For all you Texans, you get this. You probably have a Bucket List, but then you have a separate Texas Bucket List, for things that every Texan should do. For all you non-Texans, I’m sorry. Hopefully you can get here some day and check all these things off of your list. Luckily there is now a song dedicated to a Texas Bucket List. It’s called My Texas, and it’s by The Josh Abbott Band. There is also a little known guy named Pat Green that sings along with him. You may have heard of him?
Anyway, the list in the song has pretty much everything you need to do in Texas – here is the breakdown.
1. Climb Enchanted Rock CHECK At least 4 times
2. Drink a cold Shiner down in Luckenbach CHECK Of course I have! And I’ll do it again, too!
3. Take your baby to the River Walk CHECK And I’m planning on going in March again!
4. Float the Frio River CHECK Used to do this every summer as a kid!
5. Listen to Red Dirt music on the radio CHECK Back when I was in high school, we had a good Texas country music station. Not anymore….
6. Eat Cooper’s In Llano* (sort of) CHECK I have an * by this, because I have had Cooper’s from Llano, but I haven’t had it IN Llano. They were leftovers a friend brought for me to try
7. Go to the Houston Rodeo CHECK Pretty much every year of my childhood, and I showed a steer in Houston
8. Sing “Carry On” at a Pat Green Show CHECK I saw Pat Green AT the Houston Rodeo
9. See an Abilene sunset
10. Catch a trout in Port A(ransas)
11. Heard the words to “Corpus Christ Bay” CHECK Robert Earl Keen is one of the best – I know all the words!
12. Watch fireworks on PK (I had to look this up, it’s Possum Kingdom Lake)
13. Have a kolache when you go through West* (sort of CHECK) Again, the * means I had them when a friend (the same friend who brought me Cooper’s from Llano by the way, brought me some, but I haven’t had fresh ones. Doesn’t matter though – they were still A-MAZ-ING.
14. Heard of the Larry Jo Taylor Fest
15. Go to the Fort Worth Stock Show CHECK I showed a steer here too
16. Sing along with Cory Morrow CHECK Did this 3 times last year!
17. See a hill country sunset CHECK It’s beautiful every time
18. Hike through Big Bend CHECK I practically lived there for 6 years while I was in college!
19. Let your hair blow through the Lubbock wind
20. Be somewhere that they call you “friend” CHECK I count a lot of places, most of them in Alpine. You always run into someone you know there!
21. Go to the San Antonio Rodeo CHECK Showed a steer here too…
22. Sing “Everclear” at a Roger Creager show CHECK At least 8 times
23. See an El Paso sunset CHECK Best place in Texas to get factory direct boots, but it was quite a drive to get to even when I lived out West. So of course I saw the sunset!
So as you can see, it’s a lot of sunsets and listening to good country music. I’ve done most everything on this list. I think there are a few things that need to be added to it though. See live music at The Salt Lick (and get the Family Style bbq meal. Just trust me on this.), go to Wurstfest in New Braunfels, the Llano Crawfish Open, horseback riding on the beach on South Padre, have a beer on the Front Porch of Terlingua, swim in Jacob’s Well, see a Willie Nelson show, drive down a hill country road to see the bluebonnets at their peak, watch the sunset over Lake Travis at The Oasis, drink cold Texas beer on a hot Saturday night, go 4 wheeling on the Brazos River, eat Huevos Rancheros at Bob’s Taco Station, eat at ALL of the Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ joints, and go on every brewery tour (this is going to be a hard one, since new breweries are popping up all the time!), smell the wild Mountain Laurel blooming, get a Round Rock donut, go to Pete’s Piano Bar, and climb Guadalupe Peak, the tallest mountain in Texas. Sounds like I’ll be busy, because I have a few more to do. And the things I’ve marked off the list already, I’ll probably do again.
On Earth As It Is In Texas.
Smell the Mountain Laurel
You haven’t done them all until you’ve seen Big Bend Brewing Company – the most remote Brewery in Texas, and one of the most remote in the USA!
Hubby and I usually use Thanksgiving as an “us” holiday. We either get together with friends or go out on our own. This year we decided to go camping in Big Bend National Park. This is where both of us did our thesis research, and basically where we lived for 6 years, so we miss it terribly. Last year around the same time, we went to Alpine, Texas for Art Walk and there was a terrible ice storm. There was a thick layer of ice on everything, and it was snowing.
