Monday, November 30, 2009

Red Fish on the South Jetty, Port Aransas Pass

I had already broken off eight rigs at two different places, typical for jetty fishing, when the red fish picked up my cut mullet. I saw the tapping on the pole and picked it up just as the red took off on a run! It ran like a nice fish and I knew it was big but not giant. Two fisherman stopped their walk out to watch and one got out his net to help. Please don't get in the rocks, I thought, as the fish swam along the edge of the water!
Since my first trip to the jetty, with Pete, I had wanted to go back and fish for reds. So Saturday I threw my cast net and caught some nice finger mullet and I headed out early Sunday morning, to avoid the crowds. The wind was blowing fairly strong from the southeast and I knew the waves would be pretty big at the jetty.
Arriving I was surprised that there were only two others out on the rocks. The waves were pretty big but maybe, just maybe I could safely fish the end. Walking out, I set up in the same place where the family had caught their six reds the other day, but the conditions were a lot worse. I broke off two rigs in as many casts, and then two more. The waves grew larger and one broke near the top of the jetty. Not wanting to get stranded out at the end I reeled in and carefully walked back over the wet rocks.
Passing the low spot I reached the next area of sheltered rocks and fished "Petes" rock. Its just a rock that my Watersedge friend Pete loves to fish and its the same spot where I caught a 38 inch red last year. The tide was still going out and I really thought that this was it but all I got were snags on three successive casts.
Somewhat discouraged I headed further in, when I passed an excited fisherman who was dying to tell someone about his big red! He told me that this was his favorite spot for big reds and that he had broke off on a monster red and landed this smaller one. He lifted the stringer and I was impressed, oh my!
He told me what he was doing and I thanked him some more and continued on, asking other fisherman how their luck had been. I passed a family, where the father told me he had just lost a big red, also broken off, and I decided I needed to fish some more so I found an empty spot and cast out some cut mullet.
I put out a second pole, using shrimp and a slip bobber and caught a weird fish,(I think it is a juvenile atlantic spadefish), that I couldn't identify. Casting out again, the bobber floated into my other line just as the red fish hit. Go figure.
The red fish finally came in and the man with the net tried to net it tail first. His friend yelled at him to net it head first and he turned the net and in it went! He handed the net to an onlooker and the fish and net were quickly hoisted up to where I was standing. Thanking them I asked if they would take my picture as I was going to release the fish. It was way over the slot size and I hate to kill a big fish when someone else could catch it again.
Tossing it back into the water the fish had difficulty as its air bladder was extended and it couldn't get back down. Another onlooker asked if I knew how to fizz the fish but I am not convinced that the fizzed fish survive. I think they just swim to the bottom and die as its quite a shock to the fish.
We watched the fish for quite a while and finally it gained its strength and dove down. I felt good as I never intended to keep the fish as once you put the fish on a stringer its a goner. Don't get me wrong, I love reds on a halfshell, barbecued redfish, but the big ones well they are big ones and deserve to live and spawn.
Rentia was impressed with the picture and I could tell she looks forward to catching a big red herself. It was a great day and a great return to the jetty. The redfish I have dreamed about, for the past year, are still there! Clear skies.

ps Texas Game and Fish should be commended for their two tag limits on big reds. If you do want to keep a trophy you can, and thats fine, but as far as eating one, I have yet to talk to anyone who says the big ones taste good. The smaller ones are another matter!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Aransas Pass and Mustang Island

