Back to the ranch-Part 2
I had to admit we were happy to leave the South East behind when we hit Texas. This is an uncomfortable time for many Americans as great divisions are being formed and racism seems to be once again raising it’s ugly head along with a lot of other misconceptions. Everyone has a right to their beliefs in this country but here we felt less likely to voice ours than in other places. The quantity of Trump lawn signs and a certain vibe you get when you enter a small cafe, or grocery store was evident. Yes, there were a great many wonderful people we met and very kind but I couldn’t help but feel fairly uncomfortable a number of times and it was not pleasant. Fingers crossed at the end of Election day in November we will accept the outcome as any good democracy would and move on to bettering things.
Texas…big, very big, long long straight roads and interstates with oil pumps going alongside the grazing cows. It was nice to see the open fields and get out of the forest, which I love dearly but the oppressive heat and humidity was too much for this high mountain girl. We were not quite out of it yet though, leaving Lake Catherine in Hot Springs County we made it as far as Mineral Wells Springs State Park. If I’d been hoping for a Lake Catherine view I was sorely disappointed. This was a completely bushed in area with campsites barely visible to the other, not a bad thing, deer roamed here and there as we drove in across a long thin damn that kept this lake in place, why do I always think of earthquakes as we drive across these things…but as close as we were to Fort Worth this was better than an RV park along the interstate.
We were one of two campers in the park…and we saw no one our entire afternoon. You opened the door and thought about walking and you were already sweating from head to toe. No wind, or breeze and almost 100 degrees…oh my, this was the least pleasant feeling I could think of. We did wander out for a short jaunt, then back again after we could no longer manage it, then back out later just before the sunset when it cooled down, by a degree or two…jeez…what is July like here? There was some shade and I took another wander later before sunset to find a doe and her two fawns we’d seen earlier.
The Lake was walled in by bush most of the way around. A small path wound it’s way under branches and through marshy bits where you could catch a view standing on a rock. The dragonflies were beautiful and the end of summer foliage with it’s seed heads and pods different from what we are used to. I found my doe and her two fawns after a bit of snooping about, resting in the shade away from the heat and batting at the flies. Poor mother looked like it was time to wean the two, skin and bones. One fawn hid in the under brush as her mother and sibling crossed the road before finally making a lovely dash across in front of me.
I was up at dawn to explore while it was still somewhat cooler, still extremely humid. The lake was still and orb weaver spider webs everywhere. I’d brushed them aside in my hiking the day before and now upon seeing the size of them I was somewhat alarmed, they were big ass spiders. Watching them test each strand for tension in the early morning light was fascinating. As we were packing up to head out a young doe came to clean up some spilled birdseed, those amazing eyes…lovely..and quite fearless, or very hungry, or a bit of both.
We headed back to the US 20 and those long flat roads, we considered trying to make it to Fort Davis but eventually stopped at an RV park in Odessa/Midlands, not exactly what I would call a scenic stop but there were washing machines:) and it would be our last one nighter before a few days of peace and quiet and very very dark skies and would make the last leg to get there quite short.
I was not expecting the green, the next morning, as we slowly started to wind our way up in elevation on Texas state road 17 headed south from the Interstate. It had been years since we were here last. Mike attended several star parties (no, not Hollywood stars, just the twinkly ones in the sky;) here at Prude Ranch and loved the area although we had always seen it bone dry, it was lush! Streams were running and ponds were full, it was a delight!
We arrived at the park and settled into our campsite, Canyon Towhees were battling for the seed heads beside the trailer and a family of Acorn Woodpeckers was stashing acorns in a telephone pole where they had a nest. A fellow camper who comes every year remarked about the lushness as well, never having seen it so green. Wildflowers were blooming along the walking paths and at 5000 feet in elevation, it was a delightful temperature and that wonderful dry mountain air…the best:)
The next morning we had a hike out to the entrance and then up the mountain and around before it started to warm up. Felt more familiar, live oaks and wildflowers. A turkey vulture was riding the thermals in the morning sky and ground squirrels were scurrying about the campground.
Fort Davis is a short drive from the State Park and if continue further South on the 17 you come to Marfa…have you heard about the lights in Marfa? Mysterious ghost lights, we’ll be back in the Spring to do some looking for ourselves but on this visit we were headed for the Food Shark, Marfa’s top rated restaurant, and a food truck specializing in Lebanese cuisine..we were not disappointed with the lamb kebobs and falafel. The long lunch lines usually mean something is going to be very good. A quirky fun town worth exploring more!
We made a trip up to McDonald Observatory to ask about volunteering time at the station with Mike’s telescope knowledge. The coordinator wasn’t there but we got his number and yes, they would give you free hook-ups in exchange for your time. Sounds like a wonderful idea! Horses grazed in green fields swishing flies with their tails. We passed Prude Ranch on the way up and a family of Turkey Vultures had staked out a doe hit by a passing car, the juvenile was quite unalarmed by me walking up towards him but that was quite a feast on the ground.
