Astral Nomads

One man, one woman, one rabbit......traveling with the stars.

Friday, February 25, 2011

See Ya Big Bend & Fort Stockton

We're getting ready to leave West Texas so here's a few parting shots of Big Bend and Fort Stockton. Tomorrow we're heading north up into New Mexico to do some camping at a state park just north of Carlsbad Caverns. It's a desert park with a lake which doesn't exactly sound like it makes sense but we'll see and report back. The campsites there have electric and water hook-ups, which is a plus, but not sure about cell service so we may be off the communications grid again. Hate to leave West Texas in a way. It's really beautiful here and the people here have been right friendly.

All through Big Bend, there's spots where Mexican artisans have
crossed the river and left little trinkets with a message and a donation
jar. It's illegal to take or buy anything because it's considered illegal
international commerce. The rangers can confiscate the items and fine
you for possession of these items. Usually it's beads, walking sticks, or
cool little scorpions made out of twisted wire.

There's an access road off of the main park road that leads
to a hot spring. This building used to be the general store for
the hot springs area but it's abandoned now.

The hot springs are about a half mile hike from the parking area,
which features a sign saying "There are frequent break-ins on
unattended vehicles in this area".  Nice. So we went to the spring
but we didn't stay too long. This was the trail along the Rio Grande.
Just a dip in the 105 degree water. And then we hurried back to the van.

The spring wasn't large but it was hot and relaxing. 
Four would be a crowd. 

The road to the hot spring parking lot was narrow, bumpy, twisty, and 
treacherous. Just off the driver's side here is a sheer 30 foot drop
into a canyon.

The cactii here come in red and green. Here's some red ones.

The Chisos Mountains dominate the center of the park, rising
to 7800 feet. There's a campground up in the basin behind this range.

Here's Astral Wendy in the ultimate in desert hiking regalia: a bathing suit 
and Hello Kitty pajama bottoms. Actually this was just at an overlook we 
stopped at on the way back from the hot spring.

Hello Mr. Coyote.

Right at our campsite, a pair of golden fronted woodpeckers
were working on a new house. This is the female. The male has
a bright red patch on the top of his head.

Ready! Steady! Go!

The other bird ubiquitous to our campsite was the pyrrhuloxia which,
to us, is like a cardinal with a really cool color scheme. They dig hanging
out in mesquite thickets because their beaks are strong enough to
crack mesquite beans. In other news, mesquite has beans. I have no
idea why they gave this bird such a hard name to pronounce.

Here Astral Wendy explains to Otis the dangers of the coyote.

Here's a couple of shots of the Eurovan set up for camping.
Front seats swiveled around. Privacy curtain over front windows.
Kettle on the stove.

Pop-top up, screens open. The bed is folded in the day position:
the rear bench seat slides forward and lays flat. We slide back the
 forward part of the upper bunk and use the rear part for shelf space.

Cow alert! These guys are on the Mexican side of the river.

It was not unusual to find small shells even on high plateaus. You
know what that means.

The variety of rock colors down by the river was amazing.

Don't cross that river Astral Wendy!

We dig the gravity chairs.

Noted bird photographer Astral Wendy.

The definition of happy camper.

Alfredo's Mexican restaurant in Fort Stockton.

After being in the wilderness for 5 days, we enjoy chilling poolside
so we can wash the stink off and do our blog posts. This hotel is
mostly used by travelers passing through so during the day it's
usually occupied by me, Astral Wendy, and the desk clerk. We have
the pool and the jacuzzi to ourselves all morning so it's nice
to swim some laps and relax.

Today's our last day in Fort Stockton and, when we were riding around looking for a place to grab lunch, we found the fort that gives the town its name. The 7th and 9th U.S. Calvary was stationed here back in the day when they were still fighting against the native Comanches. These two units were comprised of Buffalo Soldiers, which were freed black slaves commanded by white officers and immortalized by Bob Marley. The name Buffalo Soldiers was given to these men by the Comanches because of their hair and because of their noble bravery.

Buffalo Soldier, Dreadlock Rasta
There was a Buffalo Soldier
In the heart of America
Stolen from Africa, brought to America
Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival*

First thing they built at the fort was the jail.

This wagon was used in two John Wayne westerns.

Jail + Church = Civilization

*Buffalo Soldiers, Bob Marley and the Wailers

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Anyone for more Big Bend?

Here's some more Big Bend visuals. I'll try to keep the comments to a minimum so y'all can enjoy the show!

The sun also rises through the mesquite thickets that surrounded our
campsite and it's another day of wonder.

Some of the birds here are ones that we're familiar with but
we also saw some species very particular to this area.

Here's a roadrunner. These birds are members of the cuckoo family
and they prefer to run. They can fly a little but you don't see them
flying around. Occasionally, you'll see one perched low in a bush but
mostly they just run. They hunt snakes and ground insects. I had never
seen one of these before except in the cartoons. 

Sure I COULD climb it, but do I really want to?

Woh, down in Mexico, I never really been so I don't really know.
And oh, Mexico, I guess I'll have to go.
Woh, Mexico, I never really been so I don't really know.*

In the Visitor Center parking lot: I'm guessing it's a little lesson
on being careful when jumping a car battery. Nothing flammable
remained. Just hot steel in the hot sun.

Summertime and the livin's easy. Forget 'what day is it?' What month is it?

What time is it? Coyote O'clock. These guys would just trot
through the campground pretending to ignore you. But you knew
and they knew you knew.

Camp Cuisine: Pecan Smoked Sausage fried in the skillet
with Onions, Apples, and Garlic. Side of whole wheat bread and
a spot of spicy mustard on the side. That's good eatin' right there.

Hiking through the desert.

The desert is full of prickly things. It's good to have a
pair of tweezers handy.

Almost time for bed.

More to come. Stay tuned.

*Mexico, James Taylor