my next destination, Hueco Tanks State Park, I can feel the band tightening with every long, desolate mile.IMG_1406

It’s Sunday night, and I have a knot the size of a cantaloupe in my stomach.   I have to listen to that.   I know some say “QUIT NOW!”  while others say “QUIT WHINING!”  But it is hard to let go of a job that continues to give with my every whim.

“Of all the featherless beasts, only man, chained by his self-imposed slavery to the clock, denies the elemental fire and proceeds as best he can about his business, suffering quietly, martyr to his madness.” ~ Edward Abbey

Upon leaving Sweet Oliver Lee, I had a choice of continuing on north, or turn south and loop back toward El Paso.   Hueco Tanks State Park came highly recommended, though once I arrived there, I realized the recommendation may have been geared more toward “Bypass El Paso at all costs!” rather than “Don’t miss this place!”

It took me almost two hours to make a reservation.  Hueco Tanks has its own special line at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Reservation Center, because they want to make sure you understand all the “rules.”   They will only allow a maximum of three nights reservation, so I will need to exit the park mid-week and return for my second reservation.   All these special rules should have been an indication of what was to come, but instead I thought, “Wow, what a special place it must be to have its own reservation line!  I GOTTA GO THERE!”IMG_1518

Looks like they are wearing nail polish.  ;-)

Looks like they are wearing nail polish. 😉

Hueco (pronounced “Waco”) means “hollow.”  The park is a grouping of rock formations that rise above the desert floor where the hollows collect rainwater, serving as a refuge for plants, animals, and humans for 10,000 years.  The site was at one time inhabited by Kiowa, Mescalero Apache, and Tigua Indians, as proven by the discovery of many artifacts and pictographs.  But as much as the park strives to protect that history and emphasize the “sacredness” of the area, it is the rock climbing that is the current draw.  People come from all over the world to experience the climbing, particularly “bouldering,” or climbing reverse-grade rocks with no ropes or climbing gear.

Sheer walls popular with rock climbers

Sheer walls popular with rock climbers

IMG_1447I leave the Sweet Oliver Lee Memorial State Park a little early to make sure I get to Hueco Tanks in plenty of time. One of the rules relayed by TPWS reservation agent is that I must watch a 20 minute video before I will be admitted to the park which officially “closes” at 6:00pm.  If I do not get there in time to complete the video and paperwork before the park closes, I will not be admitted.

I arrive at the front gate office where I am met by a mousey brown-haired, tiny woman with a Dutch Boy haircut, who barks so many rules at me, I am overwhelmed.   I ask her to please slow down and repeat, because I am not accustomed to so many rules in a park.   She shoves a two piece 8 ½ x 11 inch, double-sided, single spaced document across the counter containing all the rules, then tells me if I have any more questions, to ask the man at the Interpretive Center.     I try smiling as I ask her if she has any favorite hikes or things to do in the park.  She shoves the printed park brochure across the counter, looks past me, and shouts “NEXT!!!”

A "Horny Toad!"  When's the last time you saw a Horny Toad?  First time since I was a kid...

A “Horny Toad!” When’s the last time you saw a Horny Toad? First time since I was a kid…


I drive down to the Interpretive Center, where I meet Jorge, a tall brown man with a long black ponytail.  I am given more paperwork, and shown a 20 minute video on the park.  Jorge tells me I must have a permit to walk anywhere other than the campground, and I must carry this permit with me at all times.   I am also reminded that the permit is only good until 6:00pm, when I must be back within the confines of the campground.   A park official will drive around at 5:30pm blowing his horn.   This will be an indication that I need to get down off the mountain, and get back to the campground.

This is the reason for so many crazy RULES!

This is the reason for so many crazy RULES!

People here for "bouldering" carry their own crash pads.

People here for “bouldering” carry their own crash pads.

The problem is, they only give out 70 permits a day, and they are all booked up for the week.   There are another 10 “walk-in” permits issued at 8:00am if I want to try for one of those each day.  Or, I can try for stand-by at 10:00am.   I must go through this permit process every day I am here in order to walk anywhere outside the campground.


I try to test the boundaries a bit, asking Jorge if I am allowed to walk on the paved streets without a permit, explaining my work situation and my need to get out for exercise during the day.   Jorge reminds me in a gentle but somewhat scolding tone that this is a “sacred place,” and perhaps I should do a bit of “self reflection as to why you are here.”

