Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year!

December arrived before we knew it, and our schedule got even busier.  We were back-and-forth to the farm several times, and on the 16th we arrived to find our upper stock tank covered with ducks…at least a hundred and maybe more.  Some were scaup and other mud-hen type ducks, but others were mallards.  The next morning John and I put on our camo, loaded our shotguns, and went hunting.  We were not disappointed.  We came home with four beautiful, and tasty, birds.

But the best part of the story came after the hunt.  Three of the ducks fell on dry land and were easily retrieved.  The fourth, however, fell into the tank out of our reach.  We went back to the house to get the dogs.  John was dubious, but I was sure Kota, who loves to swim and is quite a hunter, could be convinced to go into the water and bring back the duck.  Not!  She danced around on the shore, but didn’t make the connection since she is accustomed to fetching sticks thrown into the water with a splash.  

Colt, however, saved the day.  Demonstrating the versatility of the border collie, at my urging he swam out, grabbed the duck and brought it back to me. 

He was very proud!

We spent Christmas in Lake Jackson with John’s mom, then returned to the farm for a week catching up on chores.  The weather has been wonderful, and we’ve had a relaxing time.  Not just us, but the dogs as well.  After a hard morning walking the trails on top of the mountain, I came into the bedroom to find Rue curled up on her favorite spot among the pillows.

We had another successful duck hunt on Friday, with Kota and Cousin Molly doing the duck fetching this time.  Molly, Allan and Jef's Brittany spaniel, is a wonder.  At age 11, she covers more ground than any of the other dogs, nose and stubby tail going non-stop.  After some concern earlier this year about a heart murmur, she seems to have recovered completely and is the first one to any brush pile or rabbit hole.  

She loves to swim, and never passes up the opportunity to take to the water.

And Molly isn't alone.  Colt is also an avid swimmer.

Kota, too, loves the water, and with great gusto shakes herself almost dry when she comes out.

The farm is a great place to be a dog!

We had a mostly quiet week here.  We shared the Thursday night special at the Horny Toad Bar and Grill in Cranfills Gap with Cousins Kathy and Eric.  Then we rang in a (very early) New Year with my brother and his family.  

2016 has been a good year, and we wish all of you a Happy and Prosperous 2017!  

Friday, December 30, 2016

Reconnecting with Family

We got back to Austin in time to vote in the 2016 Presidential Election on November 8, and to see the “Supermoon” rise on November 14.

Technically a “perigee full moon,” this was the biggest and brightest in 60 years.  This phenomenon occurs when the full moon coincides with the date the the moon is closest to the earth in its orbit.  Fortunately, the sky was clear, so we had a good view of the moon as it rose' and when it set the following morning.

We made a quick visit to Lake Jackson to see John’s mother and her husband, and to celebrate John’s and my birthdays.

Then it was back to the farm to get ready for Thanksgiving.  We arrived to find that the outer pane of the sliding glass door to our bedroom had been broken…but we had no idea by what.

The impact point was about head-high, but there was no object nearby that could have shattered the glass and no one had been there since our last visit.  We thought maybe a bird had flown into the glass, but there was no dead creature on the porch and no feathers.  The only crime-scene “evidence” were turkey droppings on the porch outside the door.  At this point, our best guess is that one of the turkeys engaged in a fierce battle with his reflection in the glass, and that his strong, sharp beak had shattered the glass.  Any other ideas?

At any rate, I had fun taking pictures of the patterns created by the safety glass and the way colors reflected in it.

When we arrived, we were happy to find that the white-faced heifer Erin and Anna’s kids named “Cupcake” had presented us with a healthy bull calf.  Here he is with his mother

and with his brothers and sister.  They all look just like their daddy.

On Friday, Brian, Debi, Gage, Myles and Mallory arrived to celebrate Thanksgiving with us.  

Mallory got the loft bed, and Myles and Gage sacked out on the sofa and the floor.

It was a great weekend.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Home to Texas

The night before we left, Silver City treated us to a magnificent sunset...and a beautiful sunrise the next mountain.  

