The month of December can be a special one indeed. Autumn often comes late to the lower elevations and when the rains come just right, the scenery can be breathtaking.

Some might think this was taken somewhere along the river. But in fact the location is Tornillo Creek, at the spot where Big Yellow Arroyo empties in. If you look closely, you can see Pulliam Peak on the horizon, better than twelve miles away as the crow flies.

The trees had already turned to their multi-hues of amber and gold inside the creek, but the grass was still green and water was running from one crystal clear pond to another. Others had been circumvented by the flow and algae lined both sides, where those resulting greens and yellows mixed with the whitish crusts of calcium deposits.

Tracks of wildlife abounded and predators were in high numbers, including the big cat. Chief among the prints were those of a very large black bear, at least large for this area. I think I have seen this one before, a rangy big boned animal with tall shoulders, quite different from his chubby pot-bellied cousins back east.

He roams this side of the Tornillo Basin and has evidently made this part his home stomping grounds, at least for now. Desert born and bred, the bruin is a sight to behold as he ambles along with a special sort of Big Bend swagger.

In the past I have been asked why I am going a certain direction, especially to little known locales such as this. When I respond as to my general destination, they often get a quizzical expression on their face and exclaim “Why, there’s nothing out there!”

I usually just smile, saddle up my pack and gear, screw on my Stetson tight and stroll away; the proverbial crazy old coot who wanders an empty desert. But in this one day alone I found a lonely, likely forgotten grave, the main grazing for three horses running wild, two line camps for ranches long gone, abandoned piles of worked creek gravel, some trails, the remnants of a good-sized road once suitable for truck traffic, middens, metates and a hundred sights of nature worthy to stop, stare and sigh over.

And at the end of the day and with the sun already setting, I return to my starting point and think about the well meaning soul who said there was nothing out here.

Friend, if you only knew…

God bless to all and a Happy New Year,

Ben H. English
Alpine, Texas
USMC: 1976-1983
THP: 1986-2008
HS Teacher: 2008-2010
Author 2017-Present
Facebook: Ben H. English
‘Graying but still game’