Archive for the ‘2008/12/08, Texas’ Category

Moving on, North to Fort Davis

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009
We arrived in Fort Davis in the early afternoon after fighting some crazy winds on the 118 out of Terlingua  (It’s a twister Aunty Em).  We had some lunch at our new campsite then set off to our first destination, Luz de Estrella winery.  When we arrived it was closed, the sign reading “left at 2:30 today, see you tomorrow”.  No problem we decided to head into Alpine, get some supplies, and visit the Edelweiss Brewery for dinner.  Not gonna happen… They too were closed.  We tucked our tail between our legs and headed home.  We found a great little restauraunt in Fort Davis and ordered pizza and salad take out for dinner. 
107 inch telescope at McDonald Observatory.

107 inch telescope at McDonald Observatory.

The next day we decided to check out the McDonald Observatory, one of the leading astronomy research sites in the world.  The tour was very informative and we were able to actually get in to see the 107 inch telescope and the HET.  Our guide, Kevin, did a great job and we enjoyed the solar viewing opportunites.

Who knew mud flaps were so important....

Who knew mud flaps were so important....

All right, take two on the winery. From the observatory we headed to Marfa once again to check out the winery. We were very curious, as the only wines carried in Big Bend National Park were those from this winery. OK… so we are cruising down the road, minding our own business when we see a police car coming in the opposite direction. We notice he is turning around and comment that he must be after someone in front of us. NOT! He pulled us over, which was very perplexing as we hadn’t even been doing the speed limit. He approached the truck from Kim’s side and inquired about us not having mud flaps. When informed it was illegal to have a dual wheel truck without mud flaps, Kim immediately responded with “you’ve got to be kidding me, that can’t be right”. Probably not the best idea to question a law enforcement official, but he did let us go with a warning. To top it all off… the darn winery was closed again. 

Edelweiss Brewpub in Alpine, TX.

Edelweiss Brewpub in Alpine, TX.

After that adventure, we finally made it to the Brewpub for dinner.  The beers were very good, the company was fun, and dinner was enjoyable.  Believe it or not, the owner (husband) of the winery was sitting at the end of the bar.  He mentioned that if we complained enough, his wife would have showed up with a case… Unfortunately I never saw her and do not plan on going for strike 3. 

We head out for Carlsbad Cavern National Park in New Mexico tomorrow. Seems like we have been in Texas forever, but it was time well spent.

Last Few Days in Big Bend and Terlingua…

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009
The RDRTT starting the hike to Ernst Tinaja.

The RDRTT starting the hike to Ernst Tinaja.

Since the New Year, we have been visiting the last few places of interest in the Park and surrounding area, while also spending time with our new found friends.  The group has grown considerably, as more of John and June’s friends have shown up.  We went on a hike to Ernst Tinaja, a popular spot in the National Park, with the RDRTT crew (Redneck Desert Rat Trailer Trash), as they proudly refer to themselves.   

Reflection of Kim in Ernst Tinaja.

Reflection of Kim in Ernst Tinaja.

The word tinaja (pronounced ti-NA-ha) is Spanish for “large earthen jar,” and refers to a basin-shaped water hole, usually carved into bedrock by natural erosion. These water holes are important sources of water in the canyons and rocky terrain of the Chihuahuan Desert.  The large natural tinaja holds water all year long. Be careful near the tinaja’s edge.

Chris taking the reflection picture at Ernst Tinaja

Chris taking the reflection picture at Ernst Tinaja

Over the year’s deer, javelina, and even mountain lions have been found drowned in this tinaja when the water is low, as the sides are smooth and straight, making it almost impossible to climb out (Can you tell some of this has been plagiarized from another site on the internet?). 

Kim and Chris in a hole in the rocks in Ernst Tinaja canyon.

Kim and Chris in a hole in the rocks in Ernst Tinaja canyon.

 

 

Kim braving the cold waters of the Rio Grande after soaking in the Hot Springs.

