Colorful Palo Duro Canyon – Amarillo, TX

Comments 22 Standard

Once out of New Mexico we hastened our pace, stopping only 2-3 days at each destination.  They were large cities where we initially didn’t have a lot of activities planned, and the relentless severe weather was seemingly following us across the nation.  But as we moved along, each of our stops had things to see and do, which we were able to accomplish between storms.

In real time, we’re now on a 10-day break in Savannah, Georgia.  I’m blaming the nasty weather for my lack of enthusiasm to blog; it’s just been too darn wet, gloomy and cold for me to get very excited about anything! Continue reading

Driving and Flying Big Bend Ranch State Park

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Prickly Poppy

Our final fun-filled outings at Big Bend Ranch State Park put a cap on our wonderful time in the Big Bend area.

Big Bend Ranch State Park

Staying on the west side of the Big Bend area at BJ’s RV Park, we were smack between the national and state parks.  It was only about a 20-minute drive to the border of the biggest state park in Texas, Big Bend Ranch State Park.

This park occupies 300,000 largely wilderness acres bordering on the Rio Grande.  Big Bend Ranch was a working ranch for more than 100 years until its sale to the state of Texas in 1988.  The state park is managed very differently from the nearby national park in one significant way – the state park encompasses a network of cattle ranches operated according to the principles of the open range.  A herd of longhorn cattle grazes the area, and it’s host to a semi-annual longhorn roundup.

For more history of the park click here.   Much of it is very wild and rugged, and River Road (FM170) is the only paved road through it.  All interior roads must be accessed by trail or high-clearance/4×4 vehicles.

Folks seeking either high adventure or relaxation and solitude would find this park desirable.  Our plans were on the adventurous side, and called for driving the River Road and flying over the area on a guided air tour.

The River Road, FM 170

The Bluebonnets in the area were gigantic this year – some long-time guides told us they had never seen them so large and numerous

The River Road (FM170)

Just like its big sister, Big Bend NP, the state park has an extensive frontage on the Rio Grande.  For over 30 miles, the River Road twists and turns with the Rio Grande – crossing arroyos, climbing mountains and hugging canyon walls.

Each turn in the road was filled with spectacular scenery, and there were many turns!  The scenic section of FM170 runs between the towns of Lajitas and Presidio.

The River Road, FM 170

The Rio Grande as seen from Big Hill, cutting its way through the Chihuahuan Desert…

Colorado Canyon

…and cutting its way through Colorado Canyon

As mentioned in a previous post, our timing was perfect for viewing the intermingled bluebonnets and yellow flowers lining the road – a colorful carpet that took our breath away.

Tee Pee Rest Area

Teepee Rest Area just ahead – see them?

Bluebonnets

Fields of bluebonnets and Desert Marigolds

Millions of years ago, volcanic activity left a kaleidoscope of exposed geology here.  Park brochures describe the Big Bend Ranch area as being at the crossroads of geology; all four major geological events that shaped North America beginning over 500+ million years ago converged here and are represented in the park.  Click here to learn more about the fascinating geology that shaped the park.

Three Hoodos, Big Bend Ranch State Park

Hoodoos are rocks that have been carved by wind and water erosion

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wpid35494-2015-03-21-TX-1770613.jpgWe hustled home after several hours spent soaking up the scenery and looking back in geologic time.  The day’s forecast had called for thunderstorms, and amazingly the weather folks got it right this time!  The rain came down hard and fast, and we kept moving so as to avoid getting stuck at one of the washes that were quickly filling the low spots in the road.

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Rivers like these across the road occurred after only about 15 minutes of hard rain

If you happen to visit Big Bend National Park, be sure to spend a few hours driving the scenic road through Big Bend State Park.  You won’t be disappointed!

Flying over the Big Bend Ranch State Park area

We had tried to book a flight over the area well in advance of our arrival, but the spring break crowd had filled the schedule at Rio Aviation through the month of March.  The one-man, one-aircraft tour company was based right up the road from us in Terlingua, and Steve even went to the airport to beg the pilot to call us at any time if he had a cancellation and we would be there.  Well, the previous day’s thunderstorm turned out to be a blessing for us, as one of the customers was unable to re-book his tour.  Steve’s begging had paid off!

