A late blog post from late April
This is a second stop for us here at the Seminole Canyon State Park in Texas. During last year's gypsy wandering we stopped overnight on our way to Big Bend. Our timing then meant that we missed the guided tours and so missed seeing the rock art. Hikers are not allowed into the caves without a guide.
Now we're back fulfilling the promise to ourselves.
As soon as we pull into the highest and windiest campsite (#26), we return to HQ for the first cave hike. Alex shows our tour guides the value of D-Stretch software for revealing the fading paint.
The evidence (of 2,000 archaeological sites in this part of TX & Mexico) suggests that people lived here 12,000 years ago, but the pictographs date from about 7,000 years ago. and there are layers of painting. The rangers tell us that the tour narration includes what can be surmised from the pictographs about the native people as well as the history of ranchers and the railroad.
This is the Fate Bell Shelter - named for an early rancher. The kiosk is an enhancement of the pictographs. But they aren't nearly so clear in reality.
It is easy to see why this land appeals to humans. The rock shelters are cool and pleasant even during this hot Texas day - and there are pools of water and big rivers nearby.
The second day's hike takes us on a five mile loop down, through, up and around. Our guides include natural history as well as the cultural history. Both are school teachers in nearby towns. Hikers most appropriately dressed for a hot summer day in TX won bruises from rock climbing and deep scratches and pokes from thorns. These two gypsies dressed in protective coverage enjoy a fine shower at the campground to wash away the heat of the hike.
Our third day excursion is by boat. The Pakboat is assembled on the boat ramp in Amistad National Park at the edge of the Pecos River early morning.
We aren't on the water long before a family of river otters come to investigate. The little ones are more curious than cautious. We paddle along the Pecos until it meets the Rio Grande. Along both rivers we see cliff swallows picking up mud to build. There seem to be designated chores for the construction work, but the mud collectors are the most vocal in a mass flying choir of hundreds.
Our destination is Parida Cave. We read that it is sometimes accessible by boat (never by foot). We know the approximate location but are relying on being able to spot the wooden dock that signals an entrance. This is a cave that has been in use by humans for thousands of years. As recently as the 1880s it was used by (dramatic pause here...) the railroad. A traveler on the Southern Pacific RR would have a rest stop at the Painted Cave Station.
We paddle for miles looking for anything cave like. This one tempts us, but there is no dock in sight.
Each bend in the river takes us further than we think the cave could be from our turn off the Pecos River into the Rio Grande.
At one point we spy a wake of vultures and let our curiosity take us to see what their meeting is about. The smell warns us that the sight may be grim.
We've been reading Death in Big Bend, so our minds are quite prepared for grim. But this isn't the next chapter in the book. The sorry meal of the wake is a bloated deer carcass.
As we turn around to search again for Parida Cave, we give the vulture community room to continue their clean-up.
There is one point in the river that we consider the most likely location of the cave, and we both are ready for a stretch. Alex climbs and discovers the remains of the dock high in the rocks. Parida Cave found!
The reward is beautiful views of the river from high on the bluff. And the big surprise is a lush growth of ferns.
The pictographs are faint. Our photos look like beige cave walls - just as you see behind the ferns.
But D-Stretch reveals more: