Pacific Ocean

Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean

Friday, October 25, 2013

Morning Walk in Galveston

I remembered to take my camera with me this morning when I took my walk.  I was up early enough to reach the beach - about a fifteen minute walk - before sunrise.  I always love watching the day begin over the water.

I chose to walk back home through streets to enjoy the Galveston buildings and plantings. Up north, everything was dying or going dormant for the winter.  Here, we are having a second spring.

I arrived at the beach at this storm memorial in memory of the victims of  the 1900 hurricane.

The birds were flying in to feed. Couldn't resist this flock of sanderlings in the sun rise.

A gull  was getting ready to eat a fish.

I love the houses with the bright color combinations.

There goes a rubber tree plant. 

Actually I always say to myself. " There goes another rubber tree plant.  Today I found three or four.

Plumbago is an common grower but very pretty on this fence.

I was amazed to find this tropical hibiscus growing outside.  The only other time I've seen this was at the Missouri Botanical Garden, in a greenhouse.

Even leaves are colorful here.   Some offer year round color.

While others color up only in the fall. 

Galveston is just warm enough to grow citrus.  My favorite citrus, Satsumas grow well here, as do grapefruits and lemons.

Oleanders and palms are  very common.  Galveston is sometimes called the Oleander City and has an oleander festival in the spring. Huge old oleanders are groomed into trees, while miniature ones decorate small yards.  They decorate public spaces, including freeway edges.

I think the two best things about living in Galveston are gardening and morning walks. Both can be done all year long.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rock Garden Trail HIke in Palo Duro Canyon

After a long morning of driving around Palo Duro Canyon and taking pictures, I took a short hammock break while waiting for the day to cool off a little.

Around three-thirty, I gathered up my hiking poles and water and drove down to the trail head to the Rock Garden.  This trail is listed as difficult but I think it is because it climbs 600 feet.  But the trail itself is wide and mostly smooth and easy to walk. I took it on the advice of a ranger when I asked for the most scenic trails.

The trail starts in a rock garden and then climbs to the ridge, in a series of pretty easy switchbacks, giving wonderful views of the canyon.

I didn't finish the trail - I ran out of time and was also getting tired.  I was on a fasting day and had driven about 11 hours and then only slept for about three hours the night before.  So I turned around and got to the trail head just as the storm clouds started appearing over the opposite ridge of the canyon.

Soon after I got in my tent, we had a series of little showers. But my tent was dry when I took it down the next morning at four. So I just got a little water music to go to sleep by.

The rest of the pictures can be seen in my Flicker Set.

I'm enjoying my visit in Galveston Texas and will be visiting my daughter and her family when this blog comes out.

The government shutdown is over - at least for now - and I can once more talk to my friends. Yeah!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Palo Duro -Texas' Grand Canyon

"It is a burning, seething cauldron, filled with dramatic light and color."

So wrote Georgia O'Keeffe who lived in nearby Amarillo and Canyon, early in the 20th century and visited and painted Palo Duro Canyon.  It  still is filled with drama, mystery, light and color. 

 Fortress Cliff
I arrived at the Park after stopping in Amarillo, TX for a really delicious Thai dinner.  I never found the packet left for me by the staff, but I did know that I was at site 70 in Cactus.  After about an hour of wandering around in the dark I found it, shortly before the beautiful crescent moon set, allowing the sky to become crowded with stars.  The night was so hot, I decided to just sleep in my hammock.  But the mosquitoes there so hungry, that they were willing to sample me, so I didn't get much sleep.  I finally fell asleep around five o'clock and then didn't wake up until eight.  I had to go back and finish registering, so quickly made some coffee and started out.  It took me almost two hours to make it back to the office.  Then I kept taking pictures until the light was way too harsh to save them through editing. 

Because I arrived in the dark, I missed the wonderful feel of looking across a relatively flat prairie, then driving down inside the canyon and finding myself in the mountains. This wonderful canyon has some of the same clays, and thus the same colors and formations of the John Day Fossil Beds, in Oregon.

Moon upon my arrival at my campsite

Canyon Walls

Decorated hill

Lonely little hoodoo


These small formations almost looked like they were boiling out of mud but were rocks

Not everything here is clay

Beautiful Spanish skirt formations

Just me and my shadow - one of my camp visitors

Possibly my favorite formation
A long view up into the canyon

More skirt formations

Another camp visitor

Natalie and I may the only two paddlers that can claim to have paddled the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River. Mostly it is just a tiny, muddy stream, only suitable for toy canoes.

View from one of the low water crossings

Often flash floods fill the canyon floor and make the stream leap out of it's banks while hauling an extra load of clay. There are five low water crossings on the main road and one more on the side road. These become impassible in the floods that change the tiny stream into a raging slurry of red mud.  Many years ago -  I can't remember the date but it was 12 - 14 years back - I joined Natalie on her vacation.  We planned to spend several days at Palo Duro Canyon and got a campsite that required us to cross the river three times.  Our second morning there, we packed up a lunch, put the two dogs into their crates after giving them food and water, and left to go to the Pandhandle Plains Historical Museum. (This should also be on your bucket list.) We  were totally engaged most of the day, only coming out of the museum to eat a picnic lunch under  sunny skies.

