Cheryl and I are back at our off-grid cabin in the Chihuahuan Desert, our comfy little retreat under the vast skies of Big Bend. After returning home from my trip to Papua which required 58-hours of round-trip air travel and more than 30-hours of airport transit time (not including three in-country flights), I couldn’t wait to point my Tundra in the direction of the cabin for a few days of rest and recovery.
The time it takes to travel from our suburban home in Katy to our front gate at the cabin — almost ten hours across Texas — is the first step toward recharging after an international trip as arduous as traveling one-way more than half-away around the world. The trip to the cabin no longer seems far to us. It’s just the first step in enjoying time away.
The city of Alpine is our final stop before turning south on Highway 118 to descend into the belly of the Big Bend. We always stop there to top off the tank and buy the final few groceries from Porter’s Grocery Store. On this trip, we added an extra stop at the Brewster County Clerk’s office in Alpine to file the survey on our newest tract that we added in March. Happy to get that done.
It’s always a good feeling when Little Burro Country Store comes into view about an hour south of Alpine. That’s where we turn east off the highway and travel down the caliche road that leads to our cabin. With views of Nine Point Mesa and Black Hill in front of us, we are within a few miles of our desert retreat.
After settling in, Cheryl prepared a charcuterie board for a light supper. And then we sat around the fire pit, enjoying a remarkably pleasant evening. We watched the sun set to the west — brush-stroking the wispy clouds with beautiful shades of blue, pink, and orange. Soon after, the full moon made its entrance between Nine Point Mesa and Red Bluff to the east. Stunning. We sat in silence.
The plan for Friday and part of Saturday was to set the cedar corner posts on our new tract and then the cedar line posts along the east side of the tract along the road. Once that was done we marked the halfway points and added the H-brackets that we will later tension with barbless cable.
Fencing is hard work but something I really enjoy. I am careful to make sure everything is perfectly lined up so that when we later add the t-posts and field fencing the fence looks straight and true. And since the fence will outlive me, it is something of a signature — and therefore something I want to do with excellence.
Reuniting with our neighbors is always a must when we are at the cabin. Every time we return we host a hot dog and hamburger cookout and invite the neighbors over for food and conversation around the fire that lasts into the night.
Another project that I find therapeutic is working on our swale and berm on our north tract. Our son Jonathan encouraged us to add swales as part of our permaculture plan for the property so that we could capture lots of water during the monsoon rains.
We were delighted to see that our once barren swales and berms were now teeming with native plants. The swale had created its own micro-riparian ecosystem — complete with flowers, cacti, thistles, and grasses.
Encouraged by the new growth along the swales, I took the time to connect the two swales running east and west to increase our capacity to capture more water. We now have a 300-foot long swale and berm that will capture hundreds of gallons of rain as it sheets across the property.
In addition to getting a few projects completed, we visited the Farmers’ Market in Terlingua, enjoyed a meal out in Study Butte, and worshiped with our friends at Terlingua Ranch Christian Church. And now, it’s time to head home — much more relaxed and refreshed than when we arrived.
Although it may sound strange, there is something therapeutic about coming to the desert. I know that a visit to the desert is not what will help others relax, but it works for us. As locals often say here in the Chihuahuan Desert: from the outside looking in you don’t understand it and from the inside looking out you can’t explain it. We are already looking forward to our next visit.