Thursday, June 4, 2009



After a less than restful night along the banks of the Rio Grande we decided we would leave our trusty ol' camper parked just where it was and head out for parts unknown in the pickup truck.

Our first order of business was to check out the campground in the Chisos Mountains. That was a good choice. The drive up to the campground was incredibly beautiful...quite an incline at times, but absolutely stunning scenery. We were a bit concerned that we would not be able to find a camp site there since all sites are on a first come first serve basis. But, as I have mentioned before, one of the perks of being a senior is being able to travel when most other people are in school or working. We were traveling in early April and although many people were in the park, it was not crowded. We found a great spot! The minute we saw it we knew we wanted to stay right there. So, in order to make sure the site stayed in our possession, I retrieved my other James Lee Burke novel, my cooler of Diet Cokes, my comfortable camp chair and the dog, parked myself right down under the covered shelter and waved good-bye to Skip as he headed back to the Rio Grande Village to hook up the trusty little Chalet and bring her back to the Chisos Basin. The dog and I were alone there at the campsite for several hours. That's how long it took for Skip to get back to the Rio Grande, hook up and get back to the Basin. It was a wonderful time. I tried to read, but I couldn't take my eyes off of the scenery. I saw something new everywhere I looked. The rock formations were alive. Now, my children have often accused me of being on drugs because I see things that no one else sees. But I promise, if you look closely, you can see the same things. I saw an elderly Indian woman climbing the mountain, I saw a great beast of the mountain holding on to his territory for dear life, I saw praying hands, I saw a nativity, and I saw an Indian chief and his wife. I decided they were Peta Nocona and Cynthia Anne Parker on their wedding day. I'll post the pictures. See if you don't agree. These formations were all seen while sitting and looking in one direction from our campsite. It was beautiful.

"Peta Nocona and Cynthia Ann Parker"

See his high cheek bones and deep set eyes, and the strong Indian nose? She is right beside him with a smile on her small mouth, the lace from her wedding veil between her eyes and over the ears, and a small pearl earring in her left ear lobe. You can see it, can't you? Actually, I think her mouth looks a little like Barbara Bush. This is a beautiful carving.

"The Nativity"

You can see it, can't you? The three wise men on the left, a little lamb in the center, and Mary, Joseph and an angel all hovering over the baby Jesus? There's a little lamb there, too. Or maybe it's a puppy. Were there puppies at the Nativity? Should have been.

"The Praying Hands"

See how beautifully they are folded in prayer? How long have they been there, lifted up to God in praise? Or, what body lies beneath with only the million year old hands visable? You can see it, can't you? It's amazing.

"Indian Maiden Climbing the Mountain"
There she is. You can see her can't you? At first I thought it was an old Indian woman climbing the mountain, but on reflection I think it is probably a young Indian maiden being sacrificed to the Gods. She is slowly walking to her destiny and has been frozen there for a million years. She is beautiful. You can see her, can't you? Her long beaded robe flowing down behind?

"The Great Creature of the Mountain"

Here he is. You can see him, can't you? His knarled paws lying on either side of his long trunk. He has been holding on to his side of the mountain for many years. He's not about to let go now. I think I even heard him rumble from deep within during the night. I assured him I did not want a piece of his mountain. His space was safe with me.

This was the absolutely perfect place to set up camp, and we made it our home base for three days...definitely not too long. There is so much to see in this beautiful section of our country. I feel a little sorry for the people in the big rigs. They can't set up base here. They can't navigate the steep rises and sharp turns. So, the "Basin" is left for tenters and people like us who travel with little rigs.

There is also a motel type lodge with 58 rooms and some rustic cabins located in the Chisos Basin. The facility has a nice restaurant and gift shop located within. The Chisos Mountains are a grand place to be.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009




The entrance to Big Bend National Park from Hwy 365

When last we were together, if you were in the driver's seat you were holding on to the steering wheel and preparing to slow down for the water in the middle of the road ahead. But wait. That's not real water. That's a mirage. If you were riding "shotgun," you were commiserating with Dave Robicheaux (James Lee Burke's great character) as he sits on his back porch battleing his demons and watching the white sheets of heat lightning flash across the Gulf of Mexico. Then you look up and realize that is not lightning. That's the sunlight, which can do magnificent magic with landscapes, turning the distant mountains into shimmering cities in the sky.

