Picture of scenic overlook of desert landscape.

Legends of Texas come alive along this wild frontier

On desert borderlands, Big Bend National Park is rugged, remote—and full of surprises.

Daylight at the crest of Big Bend’s 12.5-mile South Rim Trail offers a sweeping view of northern Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert. Created in 1944, the national park comprises more than 800,000 acres and is bordered by the Rio Grande.

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The black bear and her two small cubs were foraging in a dense woodland of mesquites, junipers, and Texas madrones when I encountered them some 20 yards off to my right. The mother bear stopped but did not rear up. No doubt she had heard me coming. She looked me over. I was her inferior in every way that counted at this moment.

I was hiking alone that October morning on the 12.5-mile-long South Rim Trail in Big Bend National Park in West Texas. I’d arrived at the park just after dawn, escorted by jackrabbits and roadrunners along the highway, and for the first two hours of steady ascent the only signs of life had been butterflies, a couple of bright yellow Scott’s orioles, and a backpacker who was just returning from a solo campout.

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