Texas

Trail Ride at Los Cedros Ranch

Since we were had to be at Cowgirls and Cowboys of the West at 1:00 for our trail ride we just hung around the RV this morning. We had lunch before we left on this very cold day. In fact the temperature while I was riding was a cool 37 degrees with a little wind!

We rode out to Los Cedros Ranch and when we got there we missed the turn. I called and the owner told us to where to go – we had just passed it – and that there was a gate there. I asked how we were supposed to get in and she said to open the gate and then ended with “This is the real deal Girl”! We got to the entrance and I got out and opened the gate. This gate was to keep the bulls from getting out! We went down the lane only to discover another gate which I got out and opened. Don’t know what this was keeping in – or out.

Upon arrival we were greeted by two young ladies who were to be our trail leaders today. They couldn’t have been friendlier, more courteous, more caring or more concerned about our safety. After we signed the waivers they took us out to meet our horses. I got lucky because I got Lucky! There was one other person on the ride and she had never ridden before. I mounted first – yep, used the mounting block just like at home – and my stirrups were adjusted. As I mounted and everything was being adjusted Kendra, the cowgirl kept a running commentary on how we should be doing things, e.g. posture, legs, heels, etc. and emphasized safety. She showed us how to keep a light rein on the horse. Riding a quarter horse western style is quite different from what I am used to and the instruction was great. Unlike other trail rides I have been on I had a very comfortable saddle and at the end of two hours could hardly tell I’d been in one. On other trail rides I was a bit uncomfortable after 15 minutes!

This is a real working ranch and the cowgirls are real wranglers. In fact our ride included two chores that they had to accomplish. One was closing another gate on a fenced in area where there were bulls. This ranch is the first in a line of steps to get cattle to the feedlot as this is where the breeding is done.

My wild ride!
My wild ride!
We rode posse style. In other words we rode abreast from each other rather than head to tail and were encouraged to ride where we wanted to as long as we stayed just behind the lead wrangler. Lucky likes to be in the lead but we were able to stay where we should. We rode up to the side of Palo Duro Canyon and what a sight! Can’t wait to get there to hike tomorrow.

It was a cold, cold day but what a fantastic ride. Just before the ride I decided to wear my heavy down coat – good decision so I was never really cold although my hands were a bit and I was not sure my feet would work when I dismounted. Fortunately they did and I didn’t fall on my butt when I got off!

If you are ever in the Amarillo area and want an authentic ranch trail ride with ranch horses be sure to check out Cowgirls and Cowboys of the West. You won’t be sorry!

Our next stop was of course to Walmart where we finally got all of Jerry’s meds. What a fiasco! We left there to go to the iconic Cadillac Ranch. I am so glad it was just a short distance and not a main part of our day. What a disappointment. We saw 10 cars, possibly Cadillacs, upended with spray paint all over them. In fact, there were people painting while we were there. The area was littered with cans of spray paint and other trash. Although it’s supposed to be one of the top things to do in Amarillo I would certainly say miss it if you can!

Back to the coach and another cold night. It’s supposed to get down to 19 degrees tonight but fortunately our propane kicks in and we stay nice and warm. With the heat pad going we don’t have to worry about anything in the coach freezing. I think it’s supposed to start warming up Saturday, the day we are leaving!

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Texas

American Quarter Horse Museum

Well, we came south for the winter but obviously not south enough. It was so cold last night that we had to disconnect the water after dinner due to freezing conditions. Although we have a heated hose we were told that the water would freeze at the pipe and if it did there was a $95 charge so we remembered to disconnect! I think it got down to about 23 last night.

Although we’re traveling when the 25th comes around bills at home have to be paid and bank accounts reconciled so I spent a long time working on that this morning delaying our departure until nearly 11:00.

Our first stop – Walmart! We knew that Jerry’s medicine would run out before we get home and were told that we could get them refilled at a local Walmart. We’ve been waiting until we got to Amarillo to do that because we were afraid that it might take some time. We were right! The first time we went to Walmart Jerry gave them all the information and then we left for a while. The second time we went he realized that he had given them an expired insurance card by accident. (When we received our new insurance cards we put them in our wallets but also kept the old ones because it was not January 1st and we might have needed them thus having two.) Once that was settled we left, got some lunch, went back to Walmart only to find out that they were out of the most important medication so we get to go back tomorrow after 2:00 to pick them up. Fortunately Walmart is close to the RV park and the places we visited today.

img_1811Our first stop was the American Quarter Horse Museum. What a nice facility with two floors full of interesting information and memorabilia. We entered the Grand Hall through massive beautiful doors and realized the hall is lined with tributes on both sides listing the members of the ASH Hall of Fame. On the floor in that room is a diagram of the sires beginning when the American Quarter Horse Association began to keep records. You can follow the bloodlines of several horses but there was one that stood out – Traveler. He had no descendants so we began to question that. It turns out that Traveler was traded for another horse and no one knows what his bloodline is but he sired many great horses.

The only way I'll ever get him on a horse!
The only way I’ll ever get him on a horse!
We watched a video in the Kenneth Banks Theater which also housed absolutely stunning original oil paintings by Oklahoma artist Orren Mixer. The video centered on the importance of horses in our lives featuring a young girl and her best friend, her horse. As a previous horse owner I know the connection one feels with your horse and there’s nothing like it.