When we arrived at the entrance to Big Bend, it was late afternoon, the sky was a bit hazy, and the sun was shining at the perfect angle to light up the far away mountains with a beautiful sparkle...only capable by the slanting sun. It did indeed look like we were about to enter a magical city in the heavens. I quickly checked to see if Dave Robicheaux had survived his latest bout with crime and his own demons. I thought maybe I was witnessing his new abode. Not to fear. He survived. We never saw the mountains again in that light, but once was enough. It was an absolutely splendid sight.

Since it was late afternoon, almost early evening, when we arrived we decided that our best bet to find a camping spot would be Rio Grande Village which is the biggest of the camp grounds in Big Bend. So, after driving for many miles, we continued to drive through Big Bend. Big Bend is Big! We got to the campground early enough to drive around and be able to pick a good site. We discovered that the main part of the campground is in a big, shady common area that had electricity and water and lots of sites for all sizes of campers. It was pretty full. There were spaces available but there were also sites available on the perimeter of the common ground. These spaces were all surrounded by trees and undergrowth which provided great privacy. Now, Skip and I like our privacy. We don't care to know what our neighbors are talking about, and neither do we like for them to hear our conversations. Therefore, we decided on one of the nice, quiet campsites away from the common area and the other campers. We were the only ones on this quite little stretch of road. Nice. We managed to get hooked up and get some dinner on the picnic table before it got dark. We pulled out the camp chairs and settled in for a nice evening interrupted only by the sounds of a bull frog (from the sounds, a very large bull frog)somewhere close to us across the road. It was pleasant. The bull frog sounded happy. That made me happy. About the time it was getting really dark, a park ranger pulled up for a little visit. He was very nice, welcomed us to Big Bend and offered to be of service if we needed anything. Such hospitality. Then he mentioned that we should be aware that we were located on an international border and as a result should be extremely cautious. He said that it was not uncommon for visitors from south of the border to walk these roads at night and that we should not visit with them, nor should we buy anything from them. Made my night! Skip, who never has trouble sleeping, went to bed shortly after our visit and went sound asleep. I, on the other hand took our big Labrador Retriever who had a really big bark and sat in my camp chair all night long. If anybody passed by me during the middle of the night, I wanted to be aware. Nobody did. Not that I know of anway. When the sun rose the next morning we discovered that the home of the big bull frog was the Rio Grande River...just across the road. We had no idea. We did understand, however, why all of the private campsites were available and the common ground was full.

Beauty on the banks of the Rio Grande.

Double click on smaller pictures for viewing in a larger format.

Monday, May 25, 2009


Camping in Big Bend National Park
Getting There!

Have you ever had the urge to get behind the steering wheel of your car and drive...and drive...and drive? And then, fill up the gas tank and drive...and drive...and drive some more? Do you have a special affinity for the steering wheel? Don't want to let go of it once you become attached? Do you have a desire to finish the latest James Lee Burke novel in just one setting? Well, I have the plan for you! Take a trip to Big Bend. It's a fact, folks. There are miles and miles of not a lot between wherever you are and Big Bend National Park. Not to worry if you get caught up in that novel and you are afraid you are going to miss something, take me at my word. You won't! There are things to see between here and there, but whatever you see you are going to see again and again and again. You will see the same oil wells slowly pumping up and down, you will see the same telephone poles for miles on end. Occasionally you will go through a small, dusty, nearly deserted community. There may be a place to stop and get something to drink. If you go in the springtime (recommended) you will probably see cacti blooming. That can really be beautiful. You might see a road runner flit across the road in front of you. Oh, look..that big black spot in the's a tarantula! But mostly, if you are driving, you will see mirages in the long stretches of highway that unravel in front of you while you are listening to all of those Willie and Waylon and the Boys CD's you have loaded onto your CD player. If you are in the passenger seat, you are intrigued by the smells and sounds and sights of New Iberia, Louisiana that James Lee Burke is bringing to life in his latest novel. The mystery will be solved by the time you reach your destination! It's not a bad way to travel, it's just a long way away, and the beauty that awaits you at the end of your journey makes it all worthwhile...that is until you start back. There is no more beautiful scenery on the way back than there was on the way out! Now, don't get me wrong. There is a great beauty in all this nothingness that you will never find in the Colorado Rockies or along the rocky coast of Maine. Besides, where would the rattlesnakes and horned toads live if not for this vast and barren land?

