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Stories from Occupied New Mexico

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A wave of cool breeze sweeps over me
pushing the heavy warmth away
and carrying the sensuous smell
of damp desert earth
tinged with tangy creosote bush.
Small droplets of cold water
make tiny little skin muscles
wake the wispy hairs that
stand like porcupines on my arms.
Open your nostrils and breathe it in.
Drink the odors of the desert under rain
listen to thunder music caress your ears.
This is when the desert smells like rain.
Embrace it.
This is when it all comes to life.​

Shortly after arriving into Fort Davis, in the Big Bend area of Texas, we experienced one of several monsoon rains during late September and throughout October. The polar opposite of the year before, the rains have rejuvenated the parched northern Chihuahuan desert, desert floor and island mountains. Grasses wave, flowers play, and trees burst with green magnificence.

During the eight days based in Fort Davis, rain and winds, thunder and lightening pelted the area for more than 24 hours. Reported rainfall varied from over four inches around FD and near Alpine, to 0.5" closer to the Rio Grande. People were doing happy dances and hugging their water tanks (including us). Roads were washed out, rocks and sand were plowed from some sections of road. But no one minds.

Twice more, we had monsoon storms pelt the area, this time concentrated along the river. But the lightening shows were unequaled in most of the local's memories. River water rose from 5-9 feet in a few hours. Sections of road recently opened from the last rain were again closed in the park.

But that's okay. Because water is life.

 
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Retirement Ride with No Particular Place to Go.


After spending nearly a month in New Mexico (stories on that later) and Fort Davis, we parked and set up the Coyote Turtle at the RV park in Study Butte. Roads to El Punto were bad from the last rain storm: sections washed out, dried mud ruts at least 6" deep and 8" high. No way the truck was safely going to haul our current 'home', a 30' travel trailer (by the name of Coyote Turtle: a brown turtle hauling a coyote ;) into El Punto Coyote, our spot on the desert 10 miles off pavement.

So here we are temporarily. In between dealing with an inefficient, incompetent, and.......... [deleted] personnel at Texas Retirement System offices (they sent my retirement packet to the wrong address twice, then sent an incomplete packet -missing documents- finally to the right address; after UTSWMC lost my last paycheck and sent my vacation pay to the wrong address), I did a Retirement Ride on the DR350 into the National Park.

Because Old Maverick Rd and access to Santa Helena Canyon were closed, I dawdled around elsewhere. With no particular place to go.

I even had a water crossing.... (behind the green mesquite foliage sticking out over the road). Got my butt wet and water in my boots, but it was refreshing.


Lot of water in the river. A beige silty color instead of north Texas reddish-brown.


This seems to be a place I come to almost every ride in the park: the Castalon store. A quiet place for a cold iced tea and freezer ice cream. They know me already.


Then explored around the Castalon area, which I haven't taken the time to do before. The store and outbuildings, including the Ranger's office, were built as a military camp. And never used. Only after Cartledge and Perry bought the compound was it utilized. The original Castalon was down below, where the restored Alvino adobe house stands. Although, it was built by a very smart and enterprising Mexican named Hernandez, who built and opened at least four stores in the Big Bend area (in Shafter, Santa Elena, Castalon, and Terlingua Abaja). Back then, people used building efficiently: house, store, chapel, social gatherings, funerals, post office, even railroad stations.


The restoration of the adobe was well done, utilizing natural earthen components and recycled metal parts, such as the gutters and roof. Although the first roof was probably dirt and/or thatch. The adobe blocks and plaster are clay, sand and chopped straw. Manure was also used earlier to help bind the earthen components. Some of the vigas look old, but they may also be recycled from another building. The stem wall is motored rock upon which the adobe blocks are laid to help reduce erosion of both plaster and blocks from weather.


It was a leisurely ride. No need to hurry. I can go back again the next day, too!
 
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Occupied New Mexico

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A dirt, sandy and rocky road of 52 miles, running on top of a high plateau, through arroyos and canyons, from Belen to Magdelena, NM. It, too, is part of the northern Chihuahuan desert.​

You may wonder about the title 'Occupied New Mexico,' if I am posting about Big Bend, Texas. Simple: The more I experience New Mexico, the more I realize how similar many parts of Big Bend are to New Mexico. Big Bend is more like New Mexico than the rest of Texas: in terrain, people and communities, biodiversity, and even buildings. If you know the past rich history of southwest Texas and New Mexico, even the present is parallel.

A well known expert in adobe construction, an adobero, that lives in New Mexico, once referred to SW TX, as 'Occupied New Mexico.' He's right, and he doesn't realize what he started, for I refer to Big Bend as the same: Occupied New Mexico. Partly because most other people don't have a clue what I am talking about. Partly because I tend to buck convention with place names, and use a name that reflects past history as well as current perspectives. I don't owe blind allegiance to any place on a map; places own me and I give them names that mean something to me.

I'll refer to this off and on both in this thread and the one on New Mexico.

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A twisty, hair-pinned road from Kingston to Silver City, NM, over and through the Gila Mountains and National Forest. This road beats Tail of the Dragon handle bars down.​
 
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La Coyota

“The universe is made of stories, not atoms,” -poet Muriel Rukeyser


“Coyotes move within a landscape of attentiveness. I have seen their eyes in the creosote bushes and among mesquite trees. They have watched me. And all the times that I saw no eyes, that I kept walking and never knew, there were still coyotes. When I have seen them trot away, when I have stepped from the floorboard of my truck, leaned on the door, and watched them as they watched me over their shoulders, I have been aware for that moment of how much more there is. Of how I have only seen only an instant of a broad and rich life.” - from 'The Animal Dialogues: Uncommon Encounters in the Wild' by Craig Childs

History, stories, coyotes....... they share a common thread. The wily canine that appears in many movies, cartoons, songs and books is one of the most adaptive and intelligent species on the North American continent. Their key to adaptation is careful observation, mimicry, and experimentation. It is no wonder that the coyote is the most popular animal persona used in storytelling and mythology.

Humans are creatures of stories. Stories teach, convey value, and define us. They are tools that help us understand the world around us, who we are, and what we do. History is storytelling to describe events and actions, interlaced with our interpretations of the past so that it relates with the present and future. History, and storytelling, tell us about ourselves - who we are and how we got here. And where we might be going.

So it was no wonder that a mostly forgotten place called 'La Coyota' tickled my curiosity.


For decades the general policy of the National Park Service was to eradicate evidence of human habitation on land acquired by the agency. They forced native Americans off their homelands or prohibited them from hunting on their traditional hunting grounds. Park staff bulldozed buildings that were homes to settlers that subsisted on the land before they became 'parks'. The root of this was (and still is) a misunderstanding of the relationship between humans and nature that reflects cultural confusion about wilderness.

Wilderness is defined as land that "has not been significantly modified by human activity". Some people take that to extremes to mean no human presence or human footprint. Ever. Which was the basis the American Wilderness Act of 1964, which defines wilderness as “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammelled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Yet, since at least the mid-1900's, very few acres (if any) on the North American continent have not been set upon by human feet. And no acre left has not been affected by human activities.

Since incorporating the 801,000 acres of the rugged northern Chihuahuan desert in the 1940's, the federal agency in charge of the national park system followed general policy in trying to obliterate the evidence of habitation by hundreds of people that called the area their home. Most visitors erroneously think that the land of the national park is a true 'wilderness', except for the few roadside displays that provide abbreviated stories about tiny homesteads that once occupied the same ground. These are like little specks of atoms that one is told exist, but people don't see them so the reality of this 'truth' is fleeting and easily forgotten. Just like historical accounts of lives and events long before them.