Cessna 205

Steve helping to push the Cessna 205 into position on the runway

Climbing aboard Marcos’s Cessna 205 made both of us recall our many flying adventures when Steve was actively flying.  We were interested to learn that our pilot/tour guide Marcos Paredes was a local, and a retired National Park Ranger.  Listening to him while trying to snap pictures of the things he pointed out to us became quite a challenge.

A smile from the happy co-pilot

The unobstructed view of the region’s geology was amazing.  We learned even more about the powerful processes that had created all this beauty.

Our flight took us over a lot of Big Bend Ranch State Park, the Devil’s Playground, Santa Elena Canyon, Closed Canyon, Colorado Canyon, and even a ways into Mexican airspace.  It seems the Air Traffic Control folks here all know Marcos, and told him to don’t even bother calling them if he wants to fly a little ways over the border – cool!

The first images below are views of Santa Elena and Closed canyons, which we had already hiked (click here for that posting).  Before the storm we had been able to walk across Terlingua Creek to the Santa Elena Canyon trailhead, but now we noticed that the creek had filled – shutting down that hike.

Santa Elena Canyon

Opening to Santa Elena Canyon, which stretches 8 miles along the border (Mexico is on the left) and is 1,500 ft. deep

That gouge in the mountain below is Closed Canyon, with the River Road running along this side of the mountain range and the Rio Grande on the far side.

Closed Canyon

Marcos continued our lesson by telling us that between 1900-1940 the Mercury Mines were booming in the Terlingua area.  Mercury (or quicksilver) is derived from a red-colored ore known as cinnabar, which was discovered here.  As you may recall from my story about the pictographs in Seminole Canyon, cinnabar was used by the ancient natives as a durable pigment in their drawings.

Mining Area

Mining area around Terlingua

Mercury Mining

Remnants of mercury mining operations – see that tiny brown building?

Terlingua, TX

Folks out here live off the grid, including our pilot Marcos

We also learned that the predominantly igneous rock around Big Bend Ranch tells the tale of violent volcanic activity between 15 and 30 million years ago.  It encompasses two mountain ranges containing ancient extinct volcanoes, precipitous canyons, and waterfalls.

But the signature feature of the state park is El Solitario.  It’s a large collapsed and eroded volcanic dome about 10 miles across.  A closer look at it can be had from the Solitario overlook, if you have a high-clearance vehicle to get there. Check my header  for a wider view.

El Solitario, Big Bend State Park

Big Bebd Ranch State Park

Fields of blooming yellow wildflowers from a couple thousand feet up

We flew over the Devils Playground, a secluded natural wonder.  Marcos told us this is a research site for the University of Texas, no public access allowed.  I was wishing he’d fly a bit lower over it, but I got the best shots I could.  It kind of has an other-worldly look, doesn’t it?

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Zooming over another area, we were amazed to see these red hoodoos, razor blade dikes, mesas and red canyons with enigmatic shapes.

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Having a local to show us around gave us yet another perspective on the area, and Marcos provided plenty of details about the geology and local history during our one-hour flight. We highly recommend this trip, but reserve early!

BJs RV Park, Terlingua, TX

Our home base at BJ’s RV Park, that dark RV in the middle is Betsy

The flight was a great ending to our fantastic week in the Big Bend area.  There were no relaxing days here, but we loved every minute of exploring and learning, and we didn’t want to miss a thing.

A bit remote?  Yes.  Worth the trip?  No doubt about it!

Lowes RV Adventures

Is Steve smiling because he’s next to me?  No, it’s the airplane!

 

 

Next up:  Now showing – The sun, the moon and the planets!



 

A journey back in time – Seminole Canyon SP, Comstock, TX

Comments 35 Standard

What we saw while driving northwest along US-90 towards Seminole Canyon State Historical Park was flat wilderness – all the way to the horizon in every direction.  I’ve heard a lot about boring drives through Texas, and I believe this is one of those parts of the state that people refer to.

Maybe a bit boring, but we found it beautiful in its own desert-kind of way

Seminole Canyon State Historical Park is located just off US-90, at the junction of the Pecos and Rio Grande rivers.  So of course that puts it right on the border with Mexico.  The rugged 2,172-acre park features some impressive deep canyons with rocky terrain and sparse desert vegetation.  And hey, there are lots of birds here, too 🙂

The Maker of Peace by Bill Worrel

The Maker of Peace, built by artist Bill Worrel.  It overlooks Presa Canyon

With a week to explore under sunny skies, we were both pumped up and ready to go exploring every morning.  During our stay we racked up 29 miles of walking and hiking throughout the park, completing every trail – and some of them several times.  We finally got our leg muscles back in shape!

