Nature’s fury-Hurricanes and Louisiana and the 2nd amendment

This 1,087-acre park near Moss Bluff, Sam Houston Jones, recently re-opened. In August 27, 2020  Hurricane Laura, blew through as a high-end Category 4 hurricane, made landfall near the Louisiana–Texas border in Cameron Parish and simultaneously tied the 1856 Last Island hurricane as the strongest tropical cyclone ever to make landfall in Louisiana with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph. Storm surge as high as 17 feet was measured at Rutherford Beach and a wind gust of 137 mph was recorded at Lake Charles. Widespread severe damage occurred across southwest Louisiana with coastal areas experiencing devastating storm surge and inland areas experiencing catastrophic wind damage. 33 people died in Louisiana from the storm and an estimated $17.5 billion in damage was inflicted across the state

Four out of every five trees at the park have been removed, even those left standing after Hurricane Laura, because they were severely damaged. The giant magnolia was left as it still shows signs of life! Then August 29, 2021 – Hurricane Ida made landfall as a high-end Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph, the same day as the 16th anniversary of Katrina making landfall in the state. 33 people were killed and at least $18 billion in insured damage was inflicted across the state. and that’s not counting the Hurricane Delta that made landfall fifteen miles away from where Laura did as a category two hurricane October 9 the 2020 and on October 28th Hurricane Zeta made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph…

The park has a slightly, no, well an apocalyptical feel to it. A war zone of nature. What the park here has done is nothing short of miraculous with budget cuts over the years. You had to look past the emptiness at the little things. It wasn’t what I was expecting as my choice of site was made from #23 was heavily wooded with overhanging branches I was slightly worried about! The ranger at the front gave me a zeroxed map, ma’am, things have changed. He pointed to where we were going and off we went. It had been an almost four hour trip from Galveston Island and we were ready to stop moving in whatever site we could get!

Everything was brand spanking new, the concrete roads in the campground, not the one leading in, maybe that’s up for repairs next, new washrooms and even a laundry room with coin operated machines! 50 amp service, water and sewer…all in a small state park with 24 sites. Una milgro really. I just happened to pick one of the two incredibly uneven sites…very downhill..there was. Guys, you JUST made this park, what were the architects thinking? That, or they ran out of fill in their budget! From the google maps overhead screenshot of the campground you can make out the destruction all around.

Unhitching, the leveling system wigged out again, oh no I was thinking but only because the front jacks ran out of stroke, even though I’d placed spacers and extra blocks of wood under them. The hydraulic slides hadn’t wanted to retract as well in Galveston when we were leaving until I pressed the control buttons really hard, but they did go in after a few tense moments. I wasn’t looking forward to hydraulic issues so quickly again, it certainly dampens your enthusiasm…Ha!

The Mewberries were itching to get out, this was paradise, green grass and dragonflies to chase! We walked along the border of the what was left surrounding the campground, looking at flowers and vines, mushrooms and tree seeds. American sweetgum seed. Cats didn’t like walking on them! Very prickly but cool looking! Yes, I did stuff a few into a bag, for future Christmas Wreaths! Ha!

Behind the campground there was a small swamp, bayou, Creedence immediately screams into my head ♫♪♫ Born on the bayou ♪♫♫ and other fabulous CCR songs but did you know they were actually from El Cerrito, California? I was crushed…not;) Part of the path in a small boardwalk over the swamp, I met and spoke to two nice couples there, one just visiting the campground to check it out, another camped there. Why my walks often go longer than planned! One woman pointed out the Green Anole! It had moved onto a piece of wood and was turning brown in front of me! Pond Slider turtles lazed on a few logs sunning, no sliding today!

So much life. In the middle of the swamp a Great Egret moved stealthily among the water plants waiting for the perfect moment to strike. Yellow water lilies with no leaves were blooming here and there as more dragonflies flitted back and forth. A tribute to how quickly life returns, or that it never leaves.

I spoke to another camping couple walking their dog Tobey. They were from Alexandria Bay, just South of us in New York, they knew where Perth was! They asked if this was the original campground? I said I didn’t know but explained the two back to back hurricanes…”Ahhh” they said. They were here in 2019 and nearly drove by the campground yesterday, not thinking it was where they were supposed to go, now they understood, the old campground no longer existed, they had said how spectacular it had been with all the beautiful magnolias and shade trees. A local lady walking by introduced herself, Stephanie, from Moss Bluff, she was so happy the park was open again, her happy place! “Don’t forget the crawfish in town, and the cupcake shop!” she remarked, “Thanks for visiting here!”

Groot and Gamora absolutely loved it here, making a beeline for the edge of the shrubs, chasing lizards, sniffing everything, digging in the sand at the edges of the filled areas. Rocket, well, we had to carry him out to the edge, the open areas melted down his half brain cell and he just couldn’t do it, on the way back he’d scoot all the way to the truck and trailer, and yes, they know which one is theirs! In fact they occasionally do a scan to see where it is, just in case you know! It may have been the grey panther they all spotted from the window earlier! A young beautiful grey feral cat was going from trailer to trailer. He liked the Airstream parked across from us, they also had two cats. He almost acted like he wanted to go up there steps. I felt bad, maybe someone had been feeding him. He looked in good shape and was enjoying peeing on all the truck tires…mine, mine, mine….cats!

Mike and I took a walk on the boardwalk trail, I saw one bird, a savannah sparrow I think. The “warning alligator” signs along side the “slow children” signs were a hoot. The SLOW children won’t stand a chance!

OK, we did the boiled crawfish thing at Red Tails Boil House. You drive up, put your order in and they give it to you in a big white plastic bag, in a brown paper bag…everything is boiled..the crawfish, the corn, the potatoes, the mushrooms and an onion. Boiled, like it says. I’m afraid if I want to to eat bugs in the future, I’ll order a lobster! Ha! This is diet food, you have to eat it so slowly I am going to start calling it slow food crawfish as you try to pick the tiny pieces of meat from the tail and yes, the tiny claws! Ha! We should have added crab and shrimp!

We woke up to a beautiful sunrise. I pulled a tick off of the back of my leg, and one off Groot…nasty little bugs! Spring is here!

Good Morning Louisiana

It was a three hour trip, plus any highway work to Tickfaw State Park. I was a bit worried about the hydraulics, I’d gone into manual mode to get the trailer somewhat level, the slides had behaved but I held my breath when I pushed the slides in button and in they retracted as they should, worried about nothing apparently! The jacks came up and we were off to Interstate 10 headed through Baton Rouge, over the Mississippi River and on to Tickfaw State Park.

There was more road work, more idiots, and so so many billboards. Religious ones, lawyers ones, lawyers ones with religion and food, even political ones At least the food ones were making me hungry! There was even an Acme 18 wheeler one, Wylie E. Coyote will be driving for them soon;) Watch out roadrunner! The icing on the awful billboards came as we entered Livingston Parish-We love our schools, churches and the 2nd amendment. Enjoy your stay! from the sheriff, Jason Ard, he must be up for re-election…0_0….

