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The first journey of our westwardly bound road trip took us south to find some warmer temperatures and hiking opportunities. We almost skipped Big Bend National Park because it was a little bit out of the way, but we decided not to because neither of us had been before. It’s a surprisingly mountainous landscape in an otherwise mostly flat to moderately hill-countried Texas. Although it can be a a long drive from most of the major Texas cities, it’s definitely worth the gas.

Big Bend’s wide open desert landscapes are only interrupted by the many seemingly barren mountains that frame it in. Not until you drive up the most popular area, Chisos Basin, do you realize there’s actually a wide variety of ecosystems in the park including forests, grassy meadows and even a spring-fed oasis. It’s the kind of variety that makes the many hikes in the park worth experiencing.

We ended up staying for eight days as we skipped between two somewhat developed campsites, and then spent three days in a back country site three miles down a gravel road! It was great to experience the quiet and secluded nature of the desert. Big Bend is known for its great stars and we got some dark and clear nights to enjoy them. Here’s our attempt to capture Penny Lane lit up with the stars! We saw a professional photographer do it, but his didn’t look like aliens were circling the camper.


Overall, we hiked 25+ miles, including a major 15 mile hike that included the tallest mountain in Big Bend, Emory Peak. The campsites only cost us $14/day and the back country only required a $12 permit which was good for up to two weeks, so the minimal budget impact made me quite happy!

Big Bend isn’t for everyone though. You need an adventurous spirit and a longing for the great outdoors to truly enjoy it. Even the “developed” campsites are pretty undeveloped as none of them include showers or electric, but you can pay to shower at a camp store close to one of the sites. Big Bend does have a pretty nice restaurant and lodge which includes hotel rooms and separate cabins and you can find wifi around the visitor centers.

After Big Bend, we headed east through one of the more scenic drives in the US, from Lajitas to Presidio in Texas. The drive starts at the ghost town of Lajitas and continues through the Big Bend Ranch State Park. The road borders the Rio Grande River most of the way and takes you through the beautiful Chihuahua mountains with views of river meadows, tall mountains and little towns on both sides of the border along the way. Luckily, there was no big ugly wall to get in the way of the views.

Did you know there’s an artsy little town in the middle of nowhere, Texas? It’s called Marfa and it was once a sleepy little country town, but it’s been taken over by hipsters riding their street cruisers, wearing old-timey hats and just being artists. It apparently started thanks to a minimalist artist from the east coast who set up shop and set to transform the town. It’s actually quite a cool little town, but I’d consider it a detour rather than a destination.

The next destination was Guadalupe National Park on the eastern edge of Texas. The park includes the tallest mountain in Texas and portions of the largest fossilized permian reef, which is apparently the major reason why it’s a national park. We hiked up the tallest peak in the park, Guadalupe Peak which also happens to be the tallest mountain in Texas at over 8,700 feet! We were pretty surprised by the difficulty of the hike, which climbed 3,000 feet in 4.2 miles. It was a great hike and even included some snowy passages; it seemed much more like Colorado than Texas.

The main campsite is nothing more than a parking lot, but it’s cheap at $8/night and many of the major trail heads were just outside our door. It also provides for some good socializing because you can’t get away from anyone! We’ve also learned that many people are taking the same westwardly route as us, and we saw at least three groups who we also ran into at Big Bend. One afternoon seven of us met up for coffee and hung out for a few hours as the sunset. It was fun to trade stories, meet new friends and get tips on what to see next. To the west we go!

Here are some of our hiking videos:

 

and some more pictures:

Taking in the sunset in our backcountry site, Paint Gap 1

Taking in the sunset in our backcountry site, Paint Gap 1

View from the South Rim in Big Bend National Park

View from the South Rim in Big Bend National Park


All around Marfa!

It’s time to start the projects! We bought this 1966 20ft Airstream Globetrotter about a month ago, so it’s time to get going. We’re starting by gutting the interior before we start rebuilding.

 

Thanks to the team at Personal Capital for putting together this interesting infographic on some of the 2016 Presidential candidate’s net worth. This is about as close as I’ll come to discussing politics on my blog and this is no indication of which way I’ll vote, but I can see why Bernie Sanders wants a more socialized system in the US now! Compared to the other candidates, he’s at the poverty line of potential presidents! However, I did some more research and his estimated net worth is higher than Marco Rubio and Scott Walker.

You can find some more candidate net worth information on USA Today.

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Let’s face it, school doesn’t do the best job of setting us up for success in life.  I’m not mad or blaming anyone, but if you’re expecting to succeed based only on what you learn in K-12, or even add in college, don’t expect Bill Gates to call anytime soon.

After I started working at Accenture, these things became readily apparent.  Gone were the days that “being a good student” was enough for success.  My bosses didn’t pass down assignments with clear rules and most of the time even if I did have direction it was quite unclear!  After I read Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto, I was relieved that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.

Gatto says it’s a quasi-conspiracy because the powers that be want to keep us working class people in line.  I don’t quite believe that far yet (who knows, as I continue to grow my hair longer and wear more tie-die, I may move more that direction), but I do believe there are a lot of real world things school does a horrible job of teaching.

Anyway, enough talk, here are the five things I never learned in school:

1. How to Assess Myself
2. Take Action
3. Question Authority
4. Manage Money
5. That I’m More Than a Consumer

1. How to Assess Myself

No, I’m not talking about the kind of assessing of myself that I do after a long hike during tick season (too far?), I’m talking about determining if the work I do every day is really worth a damn.  School teaches us to be dependent on constant feedback and grading from our teachers to assess how well we’ve done; we never get the chance to grade ourselves.

Continue Reading…

If you get a chance, check out my guest post on my wife’s blog (Revealing World) on our scary encounter with a gate agent! Click here to read it

From the post:

As we approached the queue to the airline counter, we waited to see which of the 15 agents we’d receive. There she was, a middle aged woman no different than any of the others we’d previously worked with. She took our passport before uttering the phrase that was now foreign to us – “where is your proof of onward travel?” Just as we’d rehearsed, I pulled out my printed off itinerary and handed it over to her, expecting a quick glance over and then our boarding passes in return.

Click to read the whole post