Saturday, December 31, 2016

Davis Mountain State Park

I am still a bit behind on this blog. We are now at City of Rocks SP in New Mexico. It is a place I have wanted to visit since I saw a post by a fellow blogger a couple of years ago. I will be writing all about it in coming posts. For now, we go back to the point where we were leaving Big Bend NP.

On December 21, we hitched up and left BBNP. We loved our camp site in the desert, but even though we had one more day on our permit, we decided we wanted to make one more stop before we got to Las Cruces for Christmas. This is known as one of the best State Parks in Texas and we can see why. The park was originally built by the CCC back in the 1930's and is very different. The park is nestled in a canyon with tall mountains all around. We even have trees! We parked along the dry river, but had this section of the campground to ourselves.

The SP has a lodge that was built by the CCC. It was recently renovated and the decor was set back to the way it originally looked. We did not go into any rooms, but it looked nice.

After arriving I made a quick trip to town (2.5 miles) to get a few items. A older gentleman came over to me in the parking lot of the grocery store and asked if I would like to buy some tamales. Kim had just told me that she was hungry for some tamales. I bought a dozen and we enjoyed most of them for dinner. They were quite tasty. Once again, this is one of my favorite parts of this lifestyle. We get to eat whatever is available locally. This time it is Mexican foods.

The next day we headed back to Fort Davis to tour the fort. This fort was active from 1851 to 1891. with a break in there for the Civil War. We started by watching a film which was narrated by Kareem Abdul Jabbar, the hall of fame basketball player. He is very interested in black history and the fact that the fort was manned mostly by "Buffalo Soldiers" gained his interest. The film did a great job of telling an unbiased story of the fort and the Native Americans in this very turbulent time. History is history, let's just get it right.

Parts of the fort have been restored and have period artifacts added for information and education. Other parts are just the ruins of buildings. The fort was left to rot from 1891 to 1961 when it became a National Monument. As they get more money, they will restore more of the old fort.

You can see in the picture above of the enlisted men's barracks the beautiful rocks that make up this box canyon.

I was really as impressed by the natural beauty as I was the fort, but that is just me.

Can you see the roadrunner in this picture?

Nicely restored base hospital
It was worth the visit. That evening we went up on the skyline drive in the SP to see the sunset. The sky did not disappoint.

You can see our trailer and the lodge in this picture of the entire campground.

After the sky was done with that show, we drove the rest of the drive to see an enclosure that was built by the CCC. Much to our surprise, they were having a star party up there hosted by the SP. The stars and view from up on top were amazing. The Star Party was OK, but mainly focused on the stories behind the constellations. We got cold and headed home.

The next day we decided to go to McDonald Observatory. The observatory is run by the University of Texas in Austin. It is only 16 miles from the SP. We were not able to get tickets to the evening star party, so we did the afternoon program that was started by a 40 minute, very technical lecture on light space and dark matter. Interesting for me, but I can see where many would be disinterested. We then went and took a tour of one of the oldest telescopes that is still in use and then their pride and joy. The Hobby - Eberle  Telescope is the third largest in the world.

This is the Harlan Smith telescope. It smelled like a submarine in there.

Hobby - Eberle enclosure

This is the Hobby-Eberle. It is not a traditional telescope.
We enjoyed our tour, which was only $8 per person. I did learn a few things and will know more of what they are talking about the next time I watch "Big Bang Theory".

We had a full three days at Davis Mountian SP, but Christmas was fast approaching and it was time to move on. In my next entry, I will document our time in Las Cruces.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Boquillas Canyon and a Long Ride - BBNP

I am writing this on December 28. We have just spent the time around Christmas with my parents in Las Cruces, New Mexico. We had a great time and I will write about it in an upcoming entry. I am still trying to catch up. We have been doing a bunch of things that I would like to include in this travel blog, so I need to do a lot of writing.

This entry begins on December 19 back at Big Bend National Park. The day before it had been windy and hit 25 degrees. It had now warmed up some, but was still cold for this area. We decided on a drive down to Rio Grande Village and maybe a visit to Boquillas Canyon. We drove the 25 miles from our site to a tunnel that was cut through a ridge. It also was a nice overlook of the valley down to the Rio Grande River.

We then drove on down to the Rio Grande Village. There is a small store that sells gas. They claim to fill propane bottles, but the guy would not be back for about 4 days, so no luck on that. There are two campgrounds. One is Rio Grand Village campground and the other is Rio Grande Village RV. The RV sites have full hook ups, but you are parked side by side in a parking lot. The rate is $36 per night. Not the best deal. The other campground has no hookups and you can not run a generator. There were just a few sites we could fit in. We loved our site even more.

We drove out on the short road to the Rio Grande Overlook. The other side of the river in the next picture is Mexico.

I convinced Kim to walk the short 1.5 mile trail to Boquillas Canyon and we are really glad we did. It started out steep, but after going over the top of the hill it went down to the edge of the river and was fairly flat for the rest of the hike down into the canyon.