Right to Bear Arms-A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

No mistaking the values here…Sheriff Jason is not someone I’d want pulling me over….but hey, enjoy your stay…I would have put down “we love our kids”, maybe a better choice of words than their institutions…

Then you have Bart and Gordon, your Louisiana lawyer billboards (I counted over 30 of them and sure there are more. Apparently the lawyers Bart and Greg really, really like their own pictures. Bart and Gordon like themselves…a lot! Ha!)…what is with the dog in we are loyal to our clients? Is he sueing his owner for those pink ribbons? Then you have the lawyers with religion billboards…mixed reading for sure! If Jesus can’t answer you right away, call Gordon . And of course a bit of politics thrown in with Pray, Pray, Pray…what’s not working guys? and don’t sell booze to babies and finally the food billboards, the most food billboards I have seen, it actually made my stomach growl a few times but not enough to stop…Boudin balls? No, not part of an alligator’s anatomy;) Boudin balls are made from Cajun boudin sausage, which is a mixture of ground pork and rice, along with seasonings. The sausage is removed from its casing, formed into balls, then coated and fried. I’m sure it is simply delicious!

Thank goodness for billboards, it’s awfully flat here, a few bridges, wait, that’s the Mississippi River! Lot’s of small brown rivers and many green swampy ones! The “Skywalker” was being brought up the river by tugs, if I was a graffiti artist…I’d have to add “Luke” here! Ha!

Once we got off the I-10 the road into Tickfaw State Park was a bit sketchy. At one point we turned down a road and I called the park office, is this the way in? Well ma’am…you could but…and he told me another road, signal breaking up, we backed out, well, Mike did, I stopped traffic, and went a bit further to an equally, well almost, narrow road and followed it to the park through an odd bit of suburbia where someone had gone off the edge of the road and was being pulled out by a tow truck while we waited, because the roads were so narrow, with no shoulders and large drop offs, Baja roads! It is always a relief to see the park signs and arrows as you think where the hell are we going…Welcome to Tickfaw State Park!

Tickfaw State Park

Tickfaw State Park is 1,200 largely undeveloped acres in an isolated pocket of Livingston Parish. Until August 29 2021 Tickfaw was covered in the shade of a tree canopy so thick that the sky was rarely seen. Hurricane Ida’s eye wall knocked down about 80% of the trees, mostly in mud that the 30-foot arm of an excavator couldn’t reach from the roads that run like fingers through the swamp. Seven state parks were closed because of severe damage. All boardwalk trails at Tickfaw State Park are currently closed due to severe damage caused by Hurricane Ida. Canoe rentals are also currently unavailable. Two trails are currently open to the public, the hardwood trail and the trail around the fishing pond.

The campground is cleared, just, between sites huge pines still lay toppled. Funding cuts from 2017 didn’t help things. The sites are narrow, some a bit difficult to get in with trees, sites on the inside of the road have sewer. We had space #3. Space #1 is a first come first serve site. Not quite a apocalyptic as Sam Houston but still gut wrenching. 

From its cypress and tupelo swamp to its bottomland hardwood forest, Tickfaw State Park is no stranger to water. The low-lying park occasionally serves as a detention pond for rainfall that overflows the Tickfaw River’s steep banks. Of the park’s 1,200 acres, about half of which lie west of the Tickfaw River and remain undeveloped, 99.8 percent went under water during the 2016 August flood…this floor of the bathrooms is about 7′ high…all the campsites would have been underwater. Swimming back to your trailer! Yikes!

I walked over to the nature center and looked at the exhibits, snakes and mammals, alligator jaws, stuffed Bobcats and birds, it felt like a step back in time. They had wonderful aquariums with turtles and salamanders, even an obituary to a deceased one on one tank, very sweet, I didn’t realize there were so many poisonous snakes here, I should have taken pictures, I was just enthralled walking around. Making a mental note not to let Rocket pounce on anything in the bush behind the trailer! Earlier I should have let Gamora eat the anole she caught! She grabbed one, not this guy and made a beeline for the trailer steps, wanting to take her new toy inside. I had to pry it out of her mouth as Rocket watched sadly from behind the screen, it escaped by running down my leg and into a crack in the boards of the small deck beside the site…safe! The Brown Anole is highly invasive I read.

We had some nice folks across from us from Vermont with a lovely grey cat with four white boots and a couple from Massachusetts we chatted with on our other side. Thursday morning we had some decisions to make. Severe thunderstorms, possibility of tornadoes (ugh, lump in my stomach) and torrential rain. Great traveling weather right? not! We weighed our decisions, the spot we were in was not available for Friday, nor did they have any other ones available. I called Roosevelt State Park in Mississippi to see if we could get in a day early…nope, they weren’t sure, their entire reservation system was down so couldn’t even tell me if the spot I had reserved for Friday/Saturday was open for Thursday, he didn’t think so he said, someone was in it. Mike went searching and came up with these gems! Archusa Creek Water Park, The Pat Harrison Waterway District, like county parks?
I called the number Mike gave me and the new girl at reception, who kept yelling back to her boss, Donna, came up with one site, for the Friday, Saturday and Sunday for us…for a 38′ 5th wheel? I asked, we can get in? Plenty of room for site 23 I could hear Donna yelling. No roads not to take in I asked? Nope…OK. I gave her the credit card number and she said site #23! All good! I need to learn to speak Mississippian…they had some serious dialects happening. There are days I want to break out in an Irish brogue, but they wouldn’t understand would they? Ha! But that…is another story. Stay tuned for Mi-ss-i-ss-i-pp-i…..

♫♪♫ M I double S I double S I double P I
M I double S I double S I double P I

Right in the middle of the cotton belt
Down in the Mississippi Delta
Wearin’ last years possum belt
Smack dab in the Mississippi Delta ♪♫♪

I am a Bobby Gentry fan;)

Welcome to Mississippi

From Choke Canyon and Green Jays to Goose Island and the beach!

OMG! A Green Blue Jay, wait, a Green Jay! or should that be green, blue, black and yellow Jay!

First we had to get through San Antonio…We truly hate big cities, medium cities, the roads are usually a mess, or being redone, the lanes are narrow, people are idiots and don’t know how to merge and no one seems to look beyond the hood of their car! Wake up people or get smushed by a 18,000 lb. trailer and 10,000 lb truck! pedal to the metal or hang back, your choice. Maybe it’s just me, but Mike swears in three different, wait, at least four different languages when even the cats perk up their ears!! There is even extra points given for creative use of swear words and combinations as well, we’ll make a chart one day on the severity of the situation and a list of his creative expressions that fit them!

