Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Boquillas Canyon

Dec 21
Before we head west towards Ocotillo Grove, we drive to see Boquillas Canyon.  The overlook is stunning, so we do the hike to the canyon entrance.  The park regs say that we can't purchase the artwork offered by Mexicanos who have crossed the river to sell.  But Alex's contribution to Cantador Jesus, is rewarded with Feliz Navidad, and several other rather sincerely loud songs the memory of which cannot be confiscated as we stop at border patrol stations.  Jesus has a powerful and lovely singing voice.

The drive along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Road is all that.  There is a mix of ash and molten rock formations that is contrasty.  Dark lava formations and huge mounds originally formed by ash.

On our way to Ocotillo Grove (OG 1) we stop by to view the Rio Grande just after it emerges from Santa Elena Canyon.

Anticipation of another incredible night sky.... we are so far from city lights that we can spot a few other campsites that must be miles and miles away.  Coyotes sing in the night, but they also sound far  distant.

Steak on the grill, potatoes and peppers sautéing - on top of a convenient bear box.

In the morning we hike up the hill just south of our camp to get a view of Santa Elena canyon. A look back at Q (small white dot in photo below) Q appears tiny in the huge landscape of Big Bend.
Q as tiny white dot near the center of photo.
Santa Elena canyon from more westerly view point.

A jack rabbit who is also out early this morning.

We exit Big Bend Natl Park by way of Old Maverick Rd and see new vistas of the Chisos Mtns.  And we pause to appreciate the Jacal (hah - KAHL) built by Gilberto Luna circa 1837 - and where he lived until 1947 when he died at age 108.

Ernst Teneja

Dec 20
It is the penultimate long night of the year.  How does a stalwart Q end up serving as clothes-line posts?
Clothesline stretches from front to back of camper van to dry swimsuits.
On our way through Big Bend driving towards the Old Ore Rd and Ernst Teneja, we stop by the hot spring and Rio Grande Village.  The showers are tempting but at $2 for 5 minutes, we opt to remain a little silty from the spring.  The Rio Grande runs muddy (behind the hot springs in the photo).  Mexico is just across the river.

Teneja means earthen jar.  The hike from our camp to the teneja is ~1/2 mile.  And it is a lovely start to the day.  At dawn it is 45 outside and 55 inside, but the sun is quickly warming everything.  No need for the heater today.
Looking east towards the Chisos Mtns

The teneja

As we leave Ernst Teneja camp, we spot a Peregrine falcon perched on a yucca.  Here is a fine yucca without falcon spotted on our hike.

Around the Big Bend

Dec 19
Q takes us from Lost Maples to Seminole Canyon.  The drive begins through TX hill country and gradually morphs into desert.  The hill country roads are curvaceous and sometimes steep - or have steep drop offs to the side of the road.

Deer or antelope alongside the road?  It is hard to tell from Q. We drive into Seminole Canyon State Park and see a big jackrabbit running through the campground. We're a little sad that the guided tours of the petroglyphs occurs only Wed-Sun, and hikers are not allowed without a guide.  However, it is a stunning sunset. The beauty of the place is enough to bring us back again. It is 20 degrees outside and 32.5 degrees inside Q.  The little heater rapidly brings the inside temp to toasty.

On the drive to Big Bend National Park, we find a grocery store in Del Rio.  Alex sings "Take me to the River".  Del Rio seems to have a healthy sort of prosperity - not wealth, but doing well.  There are border checks on roads going into and out of town.  At some, the agents want to open Q's back doors.  Others just wave us through with the question, "Anyone in the back?"

Our solar resources are sufficient to recharge both the camera battery and the iPad, and to run the refrigerator & lights when we stop.

We stop in Sanderson for fuel and gain some good info at the chamber of commerce/museum.  The museum docent mentions that we should be sure to stop by the gas station in Marathon to get gorditas.  He's right, they are delicious.  He also shows us his Christmas cards featuring a javelina wearing a Santa hat.  The javelina is a pet of a Sanderson resident who rescued him.
 He is the star of his own movie, too: Javelina - You Were Safer in the Water.

We test some Lone Star to get a better sense of the local population and culture.  The only grocery store in this artist-colony town is the French Grocery.  There is free wi-fi but it is pokey so after an attempt at posting the blog we opt to wait for another opportunity.

Dec 20
We enter Big Bend National Park by way of Persimmon Gap and get permits for Ernst Teneja and Ocotillo Grove (ET 1 and OG 1 in the photos).  Both are primitive backcountry sites that can be easily reached by Q without use of 4-wheel drive option.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Lost Maples

Dec 14th
Captain Tasha orders the crew of Q to depart without her.  She wishes to remain in Port Winslow for a thorough R&R with Larry and Loreen.

One missing detail from yesterday's blog post: Marilyn and I visited Velma Brotherton, a Winslow author.  She writes both fiction and history.  We carried a box of her most recently published book up the hill from her mailbox.  She signed one for us.  I was taken by her account of Ned Christie, a Cherokee who suffered a grave miscarriage of justice.  You can read the story: The current e-version of Saddlebag Dispatches is free on-line.

It is a curvy mountain road that takes Q south to Lake Ouachita - our camp at lake's edge is just south of the little town of Wachita (same pronunciation as Ouachita).  Ranger Ronald welcomes us before we solve the puzzle of how to pay our $11 camping fee. He reassures us that our findings are correct.  Like Big Brushy campground, many of the camps are now day-use-only.  Not sure of the reason, but there is a post at Big Brushy with a high water line well above campground level.