Normally I like snow and don’t mind ice too much, but all of our friends who still live in the area stayed indoors where it was nice and toasty, so we didn’t get to see a lot of people. And we had planned on going to BBNP for a day, but the roads were closed because of the ice.
So what was there to do? Go to the coffee shop to drink coffee, and go to the bar to drink beer.
It was a great weekend, but not at all what we had planned.
Fast forward about 6 months, and I was getting pretty bad “city claustrophobia”. Every time I see a new building go up it makes me want to go back out to Far West Texas and never leave. So Hubby and I planned a camping trip for Thanksgiving Weekend in BBNP, in order for me to keep my sanity a little longer. Thanksgiving is the busiest weekend that the park has because the weather is usually fantastic (cold at night but nice during the day) and it’s a 4-day weekend for must of America. Of course, weather can also be terrible, like the year before. We basically had a 50-50 shot, so it was worth taking. And we won the weather jackpot. 40 degrees at night and 70 degrees during the day, with crystal clear skies. It was perfect. We managed to get a back country camp site on Pine Canyon Road and no one else was around. It was perfect. There were a few other campers further down the road, but far enough away that we couldn’t see or hear them. Solitude. Ahhh….
My main goal for the trip was to try out my astro-photography skills that I had acquired recently (with practice and YouTube) and I had a great time and some awesome success, if I do say so myself!
We also made time to do a hike on the Pine Canyon Trail, and head into Terlingua for some culture…
For those of you who have never been to Terlingua, never heard of Terlingua, or couldn’t imagine how people could live in the desolate and harsh desert floor, you need to see it at least once. Terlingua was once a booming town, known for mining quicksilver, also known as Mercury. Unfortunately they no longer needed Mercury (and they discovered that it makes you go crazy) so the mines closed up and the town became a ghost town. Now the Terlingua Ghost Town is a tourist attraction, and people have begun moving back into the formerly vacant buildings. The cemetery is still in use today, but has graves from the 1800s as well.
The people of Terlingua are interesting. The desert provides inspiration for artists and solitude for outlaws, and Terlingua is the crossroads for these people. Basically, if you want to be left to your own devises, this is where you move.
After hanging out and listening to the locals play guitar for a little while, we headed back into the park to drive some back roads to Santa Elena Canyon and then back up to the Chisos Basin to do some more star photos. On our drive, we spotted a rattlesnake in the road.
He had been hit by a car (you can see the blood on his head and on the road), but he was still alive. So Hubby got a long pole out of the truck bed, I directed traffic (ok, one car, but they still almost hit the snake!), and Hubby got the snake off the road.
Snakes don’t have to eat very often so hopefully he can heal up and get better before he starves. We tried our best at least! He was clearly not very happy with us, but it was for his own good.
It was a wonderfully successful camping trip and photography trip, and as badly as I wanted to stay and never come back to civilization, I just wasn’t ready to become a permanent desert rat. That just means that we will probably have to make the trek out to BBNP again very, very soon.
For many people, living in the Big Bend Region is a dream. They love the area, but the job market doesn’t allow them to live there full time. People take rides out to the desert on the motorcycles or take RVs to live in for a few days of isolation before heading back to the grind of the city. For others, they couldn’t imagine wanting to live in a desert, where so many things either stink, sting, or stick (e.g. skunks, rattlenakes/bees/wasps/other bitey things, and sticker burrs/goat heads/cactus, etc.) Other people don’t even know that Texas has mountains, and have never even heard of The Big Bend. But, for 6 short years, Hubby and I were able to live in The Big Bend Region while going to college at Sul Ross State University. While we were there we experienced a lot of different things: small town life (i.e. gossip and knowing everyone in town), getting annoyed with tourists for not knowing how to drive their giant rented RVs through town, having javelinas (pronounced ha-va-lee-na) eat rotten bird seed off the ground in my front yard and having the dog go berserk at 3 am because of it, having an epic battle in the backyard with the dog and a skunk at 5 am, ending up with a very disgusting (but proud of himself) dog and a zombie skunk that wouldn’t die. It was a pretty eventful 6 years.
However, our best experiences were outdoors.