As I stepped out onto the sand beach the roar of the surf seemed to instantly put me at peace. Renita joined me and said, "It feels like home", and it did indeed. One of many homes that we have now that we are full time travelers.
Every place is special and has its own feel. Three that come to mind are the Red Deserts solitude, the sound of a cascading stream in the Wind River mountains, and of course the surfs roar on Mustang Island. All places where time has seemed to stop, at least for a little while, and each place has given us the peace we have been searching for.
We are at Aransas Pass, waiting for our winter camp reservations at Watersedge Rv, on December first, and exploring the town and the surrounding area. Our first trip was to Conn Harbour, another day was spent fishing the south Jetty, and a third at Mustang Island State Park, walking on the beach and wading in the surf.
Now we have been to Conn Harbour, and I even fished here with George and Gary. but we had never stopped at the seaman's memorial and so we parked and walked to the tower. The inscription told of loss and heartbreak and sacrifice. It told of a Coast Guard plane that crashed with its crew lost, searching for a ship in distress, and of course we felt special pangs and said a prayer for their souls.
Shortly after we arrived here Pete called and I met him at the south jetty. We didn't catch much, just a few small piggy perch, a croaker and some small mangrove snappers. Others had much better luck as we watched a family pull seven large redfish from a spot that Pete had been fishing. Two other fisherman caught three nice pompano, my favorite fish to eat, and so I planned to return as soon as possible.
Renita suggested a drive to Mustang Island State Park and as usual it was another great idea, the girl is full of them. We drove to the ferry and saw dolphins and Renita was happy. Crossing we drove to the park and heard the roar of the surf, but I already talked about that.
We have been so many places in the last year that if it weren't for this journal, ok blog, we would never remember them all. Of course each was special, not just the places, but equally the friends we have touched and greeted. I don't think we could live in any one place as the others all call to our souls. May you all find your own places of peace! Clear skies.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The International Butterfly Park, Butterflies Gone Wild

If you look up near the junction of those three tree branches, you can see a Florida Purplewing! Over here is a Guave Skipper! Look at the beauty of the Red Bordered Pixie. It was obvious we were at the International Butterfly center and it was also obvious that the people there knew a lot more about the butterflies then we did!
There weren't a lot of people there, the center is a work in progress, but it was really nice to wander among the flower displays and try to take closeups of all the different butterflies.
I had really expected it to be a series of domes in which captive butterflies were kept, to provide an easy access for the visitors but it wasn't that at all. Instead the paths were lined with wood chips and the butterfly were free to fly away.
The feeders and flowers kept them at the sanctuary and I had to laugh when we were told the feeders contained a mixture of sugar, fruit, and fermented beer. Who would figure such a strange brew for a butterfly feeder.
We both appreciated the expert advice as it was really hard to try to identify the butterflies with Renita's butterfly book. We also had a checklist, which helped a lot when trying to figure the exact species one was watching.
The Gulf Frittary and an Empress Leilia were two of my favorites. Renita pointed out the different types of Monarchs, a queen is pictured, and both a Pipevine Swallowtail and a Giant Swallowtail posed for our images.
We were finally driven away by the mosquitoes. Be sure to apply mosquito repellent before you go there. All in all it was well worth the price of admission. You can also purchase a year long membership and if we wintered here we probably would do so.
It was fun to see Renita, butterfly book and binoculars in hand, chasing the wild and inebriated butterflies! Clear skies.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Beautiful Churchs, Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe in MIssion, Texas

You can see the white dome and the steeple from quite a ways as it towers above the trees in Mission, Texas. Inside the old church is just what you would expect, a simply yet beautiful wooden altar, with a old but large and elegant painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The service started with a country western song and four dogs ran down the aisle and climbed the stair before laying down in front of the altar. The priest followed the cross procession and we knew we were in for an unique service, one of the joys of full timing and visiting different churches in our travels.
We never really planned on becoming church junkies, it really started long ago when we visited the beautiful cathedral in Toledo, Spain. As we began traveling we began to go to services and even started visiting churches, which are really a statement on the technological advances of their day.
I have already talked abut the hand carved altar in the church in Mesilla, but there are so many other places that deserve to be mentioned. The basilica of Natchez,Mississippi has the most amazing and beautiful statues of the saints. Somewhat of a dichotomy in a town filled with beautiful churches and mansions funded and built by slavery.
Of course the spiral staircase in the church in Sante Fe, and its story, is another spot not to miss. There the story is told of a carpenter showing up and building the staircase without using any nails. He then left and was never seen again. In Surprise, Arizona we attended mass in a brand new church, with a most unique design, packed full with all sitting on temporary folding chairs. The church in Rockport, Texas is one of Renitas favorites and has a traditional tee shape with side wings for the choir and parishioners.
Grand Isle, Louisiana has a new church rebuilt from the destruction of hurricane Katrina, if I remember its called Our lady of the Isle. There as many places the priest works a joke into his sermon, although he does need to work on his delivery. Its so nice there to enjoy the service with my sister and her husband, Connie and Gary. He didn't use any fish for props during the services we attended but Palm Sunday was special as he used local fronds from the islands trees.
The mass, at Our Lady of Guadalupe, continued and the priest interspersed his sermon with parts of country western songs. Not surprisingly an appropriate tune played during the collection. It was really nice and well done. The dogs fell asleep in front of the altar as the mass continued.
The church was packed and the mass schedule told something about the services in Mission, Texas. One mass is in English, another in Spanish, and there is even a service called Tex Mex, that sounds really interesting and unique. As the service ended the dogs rose and stood expectantly before leading the procession outside the church. It had been an unexpected blessing and another church we will remember. Clear skies.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Biking and Birding at Bentsen Rio Grande State Park

