Sunday, November 30, 2008

Aransas Pass Wildlife?

Our next door neighbor, Terry, had told us about the fishing at Aransas pass. He also told us of seeing dolphins and sea turtles so we decided to spend a sunny afternoon at the pass.
He told us he was fishing just north of the Marine Research Institute and we found him easily enough by going to the beach and driving along until we spotted his white van. While getting setup a ship came through the pass and Terry waved at us and told us to watch the dolphins. Sure enough they were bow riding and one even jumped clear of the water! Renita was now completely happy, even though we didn"t get any pictures.
Next, two brown pelicans flew and landed near us. Terry brought over his bag of cut bait and got one to eat from his hand. After he went back to fishing the older one came over to Renita, but he was unsuccessful in getting any of our bait or her lunch. Disgrunted, he plopped down and sat next to her for quite a while, before going for a swim.
While I was continuing to fish, Renita turned into a wildlife photographer and chased a pair of sea turtles up and down the wall. They would only surface for a few seconds so she was frustrated trying to take their pictures. At last she succeeded in catching the one in the photo above!
Although the fishing was great the catching was terrible so we watched the boats pass by and relaxed in the sun. Calling it a day, we loaded up our beach chairs, waved goodbye to Terry, and headed home after a successful day. Clear skies.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Castnetting at Fish Pass

The afternoon seemed like it would never get there. We had the canoe loaded and were waiting for the wind to go down and the temperature to warm up. Finally, about 1 pm the conditions were good so we drove to Fish Pass, (maybe a mile),
The east side road started out good, but quickly became a series of ruts and mud traps. Some seemed large enough to swallow our truck! Well maybe not swallow but perhaps high center. Another truck approached and we waited to watch his path, before negotiating the labyrinth.
Parking, we immediately saw a crested caracara, which posed for a picture. After putting on my waders I waded out in search of bait, saw some, and threw the net. It flew in a perfect circle, almost! Pulling the net in, we got nothing, as the bait were too small and escaped. Repeating the process, and getting nothing, we moved and had better results. A blue crab, some cocahoes,(desired), and some small pinfish! After a few more throws we got the bait we needed so it was time to launch the canoe.
We waited as another man launched his kayak, and then launched ours. It took awhile, before I finally waded into the water and steadied the boat so Renita could get in. Starting to paddle we headed toward the bay, perhaps a mile in the distance.
The float went quickly as we skirted the edge, Renita pushing us away from shallow spots. We passed some waders, who were catching small redfish and finally reached the bay, where the expanse of water intimidated us so we stopped for a bit and then paddled back, looking for a spot to fish.
Now we had been fishing, but we had the wrong hooks and leaders, so our bait kept sinking to the bottom and weeding up. As we passed the waders, we watched their technique, and moved father up the pass to imitate it.
Casting out the poles the canoe kept drifting away. How I wished for a cajun anchor!
Finally grounding the canoe, we cast out two poles and waited as the late afternoon sun neared the horizon. A bite and then another, both missed. One pole was jerked almost out of the canoe as a redfish grabbed the minnow and swam away. Missed it, damn!
Although we wanted to stay longer we paddled back to the truck. We were rewarded as we passed a rosette spoonbill, feeding too greedily to notice us. Renita pointed out the iridescent sheen of its pink feathers, as the setting sun reflected off its side. Tired, we loaded the boat and returned home. Clear skies.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mustang Island State Park, We are at the Coast!

I cast a DOA plastic into the water at the pass, and let the outgoing tide carry the bait towards the bridge. As I took in the slack, the line tightened and I wondered, could it be a fish on the first cast?
The last day at Choke Canyon was windy and cloudy, so we took our time and waited for the wind to subside. It did around noon so we hooked up and headed for the coast, arriving at 3pm and getting a good spot at Mustang Island State Park. We had made reservations for 10 days, taking us through Thanksgiving weekend.
We settled in, as the wind blew strong and the rain hammered the roof. Our neighbors were in a tent and had just gotten it set up, (they had problems and I offered to help but they were determined to get it done). What a night! It reminded me of the times we had tented in heavy rains.
Anyway the next morning arrived and the rain stopped so I headed to the pass, to try fishing. People were lined up on both sides, and the reason became apparent as I saw their flounder. I put on my favorite white and red DOA plastic and caught a nice speckled trout on the first cast. Three more quickly stuck and I was excited to say the least!
Returning home we ate lunch and then went for some shelling. Renita found a sand dollar, of course, and I waded in the surf, looking for dolphin. We walked past debris, from the hurricanes. The surf was strong, and as much as I wanted to go deeper the wise choice was to just get our feet wet. People were fishing at the jetties but the waves were too much for them to have any luck.
That evening I went to Fish Pass to cast net for bait. John Wheeler had given me a four foot net and it really worked! Thank you John! I quickly caught bait for the morning.
The next morning I went back to the pass. It was packed with people, but some left and I was able to get a good spot. I caught another trout and then went through the bait, after losing a large fish. Getting more bait I finally caught a nice flounder. By the time I returned to my spot a "friend" was in my place. He even cast across my line four times and I had to untangle his line from mine as I fought in a fish. I was proud of myself as I didn't cut his line! Finally I ran out of bait and called it a day. Fresh flounder for dinner! Clear skies.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Birds of Choke Canyon