Yes, it’s an agitating experience going through large cities. San Antonio was no exception, we took a wrong turn that got us on the Interstate 35 South, the phone was saying one thing, the truck GPS the other (I think it needs an update…hate dealers) but in the end we avoided downtown and swung South on the Texas #16 headed out of the city and into God’s country…Who named a town Poteet anyway? So it wasn’t the Interstate 37 we were trying for but it got us there just the same after one experience with what a turnaround is, just that, it turns you around, then you go back and find the next “turnaround” to get you going back in the direction you wanted to go in the first place! ha! We did get turned around!

I feel this billboard needed some punctuation…is it “THINK GOD! or Think God? or maybe you are talking to God saying “Jeesuz, think God, why did you put all these crazy humans here after all?” Just saying;) they have their own website if you want to know more..0_0…and who is Elmer? A plumber, a electrician? Someone who had a good year and wanted to thank San Antonio? Inquiring minds want to know! Maybe he’s thankful for McDonald’s someone suggested, maybe he is. I always think the more God billboards you see, the sketchier the population must be…looking for converts! We were happy to get out of town and into the country. The huge live oaks had stated to outnumber the mezquite scrub and wildflowers were blooming across so many fields, this felt like Spring!

From the park website:

Choke Canyon State Park is on the shore of the Choke Canyon Reservoir, which supplies water for Corpus Christi.

The state acquired the park in 1981 in a 50-year agreement between the Bureau of Reclamation, the city of Corpus Christi and the Nueces River Authority.

Eroded, gently rolling brushland crossed by silted stream valleys makes up the terrain here. This land formed during the Cenozoic Era (the period following the extinction of dinosaurs).

Ancient rivers flowing to the southeast dumped their sediments into what was then part of the Gulf of Mexico. This created new land.

Seas intermittently covered the newly-formed land with more river sediment. These sediments were mostly volcanic ash, claystone, siltstone, tuff, shale and shaley limestone.

Over time, erosion of these sediments and subsequent deposits of river silt produced the land you see today.

The Choke Canyon Dam is near where the Gulf shoreline was about 30 million years ago.

From the scant evidence available, we know that Paleo Indians crossed the Frio River Valley more than 10,000 years ago. They were following game such as bison and mammoth.

After large game disappeared more than 8,000 years ago, nomadic hunters and gatherers associated with the Archaic culture camped near the river. There they made tools, built fires, and gathered and processed food. Archeologists have found numerous Archaic sites in the Choke Canyon area.

The sites were really well spaced, on very old dirt, ha! This actually had some of the best spacing we have seen so far, so much room between you and the next site, very private, I put up by back window feeder, they said there was a $500 fine for feeding wildlife…did that include birds? The park lady at the front desk was none too friendly, your tag is outside, pinned to the board, end of conversation…Okeedokee…

We took the cats out for a spin, he bangs on the side of the trailer as he is walking Groot before I get out and says “Is this the green jay you’ve been looking for?” Wowza…not just green but blue, black and yellow too! It exceeded my expectations of just how bright a bird can be! I apologize for all the pictures! Ha!

Like most members of the crow family (Corvidae), Green Jays are omnivorous, eating a great variety of insects, small vertebrates, seeds, and fruit. Among insects, grasshoppers, crickets, bugs, caterpillars, and flies are common prey items. They are non migratory but do differ slightly from ones in South America. Green Jays are agile, active foragers. They forage in family groups, moving in the same direction together as each explores a different tree or shrub, scanning for insects or other food before hopping or flying to a new vantage point. They are noisy, like most jays, but not as noisy as the flock of Great Tailed Grackles and Red Winged Blackbirds that descended onto my feeder! I had to put it away!

I sat at the bird blind, a few hundred feet away, the feeders were empty and the orange halves old and picked over, it looked unkempt, and it was empty. I wandered over towards the bathrooms where there was a small patch of yellow flowers, full of butterflies!

Love was in the air in the butterfly patch! The The Bordered Patches were frolicking as were the American Ladies. Pipevine Swallowtails, mostly in fairly ragged shape rounded out the group with a Xylocopa micans, also known as the southern carpenter bee. (Like all Xylocopa bees, X. micans bees excavate nests in woody plant material.) and a Fiery Skipper, they can hold their wings in a “triangle” shape. The forewings are held upright, and the hindwings are folded flat. This position is thought to better absorb the sun’s rays! So much life in that little patch of Cowpen daisies.

The next morning a herd of White Tailed Deer walked right past the trailer. Groot and Rocket were not impressed with the smells, I think the javelina scent set them on edge! Danger Will Robinson! Danger! That herd came by early the next morning! Scary pig dogs Groot said looking out the window at them!

The bird blind was hopping the next morning! Several people were seated at the picnic tables and benches watching the incoming crowd. A nice group, friendly with lot’s of hints for the parks they had been too. Apparently South Llano is a favourite of all of them, this blind here they said was neglected. The fact they stop feeding the birds, so they don’t interrupt migration they said, was BS several said as all the other parks feed all year long, too cheap one lady said. I did notice South LLano had a donation box I added to, perhaps they should do that here as well! It would be hard to keep the Grackles and Red Winged Blackbirds fed. They descended several times in great numbers causing a ruckus among the Green jays and Golden Fronted Woodpecker, that’s quite the name to live up to!

One lady stopped in hoping to see a Green jay, they arrived right after she left…:( The Golden Fronted Woodpeckers I hadn’t seen since we were in Palo Duro canyon State Park South of Amarillo many years ago. They are really striking, another Texas bird! The Woodpeckers eat more than just insects. The Golden-fronted Woodpecker consumes about as much fruit and nuts as it does insects. In summer in Texas, the faces of some woodpeckers become stained with purple from eating fruit of the prickly pear cactus. Carpintero Frentidorado in Spanish, are omnivorous, eating insects and larvae, spiders, fruits, and nuts, much like their relatives the Red-bellied and Gila Woodpeckers. They also eat ants, beetles, grasshoppers, cicadas, praying mantises, walking sticks, moths, small lizards, and possibly birds’ eggs. It was a treat to sit and watch them!

After walking the cats I headed out to the beach to see what was there, an alligator maybe? Choke Canyon reservoir has a surface area of 25,670 acres and a maximum depth of 95.5 feet. The water levels fluctuate between 10 to 20 feet depending on rain, they looked quite low as I walked through some muddy areas. This is a fishing destination judging from the hotels and motels nearby, and I thought they were for visitors to the Federal Prison nearby! Ha! The campground also has cottages to rent to the fishing and birding folk. I think the fishing is the biggest draw here.

The water doesn’t look particularly appetizing to swim in, call me picky…Ha! There were several ducks, A Blue Winged Teal, a female Redhead and a Canvasback duck (male). The Canvasback (Aythya valisineria) is a species of diving duck, the largest found in North America, a first for me as well…and a Coot…gotta love Coots!