Ever since our friends Nancy and Jim,(See the blog on our list Runnung Down Our Dream), had written in their blog about the plains chachalacas we had to see one. So when my tooth went bad and we had to plan a trip to Mexico for a new crown, it seemed like a perfect chance to check out the Rio Grande Valley and do some birding at Bentsen Rio Grande State Park.
We pulled into the nicest rv park we have ever stayed at and eagerly awaited the next day for a biking and birding adventure. The next morning it was all of one block to the park's visitor center and we asked the poor ranger the question, "Where can we see chachalacas?"
He looked somewhat bored and said that we would see them at the feeders along the road and the proceeded to highlight other areas of the park that contained feeders and bird blinds. He did seem to gain some enthusiasm and told us of other birds that we should look for.
Climbing on our bikes we peddled past the road block and by the Border patrol, ever present in the area, and reached the first set of feeders. Sure enough there was a flock of chachalacas and several green jays. It was like watching greedy chickens, as the chachalacas would chase the green jays away time after time, as if there wasn't enough food for both!
We discovered that chachalacas is also a term used to describe people that talk too much, a new term for us that I am sure we will use many times! Finally growing bored with the chachalacas we rode to the next set of feeders. There the green jays were the dominant bird and a collared peccary, with her new born piglet fed on the spilled birdseed.
Watching them, the sow finally had had enough of us and barred her teeth, as if to say watch it, so as discretion is the better part of valor we continued on our ride. The next stop was at the kingfisher overlook. There we hoped to see a green kingfisher.
Several neotropic comorants were drying their wings and flocks of coots and shovelers, swam in the resenta,(a spanish word for an oxbow lake). Renita, of course. spotted a larger bird perched in a tree and sure enough we could easily see that it was a Ringed Kingfisher, a new bird for us. She pointed out that it was a male with no white marking on its front and we were both amazed by its size, its the largest kingfisher! We continued to look for a green kingfisher but didn't have any luck so it was time to push on.
The next stop was a blind where we watched several doves and green jays, while a peccary fed nearby. It seems so unusual to us to see bird feeders placed in parks, something you don't see in most other states. It seems like such an unnatural way to observe, but it does make for great closeups.
We continued on riding by turning into the inner loop, which is the old campground loop. Next we rode the roadrunner road where we didn't see any roadrunners. Peddling along hawk drive we were lucky enough to catch a brief but good view of a white-tailed kite. It was another new bird for us and we were having a great morning.
A border USGS marker post shows the official US Mexico border, or at least where it was before the Rio Grande moved its channel. I had to take a picture from Mexico, or at least the southern side of the marker. It seems so artificial, the idea of borders in our internet age,(On my morning walk with Molly we saw two border Patrol agents moving a captured Mexican women from one car to the next. It made me think of my Irish Ancestors immigration).
Finally finishing the loops we decided to call it a day and head home for lunch. It had been a nice ride, we had gotten to see chachalacas, and had the best views we have ever seen of green jays. We talked about returning and hiking the footpaths and spending some time looking at the bird center displays. A highly recommended birding park and an easy bike ride! Clear skies.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Days Routine at Choke Canyon State Park

