Ka-bloomBig Bend National Park, Texas

Big Bend cactus sketches by Chandler O'Leary

The Tailor and I visited Big Bend in mid-April, our best chance to catch the cacti in bloom. When we got there, a park ranger warned us not to get our hopes up. He told us they’d been experiencing a record drought—the park had only received about three inches of rain, total, over the past two years.

And then, that night, the wind picked up and the skies opened.

It absolutely poured on our tiny two-man tent (which miraculously stayed dry). Half an inch in four hours. Now, if you live in a naturally stormy place, you’re probably thinking, “That’s nothing!” But in the Chihuahuan Desert, after a prolonged drought, that storm gave us just cause to worry about washed-out roads and flash flooding.

The next morning, we thought our best reward might be cooler temperatures—until we went on a hike, and discovered what was waiting for us:

Big Bend cacti sketch by Chandler O'Leary

These guys wasted absolutely no time. Nearly every plant in the park went from zero to peak bloom in just a few short hours. I have never seen anything like it.

That day the phrase “painted desert” had a whole new meaning.

Big Bend cacti sketch by Chandler O'Leary

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