Visiting Texas – Day 7

We left Big Bend NP (last post) about an hour before dusk without a real plan for where we’d stay that night. There were “campgrounds” outside of the park but those turned out to be RV parking lots. We figured that we would find something in Big Bend Ranch State Park, west of and adjacent to the National Park along the Rio Grande, and get in another day of hiking before Matt and I left the next morning from El Paso.

2017-12-TX-532                    This is the area where we camped. I got up when I saw the sunrise to explore near the river. We had heard rapids but couldn’t see the river from the campground. 2017-12-TX-533                  After all the signs at the previous day’s stops I did start thinking about mountain lions as I walked along deer trails though those willows and brush to reach the river. So I made plenty of noise, but I also decided to move to higher ground where there was no cover. 2017-12-TX-546                     I was also glad when Matt showed up with the same idea (early morning photography) in mind.

2017-12-TX-563            Logs and rocks in the river were enough to create the sound of rapids that we heard from camp.

2017-12-TX-568              This is the view back to the camping area. That green speck in the middle is the truck.




2017-12-TX-590                   We looked at the map to see where we might hike in this park and found Closed Canyon.

2017-12-TX-596                                                            This is a canyon that leads to the Rio Grande.

2017-12-TX-601Absolutely stunning! The photos don’t do it justice.


2017-12-TX-616                                                             You can walk in about 7/10 of a mile before you can’t go farther.

2017-12-TX-619                                                                  If you’re a mountain goat  you can try to go farther … or if you want to get wet.

2017-12-TX-635                                               Matt went around the bend and came back. The map shows that it is a relatively short way to the river.

2017-12-TX-644-22017-12-TX-651                                                             You wouldn’t want to walk here in the flash flood season.



2017-12-TX-665              That slot in the shadow is the entrance to this incredible canyon.

2017-12-TX-675                  On the road again.

2017-12-TX-685                 The next stop was the HooDoos Trail.

2017-12-TX-691             Hoodoos refers to these eroded formations.

2017-12-TX-704-Pano            Matt showed me how to do photos with my camera that you can later turn into panoramas. This isn’t distorted like the pano shots on the phone.

2017-12-TX-692           More spikey things.

2017-12-TX-699                   We left the park and were on our way to El Paso where we would spend the night and Matt and I would take an early flight home the next morning.

2017-12-TX-720                We entered the town of Marfa and Matt found on Trip Advisor that visitors could check out the dome of the city hall.

2017-12-TX-729              That was a good excuse to get out of the truck and stretch. This small West Texas town may be worth a second visit someday to investigate it’s art venues and to find out more about the Marfa Lights (google that).

2017-12-TX-731           Entering El Paso.

2017-12-TX-733                                               Flying over southern California where the fires were (are) still burning.




Visiting Texas – More of Day 6

There were too many photos from our day spent in Big Bend National Park that I split this into two posts. There is a photo in the middle of the last post (View from Sotol Vista) where I pointed out a slot in the ridge that indicated Santa Elena Canyon along the Rio Grande. The river defines the Park boundary for 118 miles and creates a riparian corridor in an otherwise desert landscape. We were headed to Santa Elena Canyon.

2017-12-TX-413                 Our first stop at the river was at raft/canoe take-out. Wildlife! I wish this was a sharper photo but I’m going to say that the javelina’s coloring makes it look blurry. I just looked up javelina and learned something. Javelinas (collared peccary) are not in the same family as the pig. There are a multitude of physical differences including the type of stomach (complex versus simple), gestation length (5 months versus 3+ months), and structure of the leg and foot.2017-12-TX-419                Here is a look at the river. Mexico is on the other side.2017-12-TX-422

2017-12-TX-427              We drove on to find the entrance to Santa Elena Canyon. This is that slot seen from a distance in the previous post. It is hard to imagine from this view what it looks like in that canyon.


2017-12-TX-431                                                             The 3/4 mile trail into the canyon begins with rock stairs built at the lower part of the cliff.



2017-12-TX-440             The view looking back from the stairs.


2017-12-TX-4672017-12-TX-454                                                             The trail ends where the cliff walls go right to the water.

2017-12-TX-477                At some points the cliffs rise 1500′ from the water.2017-12-TX-473          Coming back out of the canyon. In this view of the Rio Grande, Mexico is on the right. In the photos walking up the canyon, it is U.S. on the right and Mexico on the left.

I usually avoid politics in my blog (and would like to avoid politics in life) but I have to make a statement here. We spent the whole day exploring this park and the next couple of days driving in the same desert landscape. I don’t have the answers to immigration issues but a WALL? Where are you putting that Wall? Look at these photos. Social issues set aside, can you imagine the environmental consequences of building the proposed Wall? I only hope we can get through the next few years without the permanent loss and/or destruction of the remaining wild places that are left in our country.

Stepping down now…2017-12-TX-482          Roadrunner seen near the parking lot. We left Santa Elena Canyon and continued on a loop road that traverses the western edge of the park.

2017-12-TX-490                We stopped at Luna’s Jacal (Jacal: “a hut in Mexico and southwestern U.S. with a thatched roof and walls made of upright poles or sticks covered and chinked with mud or clay”), where Gilberto Luna raised “a large family”…

2017-12-TX-494            …and later when I spotted ocotillo that looked as though they had recently bloomed.

2017-12-TX-498-2         There were remnants of the red blossoms that grow at the end of the branches when there is moisture. Same with the leaves that cover the stalks for a few weeks after rainfall.

2017-12-TX-522                     We weren’t able to find an open campsite to reserve, at least according to the person working the computer at the last visitor center (whom we had reason to doubt, but what could we do?)…2017-12-TX-501              …so we ended our day at Big Bend and drove on to finding somewhere else to camp for the Next Adventure.

Visit to Texas – Day 6

We got to Big Bend National Park at dusk (this blog post). We quickly ate our beans and some kind of quick-cook rice dish, put all the food in the bear boxes (which made Matt think twice about his sleeping accommodations), and went to bed. It was COLD. I understand that we were not in Wyoming or Alaska or Antarctica. We were not in blizzard conditions. I can’t even imagine that. But this was plenty cold enough for me and, looking ahead to a whole night, I was turning into a real weenie. I eventually warmed up in my sleeping bag, but I had a realization about winter road trips. It gets dark at 6:00 and when it is really cold and you can’t have a fire there is nothing else to do but get into a sleeping bag. During our summer road trips we may go to bed at 9 or 10 and then read for awhile. But 6:00 is a full five or six hours earlier than my normal bedtime. I have decided that any future winter toad trips may include motels. But I digress…

2017-12-TX-314       Sunrise from the campsite in the morning. I wouldn’t have seen that from a motel room.

2017-12-TX-317              We spent the night in the back of the truck. Notice Matt’s cot and sleeping bag. Fortunately no one was bothered by bears.

2017-12-TX-320             …although we saw this sign at the trailhead right near our camp.

2017-12-TX-327                                                 We left camp early and went for a hike up the Lost Mine Trail. I was glad that I had a walking stick with me because much of the trail was icy and slippery.


2017-12-TX-335            This is the view to the south from where we were standing in the last photo. The southern border of the park is the Rio Grande but I’m not sure which of these mountain ridges border the river.


2017-12-TX-340                 We had only a day and a half to spend in this area so we didn’t plan to do any long hikes, but instead see as much of the Park as we could and get out where there were signs and shorter trails.

2017-12-TX-356              This stop was at the Sam Nail Ranch where there is a short trail to the remnants of an adobe dwelling built around 1909 when the Nail family lived here.2017-12-TX-352             The family planted fruit trees and raised livestock, living here until the 1940’s.




2017-12-TX-357            “Matt, hold still.”

2017-12-TX-360              View from Sotol Vista. Do you see that slot in the middle ridge, just left of the photo’s center? That is Santa Elena Canyon, about 12 miles southwest of this point, where the Rio Grande slices through the mountain, forming a narrow canyon with 1500′ walls. That will be for the next post.

2017-12-TX-364                The Mule Ears View Point was the next stop.

2017-12-TX-371                    I didn’t identify all the different kinds of cactus, but noticed some that were distinctly purple.


2017-12-TX-376               We walked into Tuff Canyon, so named for it’s volcanic origins.


2017-12-TX-386 Spectacular!



We stopped at the Visitor’s Center at Castolon on the southern border of the Park. We planned to stay at one of the “primitive” campsites on this site of the Park that night but were told that they were all reserved so we started thinking about Plan B. There was more to see though before we really had to worry about that.

2017-12-TX-394          There were a lot of interpretive signs at this point. Castolon was first settled in 1901 and became a destination for refugees fleeing the Mexican Revolution. Barracks were built but never used by the army and in the 1920’s the La Harmonia Company established  a trading post and started growing and ginning cotton. That venture ended in the 1940’s.

2017-12-TX-395             This is the modern day view of that same landscape.

2017-12-TX-398            One of the old building that still remains at Castolon.


2017-12-TX-402                  I think this statement is true.

2017-12-TX-406              We stopped at the Dorgan House Trail, where there were more ruins.

2017-12-TX-403                 It felt like lunch time. Dan couldn’t fit all the way in where he had stashed the box with my granola. Eventually I squeezed in there and he pulled me out by my feet because I was laughing too hard to get out myself.

Next post: Santa Elena Canyon.

Visiting Texas – Day 5 to 6

Continuing the family visit/road trip to Texas…Day 4 is here.

IMG_3843               On the fifth day of our visit we took a field trip to Cabella’s. There is plenty of entertainment even if you don’t go for the shopping. We started with the aquarium.

IMG_3850           There are rooms full of animals.

IMG_3853              There are spectacular horns on these and other sheep. By the time we finished eating and shopping it was getting dark and we headed to Wimberly for the Trail of Lights.

IMG_3862         Dozens of local businesses and families light and decorate the gardens of the 12-acre EmilyAnn Theater & Garden. This is an annual event and a major fundraiser for the theater.



Dan and Matt and I had planned to leave on Sunday for Part 2 of our Texas vacation.


First, a few more photos of cute grandkids. Actually I was trying to get a photo of a baby with a handwoven baby blanket that is part of a project I am working on. This baby is a little too mobile for that to be easy to do.

2017-12-TX-284          Containing him worked a little better.

IMG_3919                We had the truck loaded and I asked nicely made everyone stand in one place for a group photo. This is the only one of all of us together during this trip.

IMG_3926            About 10 am. Dan and Matt and I got in the truck and headed for Big Bend National Park, about seven hours away.

2017-12-TX-303             Here the Chisos Mountains rise out of the desert. The park entrance is at an elevation of 2848′  and the peaks rise to over 7800′. Our camp the first night was at 5400′ which meant that there was still snow from the storm which had come through.

2017-12-TX-302               We got there towards dusk and found a campsite just as it was getting dark.

To be continued…

Visiting Texas – Day 4 (more)

Being out in the snow can be exhausting.2017-12-TX-180                  Kasen slept while…

IMG_3809                                               Kirby helped make pink pancakes.

IMG_3812                                               Then the big kids went for a run. Two of them tried the baby jogger but that wasn’t going to work. Instead they took the real kids in the jogger.

In the afternoon we took a drive to Hamilton Pool Preserve and hiked the short trail to the pool. The area is now owned by Travis County which, in the 1980’s, “implemented an aggressive land management plan to restore Hamilton Pool” after years of unregulated recreational use by the public, grazing, etc.