We have settled into a nice rut. Each day we pretty much do the same three things, go fishing, take a bike ride, and go birding. Its such a nice routine and its small wonder that this is one of our favorite places to camp.
I get up quite a bit earlier than Renita and so as morning breaks I walk down to the lake and search for bait. The fish love clams here and so I wade in the shallow end of the bay and look for the tell tale track of a clam.
As a clam moves, using its fleshy leg, it makes a vee shape and so you follow the plowed path and then dig around with your hand until you locate the clam. They aren't sharp like an oyster so you don"t have to wear gloves,(Of course you keep an eye out for any nearby alligators and luckily the quicksand isn't too deep).
Then you put on a slip sinker rig and cast out and go into your patience mode. So far I've caught bluegills, fresh water drum,(big ones), and catfish. I have also found two crankbaits.
The bike rides here are along the paved road but there is hardly any traffic and so we stop and bird as we bike. We road to the seventy six acre lake and watched the jacana and the birders who are still flocking in. Walking along the dirt road I somehow noticed a walking stick, can you see it in the image? Renita spotted a Harris hawk and it posed for our view but flew off when I got out the camera.
We also rode to the Birding Trail where a park ranger was giving a lecture on Native American uses of wild plants. We were both surprised to learn that prickly pear reproduces by cuttings and that it grows new roots from its spines. He showed a prickly pear that had grown roots after only two days!
The birding here is what draws us back. A simply walk through the campground is a visual treat. Brilliant vermilion flycatchers are a guaranteed sight, along with green jays, scissor-tailed flycatchers, and golden fronted woodpeckers. We have had the added pleasure of seven deer and a herd of javelina surprise us.
Its so nice to have your biggest problem, one of trying to identify a little grey bird! Such a far cry from our previous life where Renita lived with the pressure of checking how much coal was filled in train cars and I dealt with drug crazed teenagers. Each day is a blessing and this place is filled with beauty, so much that I am sure,God willing, we will return again. Clear skies

Friday, November 13, 2009

Choke Canyon State Park and Birding Ethcs, A Northern Jacana

The bird took a step and you could see its long toes. It was amazing really to watch a bird walk across the top of the pond, stepping on floating water plants. It raised its head and looked at the photographer, visibly upset with his nearness. With wings uplifted it glanced at the photographer and then at the alligator, swimming nearby. The poor bird was surrounded!
The yellow flight feathers were unmistakable as it flew to a new spot only to be chased by the photographer and two more who joined him. Others in our group commented on the lack of ethics of photographers who were harassing the bird.
Apparently some people feel that because they have an expensive camera they have the right to become bird paparazzi.
As soon as we entered Choke Canyon State Park we registered and asked the Ranger if there were any unusual bird sightings. She told us about the Northern Jacana, which is usually only seen in Mexico and Central America. We left for our camping spot, hoping to set up quickly and then go birding at the 76 acre lake.
Spotting a least grebe we at least had a new bird. It was late afternoon and the sun was in the west so the light was bad as Renita spotted a bird about the size of the jacana across the lake. We watched it a while and talked with a birder/wildlife painter, Maren Phillips, who had driven from San Antonio for the rare sighting.
Cars came and went as birders were flocking in, pun intended, to add the bird to their life list.
We decided to come back the next morning, when the light would be better, and hoped that we could see the yellow underwings. Renita had thought she had seen them but she wasn't sure if it was real or her imagination.
We got a late start and didn't return until nine am and sure enough the parking lot was almost full with birders cars. Walking down the dirt road, which we learned from a posting on, we saw people on the first jetty and joining them we asked and were told that the jacana was directly across the lake.
We watched the bird for three hours. It got quite a bit nearer as it was being driven by the photographer. I was reminded of the fools at Yellowstone National Park who surrounded a mother grizzly and her cub taking pictures as the bear became distressed and charged though the people seeking safety for her little ones.
Now several others had went around the lake and taken stands. They also got images of the jacana but they waited patiently for it to come near, instead of crashing in on the bird.
Now don't get me wrong, I have friends who are photographers and wildlife advocates. I even try to get close myself for a decent image, but when the animal sees you and goes on alert, its time to back off! We both were amazed that the jacana was still at the lake, and hope to return today for another sighting, at least if it hasn't left from being harassed. Clear skies.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Bats Of Balmorhea State Park