I know that all of you fellow Texans understand how long it takes to get to many places in Texas. Those of you from other parts of this great country (like the Northeast) may have trouble understanding the fact that you can drive across several states where you live during the time it takes to get to just one place in Texas. You might not even know who Willie and Waylon and the boys are. My, my, do need to get acquainted with them if you are going to travel Texas. They will give you the best you can find (except for George Straight) in good old Texas Country Music. Every one of them a born and bred Texas boy... good people to keep you company on your long, long drive to Big Bend.

I found this beautiful "dalmation" horse to be the favorite thing that I saw on our long journey to Big Bend. He was just standing there by the fence in one of those small, dusty little towns wanting nothing more than for someone to show him a little love. Does he not have a sad, beautiful face? Look at those eyes! Oh, my! He needs a friend.

Click on pictures for viewing in larger format

Monday, May 11, 2009



Swimming area at Possum Kingdom State Park

I have been away from my blog for quite some time now...the computer had viruses, I had viruses all at different times. Don't know whether I gave my virus to my trusted friend the computer or if my trusted friend passed the virus on to me; nevertheless, we are now both well and up and running. Hello there Walsenberg!!!!!

I have noticed that a number of people who randomly happen upon my blog do so while searching for information about camping at Possum Kingdom State Park. I have done you a disservice. In my only post about Possum Kingdom I was talking about the Great Blue Herons nesting on a small island in the middle of the lake. Since we live on the lake, we seldom take advantage of the wonderful camping facilities at Possum Kingdom State Park. We have been there and if we did not have a home here, it would be one of our favorite places to park the trusty ol' chalet.

The park is a beautiful place. It is covered in cedar trees and most of the campsites are well shaded and private. Some have wonderful covered patios with a table in the middle...very nice.

Campsite with covered patio

Other sites are simply lovely places overlooking the lake. Most of the sites are right on the lake and they have primitive camp sites as well. I'm sorry that I don't have a park map so I don't have definite information about how many sites they have and how many have water and electricty. It is a fairly large park and I do know that most, if not all sites do have water and electricty. They also have nice clean restrooms with showers (that's important to me.) There are several cabins available for rent. Not sure, but maybe about ten. They are located near the day use area and the swimming area (no lifeguard on duty.) The day use area is roomy and located near the swimming hole...a great place for a picnic and swimming with the kiddos. Speaking of the younger set, there is lots and lots of space for riding bikes and also, some great hiking trails. Probably should watch out for rattlesnakes during the summer months. There is a small play ground area, nothing too exciting. They do have a basketball goal.

When you come to Possum Kingdom bring your boat. If you don't have one, you can rent one at the park or at several marinas around the lake; however, getting to one of the marinas will necessitate some traveling. The park is not near anything by land. But, it will be worth it to have a boat because Possum Kingdom is a really beautiful lake. You will enjoy just slowly cruising around enjoying the scenery and gazing with awe at some of the incredibly gorgeous homes that have been built on this lake. Most are not visible by land, but you can certainly see them from the water. Also, you are going to want that boat for fishing. Possum Kingdom was once known as one of the best fishing lakes in the state. Then a few years ago we had a horrible fish kill caused by Golden Algae. Many thousands of fish were killed. The fishing came to a halt; however, the lake as been restocked regularly and the fishing is coming back! We had friends up this past week-end (May, 09) and they both caught their limit of stripers and white bass. So, not only will you want to have your boat with you, you will be really angry at yourself if you leave the fishing gear at home.

Possum Kingdom is a great lake for water sports. It is deep and water sports entusiasts should not be in danger of underwater trees jumping up and grabbing them. Then of course, there is Hell's Gate. This is a landmark of the lake and truly needs to be seen by boat. Hell's Gate is located in a really deep part of the lake near the dam, and many of the extrodinary homes have been built there. This is also a BIG PARTY area during the Fourth of July weekend. Boats hook up to each other and people go from boat to boat for the continuous party. Can be dangerous, especially if alcohol is involved. But, lots of people show up and have a grand old time. The fireworks on the 4th at Hell's Gate are just an added bonus. There is also a fireworks show and huge party at Possum Hollow. This is probably visible from the park since Possum Hollow is just across the lake from the state park. You might just want to show up for their party. If you do, plan to go early and stay late. I'm not sure that your children would enjoy the party, but if you are a young couple (or old like me) you might have a good time. Lots of music, often with a live band, and partying with the fireworks showing up when it gets dark. Great fireworks! Just a short boat ride from the park (but I don't like to be on the lake at night on the 4th.) You could go by car, just head north toward Graham, turn right on FM 1148 and drive until you see "Possum Hollow" or all of the cars. It's a BIG party.

