Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sand Sledding

After scrambling around the sand dunes, Paige finally spied the perfect sledding hill, just steep enough for maximum safe velocity.

The kids got their sleds all primed and ready for the devastatingly fast slide down the hill.

I'm kind of scared, Mom. What if we can't stop before we reach the bottom?

Wow. You are going so fast! I can barely see you! You're just a blur!

Be quiet, Mom. Your sarcasm is not appreciated.

Maybe you'll go faster if you lean back in your sled and then Dad can give you a pull-start.

Oh. Well. That made no difference.

I'll guess we'll have to take you somewhere with snow so you can really go sledding.

Snow. EWWW.

Going to try again with Phoebe, Jerry? Yes, she is the lightest so maybe she can go faster.

She did go faster. Slightly. Picture your grandma going down the street in her Oldsmobile, looking between the steering wheel and the dash.

That's about how fast Phoebe went.

In other words, Josh could swim down faster.

At least he got to make a sand angel!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monahans Sandhills

From Fort Davis, we took the time to explore some of the lesser known state parks within driving range of nowhere.

One was Monahans Sandhills State Park, located about two hours northeast of Fort Davis.

As you can decipher from the name, Sandhills State Park is, you guessed it, sandhills. Mile after mile of sand dunes rising 50+ feet into the air.

There is a geology lesson here. You want to hear it?

I didn't think so.

The park boasts picnic areas, a restroom complete with showers, and even an RV park for the die-hard sand lovers.

Inside the visitors center you can rent plastic disk sleds to go sliding down the dunes. As sad as it is, my children have never seen more than a few flakes of snow let alone gone sledding.

Never built a snowman, made a snow angel, or eaten not-yellow snow. Not once. We're going to have to remedy that, soon.

Anyway, we figured that since snow is not in our immediate future, we might as well let the kids go sledding on something powdery and white. White-ish.

After parking, we walked and walked into the park, searching for the perfect sledding sand dune. Phoebe charged the way, as Phoebe does........

.....and then promptly tuckered out, started fussing, and needed a hand. As Phoebe does.

It's kind of hard to imagine, looking at this photo, that we are in the middle of oil country Texas. You just never know what you're going to find in the middle of nowhere.....

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Screaming at Your Husband

Don't you love it when you have to scream at one of your children in front of a bunch of strangers because if you don't your child might get eaten by a mountain lion?

Yeah, I hate that, too.

I'm not used to going to places where we have to worry about the littlest members of our group being eaten by anything other than mosquitoes. But out here in the desert mountains, we had to be on the alert for black bears and mountain lions. Both of which will, and have, hunted and attacked small children.

So you can imagine my fear when on the first night in the woods of Fort Davis Mountains State Park, as I'm walking the trash to the bear-proof dumpster down the hill, I look back and see Phoebe straying too far away from the camper.

Did I mention it was dusk? Did I mention Phoebe ran at least 100 yards away from Jerry who was outside "watching" her?

He was THRILLED when I screamed at him, across the RV park with at least five other families within ear range, "JERRY! PHOEBE IS RUNNING AWAY! STOP HER!!"






"JERRY!!!!!!! GET PHOEBE NOW!!!!!!!!!!

Then he turned and saw that she was vanishing behind the Airstream up the path.

He went and got her. And she was uneaten, thank you GOD.

(If you know my husband, at all, you will know that he does not like being yelled at, told what to do, nagged, or harassed by a woman in any way. He particularly doesn't like being yelled at, told what to do, nagged, or harassed by THIS woman in front of a group of complete strangers. He's a chauvinistic gentleman.)

(And yes, he did call me "woman". I LOVE that. I usually don't care when Jerry shows off his most chauvinistic characteristics, but when he refers to me as "woman", my inner feminist goes into high alert. I am "WOMAN" hear me roar! Especially when he's about to let one of my offspring become dinner.)

