FC: Texas March 2014
1: Campgrounds: 1. Lake of the Ozarks SP - Missouri 2. Great Plains SP - Oklahoma 3. Caprock Canyon SP - Texas 4. Guadalupe Mountain NP - Texas 5. Big Bend NP - Texas 6. Davis Mountain SP - Texas 7. Kickapoo Caverns SP - Texas 8. Bastrop SP - Texas 9. Sam Houston Jones SP - Louisiana 10. Bayou Signette SP - Louisiana 11. St. Andrews SP - Florida 12. Stephen Foster Cultural Center SP - Florida 13. Hillsburough River SP - Florida 14. Norton Dam E SP - Tennessee 15. Big Bone Lick SP - Kentucky | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | Campground summer rates start April 1.
2: Temperature was 0 degrees 3 feet of snow on the ground with huge drifts Turned out to be the snowiest winter in recorded history. | After 3 1/2 months of endless snow and cold, we made the decision to dig out "RoadRunner" and head south. We talked about picking up where we left off - and head to the Everglades but Spring Break in the Florida Keys didn't seem like a wise decision. So we looked at Texas. Big Bend NP had one site that was available for the full 2 weeks that we wanted. Seemed fortuitous that we just go there. We packed up all the food in the house. Poured gallons of hot water on the levelers to get them free. Brought our new generator to test. March 13 found us packed and ready to go. By 7am we were on the road. We kept going for 3 hours that first day. The temperature just got up to 66.
3: First Stop West of St. Louis Mo. We drove as far south as we could on our journey's path the first day so that we could leave the snow behind quickly
5: Skunks, scorpions, cactus but most of all, Oklahoma has wind. | OKLAHOMA | Gave Larry an excuse to watch hours of John Wayne movies
6: Romantic dinner at the bait shop. "Berger, Bait and Beer" Weather was cold and so windy that we couldn't get out to hike. Yes, he called Dennis from this restaurant.
8: Caprock Canyon has the official bison herd of Texas (12 bison). We hiked a lot. The wind, though bad was less than in Oklahoma. Larry saw a wild boar. We heard coyotes. Hiked our first dry creek bed. | From Plains to Canyons
9: From Caprock we ran through New Mexico, past the Carlsbad Caverns area and down to Guadalupe Mountains. We came back up to Carlsbad but did not do the tour. Cactus was just beginning to blossom. In several places along the route we found the mammoth arrow.
10: Hiking the dry river bed to Devil's Hall Guadalupe Mountains National Park Who knew that a parking lot National Campground would be so amazing? | Campsite and Mountain view from our Doorway
11: From Canyons to Mountains
12: 21 March 2014 | Big Bend National Park
13: Great Views
14: Rio Grande Village Campground was our site for 10 days. Temps in the 80's but got as high as 98. We had sudden winds and lots of sun. Clear night skies were perfect for star gazing.
17: Rio Grande | The Rio was not so grand. Slow, narrow and shallow. Visitors said it was too low to Kayak or Canoe. Result of many year drought.
19: Clouds rolled over the Chisos Mountains, but brought no rain.
21: At the Chisos Mountain Lodge Restaurant, we ate Mexican lunch and were joined at the window by a road runner - who moved too fast to photograph and then by an AudUbon Oriole. This predominantly Mexican bird, the Audubon's Oriole reaches the United States only in southern Texas. It is a rather secretive oriole, living in denser vegetation than most other orioles and singing from inconspicuous perches. The women next to us were birders, so we knew what this was. Though looking red in the photo - he was yellow. Guess he didn't read the article that says he's secretive. High atop the path to the Lost Mine, we saw this person doing Yoga very near to the edge of a cliff.
22: Hoped to see cactus in bloom. We were not disappointed. | Blooming stem can weigh 70# | From Mountains to Deserts
23: Blooming Desert | Walking stick plant
25: The vista were breath-taking in so many locations. The sky brought another dimension to this vast Chihuahuan Desert. We loved seeing the mountains and caverns but after 2 weeks, decided that it would be nice to see more green and less wind. In this desert are, when saw green, we learned that there had been water or it was new growth that had not be beaten by the relentless wind and sun. This area had not seen rain in nearly a year. Annual rainfall of 1-2 inches happens in July and August. The campground by the Rio is most often vacant since temperatures on this dry camping park reach 110 degrees or more. Camping in Chisos goes on but the size of the vehicle is severely limited.
26: We saw these and so much more: Snakes - Western Diamond back Red Coachwhip Garter/Ribbon Birds - Vultures (Black and Turkey) Crows Blue Birds Audubon Oriole Scarlet Wrens Rare Yellow Headed Night Heron Great Blue and other Smaller Heron Inca Doves Road Runners Piliated Woodpecker Mammals - Deer Javalina Horse Donkey Wild Pig Bison Antelope Mountain Goats Skunk Squirrel Dolphin and one Lazy Alligator | Trinkets on the path | Mexican Horse | Tunnel
27: The Mexican side of the Rio was lined with high cliffs.
28: Santa Elena Canyon on the western side of the park
30: Park service has saved many of the early settler buildings like this one. They raised goats and sheep and found a way to get water to their gardens. The Hot Springs pool turned out to be the remnants of a old resort where water from the spring used to be pumped into rooms. Now, it only fills a small partitioned cement "pool" that sits along the banks of the Rio. Getting to the area by vehicle is not for the feint of heart or large vehicle.
32: Santa Elana Canyou | Chisos Lodge | Burro Mesa Pourout
33: We saw this camper at our Big Bend site and parked at several of the trails we hiked and at the next campground - Davis Mountain. It is a fully functional RV and decked out for rugged travel. We immediately thought of Bryan and Tam. Perfect for them except that Tam would need a step ladder to get in.
