Wednesday, October 31, 2012

10/28 Balmorhea State Park, TX

Part of my trip being an adventure rather than a vacation is never knowing what I am going to find until I get somewhere.  I made a reservation at this park because someone recommended it and told me it had a spring and pool, and it was on my way to San Antonio and not far off Interstate 10.  It was a long drive from Carlsbad across some of the flattest and dryest land I had ever seen.  Then when I got close to the state park, the land got hillier and I could see mountains in the distance.

Some history:  This park was constructed over a natural spring by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 30s.  They built a campground, motel units, administration buildings, and a 3.5 million gallon pool over the springs.  This web site gives more detail:

The water comes directly into the pool through the sandy and rocky bottom, at the rate of 1,000,000 gallons per hour.  That's enough to produce a very fast-flowing stream coming out of the pool and into a reconstructed wetland and then into draining ditches that are used for irrigation.  I have not seen this much flowing water since I came west!  In a desert environment, this is amazing and must have been used by native Americans, but I could not find any information on this.  There are fish in both the pool and the wetlands, including two endangered species, one of which lives lnly in this spring. 

The bottom of the big pool is natural rock and sand, although I am sure it was moved around a bit during construction.  The sides are cement and depth ranges from 3' to 25'.  You can rent skin diving gear and get lessons there, as well as just enjoy swimming. 

Here are some pictures of the pool and the stream leaving the pool.  You can see how crystal clear the water is.  One of the irrigation ditches ran directly behind my campsite, and I could see little fish even there.  You would have difficulty standing up in this ditch because of the fast current produced by this spring.

And here is the campground and the motel units.  (Notice that all picnic sites in this part of the country have metal or cement roofs because of the summer sun.)  If you ever go to west Texas, just south of Pecas, stop here for a swim or a dive!  It's only about 5 miles off of I 10.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

10/26 - Carlsbad Caverns, NM

I know absolutely for a fact that I was here in 1980 and even have copies of the photos for proof.  I usually have an excellent memory for places I have been to.  However, for the life of me, I could not remember anything once I got to the caverns--not the drive in, not the visitor center, not even anything in the cavern! 

I took the Big Room self-guided tour, which was just fine.  It is a very impressive place, but the photos I took this time were a bit dark, so I am only posting two.

I spent two nights at the Brantley Lake State Park, which was about 35 miles away, but there just wasn't anything decent any closer.  It was very deserted, which I like.  One reason may have been the low water level and of course it being mid-week.  Check out the huge dam that makes this lake:

The earthern part of the dam is at least a mile long.  Now check out the water level of the lake:

The lake is that little puddle in the middle, not deep enough for much other than a canoe, certainly not enough for anything with power.  The campground was five miles from the nearest main road and very quiet, which is what I like. 

And here is another rabbit I managed to sneak a photo of.  He was a black-tailed jackrabbit, although I did not see his tail.  His ears have a black patch that matches online photos of this species.  I noticed him because they stand on their hind legs to eat leaves from shrubs.

Onward tomorrow to Texas! 

Friday, October 26, 2012

10/25 White Sands National Monument

I love this place!!  I spent a couple of hours here and wish I had had more time, but I had a long drive to my campground and did not want to get there after dark.  Actually, I have never driven my rig in the dark and having to back into a narrow spot and not run over the electric post and water spigot in the pitch dark does not appeal to me. 

I have poor internet and am in a hurry as I am posting from a Walmart parking lot because internet is non-existant in my isolated campground.  (More tomorrow on that and Carlesbad Caverns.)

Driving into the dune area:

It is a long story, but this lake, fed by underground streams from mineral deposits in the mountains is the source of all the blowing sand and the dunes themselves.

In the heart of the dunes and a picnic area:

All plants on the dunes start their lives in between the dunes.  As the dunes advance, they grow longer stems, so the yucca on the dune is really 30' taller than the one on the level ground.  When the sand blows away and the dune moves, the one with the long stem will fall over!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

10/24 Kartchner Caverns to Las Cruces, NM

No photos today.  Yesterday I camped at Kartchner Caverns State Park, just southeast of Tucson.  This series of caverns was discovered in 1974, but kept hidden until the two cavers were able to convince the governor to buy the land from the owners and protect this "wet" cave.  It took an additional 14 years to built an entrance and set up environmental systems to prevent contamination from visitors that would damage the cave.  Check it out here:

Anyway, it was a nice park and the campground was very nice, with large, level spots.  Heard more coyote howls during the night.

Left this morning for Las Cruces, NM, on my continuing way east.

Monday, October 22, 2012

10/22 Tucson - AMARC "Boneyard" & PIMA Air Museum

My adventure for today was visiting the Pima Air and Space Museum.  It says it is the third largest air museum in the U.S., with only the Smithsonian and the Air Force Museum in Dayton being bigger and having more planes.  Check it out at

An optional tour from the museum is the AMARC "Boneyard," which is where the U.S. military stores its old planes and tears them apart for parts and scrap.  It is hard to express in photos how many planes they actually have, but if you drive through Tucson and see acres and acres of old planes, that is the place.  Here is the website for more information:   

We were taken through in buses and were not allowed to get out or open windows, so some of the following photos are not the best, but you can get an idea of the planes stored.

Note that you didn't see any really old planes in these photos.  That is because it is not a museum, so only planes waiting demolition or to be used for parts are stored here.  They do offer planes to other air museums, but the government does not pay for these to be shipped, so whoever wants them has to come and get them.

An interesting thing is that they also store factory toolings in case it is ever needed:

And here are some planes that are being disassembled:

PIMA Air Museum

Here are a sampling of the photos I took of the 300 historical planes stored outside at the Pima museum.  I think they have one of everything ever made!

And some of the planes inside the hangers:

This last plane, fell off an aircraft carrier during training in Lake Michigan in 1945 and spent 50 years underwater!  It looks a bit worse for wear.

10/21 Tucson - Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum

This museum is a combination botanical gardens and a zoo housing animals native to the Sonoran Desert.  I spent about 3 hours here today.  I am getting much better at identifying plants and birds! Here are some photos:
 This shows one of the paths that goes out into the untouched part of the desert along the edges:

And I felt really sorry for this poor, arthritic lion.  She and her partner are very old and when the keeper threw them mice (dead) to get them moving, they got up from their shady napping spots and walked slowly over to collect their treats.

And some hummingbirds:

And this beautiful barn owl:

Sunday, October 21, 2012

10/18 Usery Mtn Regional Park and Heard Museum

I camped for four days at this desert campground.  Very nice desert views and lots of little birds running around all day.  Heard coyotes howling all night, and got woken up the first night by some sort of woodpecker tapping on my roof.  I had to open my door and slam it again before he would quit!  Love the Gambel quail family.  The parents cheep loudly and the juveniles scurry around looking for bugs while trying to keep up.  

Almost no other campers here because it is off-season, so I had a lot of privacy:

One interesting thing about Arizona campgrounds is that the camphosts get metal structures over their campsites because of the summer heat.  Also, even playgrounds are covered by roofs.

On one day, I visited one of my favorite places--the Heard Museum in Phoenix.  I took just a few pictures of the many, many Native American art and artifacts they have there.

The kachina dolls are especially interesting.  What is also most interesting is that a very large part of them were donated way back in the 60s by Barry Goldwater, who not only collected these artifacts, but also was a pretty good photographer of Native Americans.

Monday, October 15, 2012

10/14 Phoenix Desert Botanical Gardens Part II

One of the neat things about this garden is the area where they have native American structures and often (but not this day) have people demonstrating food preparation and other crafts.  I am just going to post the photos I took: