As December came to a close, we viewed with trepidation the many brown cedar trees in the Hill Country. About half the cedars (actually classified as Ash Juniper) were covered with fat, blue juniper berries that squished beneath our shoes and stained everything they touched. The other half, however, looked as if they might be dying; the tips of their branches were a golden brown. Not so, however; those who know realize the brown tips are laden with cedar pollen. The male trees were just waiting for a hard freeze and a stiff north wind to distribute their allergens far and wide.
As we have for the past several years, we made plans to be as far from the Texas Hill Country as possible when that pollen release occurred. John, you see, is highly allergic to cedar pollen. The usual allergy relief measures are largely ineffective, and if we can't "get out of Dodge," he can look forward to at least four weeks of sickness and misery.
We pulled out of Austin on January 1, bound for Port Aransas, Texas. We were just in time! On New Year's Eve, the allergy report showed cedar allergens in the single digits. On January 2, Austin listed a record-breaking 7300 ppm, the highest recorded since they began keeping records in 1997. The trip was uneventful except that we had to stop twice to air up one of the RV tires that isn't happy with its valve stem and has developed a slow leak. Oh, and we started our birdwatching with this lovely Caracara feasting on road kill beside the highway.
We are camped at Gulf Waters RV Resort between Port Aransas and Corpus Christi. It's a lovely park (actually an RV condominium development) and most of the sites are owned as opposed to rented. People who are not currently using their sites rent them out, so we have the best of both worlds...good neighbors and a lovely, well-maintained park for a reasonable rate.
Gulf Waters is also a very dog-friendly place. Almost every RV appears to have one or more four-legged friends. In fact, when we checked in, each dog received a treat attached to the park's rules for dogs. I had planned to take a photo of the clever little treats, but by the time I pulled out the camera, this is all I found! The dogs, however, are having a wonderful time.
The part that hasn't been so wonderful is the weather. We have been here a week now, and except for the day we arrived there has been only one "seasonable" day. The rest of the time we have experienced temperatures in the 40s and 50s with north winds in the mid to high 20s. Brrrrrr! The effects of the "polar vortex" phenomenon that is keeping temperatures frigid in most of the nation is alive and well here, too. (John saw a news report today that said the average temperature in the US is 17 degrees. Yesterday it was 14 degrees!) It's been cold, but at least we haven't had rain.
Both Port Aransas and Rockport have dog parks, thank goodness. Colt, Kota and Rue know the words, "dog park," and get very excited when we load up to go romp with their friends and chase balls. The Port A park is smaller, but has grass. Rockport has this lovely, shaded area, but it's mostly sand. Both meet with the dogs' approval. They're just thrilled to have a chance to run.
Gulf Waters is located just 100 yards from the beach. On Saturday the weather was sunny and warm enough for us to take a walk on the beach. It wasn't warm enough to swim or wade, however. Besides, plenty of jellyfish had washed up on the beach and we wanted no part of them!
The dogs had a lovely romp, but thankfully kept everything but their feet dry.
We saw a few gulls and this stately Great Blue Heron, but hope to have better birding when the weather improves. Temperatures are supposed to moderate somewhat the end of this week, so we're optimistic.