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Posts Tagged ‘texas’

I Slept at Guadalupe Mountain (Sort Of)!

November 17th, 2009 3 comments

It’s the highest peak in all of Texas.

guadalupe-mtn10,000-some odd feet. I didn’t climb it.

guadalupe-mtn-sunsetSunset from the campground.

I think Guadalupe Mountain is probably best known for being an NPS campground pretty near Carlsbad Caverns. And the campground was really just a parking lot — charmless, but flat. And about 2 AM the wind started howling. At 5, I gave up on sleeping and pulled up stakes. Not literally — I slept in the back of the truck. Then I drove to Carlsbad and got a sausage egg McMuffin. Are you supposed to capitalize “sausage egg”?

And FWIW, I don’t think the government uses consistent criteria to determine which areas should be “National Parks”. Guadalupe Mountain, Carlsbad Caverns, and probably Mammoth Cave should all be National Monuments, not Parks. At least according to their stated criteria. Oh well.

bkd

Big Bend National Park Zone 3: The River (Day 121, Part 2)

November 17th, 2009 No comments

Best zone for last, I guess. Big Bend is so-named because it’s situated on a large bend on the Rio Grande. Clever naming, yes. Anyway — the river goes through a gorge and, um, I think I’m back to where I should start these posts with the second paragraph again.

Except that I don’t have any material for a second paragraph. Maybe it’s too early in the morning.

big-bend_santa-elena-roadThe gap in the cliff is Santa Elena canyon. And the cliff to the left of the gap is in Mexico.

big-bend_santa-elena-opening (1)The canyon’s gaping maw.

big-bend_santa-elena-canyonCanyon, river.

big-bend_santa-elena-canyon-visitorsIf they’re on their honeymoon, I don’t think it’s going well.

big-bend_santa-elena-wallThe walls, closing in.

big-bend_santa-elena-jungleThe canyon contains its own jungle!

big-bend_santa-elena-view-outOut the canyon and onto the flood plain. I think the river was low.

big-bend_santa-elena-ramps-downThe trail heading down from the cliffs’ giddy heights.

big-bend_santa-elena-riverbedThe river bed.

big-bend_santa-elena-touristsThe tourist hordes.

It’s sort of telling that this park only exists on the US side of the border. I went to a couple border parks on the north side of the country that both extended into Canada (Glacier-Waterton and Boundary Waters) and none that were on the Canadian border that didn’t.

OTOH, there were a lot more border patrol agents cruising around Big Bend.

I like rivers and canyons.

bkd


Big Bend National Park Zone 2: The Desert (Day 121)

November 16th, 2009 No comments

121 seems like a big number, doesn’t it? Anyway:

First thing I did when I got to the park was go to the Visitors Center to figure out what I’m going to do. I tell him that I’ve been to California, Arizona, and Utah plenty, so what I want to see is how this place (Big Bend) is different from those places. He proceeds to tell me that since none of those places are the Chihuahua Desert and that therefore I haven’t seen anything that’s at all like Big Bend.

Ahem. Deserts:

  1. They’re all dry.
  2. They’re all very hot.
  3. Except at night, when they’re all very fetchin’ cold.
  4. They all have tough, ugly, leathery plants.
  5. They all have a narrow assortment of small, crunchy animals.
  6. There are usually some barren, rocky hills around.
  7. There’s often sand.

Whereas the Mojave Desert has mule deer, we have Chihuahuan White Tail Deer!

Wow, that *is* big. If only I were a zoologist.

Whereas their rocks are between 100 and 450 million years old, ours are between 50 and 400 million years old!

Or a geologist.

We don’t have saguaro cactus like in the Sonora Desert, but we have the highest concentration of ocotillo in North America!

For one thing, lack of saguaro and glut of ocotillo aren’t exactly selling points. For another, I’m not a botanist either.

Plus, we’re the only national park with its own mountain range!

Listen:

  1. If a mountain range can be completely contained within a national park, it’s not much of a mountain range.
  2. Olympic National Park *is* a mountain range, so that doesn’t make you special anyway.

The more park rangers I interact with, the more I think that one lady ranger at Acadia in Maine deserves a medal for outstanding competence. Half a day? Good. Drive this loop, stop here and here, then you’ll have time to hike the second-best trail in the park. Write down these trail names. Now go! Go! They need more like her. A lot more. I should’ve got her name.

Oh well. Desert, and not very different from the Mojave or Sonoran deserts.

big-bend_desert-drive

big-bend_desert-trail

big-bend_desert-trail-2

big-bend_desert-hill

big-bend_dirt-road

Definitely no saguaros.

bkd

Big Bend National Park Zone 1: The Mountains (Day 120)

November 16th, 2009 No comments

See, because there are three main zones in the park: (1) mountains; (2) desert; and (3) river. Right.

And before things get too wild, I’d like to mention that this national park is in the middle of nowhere (which I guess is better than being at the edge of nowhere, because at least it’s in the middle of something). It’s a hard park to get to without meaning to be there. OTOH, (they claim) it has the darkest night sky of any NP in the lower 48. Would probably make it a good place to be a burglar — not that anything happened.

