Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Window Trail In Big Bend National Park, Texas

After bouncing around New Mexico, the Guadalupe Mountains, and Terlingua, we finally made it into Big Bend National Park.

Since we were only going to stay in Big Bend one day we decided to take the Window Trail.  We aren't exactly the fittest people around so a 3.6 mile round trip hike sounded doable.  The trailhead marker said it was 3.6 miles round trip, but the website says 5.6 miles.  I have to tell you that was the LONGEST 3.6 miles if that is what it was!   I am going to have to lean towards it being 5.6 miles because it took us over three hours to get there, stand around looking while there, and then return.

Keep in mind this was in July.  In Texas. Where the average temperature is 93 F.

What were we thinking???

Probably that it is always hot and if we waited until it cooled down we would NEVER get to do anything!

Anyways, we start off all happy-go-lucky on our trail of dreams and then these were the signs that greeted us.

Oh my gosh.  We are going to die.

Apparently we are pretty stupid.  We decide to go hiking in the desert in summer AND we don't let signs about being mauled to death by lions and bears stop us either.

Thankfully, the only deadly animals we saw beyond birds, were these:


tadpoles, and

some gorgeous tiger swallowtail butterflies.

See, not even the lions and bears are stupid enough to come out in the oppressive heat.

The trail is easy to see. There wasn't any real danger of wandering off it and not knowing.  It doesn't require over the top hiking equipment either.  Good sturdy tennis shoes worked for us. That and plenty of water.  We actually should have taken more.  If anything had happened and we had to have stayed out there for any longer, we would have been goners from dehydration.

If you enjoy the flora and fauna of  desert regions then you will love this trail, or pretty much any trail in Big Bend.  It does start to look all the same, but our friend Mike is a whiz at naming the plants we saw.  I like when we goes with us places, I always learn so much about the vegetation around me.
If I ask Frankie what type of plant I am looking at or what it is called, all I get in response is, "I don't know.  A tree, maybe."

There are more colors than brown and green if you keep an eye out for them.

The cacti were in bloom while we were there and they are beautiful!

These first two photos are of a cholla cactus.  I have also seen them with yellow blossoms.

Then we have to good ol' prickly pear cactus with its lovely yellow flower.  I think this should be the second official flower of Texas after the bluebonnet!

This little pincushion cactus wasn't flowering, but how could I pass up taking a picture of something so adorable??  How??  I couldn't!!

There are of course, more plants out there besides cactus. Most, if not all, are full of thorns and will hurt the living daylights out of you if you accidentally fall on it, or merely brush by too aggressively. They somehow know if you are close and I swear, reach out and grab!!

Take for example this agave plant (aka century plant) embedded in a prickly pear cactus with a mesquite tree starting to grow right in front of it!!  That is just meanness upon meanness, just waiting for the unexpecting non-native to get too close!!

We have a lot of mesquite trees at our house (couldn't get rid of them if we tried!) and they can be pretty.  But don't let that fool you!  They grow thorns that can get to 2 inches long and they HURT if you step on them!!  They can and will go through tennis shoes soles!

Of course, if you can get past the lions, bears, cacti, and other mean plants there are other things to see.  I would never say the desert has a soft side, but it does have a less gruesome side.  Plus, let's face it, you just can't beat some of the views!

 After 3 years, ok, maybe it was closer to 2 hours, we reach The Window.

The view is spectacular and I have heard that when it rains, it runs down that gap causing a waterfall down below.

But what they don't tell you is that it is slippery slippery slippery on those rocks!   I am talking scary slippery!!

While we were there Mike slipped and hurt his ankle.  I could feel how slick those rocks were.  We all could.  Frankie decided to get closer to the edge and I got scared he was going to fall.  All I could think of was if he fell, there would be no getting him back.  So I panicked and got really upset.  Of course, there were other people we didn't know around.  But I didn't care.  I just knew I was about to become a widow.  I couldn't even see him anymore!!

He had gone over.  Without even time to make a sound.  I just knew it.

Then Frankie came back up.  Perfectly fine.  I was the one a complete mess.  It took awhile for me to calm down too.  He kept repeating that there was a lip and there was no way he was going to fall. I know I overreacted but I couldn't help it.  My husband, my life, my all-in-all, had been in jeopardy!

After I calmed down and gave him tons of dirty looks for scaring me, we started the trek back to the car.  It was fairly uneventful.  But it was still long, uphill, and have I mentioned how hot it was??

I have to say, I never saw a prettier sign!!  A mere three tenths of a mile and we could just sit.  Just sit and have the threat of immediate death far behind us.

It was a nice hike and I would do it again, but Frankie would not be allowed to go past a certain point!!  He just wouldn't!!

My next post will be about the Greek Festival we went to in San Antonio and then we will fly ourselves away to Poland where I find new tales to blog about!

Until then!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Cemetery In Terlingua, Texas

On our way to Big Bend National Park we took a short tour through Terlingua, Texas.  We were not really looking for anything particular, just looking.  We came across the Terlingua Cemetery and had to stop!

It doesn't seem like much, but to see all these old simple wooden crosses protruding in a multitude of directions from the hard rocky floor of the west Texas desert was an amazing sight to behold.

As in all cemeteries there were old abandoned graves, and more modern very immaculate graves.

I don't recall seeing any names on these below, but there was great care in their maintenance.