We stopped at the park entrance on the way back and each paid a $3 fee to drive up what they call Skyline Drive and check the seeing conditions to set up the telescope perhaps. It is an overlook facing South that gives you wonderful views of the surrounding area and campground as well. We took a quick drive up and scouted it out, I chased a few butterflies and we went back to the trailer to wait for dark.
It popped, the Milky way that is, in such a dark sky. Absolutely breathtaking. Several other telescopes and photographers were already set up and shooting. The only bad thing is the Park Wardens drive up and check who has permission to be there and their lights are quite distracting. You need to set up before dark South of the road so they don’t bother you as much. There was a bit of traffic visible on the road to Marfa, and Fort Davis was faint otherwise it was inky! Made my heart glad to see these kind of skies.
The other wonderful thing this park offers are two different bird blinds. I sat several times in them watching, and photographing. I loved it! Great idea for any parks to do! We hiked down the stream that ran through the park as well exploring the riverbed. I have to be honest, I could have stayed another week here but we had X amount of time to get back, check on the horses and arrange their voyage back to Canada and still meet the day the ranch sitters wanted to leave.
Next stop, we thought would be for two nights at an RV Park in Las Cruces, we thought to explore the surrounding area and sand dunes but after pulling in we changed our minds. Right next to the Interstate the noise was too much and although this place was very highly rated it was not for us, a sterile country club type setting where everything looks the same, very pretty but we decided on one night before taking off in the morning for Tucson. Beautiful mountain backdrop though.
We were on familiar roads now, headed West on US 10, past the turn off to the Chiricahua Mountains and Portal and on down the road to the big city. We stopped in Benson at the Tractor Supply Store to pick up a generator I’d tracked down, The one at the ranch had a soft 15 amp switch that kept tripping when the fridge compressor turned on so we decided to replace it with this slightly stronger one. Had wonderful reviews and was priced right but not for sale in California;) After that it was off to the Desert Trails RV Park in West Tucson where we had stayed previously, Mike was hoping for a Saturday night food truck but as we drove in the place was practically empty, waiting for the snow birds, fine by me, we found the spot we wanted, filled out the envelope and left a check for two nights. Great laundry here and close to the Sonora Desert Museum I so love!
It took the hummingbirds about three minutes to find my feeder and the the quail were soon bustling about as well. One of the reasons I love this RV park. Lot’s of wonderful plantings and so much wildlife. It is always a treat to just sit and watch here or hike out on one of the many trails.
It was also my chance to go back to the Sonora Desert Museum just down the road. Between their hummingbird and butterfly gardens they have me hooked. Late in the year was just as interesting as in the Spring. The entry is pricey but worth it for all it has to offer, and just getting to meet a Great Horned Owl up close was priceless.
We took a trip through the Tucson Mountain Park to check out the campground near the museum, always sleuthing about looking for new places to stay and into Tucson on a cat food run and then a nice dinner. Hard to beat those Saguaro sunsets:)
Two days later we were headed West again. We made a one night stop in Yuma, road work there made navigating the off and on ramps an absolute nightmare but we found a way in and back out in the morning before heading towards the sea. The heat made Lake Jennings a no-go so we ended up back at the very pricey but cooler Pacific Beach. It gave us a few days to visit with my brother, add things to the storage container and take things out and of course, to see the horses. I’m not sure what is wrong with Southern California barns. If someone here could actually run a decent barn they would never have an empty stall. After running ours for so many years there is an accountability problem here as well as a lack of observation.They do want to be responsible for anything, not vets, not ferriers, not turnout, no you have to pay another person to do that for you if you are not able to, even then, you are not guaranteed any kind responsibility as no one seems to be in charge of anything. Extremely frustrating as I know how to do it right. Maya’s hocks were the size of softballs from laying on the mats and having them rubbed, all it would have taken is a bag or two of shavings..did anyone ask? no, did anyone notice? no…even the turnout lady. Dusty was skin and bones from large lesion on the side of his mouth making eating difficult…my blood boils at times…best solution, get them the hell out of California. Period. Took me a few days just to stop fuming and arrange transport to Canada. Were they glad to see us…nickers and whinnies…it felt so awful to leave them after three days my heart was aching but their gear was packed up, winter blankets included and we had to go. I know my mental state…I didn’t take a single picture in the time I was there…not good:(
I’ll leave it at that today. Got word the horses will be in Montana today…every day a step closer to Ontario. Fingers crossed to the weather gods they have smooth sailing and I’ll sleep well when they arrive. In the mean time, stay tuned for the last chapter, Back to the ranch…coming soon;) Saludos amigos.