Perseid Meteor Shower in Big Bend. Sort of.

In August I made the plan to go out to Big Bend National Park to see the Perseid Meteor Shower. With the darkest skies in Texas, Big Bend National Park is one of the best locations to see it, and the peak of the shower was supposed to be over a weekend. I remember hearing about it in the past, and it was always during the week and the best time to see it was at 3 am. Being a college student, the last thing I needed to do was stay up all night watching a meteor shower when I had class the next morning, so like the responsible adult I am, I skipped out on it. But this year was different, and I made time to specifically stay up late and get shots of the meteor shower. Of course, Hubby doesn’t need a reason to go out to Big Bend, so we loaded up and headed out West. My family has land at about the half-way point in Rocksprings, so we headed out after work on Friday and got to the land around midnight.

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Doe in Rocksprings

The next morning we headed out to Fort Davis, Texas, where we were camping for our first full night in Davis Mountains State Park. We went through Alpine first and it was pouring down rain, with water running down the streets and pooling in low areas. It was pretty unexpected seeing as how it’s the desert! We checked out what had changed around town since we moved away, had dinner in Alpine and drinks at Harry’s Tinaja, our old waterhole. It was a pretty dead night in town because the collegiate rodeo was going on, so everyone was out at the rodeo grounds. Because it was so quiet, we sat and talked with Harry, himself. It was one of my favorite parts of the trip. We talked about how we missed living there and how we were thinking of buying land in the desert, and he told us how he remembered us as biology students. It was great!

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After the cold front blew in. Mitre Peak – Fort Davis

Over night the temperature dropped to the low 70s. I couldn’t believe it! It was mid-August and it looked like a blustery winter day! Luckily I was prepared and brought a light jacket. I would have been miserable if I hadn’t, but I learned early on, living in this area, that you always bring another layer. The first time I went to Alpine to look at the campus and see if this was where I wanted to go to school was in June and a cold front blew in while we were there, dropping to the 60s! I had only packed shorts and t-shirts, so I had to buy a sweatshirt in the Sul Ross gift shop so I wouldn’t die. Lesson learned!

Birding in Fort Davis is always a treat. We saw some great variety that I have missed not living in West Texas anymore. Blue Grosbeaks, Painted Buntings, a Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeaks, American Goldfinches, several woodpeckers…all amazing additions to our 2016 Bird List.

Heading down to Big Bend National Park, we drove through Marfa and then through Alpine again. Between Marfa and Alpine are rolling prairies where we saw a huge male Pronghorn watching over his harem of females. A young male was standing by, and I guess the large male got tired of him lurking, because he suddenly got up and started chasing the young male all over the place! Then, heading closer to Alpine, we saw a dark coyote running across the road. The coyotes closer to town are hunted, so this guy didn’t waste any time getting to the other side and taking cover.

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Young male Pronghorn, watching the harem of females
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Getting chased off by the much larger male

We stayed at an RV park in Terlingua called BJ’s RV park. We were the only people staying there, so it was so quiet. We got set up at the RV park and went into the Terlingua Ghost Town. If you don’t know about the Ghost Town, you are missing out on some…interesting stuff. There is a wide variety of people there, from artists who are looking to the desert for inspiration, to original occupants when it was a mining town, to people who want to be left alone by the government. The thing to do is go to the general store and have a beer on the porch, listening to the locals playing guitar on the porch and sing.

Now, seeing as how the whole reason for our trip was to see and photograph the Perseid Meteor Shower, you can understand that the trip started out a little disappointing. Cloudy and rainy is not quite ideal weather for a meteor shower. We had planned on basically sleeping all day and photographing/hiking at night but since it was so cloudy at night and cool during the day, we decided to make the best of it and hike/drive through the desert during the day and not worry about the stars which were hidden anyway.