During my undergrad career, I had plans to go to vet school so I majored in Animal Science, but developed the realization that veterinary work was NOT what I wanted to do. I was still interested in it, but no longer felt that medicine was my calling. Hubby majored in Biology and through him I was able to meet the Biology Professors and students, and we both decided to get our Master’s Degrees in Biology.
During this time, Hubby worked on his thesis research and I later worked on mine. It was good timing because we could both help each other out while we weren’t working on our own projects. We both researched different aspects of Black bear in Big Bend National Park (yes, there are bears in Texas *eye roll*). That means that we had a lot of amazing experiences with Black bear and other wildlife while we were looking for the bears. Here is a map of Big Bend that you can use as reference.
My gallery this week consists of photos taken while working on my research, Hubby’s research, and various other trips we took in the Big Bend Region. Each photo has a description of what we were doing at that time. Enjoy. I know I did.
I ended Part 1 when we were leaving Yellowstone and heading down to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Part 2 was a typical little rant explaining how NOT to be a jerk while you are Site-seeing. Part 3 was the actual hiking of the vacation, in Grand Tetons National Park.
Seeing as how much of Yellowstone tries very hard to kill you by either wildlife attack or geothermal flesh melting, the safest hikes are MILES AWAY in the Grand Tetons. This is probably why you get access to both parks when you pay your $25 admission. We started off by finding famous places for famous photos. I wanted to re-create the infamous Ansel Adams photo of the Grand Tetons with the Snake River flowing majephtically below, but we couldn’t find THE SPOT.
Instead, we found an awesome pull off that was covered up in tourists all taking pictures of the mountains. It was cold and windy, but I couldn’t just stay in the car! Then I wanted to find the famous barn that you see EVERYWHERE.
I googled it because I didn’t even know what it was called, and I found GPS coordinates for its location. I put those bad boys into our car GPS, and sure enough, it took us right to the beautiful old Mormon barns, complete with an information placard explaining about them. There were hardly any people there, so I waited somewhat patiently (ok, not patiently at all, but mainly because they were rude and walking ALL OVER THE AREA while I was trying to take pictures. Hubby kept telling me they have the same right to be there as me, and they will leave soon so I will be able to get my photos. yeah yeah….It was cold and about to rain! I needed them OUT OF MY SHOT!) There were little squirrels EVERYWHERE and we even saw a coyote that was hanging around, I’m assuming trying to hunt them as soon as the annoying humans got out of his way.
After we took these pictures we headed deeper into the park to do some true hiking. We were going to head to Jenny Lake, via the Taggart Lake trailhead. I really wanted to head to Lupine Meadows, because I knew the lupine would be blooming and I thought it would be a great photo-op. Unfortunately, we decided to head to Taggart Lake first and see how my back was taking the hike. If I was feeling good we would continue up to Lupine Meadows. This is where we made the wrong choice. Half of the 1 1/2 long trail was covered in snow. I’m not talking about a beautiful dusting of snow. I mean FEET OF SNOW. FOR 1/2 A MILE. IN ONE DIRECTION.
I thought “well, I’ve come this far. I have to finish this trail.” Bad idea. I have no experience traveling through deep snow. I have no equipment for traveling in deep snow. Hubby had holes in his hiking boots so his feet were soaked and frozen by the time we got to our destination. I had slipped and slid on snow that had been walked on so much it was turning to slick ice instead of crunchy snow. I fell through thin spots. Just to let you know, this is a horrible idea if you are having back pain. You use every muscle in your back with pretty much every step you take. So if you jerk to one side, all of your sore muscles get jerked too. Needless to say, we didn’t make it to Lupine Meadows. We did, however, make it to Taggart Lake. And it was breathtaking. Then we had the dreadful realization: we had to walk through all of that again.
I tried to break up the slip-n-slide journey by taking photos of stuff along the way. Where the snow was starting to melt, you could see little tunnels built by rodents in the snow. Now, I always knew that they did this, which is why there are so many silly pictures of foxes doing this:
But what I didn’t know is that it appears that rodents actually move soil in to create the tunnels – I thought they just tunneled through the snow itself, but clearly not, based on these pictures!