Sometime between mid-1885 and mid-1885, Severiano and Rita Chevarria moved from Fort Stockton with their four children to a mesa on the banks of the Alamo Creek and the great Rio Grande. At the base of the mesa, the Chevarrias built a modest home. Here they raised sixteen children. It is said that the name La Coyota was bestowed by the sighting of female coyote on the homesite.

Ruperto, the Chevarria's first-born, built a home on top of the mesa after his first house was washed away by a flood. He recruited a number of immigrants to settle there in 1908 and Ruperto became a leader of the settlement. Jose Garcia built his home on top of the mesa near Ruperto, but other members of the community built their homes on the north and eastern slopes of the mesa. Because of close proximity to the creek and the river, they raised corn, beans, wheat, squash, tomatoes and melon by sub-irrigation practices.

As ranching and mining operations cropped up around the southern portion of the Big Bend, some of the men worked as cowboys or in the nearby mines. Around 1903, Cipriano Hernandez built and opened the first store on Blue Creek about a mile or so north of Alamo Creek and named the immediate area Santa Helena. Hernandez farmed the floodplain growing cereal grains and corn, as well as fresh vegetable which he sold to mining camps, and La Coyota residents bought and traded goods and food.

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Hernandez built an adobe home further north in 1903, just below where the future military camp would be built. (that adobe home is now called the Alvino adobe). In 1914, he sold the lower farm and store to Clyde Butrill, and ultimately it became the holdings of the La Harmonia Company, the brainchild of Wayne Cartledge and mining tycoon, Howard Perry. The store was renamed the La Hamonia store, opening in 1919. And that area became known as Castelon. Now it is known as 'Old Castelon', after the La Harmonia moved into the building that was built as barracks for the US Cavalry.


On my second day of my Retirement Ride, Ed and I set a goal to find and explore the past of La Coyota. After parking the bikes, we ascended a mesa that we had found location tips as the area of the former community. On top was little evidence of what was once either stone or adobe homes. One part of the mesa had obviously been completely and mechanically leveled. On an adjoining part of the mesa we found a barely visible stone foundation and shards of porcelain plates and glass bottles. This was clearly once a homesite. (see photo above)

Turning our attention to the eastern and northern slopes of the mesa, we found well hidden by tall mesquite remnants of small stone homes. The climb down the slope of loose rock was an invitation to succumb to gravity with unfortunate results. But the careful descent was rewarding. Some of the rock walls of home below were still intact, most of them crumbling with large cactus hanging down from the wall tops like a hanging garden.


One small home was built literally carved out of a tiny upcrop of red and brown angled rock. The back of the home was the bare intact rock. The remnants of a front door lead out to a small circular area built of the same stone as a retaining wall and long-gone steps leading down to what was once a cleared floodplain area.


Around the base of the mesa is the remains of a large homesite built of both rock and adobe. Given the size of the remains, I wonder if this was the original Chevarria home.





We continued exploring, trying to imagine daily life here. Knowing that Rita Chevarria lived here in La Coyota for 53 years before moving back to Fort Stockton in 1938, one has to imagine what life was like here raising 16 children. We can only wonder. And compare it to the lives we live now. They contrast our imaginings with what we see in front of us, for these ruins are very well hidden. Only one who knows what they are looking for would find these ruins and the stories they whisper.

I could almost hear the laughter, the laments, clinking of hoes, brays of donkeys, clangs of stone and slapping of adobe construction. And the wails of the coyotes in the distance.

"Histories never conclude; they just pause their prose. Their stories are, if they are truthful, untidy affairs, resistant to windings-up and sortings-out. They beat raggedly on into the future.... "
-Simon Schama
 
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Re: Occupied New Mexico

IMG3352-M.jpg

A twisty, hair-pinned road from Kingston to Silver City, NM, over and through the Gila Mountains and National Forest. This road beats Tail of the Dragon handle bars down.​
NM 152 :trust: :clap:
 
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El Punto Coyote: Return


My first month and 1/2 of retirement hasn't been without stress. First missing paychecks and spending hours on the phone, fax and email with payroll and bank people trying to straighten that out (and practicing holding my temper). Then the retirement fiasco. Then learning that my Dad, 2,000 miles way, was recently diagnosed with cancer.

I have had to stay near modern telecommunication services for phone calls back and forth, etc. And my pre-paid phone gets about half the cell coverage of regular plans (no service at all here around Terlingua). In the tiny community of Hillsboro, NM, all we had was occasional Internet access at the library, when someone volunteered to be there. At least here in Study Butte, we have wifi access and Ed's phone works in town.

Normally I enjoy long reprieves from modern conveniences. But for most of the last six weeks, 'convenience' hasn't been the appropriate word. Instead, they have been matters of necessity.

We spent one weekend at El Punto, leaving all the frustrations and worries behind for a brief amount of time. It took a day, but all the built-up stresses melted away, leaving me fully relaxed for the first time in weeks. It was like a heavy weight had been lifted and set aside to shoulder again after regaining strength. And the first night there we were welcomed back home with a raging firestorm of a sunset.

Armed with enthusiasm and new-found knowledge about earthen plasters, we experimented with mixing our first plaster from materials entirely from El Punto. Ed had some of the clay and sand mix already in a bucket. We spent some time shredding dried lechiguilla stems into fibers to substitute for chopped straw that is usually used in plasters and cob. And mixed it up in a small bucket with water to a consistency that looked good enough to apply to some of the adobes on the ramada.

A few conditions were not optimal for this experiment, but we tried it anyway. The mixed cob was a bit too wet and the sun shining directly on the adobe blocks, making the temperature warmer than optimal. We applied it onto the surface and worked it in well with a wooden trowel that Ed had made from scrap wood.


We expected the plaster to crack because of the water content and the high temps in the direct sun. Ed expected it to peel right off or fall off. Hours later showed that it did crack, but apparently only on the surface. It was hard and very strongly adhered to the adobes, which pleased us. It would not peel or chip off. And, for a first rough coat of plaster, it wasn't too bad!


The next morning we were all up before dawn to see the sunrise shrouded in heavy laden clouds. Because sunrises from El Punto are almost always magnificent, we are usually up before dawn and I'm out with the camera even before coffee is brewed.


I watched with excitement as a wall of low heavy clouds literally crawl over and caress the Christmas and Chisos Mountains as the rising sun tried to shine through. Although I've seen many a splendid sunrise from here, never have I seen one this dramatic.


At one point when the sun shone through a hole in the thick clouds, the badlands below us in Black Creek Draw shined like golden pyramids, and Hen Egg Mnt. hid in a large pillow of clouds to the north.


I pulled the agave juveniles out that had made a long round-trip journey from Cedar Springs ranch several years ago, carried in the truck bed all throughout New Mexico, and finally arrived to their final home place on El Punto. Until they are planted in special spots in the ground, when the days settle out of the 90 degree heat, they are resting in the shade of the ramada.


We walked around quite abit discussing plans and making observations that I finally have time for. We decided where the guest house will be. It will be our first construction project (after the barn and the ramada are finished): adobe walls, cob and lime plasters, adobe floor, and flagstone patio. With its own water tank (EVERY roof surface here has a water catchment tank). Modest in size, but functional and comfortable.

The view from the future back patio of the guest house. And a little rainbow cactus buddy saluting 'Hello'.