The trails here were rocky but not difficult, with only a 210-ft maximum elevation gain.  We found that the trail listed as “strenuous” was really only “moderate” by our standards, but perhaps they were considering the condition of parts of the trail more than physical difficulty.

Parts of some trails were a bit boring, but coming upon the rim of the deep canyons and the river that ran through parts of them took our breath away.  Fortunately, it was springtime and some sparse wildflowers could be seen blooming along the trails.  That stopped me in my tracks for a few shots of the beauties.

We were excited to see a couple of Javelinas walk across a trail in front of us!  They were too quick for us to get a picture, so Steve ran through the scrub brush with the camera to pursue them.  He finally gave up, with nothing to show for his efforts but a bunch of cactus scratches on his legs that are still healing.

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We saw this critter and didn’t know what it was – maybe some kind of beetle?

A point of interest along one of the trails was the Panther Cave Overlook.  It lies at the confluence of Seminole Canyon and the Rio Grande.  Panther Cave is a rock shelter used by the Desert Archaic culture between about 1,300-8,900 years ago.  Visible across the canyon from the cave was an immense pictograph panel that spanned the back wall of the rock shelter, and it included a panther image nine feet long.  Access to this cave shelter is by private boat only, and tours had been canceled due to shallow waters.

Panther Cave

The Border Patrol folks were taking a lunch break on their little boat

I zoomed into the cave from across the canyon, and the Panther was visible on the right side of the wall.  The plaque at the overlook indicated that some archeologists believe the Desert Archaic people were depicting the shaman’s journey to the spirit world.  Caves and rock shelters like this one served as sacred portals or passageways for the shamans, and the panther represented an animal tutelary or guardian that protected them.

Panther Cave pictograph

Panther Cave pictograph

We were interested in viewing some of the ancient rock art, and this park’s focus is on the Fate Bell Shelter, the largest rock shelter in the region.  In many of the canyons, erosion over millions of years has carved massive rock overhangs that were used by prehistoric Indians for shelter.  Hiking in the canyons and viewing rock pictographs can only be done on guided tours.  We joined two of the tours to see some prehistoric rock art, and to walk on the floor of the canyons.

Fate Bell Shelter

The Visitor Center is the building to the right above the canyon

 

The Fate Bell Tour involved a fairly rugged walk to the bottom of the canyon, then over to the huge cliff overhang containing many good examples of Pecos river style pictographs.

Fate Bell Shelter

These protective mats made the walk into the overhang much easier

Radiocarbon dating suggests these pictographs were created between 2,950 and 4,200 years ago.  Because they are so old, experts know very little about the people who created them.  The walls were once densely painted, but only isolated panels have been able to resist the effects of time and indiscriminant looting of the site before its acquisition by the state.

Fate Bell Shelter Rock Art

There are suppose to be four human beings facing the four corners.

 

Our tour guide explained that colors were made with pigments from local stones such as hematite (red ochre) for red, limonite (yellow ochre) for yellow, manganese oxide for black and calcite (or gypsum) for white.  These rocks were ground into a fine powder and mixed with a binder (probably animal fat) to make the pigment stick together and to the wall. The soapy juice of the yucca plant root, mixed with water, may have been used to thin the pigment and fat mixture into a smooth paint that has held up for thousands of years.  Is that amazing or what?

Fate Bell Shelter Rock Art

A panel of rock art

 

One of the guided tours we joined was the Upper Canyon backcountry hike, which included visits to a variety of sites that had prehistoric and historic rock art styles.  The latter of these were created by folks who built the railroad in the 1880’s that ran through this area.

Upper Canyon Hike

The rock art here was created in the 1880’s by railroad engineers working in the area

Upper Canyon Trail

Scrambling along the canyon trail

Seminole Canyon Rock Shelter

The pictographs in this huge overhang have faded severely due to water erosion

Did I forget to mention that this park is also another Texas birding trail?  The Pyrrhuloxias shown below, along with many Cactus Wrens, alternately sang to us during our walks.  And the Canyon Towhees and Black-throated Sparrows helped the beautiful Cardinals empty our feeder every day.

The birdies all knew there was free food at site #1, and we spent many hours sitting by our campfire and watching the excellent variety of birds competing for the goodies.