Kim braving the cold waters of the Rio Grande after soaking in the Hot Springs.

After the hike we went to the Hot Springs again.  This time we were prepared and armed with our bathing suits.  The water was warm yet refreshing, especially when you add a dip in the Rio Grande.

 

 

The results of bread baking lessons from June.

The results of bread baking lessons from June.

June has the well deserved reputation of being the baker in the group.  She made homemade bread on several occasions, as well as biscotti, lemon pie, and coffee cake. Kim took advantage of some bread baking lessons, and is looking forward to trying her hand at making bread on her own.

 

Jan and Hal at the annual RDRTT fish fry.

Jan and Hal at the annual RDRTT fish fry.

One of the last group “events” was the annual fish fry.  Thanks to Barber (Larry) and Dawn who brought fresh Walleye from Wisconsin!  Everyone made dishes to pass which were all great, and a good time was had by all at the annual fish fry.  We got a taste of what “Thursday Pizza” is like when Russ came out with the guitar and the chair riding began. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As sad as it is… all good things must come to an end.  Today we are moving on to new adventures.  I’m sure we will see our new friends again!

A Sotol Story

Monday, January 5th, 2009
Sotol plants in the national park. These are not the ones we harvested.

Sotol plants in the national park. These are not the ones we harvested.

Throughout history, Sotols have provided man with material for structures, roofs, baskets, mats, ropes, food and even liquor (“sotol”). Big Bend and the south western Texas area is home to the Sotol plant.  The flower stalk is lightweight and strong, making it a great walking stick. 

Kim harvesting her walking stick.

Kim harvesting her walking stick.

Our new friends spend a good deal of their down time making walking sticks out of the Sotol and other plant/tree material.  Half the fun is the hunt for the perfect “stick” and we were determined to harvest our own. We spent one afternoon on a quest for our walking sticks, which were obtained from locations outside of the National Park, as it is illegal to collect anything from the National Park. 

 

Kim and Chris Work on their walking sticks.

Kim and Chris Work on their walking sticks.

The steps of making a walking stick include stripping the leaves, sanding the stalk, making the hand hold, staining (if desired), and stringing the hand hold. 

 

John imparts his walking stick wisdom to Kim. Larry continues his work in the background.

John imparts his walking stick wisdom to Kim. Larry continues his work in the background.

John shows Kim the finer points about carving designs, as she wanted to add a Texas star to her walking stick.  Larry works dilligently in the background on one of his many creations. 

 

Chris puts a coat a of finish on his walking stick.

Chris puts a coat of finish on his walking stick.

The final step in the process is coating the Sotol with polyurethane for protection.  Once dry we will be able to add other design elements.  We are excited to add our first hiking medallions from Big Bend National Park and look forward to collecting others from the parks we have yet to visit.

Happy New Year!!!

Thursday, January 1st, 2009
Where is Gary?

Where is Gary?

New Years Day started a little slow for some. We headed out to find some breakfast at about 10:30. To our dismay, the traditional cabbage and corn bread at the Pizza Shop (don’t ask) wasn’t ready yet… So we went to plan “B” and headed to the coffee house in Terlingua Ghost Town. It was a beautiful morning and we enjoyed some breakfast sandwiches and coffee on the patio.

The Red Bling Club, not to be confused with the Red Hat Club!

The Red Bling Club, not to be confused with the Red Hat Club!

The ladies jazzed it up with some Terlingua “bling” compliments of Polly.

White rock formations in Big Bend Ranch State Park

Ash flow formations in Big Bend Ranch State Park

Kim and Chris headed off to Presidio on the motorcycles, a town on the other side of Big Bend Ranch SP.  The weather was perfect.  Along the way we stopped to take advantage of a few photo opportunities.  It’s amazing how many different types of rock formations there are in this area. 
Chris finding some New Year energy...

Chris finding some New Year energy...