We got up SUPER early the first day in Terlingua and drove into the park before sunrise. We drove down the Old Maverick Road to Santa Elena Canyon. Sunrise in the desert, after the clouds started to clear, was spectacular. We added a few more bird species to our list, and then headed up to Panther Junction, where the Visitors Center is located. On the way we saw a rattle snake and a red coyote. Since coyotes are normally gray, it definitely caught our attention. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was actually mixed with some of the local Terlingua dogs.

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Sunrise on the Old Maverick Road
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Red coyote – short coat and pointed ears
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Trying to get a better look at us – Scruffy, gray coat and rounded ears
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Curious and beautiful – Petite size with a smooth, gray coat

We saw a total of 4 coyotes on this trip, and each sighting was better than the last! The fourth one we saw let us get so close, and s/he just stood there, watching us. It’s easy to tell that the coyotes in and around the park aren’t hunted – they were just as curious about us!

I’ve already forgotten a lot of the details of the trip, which is such a bummer. Part of the reason I write my blog posts is to go back and read them for myself, but when it’s months before I can find to the time to write it up, details are lost. Because of that, I have started keeping a travel journal so I can go back and refer to the details later. Too bad I didn’t start with this trip!

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You can’t see me!
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…Can you?

McFaddin Beach: Biologist’s Heaven or Hell?

Previously, I wrote about an amazing trip Hubby and I had to McFaddin Beach, fossil hunting. We had a great time, and we knew we couldn’t wait long before we were wanting to go again. It’s pretty rare that we have a weekend coming up that doesn’t already have plans, but last weekend just such an occasion arose, so we decided to head back to McFaddin to do some serious fossil hunting.

So let me back up: I have had one of the busiest months ever at my company. For those of you that don’t know, I’m in the Zombie and Poltergeist Prevention business. And baby, business is boomin’. We were already pretty busy, when all of a sudden Louisiana was under MUCH more water than it normally is. So, because of my job saving the planet from Zombie invasions, I have been doing A LOT of work in Louisiana, and I didn’t get home until 11 pm on Friday. Saturday morning we slept in, and finally decided to head to McFaddin Beach for the weekend. I wanted to be able to relax and not have to think about anything for about 48 hours. What better way to do that, then at the beach?

So we loaded up and got to the beach around noon. Immediately we got out and started birding, because we are working on our 2016 Bird List and it’s the beginning of Fall Migration and you can find some really interesting species this time of year. The mosquitoes were pretty bad if you walked in the grass, so we covered ourselves with bug spray and kept on with birding and then moved on the fossil hunting. I didn’t find anything spectacular, so I decided to read for a little while and take a nap on the beach. Perfect day for relaxing! I helped Hubby get the canopy set up, and then I went back to fossil hunting while he started to make dinner.

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I noticed a storm starting to build, and I kept an eye on it, thinking it was going to go around us. After all, we had checked the weather forecast for the area, and there wasn’t anything worrisome there, which is why we had headed down to the beach to begin with. As we sat down for dinner, we watched the storm roll in. The majority of the storm went south of us, and there was even a teeny-tiny water spout! Which was pretty cool since I had never seen one before and it was small, so we weren’t worried. We did get some rain after all, so we moved the generator under the canopy to keep it as dry as possible.

As soon as it stopped raining however, is when all hell broke loose. The mosquitoes came out in droves. We rinsed off as fast as we could and then ran to the camper. We were covered in mosquito bites, so we both took some Benadryl and I passed out. Hubby, on the other hand, couldn’t sleep. He was too concerned about the storm surge. It was still raining, and the water was getting higher. It’s a pretty small beach to begin with, so there wasn’t a lot of “wiggle room.” Finally, at around 12:30 am, Hubby opened the door to look outside. In a Benadryl fog, I wasn’t sure why he was doing that, except that he was letting in more mosquitoes.

