Rio Grande and an Oasis in the Desert (Feb 9 2014)

DSC01789.JPGWell, it did get cold enough to get the sleeping bags back out, but the morning is sunny and things are starting to warm up.

Big Dog boils water with our little electric water pot in the men’s room and we have coffee before heading out to the closest Nature Trail, a path that goes over a marsh that was created by beaver dams. There are herons and other birds in the marsh. The trail goes up and over to the Rio Grande – a river that is not so grand anymore. It’s been dammed up so now there is but the smallest river as it heads to the Gulf of Mexico. Or maybe it was only ever grand in terms of length. Here it is a shallow and tiny green river that the Mexicans can walk over and a few vendors do so every day to sell wire and bead handicrafts shaped like scorpions and roadrunners. (Which you see everywhere. The roadrunners. Not the vendors.) Despite the signs warning you not to buy anything from the vendors – the whole thing is illegal – the vending ban does not seem to be enforced.

DSC01788.JPGDSC01792.JPGDSC01797.JPGBack at camp, we decide to stay in this campground another night but move farther back, to a spot in a more wooded area, then drive out to Boquillas Canyon. There’s a border crossing at Boquillas – a boat takes you to the other side, although you can easily walk over to the two pueblos on the other side: Ojo Caliente, near the hot spring, and Boquillas del Carmen, a slightly larger village.

DSC01801.JPGThe Canyon is narrow – a slender gorge cut away by the seemingly innocuous Rio Grande. What a testament to perseverance! Apparently there is a lot of sediment in the river, too, that wears away the canyon. One has to swim to actually get into the canyon here but we are happy just to walk to the mouth of it and gawk. It is really hot now. We’ve gone from subzero to this in a matter of days!

A few Mexicans on the other side shout at the campers, plying their “souvenirs.” Near the canyon, there is “Jesus, the Singing Mexican.” He sings Mexican songs that echo through the canyon. Big Dog, instead of leaving him a tip in the glass jar on our side, belts out a few bars of “American Pie.”

DSC01799.JPG“Shhh… You’re disturbing the ‘wa’ of the place,” I shush him. (“Wa” means peace and harmony – I use it the way some Americans mis-use the term “zen.”) Big Dog’s singing seems to have confused the Singing Mexican.

After hiking back to Sprockets, we drive to Hot Springs, over some mean looking rocks and a sharp, gravely road that is too narrow in some places for RVs. Sprockets has lower clearance than we had hoped for and gets a bit beaten up on this path.

At one time, someone had built a hot springs resort here — an early day spa! — and the old stone motel, post office and store remain as ruins. It’s an oasis in the unforgiving desert. There are palm trees, as well as REAL trees here. The spring is at a branch of the river and very much like the myriad of roadside hot springs all over Japan, except no one is getting in naked. (And it still feels strange for me to go into warm or hot water with my bathing suit on! But I don’t dare strip down. Not in front of the other campers!)

The water is 105 degrees and really nice, especially after the interior dust storm of the day before. Picking up more dust on the way back to Sprockets is not so nice.

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Author: ontheroadwithsprockets

I've been traveling since I was born -- the first big trip was before I was two, across the Pacific, from my native Japan to Los Angeles on a cargo ship. There have been many journeys since then, through many continents and cultures.