It was good to be home again. And refreshed, I was.
 
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Plastered!

For those wondering what 'cob' and 'plasters' are, here is a photo of my test panel during the workshop in Kingston, NM.

The dark material is cob, made from Kingston clay, sand, chopped straw and water.
The white is lime plaster (lime slurry, clay, sand and water), then lime wash (lime slurry and water), with painted fresco (a special wheat glue, lime water and dyes).

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Tourmeister

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Humans are creatures of stories. Stories teach, convey value, and define us. They are tools that help us understand the world around us, who we are, and what we do. History is storytelling to describe events and actions, interlaced with our interpretations of the past so that it relates with the present and future. History, and storytelling, tell us about ourselves - who we are and how we got here. And where we might be going.
:tab So totally true. When the quality of our stories is poor, it impoverishes us as well.
 
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Counting cacti

What does one do when retired in Occupied New Mexico?

Hike and walk in the arroyos.





Read.

Watch the sun rise.


Practice with new camera.

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Go for meandering rides.

Drink iced tea.

Watch sun sets.

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Visit with ghosts at odd hours of the day.

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Relax with friends around the campfire.


Play with the dogs.



Photograph and ID plants of the Chihuahuan desert.

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Sit outside with cuppa joe in the cool mornings and relax in your pajamas.

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A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein
I love the quote, and agree wholeheartedly. :clap:
 

philipbarrett

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Thoroughly enjoying this & trying to get up to speed. You retired to the Big Bend area and are building/restoring an adobe home?

Enquiring minds & all that...
 
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Thoroughly enjoying this & trying to get up to speed. You retired to the Big Bend area and are building/restoring an adobe home?
Yessiree!! Building an adobe. Visited an older gentleman north near Alpine yesterday who is also building an adobe home. Walls are up, some Mexicans helping to put roof on. It took him 5 years to make 7,000 adobe blocks :eek2: The Mexicans made 3K blocks in three weeks.

Love your lizard photo! Been trying to capture photos of lizards meself and archiving in a photo gallery. They are not easy to photograph!

Latest is a juvenile Chihuahuan Greater Earless lizard in Blue Creek, BBNP. He was patient until I got too close (only had a <55mm lens on). He blended in so well with the black volcanic rock. I still hear the voice in the movie 'Rango':
"Blend in!!! Blend in!!!"
I love lizards. :)


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As a new editor of the Terlingua Moon, the local newsletter, I published my first issue today (not my website). I have to leave to deliver copies on the DR350 soon. Trusty DR now is newspaper carrier!. ;)
 
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Sounds awesome - what area are you in (since many of us are familiar with the locale)?
Temporarily, we are set up in the travel trailer in Study Butte RV park. Have several things that need to happen before we can move it to our place 10 miles north of the Ghost Town and through the desert roads. Plus, I need to be accessible by cell phone (which is only in in town) due to a distant family medical issue. I may have to fly back to NY on short notice in the near future. :(

Our friends Bob and Gloria from Illinois pulled in day before last. They are set up here also, but for 6 months. Look forward to hikes and bike rides with them. I'm hoping to see Roger return before too long!
 

Tourmeister

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:tab I had a fun ride with Bob last March in the ranch. I think he knows every road, path and creek in the area. He always new exactly where we were, explained where every road we could see went, and he did not use a GPS. He racked up some serious miles on his little Kawasaki last winter!!
 
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If Bob and Gloria have arrived to the area, then winter can't be too far behind! Yes, I believe Bob does know every road out there. Of course you guys have become pretty familar with the area also. Look forward to getting out there again for my Big Bend "fix" and seeing you guys.

Don
 
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We always refer to Bob as 'Waldo, the Official Trails Inspector.' :) We all had some good $1 tacos this evening!

It has been unusually hot the last few days, the sun quite intense. Seemed to be the topic of casual chat today where ever I went.

HOWEVER! There is word of a strong cold front coming in this weekend. Might have to put some homemade chili on the grill. Get out the hiking boots and go find me some trails! Go for a long ride. Out west.....

"You've got a long way, I know
You've got a longer drive ahead
Through the bones of the buffalo
Through the claims of the western dead, and––
Just like the spokes of a wheel
You'll spin 'round with the rest
You'll hear the drums and the brush of steel
You'll hear the call of the west,
call of the west."

'Call of the West', by Wall of Voodoo
(great song)

Read more: WALL OF VOODOO - CALL OF THE WEST LYRICS
 
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:tab I had a fun ride with Bob last March in the ranch. I think he knows every road, path and creek in the area. He always new exactly where we were, explained where every road we could see went, and he did not use a GPS. He racked up some serious miles on his little Kawasaki last winter!!
I agree about Bob's knowledge of the area. There are a few roads out there he has not been on and we intend to run them out on our 250s. By the way, He traded that one in a month or two ago on a same year model one with almost no miles. It has a touch over 6,000 on it now. The guy rides a bit more than anyone else I know.:thumb:
 
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When you are an 'official trails inspector', you are going to rack up a lot of miles.:trust:

Wall of Voodoo,....I remember them from the "Mexican Radio" song,......"go to Tijuana and have barbecued Iguana....":eat:
 
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Terlingua question - who has the best cell service down there? I have AT&T on the phone & a Verizon MiFi card.
That is a question I cannot completely answer. However, AT&T service here is less reliable here than Verizon. Also, too many people with AT&T report getting International Call charges when calling from this area because All Talk & Trash did not renew their lease for the only tower in this area, whereas Verizon has the sole lease now. ATT has even dropped customers here after they discover they have moved here.

So, the best bet is Verizon, but still with incomplete coverage, which is the nature of the area here.
 
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For some nostalgia - the first Big Bend map, circa 1950's- follow this link.

Also, during research for map/coordinates for a trail that has been removed from the maps (>1985), I found the following oral story from a woman that grew up in La Coyota:

"Memories of La Coyota

During the first decades of the Twentieth Century, La Coyota was a small farming community along the banks of the Rio Grande, just a few miles northwest of Castolon and within the future boundaries of Big Bend National Park. Today, all that remains of the settlement are a few crumbling ruins and the memories of those who once lived there. Through its Oral History Project, Big Bend National Park is trying to preserve as many of the memories as possible.

In January 2000, park volunteer Doug Hay interviewed Mrs. German (Ramirez) Rivera, a former La Coyota resident, and she provided an intriguing story. Mrs. Rivera believes the community was named by its first settlers after a man shot a coyote that was attempting to break into a hen house.

Mrs. Rivera remembers that there was usually running water along Alamo Creek (now a dry wash), which made subsistence farming possible. The families dug ditches to bring surface water runoff into the fields. They raised corn, wheat and many vegetables, as well as hogs and chickens for their own consumption, selling surpluses and tamales to the miners in Terlingua. The road to Terlingua went alongside the creek in those days.

Houses in La Coyota had wood stoves for cooking. There were no glass windows or screens. The houses did have doors, however, which usually were shut in fear of bandits from Mexico. Mrs. Rivera remembers bandits robbing a store in Study Butte, and pursuit by a posse formed at the Chisos Mine by manager Robert Cartledge.

Mrs. Rivera remembers that weddings were festive, but rare. Women in La Coyota married late, usually in their thirties, because travel was infrequent and they rarely met anyone other than their cousins and uncles. The only church was in Terlingua, and older women led the religious services, saying novenas to the various saints.