He said he was concerned about the storm surge, and as soon as I looked outside, a wave came up the beach, and went UNDER THE CAMPER. We knew if we stayed there, we would be lucky to dig the truck and trailer out of the sand in the morning. Not to mention the  amount of money we would have lost with the generator, canopy, chairs, table, and cooking equipment that we had set up that would have been washed into the ocean. So we ran outside as fast as possible to move our stuff to higher ground. Hubby pulled the truck and trailer around into the grassy area while I ran interference for any debris that was in the way (there is a lot of garbage on that beach, unfortunately). I was getting devoured by mosquitoes, but I didn’t have time to think about it – we had to get our stuff to higher ground. Once the truck and trailer were at high ground, we moved the generator, all the cooking stuff and table and camp chairs, and then we had to get the tie-down weights untied from the canopy so we could move it without bending it, and then we had to re-tie them so the canopy would be over the generator, and not fly away. At this point I couldn’t handle the bug bites anymore. If I stood still it felt like I was getting attacked by needles all over my body. While I was running around moving our gear, I had to keep my mouth closed to keep from swallowing them.

Once we made sure that everything was moved to high ground, and Hubby put a car tail light at the water line (I told you were was a lot of debris on this beach) in order to see if the water was getting higher or not (if the tail light moved or was gone, the water was getting higher), we went back to the camper. Again, standing still, waiting to make sure that everything was okay, we were getting mauled. I looked at the camper and it was covered in clouds of mosquitoes. I swiped them away from the door as best I could before jumping into the camper. I cleaned the sand off my feet as best I could, and then began to SCRATCH. I hadn’t been this itchy in my entire life. It was like I had Chicken Pox on steroids. I was almost in tears, I was so itchy. Hubby jumped in the camper, and repeated my process. Smashing every mosquito we could find inside the trailer, I was crazy with the need to make sure they were all dead. I couldn’t handle getting ANOTHER mosquito bite.

When we finally began to win the battle again the mosquitoes inside the camper, I began to see what looked like evidence for a murder that happened inside the camper. The mosquitoes we had been smashing were full of blood, so there were blood smears all over the doors and walls of the camper. It was hilarious and horrific at the same time (probably only hilarious because of the delirium caused by low red blood cells).

We finally were able to settle down, and we watched the water to see that it wasn’t coming up any further. However, we confirmed that if we had stayed there, there would have been serious problems. It was not about 1 am. We took another Benadryl each and passed out, making sure the turn off the alarm we had set to get up early and take sunrise shots. Eff that, after the night we had.

The next morning we got up and it was still raining. Exhausted, itchy, mentally drained, and disappointed, we left the beach without doing any more fossil hunting. I was sad, but I just didn’t have the energy needed to put into fighting mosquitoes for another day. And the sad thing is, I know that storm pushed some amazing fossils to the beach. I just couldn’t muster the strength.

In closing, we will be going back. Just not camping there on the beach. There is a State Park nearby, called Sea Rim State Park, where we will be camping. The storm surge is much less of a concern (because you are MUCH further away from the beach) and the mosquitoes are on the tolerable level, rather than the insanity-inducing level.

But I have decided that McFaddin Beach is a special hell.

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(One should never pass up the opportunity for a Firefly reference – Ron Glass as Shepherd Book, image found on http://theretiredbridgeburner.blogspot.com/2013/05/hanlons-razor.html, source unknown)

Just call me Indiana.

One of my problems in life is I have too many interests. I have a ton of hobbies and if I could, I would clone myself over and over again so that I could have SO MANY DIFFERENT CAREERS. Archaeology and Paleontology are some of those topics that have always interested me. When I was a little kid, I was lucky enough to have my parents be members of the Fort Bend Archaeological Society. I was able to learn how to be meticulous and patient during a dig, and even participate in a few digs where we found things like toy trains from the 1920’s and other cool stuff. In college I took one or two archaeology courses and loved them. We went to see the Gila Cliff Dwellings in New Mexico, rock art paintings at Panther Cave and along the Pecos River, and I learned a ton about arrow and spear points. Although this is not the path that my career took, I will always love archaeology. The history that can be rediscovered after centuries locked away underground fascinated me. If there is a show about the Nazca Lines on the Travel Channel, you can bet I’ll be up til midnight watching it.

