If we'd had some trepidation about getting on a horse for the first time in decades, our guide Janelle of Lajitas Stables put all fears to rest. She put us all on horses that were surefooted and responsive to the reins, and as thoroughly inspiring of confidence as Janelle herself. A California native, she'd worked with horses for many years, including a stint in England. Now in Texas for six years, and obviously completely in her element here, we knew we were in good hands.
We headed UP the mountain above the stable headquarters on the River Road, Hwy 170, just west of Lajitas. The trail was rocky and rough, and we imagine people from other centuries--native Americans, soldiers, settlers, cowboys--moving through this landscape on horseback. The sky was clear, the day lovely even as the temperature rose. Our leisurely pace allowed us to see cactus close up, and listen to the breeze rush through the desert grasses.
Before we knew it, we were on top of the mountain, and the rest of the world seemed far, far away. No more car noise, no airplanes above. All we could hear seemed timeless...our horses climbing, the wind, our own hushed conversations. As we continued up through Big Bend Ranch State Park, we eventually saw the Rio Grande down below us, a lovely ribbon of green cutting through the mountains.