Chihuahuan Sea / Big Bend National Park, Texas
Part of what makes the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend so remarkable is that they maintain a literal fossil ecosystem, the last remnant left of a glacial forest that stretched across the whole region during the last stretch of ice age, over 10,000 years ago. A unique subspecies of whitetail deer inhabits the mountains, unable to survive in the surrounding desert, while bears, mountain lions, and javelinas are also present. The mountains are an essential habitat for Peregrine falcons, as well as a whole host of other birds. In short, the Chisos are a veritable Lost World. Standing there, high up on the South Rim cliffs, gazing at the last of the sun's glow over the mountain-ripples of the waterless Chihuahuan sea, and thinking of all of the life held afloat by these igneous cloud-islands, I felt it. I was struck by the mountains' purposeless benevolence, a gift from no one to anyone, and I felt truly thankful for the universal coin-toss that determined whether there would be nothing or everything.
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