I don’t have a lot of opportunity to participate in digs anymore these days, (although I did just look up membership for the Ft. Bend Archaeological Society and it’s only $20, so I may do it!), but Hubby and I found out about McFadden Beach, and how it’s famous for the fossils that turn up there. See, 10-15 thousand years ago, McFadden Beach wasn’t a beach. It was a prairie. This was during the last ice age, so much of the ocean’s water was frozen. The land was exposed. And animals lived on that land. People lived on that land. And animals and people died on that land, too. (Often at the hands of each other). Since the water is so shallow for so far out, and the sand is so fine, fossils of Pleistocene horses, Giant Ground Sloths, Mammoths, and even Cave Bears have been found on this beach. (My ultimate goal is to find a Cave Bear Skull, but I’ll settle for a Clovis point, too).

So Hubby and I headed to McFadden beach for some camping/fossil hunting. As soon as we got to a good site I hopped out of the truck, asked Hubby what he needed me to help with, and his response was perfect: “Nothing. Go play.” AWESOME. I instantly started scouring the beach for fossils, shells, and sea glass. I found a few good shells, but nothing spectacular. From recent flooding there was a lot of garbage that had been washed up onto the sand dunes, that was actually grabbing my attention more than anything. As I wandered the beach, I found a giant onion sack full of plastic water bottles. I assume someone had been picking up plastic bottles on the beach and accidentally left this bag behind, so I grabbed the top of the bag and dragged it to our camp for us to dispose of at home in the recycling bin. (You know, leave the area better than it was when you get there, kind of thing). The bag was getting pretty heavy (dragging a jam-packed bag full of plastic bottles in one hand while carefully carrying shells in the other), so I put it down to switch hands when I suddenly saw my first true treasure on the beach. A fossilized horse tooth!

fossilized horse tooth

This tooth was sitting about 3 feet in front of our truck. If we had kept pulling forward to straighten out, we would have parked on it. In fact, the tooth was sitting IN the tire tread marks of the “road” that people had been using to drive along the beach! We had probably walked past the tooth three or four times without even realizing that’s what it was.

Now that I had my Search Image ready, I began scouring the beach even harder, but didn’t find anything else in our vicinity. Still, the weekend had been made – we could now relax and not feel like the whole point of the weekend was wasted!

The next morning Hubby and I got up while he was making breakfast I went to search the beach for items that had washed up during the night. And I found another tooth!

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This one was a partial tooth, but a tooth non-the-less! I couldn’t believe it. It’s like I wasn’t even trying to find them and they were just turning up! After breakfast we went for a run on the beach. It was hard for me to concentrate on the run though, because all I could think about was how much real estate I was moving past, without looking for fossils! So when we got to our half-way point and Hubby was going to run back to camp, I decided I was going to walk back instead to take my time and look for fossils. I ended up getting a bunch of rope, plastic, and balloons out of the ocean instead. So I guess I turned it into a weight workout too, because by the end of it I was probably carrying 40 pounds of garbage back to the truck to throw away properly.

Although I didn’t find any fossils on the walk back, I walked around a bit more in the area I had found the second tooth and I found a fossilized deer antler! This fossil looks much older than the other two, and antlers are rare because they are softer bone than teeth. I would love to be able to get them aged, or whatever the proper term is, at the museum or somewhere, to figure out just how old they could be.

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After this super successful fossil hunting trip, we definitely plan on going again. But next time I’m finding a Cave Bear Skull!!

Mermaid Jewelry

It seems like we haven’t been doing much lately, but I guess that’s not entirely true. I need to catch up on a few things, blog-wise. I’ve been traveling a lot lately for work and haven’t had much down time. That’s my excuse anyway. So here’s my attempt to catch up on a few things.

