Returning from the hike out to the canyon I climbed aboard Sheeba and motored southwest along remote River Road East to intersect with the equally remote 4WD Glenn Springs Road for the long poke northwest into the Chisos Mountains—the range viewed across the broad basin coming down from McKinney Spring Camp. Destination: Camp Chilicotal—another delightfully isolated solo campsite. 

From there I would climb up into the Chisos for some pack-testing. From the campsite I could gaze eastward over the now-familiar basin to the Sierra Del Carmen Range that had flanked my left on the jolting ride down Old Ore Road to the river. But from a much higher elevation than looking to the west from Old Ore Road. I liked the effect. The trip up to Chilicotal passed through stages of fender-scratching high-desert vegetation. I liked that too. 

I settled in for a mule deer loins supper and a Lone Star beer (“The National Beer Of Texas”…says so right on the cans); I had snagged a 12 pack in Marathon on the way down to the Park—who could resist that? Excellent brew in fact! I watched the sunset then the star-matted sky through completely translucent atmosphere. It had been some time since I had seen in such detail the smeared splendor of the Milky Way. This part of Texas is so remote that light pollution doesn’t exist. (One hears no airliner sounds, nor sees contrails across the sky—the region is not on any aircraft routes!) It’s the reason the famous McDonald Observatory is situated in the nearby Davis Mountains. (Our journey will take us through these surprising-find mountains in due course.)

Next morning I 4-wheeled up to the Pine Canyon Trailhead. The trail was hemmed by stony cliffs and ascended into Ponderosa Pines and smooth-as-flesh barked Madrone trees. A small creek created an oasis-like atmosphere. On my back was a heavy load on a prototype suspension system Aron and I had dreamed up. We never cease trying to discover the “next-one”—a suspension candidate that surpasses the Duplex System. I had sewed the prototype prior to heading out on this trip, and this was the big test. The terrain was ripe for it. 

Four hours later I had the verdict: NOPE. NADA. NYET. While the prototype was a very worthy one, the Duplex still rules. (I want to remind readers that we are ruthless about ceaseless research—it’s what we do at Kifaru. If we can create a better mouse trap we will deploy it. We’ll keep trying, be assured.)

Back at Camp I decided it was warm enough and certainly private enough to treat myself to a bath. I had placed jugs of water out to soak up sun that morning before departing for the trailhead and the suspension test. Standing on a flat rock in my birthday suit I sluiced a jug over myself, soaped down all of me including the hair, rinsed with more jugs and air-dried in the sun. What a fine thing after the tough hike! The evening was devoted to another natural meat supper, more than one Lone Star and more star-gazing. Punctuated by de-briefing notes in the Prototype Notebook dedicated to the suspension system I had just wrung out. (There is always “work” to be done….)

I also pored over my map, looking for the most appetizing route to our next destination: Santa Elena Canyon–the “other” great Canyon Big Bend displays for the Traveler’s delight. We’ll head that way in our next episode….

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