Male Pyrrhuloxia

Male Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia

Female Pyrrhuloxia

A sunset with bird silhouettes capped a wonderful week full of outdoor fun.  The sun was finally shining on us!

All of the outdoor activities made me forget my strange medical issue.  I want to express my appreciation to everyone for sending me your warm thoughts and messages of concern. Just the thought that all of you are thinking of me makes me feel better.  I will soon find out what my new doctor has to say!

 

Next up:  Visiting FABULOUS Big Bend National Park!



 

 

 

 

Can spring be far away? – Lake Casa Blanca SP, Laredo, TX

Comments 42 Standard
Bluebonnet

We arrived at Lake Casa Blanca International State Park  Laredo, Texas in anticipation of great outdoor fun.  But as has often been the case for us recently, expectations didn’t mesh with reality. Gloomy, dreary and wet days were the norm during our one-week stay, as back-to-back winter storms passed through.  It was more than enough to add to my already funky mood.

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Lake Casa Blanca SP lies on the western edge of the south Texas brush country.  The park is located in an area known for its distinctive low-growing woody plants.  This plant landscape includes the honey mesquite, guajillo (wah-HEE-yoh) and huisache (WEE-sah-chee).

Lake Casa Blanca is a reservoir on Chacon Creek, which is 5 miles northeast of downtown Laredo.  It was formed in 1951 by the construction of a dam, and it provides recreational opportunities for the residents of Webb County.

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Steve collecting images of the park for his review while enjoying views of the lake.

We don’t normally allow dreary days to ruin our stay, so we ventured out whenever we could to breathe some fresh air and get our blood flowing.  There were only a few short intersecting trails at this park, and we knocked them all out in one day !

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With few scenic views to admire and many trails blanketed with low-growing thorny vegetation, my attention was drawn mostly to the ground.  One of the trails that circled an expanse of large open field provided a display of ground wildflowers trying to push winter out so they could show their true colors:

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But what most brightened our overcast days was the discovery of a little patch of blooming Bluebonnets just outside the park boundaries and surrounded by mesquite trees.  Since we won’t be going to the Texas hill country where blooms carpet the fields and hillsides (they are there in April), I was none the less excited by this bunch of beauties.  I even momentarily forgot my fear of chiggers as I knelt down among them!

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Blue Bonnets

The Texas state flower – Bluebonnets

Named for its color and, it is said, the resemblance of its petal to a woman’s sunbonnet, the Bluebonnet is the state flower of Texas.  It blooms in the early spring and can be readily found in the fields and along roadsides throughout central and south Texas.

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In and around the park were signs of spring that could be seen and felt.  At the boat launch a couple of quack-quacks were busy making out…

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…while these beautiful butterflies were making more butterflies…

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…and a wedge of egrets could be seen heading north.  Hundreds of them were taking off from the lake in small groups every few seconds – quite a sight to see!

 

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Finally, this House Wren was busy trying to build its nest in Betsy’s exhaust pipe 😦

Steve was not amused, and he took quick action to protect it and other areas of the coach from becoming “bird condos”.

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Not something you want to see, springtime or any other time!

I am definitely looking forward to spring!

At our next stop in Del Rio, Texas, the RV park was lined with blooming Cherry Blossoms which really made my day:

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We have finally learned first-hand that one of the biggest challenges in this lifestyle is not having access to a primary-care doctor.  Our unscheduled stop at Del Rio (halfway to our next destination) was made so I could try to see a doctor and pursue the unexplained symptoms that previously had me in the ER.

To my surprise, the first questions I was asked when calling for an appointment were, “Are you in Obama Care?” or “Are you over 55?” or “Can you provide all of your records before we set up an appointment?”  I knew I was pushing my luck trying to get an appointment on short notice, but the questions asked by these offices were new to me and did not help my situation at all.  And that’s why I was in a funk for a while.

Long story short, we moved on into very remote territory without me being able to see a doctor.  I’m forcing myself to think I’m just over-rationalizing what I’m feeling, and I’m actually OK.  Maybe never having had to run to a hospital before has put me just a bit on edge?

 

Next up:  Going back in time at Seminole Canyon State Park



 

 

 

 

Where to in 2015?

