An excursion into the heart of Big Bend is a journey into savage beauty. Scaling mountainous terrain, traversing miles of aired desert and enduring near-freezing nights while remaining cognitive of potential predators is a freedom to enjoy beauty purchased by technology and civilization. I knew, for example, that even when lost in the desert, I could follow my GPS and map to safety: I took minor risks along a number of precipices because I was shod in the finest Red Wing footwear money could buy: I warded off thirst with pure distilled water from my canteen and back-up water stocked in my automobile: at my disposal was the warning crack of a well-crafted, 18-foot leather whip (and other, unnamed protections): At nights I could whip out my Fold-N-Go camp stove, boil water and relax with a hot meal and coffee.
If the modern visitor had to find and prepare food (never mind storing it) in such a place as Big Bend, the visit would be something else entirely. If shelter, clothing, transportation and personal safety were the primary concern—instead of hiking and photography—I doubt many of my contemporary Americans would thrive for long.
In short, the obstacles of Big Bend are mitigated by things we can obtain without much effort. It is all the more impressive, then, to contemplate that Big Bend was home to people for whom survival was a daily effort in overcoming savagery. These people lived off the land and survived by their wits long before modern conveniences and technology. Evidence of this is found throughout the park—and not just in Indian rock art.
The photograph above is the evidence that they left behind. It is a rock mortar that Indians used for hand-grinding (milling) any number of things we take for granted, such as food or medicinal powders. There were several of these within the shadows of the Chimneys (my nearby fedora is provided as a source for scale).
The original image is a Tagged Image Format File (TIFF) with a file data size of 35.1 megabytes (MB).
For display on this web site the TIFF was duplicated and the duplicate re-formatted as a Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPG/JPEG) image with a file data size of 14 MB. To approximate detail visible at the time of capture the image was sharpened as necessary and resampled via the Photoshop Bicubic Sharpen algorithm. The re-sampling increases the image resolution from 300 Dots Per Square Inch (DPI) to 360 DPI.
Unless otherwise noted the image was corrected to offset color shift and balance. This restores black (shadows), white (highlights) and neutral gray (neutral mid-tones).
• An unnumbered image is the only one of the subject matter.
• A number corresponds to the sequential order in a subject-matter-related sequence.
• The letter “B” indicates color correction to approximate what was visible when the image was captured.
• The letter “C” indicates enhancement beyond an approximation of what was visible at the time of capture.