A little over a year ago, we had planned a trip to Chinati Hots Springs, an exit in West Texas near Big Bend National Park, where we planned to relax with our furry friends in a cozy brick cabin with its own hot spring pool. Sounds pretty nice, doesn’t it? The thing was that an emerging pandemic, about which we were just beginning to hear news, as a handful of cases were just beginning to happen around the states.
I picked up Melissa from the school where she works, with our two senior rescue dogs, Lulu Bell and Stevie Ray, in the back seat of our old truck, and left. We traveled about four hours from Austin to Llano River State Park near Junction, Texas, where we planned to spend the night in our truck tent perched above the level of the snake in the pickup bed with the two dogs. Not quite halfway, we planned to start early the next morning and reach the border town of Presidio, from where we would reach a series of winding gravel roads to distant hot springs. When we arrived at the campsite late that evening, closed signs on the bathroom doors greeted us with a “Disinfection in Process” sign. It was just the tip of the iceberg, and no one knew that in a few months the death toll in the United States would exceed half a million.
Melissa walks Stevie and Lulu down a small river to the Chinati hot springs
We settled into our tent, buzzing with the news we had heard on the radio. As we tried to fall asleep, we could hear other campers talking about the virus and its perceptions of it. “It’s a scam, I just saw this video about it,” we heard an angry camper. “They are trying to take away our freedoms,” his friend said. At the other end of the spectrum, at the campsite just to our left, we heard a mother scolding her children for not using hand sanitizer after touching playground equipment. Should we take a trip right now? we asked ourselves. We were engaged months before and there was no refund for cancellation so late. We agreed to keep to ourselves, to eat only the food we had brought with us, and to spend our time away from everyone as much as we could, and to disguise ourselves when we could not.
We woke up early the next morning, disturbed by a large herd of exotic fallow deer lying by our campsite. The herd of deer let out a loud snort and murmur, signaling their disapproval of our early rise. Our two older dogs, Stevie Ray, a 10-year-old mix of border collie / Australian mix, and Lulu Bell, a 15-year-old mix of blue heels, wanted to talk about deer, but we quickly silenced them and rolled up the truck’s windows to keep from getting in the way. of the other campers. We walked out of Llano River State Park and then headed straight west on IH-10, making just one stop in Fort Stockton, Texas, to get gas and enough food to last us a week.
Walmart, not my first choice, turned out to be our best bet for safe shopping, as the store was (unfortunately for human workers) fully equipped with self-checking registers. The world was just beginning to turn strange. A group of people were pushing a number of food carts, all packed with bleach, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper. Did people lose their minds? We couldn’t wait to go out into the desert and get out, but there would be no cell phone signal, no internet, and not even an FM radio signal. What would things look like in a week when we get home? All we could do was hope that people would stay on their heads and be kind to their neighbors.
We traveled to the secluded hot springs located at the foot of the Chinati Mountains in the Chihuahua Desert late this afternoon. Despite all the madness that was happening around the world, we still managed to make a good trip and make some new memories there in the desert with our furry friends. The post that follows will include some night photos we took in the desert, along with a description of this beautiful place from the beaten path.
I mention how the pandemic was just beginning to develop, not to ruin anyone’s mood, but to explain why our new travel blog starts with posts from past trips before resuming its progress. Our story aims to be a cheerful, light-hearted story of two people named Troy and Melissa, their two senior rescue dogs, and the voyages they hope to make from now on, as well as several publications about our past research.
To ignore the elephant in the room and pretend that everything is fine and that we continue to travel as usual in the last year would be disrespectful to each of those half a million plus people who have already died, as well as a deaf tone. for all those whose livelihood has suffered to such an extent that travel is no longer an impossible luxury.
This is our first blog post on what we hope will be much more. Thank you for joining us. We look forward to sharing more of our travels with you as things hopefully begin to return to normal or the “new normal,” as some call it, whatever that means.