The bird was the brightest red of any bird we have ever seen, vermilion in fact, and so we saw our first new bird for our life list! We would see many more.
After Guadalupe State Park it was a short drive to our next new place, Choke Canyon State Park. As we checked in, the ranger gave us a bird check list an told us of Green Jays, golden-fronted woodpeckers,and ladder-back woodpeckers, birds that we had never seen before.
So with our appetite whetted we found our campsite and set up, with the back window facing the lake. A great blue heron and a snowy egret waded near our house, and turtles lined the snags sticking above the water. with an anhinga sharing their spot. American coots fought each other and cackled as they greedily feed in the shallow bay.
We ate lunch and it was with a great deal of expectation that we drove to the 76 acre lake, to bird and to walk Molly. As soon as we got out we saw a vermilion flycatcher, followed by an indigo bunting. After walking out to a point on the lake, Renita spotted an alligator. There was a do not swim warning sign! We walked around the lake and Renita spotted our next new bird, a flock of black bellied whistling ducks. A black scoter swam nearby, all new life birds. We saw other birds of course, northern pintails, common and great tailed grackles, and then another new bird, a scissor tailed flycatcher! What a beginning!
The next morning was a another treat. Driving to town for diesel a crested caracara landed on a telephone post and posed for a picture. The two toned, carrion eating beak is unmistakeable! No camera! That afternoon we hiked the emperor's trail. Renita saw a green jay, I identified a greater kiskadee,(Oh no, we both thought the other had brought the camera).
Eastern phoebes were in the tree tops and yes, we saw the woodpeckers. Molly got into the act and tried to get us a thanksgiving wild turkey, but the leash stopped her. Definitely a place to come back to! Clear skies.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Guadalupe State Park, Texas

The axis buck stopped for a moment as if to show off it's large antlers, before trotting into the oak trees after it's harem...... After leaving Waco, it was a short drive to Guadalupe State Park. The Park is located just north of San Antonio so we could also get Renita's meds. The park is noted for the tubing, canoeing, and kayaking along the river. It is also known for its birding as the river draws wildlife.
We arrived Sunday, about noon, and most of the campsites had been vacated from the busy weekend. Finding a really nice site we were able to set up the satellite, which was surprising as we are crammed into live oak trees!
The next day we took a long walk along the river and saw a plethora of wildlife. We spotted a new bird, a blue headed vireo, along with a wren that we couldn't identify. An opossum walked across the campground,(I haven't seen one in thirty plus years). Everything is supposed to be bigger in Texas, but the deer are tiny. Full grown bucks are about the size of a German Shepard,which is to be expected as the hotter an area is the smaller the body size of mammals. The walk included a viewing of six axis deer, trotting across an open field,(Axis deer were imported from India and released in the Texas wilds in 1982). One of the deer was a large stag, with an impressive rack!
We weren't able to canoe as the water is really low here. The area has been in a drought for some time and the flow was only 32 cubic feet per second. Another reason we didn't try to launch the canoe is that the access is really bad here and we would have had to portage the canoe a long way, both downhill and then uphill.
We did take a bike ride, but the bike path is really rocky, the worst bike trail we have been on. After abandoning it we returned to the road and explored the other campgrounds. All in all a pretty park, with nice facilities. We were glad we came here. Clear skies.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Waco, Texas

After staying in a succession of national, state and county parks, any private park would pale in comparison. However we needed to get some business stuff done and so we drove to Waco and checked into the I 35 Rv Park.
The park itself was ok, it was fairly cheap, and the people were nice, but it was an older park quite full of permanent/long term residents.
Walking around the park, we saw some crazy motor homes. One was covered with Jelly Belly pictures and was a commercial vehicle with a matching painted car. Another, pictured above, was how a wild man from Minnesota, takes his boat south for the winter! It was certainly a stopper as person after person would walk by stop and scratch their head.
The other picture is of Renita and Molly at the parks petting zoo. Molly was pretty weirded about about the goats. The guard dog came rushing up to protect the goats from Molly but it soon lost interest and concern in any Shit tzeu.
As to getting stuff done, we had a mixed bag on that. Renita was able to see a doctor, but she was unable to find any pharmacy that carried her insulin. After three hours on the phone she did find some in San Antonio, near where we are going next. Laundry, groceries, diesel, and getting lost filled our remaining time in Waco. It's a crazy place, with one way streets on both sides of the interstate. They also have these suicide exit ramps. Here you exit directly onto the access road, in an extremely short ramp, and hope the drivers yield. Both of these caused us a lot of problems and detours.
All in all Waco is not a place we will stay again. Clear skies.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lake Texoma Revisted