As the youngest girl at La Coyota, Mrs. Rivera bore a portrait of San Isidro, the patron saint of farmers, in a procession on the saint’s feast day, during which the people prayed for rain. Sometimes this worked too well, she said, and they would be drenched by downpours and cut off from home by runoff in the dry washes. When it did not rain, San Isidro’s portrait would be hung on a post outside and remain there until it did.

Mrs. Rivera spent part of her youth living with friends in the mining communities at Terlingua and Study Butte, where she went to school for three years. Her last year in school was grade four, when she was twelve years old, in the Castolon compound. Most of the nine pupils at Castolon at that time were age seventeen or older. They did not know much English, and since the teacher did not speak Spanish, Mrs. Rivera became his interpreter. Boys and girls sat on separate benches and played apart at recess. The school was sparsely furnished, with a wood stove, dirt floor, three handmade benches, a table and blackboard. Students had to buy their own pencils and pens at the store and be careful not to waste too much paper. Schoolbooks were secondhand, circulating from Alpine to Terlingua and then to Castolon."
 
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A Busy Day in Occupied New Mexico

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No Country for Timid People​

Started the trepid warrior and waded through the throngs of Chili Cook-off Heads to feed the steed. Then headed south with no particular place to go. Except the Park.

Perhaps a few miles in, enjoying the mild day, and there is a large white bus stranded and blocking one lane of the road, uphill, and on a curve. 'Well, that doesn't look safe,' I thought. At least several orange cones were placed on the double yellow lines before and behind the bus. 'Wave to the guy with the cowboy hat on and leaning against the bus', so I did.

Then comes a park ranger with his emergency lights on. Slow down and pull over. Pick up speed, and, what? Here comes an orange wrecker with another park ranger behind, also with emergency lights on. Slow down and pull over.

This got to be the progress of the ride to Green Gulch Rd. that climbs up into the Basin: Park rangers, Border Patrols, ambulance?, what? US Customs? All with emergency lights and sirens. They all waved to the rider in the bright lemon yellow jacket and the white fish bowl with a beak on her head, except the ambulance driver. He was going way too danged fast.

Hmm..... I wonder what's up. I sure am getting tired of pulling over and starting all over again.

Turned onto the road leading up to the Basin and was reminded why it is called 'Green Gulch Road.' I haven't ever seen it this green. Hey, wait; isn't that a V-strom coming down? It is, and a BMW behind; I bet it is the Ford Brothers from Indiana! Knowing they spent the night at Rio Grande Village campground, I bet they went up to the Basin for an early lunch. (Learned later that it was them, and they had the same thoughts in mind I had.)

Made it up to the Basin Lodge with visions of cobbler dancing in my head. While waiting for a waiter, I spot Janet and Susan at a table. Well, I'll be..... So I joined them and had a plate of delicious rabbit food, eating like a starved rabbit (salad greens are hard to come by in this desert) before trying to eat a club sandwich. Except that I filled up on the salad. So in a box it went.

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After J&S left, I sat outside on the patio for awhile. Then toddled down to the Basin Visitor's Center, where I renewed my annual interagency pass (gone up to $80!!) and chatted with the ranger there. In response to my inquiry, I was told that a BP agent had suffered an injury, not in the line of duty per se, and was in a very inaccessible location in the park. Which accounted for all the emergency vehicles. Gee, I hope he's okay.

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Back up to the patio and had a coffee, bowl of cobbler with cinnamon ice cream, and continued reading about General Carelton becoming obsessed with a round grove of cottonwoods next to a river in which ran water so alkaline, it was undrinkable. And to which 13,000 Navajo would be forced to march from their home lands hundreds of miles away and where thousands would perish from malnutrition, disease and homesickness. Kit, I really wonder if you were a bit too loyal to those blue coats that sent you orders you couldn't even read, to send thousands of people to the first concentration camp on US soil.

Then I noticed it was getting cold and dark. Hmm.... Well, I'll be; it's raining! I decided it was time to get on the pony and find some sunshine.

Seems the DR caught some attention while I was attending to my palate and curiosity. "Trade you that bike for a minivan?" Uh, no thanks. "Wanna race? my golf cart against yours?" Sure; I'll win. "Not if I cut your gas hose." True.

Enough of this. Got on and slowly farted (DR's carb needs cleaning) down to the turn-off for the Basin campground. Cruised the speed limit, but the DR farted and backfired so much, I'm sure we were disturbing the peace. Abort curiosity and head down the mountain.

Took the hairpin turns very conservatively because I know that people in their vehicles ignore the bright yellow double lines. I waved several drivers over to their own side of the road several times, growling in my helmet, they smiling and waving. Sheesh.......

Past the trail head for Lost Mine Trail, and tired of listening to the farting of the muffler, I shut it off and coasted most of the way down, smiling like a happy retard. The closest thing to flying I can think of (except for flying).

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Stopped at a pull out to insert plugs into my ears. By then, the rain on top and in the Basin was done, but clouds still hung around making for some dramatic shadows on the mountains and desert floor.

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There were some patches of sun filtering down to illuminate the green of the mountains and the transitional land of the sky island of the Chisos Mountains.





Looking north, the lower desert floor seemed to be blessed with wide open sunshine, so I headed for a nice spot to sit and watch the shadow/light plays.

Sotol Vista

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Looking south, one can see hills and valleys that undulate with green specks, a flat top mesa - Kit Mountain, and the top gash of Santa Helena that separates two nations, two mesas and, whose faults are these, anyway?

The distance south was hazy and heavy with moist air; the north clear as a bell with the sun now approaching its western azimuth lighting up the sides of the Chisos Mnts as if the desert were a stage and they were the main act.

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It was quiet, and peaceful. All things must past, but they don't have to end. Because having that experience becomes a part of one's self, and it lives on inside. And continues on, never ending, with or without us. We're only guests and visitors, and these formations, this land, will outlive us all.

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Geared up, plugs back in the ears, and rode out of the park. Saw a giant wave of dust coming from Old Maverick Rd, which just reopened. Again. After two storms within two weeks, many sections of the Park roads had washed out. I noticed that a plow from Alpine had driven down to plow sand and gravel from some of the paved roads. Access to Santa Helena had been blocked for quite awhile while they repaired road sections and access trails. Old Maverick was not on top of the priority list, but it was re-opened on Halloween day.

Sure enough, I found out that Janet and Susan were probably the dust bunnies and beat me to the park exit by 2-3 minutes. After a quick stop at the Coyote Turtle, I rode up to the Porch at the Terlingua Trading Post to see the parking lot packed with regulars and visiting Chili Heads. I found a spot off to the side and slid my hat on top of my helmet hair. Except for the black motorcycle boots, no one would know. And I certainly didn't fit in with the other women wearing tiny skirts/dresses/short and cowboy boots. But then I always seem to be a misfit anyway, and frankly prefer it that way. At least no one asked me if I was here for the Chili Cook-off (next year, I will avoid town like the plague).

Who should I see waving at me, but Roger Dodger! I missed that man. Town is not the same without him and it is good to see him back! He's now Golf Man, a reigning champion that hits those white balls into their little holes like a prairie dog on fire.

Met John and Mark Ford in the Starlight for chat an dinner, wished them a safe ride home, and rode the farty bike into the dark night dotted with the occasional flashing red and blues pulling over suspicious drunks alongside the road.

Janet and Susan stopped in to visit and we chatted awhile before we all decided it was time for stars, coyote yips and dreamless sleep. A busy day indeeedy.
Sleepy time comes easy out here.
:yawn:

(Learned the next day the the Border Patrol agent was stationed at the Park and had a stroke while on duty, but not very accessible. Only in his forties, he was, and a nice guy that told me several weeks ago that Castalon was his favorite part of the Park. We all send condolences to his family.)
 
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I captured a shot of the rainstorm over the Chisos that day from down on the flats. It was an interesting isolated shower.

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Along my way I met an interesting dude retired from show business.

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Thing is alive and well in his Terlingua retirement. He seems to have lost weight from good desert living.
 

Tourmeister

Keeper of the Asylum
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I captured a shot of the rainstorm over the Chisos that day from down on the flats. It was an interesting isolated shower.

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Along my way I met an interesting dude retired from show business.

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Thing is alive and well in his Terlingua retirement. He seems to have lost weight from good desert living.
Both great shots!

At first I thought that was one of the retired ZZ-Top members :lol2:

Elzi, did the BP agent survive the stroke?
 
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Exit. Stage West.
Retirement Ride to Blue Creek Canyon

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Part Three of my Retirement Ride was a combination ride plus hike. Of course. The most enjoyment of retirement life thus far is having time to take time; experience all the small and varied nuances of life. I would much rather be poor and live a simple life than be a slave to a paycheck, stuff and all the trapping that come with it.

With hiking boots and hat packed in one side bag, camera in the other, and a water bottle in the tail bag, the New Boyfriend (DR350) and I rode down Maxwell's Silver Hammer Road to the pull-off for the Homer Wilson line camp and Blue Creek Trail.

Although I had been once before, this time I wanted to examine some details of the thick rock-walled building. Of course, as usual, I was side-tracked before I got there. Chatted with an overweight and sweaty couple coming back up the steep trail about the Wilson place. Either the Park display does not reflect accurate history of the camp or they didn't read it thoroughly. I explained that the Wilson's did not live there; it was not their home, but that the rock building was a line camp for working the sheep: sheering, dips, sorting, etc. Their home was instead a Sears & Roebuck structure hauled in by mule wagons and erected further north and closer to the base of the Chisos Mnts.

I recommended the book, 'Under the Window', written by the daughter of Homer Wilson. I suggest this book to anyone interested in the real history of Big Bend National Park and what life was like for the hundreds of people that called that land their home. Little did I know I would be running into the same couple several times that day.

Then there was a lizard in the trail. Sloooowly, carefully, I squatted and slooowly carefully pulled the fanny camera pack to my front. Sloooowly, carefully pulled the skinny little camera from the pocket and quietly uncapped the lens. Then sloooowly, carefully put the camera to my head and tried to move said head closer to said lizard without scaring the ever loving tail off him. I was somewhat successful, but there is also a thin line where the giant eyeball attached to the gigantic squatting thing gets too close and those things run like lightening.

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It was a juvenile earless lizard that blended in so well with the sharp black rock that I was surprised I saw it in the first place. Apparently this is his favorite place to hang out because hours later, there he was again as I huffed back up the trail. "Blend in, blend in"!!

I made my way down to the wash in front of the rock camp and then was side-tracked by the many flowering plants! One non-flowering plant was a vine, and one I had never seen before, and cannot for the life of all Chihuahuan desert plants, identify. No flowers or seed to help with ID.

As I photographed the vines for later reference, a younger couple asked me if I had found anything interesting. I was so engrossed in examining the specimen that I had not heard them approach. I suppose my curiosity was obvious since I was on my knees and elbows amidst the rocks and gravel. Not a very comfortable position, but when one’s attention is focused, perception seems to be drained from elsewhere, including physical discomfort.

After standing again, my attention was caught by the taller than tall apache plumes! I would see them all along the creek later at various stages of flowering: flower petals (a first) and the more eye-catching plumes. However, these plants were taller than me, much taller than the previous specimens I had seen elsewhere. And I finally was able to see the plants in flower, rather than just the seed heads.

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I resumed my hike to the rock structure while noting that the arroyo had deepened since my last visit here. I had to hunt for the path that left the arroyo and progressed to the building. There was now a foot or so high bank to step up where once was a level path.

This structure was built in the early 1930’s in Blue Creek Canyon as a secondary home and line camp for Homer Wilson’s sheep and goats. Although the Wilson’s primary home and headquarters (a Sears-Roebuck mail order house; another story) were in Oak Creek Canyon, this camp was the major working location for the ranch operations: shearing, dipping, lambing, training horses, etc.

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The 24’x60’ structure has a 16’-wide screened porch on the south side. Originally, it consisted of 2 bedrooms, a kitchen, and a large living room near the middle. A large fireplace in the middle of the north wall includes a mantle constructed with long slabs of horizontal stone. Some of these slabs are up to 8 feet in length and placed in a colorful arrangement.

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Mrs. Wilson wanted a traditional roof and ceiling which was used in most vernacular adobe and rock structures in pre-modern southwest buildings: a reed ceiling with the adobe mud on top. However, these roofs tend to leak water during rains. Homer therefor devised a double roof system: he used a 2-inch concrete mixture in place of the adobe mud. Above that, he added a sheet metal roof, thus making the house leak-proof. The ceiling was made of reeds in the pattern that has been used for centuries by inhabitants near the rivers. The double roof is supported separately by large wooden posts, some replaced in the last several decades.

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This double roof was not only leak-proof but also made the house much cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter because it created an air space between the metal roof and the ceiling. The interior walls carry little if any support for the roof, as sturdy poles set in cement hold up the weight of the ceiling and roof.

Nearly all materials for the construction of the building came from nearby. The stone, sand, and gravel came from Blue Creek Canyon floor, the timber from the Chisos Mountains, and the reed from the Rio Grande river edges. The large flagstone floor inside the building was also sourced from nearby.

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The interior flagstone and concrete porch floors provide thermal mass for solar heat retention in the winter and cooling during hot summer months. Another feature is that the building is partially bermed: the long north wall is built in partially dug-out earth and the porch floor meets the grade on the south. The temperature difference, at least 10 degrees, can be felt by stepping inside both the porch and the camp, even with no doors or window glass.

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Wilson’s ranch foreman, Lott Felts, lived at the camp for several years. Out buildings served as chicken coop, bathroom, tool shed and a small camp house for additional helpers. To obtain water for livestock, a pipeline was run several miles up the canyon to a spring. Domestic water was obtained from a cistern built on the hill by the modern parking lot.


A petition to the Park agency was approved in 1975 to retain and restore the line camp house and the chicken coop. The site was deemed a significant example of local ranch life in the Big Bend area before it was added to the Texas and federal park systems in the 1940’s. (Unfortunately, the main Wilson home in Oak Canyon was bulldozed, which is unfortunate, and, in my opinionated opinion, a ‘crime’.)

I continued on my hike, this time towards the proper of Blue Creek Canyon. The trail is primitive and hard to follow except for a few cairns that have survived the more recent flash floods. The beginning of the trail mostly follows Blue Creek, but even the creek has diverged and formed new branches. The main guiding landmarks are the red hoodoos that tower overhead. And, of course, I was side-tracked several times examining and photographing tracks, scat and plant life.

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Many shrubs and perennials were flowering after the last rain. The purple flowers of the cenizo set off the small gray-green leaves and were the hit of the desert floor throughout the Park. This was magnified by the many cenizos in and along Blue Creek.