To get to the State Park coming from the Ft. Worth-Dallas area or the Abilene area, get on Hwy 180 to Caddo (there's not much at Caddo, but there is a sign telling you that you are there.) Turn north on 3253 (may also be listed as Park Rd 33) and follow the signs to PK Lake. Be sure you bring all of the provisions that you need because you will be a long way from any grocery store or Wal-Mart...probably 40-50 miles from Breckenridge or Graham. There is a park store which has most everything you may have forgotten, but not a lot of choice. The drive is nice. It's isolated and you won't see much except maybe an occasional flock of wild turkeys or a white-tailed deer.

If you want some really good fried catfish you can leave the park and head north towards Graham. Turn right when you get to FM 1148 and follow it around until you get to a sign that says "Fox Hollow" Turn right there and follow the road to the end where you will find a small restaurant..Fox Hollow. Their food is great and lots of time during the summer months you will need to have a reservation if you don't want to wait 20-30 minutes. The fried fish dinner is scrumptious but usually the fried fish basket is all I can eat. It's good! Then, if you are in the neighborhood on Thursday night you might want to stop at Papa's Wheelhouse for all you can eat ribs. Oh, my! Served with beans and potato salad. They usually have a live band on the week-end nights. You can't go wrong with either place. It's probably 20-30 minutes from the State Park. That's as close as you're going to find any food that's not cooked over the campfire. Speaking of food ( I do speak of food quite often) on your way to the lake if you have to go through the little town of Strawn...even if you don't have to go, you might want to make a must stop at "Mary's" The mexican food there is "to die for." The other food is great as well. The chicken fried steak is all you could ever want. It is definitely worth the detour for lunch or dinner. Believe me, people. Well, now I'm hungry. Guess I better go to bed before I raid the 'fridge.

So, hope this is helpful to all of you who are looking for information on Possum Kingdom Lake camping. Come on down!!! It's a great place to spend some time.

The mockingbird...state bird of Texas. Lots of these guys around Possum Kingdom.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Inks Lake State Park #4

Willow City Loop and Fredericksburg

Field of wildflowers on the Willow City Loop just north of Fredericksburg

We folded up camp, got ol' Trusty in travel mode and once more headed for the bluebonnet experience. We took two vehicles because Judy and Bob were headed back to Ft. Worth and we were headed to Montgomery after we left Fredericksburg. Not to worry, we stopped often enough that Judy and I got to discuss everything that we saw. It was just quieter between stops.

Our destination was the Willow City Loop. This is a narrow, county road that loops around a beautiful, rural area that is renowned for its wildflower displays. It's a great drive without the wildflowers, but during the springtime it is "car-stopping." The only difficult thing to remember is that you are not the only car on this narrow road especially during the season. On weekends it can be quite crowded; however, we were there in the middle of the week so it was not so difficult to find a place to pull over and take a picture, and that we did. It's not easy to paint a word picture of the Loop. It is just beautiful. There are fields and fields of wildflowers and in the middle of these fields are scattered homes where people actually live, bathed in the scented beauty of nature. Cattle and horses graze seemingly oblivious to the beauty that surrounds them. It makes you want to move to the Hill Country.

We spent most of our morning traveling the Willow City Loop. It's not really a long mileage drive, but it is a long stop, sigh and shoot drive. If it's possible, I have way too many pictures of bluebonnets.

We left Willow City and headed south on Hwy 16 to Fredericksburg. What a fun little town. Lots and lots of interesting shops, eating spots,art galleries, bed and breakfasts...its easy to spend an entire day just browsing and without a doubt you're sure to find something that pleases you. Not only is this a jewel for those who enjoy shopping, it is also loaded with Texas history. It is one of the original destinations for German immigrants coming to the United States. It began with 120 immigrants, each of whom received one town lot and ten acres near the town for farming. The farming immigrants were also a devoutly religious people. It was a long trip into town, maybe 20 miles or more with horse and wagon. Most of them who lived on the farms built "Sunday" houses in town for the use of their families on weekends and during religious holidays. Some of those houses still exist in Fredericksburg. They were a hard working people who built a strong, efficient community where their families could thrive. The families of Fredericksburg are still thriving today.

