There are some places kept mostly secret. More vulnerable than others. Not as stable as they seem.
At Big Bend National Park horses are allowed on all gravel roads, most trails, and backcountry across the desert. In a vast land occupied by many before us, there is more to discover than most know. But you must be willing to look.
And looking requires more than simply asking. It requires preparation for the journey ahead. For what may be encountered along the way. What might happen in a place so easy to lose yourself.
Weaving through a scattering of purple prickly pear, lechuguilla, and sotol we ride this desert like Charlie Prince and Ben Wade. Fictional yet real. He trots ahead looking for tracks. I ride behind scanning the horizon.
And then, an old rock house and corral. There is volume in the stillness here. And warmth in wondering what has come before. The effort and perseverance required to build these walls. The horses retained within. The people who lived here.
And in this, I find intent in the untamed nature of myself. Learning to learn beyond this moment. Discovering who I want to be, risking vulnerability in the process.
Returning now, at every ripple in this trail I think we are almost back. But the path keeps going and there is always one more ridge to climb. I wonder if it will ever end. I hope not.
There is contentedness here. A sense of being in the right place at the right time. No longer a stranger in my own skin. I welcome the secret of myself. Now, more “found” than ever “lost.”
In this place I am seen. Loved for reasons I don’t totally even understand, but slowly realizing to be me is enough. And there is no guilt in that – there is only hope.
To learn about horseback riding at Big Bend National Park: https://www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/bc_horses.htm
Click on “stock use regulations” for a list of campsites in the park allowing horses. Note: Not all campsites in BBN are accessible by more than a small, high clearance trailer and vehicle.