My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Goodbye to the Padre Island National Seashore

Another bittersweet two days. I've been at the Corpus Christi Paddlefest, organized by my friend Ken Johnson.  We had high winds yesterday so I just went in the afternoon to enjoy visits with friends. Today I led the trip to to some of the dunes on Padre Island National Seashore. It was a great trip with ten old friends and two new ones. I was so wishing I could camp out and enjoy the dunes in the magical morning and  evening lights. But it was a beautiful paddle and then walk through the dunes before enjoying the dunes while eating our lunch.

Waiting for everyone to pay the entry fee

Getting ready to paddle in Bird Island Basin

Linda and Chipper

Landing at the Dunes

View from up in dunes


George taking pictures

Dune beauty

Pioneering flowers

Cove full of kayaks

We decided to paddle a little further and went up to the inter-coastal canal and watched some tugs hauling or pushing barges down towards Brownsville. All too soon we had to turn around so we would have time to clean up and rest a little before meeting for a Bar-Be-Que Supper. I had to leave before the entertainment started so I could come back to Winnie's house and wash my clothes and repack my car.

Winnie watching barge

I'll be off to California early tomorrow morning and hope to be able to enjoy all four of my camping stops.  I may not have Internet for the next four days but I'll have lots to tell you after I get to California.

Next stop I'll be sleeping with the fish.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Goodbye to Choke Canyon State Park

I've been going to Choke Canyon State Park almost every year almost since I came to Texas in 1990. I don't remember why I started going, but the paddling and the wonderful birds kept me coming there. I used to go in January, until one year, a snowstorm kept me from going. Then I discovered that, most years, the first weekend of spring happens the third weekend of February.  It is warm enough to paddle in  shirt sleeves but  a jacket is often needed at night. AND it's cold enough that most of the wintering birds are still here while we often see western and Mexica birds.  Soon I was bringing a few friends and lately we have had around 25 people attending.

There are many places to paddle in the Reservoir but I love paddling up or down the Frio River the best. But we often hang out in the reservoir to watch the sunset and enjoy the many birds. We usually bird the parking lot and 75 Acre Lake and then the part of the reservoir that is very near the lake. Two years ago, we got to see the northern jacana that spent the winter there.

Last winter,  I put up oranges as soon as I got to my campsite and they were completely gone in twenty minutes. Most of the bird pictures I took were of birds eating oranges or seeds at my site. We had the best show in town.  I loved hanging out in my hammock and reading and then taking a picture of yet another species. Some of the special species there include green jays, verdins,  long-billed trashers, olive sparrows, Audubon's orioles,  and golden-fronted woodpeckers.  We even had pine warblers coming to oranges.

My friend, Winnie,  took over the running of the trip last year and promises to keep it going. But I wanted to visit one more time and invited a fellow paddling and birdwatching friend to join me. We had a very quiet couple of days doing easy birding and just hanging out. We put up oranges and black oil sunflower seeds and soon had plenty of visitors.  I hardly took any pictures because we started late in the day and the light was harsh, and I knew most of the birds would be a long ways off, too far to get good pictures. But I've added a few from my memories.

A green jay in our make-do ground feeder

Golden-fronted woodpecker - probably the most common bird after great-tailed grackles

Audubon's oriole - the main reason we put up oranges

Crested Caracara

That Texas Icon

Brushy Bluestem was making a beautiful show last weekend

Paddling in the Frio River

There are lots of javelina in the park

We almost always see an osprey

A long-billed thrasher came to eat black oil sunflower seeds at our ground feeder

My Australian friend, Winnie at whose house I'm staying and who will continue
this birding/paddling tradition

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On The Road Again

After shipping two sets of stuff to California, I spent several hours cramming everything else into my car beforeI spending a long weekend working my way west. I left Galveston really early on Friday and went to see my daughter and only grandson who live in Dripping Springs, a little town near Austin, Texas.  I left food and water for the cat, watered all the plants, and  had also painted another deck before I left. Zootie, the little Brittany spaniel, went with me for a little vacation of her own.

Not finished yet

My companion, Zootie , who got taken back to Galveston on Sunday

I had wanted to take my grandson, Cian camping but we have had several wildfires in the Texas Hill Country and his mom thought it would be a bad idea.  I also had found that I couldn't get a camping spot at Perdenalas Falls State Park where Cian and I had enjoyed many hours together. So we decided to set up my tent in the front yard and camp there on Friday night. He had to go to a birthday party on Saturday so his mom and I went shopping and out to lunch on Saturday.  Cian and I walked the dog and then rode our bikes around his neighborhood. Then, on Sunday, we decided to go to Pedernalas Falls SP for several hours. This park is famous for some beautiful falls on the Pedneralas River but the water is so low that there are no falls there now.  It also has two wonderful bird blinds in the same area, with a native plant garden in between them.

Cian and I always start by looking at the birds there. Then he wanted to go down to the swimming part of the river where he and I would often spend all day.  I would go down the 100 steps with a pack on my back that held water, lunch, a tarp, a sleeping pad, towels, extra clothes, a hammock, my camera, and a book. Cian carried his sand toys in  a bag. He played in the sand and the river for several hours and then took a nap before going back home.

He counted the steps going and coming this time and got 101 on the way down and 103 on the way up.  The river was so low, we could wade most of the way across it without getting our shorts wet. Cian always tries to climb the "humungous" rock and found that he could do it this time.