Comments 44 Standard
Turks Cap

Turks Cap

After staying a month in Mission, Texas we were itching to get moving again – that’s really longer than we like to sit in one spot, even if the birding was world-class.  Virtually so far our entire winter in Texas has been cold and dreary, with incessant winds that just would not stop.

Southern Texas was not spared from the crazy winter weather that our friends up north endured, and there were very few days that we even bothered taking our chairs out.  Although we tried to keep up with our exercise and I had a few excellent birding opportunities, most days were just crappy and had us wishing we were back in Florida.  But that’s the way it goes – most people certainly had a tougher winter than we did!

Our planned route below for 2015 is pretty loose this early on.  We expect to visit 6 of the 10 states that remain untouched by Betsy.  This includes Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.  Then we’ll likely winter in Arizona as we did in 2013, with a possible side-trip into southern California for a while.  At least that’s the tentative plan – we’ll find out how close we are to reality in a few months!

Planned 2015 Route

Very rough outline for our 2015 travels

We have already begun pointing north, slowly meandering along the Texas-Mexico border. Once we leave Lake Casa Blanca SP in Laredo in a few days, upcoming stops are planned for wpid34504-2015-02-26-TX-1540722.jpgSeminole Canyon SP, Big Bend National Park and Davis Mountains SP.

The month of April will be spent moving through New Mexico, on our way to Denver by May 1st.  I’ll fly out from there to visit mom in the Philippines for a few weeks while Steve gets Betsy’s chassis maintenance completed.

When I return we’ll have only two more set appointments – in Iowa – get some paint work done on Betsy at the Winnebago factory, and attend the annual Winnebago Grand National Rally.  But we’ll have almost two months to get there from Denver, with plenty of time to explore other states on the way.

Other than those stops, we’re pretty much open on where to go and what to explore along the way.  If you have ideas or recommendations for “must see” or “must do” things along our route, we’d love to hear from you!

Rio Grande Valley

On our last day in Mission, Steve tried to give an assist to the setting sun.  Fortunately his finger didn’t get burned at all!



 

A big Texas landmark – Kingsville, TX

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Santa Gertrudis Cow

They say everything in Texas is big, and one of the things the state is known for is its super-sized ranches.  The size of the state itself lends it perfectly to the industry of raising cattle. The massive King Ranch in southern Texas – covering more area than the state of Rhode Island, and with more acreage than Dallas, Houston and San Antonio combined – is a prime example of a huge cattle-raising operation.

King Ranch Visitor Center

Neither Steve nor I are particularly interested in ranching, but when our friends Susan and Bob drove down from San Antonio to meet us in Kingsville, we decided to head over to King Ranch and take a tour together.  We were glad we did!

King Ranch Visitor Center

With Bob and Susan

King ranch isn’t owned by a king, but it is the result of a classic “rags to riches” story involving an indentured servant with that name.  A boy of Irish descent stowed himself away on a boat which landed in New York City.  He was discovered hiding among the cargo, but was able to make his way to Mobile, Alabama.

King Ranch

Just a few of the fine cattle here.  Honey, steak for dinner tonight!

Starting as a steamboat cabin boy and eventually becoming a steamboat pilot, Captain Richard King made his mark by purchasing a 15,500-acre Mexican land grant that would become the King Ranch.  By the end of the Civil War in 1865, subsequent purchases grew the ranch to 146,000 acres, making it a powerhouse in Texas through the breeding of livestock.

Texas Longhorn

Poncho – a handsome resident Texas Longhorn

At one time King Ranch was the world’s largest ranch, and famous for breeding livestock – developing the Santa Gertrudis type of cattle which are shorthorn cows of a southern beef breed – the first ever American-bred cattle.  The breed is noted for heat tolerance as well as tick and bloat resistance.

Santa Gertrudis Cow

“Hey, you talkin’ to me?”  A Santa Gertrudis cow

Known for its “Running W” brand, the ranch continues its operations on 825,000 acres (1,289 sq. miles), and does much more than just raise cattle.  They are known for their quarter horses, cutting horses and thoroughbreds as well, and they raised the racing horse named “Assault”, the 1946 Triple-Crown winner.

The ranch isn’t one single contiguous plot of land, but rather four large sections they call divisions.  It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961.

King Ranch

The “Running W” brand

We also learned on the tour that King Ranch is the largest individual citrus grower in the country and the largest producer of turf grass.  It has 2000 miles of fencing and approximately 50,000 head of cattle.  Today’s modern King Ranch is also a wildlife habitat and a ranch management institute, as well as a highly regulated hunting venue.  It has diversified into a major agribusiness – everything about King Ranch is BIG!

