Monahans Sandhills State Park - Monahans, TX

The drive from Oregon right up to the border of Texas is a sea of public land. Boundless space to stop, explore, camp, and exist without constraint. But once you're in Texas, space is privatized and stopping is always part of some transaction, some purpose. The extent of free camping is a truck-stop parking lot. It's a petroleum driven state of air conditioned boxes, no concept of getting out and walking around. 

Normally I cross the remaining 10+ hours of travel across Texas in one go: camping someplace in New Mexico, waking up before dawn, and making a mad dash to Austin in a final sprint. In an effort to split that final leg I caved and paid for a camping spot in one of the few and tiny state parks across Texas.

This style of Texas camping was my entire impression of "camping" until leaving the state during college. You arrive at the state park, pay $20, pull into your allotted parking spot between other cars, and prop up your tent next to a picnic table. Tailgate camping. I hadn't done it since high school and I'm amazed at how insignificant these parks feel after living out west. If you're lucky the park will have one or two miles of trails to explore; venturing off trail will quickly lead you right into a fence or road. 

Monahans Sandhills State Park sits on a small corner of an expanse of impressive sand dunes far out in the middle of the Permian Basin, what's now the most active oil field in the world. There's an oil derrick in the picnic area. Climb to the top of a dune and the hum and lights of fracking rigs exists in every direction. The dunes surrounding the park are actively being bought, sold, and hauled off for injection into fracking wells. This is Texas. 

I pulled in as the sun was setting to the west and an intense but isolated storm cell was boiling to the east, the dunes bracketed right in the middle. Heavy wind was rushing over the dunes from the west, playing patterns in the sand, pulling up dust and slamming upward into the storm's downpour, inverting the sheets of rain (now blended with sand backlit from the setting sun) into a big vertical churning meteorological drama. It was an incredible scene. 

And adding to the intensity and a reminder of where I was, there was this guy: