December 13, Traveling to Texas

After having such wonderful weather for Thanksgiving in Tucson, we encountered cold, cold weather as soon as we drove north. Saw lots of snow though never had to drive thru falling snow. We made our drive thru the Painted Desert National Park and it is very different looking--still pretty, but different--with snow on the dunes. It was very cold and we didn't stop to hike, only to visit the Visitor Center. No matter what the weather, it is a great park and one we love to visit.

We drove from there down to City of Rocks State Park in New Mexico. We came thru the small town of Glenwood where friends Clark & Marty have bought property recently. We didn't see any neon signs pointing the way to their place though, so we continued right on to Silver City where we spent the night (at an RV park with Wi-Fi!) before going on to City of Rocks. We needed a new battery for the RV and purchased it there in Silver City. Both Silver City and City of Rocks were cold--down to 15 to 20 degrees each night. It was sunny and we did hike around in the rocks some at City of Rocks, but decided we were ready for warmer weather and so rather than staying a week in New Mexico as we had planned, we took off for Texas.

Here in Texas we have visited a few of the state parks in the Hill Country. First, Lost Maples SP where it rained on us. We then went over to South Llano River State Park for a couple of days where we found most of the park closed. The area between the campground and the river was closed because the Rio Grande turkeys use it as their roosting area and don't like to be bothered. The turkeys did come into the campground figuring we didn't mind them encroaching on our territory. On the other side of the campground the park was closed because they allow deer hunting in the park during the season. As a result there were a lot of deer inside the campground area and in the turkey roosting area, in order to avoid being shot. Pretty smart, actually. The woman who checked us into the park said the park was overpopulated with deer by at least 300. We suggested re-introducing wolves or cougars, but she didn't like the idea--they might eat her goats. Oh well...

The main reason we came to this park was to go down to Devil's Sinkhole on Wed. night to see the bats come out of their cave (no camping at that park). We called Wed. morning to find out when to show up, only to discover the park was closed for hunting season and wouldn't have bat tours again until after March. Evidently the bats leave for the winter, spending it in Mexico instead. Would have been nice if that had been mentioned in our park booklet. What we did get to do was walk to South Llano's two very nice bird blinds and saw birds we had not seen before. There were pictures in the blinds of birds common to the area so that made it easy to identify them, though we still have trouble telling the different types of sparrows apart. Anyway, we saw black-crested titmouses, dark-eyed juncos, and spotted towhees (look just like rufous-sided towhees to me) for the first time, as well as lots and lots of cardinals--very bright reds! Sorry no pictures--our camera is not that good!

Next park was a hike up Enchanted Rock--425 feet in .6 mile, steep. I did lots of huffing and puffing. For the non-Texans reading this, Enchanted Rock is one of the largest batholiths (exposed underground rock formation) in the U.S., and is composed of a lovely pink granite. We have hiked up it before and hope to be able to do it again, but must say I was thinking it might be the last time for me. I just don't do well when the slope is so steep--at least it is not at a high elevation too. Anyway it was fun and we took pictures to prove we made it to the top. The park allows only tent camping so after the hike we drove over to Pedernales Falls State Park to spend the night.

Enchanted Rock

Margie at the top

Riley at the top

The Falls are beautiful as ever and we spent some time next morning (Sat.) hiking down to the river and clambering around the rocks in the Falls area.

Pedernales Falls

Then we took off to Austin to visit everyone there. We had a great time with Richard and Beverly and got to visit Luke & Leslie and their families too. Richard took us up to the UT Life Sciences Library where he works to show off the Christmas tree with origami ornaments. He teaches everyone how to make a new ornament each year--this year it was hearts. We took our first walk down the famous 37th Street to look at Christmas lights. It was fun though I must say a couple were fairly bizarre. One house would switch from green lights to red lights with smoke every three minutes or so to simulate a volcano erupting. The same house had an icosohedron made with strings of light and a machine that rotated it--very impressive. Also, just prior to arriving in Austin, we had a pleasant visit in Canyon Lake with friends Annabeth & Haynes.

Richard and Christmas Origami Tree

Close-up of origami ornaments

Amy & Luke in front of their home

Beverly & Richard, Jonathan & Zazie, Ben & Leslie

Interestingly, an Andy Goldsworthy exhibit had just opened at the Austin Museum of Art and Richard & Bev took us to see it. Having just watched the movie about Goldsworthy in Tucson, it was fun to be exposed to more of his work. Some of the photographs were of work he had done in Japan in 1987 and some were done at the home of an Austin family last year and this was their first showing. Very nice exhibit. We watched the movie with them after going to the exhibit and enjoyed it once again. Thanks again, Roxie, for giving it to us.

At present, we are in an RV park just outside of Brenham and plan to visit the Blue Bell Creamery tomorrow morning, then head on into Houston.

See you Houstonians soon. Love to all,

Margie & Riley

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