(Why don't we ever hear someone say in a condescending voice, "MAN"? Like, "Be quiet, man, you are bugging me!" or "Hold it down, man, you are interrupting Grey's Anatomy?" It's just not right!)

We may not have lost Phoebe to the lions, but we almost lost Belly to the javelinas. She is a boar-hunter after all. If it wasn't for her 11 years, arthritis, and complete lack of interest, she would have completely devoured one these relatives of the hippo.

There were enough of them around for just about any boar hound worth it's salt to catch. Our poor deceased Lucy would have run one of those pig-like animals down and eaten it for a snack.

Unless she stopped to smell it first. These things really do smell like an old skunk that rolled in horse droppings.

The dudes camping across from us kept feeding them cereal from the safety of their Wal-Mart folding chairs. These animals weighed at least 100 pounds a piece.

Nothing says safety like canvas and metal folding chairs.

Somethings you just can't teach.

Like how to keep your child from being eaten by a lion.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Fort Davis

Drive north a few hours out of Big Bend National Park, through Alpine, TX and a surprisingly beautiful Sul Ross University, and you will bump into a real gem of a small, West Texas town; Fort Davis.

The drive itself starts out flat. Flat and nothing. Flat and nothing but flat and nothing. For a very, very long time. This flat nothingness is so boring that even the short trees and scrub brush is too tired to grow. Nothing but a long, straight road with hundreds of miles of fence along each side. Somebody owns this land. I wonder what they do with it?

But eventually the random smatterings of mountains that dot this nothingness start to converge until you are driving up and around and through them. These are beautiful mountains, red and brown and glistening in the near constant sunshine.

Pockets of cottonwood trees pop up out of nowhere along with their friends the pinon pine and mesquite trees. Thar's water in them thair hills somewhar.

The town of Fort Davis is quaint with a quintessential town square and municipal building that could have served as the backdrop when McFly went back to the future.

The whole town is an old-fashioned tourist trap trying to find it's way to the future. Next to the old pharmacy complete with soda fountain is a whole foods market as well stocked as we've seen for a mom and pop store. Between an RV park and laundromat is a natural healing, stone and crystal type of hippie joint. The new new is the 70's.

Also in the town is the Fort Davis National Historic Site. It houses relics and rebuilds of an important fort that served to protect West Texas from Native Americans and bandits from 1854-1891. The Confederate Army was stationed there as were regimens of the Buffalo Soldiers, the all-black infantry that so famously kept at bay some of the most dangerous and violent Native American tribes such as the Apaches and Comanches.

There is a wonderful opportunity for a hands on history lesson.

Maybe next time..... (I know, shame on us. But we were tired I tell you! Desert dry, burnt out, stick of fork in me tired! History is just too tiring when you're already worn out.)

Slightly north of Fort Davis is Fort Davis State Park. It's not a very large park but it's housed within the crook of the beautiful Davis Mountains (named after "Jeff" Davis as he's known in these parts).

At the top of the highest peak within the park is a scenic overlook. After taking a switchback road to the top (me with my eyes closed), you can get a beautiful view of this rough and ready area.

(If you look closely on those distant mountains, you can see small bumps sticking up. Those are the observatories at the McDonald Observatory. We enjoyed a night under the stars at a "Star Party" where we got to look through some of their impressive telescopes. I didn't take any photos there. I would have gotten pushed off the mountain by the long-haired guide for using flash photography. I believed him. Even hippies get tough out here in the middle of nowhere.)

This is the other side of the mountain. Rolling hills on one side, flat plains on the other. Somewhere down there is a HUGE greenhouse glinting like a mirage in the wide-open space. I wonder what they grow in there? Something properly Texas-sized, I'm sure.

Even though there is nothing obvious to do on top of the mountain, we went a few times just to enjoy the scenery. Sometimes a place is fun with nothing more to offer than rocks and a view.

Paige hunted like a beagle, sniffing out hundreds of small quartz crystals. Now I understand the rock store in town.

Phoebe busied herself by denuding a poor, unsuspecting flowering bush.