Early Morning Disagreement by Mehl Lawson
Early Morning Disagreement by Mehl Lawson
There are several larger than life bronze sculptures outside and at least one horse is interred there. Inside there was one particularly outstanding sculpture of an Early Morning Disagreement by Mehl Lawson. The detail was incredible down to the spurs on the cowboy.

In between Walmart trips we had lunch at Whataburger. I had told Jerry that I had heard of Whataburger but I couldn’t remember if it was really good or really bad but it was one or the other. We decided we’d find out for ourselves since it was located right next to Walmart. The burgers were good and not typical fast food. They were certainly big. In fact I couldn’t even eat all of mine.

Our next trip was to Jack Sizemore RV Traveland Museum. That place is amazing with RV’s from long ago. One RV was one that was used in the filming of the movie RV. It was amazing to watch the progression from pop-ups to small pull behinds, some with bathrooms and some not. Also, Jerry looked at one of the showers and commented that you couldn’t drop the soap in that one because there was no way you could pick it up. When we went back into the store we actually met Jack Sizemore, a very nice gentleman and we had a nice chat with him.

Back to Walmart, then back to the coach for a brief rest before it was time for our chauffeured dinner at Big Texas.

Our ride for the evening
Our ride for the evening
We finished the evening by going to the Big Texan Steakhouse for dinner. We were chauffeured by a horned limo to the restaurant and along the way the driver explained the procedure telling us that it was a very busy place with something going on in every corner. It is indeed quite a production and I guess one every Amarillo visitor should do. As we walked in the blue double doors our senses were assaulted by action everywhere. To the left was the gift shop filled with all kinds of memorabilia. While I was in there a buffalo head on the wall spoke to me. I don’t remember what he said and we could never get it to speak again. After that we walked across the hall to the dining room. The area is set up with long tables family style. We sat at the end of one but no one else was seated at that table while we were there. All around the top of the room are mounted heads of various animals plus a wild turkey. All of the waiters and waitresses were dressed Texas style with cowboy boots, sheriff badges and cowboy hats. I even noticed the chef in the back wearing a cowboy hat. I ordered a filet and Jerry got a T-bone and we both got the usual baked potato and salad and dinner rolls – ah – thank goodness we don’t have access to those rolls at home because I’d be big as a barn. As it was I ate both of my rolls slathered in butter for each bite! As we were finishing dinner a trio of singers with instruments came up and serenaded us. It was a good harmony song and I sang right along.

After dinner we walked by the fudge area and the ice cream area but we were way to full to take advantage of that although we did sample a bite of fudge. Towards the back where the bathrooms are is a hall filled with haunted pictures. When you look at them one way you see an attractive person but as you move they turn into awful looking scary folks. They are for sale in the gift shop but I don’t think I’d care to have one. We also sat in the huge rocking chair and had our picture taken.

We decided that it was time to return to the campground so we went outside and sat on the porch and immediately one of the horned limos drove up and took us right back. Needless to say it was an interesting evening.

We came in, got ready for bed and soon after Jerry went out to disconnect the water. I think it’s supposed to get down in the teens tonight. So much for coming south for warmer weather! Of course Amarillo is in the panhandle so it’s north Texas, not really south!

Texas

On the Way to Amarillo

Well, here it is a little after 6:00 mountain time and we’re nearly ready to go. We’ve prepared the food to go in the crockpot mid-morning (well, actually Jerry did it). I am dressed and ready to go and we can have the coach ready to go in 15 minutes. The problem is (not to mention the infernal wind) it is completely dark outside and we’ve got to put the car on the dolly plus drive out of these strange roads. Think we’ll be sitting for a while. This may be one of those rare mornings when I see the sun rise! (Written first thing Tuesday morning)

(A little later) On the way to Amarillo via Roswell – that’s the way the GPS took us – we saw a sign stating not to pick up hitchhikers as there was a prison nearby. Then we saw a sign indicating a rest stop ahead. Don’t think we’ll use that one.

As we passed through Roswell which is a fairy large town we saw various references to aliens, e.g. Third Rock from the Sun Alien Spacecraft store, UFO museum, lots of alien statues but though we went right through the heart of Roswell we saw no mention of Area 51. There were lots of statues of little and big green men though.

Even though Carlsbad is on the edge of New Mexico we drove nearly 200 miles through New Mexico before we got to the Texas border and then we knew we were in cow country. There were literally hundreds of cattle plus a very active railroad that followed the highway. As we neared Amarillo the winds picked up reaffirming our decision to stay in Fort Davis Sunday. It was a very stressful drive for Jerry with sustained winds of 30 mph and gusts up to 55. We stopped in Hertford, the Beef Capital of the World and got gas. When I went to open the door to go out to help Jerry align the coach to the gas tank I nearly lost control of the door and when I tried to go back in I could hardly get in.