Most of the tanks are dry now...

Most of the tanks are dry now…

The only water in the park....a tank, but not a "hueco."

The only water in the park….a tank, but not a “hueco.”

Campsite #1

Campsite #1

I pull into my beautiful campsite right at the foot of North mountain as the sun begins to cast long shadows across the park.   In spite of my challenge in getting a reservation here, there are only two other residents in the campground.  It is 5:30pm, because I hear the horns blaring.   The gates are about to be locked.  The wind is starting to howl…why can’t I breathe, all of a sudden?

9 thoughts on “Hi-Ho, Hueco…

  1. oh good heavens! Why do they allow RV camping in a place like that at all? Good grief! The least they could have done was post all the rules about it before you made the reservation and took your money!

  2. I’m familiar with that canteloupe of which you speak. Whine away, my dear.

    I’m sure leaving the great camaraderie you and Lynn shared only adds to your feeling of despondency.

    Good thing Jorge is around to keep you in line!

  3. That took me back to church camp when I was about 10 years old! Enjoy yourself but don’t do this, this or that.. Crazy!!!
    I like you picture of the cactus with the painted toenails. That is exactly what I thought when I first looked at it.

  4. [That’s the way my name came out of my fingers, so I’ll leave it for now.]

    Oy. None of this helped your cantaloupe, I’m sure. I was thinking of the kapo, so Mark’s soup nazi is about right.

  5. I am SO glad you posted this. Not a big fan of Texas to start with, and this behaviour would send me over the top. How rude!!! Are there machine-gun emplacements to enforce the “You vill stay in the campground” rules?


  6. Lynne — In all fairness, they did go over some of them, tho they left out the part about “you must limit yourself to the confines of the campground.”. ;-(

    Kim — There is more to the Jorge story, coming up.

    BC Mark — Well, I wasn’t going to mention any names, buuuuttt……if I get to Gilbert Ray and there is barbed wire and surveillance cameras imbedded in the saguaro, you are in big trouble, Mister. 😉

    Lynn — YES, and the lady behind the desk looked just like the “Church Lady.” haha!

    Roxanne — Your free riverside view is also adding to my cantaloupe. haha!

    Judie — Funny you mentioned “machine guns.” I could hear them all day from nearby Ft Bliss, which didn’t do much for my peace of mind!

    Thanks all for the great comments!!

  7. nope … couldn’t handle it. I read your latest post first … if I had read this one first, I would have understood a bit more… yes.

    … again … just not my thing but you have the ability to enjoy whatever regardless whining and all… oh me… the church lady. I don’t think I … well, I know I couldn’t have kept my cool with that kind of rude. NEXT … my ass.

    Galveston State Park was the only place I have ever been in all my traveling that I walked out. She didn’t look like the church lady but soooooo enjoyed stating the rules WITH emphasis on all the stuff I was NOT to do … I stopped her and said .. good lord! I’m old …. cant remember all this stuff… she did the shove the single spaced 912 rules at me and said I must sign these forms and she has to read them all to me ….. I said … YOU are rude … I don’t want to stay here ~

    I left … she came after me. I said … no, thank you. AND I love Galveston … just went on back to town and pulled into Kroger and spent the night… stayed at the Seawall until the very end. Only rule there was no overnight parking…

    Thought I’d see when she wasn’t there and go back but then … hells bells the Seawall and Kroger were free… AND McD’s had an ocean view!

    I’m not a fan of Texas State Parks… I’m really not ~ even when the hosts are not rude ~ I want to stay in the Pecan whatever it’s called in Austin that you stayed at… jeeeeeeez I’d love it there.

  8. Interesting what Carolyn said about walking out on a rude desk clerk. I think with age comes the ability to do this. And since I am only two months younger than Carolyn . . . I can do this sort of thing, too. There are just too many instances in all parts of life where this sort of thing is tolerated for one reason or another. I don’t think we should, and I practice this whenever I come up against it if there is any choice at all. It seems that the whole idea of people passing around information on the internet has made a difference in most business owners’ attitudes, but some are still on a learning curve. It is our duty to educate! ;->

    Anxious to hear about your visit to Gilbert Ray, and looking forward to your great pictures of the area. It is close by, but I have never been there. Have heard great things about it, but nothing about machine gun emplacements! ;->

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