I was looking for the Crested Caracara, I had seen it fly over the bird blind but too far away to get a shot at. We’d also seen them on the side of the road picking at carcasses and one evening, with not enough light, one was scavenging on the beach. You were not supposed to leave your fish entrails behind but I’m sure many do. Many folks were simply fishing from the shore. Such a striking bird!

Crested Caracara from my files!

For some inconceivable reason I decided to take a walk the last afternoon we were at Choke Canyon to follow some of the birding paths…in the 92° heat…what was I thinking;) Ha! All around us sweet acacia, huisache, or needle bush, a species of shrub or small tree in the legume family, Fabaceae were blooming. Its flowers are used in the perfume industry. They smell divine! Yellow good smelling pompoms!

While I meandered over several miles of trails wondering what was I thinking I did get to see some cool plants, a few butterflies, a dragonfly and one bird. A very quick Blue Gray gnatcatcher. So much for the well named trails of Warbler Way and Owls Roost…ha! I was going to sleep well! I should have sat in the shade by the bird blind! 

One thing about photographing the plants and flowers, bugs, birds and blooms and uploading them to iNaturalist is learning what they are, what they mimic, how they can kill! ha! I thought I’d found a Monarch but it turned out to be a Viceroy Butterfly. It was long thought to be a Batesian mimic of the monarch butterfly, but since the viceroy is also distasteful to predators, it is now considered a Müllerian mimic instead…who knew..I need to go look those words up! Ha!
Müllerian mimicry is a natural phenomenon in which two or more well-defended species, often foul-tasting and sharing common predators, have come to mimic each other’s honest warning signals, to their mutual benefit.
Batesian mimicry is a form of mimicry where a harmless species has evolved to imitate the warning signals of a harmful species directed at a predator of them both. It is named after the English naturalist Henry Walter Bates, after his work on butterflies in the rainforests of Brazil.

I have learned two new words today that I probably won’t retain;) I also learned that ingestion of silverleaf nightshade has been implicated as a cause of ivermectin toxicosis in horses given the recommended dosage of the drug. Metabolites from the plant are speculated to disrupt the blood–brain barrier, allowing ivermectin to enter and disrupt neurotransmitter function in the brain and spinal cord….very bad Indie for horses!

And Tillandsia recurvata, commonly known as small ball moss or ball moss, is a flowering plant (not a true moss) in the family Bromeliaceae that grows upon larger host plants. It grows well in areas with low light, little airflow, and high humidity, which is commonly provided by southern shade trees, often the southern live oak (Quercus virginiana). It is not a parasite like mistletoe, but an epiphyte like its relative Spanish moss. It was beautiful backlit against the sun! Mike and Groot were much smarter than their wandering servant Pamela…..

Way to chill on a 92° afternoon…he is Groot and his servant Mike.

We walked out to the beach for one last sunset as it cooled down, sort of and were looking forward to sea breezes, bay breezes, any breeze! Our next park was Goose Island. I was a bit worried about getting in there after reading reviews from campers who wiped out their skylights and vent caps on the overhanging oak branches but figured if we took it slow, we’d be OK!

I had quick walk out to the reservoir for one last look for the Crested Caracara and encountered a lovely Snowy Egret fishing before we left. It was going to be a short hop, just under two hours, but through Corpus Christi (who named that Christ corpse!) before we turned North to the Park.

We passed through Three Rivers, Texas, on our way to the I-37 to the gulf coast…great old theater and of course….pawn and guns….then Donuts and Chinese Food…I have not seen this combination before and although the sign looks like it could be closed, they were open for business….I was not brave enough;) The view at the gulf coast was not promising, refinery after refinery, all the big names in oil, Shell, Mobil, Valero, Pemex…wait…yes, Mexican companies! The USS Lexington, nicknamed “The Blue Ghost” was cool, it’s an Essex-class aircraft carrier built during World War II for the United States Navy. Currently a museum. We turned North at Corpus Christi and headed for Goose Island. It is on the inside bay actually, not the coast at all. We passed through Rockport before the park. Why here? Whooping Cranes. Mike felt bad I missed Whitewater Draw in Arizona with our jack problems so felt we could stop here, the home to the endangered Whooping Cranes, all five hundred or so of them ar Aransas Wildlife Refuge, but some hung out North of the park!

Goose Island State Park is 321.4 acres on St. Charles and Aransas bays. It is located north of Rockport in Aransas County. The state acquired land for the park in 1931-1935 by deeds from private owners. A legislative act set aside the state-owned Goose Island as a state park.

The Civilian Conservation Corps constructed the earliest park facilities in the 1930s.

When we checked in I asked the the park ranger about the branches, just watch them as you drive, take the middle of the road and watch yourself backing in, as long as you are not a newbie she laughed, you’ll be fine! We were OK! Site 113 wasn’t too hard to swing and back into, several of the other sites would have required gymnastics on the part of the trailer to get into! Bonus was first night we had no one in front of, or here, bedside all us and we sat outside and watched the fireflies!!

Groot said he had to chase this “Black Panther” away from HIS trailer! I was shocked at how aggressive he was, big boy in town. Not sure if this was a camper’s cat or a stray, and yes, people do turn their cats out loose we have discovered…You see them sitting under their trailers at times. I think this guy was a feral cat.

Lot’s of wildflowers around the trailer as well. We talked to a French Canadian couple next to us who had toured all over Mexico this year, it was fun to exchange our views of camping in Baja vs the mainland, many funny stories to share, really lovely folks!

The next day we drove up to see the Big Tree-It was named the State Champion Coastal Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) in 1966. The San Bernard Oak on the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge dethroned it in 2003. The Big Tree is still one of the largest live oak trees in Texas and in the nation. It is massive!

  • Trunk circumference:  35 feet 1.75 inches or 10.71 meters
  • Average trunk diameter:  11 feet 2.25 inches or 3.41 meters
  • Crown spread:  89 feet or 27.1 meters
  • Height:  44 feet or 13.4 meters
  • Age, possibly over 1500 years.

I love these fabulous oaks but was reminded of the price I pay being near them, camped under them…constant coughing…I am allergic to these giants and wee ones as well. Sucks! I could get close to the Prickly poppies around the tree, many had visiting friends! Fork-tailed Bush Katydids! Green bugs!;)

We saw some cranes, they were out in a farmers field but too far away to get a good shot so I vowed to drive the five minutes back later in the day to check again. In the meantime we went to town for a few supplies given the limited space in our new magic chef fridge, I was keeping ice in the defunct dometic with a few vegetables as well, had to replace it every day.

