Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Dune at Boquillas Canyon

I confess that there's not much to Boquillas Canyon. On foot, you don't get much of a view, because the river turns sharply 40 yards past the canyon mouth. It's nothing like Santa Elena, and there's frankly not much to do or really anywhere to go.

I vaguely recall being underwhelmed 25 years ago, although it might have been the weather then which was a lot hotter than this time. But there was, I recalled, a huge sand dune between the American shore and the rock wall behind, and I looked forward to climbing it again. But when we rounded the last turn on the path, there was no dune to be seen. Well, there was a pile of sand blown up against the rock wall but not the dune of my memories.

We walked down the path until it stopped at the entrance to the canyon. We found a spot to sit in the shade under a tree by the water's edge. And then Trudy and Ben spotted a rock in the river.

The two of them rolled up their pants and waded out to the rock and sat down with the Cretaceous wall of Mexico as a backdrop behind them. I took photos from the American side. When they waded back, I suggested to Ben that he climb that hill of sand and investigate the small cave at the top. It was not the dune that I had told him about ... but still.

A wind blew up just then and kicked the sand along the river into our faces. A cloud of yellow dust surrounded us and drifted in the direction of the rock wall behind us. We had to hold on to our hats, and I had to cover the camera until it stopped. Ben set off barefoot in the direction of the sand. I started taking pictures of him as he made his way.

At the foot of the hill, he stopped to reconnoiter. The sand was to his right, blazing in the midday sun. A tumble of boulders was to his left. He started up the sand but quickly changed his mind. Evidently the sand was hotter than his feet could bare, which is saying something. He began scrambling over the five-foot boulders heading to the top of the dune.

As I followed him thru the viewfinder, I realized I had misjudged the distance, and the hill was much larger than I had thought. He was dwarfed by it, and the cave at the top was clearly going to be a bigger destination than it originally seemed.

Yes, this was the dune I had remembered. It had just shifted a bit in the twenty-five years since I had stood here last. I guess sand dunes have a habit of doing that, don't they?

Big Bend National Park

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