Yes, we kept on going... (March 14th, 2014)

... till we reached our Nevada City CA home.  Like the Energizer bunny, we didn't stop till our long-life batteries wound down, which happened late Friday afternoon, March 14th when we pulled into our driveway. We needed to be home by mid-March and so we did.  We loved seeing our families scattered in the Southeast (missing one, so sad), but this trip was too short for the distance we traveled.  How about a recap?

Tergel covered 6,295 miles in a bit less than six weeks!  She used 780 gallons (averaging 8.2 mpg), and this year gas costs were much less than years past, thanks to lower prices.  That's a lot of miles!

 Leaving Big Bend.  Lovely Big Bend Bluebonnets line the roadside.

Lunch stop.  Tergel (with Smartie, of course) heading for I-10 and the way out of Texas. 

 Fighting a stiff, unkind headwind nearly all the way.

Windblown West Texas iconic symbol.

 We drove north on Hwy 95 in western Nevada all the way to I-80 (we drove straight thru NM and AZ).  Smooth road.  Vistas such as this one above greeted us.

As well as this ...! 

 Wild donkeys roam Nevada's high country.

Gotta love a friendly hotel that has room options... 

Hawthorne, NV, Army (Ammunitions) Depot, which claims to be the World's Largest Depot.  One small photo of 226 sq miles of ammunition storage.

Didn't see any.  Didn't want to. 

 Our last stop before home was an RV park in Weed Heights, NV, site of a former Anaconda Copper Mine.  Jimmy thought the camp book said "super" place, but it really said, "superfund" place!  Well, I'm kidding, but I was scared to drink the water!

The 880 ft deep pit, filled with 450 ft of (contaminated?) water. 

The RV park hadn't officially opened (not till April 1st), but there were four FHU sites available for folks like us that stumble in.  Nice and quiet except for the quail.  

Here's a welcome sight - the Sierra Nevada mtns off I-80.  We were disappointed that we didn't see more snow, but seeing the range was heavenly.

Welcome home!


Hot dog, a Hot Springs in Big Bend, March 7th

... Too bad we didn't have our bathing suits with us!  A young couple returning from a dunk in the hot springs said the water felt wonderful (allegedly 105°, but we don't know for sure).  We were on our way back to Tergel after hiking all day and a soak in hot springs might have been just the ticket, but (darned ol' buts) the drive to get our suits and return ix-nayed it.  As I mentioned yesterday, nothing is close in Big Bend.  Oh well, one more of those next-time things!  We did get out for a walk to the river and then, as usual for us, we kept on going -- just not all the way to the springs. Along the trail we discovered these fascinating rock "mountains" that we thought kind of resembled Pyramids.

 A great story is attached to these palm trees.  After reading it, we doubly wished we'd taken a dip in the springs!

 I went wading in the Rio Grande instead.  

 Quite an amazing sight.  Pictographs, swallow nests, and who knows what all else?

One of the pictographs.

Rock Nettle.  Its flower sort of reminded me of St Johns Wort.  Never saw Rock Nettle before.

This Chihuahuan Raven and it's partner were having a conversation that apparently I interrupted.  Both of them circled my head several times!  After our dinner, Jimmy and I hopped on our bikes for the short mile to Daniel's Ranch, right down from the campground.  It is known as a birder's place, and I vouch for it.  Along with the Raven, Vermilion Flycatchers were on the job, White-winged Doves were about, as well as a cluster of Inca Doves, and a Pyrrhuloxia and Golden-fronted Woodpecker were spotted pecking on seed. And the list goes on....  It was very peaceful under the massive cottonwood trees, no one else around.  Nice.

 See the Common Black Hawk's nest in the V of the tree (upper right in picture)?  I saw the hawk several times, but it was in no mood to have a photo taken.  Don't believe I'd ever seen one before.

Thought I'd throw in this pic of Alligator Juniper that I took yesterday in Chisos Mountains.  Definitely a resemblance to a real 'gator!

Believe me, I did not retouch this photo!  True sunset color on the "bacon" ridge of Sierra del Carmen Mountains.  Blew me away!

