Organ Pipe National Park

Organ Pipe National Park

About Me

I purchased "Sadie''s House On Wheels "in late 2007 and loved traveling in a motor home so much that I went on the road full time in late 2008. I started writing this blog to help me remember all the wonder places I have been and it allows me to share those places with my family and friends. Summer of 2013 I decided to hang up the keys for a while and moved back into my stick house. After nearly two years, I am on the road again.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

March 21-23, A little bit of Austin

After such a busy day at Fredericksberg we had an "at home day" e.g. a "day off" relaxing and catching up on chores; that is I did because Joel, had a meeting with the Bandera Dance Rally Hostess, to go over his Head Cook responsibilities, so he was gone a good part of the morning,.

On Tuesday, we headed for Austin, with our first stop being Cabelas .  It was  on the way and it's always fun to go in Cabelas and look at all of the "toys".  The   mantra of many full time RVers is " new item in;  old item must go".There is only so much space, so it is fun to look but usually means not much buying.  Joel got off cheap because he didn't find anything he could live without.   I on the other hand treated myself to a few new rags.

We continued heading  towards downtown Austin.  There is also an REI (Recreation Coop Inc) near downtown Austin and we wanted to look for an extra PFD to keep on one of the Kayaks in case we ran into the same requirements we did at Big Bend NP where an extra PFD is required per group.  Joel had received his REI dividend which was burning a hole in his pocket. :) We visited the REI and Joel was successful this time in purchasing a gadget for his kayak and I found the kayaking paddles that have been on my wish list for several years. We didn't purchase the extra PDF. This was getting to be an expensive day and we hadn't even made it to the heart of downtown yet?

The Capitol of Texas is also downtown and it's unique  red structure is a "must see" .  We caught the last docent tour of the day which was very interesting and full of Texas history. The capitol is open to the public until 10:00 P.M. at night, but the docent tours end around 5:00 p.m. We learned that Texans are very proud of their history, and very proud of being a Texan.

The capitol faces the down town area

Its made of red granite.  The details near the very depict the six flags Texas has flown under.

The rotunda. The star in the middle is eight feet wide.  

There is lots of intricate work the camera didn't pickup very well.

Again the six flags Texas has flown under looking down from one of the balconies.

I saw this albino squirrel on the grounds.  I'm not sure if it is a rare species or an albino . He/she was oblivious to us and kept digging away for the ever elusive acorn.

Our next stop was a Uncle Billies, which was a local brewery and suggested by one of the locals.  It's an out door Bar B Que near the college area and it was  hopping for a Tuesday night. We found out happy hour is until 7:00 p.m. which is later than we're used to. Brews were $3.00 .  We later headed for the Warehouse District in search of dinner.  The Warehouse District if full of all kinds of eateries and was bustling with activity.  The parking is a bit of a challenge at 6:30 because happy hour was still in full force. We found a great little pub that served pizza and beer.  The catch was it was three flights of stairs up...a good way to work off the pizza.  In order to get your favorite brew you had to go back down the stairs and get it and bring it back.  Joel got quite a workout!  There was way too much to see in the Warehouse District so I am looking forward to returning before we leave the area.

It was getting very late and with a two hour drive back to Thousand Trails, we decided to spend the night at McKinney Falls State Park.  Joel, being the ever prepared boy scout, had a tent and sleeping bags in the back of the car, so we pulled into the camp ground and pitched the tent in the dark.  We paid for the site at the self registration station and put the sticker on the car per the directions on the self registration envelope.  The campground host came along later after we were settled in and left a note stating we needed to register, which I thought was odd since there was a sticker on the car indicating we had already paid

The next morning we got up and walked to both upper and lower McKinney Falls.  The trails are set up for mountain biking and hiking and made for pleasant walking.  The morning was very humid and warm, and I was glad we were hiking early.  I wouldn't have wanted to be walking much later. The trails are interesting, fallowing the river along limestone rock.

Upper McKinney Falls

 Some of the limestone ledges along our walk.

Some unusual rock formations from the river.

The lower McKinney Falls.

The river was very low, allowing us to walk along the limestone.  It would be pretty tricky to do this after a major rain fall.
Some early signs of spring.

When we returned to camp we had another notice, attached to the tent, asking us to register soon.  We took down the tent and headed out, stopping at the ranger station to explain we had already registered.  Big mistake. We had paid the entrance fee of $5.00 and the tent fee of $16.00. BUT, the entrance fee is $5.00 per person even though you are camping so we owned another $5.00.  Nowhere in the written material did I see a $5.00 charge per person.  This makes camping in a Texas State Park almost as much as staying in an RV park! The ironic thing is RVers pay the same as a tent camper.  A family of four would have to pay $36.00 for the privilege of pitching a tent.Ouch!!