King Ranch

Running W

“Running W” on a Ford truck seat

We now know that Ford King Ranch® Edition F-Series trucks and Expeditions were inspired by this very ranch.  It may be the only working ranch that has it’s name on Ford trucks.  Ford and King Ranch have been in partnership since 2001, and as you might have guessed King Ranch trucks are especially popular in Texas. Ford says more than 40% of all Super Duty King Ranch pickups are sold in the Lone Star State.

King Ranch

King Ranch® Edition F-Series commercials were filmed right here on the ranch

After our tour we tried to grapple with the massive size of this ranch, especially since we had seen only a portion of the empire.  It turned out to be an interesting tour, and a good way to learn a bit of Texas ranching history.  If you happen to be in the Kingsville area and are interested in ranching or birding, several tours are available.

Thornless Prickley Pear

A Thornless Prickly Pear Cactus seen at the entry gate

Next we followed Bob and Susan to the Texas A&M University campus, where we took some pictures with the school’s mascot, the Javelina.

Travel Bug Susan

Susan and Bob

Our current home base was only 25 minutes away at Seawind RV resort (Steve’s review here ), so we invited our friends to come over and check it out.  The RV park is next to the Kaufer-Hubert County Park and right on Baffin Bay, which is one of many stops along the Texas Coastal Birding Trail.

I was happy that some of my feathered friends welcomed Bob and Susan, like this cute guy:

Long billed Curlew

Long-billed Curlew

Riviera Fishing Pier

Checking out the fishing pier at Kaufer-Hubert County Park

Riviera Beach

What they are gazing at – birds or clouds?

To find out what Susan is taking a picture of, check her blog at Travel Bug.  If not for their visit we wouldn’t have learned so much about a big Texas landmark.  In case you’re wondering, we first met Susan and Bob in San Antonio two years ago, and they were our gracious tour guides while we were in the area.  Here is my post about our fun times together in 2013.

Sunset at Riviera, Texas

A final sunset at Riviera, Texas

Our two-week stay in Riviera just flew by.  Taking advantage of several nice days, Steve was happy to be able to check several items off of Betsy’s winter “to-do” list, and we got in several walks and a bike ride.  Next we’ll be heading down to hang out in the Rio Grande Valley for a month, then start yet another long migration north.

 

 



 

 

 

Final Days on the Gulf – Port Aransas, TX

Comments 27 Standard
Port Aransas Beach

Port Aransas

Along the Texas Coast are barrier islands running parallel to the mainland.  The longest barrier island is Mustang Island, where Port Aransas occupies 8 miles of its 18 mile length.  We spent a month there with Gulf Waters RV Resort as our home base, then three days just up the road at Mustang Island State Park.

“Port A” as it’s known by the locals, is a small beach community of about 3,500 people.  Although the “Winter Texans” swell the population significantly each year, the town remains uncrowded and less frenetic than many we saw in Florida last year.

The big draw at Port Aransas is of course the beautiful Gulf beaches, with easy access to great offshore bay fishing.  Thankfully, birding is right up there in popularity as well, so you know what I was doing during the few nice days we had during there!

Dave Malouf

Dave, the smoked meats expert and a diehard fisherman with his buddy whom he calls Stealafish

Great Blue Heron

“Stealafish” checking Dave’s catch

South Jetty, Port Aransas

Folks came out to enjoy a sunny day and fish at the South Jetty.  Did I mention that fishing is popular here?

Leonabelle Birding Center

Photographers and birders at Leonabelle Birding Center

Charlies Pasture Natural Preserve

A bundled-up walker getting some exercise at Natural Preserve, Charlie’s Pasture

Vehicles and buggies are allowed to drive right on the beach here, so we just had to rent a buggy to join the fun and take a ride into town for lunch.

Scenes on Port Aransas Beach:

Port Aransas Beach

Now that’s what you call camping on the beach!

Campfire at the beach

Campfire at the beach during full moon

In between our medical appointments in Corpus Christi, we visited the USS Lexington, an aircraft carrier which is now a museum on the Bay.  You can probably guess who really enjoyed all of the “self- guided tours” on this giant ship – like a kid in a candy store!