When it isn't freezing outside people catch catfish here.  They aren't noodling for catfish in the way they do further south, but use pool noodles to float bait and to serve as indicators for a catch.  Not so hard to imagine after Alex builds a campfire using free fire wood left over from camping season.  Ranger Ronald stops by one more time to be sure all is well.  We are the only campers.  The campfire invites me to get out the ukulele and torture a few chords.  Tolerant Alex.  We see a bald eagle and a great blue heron.  The eagle does another fly over in the morning.

Data: 30 degrees overnight, but 40 inside Q.  Full moon light bathes Q, but the sleepers don't notice.  We awaken to bright blue sky and all the sunshine we've been missing for the past few days.

Dec 15th
More scenic roads towards Louisiana and the Lake Bistineau State Park.  Here we meet Ranger David who welcomes us to a spot near the bath house.  That is to say warm showers in heated, well lit bathrooms.  Alex discovers miniature desiccated frogs on the floor.  They must have sought moist shelter as the temperatures dropped, only to be stranded as campers left and there were no more showers to keep them moist.  We note massive fire ant mounds just outside the shower, but the ants aren't out to threaten our toes.  We stop to pay the camping fee on the way out.  Ranger Jett confides that the system is down for a reason that he is only free to explain away from work.

Lake Bistineau is not far from Shreveport, LA. The lake was a steam boat channel created by a log jam in the Red River in 1793.  The lake is currently mostly drained for the season.

The photos show the water mark on the tree knees.  The setting sun makes the weird view beautiful.  The campground has plenty of moss nicely waving in the breeze. All of this conspires to create dreams of alligators and catfish.

Q crosses into Texas at The Toledo Bend Reservoir - the Sabine River marks the boundary between Texas and Louisiana.  Our camp is Neches River Bluff overlook - inside the Davey Crocket National Forest.  The book says we could see deer, raccoons, bobcats, but no.  It's free!  And it is warm.  72 degrees inside Q this evening.  The Natl Park book describes this campground as semi-developed, but the only evidence is the vault and trail head signs.  Inside the outhouse, a gazillion lady bugs roost.  Uncertainty about their bitey nature encourages efficiency.

Texas, I have misunderstood you.  You are curvy, forested, and not overloaded with people in cars (except near the larger cities that we circumvent).  Historical markers occur every few miles along highway 7. The last of our holiday letters/cards are sent from Crockett, TX, a sweet little town with a central square and Santa in a pickup truck.

Today's destination is the Enchanted Rock.  But when we arrive, we find a line of cars more like might be expected at Disneyland than out in wild America.  Explained by 70 degrees of warmth on a December Saturday.

The Ranger kindly answers our questions about the value of the wait and tells us that there is a campground about 7 miles south, but beware there is a bar and band playing there late.  What? We don't look that those kind of people?  After a stop at a fine little grocery store, we explore other options including Kerrville State Park on the Guadeloupe River.  It is pretty crowded and noisy, so we opt to drive another 50 miles to be amazed by Lost Maples State Park.

How to value a good night's sleep? It could be measured in a 25 degree temperature drop brought in on 50 mph winds.  I thought we'd be lulled to sleep by the sound of the stream gurgling.  The winds rocked the Q cradle bringing deep, restful sleep.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Pine Hills and Trail of Tears

Dec 10th
Lat 37 30' 55"
Lon 089 25'21"
La Rue Pine Hills campground
$5 with National Parks pass - this campground is along the Trail of Tears in southern MO.

Dark of night by 6 pm; when darkness descended we were 100% charged from solar, so freely used inside lights for settling in.  There was growing daylight by 6:40am when hunters' shots began.  48 degrees inside Quigley and 42 outside.

Captain Tasha makes midnight rounds touching noses and whispering meows.  Our schedule: wake up, drink coffee, drive.

Dec 11th
Mississippi R crossing at Cape Girardeau; west to Poplar Bluff, MO before turning south to meander through the Ozark Mtns of Arkansas to land in the land of our sweet Ruby matriarch.

WTF: Billboard that seems an attempt to disinvite us saying "Diversity is code for white genocide."  But one soon after saying "Diversity is Salvation."
Captain while still under the influence, attempts to take over the helm.

Discovery: It is unreasonably stressful to drive miles on winding mountain roads in heavy overcast and then arrive in the thick of city traffic after dark.

Dec 12
Captain discovers more of her own kind ruling here near Devil's Den.  Middle of the night conversations and paw playing under the door.  Larry is a large marmalade-colored, friendly cat who shares Marilyn & Doug's house.  The other kitty whose manners allow her to be indoors is Lorna, who is short-haired grey & white.  It is shy Lorna who is most likely to befriend and support cautious Capt Tasha.

Monday brings the pleasure of sharing Winslow Extension Club: fine homemade dishes, storytelling, gifts exchanged (the club members paint, knit, quilt - and share). Just outside the window is wildlife.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Captain Tasha's blog: Earthdate 12-08-16, home port.

We are nearing readiness for launch.  Williams doing the blog entry as Captain recovers after serious dental work and subsequent powerful pain killers.  Quigley is fully stocked and well-equipped for the journey into unexpected cold nights of December.
Captain Tasha at the helm.