Saturday, February 28, 2009

We're Almost Caught Up on Our Trip!

We left Ft. Davis and headed for Big Bend National Park. First we stopped in Alpine, Texas to fill our propane and gas tanks. We also picked up a few groceries as Big Bend is in a remote area with no towns nearby.

From Alpine we drove to Marathon, Texas so we could enter Big Bend at the Persimmon Gap visitor center. That is the main road into the center of the park. There were two campgrounds we could fit into and they were at the far edges of the park. We chose Rio Grande Village for this visit. Neither campground had hook-ups and neither had shower facilities.
We passed through this tunnel to get to our campground.

Our first day at Big Bend was extremely windy and cool so we decided to drive through the park to familiarize ourselves with trails and different programs available to us. We stopped at Boquillas Overlook to view the Rio Grande.

We drove east to west through the park and ended up at Terlingua, Texas. It is supposed to be a ghost town as well as the place where the annual chili cook-off is held. There were more houses and stores than one would expect at a ghost town.

From Terlingua we went back into the park and traveled to Castolon Visitor Center. From there we took a look at Cottonwood Campground and were glad we chose Rio Grande Village as our base.
From Cottonwood Campground we traveled west to Santa Elena Canyon.
From there we took the Old Maverick Road back to the Maverick Junction entrance.
Yes, it is considered an improved dirt road! It had less twists and turns than the road we drove along to the Castolon Visitor Center.
Our next stop was the Chisos Basin where the lodge is located. We arrived there at 4:00--30 minutes after the visitor center closed.
We returned to our campground and planned the rest of our stay.
For our second day in the park we chose to hike Hot Springs Historic Trail. The trail starts at the remains of an old village. This building was the general store.
Along the trail we were surprised to turn a corner and see these gorgeous yellow flowers growing out of the cliff just below prickly pear cactus.
At one time the hot springs was a health resort and spa. All that is left is the foundation where the hot springs continue to flow into the Rio Grande. And yes, the water is very warm--105 degrees!
As we walked back to the trailhead, someone pointed out the bird nests that we missed. They are made of mud and are just beneath an overhanging rock. We didn't see the birds that made them, but we could hear them.
Then we saw another bird nest, this one in cholla. The bird in this nest is protected by the sharp spines of the cactus.
Our next stop was Grapevine Hills Trail. It was 6 miles down one of those improved dirt roads. We took our picnic lunch to eat at the end of the trail, beneath the balanced rock. You may have noticed that there are not many pictures of us together. Well, at Hot Springs our tripod said it had had enough and fell apart. We couldn't find all the pieces. This picture was taken with the camera on a rock.
This trail is easy until the last quarter mile which is basically scampering up rocks.
It was well worth the trip as the view was great!
After hiking the two trails, we headed back to the campground. We wanted to be sure to get the the visitor center that night for the ranger's astronomy talk. The night was warm and cloudless. Big Bend is the national park with the darkest night skies. The number of stars we could see was amazing. I am now able to identify more constellations than ever before.

Still Trying to Catch Up with Our Travels!

Monday morning we left Brantley Lake State Park, New Mexico, and headed southeast toward Ft. Davis, Texas. As we crossed the state line from New Mexico into Texas we entered the Central Time Zone.

We decided to stay at Davis Mountains State Park near Ft. Davis. It was the first Texas State Park where we've stayed. Unlike most states, Texas charges an entrance fee for each person every day you stay at the park in addition to the camping fee. By purchasing the state park pass, we saved $32 for our 4 day stay! The park pass was $60. We intend to stay in more Texas state parks during the year.
Our camp site was at the base of one of the mountains.
We hiked the trail up the mountain to find a geocache and also take another picture of our site.
We drove the skyline drive and had an excellent view of Ft. Davis (town) and the surrounding area.
We could even see Indian Lodge which is at the far end of the park.
We enjoyed the views of desert and mountains.
Our first order of business while staying at Davis Mountains was to find a place to wash clothes. We found a laundromat in Ft. Davis. As our clothes washed and dried, we walked around town. There were interesting shops with local goodies, but nothing we really wanted.
Next on our agenda was a visit to Ft. Davis National Historic Area. It reminded us of the fort in San Angelo, Texas and also of Fort Robinson in Nebraska.
The officers' quarters have been reconstructed and several have furnishings from the period they were in use.
The hospital under construction, but several rooms have been refurbished and medical equipment is on display.
Another day we visited McDonald Observatory. The observatory has several large telescopes on its property and an interesting visitors' center.
This is the telescope housed in the above building. Our tour guide operated the telescope and the roof opening so we could see how it moved.
From this telescope's building we went to the Hobby Eberly Telescope.
This is a different type of telescope than any I have seen. The entire inside of the building is the telescope! There are 91 mirrors which catch the light from the night sky! This picture is of the mirrors. The poles that look bent are actually the reflection in the mirrors of the top of the building!
Another day while we were at Davis Mountains we drove the loop from Ft. Davis to Alpine to Marfa and back to Davis Mountains.
Alpine is home to Sul Ross State University and the Museum of the Big Bend. We enjoyed visiting the museum since our next camping stop would be Big Bend National Park.
From Alpine we traveled west to Marfa. There was a navy training air field there in World War II. It was also the backdrop for the movie 'Giant' with Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean.
Today it is famous for the Marfa Lights--unexplained lights seen at night across the desert. They were first seen in the 1880s.
This site was built to view the lights.
This is the plaque Bob was reading about the lights.
Of course, we found the geocaches hidden around the loop drive!
After four nights at Davis Mountains SP we packed up and headed for Big Bend!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Presidents' Day Weekend