Of course, we have lots more pictures to remind us of our few days in Big Bend Nat'l Park, flowers and trees and butterflies and birds, rocks and mountains, and colors like seen above.  We were wondering what the fall would be like, after summer's heat abates, but before it gets too danged cold.  To be continued....

Saturday we left Big Bend for Terlingua Ranch and Lodge, but gray skies and cold temps didn't make our stay there any more appealing.  So, on Sunday under yucky skies we drove north on Hwy 118 for a stop at Fort Davis. On the way we were rained on, sleeted on, blown hither and tither, and generally faced very unfriendly conditions!  Dislike! When we got to Fort Davis, with little weather improvement, we said, "Ah, the heck with it, let's get out of Texas!!"   By gum, we kept on going ....


The Green Island - Chisos Mountains, Texas -Friday, 3/7/14

The picture below was my reward for getting up at sunrise.  Friday morning's sky was cloudy, so the color was a surprise; it lasted only a couple of minutes.  I had my first cuppa coffee outside the RV and I was ready -- what a great way to begin a day!  My next surprise was hearing raindrops tip-tap on Tergel's roof while I was eating breakfast.  Not a lot of drops, mind you, but this is the Chihuahuan Desert and we didn't expect rain.  It didn't stick around and, anyway, we were gearing up to hike in the heart of Big Bend Nat'l Park: Chisos Mountains. The Park Service brochure puts it this way:  If the Rio Grande is Big Bend's linear oasis, then the Chisos Mountains are its green island in a sea of desert.  After listening to my sister rave about their time spent in these mountains, I knew we needed to experience them.

Big Bend is so vast that everything is far away; it's 30 miles from our c/g to the Chisos.  The sky remained cloudy, but we'd been advised that the mountains could be 10-20 degrees cooler than where we camped on the river.  I guess that should read, "normally."  When the sun broke thru the clouds, the day grew pretty danged warm (and one of the rangers said, "humid,") and it got hot while hiking.  Today wouldn't be considered a normal day in the mountains!  Nevertheless, the mountain scenery left us open-mouthed and appreciative of being here!

Good morning!

 On the 2-mile Chisos Basin Loop Trail... admiring the view. 

 To see these mountains in person... wow!

 On the 2-mile R/T Lost Mine trail.  Love this picture!

Juniper Canyon.  Even with clouds and haze, we could see for miles and miles.

We enjoyed climbing up here on the rocks, tho the trek to this point was fairly strenuous.  Elevation at the trailhead was 5,600'.  An interesting interpretative guide was provided, pointing out geological formations and plants.  Mexican PiƱon Pine is prevalent, and we learned about the three kinds of juniper in this area: Alligator Juniper (because of the bark's resemblance to alligator skin), Drooping Juniper (it always looks like it needs a good watering), and One-seed Juniper.  Identifying the first two is easy, but the third was a mystery till the brochure pointed out: If it ain't either of the first two, then it has to be the One-seed!  BTW, Drooping Juniper grows only in the Chisos Mountains high country.

Our turn-around point. 

 Jimmy resting on a CCC built bridge.  Those guys did such great and fine work that it endures intact.

Well, we had a red-sky morning and a red-sky evening.  Win-win!  A most gorgeous sunset, wouldn't you agree?  Wonderful day!

Next up, tomorrow:  Down to the river and a short bike ride to Daniel's Ranch.


Bodacious Boquillas Canyon, Texas!! March 6th & 7th, 2014

We've seen the Brown Sign by I-10 for many years:  Big Bend National Park, but the time never seemed right. We were either coming or going and had no time to stop.  Or couldn't take the time to detour 150 or so miles from the freeway south to where the Rio Grande River makes its 90 degree turn, hence Big Bend. The national park comprises over 800,000 acres (larger than Rhode Island), and other than comments about its beauty, my chief comment was, "It's way too big!!"  It would take us the rest of our lives to see it all... tho there's no such thing as "seeing it all."  We only hit a couple of the park's highlights, but we vowed to return.  We say that a lot about places we go; this time it may be true.  Big Bend:  where river, desert, and mountains meet and create an outstanding and wonderful diversity.