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Trumpet Flower, a favorite shrub for Big Bend home landscapes, were also flowering all along the creek. It wasn't until I found many of this shrub's flowers during a Fort Davis hike that I realized that they form an extended bright yellow tube, then slowly the ends of these tubes pop open to form the drooping mouths of the trumpet. If you look close in the photo below, you can see both open and closed trumpets.



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A squeal of delight was emitted when I found dozens of my favorite indigenous vine of the Chihuahuan Desert: Old Man's Beard (Clematis drummondii). Considered a weed by many, but treasured by a few weirdos such as myself, this vine can be spotted growing on mesquite or other gangly brush along roadsides in West Texas, especially along fences. Here in the creek, it was in its element and in all stages: insignificant and small greenish-yellow flowers to full feathery seed heads. Needless to say, it will be found within a few years at El Punto Coyote.

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In the photo below, you can see the shiny thread-like elongated seed heads of the female plant.

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Within 24 hours or more, these threads will expand into silky feathers that wave in the slightest breeze. They are almost fairy-like. They simply captivate and delight me like a child. They almost exude an invitation to come and play.

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After deliberate restraint ("No more photographs of flowers!!!"), I continued on my hike along Blue Creek. Ahead, but still in the distance are the towering red spikes and hoodoos that mark the bottom of the Chisos Mnts. I knew the trails eventually climbs up into the mountains, but by now, the sun was unrelentingly hot. I was almost out of water.

'Okay, just a little further.'

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I think I told myself that at least ten times.

'Wait, just a bit further.'

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Finally, all the voices in my head agreed: 'Enough! Head back.'

After hiking back up the trail to the parking lot, removing my hiking boots and socks, letting my aching feet cool off and air dry, I geared up with one place in mind: Castolon Store, iced tea and ice cream. So, on I rode on the pony with a destination in mind.

By now, the store clerk new the drill: "There's cold iced tea in the cooler and some new ice cream in the freezer chest." Gee, am I that predictable??

Sure enough, there was the couple I ran into during the first part of my hike. The husband was quiet, but the wife told me about their park visits after we first met. I nodded. "What's the name of that book again?"

Then along came the younger couple. "Are you a botanist?" It took me a minute to recognize them; I really didn't pay them much attention while I was on my hands and elbows with the camera stuck to my face.

"Biologist, but botany was my field work."

We then chatted for a good half hour. Both lived in Austin and his Asian wife was employed at U of Texas. We shared academia stories, biology information, etc. It was a good visit, but I was getting dry again and tired of talking. I think my repeated nods revealed that I was done, and they waved good-bye.

I stopped at a pull-off on the way north, a place I've always wanted to stop and usually just blow by. Not this time! I've always marveled at the painted terrain, hillsides of white tuff, brick red volcanic rock and spikey formations. I spent a refreshing 30 minutes just absorbing it all.

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During dinner with Randy and his buddies several days ago, I commented that this area of Big Bend is a geologist's 'wet dream'. I'm not a geologist, but it is for me, too. Geologists often comment that rocks and the earth's surface features are like reading a book and they will 'talk' to you.

I can't help but wonder and gaze at most of these formations and try to piece together a historical story of how they came to be. And it always reminds me how insignificant we as species really are. And how much we spend too much time in trivial aspects of day-to-day life when all the most wonderful things are already surrounding us. And how much we should respect them. They really are much more significant and powerful than we are, and than we pretend to be.

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And that is why I love it here. Because I am not important; I am only a participant, and I like that. These lands, and all the animals and plants that share its surface, are important to me.

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Tourmeister

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Love the history stuff you include, and the plants. I too like grabbing pics of flowers and interesting plants when out riding. I even go for moss, algae, lichens, etc,... Then there are all the various types of rocks! I went nuts out at the State park near the end of Fresno Canyon where there were a ton of different kind of rocks all in one small area. Anyway, great shots! Keep it coming :popcorn:
 
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Exit. Stage West.
Big Skies of Big Bend

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Seems no matter where one is, even in town, one can see the greatest starts and ends of the day as the sun rises and sets on the horizon. It always fills me with warmth, power and awe.

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In his book, Unweaving the Rainbow, Richard Dawkins discusses at great length that understanding nature's mechanics need not destroy the beauty and passion of life. John Keats, one of the classic poets, complained that Newton's experiments with prisms and his discovery that explained the physics of colors in light destroyed all the poetry of rainbows.

But in biologist Dawkins's world, and mine, science is poetry. The world as rich and full of wonders. And, if one lets it, it is a source of pleasure. Even the interplay of the tiniest molecules, the orchestration of DNA with its environment, and the show-stopping color-plays as light and atmospheric refraction.

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In my scientific pursuits - science of the natural world- science does not destroy, "but rather discovers poetry in the patterns of nature." The millions upon millions of patterns of snowflakes, the undulating folds of the mountain side, standing on the top of a jagged uplift looking at the flat valley below and hearing the piercing scream of a hawk coasting below your feet. Knowing that millions of years ago, this lifted ground was thrust upward violently and ripped apart while the earth shook, like a planet giving birth. Looking at thousands of years of evolution swirling around in the white viscous DNA in the test tube held between your fingers.

Sunrises, sunsets, rainbows - these are but a few of the many wonders of science, nature and poetry.


"A Keats and a Newton, listening to each other, might hear the galaxies sing." (Dawkins)

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Cedar Springs

Sunrise. It always changes from minute to minute. One moment there is only a faint tinge of light towards the eastern horizon. The next minute the clouds begin to glow. Then the sky is on fire. And as quick as you can look down, the colors begin to fade into blue light and a giant glow.

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A visit to Cedar Springs and several days of good friends and dogs, Randy and his crew (Zeke, Sarge and Hank). Haven't been there in almost a year, so I try to enjoy every minute.

Morning light is special: the angle of light imparts a reddish, orange, then yellow glow on surfaces, both alive and non-living, that are exposed to that angle. It's a good time for some creative photography. And it always looks like a land full of magic.

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One of my favorite jaunts is down a nearby arroyo of black volcanic sand. When wet, this arroyo glows black with tiny specks of reflected light. When dry, it is much lighter, a dark, dark gray, but still different than most of the other arroyos painted with beige and light gray.

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Arroyos are special places in the desert simply because they are water ways. When rains fall on the desert surfaces, they run downhill. There is little if any organic matter to soak and hold moisture. The water runs races down rock, boulders, and sand. Carrying minerals and tiny pieces of dead plants and animals, all to collect and be deposited in these magical runways.

Because they are usually higher in organic matter and moisture, they attract all living things: animals, birds, plants, insects. If you hike along in an arroyo, you will see stories of animals and birds that come to use these as highways, capture any pools or catches of water, and they are a runway for the food chain. From microbes to insects, small plants to shrubs, trees to birds, rodents to mammals, and all the dead back to microbes that feed the beginning of the food chain. It all happens here.

Even humans.

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The dogs usually come with me on these explorations. Sometimes it is hard to discern the coyote from the dog tracks.

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With shrubs thick on both sides, I detected a sweet but subtle scent when I passed by a large clump. (I am lacking my notes on the plant IDs, but will fill in later.)

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Beebrush, Aloysia wrightii

Because of the higher than average rainfall in the region this year, the flowers in the desert are numerous. Many I have never before seen. But my botanical training allows me to identify traits that are similar throughout plant families and some genus. The most prolific number of family members by far are those in the Sunflower family, Asteraceae or Compositae (depends on reference, but they are the same; the latter is the old name).