When it came time for us to leave, we were in a bit of a quandary.  Earlier, in Tucson, the Falcon had been reluctant to go into reverse gear.  It was an intermittent problem, and John had been able to manage by putting the truck in and out of gear several times.  Each time, after a couple of tries, he had been able to get into reverse and back up.  When the Falcon was in the shop in Tucson to have the driver’s door lock repaired, John had asked about the problem.  He was told that it was probably due to a faulty electrical code, and that it should now be resolved.  

Not!  On Tuesday morning when John attempted to back under the fifth wheel in Silver City, the truck would go into reverse, then immediately slip out again.  Thankfully, the upper end of our RV site was on a slight slope.  After several tries to engage reverse, John was able to roll the truck back under the RV and hook up.  After that, we took no chances.  We made sure that our next stops were pull-through sites where we could leave the fifth wheel hooked to the truck.   

We hit the road early, headed back to Texas.

Around noon we were approaching the lovely Organ Mountains, and had a great view when we stopped for lunch at a rest stop on the edge of Las Cruces.

Then we were off again following I-10 along the Texas-Mexico border.  Past sagebrush and dairy farms we flew.

We stopped for the night at Van Horn RV Park, a former KOA that offered a fenced dog run and an on-site cafe where we had breakfast on Wednesday morning.  The food was good, but the service was quite slooooow, since only one guy was handling orders, cooking and the cash register.  Another lesson learned:  if there is only one person there  besides other diners, move on!

Another hard day of driving brought us to San Angelo and the lovely San Angelo State Park, where we had camped on our way west some 3+ months before.  It is a lovely park, and we had a large, grassy site that unfortunately turned to mud the following morning. It was a special time, though.  Our grandson, Gage Wann, who is a freshman at Angelo State University, was able to come out for a visit and dinner at Twin Mountain Steak House just a couple of miles from the park.  Dinner was great, and the chance to visit with Gage even better!

On Thursday morning we hooked up in the rain and pulled out for Central Texas.  We had phoned ahead to the Waco Volvo dealer to make arrangements for them to check out our reverse gear issues.  As we drove east, water was everywhere…in the ditches, running around the spillways of the stock tanks, and pooling in the pastures.  Clearly, it has been raining for several days.

We checked in at the dealership, then between showers loaded the dogs and our most essential gear (coffeepot, computers, camera and perishable food) into Tracker.  We said a reluctant good-bye to Falcon and the Royals, never dreaming it would be a very long three weeks before repairs would be finished so we could bring them home.  

The trip home down IH 35 was in a torrential downpour most of the way.  We did have one piece of good luck; just south of Waco an accident had completely shut down the southbound lanes of the interstate.  We were using WAZE, which warned us just in time for us to exit and detour through Brucevillel-Eddy.  As luck would have it, by the time we made it back to the interstate, we were south of the accident site and there were hardly any cars on the road!  We drove all the way home accompanied by only a half-dozen autos that had entered the highway south of the shut-down.  We were glad to be home, but felt a little lost having abandoned our truck and RV 90 miles to the north.  

Friday, November 18, 2016

Respite in Silver City

The last few days of this year’s trip were memorable for several reasons.  First, we discovered a new area to add to our list of Favorite Places.  It happened this way.  After a lovely visit with Aud and Trish in Tucson, we headed east in I-10  Except for a stop in San Angelo, we were not looking forward to the loooonnnng trip home.  As we scanned our maps for an overnight stop, we saw that Silver City, NM, was almost a perfect day’s drive away.

We had never been to Silver City, but had heard a lot about it from Neta Pope, a friend we met earlier this year in Santa Fe.  Neta lives in Silver City, and has co-authored a fascinating book about the history of Fort Bayard, which is located just outside of town.  The fort was established in 1866 by Company B of the 25th U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment, also known as the “Buffalo Soldiers.”  It was used as an outpost until 1899, and later served as an army tuberculosis hospital and veterans’ care facility.  