First of all, I started making, what I’m calling, Mermaid Jewelry. I’m sure you’ve seen it on Pinterest. Sea glass wrapped in wire, maybe some charms and dangly things on them too. But what I’ve seen on Etsy are SO CRAZY EXPENSIVE. And I thought, I’ve been collecting shells at the beach my entire life. Finally I have something I can do with them!

The first piece I got was actually a gift/find while I was in Jamaica earlier this summer. There was a river that poured out right where the beach was at our resort, so Hubby and I were walking through the water looking for shells when I found this small piece of what I think is painted concrete.
Jamaica necklace

I thought it was beautiful, but I had no idea what I could do with it other than put it on the shelf with my other travel souvenirs and let it gather dust. Until later that day, when a woman who was also staying at the resort showed me how she makes jewelry right there on the beach, with the sea glass and shells she finds while she is there. I watched her wrap some pretty stones and shells, and then I told her about the piece of masonry I found. She wrapped it for me right then and there, and I love it! Now instead of gathering dust on a shelf, I can wear my one-of-a-kind, wonderful, no-you-can’t-have-it, it’s-not-for-sale Jamaican necklace pendant!

Hubby also gave me a heart-shaped rock that he found on the beach, so of course, the first thing I did when we got home from vacation was buy some wire and a new necklace chain, and wrap the small stone.

heart necklace

So now I’m hooked. I have been making shell, stone, and sea glass jewelry for weeks and I can’t possibly wear each and every one of them. Soon I’ll have one for every week of the year! So I have decided to start selling them, at a MUCH lower price than I’ve seen on Etsy. If you are interested, check out my Facebook page, My Wildhood Photography. I have them all posted there, and they are $10 each, plus the cost of shipping.  Below are a couple examples of pendants that are for sale. But check out the full line of pendants! Let me know which one(s) you are interested in, and they will be in the mail ASAP!

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Accidental Adventure

(This post is also way behind schedule – We did this trip in January. I’ve been busy – don’t judge me).

Hubby and I bought a camper a few months ago and have already gotten some pretty good use out of it. Our maiden voyage was spent on the beach on a driftwood collection mission. The following weekend we were in the frozen tundra of North Texas, attempting to camp at Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

This time our plan was to camp on McFadden Beach, near the Texas-Louisiana Border. However, when we arrived, there was hardly any beach to speak of. It seems that the beach had been eroded away, and the road that used to be there was broken up and scattered in the water. Whelp….instead of heading home, we thought ‘we are so close to Searim State Park, we might as well give it a shot.’

It was pouring but we knew that the rain was supposed to stop around 6 pm, so we didn’t want to go home defeated. I tried to make reservations by phone and online while Hubby drove through the rain on the way to the state park, but the phone recording said “go to our website to make a reseservation” and the website wouldn’t let me make a reservation for the day of. It would only let me put in the next day’s date. So we had to make the drive to the park and hope that they had a spot for us. Even if they didn’t, we have a state park pass so we get in for free. If they didn’t have any camping sites available, we would check out the park while we could and THEN drive home defeated. (We know when we’ve been beaten).

Luckily though, there were plenty of spots for us to pick from. We hooked the camper up in the rain, walked the dogs in the rain (yes, we had 2 dogs with us this whole time, too!) And then turned on the tv in the camper to wait out the rest of the storm.

When it stopped raining the sky turned a beautiful orange color from the low clouds, which changed to pink and then purple.

Orangy-Pink Sunset

campground sunset

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Our adorable little camper – no, it’s not a pop-up. It really is that tiny

It was stunning. We took the dogs for a walk and as we were headed to the beach we heard the loudest clam of thunder we have ever experienced (it set off car alarms and I could feel the shock wave IN MY TEETH). After checking out the beach for a  little while, we went back to camp and cooked some dinner. We had to eat in the camper with the dogs because it was so cold and windy, but it wasn’t nearly as chaotic as I thought it would be, considering that one of the dogs that we had with us is an 80 pound 2 year-old yellow lab with almost zero table manners.