USS Lexington

A huge collection of warplanes and helicopters

USS Lexington

Food stats for the hungry sailors

USS Lexington

Museum of the Bay – USS Lexington

For a more personalized experience aboard “Lady LEX”, check Ingrid’s post – A Trip down memory lane.  Her husband Al, a navy pilot, earned his wings flying on and off the Lady LEX, so their visit was quite sentimental.

Mustang Island State Park

Our last sunset viewed from Mustang Island State Park

Our month-long stay at the beautiful, well-managed Gulf Waters RV Resort partially made up for the constant gloomy cold and windy days.  More so as our site overlooked the pond where many birdies became our free entertainment, giving me lots of photo opportunities from inside our warm coach.

Mustang Island State Park

The goofy couple bidding goodbye to the Texas Coast.  No more salt water for us for a while!

 

 Next up:  Betsy undergoes her winter maintenance



 

Party time at the Gulf – Port Aransas, TX

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We had hoped that being in southern Texas, and parking close to the Gulf of Mexico would allow us to enjoy some reasonably warm weather this winter. wpid33184-2014-12-30-TX-1710195.jpg  From the day we arrived here at Port Aransas (Dec. 15), we’ve been able to count on one hand the number of days that we haven’t had to bundle up in jackets to go outside.  And the winds from the north have been relentless!  I don’t want to whine because I know other parts of the country have it worse, but we are amazed by how far south the winter chill has pushed this year. Even the priest at the local church was apologetic to us winter Texans about the cold spell that has hovered over the Port Aransas/Corpus Cristi area.

But instead of moping around, we’ve tried to endure and make the best of it by taking in the sights and having a good time with friends new and old.

Our first few days were spent socializing and meeting new folks.  Just a day after our arrival the partying began when Dave and Faye of the Wandering Camels invited us over to taste Dave’s smoked pork and chicken.  And wow, does this guy know how to smoke some good meat!  The gathering ended up being sort of a “blogger’s summit”, as Al and Ingrid of Live Laugh RV also joined in for the feast and laughter.

Bloggers just want to have fun

Ingrid, Al, Dave, Faye and Steve

Our first two weeks (including the holidays) were spent meeting new friends, partying and eating lots of good food.  At the RV park’s Christmas get-together (Steve’s review of the park is here), we met Beverly and Dennis from Nebraska, and we learned they are followers of our blog.  Now isn’t that something!

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Faye, Beverly and Steve

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Steve,Ingrid, Faye, Jackie, Kathy and Al – this was one of the few warm days!

On Christmas day, Ingrid showed us how a gourmet meal can be prepared in a very tiny kitchen…

wpid33181-2014-12-25-TX-00706.jpg…and for desert she further demonstrated her culinary skills by lighting up her bananas foster – and yes it was very yummy!

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It was not just the humans partying and socializing here.  A group of birds hung out at the pond in front of our RV, rain or shine, feasting on the little fish in the well-stocked waters. We watched and were entertained as they jockeyed for their favorite fishing spots, and we discovered which were the bullies and which seemed to be insatiable as they hunted and ate for hours.  The meeting of the “Birdy Breakfast Club” began at sunrise each day.

Gulf Waters RV Resort

A Great Blue Heron and Great Egret are the first to show up on this morning

All of the attendants are present and accounted for, as they mill around in front of our site…

wpid33189-2014-12-23-TX-1700509.jpg…then the jostling for good spots begins.  The Great Egret shoos the tiny Snowy Egret away…

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..and the poor little guy scampers off.  Steve thought the sight of an Egret running was hilarious!

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But then the big bully arrives…

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…and everybody flies away!

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Yes, size matters!

Sometimes the “landlubber” birds watched helplessly as the Cormorants showed them how easy it was to dive and catch a fish.  The Egrets followed them around the perimeter of the pond, hoping to grab any fish that might escape from the divers.

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This gang of birds were patient and tireless, working virtually all day to keep themselves fat and happy.

Great Egret

Great Egret

Little Blue Heron

The Little Blue Heron finally gets his prize

Cormorant

The proud Cormorant shows off its catch!

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron displays his catch

And once their tummies were full, the Cormorants would stand along the shore to dry their wings in the incessant wind.  When the “blow dry” was complete they dove right back in for more.  Then the egrets would quickly fly or run to the new fishing spot, and the whole process started again.  Fascinating and fun to watch!

Cormorants

And so the party continues…