Renita and Molly returned from their evening walk and told me, well at least Renita did, about the clouds of bats that flew out of one of the campsites ramadas. The next day she showed me the ramada and it seemed pretty hard to believe that bats could actually be hiding in the small spaces in the baked clay tiles.
However Renita is a Junior Ranger, duly sworn and badged, so I had to believe her and the next evening I went out and took a seat across from camp site four. People were walking their dogs and they kind of looked at me inquisitively but I just said hello as I didn't think they would be bat lovers. I waited about half and hour and then it started to happen. A bat flew from the other side of the ramada's tile roof. I moved to that side and was soon rewarded with a steady stream of bats leaving their day time lair.
They flew up and foamed a small cloud before dispersing for their evening meal. More bats flew out of the other side of the roof and then another stream swarmed out of campsite two's covered picnic table. It was awesome as I was right in the stream and the bats flew above and around me!
You just never know what you are going to see when fulltiming and the bats of Balmorhea are going to provide me with a Halloween story for years to come! That reminds me, did I ever tell you about the time when I had seven black widow spiders crawling on my shirt? Clear skies

ps The bats were too fast and the light too low for our little camera. This is the first time I wish I had a digital video camera. It was darker than the images show.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Balmorhea State Park, Snorkeling with Endangered Species

It had been so long since I had donned a snorkel and fins that I wondered what it would be like. As soon as I kicked with my new fins I could feel the power and drive and as I dove below the surface I could see fish everywhere. Silvery flashes were everywhere from Mexican Tetra and I could see a small fish near the bottom. It had a mottled color pattern somewhat like a bass, but it wasn't a largemouth.
We had arrived at Balmorhea State Park after a fairly long drive,(towing our house of course), of about 300 miles. All the way I had wondered about the wisdom of reserving a campsite for four days but it was a needless worry as there was so much to do that we barely had time for it all.
The first day, I took Molly for a morning walk and was rewarded with a black phoebe, drinking water from a canal that drained the swimming pool. Later Renita and I biked to the pool and we were both surprised to see so many fish and ducks swimming around. Now Balmorhea State Park bills itself as the largest spring fed open swimming pool in the world, about two acres in size and it looked big to me. We biked outside the park and almost reached town before spotting a large dog watching us from the middle of the highway.
The afternoon couldn't come soon enough and I could barely contain myself as I readied my new snorkel gear. I had purchased it at a K Mart at Rock Springs where it sat with a 50% off sticker. There isn't a lot of snorkeling opportunities in the cold waters of Flaming Gorge.
We drove to the pool even though it was close as I had too much gear to carry. The pool is 29 feet deep at it deepest and I brought along a life jacket, so I could float above the deep water and watch the fish,(I am a really good swimmer but I am also a cautious one, when it comes to deep water).
We had the pool completely to ourselves as we both waded in. Renita started in the shallow end and was immediately surrounded by a school of Mexican Tetra. I started nearer to the deeper end and dove down testing the new equipment. Everything worked great and I was rewarded with the sight of a Comanche Springs Pupfish, an endangered species, on my second dive.
We both played in the shallow end for a while and it reminded us of the time we were in the Bahamas, surrounded by colorful fish and crystal clear waters. I put on my life jacket and swam to the deepest part of the pool, amazed by the water clarity, I could see all the way to the bottom!.
Large catfish swam among flashing schools of Mexican Tetra and deeper roundnose minnows. I didn't see any green sunfish or Pecos Gambusia, the other endangered species here, but that was ok as I wasn't really sure what they looked like and there is another fish, a largespring gambrusia, that makes it difficult to distinguish.
The next day we drove to the nearby Balmorhea Lake hoping to find more birds. Now the lake is privately operated and you have to pay four bucks each to drive the roads so we payed as it seemed like a pretty cheap ticket for birding.
Driving across the dam we saw a osprey and some northern flickers. A Clark's Grebe was a new bird for us and we had to stop to keep from running over several coveys of scaled quail.
A belted kingfisher sat on a telephone wire holding a fish in its beak, as if it was trying to attract a mate, but it isn't breeding season. We drove further and the roads became rutted but luckily it was dry so we didn't have to worry about becoming stuck.
The four wheel drive road narrowed and soon large thorny bushes were scraping both sides of the truck. Crossing a primitive bridge, made of railroad ties we continued on and met an incredulous local who waved and smiled and said that the road would soon get better.
We took a wrong turn and ended up on the wrong side of a padlocked fence, with no way to get around it so I backed the truck through more thorny bushes and turned down a muddy road. I could feel the tires mushing through the Texas mud but we made it to drier ground and the road became wider and actually had gravel!
We continued our drive past the lake front homes and people waved as they couldn't imagine someone from Wyoming visiting their small lake.It was a nice day and we returned home tired and still sore from our previous days biking and swimming. We have enjoyed it here and hope to swim with the fish again, which seems pretty strange as its November! Clear skies.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Deming Luna Mimbres Museum