The next morning we got up to see the sunrise over the beach (this is a great spot because you get sunrise AND sunset pictures at the beach!) and it was spectacular. Low tide was at 5:30 am, so the tide was out and the water was like glass. Birds were everywhere on the beach, probing the wet sand for worms and crustaceans.

Searim Sunrise

We came back and ate breakfast, then took the dogs for a walk along a boardwalk that goes through a marsh, while we birded some more.

redheads-wmLuke, the yellow lab, tried to chase the American Coots as they crossed over the boardwalk from one area of the wetland to the other, but then he suddenly got the overwhelming urge to go swimming. (He is a water dog after all). So he stood on the boardwalk, staring at the water and then just jumped right in. Hubby had a hold of the leash so Luke couldn’t go swimming after the Coots, but the look on his face said it all. “I’m in deep trouble.” After jumping in, he instantly turned back around and tried to get back onto the boardwalk but couldn’t make the jump so he stood there in the water with his feet up on the boardwalk with the guiltiest look I’ve ever seen on his face. We pulled him out and I couldn’t control myself. I think I laughed for about 10 minutes solid. I couldn’t even get my camera up in time because I was laughing so hard all I could do was try to not pee myself. Of course after that, he smelled absolutely terrible. If you’ve never smelled mud from the bottom of a swamp or lake, you can count yourself one of the lucky ones. It’s horrific. And after that little stunt he pulled, we had to load up into the truck and head out so we were stuck with stinky swamp dog for hours!

Before we headed home we went to check out the McFadden National Wildlife Refuge, which is an adjoining property. Basically, since the 1980s when people learned that it’s a bad idea to drain wetlands and build on them, they turned this whole area of the Texas coast into a wildlife refuge because there’s not much you can do with the land. Good for the animals! We drove around in the refuge for a while and I attempted to get photos of Luke looking like the majestic water dog he’s SUPPOSED TO BE but instead his A.D.D. kicked in, he leaped into the water, and started chasing any duck he could see. Needless to say, this did not improve his…aroma.

Bird List for the Weekend:

Osprey, Brown Pelicans, Laughing Gulls, Snow Goose, Killdeer, Redheads, Lesser Scaups, Willets, Black-bellied Plovers (non-breeding plumage), Piping Plovers, Northern Shovelers, Belted Kingfishers, Purple Martins, Caspian Terns, and Hudsonian Godwit. So far for the year, we have IDed 56 species.

#Opt Out (Freeze Out)

(Ok, I know this is WAY LATE but that’s what happens when you have photos on one computer and write a post an another…)

Typically, every year Hubby and I “opt out” from the jumble of Thanksgiving and Black Friday and use that time off of work to head out to the middle of nowhere and camp. (Even REI does #optoutside so you can share your photos from your hiking adventures, rather than getting run-over by a crowd trying to get the cheap tvs at Walmart for Black Friday.) A year ago we went to Big Bend National Park, and this year we decided to go to Palo Duro Canyon State Park outside of Amarillo, Texas. It’s the same amount of time in the car, and neither of us had ever been there before so we wanted to give it a shot. After we had booked our trip we discovered Run Away campers, and fell in love. They are affordable, they are comfortable, and they are TINY! We ordered our little Range Runner model camper (it’s actually the largest model they have at 6’x8′) from Florida and it was delivered just a few days later! We were excited to get it before our camping trip because that meant we would be able to glamp (glam camp) instead of being in a tent, which had been the original plan. The first chance I got, I called the Park Service phone number for reservations, but they were out of RV camp sites! I was sad, but I thought, ‘One last trip of rocks in the back and waking up stiff. After this, we will use the camper.’ But as we got closer to the date, every time we checked the weather it was looking worse and worse. The high for the day dropped from being in the 40s to being in the low 20s with freezing rain. It was going to be miserable. We were going to cancel, defeated and depressed. Until Hubby got the idea to check the RV site availability again. Lo and behold, other people had checked the weather too, and cancelled their trip so there were spaces available! I did a happy dance and we started planning for the trip once again. We left before the crack of dawn on Thanksgiving Day since it was a 9 hour drive, and got there just in time for the park office to tell us that the weather is going to get worse, so they will probably close the office over the weekend. “That’s fine,” we told them. “We have a tv and a stack of movies.” But we had no idea what we were in for.