Now I love me some new grocery stores;) Ok, I promise not talk that way but all I wanted was some tea-I don’t need tea for serenity, or joy, or harmony or bliss, I just want some damn English Breakfast tea! Where are Twinning’s when you need them?! Hahahahaha! Then the ice…Ok…Ice is food? Come on Texas, this is just ridiculous, unless you consider it diet food? This marketer needs a firing squad;) The chicken paws didn’t surprise me…ah, the world of marketing…😉 We were stopped at a light by the bakery so I said, hey lets go in, get some donuts! Rockport, population 10,000 and some, mostly old people it seemed, retirees, snowbirds, whatever. The donuts were good. I asked if they had any bread? No, we tried, the people here won’t pay more than a dollar a loaf the young girl said behind the counter, they are too cheap…please never let me get old..AND cheap;) You do know what pigs in a blanket are right? The smoke shops/get yer bud light drive throughs, well, we don’t see many smoke shops in Perth anymore, let alone drive through ones! Always something new to either raise your eyebrows or just have a chuckle at, chuckling is easier.

I drove back up to see the cranes later, a few more had arrived, but none flew in while I was there and they were still a long ways away mixed in with Sandhill Cranes and Roseate Spoonbills. It was still cool. The fields of flowering Prickly Poppy were just beautiful.

The endangered whooping crane feeds on berries and blue crabs found in the coastal wetlands around Goose Island State Park. From March through October, roseate spoonbills prefer the bays, marshes and estuaries along the Gulf Coast. Occasionally they will travel inland through the eastern third of Texas. In winter, most roseate spoonbills migrate to Central and South America.

Goose Island State Park is surrounded by suburbia if you look on Google maps. There is a fishing pier from the “bayfront” sites. This bay, Aransas, smelled, badly. No fresh ocean breeze here but dank estuary rotting smell. We could even smell it from the wooded campground further inland. The French Canadians had been out there but said the constant wind and the airboat noise drove them away. Most of the sites were too uneven for us, dropping off at the beginning and end with a huge hump in the middle, only a few were suitable for anything other than very small campers or trailers.

I drove back out to the bayfront sites. We’d read about the airboats, then I got to see one! We could hear these guys inland like they were next door. Airboats, they started launching them at 6:30 am. There is a reason the driver has hearing protection on….These bays are shallow, not sure I want to eat anything out of them after looking at the pelicans… 

Further up the coast past the cranes I came upon a beautiful Great Blue Heron and a Laughing Gull. Laughing Gulls eat almost anything I read, including food they catch or steal, handouts, garbage, and discards from fishing boats. They often congregate in parking lots, sandy beaches, and mud bars. Listen for their nasal, strident calls in flight, while feeding, and at rest, they are loud, not sure laughing is what I’d call it…like a hyena maybe! Ha! They are quite striking looking!

And that was Goose Island. Best thing…not hitting an oak branch and sitting and watching the fireflies after dark, always a magical experience! As we go North it will be like turning back time!

In the morning we took the Texas 35 east North East towards Galveston. I’d tried to get into the state park but it was fully booked, Spring Break was upon us so I settled for a spot at The KOA, mostly to do laundry, I was down to the last t-shirt and clean pair of underwear! I loathe RV parks, well, most of them, soul-less lines of trucks and trailers, lined up in neat rows…I’m always happy when Mike is crookedly parked! Ha!

We had to head a bit inland, through farm land, Texas longhorn cattle, fields of wildflowers and lots and lots of Trump 2024 signs. It looked wartorn in so many places and I couldn’t help but think a few hurricanes and tropical storms had been by these places. The billboard “Tired of that EYESORE” was an eye opener! The God billboards were few and far between here, just the “church” signs before the massive and somewhat monstrous churches which dotted the landscape like Home Depot’s for God’s word. A friend posted that if you were queer in Texas you appreciated the warning, I laughed weakly, he was right. How spoiled we are where we live.

We headed back out to the coast at Freeport, finally the gulf of Mexico, real water, not baywater!

Surfside and Surfin’ Rita Daiquiris to-go was looking more promising..😳…Little know Texas liquor laws:
Fact No. 1:Parents can buy alcohol for minors.
As long as a legal guardian is present – and the bar permits patrons under the age of 21 – a minor can get wasted with his or her parents (although if you drink too much, you can get charged with public intoxication)
Fact No. 2: If you’re under 21, your spouse of legal drinking age can order a beer for you.
Ask your husband or wife nicely, and it’s perfectly legal for your spouse to order you a frosty beverage.
Fact No. 3: Prohibition is still enforced in the Houston Heights. Prohibition was repealed eight decades ago. Nevertheless, 10 Texas counties and several smaller communities remain dry, including the Houston Heights.
Fact No. 4: Drive-through daiquiris are legal.
At least two-dozen daiquiri “to-go” stores exist in the state. Just pull up one of these liquor establishments, ask for a margarita or daiquiri and you’re good to go. To avoid open container violations, the drinks are sealed and obviously should not be consumed in your car.
Fact No. 5: The TABC proposed allowing the sale of alcohol at gun shows last year.
The proposal was withdrawn, after the commission received hundreds of complaints.
I could go on…Ha!

We were caught in traffic at the Bluewater Highway-by the number of people dressed in silly green costumes we deduced it was a Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, with daiquiris!

Little Boxes, some not so little, on stilts

The height of your home pillars often denotes age…the higher it is, the newer it is…every single home here is on stilts…$500,000 beach homes, those are the old ones…mile after mile and mile of these homes.

I was singing Pete Seeger’s ♪♫♪
Little boxes on the beachside
Little boxes made of ticky tacky
Little boxes on the beachside
Little boxes all the same
There’s a pink one and a green one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same ♪♫♪

I can’t say I would want to live here…ever….then there are all the people…ha! Mile after mile after mile of stilted houses and some businesses as well. I suppose once you’ve been washed away you learn your lesson, or you call the number for White Trash Site Services…although no one here with a less than substantial income could buy or build. Some houses sit on their stilts with obvious storm damages, but not many. I wonder what insurance costs here, if you can even get it, or if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

The KOA was just South of Galveston Island State Park. We checked in, and I started laundry, you can get a daiquiri here as well! Too early for me start! Ha! Find waldo in the picture, I mean us…Hahahaha! Taken from the top floor by the laundry room of the KOA…on stilts.

Find Waldo..I mean us…hahahaha!

Laundry was a necessity and we had a good feed on fried shrimp at shrimp n’ stuff food truck but overall I had the intense feeling of wanting to run away from this area! Maybe it was the throngs of people in the grocery store, Spring Break is a busy time but overall just nothing here appealed to me. There’s a beach, yup, waves, yup, but it’s not a Carribean beach, or a Mexican beach…it’s maybe all the people. It’s not that I hate people, I just only like some of them;) I will remain a recluse:)

Anytime I see an RV flying multiple large flags I immediately think..TWAT. One RV had a new one. A white flag with a canon, a black star and the words “Come and Take it”. I’ve seen ones with AK 47’s on them but this was new. The flag is from that Gonzales clash that has become a hallmark of Texas pride, with its “Come And Take It” message. It is the first flag used in the Texas Revolution and close to 200 years later it shows no signs of going away. But the expression is actually not Texan and it was 200 years AGO!