We finally got the gas and got back on the road and arrived at Amarillo Ranch RV Park about 1:00 – we think. Going from Central to Mountain time has kept us very confused! It was so windy that we decided not to put the living room or bedroom slides out although I noticed others had their slides out. By the time we had lunch and got everything settled it was 3:30 and we couldn’t decide what to do. We had had a pretty long day already and I knew Jerry was tired from fighting that wind so we just elected to spend the afternoon inside. We did walk over to the office at one point but other than that it was a quiet afternoon except for hearing the wind blow.

Before we left Carlsbad we got everything ready to go in the crockpot for Crockpot Cowboy Casserole intending to put it on around 10:00. Quite frankly I forgot all about it until we stopped for gas. Then while Jerry was gassing up I was inside frantically throwing ingredients in the crockpot, opening cans, etc. I got it done but we had to wait until after 7:00 to eat. It’s a good recipe for traveling and also a good recipe if you need to feed several people. We’ll be having leftovers one night soon.

Texas

Fort Davis, Texas

We awoke to a forecast of rain and high winds so we knew if we were going to do anything outside we had to get moving quickly. Our first stop was Fort Davis. It wasn’t raining yet so we decided to go on in. There is a museum plus a video but we wisely decided that we needed to view the restored buildings at the fort first because the rain was surely coming.

The Fort has been wonderfully restored with several buildings full of memorabilia. From the National Park website “A key post in the defense system of western Texas, Fort Davis played a major role in the history of the Southwest. From 1854 until 1891, troops stationed at the post protected emigrants, freighters, mail coaches, and travelers on the San Antonio-El Paso Road hoping to reach the gold fields of California. Today, Fort Davis is considered one of the best remaining examples of a frontier military post in the American Southwest.”

Commisary
Commisary
We gamely trooped around from building to building in the drizzling cold rain. The first building we went to was the commissary. We got to read entries from a diary belonging to a young lady and it was filled with daily activities and shed quite a light on the times.

The building that housed the information regarding the health and welfare of the residents was grim reminder of how difficult life was during that time. Contrary to popular belief most deaths were caused by disease or illness rather than wounds from battle. One family lost seven children within two weeks from diphtheria. It was not unusual for children to die at a young age or for women to die in childbirth. The average age of a man was only 48.

In the museum
In the museum
Families sometimes filled the voids in their families by adopting other children. A former Hospital Steward adopted two Indian children who were found by the Rangers after a battle with the Apache. The buildings emphasized how very difficult life was during that time, not at all like it’s sometimes romanticized in Hollywood. We ended the tour with a video and a tour of the museum itself.

After touring the fort we headed for the town of Marfa. I wanted to see the town and we were hoping there might be a grocery store there. By the time we got there it was raining steadily so wandering around the town was out. We were able to get gas at $2.29 which was the cheapest we’ve seen it recently. Of course after we got it and rode another block we found it even cheaper!

Someone had recommended that we eat pizza at the Pizza Foundation so we made an effort to find it. They had also given us the phone number and said we would probably want to call ahead – we didn’t. We couldn’t find it so we instead looked for a grocery store and found one and were able to get most of the things on our list. Afterward we made another effort to find the pizza restaurant and we found it – in a renovated garage. Gee, what is it with us and renovated buildings? We went in and finally realized that we had to order at the counter. Jerry went up to order and then headed out calling me. It was going to take an hour to fix our pizza and there was hardly anyone there. Apparently a lot of people had already called in. We heard later that if you went in to order there might be 30-40 call-ins ahead of you! Must be some good pizza and I’m sorry that we didn’t get to try it.

We decided to return to the coach to eat lunch and have a lazy afternoon. The weather was awful, rainy, cold plus a wind advisory so a good afternoon to catch a nap.

Later in the afternoon we realized that it was not only raining but also sleeting and snowing, not much but enough to see it falling. The wind was terrible and the coach was rocking so badly that we pulled in two of the slides. Looks like it’s going to be a rocky night!

Texas

Star Gazing at MacDonald Observatory

We hated to see our Big Bend experience come to an end but it was time to move on so we broke camp and headed 106 miles to Fort Davis. Actually part of the drive we’d already seen as we had to go back to Alpine to get to Fort Davis. It was a pleasant easy drive although the wind picked up as we neared Fort Davis. (There was a high wind advisory)and we arrived at noon. The office at MacMillian RV Park was closed but there was a phone number posted on the door so I called. The man who answered said the lady who kept the office was sick and he was out on the road. He told me just to pick a spot and we’d settle up later. We picked a spot and began to to set up first taking the car off of the dolly. It was so very windy but we finally got everything done. As we were eating lunch the wind was buffeting us around and blowing the sides so that we decided to bring the living room slide in before we left. That seemed to be the one out affected.

We rode out to MacDonald’s Observatory just to check things out. We knew they had a starlight program on Friday nights and reservations were necessary. It took us about 20 minutes to get there and upon arrival we found out that there were three separate programs. One at 2:00 for an hour and a half, the Twilight Tour at 5 for an hour and a half and the Star Party at 7:00. We realized that if we wanted to see all three we would not have time to return to the RV so we just spent the afternoon there.

img_3455The first program was more interesting to Jerry than to me as it was very technical but after a talk of about 45 minutes we took the shuttle up to see two of the microscopes. That was awesome. The first microscope was the Harlan J. Smith and it is enclosed in a building with a top that opens when the microscope is in use. The second microscope, the Hobby-Eberly Telescope is so very difficult to operate that there are only four astronomers and their four assistants who are allowed to use it. If someone wants to use it for a research project they send the relevant information to MacDonald, the research is done there and then downloaded back to the originator of the project.