The town which began as an agricultural community has continued in that direction ever since. I think that once you have tasted peaches from this area you will never find another peach that tastes as good. Peaches are the number two cash crop in the county. They are delicious. Besides those wonderful peaches, you will find acres and acres of grape vineyards, and attached to those vineyards you will find wineries...good wineries. We checked out a couple.

We were only able to go to a couple of the wineries because of time constraints...we spent too much time in the tasting rooms! The first winery we visited was the Grape Creek Winery where we tasted as much as we could and left with as many bottles as we tasted. They had some good wines.

The second winery we "taste tested" was the Becker Winery. It really was the prettier of the two. It had a great little gift shop (I'm all about gift shops,) a super bar for tasting all of those wonderful concoctions, and a lovely, covered outside terrace for lounging and drinking. We took advantage of all of these ammenities, as well as a tour of their wine making facilities. Also on the grounds was a beautiful building that can be rented for special events. I thought it would be the perfect place for a family wedding that we had coming up, but she had different plans...oh, well. It would have been a lovely site. Adjacent to the winery is a lavender farm. We were there when the lavender was blooming. It was a most fragrant place to be.

Probably the most important person at the winery was the bar-tender... a bearded, Gaelic type who kept visitors laughing and tasting and buying. We fell right under his spell and left with more than we did at Grape Creek. I felt a bit guilty. We had promised Scrooge (Bobby) a cheap trip, but then we found the wine and Judy just cannot pass up a pretty wine bottle. Sorry about that, Bob.

We were about to part ways when we spied Wildseed Farms. Now that's a place you have to go. It has a huge wildflower garden plus plants and seeds to buy, a nursery stocked with beautiful plants, and gifts galore. You can spend a lot of time in this one place, and we did. I'm afraid that Bobby went home with much less money than he had planned, but what a delightful few days we had.

If you get a chance to visit Texas in the springtime, do it. You will leave with a smile on your face and if you are not careful, with boxes of wine in your trunk.

I understand that the wildflowers this year (2009) may not be as prolific as in the past couple of years because of the extremely dry conditions in central Texas. From what I have read, the best flowers will be to the east and south of Austin. Don't forget there is a Texas Wildflower hotline. You can google to get the number, or call the Texas State Tourism Dept. Enjoy.

I know, it's not a bluebonnet. It's pretty though, isn't it?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Inks Lake State Park #3

The Backroads

Precious "Jesus" donkey standing in the bluebonnets. It's called a "Jesus" donkey because the hair on his back forms a cross.
It's late, I've been gone all day and I'm tired. Thought I could write, but I can't. My muse is stuck in a bottle and I can't find a corkscrew. Maybe tomorrow.
I'm not sure, but I think I found the corkscrew.
When I left you, we were leaving Inks Lake State Park, right square in the middle of all those lovely bluebonnets. We were prepared. Judy and I had little journal notebooks and pens so that we could jot down exactly what we saw and where we saw it, and of course there were fresh batteries in the cameras. Since that time I have misplaced that little notebook, but Judy who is our family keeper of everything has it all written down. I know all the general areas that we covered but if I mention anything specific you will know that I have called Judy and gotten the information. I did, however, retain all of my photos. Never lose sight of those important things.
We headed sort of north/northwest toward Lake Buchanan and found that every backroad we took was brimming with wildflowers...mainly bluebonnets. I think that 2007 must have been a banner year for the bluebonnets for we were not disappointed at any turn. Bobby was driving and was not used to my command of , "Stop, stop quick!" Therefore, we spent a lot of time backing up, because I found my self issuing that command quite often. He was a great sport and soon was anticipating our stops. He would see a bluebonnet growing inside a discarded old tire and realize that Judy and I would certainly want a picture of that. And so we passed our day driving slowly and stopping all around the Highland Lakes area...Lake Buchanan, Marble Falls, Fuzzy's Corner (Judy has that written down,) Kingsland, and a beautiful area between Longhorn Cavern and Inks Lake. There was no place we turned that wasn't full of beauty. We stopped to take pictures of bluebonnets in front of rocks, in front of old rotted trees, in the middle of cracks in the road, in pastures filled with the reds and yellows and pinks of all the other wildflowers. We stopped at a wonderful roadside park and had our lunch of crackers, cheese, bologna, pickles (Judy's homemade dills,) apples and oranges. We could not have picked a more beautiful dining room. There is never a day more beautiful than one spent with people you love in the middle of one of God's masterpieces. And that's where we were, in the middle of one of God's great watercolors.

