When daily life gets too crazy, Texans often head to the Big Bend to commune with coyotes and dance in the dust. Paradoxically, we find that a few days without bathing can actually be cleansing. Our impulse to go west is not a new one, as is reflected in this century-old photo of visitors posing in the Rio Grande at the mouth of Santa Elena Canyon. The 8-mile canyon, which at times narrows to 25 feet under 1,500-foot limestone walls, remains one of the most popular destinations in Big Bend National Park. Thomas V. Skaggs, a merchant in nearby Lajitas who took this photo, didn’t record the names of his subjects. But we know Skaggs lived in the region from about 1916-26, years before this part of the Chihuahuan Desert became Big Bend National Park in 1944.
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