There were several raised (for lack of a better term, at least in my limited vocabulary) graves.

Again, some looked newer.

But  more of them were much much older.

Many of the graves only had rocks covering the area or just the perimeter of the grave.  I mean there really is only so much that will grow out there.  A person can't expect a lovely carpet of green grass to grow over the grave, so this would be the sensible alternative.

Some the graves marked the passing of adults.

Some marked the passing of children.

It had all the requirements to make it a cemetery....graves.  Lots and lots of graves.  But, I am glad that we got the visit this particular cemetery.  It brings to mind that the people of Terlingua really are a different type of people.  They live in a remote part of Texas in a tiny town where the sun beats down relentlessly most of the year.  It takes a tough person to put up with that type of atmosphere.  I can't imagine what it was like back when Terlingua was a mining town!

I leave you with one last shot from the cemetery.  It is my personal favorite. 

In my next post I will delight you with a tale of our hike on a trail in Big Bend National Park.

Until then!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Guadalupe Mountains National Park - Far West Texas

After our visit to Carlsbad Caverns National Park we made a stop at Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

This park contains the highest point in Texas.  It is the Guadalupe Mountain and it has an elevation of 8,749 feet.   In other words, if I were to duplicate myself and then stack me on top of me's, it would take 1,721 of me's stacked but only 1,438 of duplicated Frankie's stacked!  Or!  If you duplicated both Frankie and me and stacked us one after the other, it would take 1,567 of us!  Man!  I really bring down that average, don't I!

We didn't have time to see much of the park.  In fact, we only had time to watch a video about the park and to walk around a short trail near the visitor's center.  Even those two events were enough to cause us to want to go back!  I don't have much to say about the park since we weren't there long, but I would like to share some pictures.  I'll let them do the talking for me.

Isn't it breathtaking?

After our brief stop at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park we headed out to Big Bend National Park.   It was a national park kind of trip!  My next post will be about our time in Big Bend.

Until then!

Carlsbad Caverns National Park - New Mexico

After traveling to old Mexico this summer, we decided to try out New Mexico.

Frankie, our friend, Mike, and I packed our bags and headed 400 plus miles west to Carlsbad Cavern National Park in Carlsbad, New Mexico.

Although it says the caverns are in Carlsbad, we never actually made it to the town of Carlsbad.  The town that we turned at to get to the caverns is called White City.  I don't really think it is an actual town.  According to the 2010 census there was a population of seven.  There is a small grocery store, places to spend the night, and a souvenir shop.  That about covers it.

Did I mention the aliens??  They must be the welcome committee.

White City NM Welcome Committee

So maybe there is really only a populations of five legal residents??

While we were there, we saw about four suburbans with dark windows and government licence plates parked outside the restrooms.  There were several men in suits wearing earpieces and dark sunglasses standing around them.  Then they all got in the vehicles and drove off.  Ummm.....what in the world?????? 

With no explanation, because I can't give you one, let's move on.


Is something behind me?

I feel like something is behind me!

Speaking of behinds.....

Ok, so the place we stopped at had some good photo ops, what can say?!  It's a neat little place!

Once we got back on the road, there was an uphill curvy road to get to the entrance of the national park.

Carlsbad Caverns Sign

The view from the entrance is fairly spectacular.  It may be brown.  It may be fairly flat in the great beyond. It may be desert, but the vastness is something to marvel over!

View from Carlsbad Caverns

We paid the entrance fee at the welcome center/souvenir shop/museum/restaurant/ and were on our way to the caverns.  It is a slight hike but a paved one.  The actual entrance to the caverns is steep and windy.

Oh man, that word makes it looks like there was a lot of wind instead of it meaning curvy.  Stupid confusing English!

But if you look at the picture, I think it is easy to see which is meant!

Walking Down into the Cavern

We decided to take the long tour, because we believe in getting our moneys worth, plus we have the fortunate good health to walk it all..walk all the downward part, anyways.  We went deep underground and thankfully there is an elevator that whisked us right back to the top.  We could have walked back up the way we came...yep we sure could have....but I don't see that EVER happening!

The park has done a lot of work to make the caverns accessible to as many people as possible.  And they have lots in place to help you learn more about it.  There was one plaque that told how when the cavern first came into popularity in the 1920's there were no elevators, paved walkways, and the lighting was primitive.  They walked down stairs to get in and they walked right back up those stairs to get out.  A tour at that time took up to five hours to see the caverns!

We were in there for over three hours as it was!  That including a short break at the cavern cafe and no walking back out the way we came.

We knew it would be cooler in the caverns and thought about taking a jacket.  Frankie and I never put one on though.  A sign at the beginning stated that it stayed 59 degrees Fahrenheit or 13 degrees Celsius year round with a humidity level of 90%.  Since we were walking most of the time, the humidity kept us from getting cold.

The cold and humid atmosphere coupled with the scenery gave the place a strange feeling.  It was like being on the set of some alien movie.  I will leave you with a few pictures from inside the cavern.  It does start to look all the same once you have been there awhile, but it was still fascinating to see it all!

Popcorn Stalagmite-Carlsbad Cavern

Hall of Gaints-Carlsbad Caverns

Stalatites-Carlsbad Caverns

Once done we got back on the road and headed east to the state that we love. No offense, New Mexico, but you just aren't home.

We didn't just go home after this, we headed to Big Bend National Park.  But that is a post for another day.

Until then!