What a great day! Late in the afternoon we headed back to ol' Trusty, our little pop-up who was quitely waiting for us to return to Inks Lake. Tomorrow, we were headed to Fredericksburg by way of the Willow City Loop.

Kicked back after a long day of starting, stopping and backing up

Monday, March 2, 2009

Inks Lake State Park #2

With visions of bluebonnets dancing through my mind, I picked up the phone and called my cousin and my best friend, Judy. I told her the plan. Skip and I were getting our trusty little pop-up hooked up and filled with all the neccessities for a wild (flower) weekend. I suggested that she and her husband Scrooge (actually his name is Bob, but we affectionately call him Scrooge because he really hates to get rid of those nickles and dimes,) might want to come along with us. Judy, who also packs a mean camera, was ready as always. It was just a matter of explaining to Scrooge that it really would not be all that expensive. They could
share our camper and we would split the cost of food. He finally saw the logic in our presentation and agreed to come along. I'm glad he did. We always have a good time.

They headed out from Ft. Worth. We headed out from Possum Kingdom Lake, and we met in the little town of Hamilton. Met up, had lunch and headed for Inks Lake State Park. One of the places to be for Bluebonnet season.

We got into the park in the early afternoon, and since we were there in the middle of the week (one of the great perks of being a senior,) we found a great camping site right on the lake and not far from a bathroom. I found that it's extremely important to be close to a bathroom after I took my diuretics by mistake with my evening meds one night when we weren't camped near a bathroom. That was maybe the least enjoyable experience of my camping days! About every hour I would reach over, gently touch Skip and whisper in his ear, "Darling (I made sure to call him darling,) would you like to escort me to the bathroom?" He was a great sport about it all, but since then we have made bathroom nearness a priority.

Anyway, our camp spot was beautiful and we parked our trusty little pop-up easily under the trees and set up camp. It was a most enjoyable site. It was quiet. Our neighbors couldn't hear our conversations and we couldn't hear theirs. That's a nice thing. The four of us enjoyed a quiet evening talking, playing cards, enjoying a spectacular sunset, and just being happy that we were all together. Then the four of us climbed into old Trusty for lights out and a good night's sleep. I have to admit, Trusty's facilities were a bit snug for four adults and a Big Yellow Lab. We slept on the bed, Judy and Bob slept where the table was supposed to be, and the dog had the floor. Difficult to step around the dog when you got out of bed, and of course there was no privacy. At our age, who needs privacy? We were happy to have a place to sleep.

Morning found us up and ready for the bluebonnets. Now, Inks Lake State Park itself is a lovely place to be, what with its dramatically beautiful pink granite outcroppings and it's Devil's Waterhole swimming destination. It was too cool for swimming while we were there, but during the warm months Devil's Waterhole is full of young people jumping off of ledges and climbing over boulders. Bluebonnets scattered about the park greeted us and invited us to just stay in the park for awhile, but we were in the Hill Country for the big show! And, big show is what we got!
We left Inks Lake and headed for the backroads...(next post.)

Sunset over Inks Lake from our campsite
Important Facts About Inks Lake State Park:

This is a very popular state park year round and reservations are highly recommended

There are 137 camp sites with water and electricty.
Many of these are right on the water.
Others are in easy walking distance.
Easily accessible bathrooms/showers
There are 50 water only sites
A number of walk-in sites
There are very good hiking and biking trails...some strenuous, some not so strenuous.
There is a 9 hole golf course.
There is fishing, swimming, scuba diving, water sports, and lots of wildlife (white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, Osprey, Bald Eagles lizards, etc.
Your best chance to see Bald Eagles is during mid-November until mid-March. The Vanishing Texas River Cruise near Lake Buchanan is the best place to view Bald Eagles.
It's an easy place to spend some time.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Inks Lake State Park

Bluebonnets In Texas

Field of Bluebonnets near Brenham, Texas

There is no place more beautiful than Central Texas in the springtime! That's a fact. The highways and byways are loaded with wild flowers. The most prolific and the one that's guaranteed to take your breath away is the bluebonnet. It's the state flower of Texas and it fills up the fields and roadsides so thickly that at times you think you are seeing a lake of blue.

You will find bluebonnets all over Texas mid-March until mid-April, maybe early May. The one place where you will find them in more abundance than anywhere else, is the Hill Country of Texas. Could be the hub of the Hill Country is Austin. Whether you are coming or going from Austin, you're almost promised lots of bluebonnets; however, when you get out into the countryside around Austin you will be in for a spectaular experience.