35: Windows Hike in Chisos Mountains where we learned that climbing downhill first is the wrong thing to do. This was by far the most difficult hike. We didn't find the lost mine but enjoyed that hike a lot.
36: Larry carried up to 6 half liter bottles of water for us on every hike. We kept a small supply of trail mix and a first aid kit in his backpack too.
37: Boquillas Mexico Pop 100 Booming tourist business until 9/11; Now: 2 restaurants, 2 bars, a Bed and Breakfast, 2 gift shops Ei Yi Ya Ya... The Singing Mexican serenaded us as we were rowed across the Rio Grande into Mexico where we had our choice of transportation into town (3/4 mile): Donkey, Horse or 1950's truck. We took the truck. Many young boys on the street selling trinkets Border Patrol Crossing. Mexico doesn't honor Daylight savings time so we had to return before 4:15 or spend the night in Mexico.
38: We always looked at Boquillas in the evening from our hike near the campground. We saw people walking and driving on the Mexico side of the Rio Grande. One day, when we were looking over the river a family of 4 drove to the river in their truck and parked. Larry has the binoculars and is just watching to see what they were doing. We had yet to see anyone catch a fish. He turned to me and handed me the binoculars. "That lady just took off all her clothes." Sure enough - they all undressed and went into a cave. Shortly after that - they each came out and got dressed again. We never saw this again - but we looked! The weekends see some of the townsfolk travel 150 miles to the nearest town where they purchase the food, gas and Mexican craft items. The Mexicans cross the river with their trinkets for sale and leave them along the trail. Another little settlement could be seen where they were using horses to plow their field and where the donkey braying could be heard for miles.
39: Larry saw the Book "Death in Big Bend" at every ranger station. We finally purchased it and he quickly read about who died and when on the trails were we had walked.
41: Colors of the Desert
42: Rio Grande | RIVER
44: Farewell Texas... until next time....
46: When temperatures hit 98 and didn't cool much at night. We looked at all the hiking trails that we had not don and decided that we'd had enough desert. So we packed up and headed north - to Davis Mountain State Park. To our great surprise and my excitement, the park is just a few miles away from the McDonald Observatory and even more exciting; they were having their weekly start viewing that night. We heard about stars and galaxies and constellations. Then we looked through a dozen scopes and saw Jupiter and 4 moons, another galaxy, a nebula, double star and more. Then we went to the solar viewing and saw solar flares and sun spots. - and then their big telescopes. So very cool. We got 2 T-shirts and a telescope! What a find!. It became the new bed partner.
47: Javalina: looks like pig, smells like skunk Called by Texans - the Suicide Pig
49: Night time found us sitting on a platform that was covered with bat Guano and smelled like hot muck. From a small cave came thousands of bats in groups of 100 or more. We were coming back the next night to take pictures, but the night proved to be cold so we didn't go. | Kickapoo Caverns is a small state park. We hoped to see the clouds of Mexican Free Tail bats fly from the nearby cave. It was cool, but at 8:15, they came bursting out. Though dark, unlike the picture, the cloud of bats was at least as thick as this. More than a million live in the cave and they came out by the hundreds. The campground boasts a number of hiking trails. We took the one along the crest of the hills. We were delighted to see the flock of Mountain Goats frolicking just a few feet from us. They walked around us and then the males just stood and eyed us to make sure we were not causing trouble. | From Deserts to Caverns
50: Texas closed our planned campground and moved us to Bastrop - a small campground outside of Austin. It had been 85% destroyed in 2011, by a fire. The campground infrastructure was slowly being rebuilt. Porta-potties were the replacement. It provided a few trails that we hiked but few animals and no scenic vistas. It is linked to another campground and we followed a women only bike group slowly between the two. There were very few campers for obvious reason and we didn't stay long. Our neighbor crashed his truck late at night and then drove home on three wheels, dragging the bent front tire with a terrible grinding sound. We made the decision to see the Handy's instead of heading home. This would keep us in the warm weather longer, since snow and cold were still the norm in Michigan.
51: From Caverns to Forest
52: From Forests to Swamps
53: Our way to Florida brought us back to Sam Houston Jones and Bayou Signette State Parks. We visited these on our last trip. Seafood dinner was great. Hiking and biking were fun. It was so nice to see so much green. We came across our first mosquitoes, too.
54: St. Andrews State Park Panama City Beach | From Swamps to Beaches
56: Stephen Foster | Cultural Center | State Park | From Beaches to Plantations
58: Obediah is new since our last visit. We stayed at Hillsborough River State Park and drive in to see the Handy's.
59: Bridge Beach | Underground Gardens
60: As we watched the sun go down on Treasure Island, we said goodbye to the Handys and our trip to Texas.
62: Caprock Canyon Eagle Rock Trail Guadalupe Mountain El Capitan Devil's Hall Trail (Larry's favorite) Big Bend Trails Rio Grande Overlook Boquillas Canyon Overlook Hot Springs Trail Dugout Wells Grapevine Spring Lost Mine Peak Trail The Window Burro Mesa Pouroff Mule Ear View Point Santa Elana Canyon Trail Davis Mountain Old CCC Trail Kickapoo Cavern Barbado Ridge Trail Seargent Memorial Trail Bat Cave Cutoff Trail \ | Bastrop Orange Purple Brown Red Grey Sam Huston Jones Orange Trail Bayou Segnette Levee Trail North Lake Nature Center Eagle Trail St. Andrews Gater Trail Beach Trail Stephen Foster Powerline Trail Hillsborough River River Trail Big Bone Lick Corral Berry Trail Bison Trail | Our Goal was 10000 steps (5 miles) a day Our longest day was 17000 steps