Last year, we discovered Lake Texoma State Park and camped there for two days, making a note to return to such a beautiful place. This year we found ourselves passing the same way as we turned west to avoid hurricane damaged areas.
The drive from Daisy State Park was uneventful all though it was with a sense of relief when we crossed the border into Oklahoma. It wasn't that we didn't like Arkansas but that the roads there are some of the worst we have seen.
Arriving at Lake Texoma we found out we were one of five people camping in the whole park so we went back to Ben's Campground and got a great spot with a view of the lake. We set up camp and the rain begun, raining hard all day and night and into the next. The ranger told us the area was in a severe drought and so the rain was welcomed.
The next day we went to Kingston to buy fuel, get a few groceries, and check out a shortcut. Oklahoma 32. The diesel was 2.65 a gallons, less then half the price we paid in Yellowstone Park. The taxes on the groceries made up for it as they were over nine percent! At least the shortcut showed an easier and shorter way to head to Texas, so we returned home with a feeling of accomplishment.
The rain cleared out the next day and we spent it resting and building a stabilizer for the canoe. Now the canoe is pretty stable, for a canoe, but we had seen stabilizers advertised that allowed one to stand up and fish. They cost over 200 bucks so trying to build one was an obvious money saver,(Besides it keeps me out of trouble. My Mom always told me an idle mind was the devils workshop!).
The next morning, after taking one look at the stabilizer I tore it apart and rebuilt it using a steel crossbar instead of a wood slat. It was a little heavier but oh so much better. That afternoon we took the canoe to the lake and tried it out. It actually worked as I stood up and shifted my weight without getting wet! Look out Texas red fish! Clear skies.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Crater of Diamonds State Park, Arkansas

"Tourists, (I don't think I had ever heard that word said with such derision and contempt), Look at them wondering around in that plowed field. The park people plowed three weeks ago and it will take about 1000 inches of rain to expose any rocks or diamonds. If you want to find a diamond go over there and look where....
The grizzled prospector returned to his hole and started digging,(He also warned me about putting the picture of his payload zone on the Internet).
We had left Toad Suck and drove south and west to Daisy State Park, located on Lake Greeson. There Renita had reserved us a great spot on the lake. The park itself is a dense mature hardwood forest. Its filled with oak and hickory trees, many of which seemed to fall and hit our truck and house.
Two days later we were at the Crater of Diamonds State Park, looking to find a stone big enough to name. We were both surface picking, as it was the first day we had ever been here and really wanted to learn how to look for diamonds
It was such a mystery, the proverbial needle in a haystack, except the needle was in a 37 acre field.
Everywhere people were either surface picking, dry sifting or hauling their load of soil and rock to the washing stations. There they would wash and settle the soil before flipping the pan over on a table, where the diamonds had, hopefully settled to the bottom.
Taking a break we sat at a bench and ate snacks. Renita showed me her specimens. I told her how the prospector had bemoaned the fact that the state had found another 88 acres that held as much as 58000 carats of diamonds and wouldn't let people search there. We decided to go over to the boundary signs that stated that no prospecting was allowed beyond the crater.
At last we were seeing lots of rocks. Large boulders of a very resistant conglomerate lay around the area. It was so hard that even a sharp rap with my rock hammer barely showed any scratch. We both searched the low ground far from most of the people. Digging down some lamprolite could be found, highly weathered.
Finally tired and hungry we decided to call it a day. No luck finding diamonds but still a trip worth taking, as we both agreed that it wasn't the finding but the searching that makes life so exciting. Clear skies.

ps the prospector had told me to look for hematite stained soils, that they were the key to the diamond bearing layer.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Toad Suck, Arkansas

As we move around the country we pick places to stay by using Woodalls, Rvpark, and by recommendations from friends and family. So as we continued our southward migration, we got online and looked for a park halfway to Daisy State Park.
Looking on the map, Conway, Arkansas was halfway so we got online and found a park named Toad Suck Park. The reviews were good so we decided to head there.
What a nice surprise! Toad Suck Park was named for the river bargemen who used to stop here and suck on a whiskey bottle till they swelled up like a toad! Its a four loop campground, below the lock and dam, that is a pretty, scenic place.
Finding a nice level spot, with water and electricity, we parked and setup. We were even able to find our satellites for tv, although there are many channels the air antennae picked up.
Walking around the park we saw pecan trees but unfortunately there were no pecans on them. The campground host said that this is a sign of a really bad winter! He also said the squirrels were burying whole clusters on acorns, another sign. We walked all four loops, three are along the river and one a little further back, and all were nice places to camp.
The next day Dave and Jean stopped by to say hello. We met them at Branson and they are also heading to the Diamonds State Park. They had heard us talk about Toad Suck and decided to camp here! What a nice surprise! Although we are only here for a couple of nights, this is definitely a place to stay again. Clear skies.