Hiked to “The Window”. Kind of a short hike (4.5 miles), mostly tourists. And most of the good pictures I got of the mountains were from the Visitors Center rather than the hike. Naturally.

‘Course, they didn’t have one of *these* at the Visitors Center:

big-bend_tarantulaA tarantula! Or maybe it’s a tarantulo. It’s hard to tell without flippin’ ’em over.

About the size of my hand. And then the trail (although, technically, the tarantula photo *is* a photo of the trail.

big-bend_window-trailHere’s the trail. Not bad-looking for a desert. Oh wait — these are mountains, not desert.

big-bend_windowThen this is “The Window” itself.

So it was kind of a dull hike — but at least I got to sweat a lot. Then I went back to the campground and visitors center to get some *real* photos. Relatively real. Two of them.

big-bend_casa-grandeCasa Grande from the handicapped-accessible trail.

big-bend_pink-cloudsA middling-quality sunset, with mountain silhouettes.

Then I decided that since I’d never gone to a National Park ranger lecture at a campground amphitheater before, I should try that. So I went, listened to a guy talk about how old rocks are for 20 minutes, then tried to leave quietly. There was a new moon, which made things especially dark, but I found these guys right outside my campsite.

big-bend_javelina-soloA javelina!

big-bend_javelina-bandAnd his merry band!

(It’s hard to compose wildlife photos interestingly when you can’t really see the wildlife so well.)

And then I went to sleep.

bkd

The Enchanted Rock Did Not Crackle at Me (Day 119)

November 16th, 2009 No comments

I think it’s supposed to creak or crackle or something. And that it’s therefore “enchanted”. Well, that and it makes you invisible if you go to the top. Military crests and all that. Ah well, ah well.

It’s sort of like the Half Dome of Texas.

The hike around it is mostly dull and doesn’t get too interesting until you start hiking up the granite. At that point it turns fun. It’s nowhere near as steep or dramatic as Half Dome, but it’s a fine enough jaunt. As evidence thereof:

enchanted-rock_trail-panoramaYes, that’s the peak.

enchanted-rock_altarSort of an altar-thing.

enchanted-rock_uphill-trailThe upward trail.

enchanted-rock_sidehill-rocksSome rocks along the way.

enchanted-rock_creasesA crease with adjoining run-off.

enchanted-rock_me-at-topMe at the top.

enchanted-rock_others-at-topView at the top. With others.

Yep, so that was Enchanted Rock. No crackling on my watch. No cackling, either.

After that, drove on down to Fredericksburg. Ate lunch at a German restaurant — had the gulasch since they didn’t have klöse on the menü to go with the Jägerschnitzel. It was okay.

Then I went to the Nimitz Pacific War Museum. Unfortunately their main gallery is closed for renovation and they didn’t set those exhibits up somewhere else in the meantime. They had this “Pacific Theater Experience” thing set up a couple blocks down the road, but man. It was irritating at best. A couple tanks, a grounded PT boat, and a TBM Avenger and having to be part of a guided tour that somehow took almost an hour. It merited no photos.

OTOH, it *did* help me realize how special that USS Alabama floating museum was in Mobile. Full-on WW2 battleship that you can climb in, on, and around versus refurbished PT boat that you’re allowed to look at, but not touch. Mobile FTW.

Headed west from there. Stopped at a rest stop east of Ft. Stockton at sunset. It looked like this:

stockton-sunsetThe 10.

That’s probably enough.

bkd

Big Barbecue, Broad Falls (Day 118)

November 15th, 2009 No comments

A very full getaway day. Starting in San Antonio.

1. Packed up my mobile office and “checked out” of the hotel. I think I left a jar of grape jam on top of my truck when I pulled away. Hope it wasn’t messy, but I fear it may have been.

2. Did laundry at a sketchy laundromat in NE San Antonio.

3. Got my oil changed.

4. Drove about 1 1/4 hours to Driftwood. The only thing better than driving on the lonely Farm-to-Market roads was the food at the Salt Lick.

salt-lick-barbecue-austin.jpgThe potato salad is a double portion (in lieu of cole slaw).

This was the second time I’d ever been to the Salt Lick — the first time was three years ago. I remembered it being the best barbecue ever, which of course led me to thinking that I’d probably over-romanticized it in my mind and, thus, that I’d be disappointed. Anyway: it’s definitely the best barbecue ever. Probably the best restaurant ever. My guess is that there’s something teutonic in their recipes. I could swear there’s a hint of sauerbraten in the meat and barbecue sauce. If I ever die choking on Salt Lick brisket, it would have been worth it. This by itself would be worth the trip to Texas.

I bought a t-shirt.