I thoroughly enjoyed the second session. Our speaker, Kelly explained the various zodiacal constellations and their positions to each other. He had a very unique way of demonstrating it. It would be a great day to introduce it to children. He talked about the various planets, explained why Pluto was no longer considered a planet and showed everything in relation to the sun. I thought it was interesting that out of 3700+ members of International Astronomical Union only 400 voted to designate Pluto as a dwarf planet. Guess a quorum was not necessary.

We got a quick bite to eat in the cafeteria and then we were ready for the star gazing – except we really weren’t. It was all outside and it was 39 degrees. I had worn my down coat but had on tennis shoes and golf socks and the thinnest pants I own. Jerry had on a heavy shirt and his State pullover. We were definitely not dressed to be outside for any length of time. Oh, did I mention that the wind was blowing? :). The first part of the program is held in an amphitheater and boy were those seats cold. We saw people who had brought blankets to sit on and wrap up in. Obviously they knew more than we did. The speaker had a laser pointer that could actually point out the various stars and constellations. That in itself was amazing. He pointed out the North Star, the Morning Star and numerous constellations plus the Milky Way galaxy. Afterward we went to various stations to look at the sky through telescopes. Unfortunately we only stopped at two stations as we were so terribly cold. Upon leaving we were directed to turn right out of the parking lot away from the Visitor’s Center so that our headlights would not shine toward the center and destroy the dark skies and any adjustment one’s eyes had made. An interesting point that was made was that from here east there is nowhere that the dark skies can really be observed due to the prevalent lighting of our cities. Also encroaching on this area are fracking companies which put off a lot of light. In fact we could see the glow of one of the companies. There is some sort of ordinance for seven surrounding counties regarding lights after dark. One corporate store opened and despite corporate instructions they turn the lights off every night.

We came back to the campground and settled in for the night.

Texas

A Day of Splendor in Big Bend

Sunset from Sotol Vista
Sunset from Sotol Vista
We got an early start today, well, early for us because we wanted to do the Lost Mine Hike and the parking lot fills up quickly and if it’s full there’s nowhere to park, thus no hike. I think we got the last parking place around 10:00. I seem to be forgetting how long it takes to go anywhere in the park but at 45 miles an hour it’s a slow process over a good distance.

When we got to the parking lot Jerry got out of the car and then quickly jumped back in and said put on whatever is in the car because it is really cold. I had opened the door and already knew it was a lot colder than the 45 degrees the car was showing. I had a t-shirt in the back and Jerry had a long sleeved t-shirt so right there in the parking lot we layered out clothing. Fortunately no one was around!

img_3410We started the hike at 10:10 and it was all uphill which was good in that we’d be descending on our way back but the way up is challenging. According to the park newspaper the hike is 4.8 round trip. Of course my FitBit had it longer and I’m not sure where the hike ended according to the park. Whatever, it was a long uphill battle. We ascended 1100 feet by the time we reached the end and we had several rest stops. We stopped often because we were just out of breath and then also just to look at the beautiful scenery. When we’re hiking we are so focused on where we are stepping (and with good reason) that sometimes we fail to see the glory all around us. It is spectacular to say the least. Towards the end I started yawning and I knew I wasn’t sleepy so I wondered if perhaps the change in attitude was getting to me a bit. After all we are from the flat lands of Eastern North Carolina!

Just before we hit the difficult rocky climb we chatted with another RVing couple from Iowa. She had made the climb before but he had not. We had a nice little visit and a nice rest which we needed because then the going got rough.

It was so windy!
It was so windy!
It’s difficult to describe the surface we were walking on. Sometimes it was rocky and sometimes it was dirt and sometimes it was nothing but rock. Of course the wind had been blowing the entire time but it was beginning to pick up. Thank goodness for the walking stick that Jerry made. Without it I know I would have fallen at least once. There were also places where I’m not sure I could have made it without the stick.

We finally reached the top so we stood around in the blowing wind and took some pictures. Wait a minute – what are those people doing over there? Nope, we were not at the end of the trail. There was more and it was an even more difficult climb with wind gusting probably 40-50 miles an hour. We got our to the plateau but could hardly enjoy it because of the wind. When the wind is blowing hard enough to blow my 200 pound husband around you can believe it was blowing me. Several times we just had to sit down to avoid being blown to – I don’t want to think where but it’s a long way down! It had taken us about 2 and a half hours to make the ascent.

We started down and the wind was till blowing fiercely but we were going downhill so it was much easier. As we walked down we chatted with several people along the way some going up and some passing us on the way down. One couple had been to Boquillas yesterday and one couple was going tomorrow so we stood around and talked about that for a few minutes. We also heard some birds chattering but could never see them and our knowledge of birds is minimal at best. Jerry saw a blue bird, not a Blue Bird but a bird that was blue. I never saw any but it was pleasant listening to them sing.