We walked through the sliding glass doors, and it seemed that the museum just kept going and going. Ahead and to the right we could see the door into the Thunder Egg display room, and when we entered we simply stopped in amazement at the cases, each jam packed with specimens. Sixty years of collecting by the Geokids had resulted in this!
We were drawing close to the end of our stay in Deming. Our friend Marty had left the day before and we were both getting hitch itch, but there were still a couple of things to do, check out a local rock shop and visit the Deming Luna Mimbres Museum. So we first went to the rock shop, and as you probably guessed by now, found some great examples of Eden Valley blue forest wood, Mexican Onyx, and mahogany obsidian. All called to us, along with some cut and polished agate slices and we left poorer and wondering where we were going to put the new rocks in our traveling home.
From there we went to the Deming Luna Mimbres Museum. We had heard about the Geokids Exhibit of Thunder eggs, when we visited their rock shop, but we didn't expect the museum to have several rooms filled with the King Collection of Mimbres pottery. Another surprise was the history that greeted us as the first display we saw was honoring the soldiers of the New Mexico National Guard. They were inducted into the Army in early 1941 and shipped to the Phillipines and from there into history.(Be sure to click on the monument and read the inscription).
Passing through the art displays we headed for the Thunder Eggs. Now Thunder Eggs are actually cavities in rhyolite lava, that fill with minerals, forming stunning crystal displays. There are six cases filled to overflowing with specimens and we both were in awe of their beauty! Without a doubt it has to be the finest display in the world,(Now we haven't been to see the Smithsonian yet). Regardless it is so nice to see a display of this caliber in Deming, New Mexico instead of having the samples shipped off back east,(where they don't belong).
We continued on and it seemed that every collector of anything had donated or loaned their items to the museum, A large whiskey bottle display, a thimble display, a display of an old electric hair curling machine that looked like a device for executing prisoners. Wild stuff to say the least!
Passing through the sliding glass doors we saw some pottery and walked into another complete surprise, the King Collection of Mimbres Indian pottery. Each display case was filled with stunning examples of pottery dug from the surrounding area.
Many of the pieces had been broken and a hole punched in the middle to release the spirit,(These had been buried in graves). It was the best display we have seen so far, however our friend Marty tells us that the University Of New Mexico has a larger and better display in Silver City.
We left the pottery and moved into the doll room, which brought back memories for Renita, and I stood and waited patiently for her to finish. She was surprised to see that her Barbie Doll wasn't present and she pointed out the Cabbage Patch Kid Dolls.
We thanked the people of the museum and bought some stuff along with making a donation. It had been a great day at the museum and the folks in Deming should be proud of their unique displays. It is definitely a place worth visiting. Clear skies.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pancho Villa State Park and Palomas Mexico