According to Wkikpedia: “Come and take it” is a historic slogan, first used in 480 BC in the Battle of Thermopylae as “Molon labe” by Spartan King Leonidas I as a defiant answer and last stand to the surrender demanded by the Persian Army, and later in 1778 at Fort Morris in the Province of Georgia during the American Revolution, and in 1835 at the Battle of Gonzales during the Texas Revolution. The flag stood for defiance against Mexican dictatorship, and today the flag’s meaning remains rooted in Texas pride. Say What? Hahahahahaha! Like I said…TWATS! Get over yourselves! It all used to belong to Mexico until the Americans decided they wanted it. Thieves! I loved some graffiti written on a Mexican building in Baja…Make America Mexico Again:) It’s time to get the hell out of Texas before I open my mouth and someone shoots me! Help me Lordy, Lordy, Lordy!

We said Goodbye to drive-thru daiquiri town and headed out, North on the I-45 then off through the outskirts of Southern Houston on the toll road, I guess I’ll get the bill in the mail one day, onto the I-10 and East. I’m a billboard nut, we had the normal lawyers but there were dozens and dozens of billboards for ER’s…emergency rooms…what gives? Houston is not a pretty city, it is an industrial city with oil refineries and storage and I have to presume, lots and lots of accidents to need all these emergency rooms…now for something completely different…Capitalism at work.

Houston ER billboards…WTF?

This was just a sampling, there were dozens and dozens of them. We passed the bridge over the San Jacinto River and Burnet Bay where the tankers lay waiting to be filled or emptied with oil, or gas or something combustible I’m sure and we were glad to be heading to Louisiana…but that amigos, is another story…Stay tuned! Adios Texas!

Goodbye Houston! Goodbye Texas

Getting the hell out of tornado alley-headed South To Texas…

One evening of tornado sirens and shelters was enough for us! In the morning at Rolling Retreats RV sites we looked at the fridge, still sitting at 42°…not cold enough. We swung past the office to return one of the workers, Travis’s Hoodie, he left in the front. He’d shown us pictures of his tricked out Land Rover…not an off road tricked out but a chollo tricked out mobile, shiny rims, low profile tires, you don’t go off road with that one I said laughing, he smiled, nah…Apparently it could take up to two days for the dometic fridge to return to a normal freezing temperature…two days…what to do with everything in the freezer, that was defrosted. “I guess we should have mentioned that” Liz, the lady who took care of us said…why didn’t they turn the fridge off to avoid this? Inquiring minds want to know. We’d be patient, get some ice, and get the hell out of here. Copper Breaks State Park was 106 miles South into Texas, the fridge would start to cool by tonight we thought….

We took Oklahoma #6 straight South passing fields and old buildings, so many abandoned homes and farmsteads. When you see building after destroyed building you wonder…tornado? We finally passed the welcome to Texas sign and continued South through small towns with names like Duke, El Dorado and Quanah. Copper Breaks State Park was just off the Texas 6, we checked in and drove down past a very very low reservoir before pulling into an almost empty campground. It was very quiet.

From the park website.

“Copper Breaks State Park is a state park in Hardeman County, Texas, located approximately 12 miles (19 km) south of Quanah, the county seat. It covers 1,898.8 acres (768.4 ha) and contains two small lakes and 10 miles (16 km) of trails….currently one lake, one very very small lake…
The Comanche were the dominant tribe of the plains. They hunted, took shelter and sought medicine from the spirit world in the Pease River area. They believed that spirits dwelled in the Medicine Mounds, four domes about 10 miles east of the park.

In 1860, a young scout for the Texas Rangers named Charles Goodnight found signs of a Comanche camp near the Pease River. The rangers tracked the band, and a gun battle ensued. The rangers captured a woman and her infant.

That woman was Cynthia Ann Parker.

A large band of warriors had captured Parker in 1836, and the Nocona Comanche adopted her. She later married a Comanche chief named Peta Nocona. The couple had three children, one of whom was Quanah Parker.
After her capture in 1860, Cynthia Ann was returned to her relatives. She never adapted to a settler’s life. She wanted to rejoin the Comanche but wasn’t allowed to do so.
Quanah Parker was the last war chief of the Comanche. He led raids across the Texas plains and fought the U.S. Army. The Comanche finally surrendered in 1875 and were forced onto a reservation at Fort Sill in Oklahoma.
After the surrender, Quanah Parker became an advocate for his people. “

“Originally, Copper Breaks was part of the land held by the Comanche and Kiowa. Comanche mound sites can be found in Hardeman County, but not in the park itself. Purchased from a private landowner in 1970, the state park opened to the public in 1974. Not much left of the lake currently…Dreams of riches:
George B. McClellan, former commander of the Army of the Potomac, took up mining after the Civil War. He noticed copper deposits in northwest Texas while on an expedition in 1852.

He formed the Grand Belt Copper Company in 1877 based on a geologic report and eyewitness accounts of plentiful copper deposits. The company purchased 200,000 acres in Hardeman County for 25 cents per acre.

Later that year he set out from Fort Worth with a large entourage of engineers, miners, carpenters, laborers, horses, wagons and supplies. McClellan’s personal belongings included a full-size metal bathtub, carpets and fine furniture.

After a three-year suspension in operations while McClellan served as governor of New Jersey, mining resumed in 1884.

He and his employees found ore mainly near the surface. They collected it from a broad area, including multiple sites within the present-day park. Up to 100 employees worked the steam-powered machinery and rock-crushing equipment. A nearby shantytown of saloons, brothels and other frontier businesses soon appeared.

Major obstacles blocked McClellan’s dream of riches, including fuel and water shortages, transportation issues . . . and his death in 1885. The company continued limited operations for three more years before closing.

Later attempts to mine copper were also unsuccessful.”

From the park website.

We walked along past the very much closed boat launch for a very long time down what used to be a stream before we found the water. Was hoping for some ducks, or birds…nothing in sight except for a few spiders scurrying across the cracks in the now dried up mud. This all used to be under water. Copper Breaks is a semi-arid region receiving 23.4 inches (590 mm) of rainfall in an average year, allowing the growth of bunch grasses, and narrow shallow breaks of mesquite, juniper, cottonwood, some scattered native pecan, hackberry, soapberry and a variety of wildflowers. It was feeling very desolate, but quiet and the fastest internet we have had on the trip…not a lot of users or competition? Who knows! Our fridge was still not working…sigh…we decided to go to the town of Quanah in the morning and get some ice to see what we could save.

