Big Bend National Park

9/25/2016, Big Bend NP, Texas

Sunday – Into the park

After a stormy night in Marathon, Tx, I headed down Hwy 385 for the last 75 miles into Big Bend NP.  It was a cool, foggy and drizzling day with turkey vultures hunched over on practically every other fencepost.

I was stopped just outside the park by a border patrol checkpoint – the second one so far this trip.  Like the last one, a dog circled my car and the trailer and then I was sent on my way.

The rain has brought out the sweet smell of the desert – the aroma comes from the creosote bush when it’s wet.  I could imagine the desert relaxing and opening up to receive the rain; since this is the rainy season, the desert is remarkably green.  I’m deep into the Chihuahuan desert now and I couldn’t be happier – seriously, I found myself humming to myself and grinning like a fool – I love this desert. 

the view from my campground

My plan had been to stay in the RV campground at the Rio Grande Village within the park so that I would have an electrical hookup and AC against the heat.  The other 2 campgrounds in the park offer only dry camping.  But, since the rain has dropped the temps significantly,  I decided to try the Chisos Basin campground instead – it’s at 5500’ in the Chisos mountains - so will be cooler than the two riverside campgrounds in any case.

This reminds me of Lord of the Rings!

Monday – 9/26

I’m living in a cloud – the Chisos Basin is completely socked in – windy with a constant mist.  I know I have rain pants – somewhere!  This is the first time in 3 weeks that I’ve been truly cool, so I’m not complaining about the weather.  The campground has been emptying since I got here yesterday afternoon.  Weekend campers going home and tenters escaping the rain.

I decide that this is a good time to clean the trailer.  I vacumn, dust and change the linens.  This afternoon I’ll do a driving tour to the biggest campground in the park – Rio Grande Village.  Maybe it’s not so rainy at the lower elevation.  In any case, I need propane, gas and ice.

Fay Wray doesn’t even get out from under the comforter until about noon.  A good day for her to sleep in too.  Yesterday, even though it was a short drive, was hard for her.  She ate too much in the morning and got car sick.

Down in the Rio Grande flood plain, the desert is more arid.

I expected the Rio Grande Village to be a bit more developed - but all I found for services was a small gas station/convenience store.  Everything was 2-3 times as expensive as outside the park.  But the wi-fi is free and not too bad.

All in all, a good day to hunker down in the trailer with a cup of tea and a good book.

Highway 90 West - a trip into the past of the Old West

9/24/2016; San Antonio to Marathon, Tx

A lot of straight road barely interupted with remarkably similar small towns.

My next planned stop is Big Bend National Park.  My last visit, in 1999, was cut short when my friend got heat exhaustion on a hike.  I've wanted to go back ever since.  But to get there, I have about 350 miles of Southwest Texas to drive - Texas is a really, really big state!

Highway 90 consists of miles and miles of road running alongside rail road tracks.  The railroad, crossing a large part of the southwest was completed in the late 1880's.  A bunch of small towns and, I presume, the highway, sprang up next to the tracks.  

The small towns seemed a lot alike.  South of the tracks and Hwy 90 I found the usual fast-food joints, gas stations and markets.  North of the tracks would be the historic downtown - buildings so old that I half expected to hear the sound of spurs as I strolled down the dusty sidewalks.

Between towns, I was kept company by circling turkey vultures and ravens.  I imagine they find a lot of fast food along the road too.

Amistad National Recreation Area.

Del Rio is right on the border with Mexico.  So, it makes sense that the Amistad Dam was a joint project between the US and Mexico.  The resulting reservoirs back up into 3 rivers: The Rio Grande arm extends up the river 78 miles, The Pecos River arm extends up the river 14 miles, The Devils River arm extends up the river 25 miles.

Total shoreline is 851 miles (compared with entire Texas coastline of 367 miles).

In the summer, when temperatures reach 100 degrees F, the reservoirs can lose 131 million gallons of water each day - amazing!

I stayed in an RV Park right across the road from the lake.  I enjoyed the swimming pool and on-site laundromat.

Langtry, Tx  -  Home of Judge Roy Bean

Traveling through Langtry, one can easily imagine life in the late 1800's.  The Chihuahuan desert seems timeless, even as I know that the landscape has been transformed (and not in a good way) by over-grazing and hunting. Still, the hills, the cactus, and the endless blue sky must be much the same as it was a hundred years ago.

Marathon, Tx

Marathon, Tx is where I will leave Hwy 90 and drop down into Big Bend National Park.  Marathon is quite small but very picturesque.  Lots of stucco and cactus.

Marathon RV Park and Motel, where I'm staying.

Marathon RV Park and motel

Outdoor cafe at the RV Park

Central courtyard

Marathon - the Gage Hotel has been here since 1887.

Outside patio at the hotel

The Gage Garden is open to the public and good for at least an hour.  In addition to the central garden, there are a couple paths out into the desert featuring native plants.

There were lots of small nooks with private seating as well as larger gazebos and areas that could serve to host weddings or other large groups.

Well, it would hardly be Texas if there wasn't a cow!

This is apparently the season for butterfly migrations in Texas - for 2 weeks, I've been surrounded by several different varieties of butterflies - thousands and thousands.  Sometimes while driving, it seemed like it was snowing from the number of butterflies in the air.  Today, these gardens were full of small yellow butterflies and larger black butterflies. 

Hard to imagine a world without Mom in it.

9/19/2016; San Antonio, Tx

Dec 13, 1919 - Aug 26, 2016

"When she is gone, there will be no one left who knows the whole of her life."  This quote, from a novel I was reading a month or so ago, resonated with me.  I knew that my Mom was approaching the end of her life and she was in my thoughts a lot.