Saturday morning we took the kids geocaching and found some great sculptures along the main street in Artesia, New Mexico. Of course several of them had virtual geocaches. We have been through Artesia twice, but never went through downtown. What a surprise to see life size sculptures celebrating the town's history every few blocks!
Bobby and Cathy joined us at Brantley Lake State Park Saturday evening. Sunday we planned to visit Carlsbad Caverns before we separated and went our own way.

Once at Carlsbad we decided to walk into the caverns through the natural entrance.
It was a long way down, but it gave Christopher and DeAnna a good sense of us going underground.

As we walked further into the caverns, it got darker and darker. Our eyes adjusted to the light as we entered the main caverns. Christopher thought this looked like a giant finger!
The whale's mouth is an interesting formation.
We stayed in the caverns looking at the sights until well past lunchtime. Everyone remembered the ranger's advice to use quiet voices while underground.
To get back to the surface, we rode the elevator. The attendant turned off the lights so we rode part of the way in total darkness!
At the top, we ate lunch and said our goodbyes. Bobby and family returned to El Paso and we returned to Brantley Lake.
Monday morning we packed up and traveled to Davis Mountains State Park near Ft. Davis, Texas.

Still Refreshing Our Memories!

From Caballo Lake State Park we traveled a scenic highway through Lincoln, New Mexico to get to Bottomless Lakes State Park near Roswell. A red semi passed us on our journey!
We stopped along the way to get more geocaches. Maybe you have noticed our numbers are increasing. One stop was the rest area dedicated to Billy the Kid and others of his time.
We all walked around and stretched before traveling to Roswell.
We had a good time at Bottomless Lakes State Park. We even went back to Roswell to eat in the UFO that is McDonald's. We forgot to take the camera! Oh, well, we had a good time anyway!
We stayed at Bottomless Lakes a few days before heading to Brantley Lake State Park north of the town of Carlsbad, New Mexico. Our site overlooked the lake.
Christopher and DeAnna enjoyed the Living Desert Zoo in Carlsbad. We went to story hour, then explored the zoo. There were some great artifacts for them to put examine.
DeAnna tried the cow horns.
Christopher liked the deer antler.
The animals at the Living Desert Zoo are ones that have been injured and cannot live in the wild. We saw bears, bison, elk, javelina, prairie dogs, tortoises, mountain lions, Mexican wolves, and a porcupine. In the aviary we got a picture of an injured roadrunner.
We had a wonderful time and were looking forward to going to the caverns when Bobby and Cathy arrived on Saturday.

Of course the campground had not one, but two playgrounds which we visited often. The blue slides were perfect for races!
More about Artesia and Carlsbad in the next post!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Time to Refresh Our Memories!

We left Tucson February 4 and headed toward New Mexico. We stopped at this rest area in Arizona to find a geocache.Our first thought was to stop in Deming at the SKP park, but it was still early when we arrived so we kept driving--destination Leasburg Dam State Park north of Las Cruces.

It was a nice drive, but we were disappointed to find no vacancies at the campground when we arrived! The host was as surprised as we were. He said it never filled!
On to our next option--head for Caballo Lake State Park and hope there were empty sites. It was dark when we arrived, but we easily found a site. The next morning we explored the campground and found that we preferred the riverside campground better than lakeside so we packed our things and move to riverside. Once we were settled we went geocaching. We found several and then returned to the rv. We plotted our next sightseeing trip and Bob downloaded the caches we could find as we traveled to Chloride, a ghost town northwest of Truth or Consequences.

If you look carefully, you can see part of our car parked behind the trees at the bottom of the hill. We climbed Red Hill to get a geocache.

We found all the caches and enjoyed touring Chloride. The town has a few inhabitants who own/take care of the historical buildings. The Edmund family purchase the buildings in the 1970s. The general store was boarded and abandoned with all its merchandise in the 1920s. Bats and rats took their toll, but after much cleaning, the store is a step back in time! All the items in the store are the originals from the old mining town. I never knew strawberry jam came in cans!
Bob wouldn't like to use this lawnmower on our yard! It is the implement hanging in the middle of this picture. Here is the original 'ditto' maker for teachers. It contains stamps for sight words with a few picture stamps. Bobby and Cathy were bringing the kids to spend a week with us and riverside had a great playground. Bobby and Cathy went to Santa Fe for a weekend retreat. Our first order of business with the kids was to hike the campground.

Then it was time to geocache. We went to the lakeside are at Caballo Lake to find our first cache.

We had a full day which we completed on the playground near our camp site.

Bobby and Cathy stopped by on Sunday on the return trip. We planned to meet them the following weekend at Carlsbad Caverns. Christopher and DeAnna stayed with us for the week.
We left Caballo Lake State Park in New Mexico and headed for Bottomless Lakes State Park where Bob and I camped last year.