I can’t say I was happy in the morning, the low rumble of thunder was making me feel a bit uneasy. There were thunderstorm warnings to the South of us but no tornado warnings, the wunderweather app radar was my friend! A new chatty neighbour with three dogs (Groot growled, not nice dogs he said!) from Dallas waylaid us before we headed North to Quanah, past the Dually truck auto carwash (only in Texas) and left on the #287 to the local grocery/hardware store. We bought some ice and next door at the Dollar General I found some small totes I could put in the bottom of the fridge. We’d read turning the fridge off for 24 hours might help with an ammonia coolant block, let things settle in the cooling coil.

The clouds on the way back to the park were eerie, they looked like hills but moved and changed shape close to the horizon, swirling like fog but they were dark gray and blue. Never seen anything like it. At the park we had a sprinkling of rain but no more, when we headed south the next morning, it was cold! The small towns we passed through had puddles lining their roads so they did get unleashed upon. I was reflecting on the incredibly violent history of the movement of people West displacing and killing the Comanches here, should we really even wonder about today’s violence? What has changed?…Not much. Our chatty neighbour told us that the Texas Rangers today would have been labeled a domestic terrorist group for the acts of violence they committed.

Gentry’s Grocery said it was open but the door was padlocked shut. Two thirds of the town’s storefronts were abandoned, for sale, or simply vacant. These small towns along the Texas 6 with names like Crowell, Knox City and Rule looked abandoned in places. The grocery building was built by M.F. Thacker in 1899…our changing world as rural communities are slowly shrinking. For sale…or rent?…not for fifty cents…Talk to Marshall D. Capps, the lawyer next door. Then a Goat Milk Soap Company? OK! The garage we passed wasn’t fixing anything anytime soon…a history perhaps of boom and then bust.

The road seemed to go on forever in places, past hundreds of wind turbines, first time I’d seen a bent blade! Through more small towns and past fields waiting for Spring to come. Our destination was Abilene State Park, another new to us stop.

A Mexican friend once asked me “There are no poor people in the US, like Mexico are they?” He was educated but if all they know of America comes from TV they don’t realize it is not always the glowing rendition Hollywood supplies. Did families just walk away? The end of a dream… a few bad crops, the bank takes the house and land and agro business takes over?

At the end of Texas 6 we turned East then South again on bigger roads and past towns that had survived. You wondered how much the road system played into these births and deaths of towns in rural America.

Abilene State Park was located South of the town, through a oak tree lined village called Buffalo Gap. Our GPS wanted to take us through town, we should have followed in instead of a few very rural roads we ended up on to arrive…Ha! I am the navigator, some days…don’t go as well as others. The low stately live oaks we passed under in Buffalo Gap had me cringing thinking of roof vents and AC units, we have had enough issues without wiping something else out but we breezed under, in my mind with inches to spare…we were fine. The main campground was full and we ended up in what they called Wagon Wheel campground which is what it sounds like, you backed into your site around a large rounded area filled with oak and pecan trees. There were bathrooms in the center and picnic tables, I think it is their overflow area and where large groups can convene.

From the park website, not exactly a long review;) Ha!

The state acquired the property in 1933 from the city of Abilene. The park, with 529.4 acres, is southwest of Abilene, in Taylor County.

The Civilian Conservation Corps built the park’s facilities in the early 1930s. Abilene State Park opened on May 10, 1934.

And finally…bird song! Noise from nature other than whistling winds and thunder! I put my bird feeders up and we had a sudden rush of visitors much to the cats delight, even the feeder stuck to the back window had cardinals visiting, bird song and colour! It took my mind of what we were now calling our defunct fridge!

Now, about the fridge. We went through some options, returning to Elk City wasn’t one of them but Home Depot had some mini fridges/bar fridges that would fit at the end of the kitchen island that wouldn’t break the bank as a plan B so to speak and I could tie it in or bungee it to keep it from moving so once we were settled, off we went back North into town. We passed the oddest abandoned building, it looked like a Southern mansion, or funeral parlour (It was beside a church so maybe I thought!) but no, it had a long history. Another fixer upper here in South Abilene. Fairy tale or monstrosity? You be the judge:)…/Close-to-a-Fairy-Tale…

One guy wrote: This place is perfect for an end-of-the-world party. Seriously, a little spit and elbow grease, and this place will be cleaned up perfectly in order to enjoy armageddon.
South Abilene reminds me of the Pete Seeger song “Little Boxes” but instead of little boxes there are 4000 square foot subdivisions of McMansions. No trees, no life just a nod to rampant consumerism surrounded by Dollar Stores…and churches….and the pickup in the Home Depot parking lot said it all…In the ever so PC correct Texas…sigh…not…where you can’t drink alcohol openly at a State Park at your campsite but you can carry your AK 47 around? Something is seriously wrong here. I felt exhausted, the drive down, the bad road to the park, going to Home Depot, our fridge failing, I felt like I was ready to cry. We did find a fridge and luckily the dumpster was close as we had to throw out most of what we had left, I hate waste, just one of those days. We got back to the trailer with our nifty new fridge, plugged it in, it was cooling, but making a very odd noise…enough for today, if we tipped it back a small amount the noise would stop, we’ll deal with this again in the morning we decided!

In the morning I needed to go for a walk, shake off the blues. The pecan trees had leafed out overnight and the Black Crested Titmouses, mice, were having a feast. Butterflies were flitting about, the sun was shining and the butterflies! In the rest of the park and on some trails where there was grass small flowers were blooming and the ground was alive with Sleepy Oranges and Southern Dogface (who names these guys???)

I was looking for the bird blind on the park map, hoping to see something new. What I did notice was the people walking or sitting, with the exception of an older gentleman at the bird blind who was quite chatty everyone else averted their eyes, didn’t want to make eye contact, didn’t even want to know you were there, Southern California style “I am in my own bubble and you don’t exist”…maybe it’s just city people, or people who live in fear I was thinking. Very sad. I tried several times on the trail, they just immediately looked away and walked past you…maybe I am invisible? Ha! A useful superpower, but no, Mike saw me;)

and the mini fridge…was still making that noise. We bundled it up with all it’s accessories and put it back in the truck and returned it to Home Depot after calling the nice lady in appliances, yes, they had one more, a floor model and we could plug it in before we picked it up. We did, plug it in, it had a small ding on the front, was $30 cheaper so off we went with a new to us aqua coloured fridge that didn’t make strange noises! Yeah! Rocket promptly seized the opportunity to call it his throne! We stopped by an odd ALDI grocery store, it was like a mini Costco, we didn’t get much as the packaging was too large and things were very close to their best before date, or past..0_0…and finally found another grocery store on our way back to the park. We were stumped as to why the Aldi had such high reviews…it’s cheap I told Mike…just make sure you eat it today;)

Our new fridge:)

Now I was ready to get the hell out of Abilene, we didn’t even go look at the lake after reading the map. I loved the “area shown does not represent current lake levels“…I didn’t need to go look at another drained reservoir. South llano Park was a short jump, just over two hours South and we had been here before! It was a lovely park and the campsite I reserved was close to the one we’d had before, trails, birds, a Groot, Gamora and Rocket approved park!

