Hueco Tanks State Park in Texas reminded me of this western song by the Sons of the Pioneers:
“All day I face the barren waste
Without the taste of water, cool water
Old Dan and I with throats burned dry
And souls that cry for water, cool, clear, water.”
In the trek from Carlsbad to just outside El Paso, there is no water, no trees, no meandering creek – just rock, and sand, and a few sagebrush. If a pioneer traveled twelve miles a day, it would take several weeks to cross the West Texas desert and to those prepared and on the right trail a welcoming sign appeared just before El Paso – a series of large rocks, bare rocks – jutting out of the bleak landscape. Here at Hueco Tanks, at last, is water. Hidden in deep holes among the rocks lies cool, clear water. The life saving oasis in the 105 degree heat has a little grass and a few shrubs beckoning the weary traveler to climb the hot rocks and search the crevasses and there he will find water.
The rock piles rise about a hundred feet but are called “mountains” here in an otherwise flat land. Prehistoric tribes knew these mountains well and they left graphic commentary depicting themselves, desert animals, and scribbles whose meaning is forever lost. We climbed the rocks, found the water, and tried to decipher the petroglyphs in vain.
Today, the State of Texas is preserving this unique environment – home to Horny Toads, sidewinders, a few deer, and flies — lots of flies! In one of the slanting mini-canyons (more like holes between the rocks) we crawled downward scorching our behinds on sun-beaten boulders, collected fine dust on our clothes, and watched and listened carefully for signs of any rattlesnakes. We saw none as they were smarter than we were and avoided the hot, dry day by hiding underground.
Flowers? There were a few – scantilly few.
The visit to Hueco Tanks was interesting. Just to see something different and so steeped in history was exciting. But, just like the 19th century pioneers, we had to move further west so we reloaded our wagon, stoked the horses (all 200+ of them), and inched our way out of the Tanks and headed toward El Paso and lunch at Rosa’s Cantina of Marty Robbins fame. By mid-afternoon, we planned to be in White Sands National Park. Thanks for climbing with us!