5. Headed out to Pedernales Falls State Park. Wasn’t sure I was going to stop, but it was early enough in the afternoon and wasn’t sure what else I was going to get to, so after passing the turn-off and then suddenly fearing regret, I went back and entered the park. Worth it.

pedernales-falls_qtr-closeAlthough I might argue that it’s more of a “cascade” than a “waterfall”.

pedernales-falls_mazeAnd then the river runs through this maze of rocks.

pedernales-falls_frontFull-frontal waterfall/cascade.

Plus they let you run around on whatever surface you feel like. It’s nice.

6. Drove on to Fredericksburg, but instead of stopping turned up north and drove another 25 miles (or so?) to Enchanted Rock State Park, where I set up camp for the night. Then camped.

Fin.

bkd

Categories: southwest Tags: , , , ,

The San Antonio Missions Aren’t Just a Baseball Team (Day 117)

November 12th, 2009 No comments

Finally got out to see something in SAT. Fortunately, I realized early in the day that my lens was set to manual focus and got that corrected. Unfortunately, it took many, many hours before I figured out that the camera was set to 1600 ISO. Man.

You’d think the constant 1/1000ths exposure times at f22 would’ve tipped me off. Meh.

So there are all these old Spanish missions in San Antonio. Basically the same as the one in Capistrano, except there are more of them, they’re bigger, they’re not as crowded, and there are none of those stinkin’ swallows.

Actually, I guess most days the Alamo is probably more crowded than the Mission SJC. Ah well.

missions_san-jose-exterior-2Mission San Jose

missions_san-jose-interiorInterior de San Jose

missions_espadaMission Espada

missions_san-juanMission San Juan

missions_san-juan-bellsCampanas de la Mission de San Juán

missions_concepcionMission Concepcion

missions_concepcion-courtyardPlaza de Concepcion

missions_san-antonio-de-valeroMission San Antonio de Valero — but nothing interesting ever happened here.

The Texas independence story is pretty cool, actually — I’d kind of forgotten any of it I might have ever known. It kind of makes you wish you had some claim to it. Oh well. Most importantly: Santa Anna was a tool. The Alamo itself is kind of less impressive than the other missions, at least in terms of its size. And there’s not much inside. Nicely maintained, though.

Since I was in the area, I went down to the San Antonio tourist date area:

san-antonio_riverwalkTourist women scan the river for ducks at which to throw pennies.

I liked San Antonio. It’s unpretentious, but it has a lot of real history and culture behind it that it could’ve been pretentious about if it wanted to be. I left the place thinking Austin *wishes* it were as legit as this. People were pretty friendly there also — I actually had three different people greet me in parking lots. When else does *that* ever happen?

Anyway,

bkd

Hotel Room Sitting (Day 116)

November 12th, 2009 No comments

Another post that exists only because I said I’d post something for every day of the trip regardless of whether or not anything interesting happened. Enjoy!

printer-feedingFeeding the beast.

Day 116, I actually printed out recommendation forms, filled them out, then created a bunch of stamped, addressed envelopes for my much esteemed recommenders to use once the time comes.

Oh, also, I kind of forgot that my DSLR was turned to manual focus and that I’d set the ISO to 1600. In case you’re wondering why that photo looks as jacked up as it does. Fortunately, it’s just a photo of a printer. (Some of my photos from Day 117 hurt a little.)

Also, just BTW, I’ve been listening to country music ever since I got to the south. It’s ridiculously accessible and the product placement in there is pretty priceless. Everyone sounds the exact same, which is another bonus, plus any of the current songs could have been current a decade ago. I mean, no one would’ve been surprised by them if they’d come out in 1999. Or 1989 probably for all I know.

Ah well. Next year I’ll get into… man, there’s not much left. Music: done. Probably.

L8,

bkd

Categories: southwest Tags: , ,

In Texas, Even the Rain Is Big (Day 115)

November 12th, 2009 No comments

Not a lot to report on from Day 115. Stayed in a hotel in some place whose name has been lost to the ages (just south of Austin, consisted exclusively of motels, fast food joints, and truckstops — “Hillsboro”?) the night before, then woke up and drove to Driftwood to go to the Salt Lick, except that it was so packed that I just pulled on through the parking lot and left. From there, headed down to San Antonio where I got in around 4 and immediately locked myself in my hotel room and screwed around with grad school app stuff, trying to re-remember what I had left to do.

Here’s a picture of the rain, though:

san-antonio-rainLook at it go!

OTOH, it’s nice to finally be on the good side of the Carl’s Jr.-Hardees line. Oh yes.

bkd

Categories: southwest Tags: , ,

(Texas) (State #44)

November 11th, 2009 No comments

Texas: no sign of welcome.

IMG00308-20091107-1408The state line must be around here somewhere.

I think Texas wins a couple of prizes for the trip (so far!):

  1. Most giant flags.
  2. Most construction.

The road in front of the hotel was pretty torn up, for instance — should have had three (one-way) lanes, but it was down to one. And every historical site but the Alamo has scaffolding on it. OTOH, it probably doesn’t take them 20 years to re-surface a freeway.

bkd

Categories: southwest Tags:
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