Venison world, gas, a convenience store and a cowboy church? Who could ask for anything more ya’ll! State road 83. We passed through Menard and Eden (there was no garden..Ha!) I was hoping for a good photo opportunity! Nope. As we approached the interstate 10 the ranch gates got bigger and more elaborate, and OK, yes some were really tacky. We went up and down the hills, Texas Hill country before arriving in Junction, the town North of South Llano State Park. We passed Lums BBQ, mental note…dinner for tonight as we threw most of our meat away the day before.

South LLano River State Park from the Texas Parks website:

Walter Buck so loved his ranch, that he donated it to Texas Parks & Wildlife so others could also enjoy it.

Walter White Buck, Jr. moved to this area with his family in 1910 when he was 18 years old. They lived in the house that is now park head­quarters, and the younger Buck took over the family ranch after his father died.
Buck felt strong­ly about con­ser­ving the land. After his father died, he reduced his 1,000 head of sheep, goats and cattle by nearly half. Even­tu­ally, he ran only 125 head of cattle, which he later sold. Caring for the land and not over­grazing his live­stock allowed him to survive a five-year drought in the 1950s.  
In two of the best years, Buck harvested 75,000 pounds of pecans. He enjoyed caring for the pecan trees, which included both native and cul­tivated varieties.
A bachelor all his life, Buck used to say that this land was his one great love. He do­nated his whole property to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1977 for wild­life conservation or park purposes. The park opened in 1990.
South Llano River State Park expanded from about 600 acres to 2,600 acres in 2011, when the Walter Buck Wildlife Management Area became part of the state park. This backcountry area offers hiking, moun­tain biking, and primitive camping.

OMG!!!! Armadillos! Nine Banded Armadillo to be exact! Crossing the road right in front of us on the way in! How cute is this armoured pig like dinosaur?! The sites here are so wonderfully far apart any neighbouring campers are not imposed upon you! Even Armadillo chasing ones…yes..0_0….If alarmed, nine-banded armadillos can flee with surprising speed! As I found when trying to photograph this fascinating creature, Found two burrows as well. What was really disturbing though is our neighbours, camped next to us, thankfully not too close, were throwing rocks and wood at one that had come out to feed on the lawn. Because their nasty yappy little dog was barking at it. Come to a park, come to nature, then chase it away. F@cking citidiots! The woman after throwing rocks at this very small armadillo, too scared to get within 15′ of it had to call her husband over to chase it away with an umbrella…are you kidding me? They have poor eyesight. Maybe that one had GREAT BIG Fangs! (they can’t really bite, their mouth is very small) I am appalled at humans, we are the INVASIVE species…

The nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus), also known as the nine-banded long-nosed armadillo or common long-nosed armadillo, is a mammal found in North, Central, and South America, making it the most widespread of the armadillos. The nine-banded armadillo is a solitary, mainly nocturnal animal, found in many kinds of habitats, from mature and secondary rainforests to grassland and dry scrub. It is an insectivore, feeding chiefly on ants, termites, and other small invertebrates. I waited all afternoon for one to walk by the trailer again! Rocket said “Müther…these armoured pigs called armadillos smell funny!: Ha!

Not only does this park have one bird blind! But 4 of them! I could see the “Acorn” site from the trailer. There were these amazing yellow blooms, almost looked like holly leaves, that smelled like you were walking past vats of freshly extracted honey! Intoxicating smell!

Mahonia trifoliolata is a species of flowering plant in the family Berberidaceae, in southwestern North America. Common names include agarita, agrito, algerita, currant-of-Texas, wild currant, and chaparral berry. The name Agarita comes from the Spanish verb agarrar, which means “to grab”. The ending “-ita” is often added to little things, so agarita means “grabs a little”. This was probably said because the bush is a bit scratchy but does not have significant spines. Typical characteristics are grey-green to blue-grey leaves, yellow flowers in February to April and the red berries appearing in May. The most important harvest organ are the berries, though the roots and seeds can also be used. The plant is well adapted to hot temperatures and dry conditions. In areas where it occurs naturally, it is also liked by many wild animals. Birds like to eat the fruits, small mammals use the plant for cover. The shrub is also considered to be a good nectar source for honey bees and other insects. As the trifoliate leaves are tough and spiny, they aren’t eaten by cattle or deer.

I wandered back to the bird blind and a Ladder Backed Woodpecker was the only bird there! The ladder-backed woodpecker (Dryobates scalaris) is a North American woodpecker. Back in the woods I heard a pecking noise and found a newly excavated nest hole, A Northern Mocking bird sat on an Agarita bush. So much life! Just what we have been searching for!

Our site in the woods

In the morning after the cat walks I wandered back to the bird blind to see if it was busier, a few OGB’s…old grey buggers, ha! Do they always have grey hair and beards, well, the ladies don’t, usually! Ha! All with binoculars! Actually there were several hard core birders there who could tell me what every bird was in the blind and why they were there! Very helpful!

There was even a grumpy know it all guy who kept telling us to keep our voices down, except when HE wanted to talk it was fine! Ha! We were speaking quietly! Ha! I only made it to two, of the four blinds. Walking in the 88° heat was getting to me! Ha! Too cold, too hot! The 2nd one I wandered off to was full of birds and empty of humans up near the tent camping area.

There were SO many Northern Cardinals! They were bathing in the water feature and splashing around. Truly a wonderful sight!

It’s not often you get these blinds to yourself! One of the birders was very excited at seeing a Fox Sparrow, a new bird to me as well! The blind was such a noisy in a wonderful way, the Pine siskins and Goldfinches bathing were a full time comedy routine!

Mr. Know it all arrived in the bird blind just as I was leaving, Ha! I was going to walk to the blind out by the office but halfway there realized it was further than I thought and I cut back through the fields on a shaded path back to where the trailer was. There were Robins and Eastern Bluebirds gathering nest material, Spring is in the air! I heard a turkey cackle in the bushes behind us so followed the sound to see a beautiful male strutting his stuff!

I was a bit shocked when a doe walked across in front of me while turkey stalking! It’s an Indian deer! A Chital (Axis axis). In 1932, axis deer were introduced to Texas. In 1988, self-sustaining herds were found in 27 counties, located in Central and South Texas. The chital ranges over 8–30°N in India and through Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. What a beauty! I sat behind the trailer and watched a very well endowed fox squirrel foraging for nuts, not that he needed anymore;) Ha!

The fox squirrel (Sciurus niger), also known as the eastern fox squirrel or Bryant’s fox squirrel, is the largest species of tree squirrel native to North America. Despite the differences in size and coloration, it is sometimes mistaken for American red squirrels or eastern gray squirrels in areas where the species co-exist. Rocket said they looked delicious! Ha! Then he realized how big it was! Nah…maybe another day! Ha!