Sunday, May 31, 2009

Day Nine

My cousin Chris and I talked until 3:30 in the morning, so I was in no mood to get up early today. He had advised me not to go for a morning run in the area, otherwise I wouldn’t have stayed up so late to begin with. Still, I hadn’t expected Dan to let me sleep until 10:30! I rushed to get my things packed and we headed out of town.

I liked the juxtaposition of sign and truck at this rest stop along the way.

It was a long trip to Big Bend, passing through mostly open country…

…with a few small towns along the way...

...and a couple of rest stops...

one of which included this guy, left behind by a departing child.

The trip was over three hundred miles and over a hundred were in mostly empty country.

Just when I was beginning to wonder if the long trip was going to be worth it, we reached Big Bend National Park.

Since this is off-peak season because of the summer heat, and because it was Sunday, we had no trouble getting a room at the Chisos Lodge. Our room has a nice balcony overlooking mountain vistas…

…and a front view of other cabins and friendly deer.

Once we got our stuff up to our room, I was ready to go for a hike. Dan had other ideas, though. We hadn’t eaten a proper lunch and he had already scanned the menu for the Chisos Lodge restaurant. I talked him into a short stroll…

...but couldn’t convince him to go for a longer hike. So we had dinner and I enjoyed their salad bar and a grilled portobello with veggies and roasted potatoes. It was a pretty nice dinner, considering the restaurant has a captive audience and doesn’t have to be good.

After dinner, we went back to our room and hung out on the balcony for awhile. Then we went for a short walk to see the sunset. We got waylaid by a very chatty older couple, but they went in as it got dark and the wind picked up. Now it's dark, with just a faint red glow on the horizon and the wind whipping through the trees.

Tomorrow we’re planning a full day of hiking—or at least that’s what I’m planning. If Dan can’t keep up, we’ll just have to meet up later.

The wireless internet service here works pretty well, so if it's this good tomorrow night, there will be more pictures!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Day Eight

I got up at seven and went for a run through the groves again. This time I startled a roadrunner who flew up into a tree and watched me for awhile. Later when I came to the far side of the groves I came to a smooth stretch of sand full of animal tracks, including tiny mouse tracks, so clear I could see each distinct toe.

When I finished my run I got a cup of coffee and walked around for a bit, enjoying the peaceful desert morning.

Dan and I got on the road around eleven, heading south.

Our first stop was Socorro, where we stopped at a grocery store for a few supplies. Then we continued south, passing this sign:

The odd thing is that San Marcial hasn't existed for eighty years. It was my grandmother's home town and was destroyed by flood in 1929. New Mexico is a strange place where maps often show the location of defunct towns where nothing but a single shack remains, if that. Of San Marcial, there's nothing.

When we got near Truth or Consequences, we saw signs for Cuchillo and turned off 25 to see if we could find an old saloon turned café and souvenir shop we had read about recently in the news.

Unfortunately, we didn’t find it. So I took a picture of the local church instead.

We got back onto 25, heading south.

In Las Cruces we picked up I-10 and went into El Paso. Our first stop was the information center, where we picked up some information brochures and maps of Big Bend.

Then we called my cousin Chris and went to his house, passing Juarez along the way.

The strange thing about El Paso is that it extends out only a couple miles from I-10 to the north or south, but runs around fifty miles from east to west. Chris's house is about twenty-five miles from the info center at the state line. Other than nearly getting sideswiped by a Mexican woman (or at least a woman in a car with Mexico plates) who tried to change lanes into us, we arrived at Chris's house with no trouble, went to dinner and hung out most of evening talking about our crazy family.

Tomorrow Dan and I head south to Big Bend. According to the literature, there will be places for me to get online, so I’ll be able to post pictures.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Day Seven

This morning I got up at seven and went for a run along the canals and to some new pecan groves near the mesas.

This is my dad's house. My grandfather bought the land in the 1930s and this is one of the houses he built. One of my uncles lives in a house on another part of the property.