Josh did what any decent boy would do. He threw rocks off of the side of the mountain.

And Jerry did what any decent semi-grown-up boy would do: He joined in.

As for me? I sat. I sat and sat and sat. And was perfectly happy. In my yoga pants.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mountain Climbing

For the past two weeks I have been desert chronicling for you our trip to Big Bend National Park. What you may not have realized is that for the past two weeks I have only been talking about one day of our trip.

It took me two weeks to blog one day.

I think it's time to move on.....

Behind our RV at Lajitas near Big Bend was this awesome rocky mountain. One afternoon we had seen some people riding 4-wheelers down a path that seemed to lead up into the beautiful striated mountain. Since we had no 4-wheelers, we decided to follow the path on 2-legs.

It's much, much slower.

We set out one morning but we didn't get very far before we came across a no trespassing sign. I was in favor of going farther the other way where there was no sign and then going up the mountain, but Jerry said no. I can't blame him, really. I had been the one to send my children illegally across an international border. (I promise I did not know it was illegal!!!!)

So instead, we made an about-face and decided to climb the smaller, loose-rocked hills between our RV and the mountain.

The hills were very crumbly and had many water run-off grooves. Josh scrambled up like a mountain goat while Paige carefully tried to keep pace.

It didn't help her climbing that Josh was so fast that he was slinging rocks at her face.

Josh climbed up one, down another, up one, down another so fast we couldn't keep up. I tried very hard not to freak out over the heights he was reaching.

Paige was mostly able to keep up, but poor Phoebe was just not coordinated enough to climb up the crumbling hills.

She may not be a good climber, but this girl is fantastic at crying. A real, queen of fussing. Mistress of misery. A whining winner.

It makes me feel bad for her, and for me and my chronic stress disorder to which she has been the main contributor. Apparently I cannot handle crying babies.

Jerry gave her a comforting hug and some fatherly words of encouragement while I tried to hide my eye twitching from the near constant crying.

Whatever he said to her seemed to work:

Good job, baby! You are climbing that hill like a chimp! I mean champ!

Belly was with us on this walk and she seemed interested in climbing up with us. Here she is trying not to die from heatstroke. What I do not have documented is how the dang dog got to the top of that steep, crumbling hill.

I'll just say that my hands were way too close to the nastiest part of the dog as I pushed her up the hill.

After they had their fill of climbing, the kids decided to walk along the ridge of the hill before climbing down. A ridge that was flanked by 70 degree drop-offs on both sides. They weren't scared so I said nothing.

And didn't watch them do it. And I prayed. And I hyperventilated...

And then I walked with Belly down the not-so steep side of the hill. Belly was tired I tell you!

This was a fun little way to get our blood pumping first thing in the morning. Then we went back to the RV, loaded up our stuff, and headed north to our next camping destination:

Fort Davis Mountains State Park

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Small Spaces

After a long day of touring Big Bend National Park, we were ready to go back to the RV and chill. Maybe go for a swim, have a glass of wine or three, and watch Jerry cook some dinner on our portable gas grill.

Oh, yes, ladies. Be jealous. Whenever we're RV-ing, or anywhere but home, Jerry cooks dinner. He is the champion of making something from nothing.

Something delicious from nothing.

Here's our RV. RV-ing is fun, usually, but being a portable vehicle means things can break. And often do.

Such as the key that opens the storage bin that holds our grill. It's hard to have a great grilled meal with no grill.

After finally getting one side open, Jerry discovered the grill had slid to the other side of the storage bin. To the side that we could not get open.

What to do?

Step 1: Find a small human willing to squeeze into tight-fitting places. Claustrophobics need not apply.

Step 2: Shove tiny person into the tight-fitting space. Gently. Have them hand to you whatever it is you need and can't reach.

Step 3: Remove tiny person from tight, enclosed space. Step 3, Josh. Get out, Josh. Seriously. GET OUT!

I'm starting to get claustrophobic just looking at him.