Easy to identify, the most common characteristic is familiar to most: most members look like the ubiquitous sunflower, at various sizes; from tiny to giant. It is in the finer details - size and number of petals, sepals, pistils, shape and organization of leaves - that separates the genus and species. Many of them here in the desert are yellow. For a reason.

Many desert flowers are yellow, which attracts bees and butterflies more than other colors, except a red and yellow combination. The optics of bees cannot perceive 'red', it is invisible to bees. But red enhances yellow because it reflects the UV light off the red onto nearby yellow. And when procreation depends on pollinating insects, such as bees, the most attractive flowers to the pollinators wins year by year. (so why are there few yellow/red combo flowers in the desert? Because there are more butterflies, which can perceive red and yellow both just fine, than there are bees.)

In addition to the tall yellow flowering plants, there are the small ones. And then there are small and larger examples of another color adaptation to the desert: silver/gray.

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Next time you are in a hot climate and see foliage that look silver/gray, look closely at a few leaves. You might notice that most of these are what one would say, 'hairy.' They aren't really hairs, but small protuberances, called trichomes, of surface cells that contain a pigment that reflect sunlight and helps keep the leaf surface cool. Thus this adaptation reduces heat and water loss from transpiration. They also hold moisture in rain or even dew.

The early morning sun revealed some plants underneath others merely by the sun angle. I found an unusual plat with a large upright trumpet, an unopened flower that was about 5 inches long. I could tell it was a member of the Solonacea family, which encompasses the tomato, potato, eggplant and peppers. It is also called the Deadly Nightshade Family. :trust:

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It reminded me of the identical but smaller jimson weed found in Oregon dry lands and considered a noxious weed. But not this big!!

Now in between the house and the arroyo, and in better light, were the usual and familiar Chihuahuan desert plants: ocotillo (with leaves), sotol, yuccas. Single specimens and in groups.

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Then my favorites, the agaves. Of which there are MANY kinds here in the desert; many of them hybrids. This one has blue-green with green stripes and young red teeth.

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Many propagate mostly by underground stems, called 'stolons.' And they have several color variations.

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And one of my favorite photographic subjects because of the textures, colors and shadows.

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Then I found more 'trumpet' flowers, this time both closed and open! It is a Datura; D. metaloides. A BIG one, and poisonous. The pollen and thorny seed contain atropine and hallucinogenic compounds. These flowers are a favorite of the hawk moth, a large dark moth (which we saw just a few days ago; in the dark I thought it was a bat until it sat on my lap).

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Then on to another stroll in the arroyo. By this time the sun was high, bright and hot. Flowers and tracks everywhere.

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Happy Hour came and time for sitting by the camp fire.

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But I caught a glimpse of a subtle sunset to the west.

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Sleep with crickets in concert and dark skies.
Goodnight, Moon. Goodnight, Stars.
 
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Location
Exit. Stage West.
Juxta Sun and Moon

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I have a predilection for juxtapositions. Maybe it’s the contrary Indian* in me, or the Trickster that sits on my shoulder. Contrasts fascinate me. Not just the binary, the extreme opposites: it is also the transitions, all the gray in between.

One early morning before sunrise, I dug out the monopod, attached the Sony NEX camera and climbed up the hill behind us in the dark trying my best to avoid the prickly pear and other thorny things that grab and don’t let go without leaving a reminder. At 3,493 feet, lonely Maverick Mnt. obscures the rising sun from us while situated at its base. However, a small hill allows enough elevation for an expansive view to the north and west and invites a 'contemplatin’ mood’. I have climbed it in the past and sat on my haunches while observing life below like a Fool on the Hill.

This time I climbed with a mission. I knew the full moon would be setting on the west horizon as the sun rose in the eastern sky. Although I didn’t expect to capture the magnificent sunrises we are rewarded with at El Punto, views of the western skies on this hill are outstanding. So I crouched, waiting, like a coyote; quietly watching. And was rewarded.

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Although the sunrise was obscured in the east, I caught its glow to the south. I especially like this time of the day as the angle of light illuminates and greets plants and other surfaces that face south. And the opposite sides are hidden in shadow. Another subject of contrasts and juxtapositions; food for a Contrary.

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* A Contrary was a member of a Native American tribe or group who adopted behavior that was deliberately the opposite of other tribal members, and often displayed in ritual dances and ceremonies. Contraries were usually found among the historical tribes of the Great Plains. It was their life, rather than just an occasional performance, and it was often antagonistic to the tribe’s lifestyles and conventions. It was analogous to the European clown. Another form of the social trickster (or, shall we say, Devil’s Advocate?).
 
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Stories from the Past

Since my DR350 is now my only transportation (sold truck, Whee still in Aledo), one big load of clothes to wash was split between the two side bags and off I rode to the local laundromat. An expensive routine here in the desert where limited resources (e.g. water) and local monopolies are free to charge what they want. But the sun is abundant and free, so I hung a clothes line here at the RV park for folks to use and tested it out twice.

While hanging the laundry and returning the bulging side bags to their normal 'deflated' condition, I heard a motorcycle pulling up. Eyes pop open when they see a Royal Enfield, especially a relatively new one.

The next hour and 1/2 were spent enjoying a long and animated chat with a retired gentleman from New Mexico who happened to work at the Study Butte Mine after it was bought and reopened by Diamond Inc., which later became Diamond-Shamrock. A graduate of Sul Ross U, his expertise is minerals and mining. He joined the SB Mine staff, one of about 4 Anglos, back in the early 1960's. The rest of the personnel were Mexican Nationals that worked the mines and cinnibar processing to mercury.

I got a lesson in how mercury is processed from native ore, which was fascinating. Moreso, I was given a wonderful account of stories of the mine during and after the 1960's. He knew less about the history of the mines when they were first discovered and developed by Villalba and crew, but what I did learn greatly augmented and corrected other 'guesses' I had.

One important fact is that the original Study Butte Store which Villalba and sons built and ran was not where the present SB Store is (actually, was; it is now closed indefinitely). The original was on the landing closer to the mine shafts. He related that he had had many a beer in that store until the roof blew off in the early 1970's. Because the store was built of three-foot adobe walls, they began to deteriorate quickly, as do all adobe walls when not protected by a roof.

However, there are still a few remnants of the store's foundation there amongst the other ruins. A lot of this and other historical info with stories will add to what I have gleaned and photographed thus far. All will be organized into a post in the near future. Dick will also try to obtain for me a copy of a photograph of the original store before it lost the roof.

And then there was more! Unbeknownst to us, while we spent eight days in Hillsboro, NM (a lovely tiny community that would be my second choice to call 'Retirement Home'), last September, we missed out on visiting the cemetery and a gem of a find. Dick told me the story of a Confederate General that died and is buried there. He was instrumental in erecting a large monument to his remembrance there. The stories about that are also fascinating.

Dick has a place here near the Ghost Town and I hope to see him again near the Holidays next month and resume our chats. In fact, he has steered me to a couple of places that few know about around here (Missions 1 and 2). I also promised him we would have a Motorcycle Adventure DVD Night so he can see how Royal Enfields made it to and back from the Himalayas and other areas in places many don't or can't go (the two DVDs from the riders at Dirt Track Productions in India).

What a serendipitous meeting!!
 
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Location
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Cloudy and chance of showers

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Bad Boy and I bundled up and took a ride in the Park today. Mission One was to find topo maps of the park for a future mission. Mission Two was to Wander. Both missions were accomplished.