We were both a little nervous, or at least I was, as we drove south headed for Palomas, Mexico. The mayor had been kidnapped and murdered and the chief of police had fled to the US seeking political asylum. It was all spill over violence from nearby Juarez and the drug wars in which over 1600 people died.
But it was morning and we only wanted to check out the Pink Store, before returning to the US and touring Pancho Villa State Park, so we parked on the US side and walked through the fence and road opening and into Mexico.
We were greeted by beggars and then street merchants. Our daughter Jenny had warned us to not encourage the begging and the street merchants illegal cds and dvds held no interest,(All though I did want a new belt and perhaps a billfold).The Pink store beckoned and so we passed a dentist, and then a pharmacy and liquor store. Crossing a street we entered the store and were immediately greeted with a huge jewelry counter, filled with silver wares. I knew that I had lost Renita for a while and so I continued on into a really unique shop. I passed beautiful ceramic artwork and even found a bunch of glazed ceramic sinks that were really neat. A pile of braided bull whips called to me but I barely managed to avoid their lure and continued on.
Wondering back to the front Renita was till staring at the jewelry. I mentioned that I had seen the entire store and wasn't surprised that she hadn't passed the first counter. We all have our fascinations! She asked the store vendor if she could hold some items for her and I showed Renita the things I had found, including some neat and inexpensive belts.
We went outside and walked further down the street. It was empty except for a few street vendors and some beggars, a far cry from the busy market at Nueve Progresso.
There really wasn't much to see and the town had a lot of trash and empty beer bottles, most broken and littering the empty lots.
I checked out a couple of liquor stores, for candy, and the only containers looked like they were from last Christmas. The layers of dust kept me from making any purchases. Returning to the pink store we went into their restaurant and were treated to a nice and relatively inexpensive meal. The lunch crowd came in, all snowbirds. A Mariachi singer started to sing and it was a nice touch, along with good food and good service.
We left a nice tip and made our purchases and I was the proud owner of a leather belt emblazoned with scorpions. We walked through the gauntlet of beggars and street hustlers and crossed into the US Customs where the border guard asked about our purchases, before scanning our passports and waving us through.
Returning to our car we next drove north to Columbus, New Mexico, and Pancho Villa State Park. Its really only a few miles from the border and we quickly arrived at the sign for the park entrance. Paying our five dollars we entered the museum, where they had some nice displays of a Jenny biplane, and a primitive four wheel drive truck, and a dodge touring car, similar to the one used by Pershing as he led the troops into Mexico.
The displays told the stories of the Villas raid and we watched a movie in which some of the actual survivors of the raid told of the mayhem. A display also said that Pancho Villa was a hero to many people of Northern Mexico, and it helped us to understand the large bronze statue in Palomas.
It had been an interesting day and we both were glad we had toured the area. We also agreed that we could cross Columbus, New Mexico off our our list of places to return. We did see a road runner as we traveled north but he ran away, either from us, a Wiley coyote, or perhaps the drug wars, helicopters, and border patrol guards that seemed to flood the area. Clear skies.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The hike started from the day parking lot and quickly turned into a bit of an uphill slog. We passed the Jasper Trail turnoff, as we had decided to hike and rockhound along the Thunder Egg Trail, named for the type of geodes found here. The trail quickly began to turn into smaller trails where people had headed up the mountain and I choose one which seemed a little less traveled.
Now there has been tens of thousands of rockhound before us so we had no great illusions but the optimist inside us both had drawn us here and we began our scanning of the mountain side.
Rockhound State Park is located just outside of Deming, New Mexico. It's located in the Little Florida and Florida Mountains,(pronounced flo rita)). Its basically a rhyolite outcrop of volcanic origin and contains vugs, or cavities, which have been filled with crystals of jasper, opal, chalcedony, and lots of perlite.
Anyway I started up the mountain side and quickly forget everything else until I turned around and saw Renita far below. She was searching for rocks and we had a good view of each other so I continued to climb up the scree slope heading for some outcrops.
I had to wind my way through large groups of cactus, both prickly pear and barrel, and stopped to admire a great specimen of my favorite barrel cactus, called Fishook Cactus.
There was jasper everywhere,red and pink and some white. I found a small piece of chalcedony, but no opals. The climb became a little steeper and I stopped to make sure that the return path wasn't too steep, as the thought of slipping and plunging into a cactus patch wasn't terribly appealing.
Renita became smaller and smaller as I continued up, finally reaching the outcrop. It was a solid mass of rhyolite intertwined with jasper and filled with chert. In other words it was harder than heck and my hammer simply bounced off of it!
Deciding to continue looking among loose rocks I found some more perlite, my pockets were now bulging with the stuff. I looked at my watch, wanting to continue up the slope, but it was almost lunch time and I had the lunch in my daypack. That was ok and so I headed down as Renita stood and waited, her sack filled with a lot of rocks for me to look through!
We ate lunch at the picnic area and another fullltimer stopped and visited with us telling us of all the opal that had been found last year. I had just about walked over the area they were mining, and we could see the white scar quite easily from where we we resting.
The day hadn't brought any great discoveries, but we had a lot of perlite to play with,(perlite is a black obsidian like mineral which has a high water content). There was a display of some that had been polished and so I had more rocks to grind into smaller rocks and rock dust. We were both happy.
We checked out the campground and the sites were huge. Many had water and electricity and they all had a great view of the surrounding countryside. A place that would meet our needs and definitely a place to return to. It had been an enjoyable day and we would return here again. Clear skies