The Highland Lakes area is just to the northwest of Austin and includes places such as Marble Falls, Burnet, Kingsland and Lake Buchanan. This is picturesque country and usually has lots of bluebonnets.

The Llano/Fredericksburg area is west/northwest of Austin and is home to some of the most spectacular bluebonnet displays. this area includes Llano, Fredericksburg and Stonewall. The LBJ State Park is located near Stonewall and almost always has a good wildflower display. The wildflowers of Texas were Lady Bird Johnson's passion and she did much to ensure that the Texas highways would be awash with color.

The Mason County area is northwest of Austin. It's a rural area with many backroads, stone fences and stone houses. They can make for great backdrops for the bluebonnets. This area includes the town of Mason and Fredonia.

The Washington County and Brazos River area is east of Austin. It includes the towns of Brenham (home of Bluebell Ice Cream,) Chapell Hill, Hemstead and Navasota. The area around Brenham and the Brazos River are often called the best wildflower scenic drives anywhere in Texas.

The LaGrange area is southeast of Austin. It includes the towns of Bastrop, Schulenburg, La grange and Fayetteville. South of La Grange in the vicinity of Hwy 77 you will no doubt find some excellent wildflowers. You will also find the "Painted Churches" trail in this area. Beautiful old churches with ceilings and walls painted many years ago by immigrant artists. A beautiful sight to see.

Yoakum and DeWitt County is east of San Antonio and April is the best time for viewing wildflowers in that area.

I'm giving you all of this information with the hope that you will gas up your car, hitch up your camper, strap that camera around your neck, and hit the backroads of Texas during the Spring. You're guaranteed to see wildflowers. Of course, the great abundance of flowers depends upon the amount of rain the area has received during the winter months. There is a Wildflower Hotline at the State Capitol. You can get it by contacting the state tourism department. And, right in the middle of all those bluebonnets in the Hill Country sits the charming Inks Lake State Park. More about that tomorrow. It's late. I need my sleep.

Lip-licking, longhorn in field of Bluebonnets near Brenham, Texas

Friday, February 27, 2009




We are lucky enough to live on beautiful Possum Kingdom Lake in northwest Texas. Today was a beautiful 88 degree day and we got the boat out of mothballs and took a little cruise. On a small island in a neighboring slough we came upon an incredible sight...hundreds of Great Blue Herons nesting! Literally, there were hundreds of them along with a large number of the beautiful white pelicans. The trees on this tiny island were filled to capacity with nests. The nests were filled with female herons and the sky was filled with male herons making sure we were not getting too close. What an exciting find. My pictures were taken from a rocking boat with a "not long enough" lens, but I thought they were special anyway.
(Click on pictures for larger view)

Thursday, February 26, 2009



I can't leave the Gulf Coast of Texas without remembering the fun times at Galveston Island State Park. It saddens me that as of today the park is still closed because of the devastation of Hurrican Ike. Ike literally wiped away a hugh portion of the city of Galveston and the gulf coast in that region. I know that the citizens of Galveston are doing everything they can do to restore their city, and hopefully the state will find the funding to restore the state park because it was truly a gem and a wonderful place to take children.

We traveled to Galveston Island State Park for a long weekend with our daughter Gailey, her husband John and six of our fifteen grandchildren. What a grand time we had...all hot and wet and windblown...but it was worth all of the bottles of sunscreen (we're a fairly light skinned bunch.) The kids played in the surf for hours and hours just falling on the waves and being washed to shore. They fished, they played on their boogie boards, they built sand castles, they hunted shells, some followed me down the beach as I tried to get a picture of a strange bird that kept eluding me. We ate hotdogs and all that other good stuff you get to eat when you are out camping, we played games, we fed the birds, we had a grand old time!

We took our trusty little pop-up camper and the kids took their tents. We had side by side sites. Each site had a wonderful shelter, so we had plenty of room to spread out. The beach was just a short dune away from our sites and the sound of the waves easily lulled us to sleep after a fun, busy day in the sun...except for one night. The second night we were there the rains came and they were not alone. They brought their frisky friend the wind with them. I'm talking WIND! Not much sleeping that night. Those in the tent were busy trying to hold it down and those of us in the camper were just hoping that the wind would not be strong enough to toss us over. We all emerged the next morning dry but a little less rested than if we had just been listening to the gentle lapping of the waves.