The rain turned to sleet, and the sleet turned to ice. We tried hiking around our camp site a little bit but the mud was caking onto anything that touched it and making a huge mess. I was afraid of slipping and hurting my back so I was being extremely careful. We got back to the camper to thaw out and ended up having to heat up canned soup inside the camper because it was too miserable to cook outside.

From Thursday night to Saturday morning we watched 3 of the Planet of the Apes movies and Season 2 of Scrubs. We got a little bit of cabin fever so we bundled up and headed out to do a little birding once the ice stopped falling. There was a thick layer of ice on every surface. Walking through parking lots was difficult because it was so slippery. But I got some great bird shots anyway! We saw a huge flock of turkeys (30 or more) and each bird had ice frozen on its back. We went to a birding station and the Cardinals and Finches had frozen feathers also.

female cardinal Gold Finch male cardinal turkeysWe headed back to camp to hike around a bit more (now that the ground was frozen, the mud wasn’t an issue) and Hubby saw the Park Host come by to fill the bathrooms with toilet paper. He went to go talk to them and they told his that the road to get out of the park was closed and we wouldn’t be able to get out until noon on Sunday! That was a problem. With a 9 hour drive, that was cutting it close. What if the roads didn’t improve and we were stuck longer? The last thing I wanted was to get home at 2 am and have to go to work the next day. So Hubby and I loaded up into the truck and checked the road for ourselves. He has all wheel drive so we weren’t concerned, and any point that the road looked icy, we would get out and check it before driving on it. (The road to get out of the park goes up through the canyon, so if you lose traction on the icy road, it’s quite a tumble down). The road seemed fine as we headed up, and I had him stop a few times so I could get pictures of the beautiful ice-covered grasses and yucca and barbed-wire fence.

frozen grassI even heard coyotes howling VERY close to me and I was so happy to hear them. Every time I hear coyotes, I’m the only one around for miles (while Hubby sits in the warm car!) and it seems like they are singing to me. I even saw one of the singers a few minutes later!

coyoteWe finally made our way to the park entrance and saw that the gate was wide open. The park host had told us it was closed and locked and we couldn’t get out! So we looked at each other and came to this conclusion: If the road freezes, it will be over night. The road is passable now, but in the morning there is no guarantee. So we got out while the getting was good and headed to Amarillo to spend the night.

We headed back down the park road and hooked up the camper. In 20 minutes we were back on the road, carefully heading out of the park. The highway was frozen so we took it slow and then pulled into the parking lot of our destination: The Big Texan steak ranch. Part of our plan on this trip had been to eat at The Big Texan because it’s an icon! It has been on tv shows like Man vs. Food and Day Tripper because they do the 72 ounce steak challenge. You have to consume a 72 ounce steak, a baked potato, a shrimp cocktail, salad, and a bread roll, all in 60 minutes. Of course, we weren’t going to be PARTICIPATING in the steak challenge, but we still wanted to eat there. Also, as it turned out, The Big Texan has a hotel ON SITE so we didn’t have to go anywhere by the end of the night! The parking lot was an ice rink so I was really happy we didn’t have to get back on the highway and find somewhere else to stay. (Also, I just saw on their website that they now have an RV park too, so that’s good to know in case our next trip to Palo Duro gets cut short again!)