Thanks for the grill, tiny man. You da best.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Friends Forever

The last time and only time Jerry and I were at Big Bend was about 12 years ago when we came here with our friends, John and Nina.

John and Jerry were at pilot training at Laughlin, and Nina and I were new spouses. You know, the ones we old ladies now love to hate.

Way back when, we went to Big Bend for a long weekend of sweating and fun. We stayed in a tent down by the river, over Memorial Day weekend, so we got plenty of opportunities to get very, very hot.

One afternoon we came up into the Chisos to cool off. I don't think it worked.

Nina and I posed for this picture in front of the "Window". We were very careful to suck in our stomachs and cover up any embarrassing tummies.

I remember thinking how I needed to lose a few pounds. Looking back, I didn't need to lose a thing. I was young, hot, and sexy.

And so was Nina.

So when we were looking at the "Window" on this recent trip, I got all nostalgic thinking about the past. I miss those casual days with no stress or worry. I miss my flat pre-baby tummy.

But mostly, I miss my friend.

Nina, you are so dear to me. We may not see each other as often as we like, but you will be my friend forever. And ever.

You are still young,hot, and sexy to me! And will always be!

Love you, girl!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Chisos Mountains

In the middle of Big Bend National Park are the Chisos Mountains. It is the southernmost mountain range in the United States, and the only range contained completely within the boundaries of a national park.

The highest peak is Emory Peak at 7825' above sea level.

There is a beautiful, winding drive up into the mountain range where you can see beautiful peaks, desert plants as they give way to pinion pines, and maybe even a black bear.

I got out of the car to take this picture. You're welcome. Yet, somehow, it's still blurry.

I try. I try really hard to take nice photos for you. I blame my camera. Often.

Within the center of the Chisos is the Basin. There is a restaurant, visitor's guide, ranger station, a lodge, and a supplies store.

From here, you can hike many trails, eat some ice cream, and watch out for bear and mountain lions. We saw a bear but no cougars. I'm not too sad about that.

These mountains are so gorgeous even my Suburban looks good up here. Lookin' good, Silly Bus!

Here is a bronze statue in the middle of a sidewalk. Whatchoo lookin' at bird?

As we had already seen the Santa Elena canyon, potentially broken the law at the Rio Grande, and almost ran over a black bear, we decided on the easy hike to see the "Window".

Hello, road runner. You are skinny, fast, and probably taste like chicken. Josh is fast, but not fast enough to cast this Wil E. Coyote.

Here we are, we made it to the placard explaining to us what we are seeing in the distance. Hi, kids!

Here is the "Window" itself. It is a pass between two peaks that allows the viewer to see past the mountains beyond to the undulating park lands below. If only I had a nice camera....

But I did finally get Photoshop, so here is the "Window" in artistic style #3. Or something. Actually, I have no idea how I got the above photo to look like this, but whatever, I like it, it looks cool, and it is now the design of my business cards.

Photoshop is a complete mystery to me.

And behind me there is a pretty nice view, too. How ya doing, honey? I'm tired, too. Just one more photo, please.

One for my home-girl, Nina.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Blurry Car Photos

What's even more annoying than having to look at someone else's vacation photos? How about having to look at someone else's vacation photos taken out of a car window while going 80 mph?

Let's see how you like THIS!

Ooooh, ahhhhh! Under-exposed mountains behind blurred out trees! Beautiful!

More mountains, blurry trees, and now some great car interior reflections! Right on!

What's that? What is that I took a picture of through the front windshield? What can it be walking up the road on the way to the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park?

Yes, that my friends is a juvenile black bear going for a stroll down a winding park road. He should get out of the way. Even at only 45 mph, when we came around the corner and saw him there Jerry had to slam on his breaks so fast my camera almost flew through the windshield.

That would have been sad. No more junky photos for you to look at.

Now what? Forget about the bear! This is AMAZING!

That's not dead bug juice smeared on the window after rolling it up and down.

That's a UFO! Honest!