 

 

 

 

 

View of Madera Canyon from the Big Hill.

View of Madera Canyon from the Big Hill.

We stopped at the top of the “Big Hill” to enjoy the views and bumped into some fellow motorcycle riders we had met a few days back. They too were enjoying the view, and following through with an annual tradition of riding to the peak every New Years Day.  

El Patio, Yum!

El Patio, Yum!

We recieved many reccomendations for El Patio, a Mexican restaurant in Presidio.  Glad we checked it out, as the food was great.  We tried a little of everything and ordered way too much.  After dunch or linner (lunch and dinner, we ate at 3:00) we had hoped to stock up on some supplies.  Unfortunately, the one grocery store in town was closed for the holiday. However after the meal today, we will probably not have to eat for a few days. 

Not Again...

Not Again...

We left Presidio a little later than planned but hoped to catch the sunset on the “Big Hill” as a consolation.  As luck would have it, Chris got another flat.  Bummer yes, but he fixed it in record time and we were again on our way.  The trip home was a little slow, and a little dark, but another good day overall.

New Year’s Eve in Terlingua

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

 

Blue skies and mountains again...

Blue skies and mountains again...

On New Years Eve day, Chris once again headed out solo to tackle the less developed roads in the park.  He had a great time working his way through the sandy washes and rocky landscape.  As always he had to capture some of the great views for posterity. While Chris had his fun, Kim stayed home and slaved over a hot stove baking her “world famous” chocolate chip cookies. Alright, maybe not world famous, but her friends may be jealous.  First attempt at baking in the camper was a success.

Having some fun after dinner with Gary, John, Patti, Polly, June, and Gwen

Having some fun after dinner with Gary, Polly, Patti, John, June, and Gwen

 

New Year’s Eve was celebrated with our “new best friends”.  After enjoying a yummy steak dinner, everyone had some fun getting into the spirit of things.

Where's Larry?

Where is Larry?

Kayaking the Rio Grande in Big Bend Ranch SP

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Today was 75 and sunny.  We had a great day floating down the Rio Grande in Big Bend Ranch State Park.  We started from Grassy Banks and worked our way down to Lajitas.  Our friends June, Polly, John, and Larry helped out by dropping us off on top.  Thanks again guys!!! Great views, great weather, great day.  

Having never really kayacked before on a river, this was a new experience to us.  The fiirst few sets of rapids got the adrenaline flowing even though they were rated no higher than a 2 out of 5. 

We stopped for a snack and checked out the old movie set for Contrabando.  Too bad the recent flood has done so much damage…

While exiting the river at the take out, Kim started to float away without her paddle (yes, Kim was up a creek wthout a paddle, ha, ha). She had a choice of trying to grab the paddle or risk going downstream without one.  Unfortunately, while grabbing for the paddle she went for an unexpected swim. Chris too had a choice… grab the camera or give Kim a hand.  Once he realized she would live to see tomorrow the camera won out.

Another memorable day in Big Bend

Monday, December 29th, 2008
 
Kim and Chris above the Window at the summit of the hike.
Kim and Chris above the Window at the summit of the hike.
Today we headed out to hike “The Window”.  This is a popular hike that generally starts in the Chisos Basin, which heads down the the Window..  We decided to come from the backside of the window on a trail called Oak Springs.  There was a lot of up for the first half of the hike, but well worth the views once we arrived. We had fun trying to get the timer shot of the day but faced the challenge of a low camera battery. 
Rediscovering the joys of a simple P, B and J while enjoying the views.

Rediscovering the joys of a simple P, B and J while enjoying the views.

Looking out the Window.

Looking out the Window.

The view into the Chisos Basin from the summit was an awesome place to have lunch.  We then walked down to the actual window, which was quite an inpressive view.  
 
 
 
 
 
Jurrasic grasshopper on the trail up to the Window

Jurrasic grasshopper on the trail up to the Window

On our way we added to the wildlife pictures as you can see with our Jusasic Grasshopper.  We forgot to add something to show scale, but he was about 4 inches long. 