Yes!
Yes!
We finally made it to the car around 2:30 and what a welcomed sight that was. We decided to ride on up to the Bostolon Visitor’s Center to have our picnic lunch in order to free up a parking place. We sat at the picnic table and enjoyed our chicken salad sandwiches and yes, I’m Southern – I had my sweet tea!

We discussed then what to do next. We had been told that access to Santa Elena Canyon was possible now and we both wanted to see that but we knew we were tired. We also knew that we would probably never be in Big Bend again so what to do? We decided we’d ride down the Ross Maxwell Drive again – it is a beautiful drive – and then determine when we got there whether we felt we could accomplish another hike even one that’s only a mile and a half round trip.

This is what we walked through to get to the river!
This is what we walked through to get to the river!
We did it! We made it to Santa Elena and drug out of the car, took a second breath and off we went through the bushes and the brambles to try to find the rock path across the river and the muddy path to the other side. We finally found it although I’m pretty sure it was not the choice path as we literally slid down sand dunes and scrambled though briers and bushes but we got to the other side and then began the ascent and then descent to the bottom of the Santa Elena Canyon. On the way we met several people that we had seen on the Lost Mine Trail but they were a lot younger and more energetic and where quite impressed with us! The view at the bottom of the canyon is absolutely stunning especially at the time we were there which was around 5:30. Our photography skills and cameras cannot do it justice and my limited vocabulary cannot adequately describe it. Adjectives like majestic, awesome, and grand simply fail.

As we were walking out we met a young couple from Oklahoma and chatted with them as we walked. He had been to Big Bend several times and even been to Santa Elena. We talked as we walked out and surprise – there was an easier way. We walked through a wooded trail along the river bank but it was a marked trail and not difficult to follow. A dirt trodden path going across the river where many feet have trod led us to the other side. We were tired when we got back to the car but so glad we did it.

See the square hole
See the square hole
Jerry had asked me earlier to remind him after we left Santa Elena to stop and take a picture on the way out so I did and we actually stopped so he could take a picture of a mountain that appeared to have a square rectangle in it. Again, amazing!

To cap off the trip we realized that we were going to be in a perfect place to see the sun set if we could make it to Sotol Vista in time. We hurried down the highway and were just in time to see a glorious sunset. God in all of His glory! Spectacular is to mild a word. We left the park at 6:50 – a very full day and tiring day but oh my, what a way to end a visit to Big Bend.

A quick stop at the local grocery store and on to the motor home. We had talked about going back into Big Bend tonight for some star gazing but it was just not to be on this trip. Of all the trips that we have taken this is the first trip that Jerry has said he like to do again. It was grand!

Texas

Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive at Big Bend

I got up this morning with no idea what Jerry had planned as I had told him that today was his planning day. He decided to do the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive with perhaps a hike along the way. We finally stopped at the Big Bend Monument to get a few pictures and then headed on. As we drove along I saw my first roadrunner. Boy is he fast and smaller than I expected.

Our plan was to talk with the ranger at the entrance to get some information but the station was closed. Jerry realized that we were low on gas so he suggested going on to Panther’s Junction to get gas at the nearby store plus we could mail the postcards. As we neared Panther’s Junction Jerry asked where the entry point to Boquillas was and I told him Rio Grande Village so he suggested that we go on and do the Mexican entry today. OK – change of plans.

When we got to the gas station a tanker was filling up the tanks so we couldn’t get gas for about 15 minutes so we went to the Visitor’s Center and talked with a ranger – fortunately. The entry to Boquillas is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays so another change of plans. He suggested several hikes along the Ross Maxwell Drive. After leaving there we went back to the gas station where we paid $2.80 a gallon. We only got $20 worth but that will get us where we’re going and to cheaper gas!

As we drove along Jerry had seen a particular rock formation that he wanted to photograph so we came up on it we pulled off of the road and climbed up to get a good view and he took a couple of pictures. A little further up the highway we realized we could get a closer picture so we stopped again for a photo op.

The Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive is lovely with views of the Chicos Mountains all around. Everywhere you look, right, left and straight ahead are mountains. The mountains just seem to flow on one side with jagged points on the other side. Obviously they defy description.

The first place we stopped was the old ranch site of Sam Nail. We wandered around the ruins of the home. There were two windmills and one was still working, pumping away.

img_4443Our next stop was an overlook at Sotol Vista where we gazed toward Mexico, the Rio Grande and Santa Elena Canyon. From this vantage point Santa Elena appears rather small but at the mouth of the gorge the limestone walls tower 1500 feet above the river.

Also at this overlook was an explanation of how fire plays a role in the part of the ecosystem being neither bad nor good, just a part of nature just like rain, wind and flood. I remember hearing this when we were in the North Carolina mountains as the fire clears out the underbrush.

img_4466We decided to hike the Lower Burro Mesa Pour-Off instead of the Upper so we drove on there. When we arrived in the parking lot there was no one around, just us and the beautiful surroundings. There was a brick bench there so we decided to have our picnic lunch there before undertaking the short mile hike. After devouring our chicken salad sandwiches we took off. By this time a gentleman with obvious photography skills had joined us. The trail was easy and well-marked and we got there in it a short while. Looking up at the Upper Burro Pour-Off is beyond description. Our limited photography skills cannot describe the height or depth of such but we tried as we took picture after picture.

