BIG BEND National Park can be intimidating. Countless photographs behold the region’s undeniable grandeur, its spectacular amalgam of desert, mountain, river, and sky. But the images also convey vast emptiness—16th-century Spanish explorers dubbed this territory el despoblado, “the uninhabited.” And those scenic photos often overlook the granular details, where scorpions, thorns, snakes, sunburns, and blisters reside. So it’s understandable when the uninitiated knit their brows at the thought of Big Bend, weighing a vacation experience against fears of a survival exercise in the Chihuahuan Desert borderlands.
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