“The West seemed both a garden and a desert, an ambiguous wilderness of untold happiness and opportunity, filled with dread and evil.” from Frontier Crossroads: Fort Davis and the West by Robert Wooster
Unless they’ve been there themselves, when I tell most people about my excitement at getting to travel in West Texas again next spring, they just look at me with a confused expression. Isn’t West Texas just…empty? Flat, desolate, barren, hot, dusty, boring? Why would you want to go there…again?
They must not have paid attention to the light on a canyon wall at sunrise. They haven’t stood at the edge of a vast plain of tall grass at sunset and felt the waves of gold washing over body and soul. They must not have visited the garden places — the Davis Mountains, McKittrick Canyon in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, any number of places in Big Bend. They have only looked at the dirt. They have looked at the distant horizon and felt the panic of not seeing a building between here and there for fifty miles, instead of looking at the distant horizon and feeling the exhilaration of not seeing a building between here and there for fifty miles.
One person’s dread and evil is another’s happiness and opportunity. What seems lonely and frightening to one is invigorating and beautiful to another. Some become weary of the drive on seemingly endless highway, bored and anxious, hypnotized by the monotony of the scenery. Others know that going through the miles and miles of desert is the only way to get to the best spots. And they know that when they’re standing at the bottom of Santa Elena Canyon, staring straight up the walls with the Rio Grande at their feet, it is worth the long journey to get there.