He made it!
He made it!
On the way back Jerry decided to climb a very high slanted hill to reach a structure – why? I guess to say he did it but he found that descending was much more difficult than ascending. By the time he reached the bottom he was exhausted and wondering why he had elected to do it. In fact, he said to please stop him if he ever decided to do something like that again. I have several pictures of his backside!

We continued on down Ross Maxwell Drive marveling at the constant beauty unfolding before us. The colors are ever changing – pinks, reds, oranges, yellows, greens, salmons, browns, grays, and even blacks are just a few.

We stopped at Tuff Canyon, a very deep dry wash. We elected not to do the short hike though as we had others that we wanted to do.

Our next stop was the Castolon Visitor’s Center, a small center not opened during the summer. There were a number of people there though, some of them camping at the nearby campgrounds.

img_4449With anticipation we headed toward Santa Elena Canyon. Wow – majestic, towering – there are no words. When we arrived at the parking lot we were up for the task of hiking as far as we could go. We stopped to look at the Terlingua River and it was dry however as we neared the section where we would have to cross over the water was flowing and where there was no water, it was quite muddy. We saw some people who were barefooted and said they’d rather clean their muddy feet than their muddy shoes. After wandering through several paths we decided that we didn’t want to clean either so we would not be tackling the canyon wall. It was very disappointing but we did get to see the canyon in all its grandeur.

Our next stop was the Dorian-Sublett Trail but Jerry said he was just too tired to try it plus his foot was bothering him so I got out and wandered around. I got pictures of the remnants of the stone farmhouse owned by James and Melissa Bele Sublett, settlers who first came to the area in 1913. Sublett is recognized for introducing mechanized farming into the Big Bend.

On the way out of Ross Maxwell Drive we made a couple of stops to take some pictures. The skyline is incredible and we kept trying to get good pictures without the highway being in them. Not as easy as you’d think!

img_4484We also stopped at what at first appeared to be just white rock but was actually layers of volcanic events. Stacked within the Cherri Castellan are several lava flows and volcanic ash deposits with layers of gravel and clay from periods of erosion between eruptions.

We had earlier talked about hiking Mule Ears Peak but it was an almost 4 mile hike so we knew it was too late to do it. As we rode back though we did stop at the Mule Ears Peaks View Overlook and I was surprised to find out the peaks that I had been calling the Twin Peaks were actually Mule Ears, very recognizable from a distance.

We came on back to the campground and immediately started dinner as we were hoping to see the sunset tonight. At 6:19 we were eating dinner so we missed it! . Oh well, it’s a bit cloudy anyway. Perhaps tomorrow night

Around 7:00 we rode back to Big Bend as the ranger had earlier told us that star gazing would be good on Old Maverick Road. Jerry drove just a little way down that road and quickly decided that it was too rough for our car so we came back out to the main Big Bend highway and rode until we found an exhibit station. We stopped there and then realized that it just wasn’t dark enough so after a few minutes we came on back to the campground. If we try it another night we’ll go a little later.

Texas

Balanced Rock at Big Bend

Neither of us slept well last night for a couple of reasons. We were beyond tired plus our legs bothered us all night. I think we did too much yesterday. I finally got up a little after 12:30, took another Aleve and moved to the sofa. That way I could sleep on my back with my legs stretched out. I finally managed to sleep until a little after 7:00. Think we will have an easier day today.

We started out a little earlier this morning on our way to the Rio Grande Village with a stop at Grapevine Hills Trail for a look at the Balanced Rock. Before we left Jerry spoke briefly with the camp host who is from Alberta, Canada. She said this was her third year wintering here as she like the warmer weather (Brrr, not too warm to us us I guess compared to Alberta, it is warmer) and the peace and quiet. BJ’s is a small park with few amenities but it does have good Wi-Fi so when we have the energy we can update the blog.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe left on our way to Grapevine Hills trail and suddenly realized that there were several cars stopped in the highway. There was a coyote in the road and he was thoroughly unconcerned with the traffic. One lady got out of the car to take a picture and when she opened her door he turned to walk away and I thought he’d leave but he didn’t. We were able to get several good shots of him. He is the only animal other than birds that we have seen. I questioned Jerry as to whether the cold January weather made any difference in the sightings. We ended up seeing probably the same coyote three times which led us to believe that he has been habituated.

We turned on a very rocky six mile road to Grapevine Hills / Balanced Rock trail. It’s six miles long and Jerry was riding along with his foot not even touching the gas pedal. At this rate it would take a while! In fact, it probably took about 45 minutes to go the 6 miles to the parking lot to get to the trail for the Balanced Rock. Along the way we met a van with a lady driver plus a B+ Motor Home so I knew we could make it in our little car.

