Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Houston Hiking

After almost a week of full time access to internet and cable TV, not to mention hot water, a kitchenette, visiting and shopping here in Houston, I found myself anxious for some outdoor activity or hiking. The weather is beautiful here, after the first significant front of fall came through yesterday. So, I decided to spend the afternoon on a trail that runs just a mile or so from my hotel. It runs between the West Houston Airport and the Katy Freeway.

For those unfamiliar with the area, the closest things to a ridgeline or snowcovered mountain in the area are the RR right of way and the Williams Tower, but, as usual, I was amazed to find enjoyable hiking and such a diversity of flora and fauna so close to the city. First the flora…pine, live oak, cedar, grapes, berries and a host of plants I couldn’t identify. These were interesting, but not so surprising. The fauna, on the other hand, did surprise me. I, of course, did run into the usual cardinals, mockingbirds, sparrows and crows. Then it was a couple of deer. See if you can pick them out.

Then, I spotted this snake trying to warm up in the sun after the cool night and morning

A red cockaded woodpecker....

There were even airplanes passing within 100 foot of me as I passed a stone’s throw from the airport. Of course there was some noise from the planes and the occasional jogger (mostly women) or biker, but overall a very pleasant and scenic 3-4 mile hike.

Tomorrow, it is back to Temple and a bit more outdoor activity, and a bit less luxury. I expect to enjoy that lifestyle until November 1, when I’ll take up residence on the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels for a couple of months. I’m looking forward to the time on the river, but I may go mad in the same place for 2 months. Time will tell.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Back on the Farm

After a couple of days on the road, I managed to get back to central Texas. I had a nice evening with Jon in San Marcos/Gruene, Texas, and then settled at my farm in Temple for a few days of projects and fishing. Then, Tommy invited me to join him and Lyn for dove hunting in south Texas, so we had a nice day trip there. I plan to spend the next few weeks catching up with friends and relatives here in Texas.

Speaking of farming, a lot has changed since I tried my hand at it. A few days ago, the fellow who works my place showed up with his tractor and plow to turn under the remains of the corn after combining. He worked about 3-4 hours and completed plowing half my 200 acres. He showed up a couple of days later and completed the job. In between, I caught the above glimpse of his tractor. If that is not intimidating enough, you should see his planter and combine. The planter takes up most of my 30’x40’ barn in its folded configuration. I can’t imagine how many bushels of corn it takes to pay for these babies. There was a time I thought I might actually take over the farming one day, but on second thought, I think I’ll just keep puttering around and collecting the checks while letting him do the work.

Besides, that gives me more time to watch football. Tight wins by both the Aggies and Texans this weekend provided plenty of excitement.
I attended church today at Western Hills Church of Christ in Temple. They were having a "We are the Sermon Day" today, with just short devotionals at the normal time in the morning and evening. In between, they worked on service projects, working on the local Ronald McDonald's house, several other local charities and homes of elderly and disabled. Looks like several hundred participated. There was quite a buzz. No wonder the congregation is growing.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Back in Texas, Big Bend NP
After traveling through 18 states, I’m finally back in Texas. I came in from the west, so I decided to visit the Big Bend NP in southwest Texas, one of the most remote national parks. Despite what the calendar says, fall has not arrived in SW Texas. At low elevations temperatures were around 100 degrees. Fortunately, Big Bend features the Chisos Mountains. I camped in the Chisos Basin, a bowl at about 5400’ elevation surrounded on all sides by the Chisos Mountains. Temperatures here were very pleasant. Most of my hiking was between 6000-7200’. Below is a picture of the Chisos Mountains from about 20 miles away. The South Rim is to the left side of the mountains.

As I mentioned, Chisos Basin is surrounded by mountains. All drainage in the basin exits through the lowest point in the perimeter on the NW side, called the Window. Back in 1981 I hiked to the Window, so this time I settled for a picture from the Basin. You can see the Christmas Mountains through the window, about 30 miles away.

The mountains to the south of the Basin form a popular hiking area known as the South Rim. Here is a view looking south from the Basin.
I hiked the Laguna Meadows, SW Rim, South Rim, Boot Canyon and Pinnacle trails to see views to the SW and SE of the Chisos mountains across the Rio Grande river into Mexico, about 30 miles away. You can see the Sierra del Carmen mountains up to 50 miles SE in the first picture and the Santa Elena Canyon to the SW in the second.

I also took this picture looking back toward the Basin from the trail.

Here is a closer view of the Sierra del Carmen, from about 10 miles away. The Rio Grande cuts the Boquillas Canyon between the mountains in the part of the range in the US in the foreground and the Mexican part in the background.

Here is a picture of the Rio Grande river at Boquillas Canyon. I decided not to swim the river as I did in 1981. Yes, indeed, I am a wetback, twice (over and back). It was common in those days, but Border Patrol is everywhere and pretty stern about it these days. Since I was here in the 80s the Rio Grande has been designated a Wild and Scenic River by the US.

Of course, many Mexicans don’t have a problem with crossing. I saw two places on the trail where Mexican goods were laid on the side with a note asking you to purchase or donate (on the honor system) their products for the good of the children of Boquillas village in Mexico(must be related to Nancy Pelosi). Just before I turned the corner in the trail to find this cache, I would swear I heard voices, but no one was visible when I arrived. Pretty eerie. Being here and seeing the hundreds of miles of remote, unpopulated border reinforces my opinion that closing the border is an impossible task. Next stop, central Texas.