Texas: Where the Life of Adventures Began

The Texas Story Project.

Imagine being able to set up a campsite 100 meters from your house whenever you wanted. My good friend, Daniel John, was born in Abu Dhabi and moved to the state of Texas when he was just 3 years old. For as long as I’ve known him and his family, I always thought of them as the family of spontaneity and adventure; qualities that, sometimes, may steer a situation into a moment of panic. Daniel, who is not an exception to this, as a result has been on countless adventures all over the state of Texas with family and friends. From well-known parks like Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas, to more hidden sites like Hamilton Pool Reserve a little west of Austin, Daniel has made it his mission to never say no to an adventure.

One question I had asked him was if he remembers what sparked his interest in the outdoors and nature. He said that there was not one moment where he realized that he enjoyed it so much, but that at a young age he was always finding new places that were fun, and naturally was always looking for something else exciting to do. He believes his first home in San Antonio was the perfect place to do exactly that. He went on night adventures near his house and would sometimes even set up campsites to stay overnight. He recalled always taking trips to Guadalupe River, and staying there until dark to be able to see a night sky full of stars with his family and friends. These are some of the fondest memories of his childhood, and he is so happy that Texas has places like that to have experiences he can look back and reminisce about.

When he got older and started high school, he joined ROTC, where he met many of his closest friends, who fortunately also shared his love for adventure. They were always challenging each other and pushing each other to go one step further and surpass the others. At the end of his senior year in high school, he and his friends decided to go on a senior trip to Big Bend National Park, where he would have never thought to have an experience that would be engrained in his mind forever.

The first to arrive at the site, Danny and his friend, Luke had time to kill. They caught glimpse of a mountain in the distance that, from where they were standing, seemed easy to climb. Thinking that it shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes, they challenged each other to see who could reach the top of the mountain first. Each on their own paths to the top of the mountain encountered brush filled with thorns, but both just wanting to beat each other bore being scratched up. 15 minutes passed, and they were still in the brush. They met up at one spot and made it through the brush together, and finally reached the part of the mountain where they thought it'd be much easier. They began climbing on their own paths again, unaware that the rocks were loose in their positions and could’ve easily been knocked out. 

After making it past that obstacle, they reached the middle of the mountain exhausted, and noticed that one path to the top led to more brush while the other path was more clear with much less brush. Luke decided to take the path of the hard brush, and Daniel chose the other. Daniel passed through the little amount of brush on his path, but hit a vertical cliff about 20 feet from his destination. His mind determined to beat his competitor, Daniel went for the climb, but after about 8 feet, realized the rocks were loosening. He was too high up now to go back down, so he continued the dangerous climb to the top, and at 12 feet up now faced a bulge before the last 5 easy feet.

Not able to wrap his arms around the bulge to grip the rocks, he was stuck in his position. Losing strength to keep himself up, he desperately looked for a solution and called out to Luke. His friend was still making his way to the top. He looked down to see if he could find a place to safely land if he jumped off, but was unsuccessful, because the path he took was too steep. With so many emotions running through his mind, he called out for Luke again, and having made it to the top now, Luke followed the voice. From his point of view, all he could see is Daniel’s hand but not his body, because of the size of the bulge. Neither of them being able to see each other, Luke pointed out that there was a grip about 4 inches higher. He tried as hard as he could to reach it, readjusting his body and stretching his arms, but it was out of reach. His options now were to call for help or just jump for it. Both were risky, because they didn’t know how long it would take for help to reach them, and jumping for it is only a small chance of grabbing the rock. In the end, Daniel decided that he had to jump, because waiting for help was too long and he was already losing his grip. Shaking with fear, he started praying repeatedly that he’d grab it. In an instant of fear for his life, he jumped and grabbed the rock and pulled himself up. Overcome with joy and relief that he made it, he took in the view from the top of the mountain which, after what had just happened, was unforgettable.

Today, he is grateful that he has that experience to look back on in the future and remember the day he almost died and all the crazy adventures he went on back in the day. Having been to more than 20 nature sites in Texas, in comparison to other states, he thinks Texas has the most variety and contrast in terrain and landscapes. No matter where his life takes him, he’ll always remember Texas as where his life of adventures began.

Gabriela Ruban is currently attending St. Mary’s University as a sophomore majoring in Bioinformatics and minoring in Computer Science. She was born in Chennai, Tamilnadu in India, but moved to San Antonio, Texas when she was 2 years old. She aspires to go to graduate school, and become a biomedical engineer. If she’s not studying, you’ll probably find her watching a documentary on ocean wildlife or astronomy.

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