The trip back: I stopped at White Sands first, walking across a bone white beach in the middle of a dessert. Shadows, footprints, heat, prominent.
A few hours later and south, I drove through Lincoln National Forest. Tall pine trees, high elevation, cool air and a ski resort! I could have been back in the enchanted circle around Taos even though Texas is very close.
I reached Carlsbad and my first couchsurfing destination at 7:30pm. I immediately knew this is a strange town and a weird house. Too many pets, not so well cared for, and my allergies acted up which they never do with animals. The highlight of that stay: watching a Ken Burns special on PBS about national Parks, which focused a lot that night on Acadia National Park and my childhood home. Anyway, my host lady had a good heart so I knew I was safe, but I was out of there before the sun rose the next morning. Took back roads to get to Sitting Bull Falls just as the sun woke up. Water oasis and waterfalls in the middle of rocky dryness. A tarantula marched across the middle of the road. Jack rabbits, cows chewing cud, ravens, lizards. Every other turn presented wildlife.
Carlsbad caverns by 10am. I loved wandering through the cool, damp, darkness. Stillness. For 2.5 hours. On the surface again, an insect buzzed past. The ranger told me the bug was a spider hawk. "They sting and paralyze tarantulas then flip them over on their stomach and lay their eggs in the new host nest," she explained. Mother nature. What a way to go.
Then straight on to Marfa. A touch of sadness leaving New Mexico and the changing seasons. Now I see "Don't mess with Texas" don't litter signs and "Adopt a highway signs" too frequently for comfort. West Texas beckons. Golden flat land stretching out to meet purple mountains. At one point I am encircled on every side by a mountain range. In Mafra, I met Daeryl, my second couchsurfer of the trip. I realized immediately we have a lot in common; her path is one I feel drawn to. She is a graphic and book designer and also a healer.
She showed me the local view of the town and she seems to know each person. I love the aspect of saying hi to everyone! First stop: a wine tasting at the new alternative market, The Get Go. Then on to Jett's for dinner where Daeryl introduced me to a wealthy Marfa benefactor, Mr. Crowley, who spends a lot of his money improving Marfa for the public. For example, he built a shade structure for the farmer's market and he turned an old building into a theater - he pays the expenses so bands like Bon Iver can play for only $2!
After Jett's, we migrated to Maya's. I wish I'd waited to have dinner there and I'll definitely have to come back! I tried their divine lemon-pistachio cake with prickly pear ice cream. Yum! The bar tender, a 24 year old Marfa native, chatted with Daeryl and I for a while. Last stop, the last place open, Padre's, where we ran into some of the same folks who had been at the other places. Called it a night and walked home to Daeryl's adorable home. You would never guess, from looking at the cracked, brown exterior, that a space of such peace exists within. White walls and floor, art, tomatoes drying on the table. I asked Daeryl more about her life. As it turns out, she recently wrote a book called "Opening the Window to the Soul" which she designed and self-published and sells on her talking tours around the country. In fact, she will be speaking for free in Austin the end of October and that is just too much of a call to ignore.
Up before dawn again so I could make it through Big Bend and back to Austin in one day. Arrived at Big Bend at 9am and hiked through the painted gap trail. A colorful black and yellow grass hopper and a few campers, some pink desert flowers, a hare. Giant yucca making the times feel prehistoric. After all this, I still found myself in Fredricksburg at 5 and picniced near enchanted rock because I had to see it since I was near. No time to unwind much until now: I spent the day following Big Bend at ACL, experiencing only one day of the music festival this year. I am glad about that. Its pouring rain today, I have no plans until an after show at 11pm, can do as I please, and no one knows where I am.