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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?
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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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Home Improvements #1

 

Our house didn’t have much we wanted to change when we bought it, which is always great. We did some painting but not much else on the inside, and we are working on the yard situation this Spring.

I was trying to clean up with Guest Bathroom a couple of weeks ago, when I was finally bothered by something. There is this material you can put over the glass in windows that is very opaque, and you can get different patterns, (i.e. smoky, frosted, etc.) to allow light into the room, but prevent people from seeing in. This stuff is great for bathroom windows. I had never heard of it before until I was in college. In this old house we were renting, there was a relatively large window in the bathroom. In the shower. From about mid-rib up. And we lived on the main street. Not really something I want everyone in town to see. So we did the classy college-student thing, and duct-taped a black trash bag up in the window. Nice, right? We kept it like that for a while, until my boss and friend, Moxie, gave me this contact paper-like material. It was great! It was blue and looked like water spots, but still allowed light into the room. The difference was amazing.

So when we bought our house I saw that a similar paper was used in the Guest Bathroom window. However, because that window is exposed to the southern sun, it gets very warm, and the contact paper stuff began to peel off. What was their solution? Scotch tape of course! That’s what was bothering me.

This is what it looked like after I got it off the window. It looks like butcher paper : /

 

It was peeling up and taped down, and just looked gross. I wasn’t going to just take it down and not replace it with something, so I thought, ‘what would That Clever Chick do?’ I went to Hobby Lobby and got some glass froster!

What you need: this little package came with everything you need, but I was pleased to notice that the little application sponge was just the same as my makeup sponge things, so I have a bunch of them in case I needed more. I think I ended up using one additional one, because the one thing I didn’t do was clean out the window track at the bottom of the window. Just like all windows, it had a nice collection of dead bugs that you don’t see until you are trying to paint a window, and then the dead bugs get pulled into the paint. Lovely. So if you do this, make sure you do that first!

Before. Notice my neighbor's house is clearly visible. Not cool.

First you have to make sure the window is REALLY clean. Now, I didn’t buy the glass etching acid stuff. That was some hardcore chemical I didn’t feel like being in a confined space with. And the stuff I bought was a LOT cheaper. My mantra!

After the first coat

So all you have to do is put one layer of the gloss on the window in a pattern you prefer, wait an hour, and then apply another coat. I think you can put up to 4 coats on it. I did 3. I’m not super artistic, so I did swirls. I figured it would break up the sillouette even more, just in case it wasn’t as glossy as I had planned.

The Window: The final product, after 3 layers of gloss.

I’m sure my sister, The Clever Chick, would have come up with a much better way to do this, and it would have looked amazing if she did it, but she lives a few hours away, and I did this in one afternoon, so I’m happy with it. Next I’m planning on potting a couple orchids to put into the window, but I might wait until we plan of having guests again, so they will be sure to bloom for them and get the full effect. If you do something like this, let me know how it goes!

Mud Pies

Today I got to make mud pies! Do you know how long it’s been since I did that? It’s got to have been around 15 5 years!

See, for my job I get to (on rare occasions) test soil that is suspected of being contaminated with hazardous substances (i.e. toxic waste!)

This is actually what I think of as the fun part of my job. So of course, I don’t get to do it that often. But soon that should change! As I gain experience, hopefully soon I can do bigger and grosser projects! Yes, that is really what I hope for. Grossness.

I have never liked sitting in front of a computer all day. When I was in grad school I would go outside and study on the benches in the shade. And then take a nap. I loved my school. I could sleep out in the middle of campus and not worry about being violated or robbed! But I digress…

My job has some nice perks, but I’m in front of the computer all the time, and rarely get to see the sun. Seriously. Winter sucks, because it’s dark when I get to work, and dark when I leave. I can’t wait til the time change!

So on the few days I get to be outside, it’s much appreciated. And, did I mention, I got to make mud pies?

See, when we are checking the ground for toxic waste (ok, it’s not really called that in the “industry” but it’s more fun) we take soil samples. And have to jam dirt into jars, and take up as much space within the jar as possible, attempting to keep out all the air/free space. This sounds easy, until you get into areas like San Antonio, where I have seen the hardest clays imaginable. And you have to use your fingers. I must not be describing this very well, because even as I re-read it, it doesn’t sound that bad. But believe me, my thumb, forefinger, and middle finger are freakin’ sore! And I didn’t even hit that hard of clay today! But we did hit a very silty sand today that was soaking wet.

It was just like when you were a kid, and your dad (if he was like mine), ordered a truck load of fill dirt, and didn’t do anything with it until the Home Owners Association wrote you an angry letter about it looking “unappealing” on the driveway. And then he still didn’t do anything with it, because by that time it had rained, and the dirt was running down the driveway. But as a kid, you HAVE to make mud pies! You get a big handful of dirt/mud, put it on the driveway, and pat it into a perfect circular convex shape. (I’m sure my mom has pictures of me and Big Sis doing this, while it was still raining. And lightning.)

So this is how I felt today. (Not that dirty, but I was almost that excited!)

“Can I come inside and watch TV now?”
 
It was a beautiful morning to be outside, and I’m truly thankful that I have a job that lets me out of the cave every once in a while.