So while I was ready for this icy hike to be over, I was learning too, which is always fun! Once we finally got back through the snow and came upon the trail split that led to Lupine Meadows, I decided I couldn’t keep going up the mountain, because if I did I would have to be carried down the mountain on a stretcher because of my back. Seeing as how I didn’t want to become a hiking statistic, we headed back down the mountain to the car. I took a few more pictures to break up the hike, and when we got to the car, Hubby instantly took off his boots and socks and cranked up the heater on his poor frozen toe-sicles. Then he got on his phone and ordered a new pair of boots online. Sometimes you really have to love technology.
After our hike we went back to the cabin to take a nap a recuperate before bar-hopping in town. We enjoyed a little bit of night life, then we headed out to the mountain pull-off and I gave my star photography another shot (or two, or two hundred! ha). Since I was so excited about my next photography section, I was super proud of myself for being dressed warmly and prepared for a long time out in the wind. I even bragged to Hubby about how prepared I was. Then I realized that I forgot something. Something pretty darn important.
Part of my tripod.
See, there is this “speed clip” thing that you screw into the bottom if your camera, so you can just clip the camera in and out of the tripod quickly and easily. I took this off of my camera so that I could use my padded hand strap (which uses the same hole that the tripod speed clip uses). Instead of putting the clip back onto the tripod like a good girl, I put it on the table to “deal with later.”
That is always a horrible idea. At least for me. That is how things get misplaced and opportunities can potentially be lost! Luckily though, I’m a resourceful Texas Girl, so I did the next best thing. I made a small pile of gravel and used that as a sort of sand bag for my camera. It worked pretty darn well too, if I do say so myself!
Not only did I get to see some of the most beautiful scenery in the United States during a time that most people don’t get to see it, but while I was sitting on the ground freezing my tush off, I had the chance to hear coyotes singing in the river below, with no other sound and no other person around for miles. It was ah.maz.ing.
(yes, Hubby was there. He was “waiting” in the car. And when I say waiting, I mean unconscious. And snoring. And warm).
This made for a very late night (for me, since Hubby was “waiting”) but it was worth every second. I wished over and over that I had brought my speed clip, but I chalk it all up to the fact that I’m new to this whole photography thing, so I’m allowed to screw up once in a while.
Again, I put most of the pictures into a Gallery below. Enjoy, and send me some feedback! Do you prefer the photos mixed into the story or in the gallery at the bottom so you can enjoy them all together?
But the saving grace for the entire trip was that I was in Canada. You know what else is in Canada?
I swear, they are the nicest people you will ever meet.
They go out of their way to make you feel welcome and comfortable. It’s quite refreshing.
After my terrible first day, things started looking up.
My baggage showed up in the middle of the night…
And even though I had asked them to, the front desk people didn’t call me at 1 am to tell me it was here. And you know what? I’m glad they made that decision – what was I going to do with that information at 1 am? Run down and get my bag? No, I would have said ok, great. I’ll pick it up in the morning. So why call and wake me up about it? Better to just let me sleep and figure it out later. They are so nice.
I found out that my rental car wasn’t going to be ready until 10 am. I notified the people I was in town to see, and instead of waiting around all day for me to show up, they offered to pick me up at my hotel and take me to the property. Nice warm truck being driven by someone who knew where they were going? I’m in.
And when I was done for the day, he dropped me off at the rental car place. And this was my rental car…
They said that because I was so nice and patient with them since they had run out of cars the day before, they were only charging me for an economy car, but gave me an All Wheel Drive Kia Sorrento.
And a free GPS Rental.
See! When you are nice, nice things happen!
However, I didn’t have time to go see the polar bears.
It was an hour drive and they close early in the winter, so instead I drove to nearby Hersey Lake and took some photos, adding 4 new species to my bird list in the meantime!
And I also got to see something completely new and foreign to me…
First time in my life I had seen a lake frozen solid. It kind of scared me, I’m not going to lie. I was sure if I ventured too close to the edge I would fall through, even though those are snow-mobile tracks going across the middle of it!
I met up with John again in the hotel bar that evening. The hotel staff were all having their staff Christmas Party, so it was me and him watching hockey in the bar and showing each other pictures of our dogs.
I had told him the night before after he so kindly paid for my dinner, that I would pay him back the next night. I’m sure he thought I had forgotten, but I always try to keep my word so I made sure to meet up with him again. Since the hotel staff were having their Christmas party and the restaurant was closed, we went to The Restaurant (I’m not making that up).
It was a dive restaurant (my favorite!) that was attached to a gas station.
