Deserted Salvation

After a few hours of sleep on the first night we stayed in Terlingua, TX, Kyle Brent and I woke up at 0530 and drove into Big Bend National Park. When we arrived into Terlingua the day prior I saw Santa Elana Canyon in the distance and said, "What the F*CK is that".

Keeping my brain shut off as much as possible during this trip, and one of the many reasons I only shot 35mm film, I had no clue this big Thor like hatchet carved canyon in the distance was the location of the day.

As we get into the park in Kyle's Prius, he says "there's a scenic road, wanna take that?" Brent and I half awake respond with, heck yeah. So we go down this road that no Prius should ever go down, but we make it work nonetheless. About halfway down the yellow brick road... I look over at Kyle and quietly say, "I have to get that" so we get out in dusk light with a small color gradient slowly rising with the sun. I grab my Feisol tripod, put my Voigtlander Bessa R2A on it and Kyle and I run out into the desert from the road. "Kyle, stand still", he does and away I click a 1 second or so exposure with Santa Elena Canyon in the background that sent the tone for what the morning had in store.  

We get to the parking lot and prepare for the hike. Sunscreen applied, bandanas securely fastened, water supply in check, we head out into Santa Elena. The morning was still at a tolerable temperature with zero humidity which made it nice. Captain long legs (aka Kyle) was about 100 feet ahead of us and eager to get into the canyon before the sun was full blow up. Brent and I couldn't get away from this drop dead gorgeous intro into the canyon. We were stopped in our tracks and breathed it in. 

In the distance I hear, "hey, y'all coming" from Kyle as he's already stepped around the cracked candy flats to the ant filled sand hill we had to hands and feet crawl through to get to the bamboo forest and onto the concrete paved path into Santa Elena. It was like a damn children's board game irl.

We get through all that and slowly approach the canyon. The sun is up slightly and we approach the section of canyon where it's time to separate shoes from feet and slow trek it through the shallow waters. We do and walk as if we're in slow motion physically and mentally, soaking in the mesmerizing landscape we have just immersed ourselves into.

It was spiritual. It was quiet. It changed me.

We continue into the canyon and work up a sweat. The only sound we hear is the sloshing of our feet and the angelic sound of birds singing to us directly. I liked to imagine they were in place to serenade us specifically, but that's just wacky, but probably true....

Kyle, Brent and I find a wonderful little beach about 2/3rds of the way in and set our gear down, get birthday suit status, and proceed to immerse ourselves in the Rio Grande to cool off and soak in everything that was happening around us. It was a meditative pure world separation moment that put me into a universal mindset. I felt as if I was a part of all God's creation, in unison with it. I got emotional.

Personal Note:  

I believe it's difficult for privileged society to find God's truth in today's rat race. 

It's not because he isn't there, it's because we've made him so easy to overlook. Similarly to how light pollution blocks the beauty of the Milky Way, so do we block truth with digital noise, new purchases, always being reactionary, lacking introspection and self awareness. 

Separate from society and position yourself in a place of seclusion from human life and be filled with deserted nature. God is waiting. Calling for you to experience the true him. You may not accept God as a creator but you will experience something you may not be able to define, yet.

For me, this was life changing and the first time in my 35 years that I can say I experienced God in this way. It was life changing. 

We spend about 30 minutes in silence and soaking up pure serenity. Make our way back into our gear and continue up the canyon. At this point the soft sandy gravel we'd been walking on started turning into large pebbles and stones that killed our feet. After walking through pure pain about a quarter of a mile, we turned around and head back for the car. Still unwilling to let it all go, we climb up to a cliff peak and watch as the desert death rays slowly overtook the canyon. 

Here's a 35mm representation of what I experienced.


  • Voigtlander Bessa R2A
  • Fujifilm Superia 400
  • Zeiss ZM 35mm f/2.8
  • Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend, TX