At Big Bend National Park on the Texas-Mexico border, I stood on the upper rim of the Chisos Basin, breathed deeply, and took in the contours and colors of creation. The 7000-foot climb was both exhausting and exhilarating. It had been just three weeks prior that my whole family had huddled together to ride out the Texas Snowpocalypse, and had unintentionally spread COVID between us. Though I was far from 100% physically, my heart soared above the clouds.
Boundless Expeditions (BE) is an invitation-only Wonder Voyage travelers club designed by adventure travelers, for adventurous travelers. We focus on once-in-a-lifetime expeditions. This year, we planned to head to Morocco, but the realities of the virus required a pivot. Most of the Texans in our huddle had never visited the storied Big Bend National Park. So, the trip was set for February.
Most of the gang decided to road trip from Dallas, through the Hill Country, into West Texas, and back through San Angelo on the way home. But a mere twelve hours before they were ready to depart, Texas was hit with a blizzard and the coldest sustained temps (well below zero) for a week. The expedition was postponed so everyone could weather the storm with their families.
For me, personally, the postponement allowed time to contract and recover from COVID enough for the doctor to release me for travel. For most of my family, the virus was like having a bad cold. For my wife and my oldest daughter, it knocked their socks off, keeping them down and out for a couple of weeks.
March 1 we finally converged at the Ten Bits Ranch, a high-end 4-star joint created to look like a mining ghost town north of Terlingua. Our pristine setting, on a bluff overlooking the dramatic desert vistas below, and a wide-open Texas sky above, gave way to evenings around the fire filled with deep conversation, abundant laughter, and contemplative thoughts. We drank in the elixir that adventure travel offers the soul, and gulped it in like thirsty survivors. To be out again, to be free in exploration, surrounded by West Texas beauty; this was the life.
Our days in Big Bend were filled with muscle-stretching adventures and loads of Mexican food. A day canoe trip down the Rio Grande–Mexico to the right, Texas to the left–gave us a waterside view of the canyons and cliffs that define the region. We relished the smooth, sometimes too-shallow waters, while wondering how Wes and I sunk a canoe in 6-inches of water.
The old ghost town of Terlingua produced a fantastic meal at the Starlight Cafe. Three hours of no-holds-bar ATVing in the desert up to an ancient, now closed up, quicksilver mine, let us exercise our need for speed while blessing us with mouthfuls of dust. We ended our time in Big Bend hiking the 5-mile Lost Mine Trail, the quintessential Chisos hike. A steady climb with constant head-scratching views causing us to ask, “Is this really Texas?” Despite our aching bodies, the adventure was soul cleansing. For me, this was the defining moment of our Boundless Expedition and a memory that will remain in my brain for a lifetime.
We spent one more night exploring the not-so-mysterious Marfa Lights with cigars and Johnnie Walker Blue in hand (thank you Kalyan) and the idyllic little town of Ft. Davis, lovingly hugged by the surrounding Davis Mountains before we separated off until our next adventure this fall.
This was our first Wonder Voyage of 2021, almost on the anniversary of when the world shut down a year ago. Though our lives have changed, and recovery will take patience, the longing for wonder and adventure builds under the surface, like a volcano ready to explode.
I looked into the desert mountains for miles in every direction and breathed a prayer of thanksgiving knowing we will be back to business this summer, leading trips around the world, and experiencing a truth that motivates all we do: wonder changes everything.
Morocco, we are aiming for you this fall.