[PART 1 HERE] Unsure whether we had done wrong with our overnight picnic spot stay, we turned ourselves into the park warden. He sighed with the patience most bearded old men hold, and spoke down to us like a teacher to his kindergarten aged students, telling us we had in fact been naughty and should be fined, but he wouldn’t punish our ignorance this time, so long as we promised not to do it again.
We agreed wholeheartedly with a belittled ‘yes sir’ and left with suitably mischievous smiles spreading across our faces, filling our water bottles as we made our way to our first mountain ascent. We had been warned of mountain lions and bears, which I had not expected this far south, and I rattled off what remained in my brain of my Canadian woods knowledge as we hiked up Emory Peak trail, suitably scaring my partner.
As night fell, revealing yet another stunning sunset, we embarked on a 45-minute journey to the park’s Hot Springs. As we drove, lightning again lit up the sky accompanied by a defining silence of a thunderless night. The entry road to the hot springs was primitive and as we crawled along the winding one lane road, the feeling one feels when watching a scary movie crept over me. This was the first of many horror film scenes we’d find ourselves in, West Texas is full of beautiful places which would light your soul by day and fill you with fear by night. It’s just how she be. But we pushed on despite our instinctual voices coaxing us to run.
The parking lot was all but empty apart from One. Single. Car. and old adobe buildings, likely belonging to the boarder control, stood above us in complete darkness. By the light of a trusty iphone and with the protection of a small Swiss army knife I’d tucked into my leggings, we made our way blindly towards the rushing river of the Rio Grande.
We tip toed through various creepy scenarios, our shoes sliding in the thick mud and our voices shaking with fear. My partner, who is by example much braver than me, took the lead as a shirtless man, lit by the waxing moon, emerged from the darkness. He thankfully turned out to (probably) not to be a serial killer and gave us directions to the hot springs we had been stumbling around not finding.
The hot springs, once found, were inviting and significantly less creepy than the scenes that had been set. And as my fear stricken body relaxed into the warmth of its waters, a feeling of pure bliss took over. The skies were alight with thousands of stars and the moon, which had seemed to be been in full bloom the previous night had only begun to wane. The sound of the Rio Grande’s swift and surging waters soothed my soul serenely and I felt very grateful for the moment I was sharing.