This is the first of several articles this week live from the Pecos Experience at the Shumla School, west of Del Rio, Texas. I arrived Friday night so I could hike Presa Canyon Saturday, courtesy of the Texas Parks and Wildlife and Seminole Canyon State Park.
I had been warned that this was an “extremely strenuous” hike, and that warning is correct. I was so tired that I came back to camp and took a two hour nap, ate dinner, then slept another 12 hours. Got up today, had coffee, took a nap, and will go to be early tonight too. I am sore in so many places! But I made it in and out, and therein lies the tale.
The only way to see Presa Canyon is to join one of these tours that only go in cool months. There were about 23 in our group, along with two guides from the Rock Art Foundation. It is about four hours in to Black Cave, our final destination, and four hours out. We were lucky because there was a breeze and the temperature only reached the low 90s, even though the stone canyon was like a radiant oven.
This hike feels like it is mano a mano with nature. At least that’s what it feels like to an old woman like me. There are numerous boulder fields that must be climbed and gotten down from, and lots of thorny brush to push through. My mind was completely focused on where to put my next step so I wouldn’t sprain an ankle. That and drinking enough water so I wouldn’t get heat stroke.
I hadn’t slept a wink the night before because my monkey mind kept saying “heat stroke, rattlesnake, sprained ankle” like an evil mantra over and over. We did not see a single snake, although I am sure they saw us, and no one got overheated or injured. The buzzards didn’t circle, so you know we made it out alive!
When we could look up, we got to see some wonderful rock art. Our destination was Black Cave, which contains a panel of quite vivid art. The panel seems to be made up of several separate elements rather than being one continuous composition. But that’s just how it looks. Who knows what it really means?
The air was intoxicating with the sweetness of blackbrush, huisache and Mexican buckeye trees in mad bloom. More than one person commented that they felt like they were being seduced by the fragrance so as not to pay attention to the thorns and rocks that were brushing us and trying to grab our boots. Yes, it was another trick to get us.
We thought about the people who once lived here and made these paintings. How did they do it? The figures in Black Cave are very high up the wall. No one could have reached that high, so they had to have used some sort of scaffold. The paint is still vivid
today, 4000 years at after it was applied, at least. How did they make such a paint? My house paint certainly won’t last that long. How did they even walk through the canyon? They didn’t have high-tech hiking boots and camel-backs. How did they carry water? What did they think about? What did they mean to tell us with these figures?
Those are the questions that drew me here. Ones I’ll be exploring this week. I hope you will stay tuned for more!