We opted to stay two nights at (expensive) Rio Grande RV Village because when we called the week before about c/g availability, we were told the non-hookup (inexpensive) Rio Grande Village was booked. When we pulled into the Visitor Center, their signboard said the RV Village was full, but both nights had plenty of spaces available.  The other one had sites available, too, so I guess the moral of this story is don't believe them!  As I said, we opted for two nights and had a reservation elsewhere. Phooey -- we would've stayed longer if we'd had the opportunity.  Oh well!  The RV Village was very nice.

Breathtaking Big Bend views everywhere.

Yup, Tergel fit in the tunnel!

What's left of the Rio Grande River.  Due to "over-appropriation," the river's flow is much less than it used to be.  The river marks the boundary between the US and Mexico.  In this picture the United States is on the left, Mexico to the right. 

 And these men on horseback are Mexicans who regularly cross the river to market "wares for donations."

Jimmy tests the water at Boquillas Canyon entrance.  Not cold.

This Road Runner chose the American side.

Spectacular 1,200 foot canyon walls dwarf all below. 

 Cacti meeting.

 Intrepid explorer, almost at the end of the narrow canyon w/o getting her hikers wet.  That walking stick I found weighed almost as much as me.

 "Wares for a donation" -- the scorpions at most places were $6.  At this last spot they were a bargain at $5.  A Park sign said, don't buy merchandise as you and the seller will be in trouble... so we didn't.

Pin the tail on the donkey?

Silence in Boquillas Canyon is pervasive.  The gentle gurgle of the Rio Grande or a canyon wren's sweet cascading notes the only sounds.  Until, without warning, said silence is shattered by the loud brazen bray from a Mexican wild burro bouncing off sheer canyon walls.  Scared me half to death!  I knew it was a Mexican burro because it was on the other side of the river.  If you can't find it in my photo, it's almost square in the middle, a tad to the left of center.  (It must have crossed the river in the night, or perhaps another burro let loose about 4 am and woke me.  Kind of sounded like those Magellanic Penguins we saw and heard in Patagonia!!)

Magnificent Sierra del Carmen Mountains, with its ribbon ridge that reminds me of bacon...   

What a treat to see these mountains morning and evening, going into and out of our campground.  Views of this range were unbelievably beautiful.  This is one of those places where descriptive adjectives become trite. Layers upon layers of multi-colored rock and ridges and mountains, due to volcanic activity, uplifting and erosion are something to see.  The Chihuahuan Desert climate favors bunchgrasses, cacti, lechuguillas, yuccas, sotols, etc., with creosote bushes covering most of the terrain.  Because we're here after winter rains and before summer's heat broils, wildflowers dot the landscape.  Cool beans!  I especially liked Big Bend Bluebonnets (lupines) that lined the main road.  Many of Big Bend's plants are found nowhere else in the world.  So much to see!  Bird life is amazing, too, and along the river where we stayed, I saw birds not seen in most of the rest of the US.  Would that we could've lingered....

Tomorrow:  Chisos Mountain....

The Heart of the Big Bend, Texas -- March 5th, 2014

Alpine:  It was just an overnight stay on our way to Big Bend Nat'l Park, but we arrived in town early enough to park Tergel at (the very nice) Lost Alaskan RV Park and walk around historic Alpine.  Below are scenes from our walkabout town.  Alpine began in 1882 when railroad workers and their families made camp along a small creek at the foot of what is now known as "A" Mountain.  Situated at 4,475' above sea level in high Chihuahuan Desert, Alpine is the hub of the Big Bend area.  It's country mixed with artsy-fartsy and it works.  It's also home to prominent Sul Ross University.

 Proper-looking Brewster County Courthouse erected in 1887.

One of Alpine's terrific murals.

 Inside the handsome old Holland Hotel Building built in 1912.

This painting inside the hotel doesn't show up well (too much window light), but we sure liked it. 

 Great Big Mural - notice the section to the left of Hoss is almost the same as above painting.

Studying each facet of the mural.

Alpine was a delightful place to stop.  Tomorrow morning we'll strike south on Hwy 385 for Rio Grande Village RV Park in Big Bend Nat'l Park.