We decided a few days in Silver City to break up our trip were in order, and we were soon parked at Manzano’s RV Park on the western edge of town.  The park is a unique, family-owned facility.  There are none of the long rows of RV spaces with hardly enough space to walk between them. Manzano’s is laid out to take advantage of the views and the native trees which screen each RV sight.  Here are a couple of photos taken from our site.  You can see that we had a great place to watch the sunset.

We wound up spending an entire week in Silver City.  The city itself is situated just on the edge of the Gila National Forest, and has a thriving downtown with interesting restaurants,

quaint shops,

terrific farmer's market where John really loaded us up on veggies,

and beautiful murals painted on the sides of many of the downtown buildings.

Part of the interesting history of Silver City is the “Big Ditch.”  In 1895, much of the downtown was destroyed by a devastating flash flood.  When the water receded, the main street was gone, and in its place was a ditch some 35 feet deep.  A subsequent flood washed away any remaining soil, right down to bedrock.  Bridges crossing the ditch, which is adjacent to the new main street, give visitors a view into the abyss. 

We took day trips to several points of interest nearby.  One of these is The Catwalk National Historic Trail some 60 miles up the road near the small town of Glenwood.  The original catwalk was built into the sides of Whitewater Canyon.  It held water pipes that served the mines farther up the canyon.  Floods damaged or destroyed the original structure, but a new catwalk allows visitors to walk along the canyon walls, some 20-30 feet above the stream.  In places, the canyon is only 20 feet wide.  Unfortunately, almost half of the catwalk upstream was heavily damaged by floods in 2013, and has not yet been rebuilt.  We walked as far as we could, and hope repairs are made by the time we visit again.

Since the catwalk itself is made of expanded metal, you can see what is beneath you.  We had taken the dogs with us, and when the distance between us and the stream bed approached 20 feet, Kota was noticeably concerned.  The Border Collies took it all in stride, but Kota hung back and hugged the canyon wall.  At the end of the catwalk, we took off their leashes and let them explore the stream.  When we started back, we left them off leash, and Kota was not in the least afraid of walking “on air” along the catwalk.

Another day trip was to the Santa Rita Copper Mine, also known as the Chino Mine.  The open pit mine is impossible to miss if you are in town.  The entire mountain to the east is terraced, revealing the layers of rock that have been mined.  It is famous as the third oldest open pit copper mine in the world, and we enjoyed looking down from the view point and watching the enormous dump trucks and other machinery working below.  If you don’t have a feel for just how big these giant machines are, just look at me standing in front of one of their tires.  It towers above me, and there is a good 2-3 feet of tire buried in the ground!  

It's hard to realize those tires are propelling the giant trucks which look like ants crawling along the roads down in the pit.

The pallet of colors exposed by the mining was beautiful, and we enjoyed our day.  

One of the most special aspects of the Silver City area is the abundance of hiking trails.  We took one such trail, the San Francisco Hot Springs Trail, on our way back from The Catwalk.  The trail was rough, with a quantity of volcanic rocks along the trail.  It wound through a mesquite thicket, then down into a dry arroyo.  We were told there were hot springs some 2 miles down the trail and we had hoped to see them.  It was getting late, however, and there was no sign of water so we backtracked and headed home.

Our favorite, though, was Dragonfly Trail.  

The trailhead was only a couple of miles from our RV park, and the trail was a lovely four-mile loop.  There were beautiful, grassy meadows with occasional cedars and yucca.

The trail dropped steeply into the stream bed, which was lined with tall cottonwoods and had intermittent pools where the dogs could cool off.

It was along this stream that we saw the one and only snake of our entire trip...even though we spent a lot of time in rattlesnake country.  This one, though, was a lovely little grass snake that seemed to think it was invisible.

The best part, though, were the petroglyphs along the stream.  We found two dragonfly petroglyphs which give the trail its name... several other figures and symbols scratched into the rocks by the native people who inhabited this area several hundred years ago.  

It’s a magical place, and one we look forward to seeing again.