Like many of her generation, Mom didn't share a lot of her feelings or her life - and as a child, I probably was too self-interested to ask.

With her death, there is no one left who knew my mother as a child, as a young woman, or a wife.  We have a few stories, but will remember mostly the mother, the grandmother, the great-grandmother.

1919 - Prohibition enacted, 48 states and Wyatt Earp

I know that my mom's father died when she was very young and when her mother remarried, my mom was sent away to a boarding school.  Knowing how timid my mother was, I imagine that this was very difficult for her.

I know she had a beautiful singing voice and, in college, would 'pitch hit' for other young women with less stellar voices when boys came to serenade them.  My mom would answer their songs from behind a curtain.

World traveler

Married to Dad, a petroleum geologist, ensured that we would travel quite a bit as my Dad was sent around the world to explore for oil.

They would live in Canada and Spain as well as many states in the US.  Each time, my Mom would be responsible for packing up the house and moving a family of 6 to a new house and making a new home for us.

My Dad's Girlfriend

Our Mom

Not much for winter sports, this may be the only picture I have of family at a ski lodge!

Near an oil rig in Canada

Some of my earliest memories are of spending summers at Lake Windemere in British Columbia.  We had a rustic cabin there, my Dad would work on it when he came for the weekends (staying at our house in Calgary during the work week).   The cabin had only a fireplace for heat, and cooking was over a wood stove.  When we first started spending summers there, we hauled water from a pump down the hill, and used an outhouse.

Lake Windemere, British Columbia

The riding stables at the Country Club in Madrid, Spain

Mom loved babies and children

Mom loved her grandchildren (4) and her great-grandchildren (7).  Here she is in Portland with her great-grand-daughter Anna.

Mom, on her 90th birthday.

Mom and my brother, Bob

Memorial Service at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio

Mom is interred with my Dad, the inscription will read "Together Forever"

More of South Llano River State Park

9/17/2016;  Junction Tx

For many years, this land was a working ranch.

In 1910, Walter Buck moved his family to the property for his son's health (the boy, suffering from tuberculosis, died a year later).  The Bucks stuck it out, raising sheep and goats.  The wild turkey have roosted over winter along the river for hundreds of years and undoubtedly augmented the families diet.  The family donated the ranch property to the state in the late 1970's.

There are signs of the old ranch, most notably in this barn.  Unlike most barns in the area, this structure was built initially as a barn. Most newcomers built shelters for themselves as their first buildings, turning them into barns and sheds as they upgraded their own dwellings.

You can still see initials that the sheep shearers carved into the wood.

The large eaves provided shade for the stock.

The fencing gets a hand from cactus - you don't need a really big fence when it's covered in cactus!!

The landscape along the river was green and treed; further away the trees were smaller, and there was more cactus.

A common site in this part of Texas is mistletoe growing in balls in many of the trees.

I saw more wildlife at this park than almost anywhere ever!

These might be Axis deer - I saw tons of them every day -  but they were hard to photograph.  I think since they are hunted, they've learned to be wary.

I saw lots of deer - but they were quite shy.

Jack Rabbit

One evening, quite late, I surprised two javelina (Collared Peccary) - but, since they are hunted too, they beat feet into the brush as soon as they saw me.  I got a picture of a very fuzzy grey blob as the last one disappeared into the brush.

The 9-banded armadillos were a lot easier to photograph.  They mostly ignored me and would browse up to within 5 or 6 feet of me.  They look like tiny armored tanks (or possums wearing a suit of armor).

 The End!

Ahhh . . . .Texas Hill Country!

9/13-17, 2016; Junction Tx

South Llano River State Park

I knew as I drove into this park that I would stay for a few days.  Over 500 acres along the river, this park has lots of trees and large sites.  

Northern Cardinals and Gold-cheeked Warblers!

There are a lot of trails - both for walking and biking.  Bird blinds dot the trails and even a newbie bird watcher like me can identify birds when they come and hang out at the blind!  The gold-cheeked warblers are apparently kind of rare - but they appear here frequently!  I only had my cell phone with me this evening and only got some photos of the Northern Cardinals - probably a dozen males and females at the bird blind.

Evening walks are the best!

I was surprised and happy to see this armadillo rustling his way through the underbrush.

Don't even have to leave my campsite to see the wild turkey - these guys joined me for breakfast.

A lovely place to spend a few days . . . .

Some days I should just stay in bed!

9/15/16, South Llano River SP, Texas

How many things can go wrong in one day? - lots!

So, this morning I needed something out of the storage area under the dinette - I poked my head in and found that the very large bag of cat kibble (oily kitty kibble) had come open and spilled about a gallon of it all over the storage area.  I had to empty almost half of the storage bin to get access to all the kibble.  Then I had to scoop it up, vacumn and clean and then re-pack the bin.  

Spilled kibble

This is almost a gallon of wasted kibble

And, I hadn't even had my morning coffee yet!

Coffee didn't go any better . . . 

I had the coffee grounds in the filter, in the cone, on top of my coffee cup - just waiting for the water to boil in the kettle.  I was fixing breakfast for FW and somehow managed to swat the coffee cone - spilling the dry grounds all over the counter, the floor, and poor FW.   Again - a big clean up.  

I guess accidents DO happen in threes . . . 

Then, I was emptying FW's water bowl before heading out for the day's drive - when it slipped out of my hand and crashed into a dozen pieces!  I had had that bowl for probably 30 years.  I do have another water bowl for her - but it's smaller, so I'll have to watch that it doesn't go dry.

Geez!  I was feeling a bit persecuted!  Luckily, the drive that day was uneventful!