The Hidden Gem that is Pine Canyon
SOMEWHERE IN THE LOWER BIG BEND:
Of all the hidden gems in near plain sight throughout this vast desert landscape is Pine Canyon, tucked in the northeastern high slopes of the Chisos range. Though possessing a good high clearance road and park maintained trail for access, few come to enjoy this particular spot.
Perhaps because so many are headed down to the river camp sites through Glenn Spring, or have their minds set on other, better known locales. But truth is Pine Canyon offers some of the finest, most varied desert mountain views and experiences to be found for those who venture forth.
You start up the turn off from Glenn Spring Road, climbing steadily as you proceed. To your south sits Hayes Ridge and Juniper Canyon, fronted by sheer bluffs a hundred feet high that your vehicle creeps along the bottoms of. To your north sits Rock Spring, along with a near-gone wagon track once connecting with the present day trailhead.
Both sides are dotted with sites and spots of ancient man, and of past cultures far more recent. Each in turn exemplifies what is offered in terms of the basic needs of survival, as well as thrive in when these resources are properly husbanded.
One looks to both left and right near constantly, somewhat taken aback by the impressiveness of the ever changing scenery.
Once at the trailhead, you disembark and saddle up for your prowl. Up Pine Canyon Trail you go, still at a climb almost every step of the way. As the walls close in and the canyon narrows, the going becomes steeper and less forgiving of a misplaced step. Your breathing becomes faster and more ragged, and your muscles begin to ache under the load of pack and gear.
Yet all around are sights and sounds that dissolve the temporary physical discomfort, and send your spirit soaring higher than any mountain peak around. There are brightly colored butterflies and bees and other insects, and birds of every description calling out to your passing. The greenery is stunning, contrasted by the dramatically displayed earth tones of solid rock.
The last half mile is the toughest, steep enough to send one for a bad spill if not careful. You climb up an unsteady path lined by Texas Madrone trees, so rare or non-existent everyplace else but thick enough here to form canopies overhead of their oddly colored branches.
Finally you come to this, pictured in the accompanying photograph. Your trail ends here, as there is basically no way further unless one has wings. Pour offs above converge into the head of the canyon, and when it rains water tumbles in with tremendous force from those various points situated high above you.
The total impression is of awe and wonderment, and of scenery all around that no lens of any camera could ever hope to capture.
God bless to all,
Ben H. English
HS Teacher: 2008-2010
‘Graying but still game’