One of the low water crossings

 But when we reached the park, a ranger told us we could not go back to our camp, because the crossings were impassible from a rain many miles away.  Fortunately, we had my canoe on top of the van, just in case we found a place we just had to explore from it. And we also had Natalie's daughter, Suzanne, who helped our negotiations by crying for her dogs.  

After we persisted in insisting we had to rescue our dogs, we agreed not to sue the park if we damaged ourselves, and the ranger agreed not to see us canoeing, and allowed us to proceed to the first crossing. There we unloaded the canoe, put Suzanne in charge of her sister, Ellen, and set out. The crossing was only about two and a half canoe lengths wide, but the paddling sure felt funny, pulling a paddle through that red slurry of mud.  And when we stepped out of the canoe, we stepped into knee high mud.  We looked like we had  red knee socks on for a few seconds until the mud sloughed back off. 

We had to carry the canoe about a quarter of a mile to reach the second crossing. When we made it across that crossing, we found a group of people stranded in their camps.  One guy watching the crossing had a truck and offered to haul us to the third crossing. So Natalie and I climbed in back of his truck and held my eighteen foot Kevelar canoe down in the truck.  

By the time we paddled across the third crossing, we were pros.  We landed and  walked to camp where we gave the dogs water, then packed up their stuff as well as clothes for us. Then we packed everything back into the canoe and returned, again getting a haul in the back of the pickup. We went to Amarillo and rented a room in a motel for the night.  The next day we had to wash our clothes before returning  to the park the following evening. We moved our campsite to the first camp, which is before the first river crossing so we would not be stranded again. 

I was reminded of this incident when I saw the Texas Department of Transportation scrapping clay off the river crossings and hauling truckloads of it away. The 6th river crossing was still closed but had lots of prints of animals who had visited there, including bare-foot humans. The mud was at least a foot deep there.

Raccoon was here

Map of the canyon in the visitor center

 Designated as a protected State Park in 1934, this canyon is the second largest canyon in the U.S. next to the Grand Canyon. Measuring 120 miles long, 20 miles wide, and a maximum depth of more than 800 ft., Palo Duro was formed by water erosion from the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River while sediments being carried by the water deepened it. You can experience the canyon by hiking one of the park's comprehensive 30 miles of trail, riding horses, camping, or taking a scenic drive.

All these pictures were taken from my campsite or the road.  But I did have time to take a short hike up the Rock Garden Trail.  I was running out of energy and daylight and didn't finish it but I did get to the most beautiful part. I'll have to edit several  more scores of pictures before I show them to you.

I have the total set of pictures from this tour here.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Preview of My Next Summer Home

One of the things that Bob G. and I did, while traveling to Minnesota, was to spend an afternoon and night at Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, where I'll be working next summer.  One of the neatest things about it, is that there are two primitive campsites there. (So lots of you can visit - I'll feed you.) Bob and I chose to go to the most open one because it was near to a lake full of birds. And also because we knew there were a few campers at the other campground.  But we visited the other one the next morning,  and found it has a natural spring with delicious water. Another neat thing about the refuge is that it is less than 50 miles from Yellowstone, so I expect to spend a lot of time in Yellowstone.


Although the weather was very cloudy, we could see that the refuge is in the bottom of a bowl and has lakes, ponds, and fields.  The landscape is not as dramatic as National Bison Range, but I think it supports more species of animals.

A view on the way into the refuge

This large grove of aspen looked like a good birding spot

 This place is a birder's paradise because one of its missions is to provide habitat for trumpeter swans.  So all kinds of other water and wading birds nest there.  You'll find out more about this when I do, after I start doing my bird surveys and my  recreational birding. And if there is enough water - not the case this year - one can paddle from the upper to the lower lake.

An immature red-tail hawk who was probably born here

Sandhill cranes were calling from all directions

We saw lots of ducks and several swans but most were too far away to photograph

By evening,  threatening weather improved and gave us an outstanding sunset.  While the landscape is not too dramatic, the sky goes on forever.

Sunset coloring the storm clouds

Reflections of sunset

Bob walking around in the evening light

This is a remote refuge, and seldom visited so doesn't have a large visitor center. But it does have some interesting displays in the office.

Entrance kiosk with office building in the background

The immediate area has a series of buildings that look like a little town but are really part of an institute.

One of the store-front buildings with animal banner

The next morning we explored a little more on our way out.  We had much prettier weather, starting with a gorgeous sunrise.

Early morning sun on water adn birds

Hills across the lake with reflection

Bob looking at the lake from the other campground

This formation looked like a mostly buried mammoth dinosaur

I'm looking forward to getting to work with the birds and doing my other jobs there. And I'm probably going to get involved in drying food, since I have to drive about 120 miles for groceries.

This blog will come out while I'm traveling back to Texas to visit friends and family, get several paddling fixes and a little gardening fix.(All are events are canceled here and I won't even get to say goodbye in person to most of my co-workers.)  I'm planning to play a day at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, in the Texas panhandle,  so that will be the subject of one of my next blogs.