We headed back to Austin for the day our destination to walk around the eclectic old town area known as SoCo. But first we needed to stop and get some coffee. Somehow we got turned around and ended up on Seventh street full of construction, in an older area, that looked at little so, so.  We saw Joe's Bakery and Joel put on the breaks so he could get coffee and satisfy his sweet tooth.  It turned out to be a really good stop.  They had the best Mexican food.  The Huevos Rancheros were awesome.

We continued heading towards the SoCo shopping area with the intent of just looking.   Joel stopped in at Allen's Boots which has a fantastic selection of boots, hats, and western wear.  He didn't get off so cheaply this time and found himself purchasing a great pair of boots and another hat.  He is really getting into this cowboy thing.  We checked with one of the clerks to find out where a good place would be to eat close by and she suggested Red's Porch.  Red's Porch turned out to be another hot spot and fun place.  It really is a big porch over looking the river.  Unfortunately, we never did get down to the river. Next time.

It was a very busy full two days and I can't wait to return to Austin and see more if this cool city.This is a longer than usual post.  But, I think it gives you an idea that as full time Rvers who don't wear a watch we have absolutely no concept of time, but lots of it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

March 20, A quick, short, tour of the Hill Country

I've been hearing about the quaint  Dutch town of Fredericksburg for sometime.  It's located up the road from the Thousand Trails and in the heart of the Hill Country, so off we went exploring.  Fredericksburg has a main street with lots of unique shops but a main draw is the National Museum of the Pacific War,  which we put on our list for the next visit. There is a nice brewery that serves hand crafted German beers which occupied a considerable amount of our time.  We also discovered a kitchen store that had every gadget imaginable for the kitchen. It was huge and I kept getting lost!

There was some distinctive Dutch architecture, but not what I saw in Solvang, California.  We'll be returning soon to do some further exploration. There were lots of wine tasting rooms along the main drag. (We had passed several wineries on the way) Also, you can buy beer or wine and drink it out side of the establishments.  I'm not sure if this is just a Fredericksburg thing or something that is normal for Texas.

We also stopped at the town of Luckenbach, made famous by the song "Everybody is Somebody in Luckenback" or something like that.  It has a huge dance hall and live music.  We missed the live music but will be returning again. The "town" is made up of dance hall and a few shops...mostly tourist stuff but fun. The nightly music is the draw.

There was one shop with hats for everyone.

 The Dance Hall
No this is not a bucking bronco.  I missed getting the picture of the cowboy riding him around like a horse.

It was a nice day, but way too short.  Since we will be in the area for several more weeks we will have plenty of time to go back to both places and explore some of the wineries and definitely enjoy some of the music at Luckenback.

Monday, March 21, 2011

March 15-19, Lakehills, Tx

                                           Yep, we are in Texas Hill Country now.

We left Big Bend National Park a day early and headed for the "Hill Country" of Texas via the towns of Sonora and Kerrville.  The Hill Country encompasses a large area near San Antonio and includes little towns such as Bandera, Helotes, and Fredricksburg .  We headed for the Thousand Trails campground on Medina Lake near the little community of Lakehills near the heart of the Hill Country, about 40 miles from San Antonia.  Joel made an exception to his "no planning/no reservation rule" and actually made reservations, although now we would be arriving two days early.

It was a good thing reservations were made because by the middle of the week, when we arrived, the campground was pretty full of families enjoying Spring Break.  This is a very large campground with several sections with lots of camp sites; some with full hookups and some with just water and electric.  The water and electric sites are closest to the lake and full of boaters and the majority of them were full.  We chose a full hook up site only because there was a clear line for the satellite dish.  Most of the sites were heavily treed and shady.

                                           Medina Lake

Once we got settled we headed into San Antonio for grocery shopping at Costco and Sam's Club.  We haven't done any real grocery shopping since Tucson, the the fridge and cupboards were getting pretty thin.  We also checked out the little  cowboy town Bandera, which will be our next destination for the SI dance rally at the the beginning of April.

  One of the Long Horns we saw near Bandera.  He had to turn his head in order to make it through the gate.  Amazing.

While I was taking pictures of the Long Horn, this little guy wanted to be in the picture also.

The campground has lots of trails to explore and we have been taking advantage of them.  Deer are abundant and don't seem afraid of humans, although I have noticed they do scattered when people are out walking their dogs.  I'll share some pictures of  them later.

On our walks I've noticed this strange growths on the trees.  They remind me of the off shoots from the spider houseplants I used have.  I think they must be a fungus of some sort.  I've even noticed them growing on the power lines.

Recently, Joel purchased a new cooking appliance.  With the weather warming up, he thought it would be a good idea to do some of the baking outside and not heat up the RV.  I, on the other hand thought it was a good idea because we wouldn't need to be hooked up to power or run the generator.

This is a propane Camp Chef oven/range combination.  Yes, I did make the bread. Looks pretty professional, don't you think?