The next morning, before heading home, we stopped at Cadillac Ranch.cadillacs3cadillacs

It’s literally a bunch of Cadillacs from the 1940s-1960s that were jammed into the ground in the 1970s as an art installation. The thing is, it’s legal to do graffiti art at this site. I guess that’s kind of the point – everyone is an artist if they are given the chance. We had never seen it before, and we might never come back to Amarillo again, so we had it on our list of must-dos while we were on the trip. We trudged out to the cars through the snow and ice, took a couple pictures, and got back to our heated car as quickly as possible. But I noticed some interesting things while we were there: there are so many layers of paint on the cars, that it looks like the cars are melting.

frozen paintThere had been people out at the site spray-painting in the snow and ice, so that the frost on the cars was painted orange and blue. The snow on the ground was also used as a temporary canvas, saying the typical “So-and-so Loves So-and-so” and happy holidays. Also, even the barbed-wire that surrounds the property had been painted. It was surprisingly beautiful.

Once we were done at Cadillac Ranch we headed home, stopping in Dallas to see some family, and then making our slow trudge home (the drive from Dallas to Houston is supposed to take 3 hours, but for any number of reasons, it always takes 6).

Our trips are always adventurous even if they don’t go as planned. I guess that’s how I know I love my Hubby too, because instead of being ready to kill each other by the end of the trip, we were planning our next adventure!

Driftwood Projects

As you may already know, I have been selling my photography at the local farmers’ market for about a year now.  I don’t go every weekend (especially in the summer when it’s boating time!) but in the fall I have been going more and more consistently, and I have even had several repeat customers! I gotta tell ya, it feels pretty darn good.

Table set-up at the Farmers' Market
Table set-up at the Farmers’ Market-I was selling lemons too🙂

Anyway, I had been collecting driftwood for a while and then I stole borrowed my dad’s nail gun. I finally made the driftwood star for my guest room that I had been wanting to make.IMG_4282

The thing is, everyone that saw it said “Oh my God! You should sell those!” So I brought one to the farmers’ market. And it sold instantly. I made another one. It sold too. Every time I brought one to the market it sold. I couldn’t believe how quickly they went. Everyone said, “this is such a unique idea!”IMG_1198

Then one weekend before Thanksgiving an older married couple came up, looked at my star I had for sale, and asked if I make brands. Now, for those of you not familiar with what I mean by brands, I mean cattle brands. Some people design their own for fun, but others still have registered cattle brands that they use to brand their cattle (yes, it’s still a thing). Anyway, so he asked if I could make his brand, the M – (read as M Bar).

M Bar
M Bar

So when I made it and sent him this picture of it, he said, “great, now can you make 4 others?” He sent me a picture of the 4 other brands, which were all different, and to be Christmas presents for his kids back in North Dakota.

All of the brands together
All of the brands together

I worked on these brands for a while, but my work schedule got crazy busy, and then I ran out of small pieces of driftwood. So Hubby and I used that as an excuse to take our new little Runaway Camper out on her maiden voyage to the beach! We camped on the beach and filled half of the truck bed with driftwood. DSC_4160

I was able to finished the brands and get them to the new owner in time to ship them to North Dakota for Christmas. I also made some crosses, and one is a Christmas present for a friend of ours who moved far, far away (to Oklahoma City).

Cross

The blue background wood is the same wood from the table that I made (and seen below).  I wanted to make sure to use the wood for this gift, because the friend it is for is also familiar with the story of how I came about getting this reclaimed wood, and she would appreciate it (hopefully!) I’ve made a couple other crosses, but since this one was my favorite, at had to be the one I was giving as a gift🙂 So here are the finished brands! I hope his kids are happy to get them, because I think they turned out pretty neat!

M Bar C+ CVC M+ MNM

I’ve been making stars like crazy, but the brands really took a toll on my small pieces, so I need to go out and harvest again soon. Luckily it’s been a really warm winter so going down to the beach in December won’t be a big deal!

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