Place: Terlingua, Texas; Book: Krakauer’s Into the Wild
Whatever one thinks of the people in the story John Krakauer presents in his 1996 Into the Wild, the book gets readers thinking about lives “less ordinary,” the drawbacks of consumerism, and a less rooted existence. So does a visit to Terlingua, Texas. While the town’s reputation in the Lone Star State is one of housing hippies, dropouts, singer-songwriters, artists, and independent souls looking to live off the grid, the tiny desert hamlet also boasts extreme swings in temperature (we saw 120 degrees on the RV’s indicator at one point, and we heard stories of 0-degree winter days and snow), a stark khaki-colored barrenness, and a feeling of standoffish isolationism from a few people we encountered, one of whom was NOT our tour guide Chris.
If you find yourself looking to “get lost” for a bit in the Big Bend region, get a hold of Chris at www.getlosttours.net. He’s a great host! He loaded us into his Hummer and took us into the desert, out of sight and sound of humankind. We saw javelina, learned about the medicinal qualities of local flora, and scrambled up boulders to enjoy views to eternity.
Afterward, we took in the historic Terlingua “ghost town,” the remains of a mining metropolis. It offers a cafe, gallery, trading post, graveyard, and metal sculptures. Outside of town, we drove through the state park and looked across the river to Mexico. In Lajitas, we stocked up on boxed stuffing mix, instant mac and cheese, butter, and (for The Bosun) spam and beer. Not quite the dinner of champions.
The Chihuahuan Desert had impressed us. This rugged world of Wild West meets Woodstock made me want to consider getting a few acres of my own! But in the end, we opted to head back toward Alpine and the starry RV park we’d so enjoyed the night before.
As evening started to bring out timid stars, I settled at a picnic table to work, and The Bosun pulled out the guitar that had taken a swim at the very start of this journey. Next thing you know, we had an impromptu concert and comet-gazing session going with two nomadic new friends. The Bosun and Ed found common musical ground in Tom Petty and in the Eagles, and Cas used a laser pointer to help us pick out the faint Comet Neowise. A peach-colored sickle of moon and the Milky Way provided the stage lights.