At the time we were there, the state park had 149 camping sites with picnic shelters and water and electricty on the gulf side of the park. Not all sites were immediately on the water, but all were within a very short distance. The beach was extremely clean and much less populated than the beach along the seawall in Galveston. There were restroom/showers scattered all about the camping area, but there were no trees, thus no shade! Across the road from the gulf side campsites there were twenty campsites and ten shelters all with electricty and water. These were situated on a small lake and adjacent to a number of hiking and birding trails.

All in all, it was a clean, fun park and a great way to spend a long week-end. Hopefully they will be able to have it up and running again soon. If so, it's a super place to spend some quality time with your family.

It was a fun-filled, short, long week-end!

Monday, February 23, 2009


Matagorda, Texas

Leaving Goose Island

I've been away from the computer for a few days, following the call of grandchildren. Now, I am here to finish up Goose Island and move on to other interesting places. I want to apologize to my one faithful reader from Walsenberg, Co. for not having anything new for you to read. I haven't a clue who you are, but I do appreciate the fact that you are making an effort to follow my ramblings. I smile when I see that you have shown up on my blog.

The last morning at Goose Island was slow and peaceful. We delayed as long as possible before we had to start getting old "Trusty" in travel mode. But, grandchildren were calling and we had places to go and people to see before we could head home.

We pulled out of Goose Island State Park and headed toward Houston. I had been reading about the history of Matagorda and since we were in the general vicinity I thought we should go there. It wasn't a lengthy detour, and it was well worth the few extra hours that it took to get to our final destination.

Great Blue Heron beside road leading to Matagorda Beach

Matagorda is a small, coastal town packed full of Texas history that dates all the way back to the time of French explorer La Salle who sailed into Matagorda Bay in 1685. One of his four ships was grabbed by pirates and another sank. LaSalle was left with just two ships and a number of would-be settlers. One ship was sent back to France with many of the original passengers. That left him with just one ship and that last ship, the La Belle, sank in Matagorda Bay. LaSalle took a few men and went in search of help and supplies and was eventually murdered by his own men. The remainder of his small party who stayed behind on the coast were killed by the Karankawa Indians. The Karankawa were unusually tall (some say at least seven feet tall) nomadic indians who moved along the Texas coastal regions. They were heavily tattoed on their naked bodies and had their lips and nipples pierced with long pieces of sharpened wood . They smeared their bodies with alligator fat to protect themselves from insects and practiced cannibalism. Such was the fate of the few of the Lasalle party who stayed behind.

More than 300 years later, the LaBelle was discovered seven miles off shore in just twelve feet of water. What a find! The recovery of the ship was covered by PBS's Nova. It was remarkably well preserved by the Matagorda Bay silt and many of it's artifacts are in museums in small towns along the Texas coast. The museum in Matagorda has one of the ships ornate bronze cannons.

Matagorda was one of Stephen F. Austin's three original colonies and was at one time the third largest city in Texas, with a population of around 1,500. It was named the seat of the county government, and Austin had great hope for this city with it's great location on the Gulf of Mexico; however, repeated hurricanes and tropical storms continued to lash at the town and destroy what had been built. So, in 1984 residents of Matagorda County voted to move the county seat to Bay City just north of Matagorda. Today, it is a community of about 600-1000 residents that serves as a getaway for fishermen and people with weekend homes on the road that leads to the beautiful Matagorda County Beach.

The road from Matagorda to the beach ends in a beautiful park that has just recently been constructed. The park houses a nice, spacious welcome center, shelters for picnics and clean bathrooms. The beach itself is beautiful, clean and uncluttered. There are very few beach house on the beach itself which makes the beach more special. Actually, most of the "beach houses" are located along the road to the beach along the Colorado River. The Colorado River empties into the gulf right here in Matagorda and is a haven for fishermen. Most all of the houses along the Colorado have lighted piers on the river so you can play on the beach (which is just minutes away) all day and fish all night. Many of the houses are available as rentals. Now, that's just heaven on earth!

My plan is to rent a couple or three of those houses for a family vacation. I think it would be the perfect place to take young children and teenagers, especially those who love to fish (and I have more than a few). We could even use old "Trusty" because camping is allowed on the beach. (That may just be tent camping, gotta check on that.) Sounds like a plan to me. Gotta start saving my quarters!

Matagorda County is also one of the greatest places in all of North America for birding. It consistently rates #1 in the National Audubon Society's Christmas bird count. I'm thinking there's lots to do in Matagorda that I haven't done. Gotta get back down there.