Last weekend, NS & I had planned to take a road trip out west. We planned to drive the 8-hours to Big Bend National Park in the Chihuahuan Desert, which is – crazily enough – still in Texas (this state is HUGE). Taking advantage of the 3-day weekend, we’d drive late into the night on Friday, wake up and explore the park until Sunday, then drive to the tiny, artsy town of Marfa for another night before the long trip home.
In preparation for this Western adventure, we did nothing. Well, we did borrow a tent. And I’ve got hiking boots. But we did nothing else and own no camping equipment. I thought we’d wing it. I asked a guy at our local stand-up-paddle board place the day before our departure if he’d ever been to Big Bend. He said, “Yea, a couple times – but you better be strapped to make that drive” i.e. you better have a gun. I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but what do I know? That same afternoon, we got a flat tire. Needless to say, our Big Bend excursion didn’t happen last weekend.
So we settled for another adventure, to a place called Enchanted Rock. Enchanted Rock State Park is only 90 minutes from Austin, so we made it a day trip. That morning, we were jolted awake by the longest burst of thunder I’ve ever heard in my life. It probably woke up every living being in the city – and shook our building, too. We went anyway – with friends who were crazy enough to join in such conditions – and as we drove west, the skies cleared to a gorgeous, cloudless spring day.
With an elevation of 1,825 feet above sea level, the oblong pink piece of granite that is Enchanted Rock rises just 425 feet above the surrounding land. But in a flat(ish) area, that’s nothing to balk at. And it’s more the immense size of the rock than the height that makes an impression. The rock itself covers 640 acres and – incredibly – is just a tiny part of what continues below the earth’s surface, which is about 4 times the size of Manhattan.
Climbing to the top of Enchanted Rock took us about 30 leisurely minutes, some sections steeper than others. At the top was a large plateau where we discovered pockets of lush, green oases growing in the crevices of this stark, exposed environment. Smaller crevices had tide pools of rainwater – which may someday become little oases of their own. Life finds a way. It’s these tide pools that gave Enchanted Rock it’s name; apparently, in the moonlight, they give the impression that the rock is glowing.
We took in the skyline of Texas’ low brush and a few rock formations jutting from it; then squeezed – all 4 of us – in the shade under one of the few scraggly tree bushes on the face of the rock for our picnic lunch. Italian cold cut sandwiches, oranges, black bean hummus, and plenty of water were all the fuel we needed to make it back down, this time exploring a new route with lots of boulders that had broken off from the mother rock. The mother of all rocks, really.
I’ll probably never be impressed by another single rock. Unless it’s, say, 5 times the size of Manhattan – even if I can only imagine what it looks like beneath the earth’s surface. If I never go back to Enchanted Rock, that’s okay with me – but it’s certainly worth a trip from Austin. And I’m still dreaming of what it looks like in the moonlight…