I told John that I had to have the traditional Canadian dish of french fried and gravy, what the Canadians call Poutine. He said that The Restaurant was the best place in town for that, so that’s where I wanted him to take me.
We didn’t realize that they were close to closing when we walked in, but we ordered our Poutine (Quebec style, with cheese curds) and a couple sodas and sat and talked for a good while. There aren’t many people that I can just sit and talk to as if I have known them for years, so it was nice to be able to do that after I had had such a crappy trip.
After dinner the waitress came and got our plates with her purse in her hand, ready to go. We didn’t even notice that she was waiting on us! We got out as fast as we could and apologized over and over for making her wait. I paid for dinner like I told him I would, and then he asked if I had ever been to Tim Horton’s.
We ordered our coffee (decaf since it was like 9 pm by this time) and John had me pick out a Christmas ornament. He refused to let me pay for the coffee and ornament, saying, “it’s Christmas!”
Then he gave me a “toonie” which is the Canadian $2 coin, because he wanted to make sure I had actually seen a Polar Bear on my trip.
Again, we sat and talked like old friends, and enjoyed our coffee. He talked about once when he thought his eye was about to pop out of his head and I talked about when both my eardrums blew out in grad school. Then we discussed the differences of healthcare in Canada and in The US. It was great. John said that he had been trying really hard to NOT say “ahe?” the whole time (he apparently wasn’t doing a very good job of it because it was like every sentence) because “it’s so typically Canadian,” but all I did was laugh and say something along the lines of “I think it’s fine – you are Canadian afterall….”
The second day of my three day trip was spectacular.
John was a welcome new friend, and I hope we keep in touch.
Everyone else I met was so nice and made me wish I lived in Canada, simply because everyone in the country is automatically your friend.
However, seeing as how this was the temperature the entire time I was there…
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to do anything specifically “earth friendly” yesterday because I was traveling all day long to Oklahoma instead of being at home (which is also why I didn’t have time to write this until Earth Day was over). But to make up for it, I planted some new plants in the front yard to beautify the front of the house over the weekend.
However, I would love to hear what YOU have planned for Earth Day? Have you gone hiking? Did you walk to work? Donated your time and/or money to a conservation organization?
One great thing that you could do is sign a petition to help shark conservation, or teach a child how to start a compost bin.
Really, there are so many ways you can help the earth, and although we should treat every day like Earth Day, one day at a time is a good way to get people, who might not otherwise participate, to take a step towards conservation, recycling, or sustainable energy use.
Not too long ago, a couple girls at my office, Zombie and Poltergeist Prevention, Inc. asked me what I was going to do for my birthday. Jokingly, girl #1 said “what are you doing for your birthday? Climbing Mount Kilamanjaro?” And girl #2 agreed with her that we are always adventuring, so there is no telling what our weekends have in store. And again today, I ran into an old friend from high school, and in casual conversation with her boss, whom I had just met, my friend explained to him that we are adventurous people. This is probably one of the nicest things someone has said about me. So it made me think about creating a bucket list.
So, without further ado, and in no particular order other than this is the order I thought of them, my bucket list:
1. Go to South Africa and Kenya for my 30th birthday
2. Climb Mt. Kilamanjaro for my 40th birthday (the girls at work had a good idea!)
3. Dive the Great Barrier Reef
4. Meet Jane Goodall
5. Swim with polar bears!
6. Swim with great whites! (Ok, ok. In a cage).
7. Visit all 50 states of the US
8. Visit every continent (I got this idea from my dad, the Intrepid Traveler, who has almost done this!)
9. Run a marathon
10. Hike the Pacific Crest trail
11. Dive every sea
12. See an octopus in the wild
13. See the aurora borealis
14. See the aurora australis
Now, by no means is this a finite list. I will continue to add to it, and I have already scratched something’s off my list, before I ever really wrote it down.
Like I have hiked the tallest peak in Texas. Twice.
I have been to Alaska and Hawaii, the two hardest states to hit when attempting to hit all 50.
I have been parasailing in the Florida Keys.
I can’t wait to start crossing a few things off my list, so I have room to add more to my list!
These are my silly travel stories where I use humor and sarcasm to explain other cultures and world events. I use this forum to be a voice for the Little Guy. Little Guys have tiny, squeaky voices and no one wants to hear them anyway.