Bike, hike and paddle
By Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) - 05/21/15 07:00 AM EDT As first published in The Hill
I went to confirm there is indeed “a place in Far West Texas where night skies are dark as coal and rivers carve temple-like canyons in ancient limestone.” It’s a place where you can bike, hike or paddle. How do I know? I’ve experienced it firsthand.
A seven foot set of jaws from a crocodile-like dinosaur along with 1,199 other kinds of fossils were found here. You can find 1,300 unique species of plants, 3,600 species of insects, 450 species of birds, 75 species of mammals, 56 species of reptiles and 40 species of fish in this one-of-a-kind location. Its name – Big Bend National Park.
Big Bend was named after the large curve in the Rio Grande River where it’s located and in a word, it is majestic. I could try to describe to you what it was like to stare at Emory peak towering over 7,800 feet, but I don’t think the right words have been created to perform such a task. I could attempt to explain what it felt like to peer down over 1,000 feet into the Santa Elena Canyon, but I wouldn’t do the experience justice. To believe it you must experience it.
My time as an undercover officer in the CIA took me to some pretty exotic places. I saw some amazing things while I was in Southeast Asia, but nothing quite like this remarkable National Park. Big Bend is one of the largest and most diverse national parks in the country and worth the journey to get there.
You don’t have to be a birder, leaf peeper or experienced hiker to enjoy the park. You don’t have to know how to camp or cook over an open fire because the park has a motel and restaurant (cross your fingers that they will make the Italian Bean soup when you are there). You will be inspired, awed and refreshed in a way you never thought possible.
If you can’t make it to Big Bend, the good news is that there are six other National Parks in the 23rd Congressional District of Texas you can visit, including the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, the Fort Davis National Historic Site, the Rio Grand Wild and Scenic River, Amistad National Recreation Area, and the El Camino Real de Los Tejas National Historic Trail.
If you can’t make it to west Texas then find your own park. There are more than 400 National Parks that can be found in National Heritage areas, along historic trails and waterways, and in almost every neighborhood.
National Parks are a part of the American experience. They evoke memories of childhood vacations and pride in the beauty of our national landscapes. They are also reminders that if these parks are to remain beautiful and accessible, we have a responsibility as a nation to maintain and protect them.
The National Park Service will be observing its 100th birthday in 2016 and they are celebrating this Centennial by encouraging you to “Find Your Park.” Celebrate with them by returning to a familiar haven or exploring a park you’ve never before visited. Enjoy and reconnect with the shared heritage unique to these remarkable destinations.
Hurd has represented Texas’ 23rd Congressional District since 2015. He sits on the Homeland Security Committee and is chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s subcommittee on Information technology. He is a former undercover CIA officer, entrepreneur and cybersecurity expert.