View of swimming area of Pedernalas River

Humungous Rock

On top of Humungous Rock

Cypress-lined beauty

View inside the matriarch cypress

Shell seeker

  Cian and me

All too soon we had to leave for home.  There I gathered up more of the stuff I had left and found places for it.  Then Natalie got to the house on her way home from a week of paddling on the Rio Grand River and picked up Zootie.  By 3:30, I was back on the road on the way to meet a friend and camp out at Choke Canyon, another of my favorite places in Texas.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Kayaking From Galveston State Park

I'm half-way through my month of R&R before starting another volunteer job in Sacramento NWR. Last Thursday, I left Louisiana and came to my best friend's house in Galveston to house sit for here while she paddles for a week on the Rio Grande River.

Then I partied all the rest of the long weekend. On Friday I went to the Volunteer Banquet at Anahuac NWR where I received a plaque and a jacket for my 3000 hours.

I also decided to host a weekend party at Natalie's house. So three friends and I spent the weekend birding, paddling, and eating great food, including a Cajun supper supplied by Dutch. But my favorite activity was paddling in West Bay out of Galveston State Park.  This was just a little out and back paddle where we hung out watching the birds more than we paddled.

Gulls, terns, white ibis, sandpipers, roseate spoonbills and brown pelicans were feeding or loafing.

Forrester's Tern

White Ibis
Hermit Crabs Riding on Geotube carpet
We saw what looked like a piece of floating carpet with lots of hermit crabs hanging on to it. Later we figured out that it was part of a geotube.  This is a huge fabric tube that is filled with sediment, in this case, and used to protect grassy areas from erosion.  The birds love them as they look like sandbars to them. They were resting on all the parts that were above water.

Brown pelican taking off  from a geotube

The end ...of a brown pelican dive

Laughing gulls and neotropical cormorant

Roseate spoonbills and  paddlers

Hey, short stuff

Royal terns

Least Sandpiper

Winter laughing gulls

I was the lunch provider of  wraps - cheese, black bean dip, guacamole, and spinach

Coming in

Fiddler Crabs- there were hundreds of them at the launch site

Friday, October 14, 2011

Best Welcome Center on I-10

I've been visiting friends in South Louisiana and saying goodbye.  Many of my favorite places are in swamps and the Atachfalaya Swamp has many such destinations. And I love the Cajun Culture and food. The Welcome Center at Butte La Rose, in the middle of the Atachfalaya Basin, is both a rest center and a little museum that has displays about the Cajun and Houma  Indian Cultures. It is a beautiful, interesting place and stimulates lots of my memories of good paddles, good friends, and good food. And all the Louisiana Welcome Centers give away free coffee.  So, on my way from Hammond, Louisiana to Galveston, Texas I just had to stop there and grab some memories.

The Welcome Center has a lovely front porch that recalls those on the cabins and houseboats of the Cajuns.

Relaxing Place
The inside is full of wonderful exhibits that tell the story of life in the Atachfalaya Basin. This place serves to jog my memories of wonderful paddles in the swamp.

The brown pelican is the Louisiana state bird so there are lots of statues of them

Bateau with crawfish traps

Ducks in the outdoor exhibit
 This picture reminds me of the time Hulin and I spent a long Thanksgiving weekend in the Basin. We were there with lots of duck hunters and  a few deer hunters. We found the last leg of one circular route silted in  and were forced to turn around and go back up a waterway that had about a five mile current against us.  We ended up stopping at a deer camp and begging a ride back to our campsite. The owner told us that that is the way the Atachfalaya is - it can build and island in a couple of years or silt in a deep Bayou just as fast.  And I found it fascinating to be on the same stream and be paddling with the current, then have no current and finally be paddling against the current.


Part of a display of animal statues in the picnic area

Pictures and items are mixed into interesting displays

The movie is fun and lets you see Basin life

Cajun Music
I love to listen to Cajun music. Click on the captain to sample it. The Cajuns lived a rich and happy life on very little money. Their music reflects their joy of life.

Indian Display
 This picture reminds me of the time I went on on of the organized  Bayou Lafourch Paddle and camped at the house of the Houma Chief where we were served Indian fry bread  with fillings - a kind of taco - and were treated to dancing in full costume as well as a discussion about the way the Indianslive today.

Crawfish gets fixed many ways in Cajun culture 

 This exhibit reminds me of all the wonderful crawfish meals I've had:  Crawfish bisque, crawfish ettoffee, crawfish quiche, soft-shell crawfish po boys and boiled crawfish, my favorite. Five pounds of crawfish, a few red potatoes and a  couple of ears of corn, all cooked in the highly seasoned crawfish boil really hit the spot.

Me and the Bear
 The bear was in a glass case and the reflections were too bad for a good picture, but I thought this was funny.  Bears were almost extirpated from Louisiana but there is now a Black Bear Restoration Project  to develop more lands as bear habitat. When I went on the Bayou Teche Paddle this year, I learned that the Bayou Teche NWR was established to provide habitat for the black bear, but because of a shady deal, a good buddy of the Louisiana politicians got to sell his land  for the refuge, which is NOT good habitat for bears. They mostly go off refuge and eat garbage. The closest I've gotten to a black bear in Louisiana is to attend the Black Bear Festival in Franklin, La. My close encounter with a black bear was when I was riding my bike in a state park in Pennsylvania. A huge dog ran out of one of the cabin driveways.  Then I realized it wasn't a dog but a black bear. Fortunately, he realized I was a human and ran the other way.

I-10 is elevated for about 18 miles across the Achafalaya Swamp

The Atachfalaya Swamp is a mix of open water, streams. forests, and land that is periodically dry, then wet.

This was not the prettiest scene I passed but I had to get my nerve up to stop on the side of the interstate, and grab a picture.

I made it to Galveston in time for supper with my friend, Natalie.  She is leaving today for a week of paddling on the Rio Grand, doing an 80 mile stretch. I'm taking care of the pets, house and garden.  I have a couple of paint projects, if I get bored. AND I'm going to throw a little slumber party for a few friends - we'll be eating good, birding, and paddling.