There were small boats on the edge of the river. Some of the locals from the other side, came over and put small trinkets on a rock and sold their stuff by the honor system.

The walk down into the canyon is very impressive and worth the hike. The only problem was the wind was blowing about 40 MPH.

We walked as far as you could and were surrounded by high walls.

We hiked the trail back out and Kim agreed that the effort was worth the reward. Boquillas Canyon is a very beautiful part of BBNP.

We headed back on the road and turned off at the Hot Springs Road. It is a very narrow road and does not allow Dullies. Our truck made it fine, but the road was narrow at spots. We parked along the river and walked down to the hot springs. There were a bunch of college age kids around probably taking their only bath for the week. Here is a look at the hot springs pool. Not very large, but about 103 degrees.

The river is lined with large Bamboo shoots. There are a few abandoned buildings back around the parking area that were used by people that catered to guests that came to visit the hot springs before the National park was established. I like this shot of the large Palm tree.

That was a full day. We headed back to camp and hunkered down for another cold night.

Our time at BBNP was getting short, but I had one more thing I really wanted to do. There are miles and miles of dirt roads going through the park. Some of the roads are fairly smooth, but most are full of wash outs and large rocks, both loose and embedded. Perfect for a ride on the trusty DR 650 that I carry on the back of the Ti. I spent the evening planning a route that would take me on a nice tour of the park. There is no better way to get out and see some of these areas. I started with the Old Ore Road, it is 26 miles that are at times easy and at times rather technical.

The scenery was quite impressive.

I then headed out on the river road. That section was fast and fun. Did I say fast? The speed limit is 25 MPH, so I would not exceed that would I? I came to the Mariscal Mine. I got a few shots I liked there.

I continued on and turned on Black Gap Road. That road is "Not Maintained". I had a blast on that section. It was the most technical part of the day. I then hit Glenn Spring road and back to pavement and the ride back to camp.  The scenery was great all day. This is Elephant Tusk mountain.

I ended up doing close to 100 miles and all but about 10 miles were dirt. My kind of day.

That about wraps up our visit to BBNP. We needed to move on to meet my parents in Las Cruces and had one more stop before we got there. That stop would be at Davis Mountain State Park. We stayed three days and were busy the entire time we were there. My next entry will cover our time there.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Big Bend National Park – Day 2 and 3

This entry is being written on December 23. I am still playing catch-up from our time in Big Bend National Park. We are now at Davis Mountains State Park. We have found plenty to do here also, so it is going to be a number of entries to document our activities and catch up to the present.

December 17 was a very windy day. It was still fairly warm with highs in the 60's, but the cold front was coming. They were predicting lows in the mid 20's over the next few days. I did forget to mention something in my previous posts. They do not allow generators in the back country camp site. Not at all!We do have good batteries and one 100 watt panel. They did pretty well, but with limited sunshine over the next few days they would be challenged. We had to stay conservative, but they never got below 70%.

I rose early on this day and watched the sunrise over the Sierra Del Carmen. The illumination of the Chisos mountains was a sight to see.

We decided to go ahead and make the drive up to the “Basin” of the Chisos Mountains. This is the center of BBNP. The mountains rise out of the Chihuahuan Desert and are very impressive with large rock formations and wildlife that is not found any other place in the US.

The road went up through an awesome canyon. I just kept taking pictures.

We crested the top and then the road got very steep and twisty. There are no large trailers allowed on this road. We then got our first view of the entire basin with the window on the far end. Rain water that falls or water from springs drains through a water fall in the window. You can see the campground that is for small RV's and tents in this picture.

We took a short hike to get a better look at the window.

We got back to the truck and I was wanting to hike some more. Kim decided that reading in the truck on this very windy day was a better option. I chose the basin loop trail (2 miles) and headed out. The scenery all around the basin was amazing.

There is a lodge in the basin that was originally built by the CCC. You can see it in this picture.

It was a very nice hike and the wind was not really that bad. We took a walk around the lodge and gift shop. Nice, but not our thing.

We then started the drive out of the basin. Just as I said, “I wonder if they ever really see bears here”. There he was. A Mexican Black bear coming down the slope. I did not get any great shots of him, but we did get a very good look at him. I say him because a ranger told us that most of the female bears are in dens having babies and he was quite large.

It was good that we both got to see it and Kim appreciated the fact that we were in the safety of our truck.

We headed back to our campsite and got prepared for the cold weather to come. I decided to take a hike out through the open desert, which is allowed in this National Park.

I saw a number of interesting plants. All of them had some kind of spine on them. The good news is that the lack of water requires some spacing between plants, so you can pick your way through without getting impaled.

I was treated to a beautiful sunset on my return trip.

We had a very busy first two days at BBNP. The temperature the next morning was 25 degrees. We ran the propane heater a few cycles to keep the trailer livable. It warmed to about 40 degrees during the day, but we were happy just hunkering down and reading. It is nice to take a day off once in a while.

On December 19, we decided to head down to Rio Grand Village and check out Boquillas Canyon. I will write about that in my next entry.