This is the canal in front of my father's house, dividing his land from the part my uncle inherited. There are other sections across the street that my grandfather owned, one uncle sold his portion and another uncle has tenants.

I followed the canal to some new pecan groves.

I love the contrast of dry sand and green, growing things. Out here there's no mistaking where the water is.

The desert's own natural beauty is nice, too.

After a late breakfast where we dawdled for a couple hours over coffee, Dan and I went into Albuquerque to see if we could find some new pottery for the house and a gift for the photographer who recently did my author picture. We didn't find any pottery we liked at a good price--should've gone back to one of the pueblos this year, but I found a gift for the photographer and Dan met a street musician and got to play her interesting guitar.

We went back to my dad's house ahead of the evening traffic and spent the rest of the day quietly hanging out and going for walks.

We chatted for a long time after dinner, and Dan and I got out the maps and made plans for the rest of our vacation. Tomorrow we'll go to El Paso, where hopefully we'll be able to hang out with my cousin Chris for a bit. Then Sunday we'll head down to Big Bend, spend a couple days hiking and seeing the sights, and then we'll start back toward Houston on Tuesday or Wednesday.

I'll definitely have internet in El Paso tomorrow, and I may have internet in Big Bend, too. Expect more pictures!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Day Six

I got up at six and went to use the hotel fitness room. The treadmill’s incline control was stuck higher than what I’m used to, so it was a slow run for me. Afterwards, Dan and I had breakfast and coffee, and got loaded up and on the road. The scenery started out dry…

…but quickly went up into forest.

Our first stop was the Bandera volcano and ice cave. Their advertising was a little hokey so we weren’t sure what to expect, but it was pretty cool. The dormant volcano was a short hike from the information center and trading post, and wound through ancient lava fields.

The route to the ice cave passed by a smaller ice cave once used as a natural refrigerator by the property owners.

And the bigger ice cave had ice measured at twenty feet deep. According to the literature, the temperature in the ice cave never goes above 31 degrees.

We finished the ice cave tour with just enough time to get to the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary in time for their 11 o’clock tour. By then the skies were darkening and the temperature was dropping, and as we went inside, a few drops of rain began to fall.

The rain came and went throughout the hour-long tour, and by the time we finished seeing the wolves, learning about their behavior and hearing their stories, the temperatures had dropped into the forties and I was freezing. The tour was so worth a little rain and shivering, though. The sanctuary primarily takes wolves and wolf-dogs that have been raised in captivity and can't be returned to the wild...

...but they also have a coy-dog (part coyote) and a fox.

Our next stop was Zuni Pueblo. When we got there, though, we found they only gave guided tours and the next wasn’t until 3:00. It was 1:30, and not much to do in the area on a cold, rainy day, so we decided to go to the Zuni Bakery instead and head out. The bakery was actually someone’s private home. We had to follow signs down a little alleyway, into a lot in front of a small house with a sign in the window. We went in and found ourselves in a living room, where a Zuni woman sold us our bread.

Then we headed south through changing country and gathering clouds.

We hit rain near Quemado, where we turned east. The rain had let up by the time we reached Pie Town, though, so we stopped in for pie. We had wanted to come here for years, but it’s so far off the beaten path that it hadn’t been possible before now.

We were very happy with our lunch and pie, and bought a whole pie, still bubbling fresh from the oven, to take with us.

The rest of the trip to my dad’s house was pretty uneventful. We drove through plains and mountains, and a rainstorm near the VLA (Very Large Array). Does anyone but me think Very Large Array is a funny name?

We got to my father’s house in Bosque around five and it was nice to be able to settle in for a couple days. We don’t have any particular plans for tomorrow, but since it’s supposed to rain again tomorrow, we might just make it a rest day and keep things low-key. Unless we come up with a better idea, of course.

There's no high-speed internet out here in this little rural town, so I might not be online much for the next couple days. Doing anything is slow.