The trail starts off very easy. It’s a sandy walkway well marked. The grandeur of the surrounding rocks is indescribable and the formation is astonishing. One rock may look like a boot lying on its side. Another may resemble a turtle.

img_3259The last ¼ mile is quite different as it is a rock climbing adventure. Jerry said there might be some jackasses in the Walton family but as far as he knew there were no mountain goats and that would have come in handy during that climb. It was well worth it though. We snapped some pictures and then some more people came up so we were able to get a picture of the two of us under the Balanced Rock.

We started the trek back down and I even scooted on my behind at one time. Thank goodness for our walking sticks as I’m not sure we could safely have made it to the top.

Perhaps a Yucca
Perhaps a Yucca
After we got back down to the “easy” trail Jerry suddenly exclaimed look at the cactus except I don’t think it’s a cactus, maybe a yucca plant. It was blooming. We had walked right by it on the way up and didn’t notice it. It was the only one we saw and as we met the various folks on the trail we told them about it so they’d be sure to see it.

Back to the car and we decided that we’d have lunch at a picnic area Jerry had seen on the way in however we eventually changed our minds and ate in the car as we slowly drove along. It was a slow ride.

Our next stop was the Visitor’s Center at Rio Grande and then a quick trip into Rio Grande Village which as it turned out consists of a small store, a campground and a laundry. We then decided to go the the Hot Springs. The hike was 3 miles round trip and Jerry and I both knew we were too tired to do that so we stopped by the Visitor’s Center again and found that we could drive within ¼ mile of the springs so that’s what we did.

Ah, our tired aching feet
Ah, our tired aching feet
I will say that putting my tired feet in that 105 degree water felt wonderful although it appeared to be very muddy. Maybe it was a hot springs with a mud bath! I only wish I could have immersed my aching legs!

Next stop was Panther’s Junction visitor’s Center to get some postcards to send to each of the grands. Since it was nearing 5:00 we headed on to “the house” and decided we mail the cards tomorrow. Although I had planned to cook tonight we decided sandwiches would be the fare for the night. We also discussed slowing down a bit. We have been going full steam ahead and we have to slow down a bit so tomorrow may be a slower day. We talked about a short hike in the morning, return to the campground for rest and watching the sunset at Santa Elena if weather permits.

When we got to Terlingua we stopped at Cottonwood Market to buy some bread, mayo, etc. and then went on to the campground where I collapsed on the bed for a while. Pure exhaustion but a good exhaustion. We ended up taking chili out of the freezer for dinner. Afterward I spent some time downloading pictures and then turned in.

Texas

Window Trail in Big Bend

The Chisos Mountains
The Chisos Mountains
Exhausting, Exhilarating, Semi-Dangerous – that was today! We headed to Panther’s Junction in Big Bend National Park around 10:00. Several people had said that we could talk with a ranger telling them how long we would be visiting the park and they would help plan our visit. That may be but it wasn’t for us. We spoke briefly with a ranger who gave us about a 2 minute spiel and then Jerry and I looked at each other with looks of confusion hoping that one of us had gotten a little bit of what she said. We didn’t! Oh well, we then watched a really good video on Big Bend. I would love to have had a copy as there was so much information in there that we could hardly retain even a small portion. We made a few purchases and the lady that checked us out was very helpful giving us some pointers on what we might do for the afternoon.

Now why would I want to do this?  BTW, we never saw anything!
Now why would I want to do this? BTW, we never saw anything!
We ended up going back to the Chisos Basis Trailhead to hike the Window Trail. The sign says its 5 miles. Don’t be fooled. According to my FitBit which may or may not be correct we hiked 7.4 miles! When we finally got to the Visitor’s Center it was teeming with people just wandering around. We did realize that the Visitor’s Center itself was closed for lunch from 12 to 1 but there was a store opened where we could buy various items. We ended up buying a bag of potato chips to go along with our chicken salad sandwiches.

Before our walk we opted to have our lunch at a picnic table but once we got there we realized it was a bit chilly so we quickly got back in the car and ate there. Just as we were getting ready to get out the rain came. It didn’t rain long so we got out to start again. And then a big thunder boomer sent us hustling back to the car for a few minutes. It stopped raining, I got out of the car and headed for the building and it started up again. Jerry stayed in the car and I stood under a ledge of the building. Only 15 days of rain annually and it rains the day we’re there! It finally stopped and off we went.

You're in Texas Baby!
You’re in Texas Baby!
I’m not sure what I expected and apparently I didn’t read the sign very well. The information we were given list the trail as moderate. Well, I surely don’t want to see a strenuous trail because this trail was difficult for us, one like we’ve never done before. The path was not smooth at all, littered with rocks of all sizes and included a lot of switchbacks. I had not read enough to know what to expect at the end and I discovered that I don’t hike for the joy of hiking. I want something at the end of the trail and I was totally unsure of what if anything was there. We met one couple who said there was a waterfall there but you couldn’t get to it due to the danger. Little did they know.

As we neared the end of the trail we met a young lady who had earlier jogged by us with her service dog. She warned us about the danger of approaching the window and said it scared her and spooked her dog and she is a pretty seasoned hiker who has done this trail before. The wind was so strong that it blew her bandana right off her head.