2017-12-TX-188                 The trail continues around the pool behind those rocks.

2017-12-TX-194           Public access is restricted by use permit from June through September.

IMG_3818                  I can imagine what a popular site this would be in the summer and being only about 20 miles from Austin.


2017-12-TX-197               This is the view looking out over the pool. 2017-12-TX-187                   Water drips from the ledge above. 2017-12-TX-205


2017-12-TX-227           Someone didn’t read the sign.

2017-12-TX-214                                                                  I remember well that as nice as it is to get out and see beautiful country it’s not exactly relaxing when you are keeping track of a toddler.


Water. Rocks. Bushes. Hazards everywhere.

2017-12-TX-253                                                              When we got back to the parking lot they both still had plenty of energy to burn off.


IMG_3838               Back home having dinner.

Visiting Texas – Day 4

I finished the last post with it snowing on Thursday evening. This is a rare event in this part of Texas and the fact that the snow stuck around through the next day was even more rare. It made for an all new landscape to photograph.

2017-12-TX-23              The view from the back walkway.

2017-12-TX-29         There is the decorated tree just inside the gate on the right.

2017-12-TX-28      Everyone else was still in bed but I went for a walk up the road as the sun was coming over the hills.







2017-12-TX-117                  I got back to the house and checked inside the truck. Dan had chosen to drive to Texas instead of flying. He says, now that he has retired, “everyday is Saturday” and he preferred to throw a road trip into the plans. He had left five days before I did and spent time hiking and camping along the way. He met me at the airport in Austin on Tuesday. Now that all the kids were at the house we had to spread out with sleeping arrangements and he decided to continue with the camping mode and sleep in the truck.

2017-12-TX-120                                               Eventually everyone else came out into the snow.

2017-12-TX-127                     Kirby started a snowman with the help of…

2017-12-TX-122                                                       …Uncle Matt…

2017-12-TX-131                      …and Aunt Meryl.



2017-12-TX-151                  I love these kids.


And these kids too.

Visiting Texas – Days 1-3

I just spent a week in Texas on a trip was part family visit and part mini-Road Trip. I hadn’t seen the grandkids since July and at their ages (3-1/2 and almost 1) that is a long time and a lot of changes.

IMG_3703              We changed planes in L.A. Wildfires had started burning a few days before this trip and  this is a view of the smoke from two fires blowing out over the ocean. We soon left that behind but even now there are fires raging in S. California. December! Here in N. CA we’ve had one good rain in November and nothing since. But that’s a topic for another post.

2017-12-TX-1                                                                  I got there Tuesday night. Kirby and I went out the next morning. She showed me her chickens and we collected eggs.

IMG_3717                  She showed me the tree near the front gate that she and her mom had decorated.2017-12-TX-10


IMG_3706              We walked down the road…

2017-12-TX-3              …and I didn’t know until this point that her ladybug boots have holes in them.

2017-12-TX-5                  I have been told that Santa is taking care of that.

2017-12-TX-2              We looked at decorations on other properties.


IMG_3708               Eventually Kirby got tired of being the subject of photos.

IMG_3724                 A picnic lunch after the walk.

2017-12-TX-12              We have another cutie in Texas as well.

2017-12-TX-14                  I spent last Christmas there when he was only a few days old.

IMG_3737           Brother and sister get along well.


2017-12-TX-15     Thursday afternoon it began to snow.

2017-12-TX-17                                                          Kirby spent some time outside before it got dark.


The plan was that the big kids would spend the evening at a dance hall in the town of Gruene. (Chris & Meryl had flown out with me but stayed in Austin for a couple of days, and Matt flew into Austin on Thursday.) Katie and Kurtis went to pick all of them up but the traffic was so snarled with the unexpected snow and the roads were icy so they all came home instead. So I had almost all my kids (unfortunately one DIL had recent surgery that prevented her from flying) together for a few days of holiday time.