A relatively easy (4.5 mile) hiking day today, as we walked along the Rio Grande into the Sierra del Carmen mountains, down Boquillas Canyon. More stark beauty, as well as abundant roadrunners, and a Mexican tenor singing for tips from the other side of the border. The sheer limestone walls of the canyon were 1,000+ feet high, with many hollowed-out spots that probably resulted from water vertically seeping through the limestone and then pouring out through a fracture, eroding a cave-like opening high up on the walls. The masses of swallows feeding on insects above the river must love those openings for attaching their nests.
Six canoeists were relaxing at river’s edge, so we chatted them up for a bit. They were enjoying a four-day paddle down into several of the Rio Grande’s canyons, finding it magnificent. The current varies from quite sluggish to very lively, depending on the river’s width. It is now twice as high (average four feet) as in summer, carrying a heavy load of silt, and can be treacherous to swim in.
After the hike, we headed to the border crossing to the tiny Mexican village of Boquillas, where everyone makes their living from the tourists who visit. We hired a guide, Raoul, because we had many questions about how people live (and survive) in such a place. He was honest in answering our questions – the village only got electricity one year ago, via solar panels, because after 9/11 the board crossing was closed for 11 years and many people moved away. The border crossing has only been reopened now for three years, many who moved away have returned and the Mexican government saw fit to fund their electricity (and Wi-Fi!). Schooling is only available half-days, and only until 9th grade. The lower part of town floods out frequently due to the Rio Grande overflowing its banks. Gasoline is twice as expensive as in the US. No one has indoor plumbing, but they do get their water from a communal well, once weekly. As the pictures convey, life is pretty bleak here. We bought a delicious cantina meal and several souvenirs just to leave some money behind.
Interestingly, the US border patrol is involved in helping the Mexican citizens on the Rio Grande develop more opportunities so that they can afford to stay in Boquillas. US-Mexican relations are very good in this community, and it also helps provide a stable outpost in the Mexican side of the Big Bend Parque Internationale.
Our final event of the day was a two-hour drive down and back through Pine Canyon Road, a 4-wheel drive-mandatory two-track dirt road. We didn’t have time to take the 4-mile hike at the end of the road, but we hope to come back someday for that. It’s part of the National Park System’s research at Big Bend, into pristine microclimates and how they are sustained in this landscape. The trail promises to be gorgeous.