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Rafting, camping, Jeep and ATV tours, the great outdoors, and a luxurious resort. Which one of these doesn’t come to mind when you think of a national park? Well, in Big Bend National Park, along the Rio Grande at the Texas/Mexico border, all of them should and do come to mind.

Our travels took us to Terlingua, Texas, situated just outside of Big Bend National Park, to attend the annual meeting of Adventure Gateway, a consortium of the nation’s best rafting outfitters. This year’s meeting was hosted by Far Flung Outdoor Center, the premier adventure tour operator in Big Bend. After an indoctrination and brief safety talk, we set off for three days of rafting down the Wild and Scenic Rio Grande. Although a bit muddy due to a Pacific coast hurricane days earlier, the scenery and flora of the area were beyond compare. Truly in a canyon surrounded by the craggy rocks and southwestern foliage of Texas on one side and the unspoiled, incomparable beauty of Mexico on the other side, the Rio Grande lived up to its name.

Nights and mornings on the river included rustic camping along the shoreline, gourmet dinners prepared by the interesting and entertaining river guides, rousing games of horseshoes, stunning sunrises over a cup of campfire coffee, and the enjoyable company of like-minded outdoorsmen (and women).

Once back in Terlingua, Far Flung gave us a taste of their Jeep and ATV tour options, with a visit to an abandoned mercury mine and many stops along the way to point out the unique landscape and flora of the area. We also got a chance to explore Terlingua proper, with visits to the Starlight Theatre, a renovated 1930s movie theater serving up creative Tex/Mex cuisine, as well as Kathy’s Kosmic Kowgirl Kafe, a kitschy walk-up window that serves the most eclectic breakfast and lunch ‘West of the Pecos.’

While in Terlingua, we stayed at the incredibly posh, yet rustic, Lajitas Resort. With rugged luxury in an Old West setting, Lajitas has 103 rooms ranging from cowboy chic to elegant Western--with all of the modern amenities discriminating travelers demand, as well as golf, spa facilities, dining, entertainment, and shopping. With the sunsets of Big Bend National Park as the backdrop, it sure makes for a nice base after a day in the outdoors.