The further east I rode, the more cloudy and chilly it became. This time I was headed for the headquarters at Panther Junction where I hoped they would have topo maps. The parking lot was full with little mechanical Boy Scouts wandering around in uniforms, moms and pops with BS badges and walkie talkies (wondered what the heck they were for).

Two tables were set up inside to juggle visitor and camper requests, camping permits, etc. The sign on the wall behind the counter said in large letters "No Camping Sites Available. All Are Full." Meanwhile, I heard the same question like a recording, "Can we get a camp site in [fill in the blank with three camping grounds]?" Rangers smile, point to the sign and repeat with another recording, "All the camping grounds are full this weekend."

Meanwhile, I walked around the circles of shelves containing postcards, guides, books, atlases, etc, but couldn't find any maps. No maps. The two rangers (and the other two at the tables) were busy and I was reluctant to interrupt them. About ready to give up, and looking at the floor (for some odd reason), I saw almost hidden in two brackets tacked to the bottom of one wall shelf, what appeared might be folded maps. No labels.

Picked one up and turned it right side up: USGS Topo Map. Yeah Buddy! Scored!

Finally seeing a break in the flow of little people and big people in uniforms, I walked up to the counter,

"Where on earth did you find these? I didn't know we had these."

"Over there, near the floor. They are inserted backwards and upside down."

"Well, I'll be......"

Stepped outside avoiding running into more uniformed shirts bearing BS badges, I took a moment to examine *this* side of the Chisos Mnts. I am so used to the Chisos Mnts from the western perspective; it all looked new to me from an eastern perspective. And cloudy.

Started the Bad Boy and we rode with no particular place to go. Considering riding to Tuft Canyon, but didn't really feel like doing Maxwell Silver Hammer Drive again. Maybe go part way up to the Basin? Let's roll.

Stopped at a pull off about a mile or so into Green Gulch and marveled at several things:
  • it was raining up in the Basin,
  • I did not have rain gear on me
  • the clouds were awesome
  • I was glad I found my neck gaiter
  • I forgot to close the vent zippers on my jacket
  • I wonder if there are any large kitties in the arroyo next to me
I took several photos as the clouds swirled around and above. The mountains were hidden in a veil of moisture; not yet rain, not clouds and not fog. Just suspended indecisive moisture. However, this is one of the most prominent sky islands in the northern Chihuahuan desert and this is what sky islands do. They create and change their own weather. Which is why the biodiversity on and within them is more complex than that of the desert floor.

It could rain, it could snow, it could freeze. And I was unprepared. So I deleted the consideration of riding further up into the Basin. We are planning on riding up there tomorrow anyway. No loss. Take more photos.

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Time to get on my horsey and ride.

Now the entire sky was cloudy and I could see rain was falling to the west, over Terlingua and Study Butte. Oh well.

Not much traffic, which was a good thing. Took the pony briefly up to 60mph to clean the jets, then let it coast back down to 45. Really, only a minute or so. Honest.

Glancing to my right I recalled a place I've wanted to stop and check out for some time. Seemed to me the right time to do so. The cloudy skies offered a nice light for some big scenic shots, so off I pulled.

One place in the Park not often seen, probably not well known, is an area where Dawson Creek widens out and becomes an area of Badlands. Not as grand and colorful as John Day Fossil Beds/Painted Hill in Oregon, but beautiful nonetheless.

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The scenic stage is several hundred feet below where I stood, and probably over a mile wide and who knows how long (several miles?). The reddish clay is inviting, the gray and black clay is as beautiful.

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I also spotted several flowering plants - ocotillo, creosote bush, and a large leaved legume with stinky green flowers that made me sneeze.

Looking more at the details in the west, I noticed a road, and then realized how familiar that road is! Because it was sprinkling and I was too lazy to change the lens on the camera, I cropped one of the photos. Some might recognize the road in the photo below.

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It started raining harder and I was getting chilled. I wanted a hot coffee and something to eat by that time. I said goodbye to the lovely coveted red clay (would love to have several pails full), closed all my jacket zippers, and headed out.


I always wave at the ranger at the station entry; seems the two women that usually man that station know me by now.

Headed to town to see if I could find something of interest. A few locals were on the Front Porch, which was fine by me. I exchanged my regular duty lens for the zoom, which I rarely use, and took some shots of the sun starting to show some color on the mountains to the east.

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As most of us know, things change slowly around here, except for the weather. Lot of moisture in the air and a porch sitter mentioned that most of the park was blanketed in fog this morning. Except the Basin, which was sunny. Of course, when I was there, rain was falling in the Basin. It comes, it goes.

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Rode back to 'Home'; it was a bit chilly ride. But the sun was trying to break through again, and I caught a glimpse of color way to the southwest. After getting out of my gear, Bob the Dog and I climbed up the hill behind the RV park and watched life below, which watching a slit in the clouds on the horizon revealing the sun trying to show itself off.

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Meanwhile, Earl's dogs -Jake and Duke- were barking up a storm at the bright yellow mammal standing on top of the hill above them with white Bob the Dog, while I barked back at them. Which just fired them off like a hot poker.

One the way down the hill - not sure who was doing better: me with two big feet, or Bob the Dog with four little feet - I spotted this display of wild color, which was more pronounced under the cloudy skies than if it had been sunny. A sedum of some species (sedums have fat fleshy leaves that store water) and a short-stemmed yellow flowered plant in a tight group. The red and yellow plants seemed to be buddies and posed nicely for me as I photographed them.

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A few slices of left-over Long Draw pizza in the fridge were calling me and I couldn't refuse. Walked in to rain droplets on the roof. Always a pleasant sound to hear, and releases wonderful desert aromas that fill your brain with giggles.
 

Tourmeister

Keeper of the Asylum
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Re: Big Skies of Big Bend

In his book, Unweaving the Rainbow, Richard Dawkins discusses at great length that understanding nature's mechanics need not destroy the beauty and passion of life. John Keats, one of the classic poets, complained that Newton's experiments with prisms and his discovery that explained the physics of colors in light destroyed all the poetry of rainbows.

But in biologist Dawkins's world, and mine, science is poetry. The world as rich and full of wonders. And, if one lets it, it is a source of pleasure. Even the interplay of the tiniest molecules, the orchestration of DNA with its environment, and the show-stopping color-plays as light and atmospheric refraction.

In my scientific pursuits - science of the natural world- science does not destroy, "but rather discovers poetry in the patterns of nature." The millions upon millions of patterns of snowflakes, the undulating folds of the mountain side, standing on the top of a jagged uplift looking at the flat valley below and hearing the piercing scream of a hawk coasting below your feet. Knowing that millions of years ago, this lifted ground was thrust upward violently and ripped apart while the earth shook, like a planet giving birth. Looking at thousands of years of evolution swirling around in the white viscous DNA in the test tube held between your fingers.
:tab Awesome photos as usual :thumb:

:tab I totally agree about the science thing making the world even more interesting rather than making it common place and boring. I mean, just thinking about the physics involved with riding a bike is mind boggling. It is more than just the traction, weight, balance, etc,... It is also all the materials properties that go into the stuff the bike is made of, the thermodynamics of the combustion, and on and on. Then I start looking at all the variety of scenery and contemplating all the processes that occurred to bring it into being. Then on top of all that, there is just this sense of awe at the complexity and interrelatedness of everything and yet it is also so incredibly aesthetically pleasing to the eye. How marvelous that the world is like this, from the MICROscopic all the way up to the MACROscopic! Fascinating.
 
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