When we got to the end of the trail it was so very treacherous. We had already faced very blustery winds going through the walls of the canyons but when we got closer to the Window it really started blowing hard. We opted not to go any further but when others went before us we decided to go as far as we could. Before we proceeded Jerry took his cap off and laid it down putting a rock in it to secure it. He knew it would blow off as he climbed. I took my cap off as well and put it in his adding another rock. As I was climbing up the wet rocks a wind gust of probably 40-50 miles hit me and I nearly fell. Jerry said that was it – we weren’t going any further but then the wind slowed down some so on we went. We reached the top of the rocks, had our picture taken and very carefully but quickly went down.

We made it!
We made it!
It probably was not a wise thing to do but in for a penny, in for a pound. When we got back to where we had left the hats we found them floating in the stream. Oh well, at least we had them.

We then started the 3 mile plus hike back to the Visitor’s Center. The trail is very well marked but it is not a smooth trail as it is very rocky and uneven. We were also descending on the way in and ascending on the way out – not a good idea for me! It was a difficult hike for us, the most difficult we’ve ever undertaken. I was glad we had bought the hiking boots as I think my tennis shoes would not have been sufficient.

On the ride back to Terlingua we watched the sun as it set above the mountains. This is the first day that the sky has been clear enough to even see the sun.

We stopped by the RV briefly for Jerry to change shoes and then we headed to the Starlight Theater for dinner. It supposedly is one of the iconic things to do in Terlingua and since we had not made plans for dinner this was a good night to do it. We didn’t realize that all of the people standing on the porch were probably waiting for tables so we went on in and gave our name to the hostess. We stood waiting for at least 30 minutes and by the time we were seated I thought my feet would fall off. We both ended up getting burgers. They were good but nothing like the Gristmill, Blackwater Jacks or Chimney Rock. Guess we are a little spoiled by now.

We got back to the campground a title after 8:00 but I felt like it was much later. We were both exhausted but too tired to go to sleep. I downloaded some pictures onto Google photos and then tried to put my aching, tired body to bed. Yes, it was an exhausting and semi-dangerous day but a great way to spend out first day in Big Bend.

Texas

On the Way to Terlingua

We just can’t get away early! Despite all efforts it was 8:30 before we pulled out of Seminole Canyon State Park this morning and we only drove about 30 miles before we made our first stop which was at the Visitor’s Center and restored home of Judge Roy Bean in Langtry.

We turned off of the highway which always makes us a little nervous as we don’t want to get in a situation we can’t get out of. We found out later that we were on a loop road so no worry. There really was nowhere to park so we just stopped in front of the center in the no parking zone and I went in to ask where we could park and were told we could stay right where we were.

The Texas Department of Transportation has a Visitor’s Center connected to the museum and the ladies working there couldn’t have been nicer. They immediately asked where we were headed and began to gather relevant brochures for us. Before our self-guided tour we watched a short video on Judge Bean which had obviously been done years ago but was still providing correct information.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe left the brochures on the counter and began the tour of Judge Roy Bean’s saloon and the Opera House (his home). Legend has it that the town was named after Judge Bean’s idol, Lillie Langtry. He had numerous pictures of her decorating the saloon and he wrote to her many times inviting her to visit Langtry. She eventually did but unfortunately it was a few months after Judge Bean’s death. In speaking to the assembled peopled she told them that she felt as though she knew them from the letters that Judge Bean had written to her.

After touring the buildings we walked through the cactus garden. It is lovely and filled with many different varieties and each of them labeled with a bit of information about them. Had the weather been nicer – it was very windy and a little cool – I’m sure we would stayed longer but with the wind it was getting cooler.

We left and headed to Marathon where the Gage Hotel is located. I had heard that it was absolutely essential that one stop at the Gage to see the beautiful architecture and eat in the wonderful restaurant. Well, the lobby of the hotel is pretty impressive but the restaurant doesn’t open until 6:00 so we were out of luck there. We drove on and ended up stopping in Alpine and parking the coach at the athletic field of Sul Ross State University where we just ate what we had.

The drive from Alpine to Terlingua was at times harrowing. We had been in light rain since we left Langtry but after Alpine the fog set in plus we were in mountainous country. As usual Jerry did a fantastic job but at times his visibility was very limited. Due to that we didn’t make very good time finally arriving at BJ’s a little after 3:00. It didn’t take long to set up although we are still having some trouble with the jacks.

As soon as we could we set off to get the lay of the land and actually headed toward Big Bend. I cannot possibly describe the majesty of these mountains. They are absolutely mesmerizing. The various colors all seem to seamlessly blend and it is just such an amazing site. I don’t think I’ve seen anything more beautiful and I can hardly wait to see them up close. We rode to the entrance to the park where the ranger explained that we would need a car pass and with our America the Beautiful pass entrance was free for 7 days. He gave us some literature and some suggestions.

Since it was nearly 5:00 we returned to Terlingua and then drove on to Terlingua Ghost Town. Wow – there’s a teepee there and a lot of small adobe homes. It’s like something out of a picture book. Needless to say it’s really authentic, nothing touristy about it at all. We continued on to the Starlight Theater where we were thinking about having dinner but the lines were already long so we decided to go on back to the campground and think about dinner there another night. I prepared some potatoes au gratin and we warmed up leftovers for dinner.