Cattail Falls pool.

Cattail Falls pool.

After retuning most of the way back to the truck, we decided to add a few miles to our day and go to see the Cat Tail Falls.  The falls weren’t that impressive but there was a great little oasis, with a stream and tons of greenery.  It is amazing the different topography in the park.  Total mileage for the day was 8.1 and we were tired when we were done!

Chris resting up for the next hike.

Chris resting up for the next hike.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our day ended going out for 2Fer’s (burger night at the Starlight Theatre) with June, John and their friends who just came in, Polly and Larry.  A good time was had by all.

Still enjoying Big Bend, Texas

Sunday, December 28th, 2008
Chris on the rocks behind the BBMI campground. See him in the middle of the picture?

Chris on the rocks behind the BBMI campground. See him in the middle of the picture?

Since Christmas we have been enjoying Terlingua and the Big Bend area. We have spent time with our new friends, taking walks out back behind the campground and breaking bread at dinner time. It’s amazing the things you can find in the desert… This area has been an ocean on two different occasions. If you look closely you can find sharks teeth, petrified woods, and shells in the dust.
Pretty colors in the desert.

Pretty colors in the desert.

On Sunday Chris took another ride, this time with his knobbies.  He didn’t find exactly what he was looking for but is hoping to get another trip in before we leave the area.

 

The desert behind the BBMI campground.

The desert behind the BBMI campground.

  

 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 5/6 at Big Bend National Park, Texas

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

Day 5 was a travel day if you can call it that.  We packed up and moved about 60 miles to the other side of the park.  For those of you fighting the weather… sorry, it was sunny and reached 80 degrees in the valley where our new temporary home is.  We are staying in the Study Butte/Terlingua area just outside the west entrance and not too far from the Big Bend Ranch State Park, which we plan on checking out on Christmas day.  Once settled we explored the local flair and found a great place to relax and enjoy the sunset views called the Terlingua Ghost Town Trading Post.  Our day ended at another interesting place, La Kiva (the cave), where we had some dinner.

Day 6, today, was sunny and 70’s.  We can get used to this.  I can’t remember the last Christmas Eve that I wore a tank top and climbed a mountain.  Today we rode into the park on the bikes once again.  We finally did our first real hike.  The Lost Mine Trail is about 5 miles round trip.  The views were incredible and we got some great shots.  After our hike we treated ourselves to a pint of ice cream in the Chisos Basin.  We headed home and decided to stop in Terlingua Ghost Town to see what was happening on Christmas Eve.  We happened upon a few fellow riders and got an invite to their home base.  Chris may have some friends to ride with after all… 

 We hope everyone is having as great of a Christmas Eve as we are.

Day 4 at Big Bend National Park, Texas

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Day four was the same temp as day three….cold (we woke up to 35 degrees, with a high of 50). Kim decided it was a good day to do laundry and clean the RV before we move to the other side of Big Bend. Chris took this opportunity to head out on his motorcycle to avenge Kim’s demise on the Old Ore road a couple days ago. Kim was good enough to actually agree to this:)

Big Bend has many ‘unimproved’ dirt roads, requiring high clearance vehicles. Some require 4 wheel drive, perfect for the KTM 950! As you know by now, all these roads have great views. The Old Ore road was conquered quickly and Chris proceeded to River road and Black Gap road in the southern section of the park. Along the way, Chris happened upon the ruins of the Mariscal Mine which used to produce Quicksilver (Mercury) Ore. As you can see by the warning sign below, that stuff is dangerous.

Black Gap road was a hoot! Chris tried to get some pictures depicting the quality of the road, but they all made it look flat. All the roads had washes and sand, which kept things interesting, but Black Gap Road had these on steroids (it is marked as ‘not maintained’). Large washouts with steep entries and exits along with large rain ruts and boulders made this road a lot of fun.