You can bake and cook on it.  Its about the size of a small microwave and fits nicely in one of the basement storage bays.  So far I've baked some bread and cookies and once I figured out how to keep the temperature even, everything has turned out great.  I previously had lobbied for a bread maker, but lost.  Actually, this is much better because it runs off propane and can be used anytime.

Now we have to walk 5 miles a day instead of few in order to keep the pounds off so we can enjoy the fresh homemade bread!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Big Bend National Park, March 10-15 Part Two

After spending several full days hiking and exploring the park we took a "day off" and stayed back at the campground catching up on housekeeping chores etc.  On Friday we explored the nature trail adjacent to the campground and then drove up to the Hot Springs.  (I forgot the camera).  There used to be a resort at the Hot Springs back in the 1930's  before it became part of the  national park. The nature trail encompasses a beautiful pond  and then follows the Rio Grande and loops back.

One of the sunset views of the pond near the campground.

Previously we had checked on river floating permits and were told we could pull a permit any time and did not have to have specify put-in/take outs, which I found odd but had specifically inquired about.  We decided to go ahead and get a permit so we could paddle near the put-in at the campground and perhaps return to Santa Elena Canyon on another day.  We went back to the visitor center at the camp ground and were told very different information: The permit was date specific and put in and take out specific; plus (and this was the most surprising to me as a kayaker) you had to have a spare Coast Guard approved life preserver along with a spare paddle ( the paddle part is a no brainer).  Now, I don't know too many kayakers who carry a spare life preserver unless they have a tandem kayak.  The ranger was pretty hard nosed about having all of the equipment available for inspection before issuing the permit and wasn't very helpful about providing information where we might purchase a spare life jacket. We talked to another kayaker couple who encountered the same issue but they had lucked out were able to purchase a secondary approved float device from a fellow camper.  I was hopeful we could locate an extra PFD so we could pull a permit.

Saturday, March 12, we drove to the Park Headquarters at Panther Junction which is also the main visitor center and the main place were permits are issued. I wanted to check on the ranger's story and confirm the permit process.  There was a huge line for permits and apparently a lot of paper work involved in getting the permit .   We promptly left and decided to drive over to Terlingua at the far south west  edge of the park and explore that area.  Also, there were some outfitters in the area and perhaps we could score the coveted extra life preserver.

There was a nice short hike on the way:  Balancing Rock.

The trail was pretty level until the last 1/4 miles and then my rock scrambling skills were put to the  test.

Can you see the mini balancing rock in the distance? 

Along the way was this unusual  rock form.

Then we came to the balancing rock. The balancing rock wasn't as precarious as I expected.

The back side of balancing rock.

The view from balancing rock towards the desert.

From Balancing rock we headed over to Terlingua, stopping at several outfitters and the Desert Sports store.  For all you avid mountain bikers, Terlingua is apparently the jumping off place for epic mountain biking, especially in Big Bend Ranch State Park which is tandem to Big Bend National Park. Unfortunately, the only floatation devices to be found were for rent and not purchase.  Given the round trip from our campsite was nearly 100 miles it didn't make sense to rent one.

We continued on to the Terlingua Ghost town, which proved to be interesting.  At one time the little town thrived, but now it looks like a deserted Mexican Village, although it is not in Mexico.

This was one of the dwellings still in tack.  The walls are made of stones which are dry stacked.  This particular structure had housed someone  recently as there were candles and an abandoned sleeping bag.

Close up of the dry stacked walls

  Note the folks on the porch.  This was the main hang out in the community.

The Trading Post offered everything from native crafts to Christmas decorations, but no floatation devices. We did stop at the local Cantina to rub shoulders with the locals and try and figure out why anyone would want to live in Terlingua.  We really didn't find out anything. We did learn that Spring Break was a big deal and the end of the season.

Sunday, March 13 was another ho hum day.  It was the beginning of daylight savings time and still dark at 7:30, which made it difficult to get up and get going, so  I played with the new Camp Chef oven (more on that another time) trying to figure out how to keep the temperature even, and Joel puttered around.  Later we biked to a hill over looking the Boquilla Village and watched the colors change over the Sierra del Carmens during the sunset.

The village of Boquilla, Mexico  is at the bottom of the picture.

The brilliant sunset on the Sierra del Carmens in Mexico towards the east.

Sunset at Rio Grande campground towards the western part of the park taken from our campground.

Monday, March 14: The Windows Trail.  Putting aside the morning darkness we geared up and headed for the Chisos Basin again, in pursuit of the Windows Trail and or the Basin Loop trail.  The guide book said the trail from the campground had an elevation loss of 400 feet over 2 miles.  Not too bad, but I reminded Joel that meant payback on the return. The trail leads to a pour off and beautiful views of the desert.

Casa Grande in the Chisos mountains on the way to the Chisos basin

Early morning in the Chisos mountains.

The Window, our destination for today

This was a very popular trail.  There were a lot of hikers waiting to take pictures and enjoying the view.
There is a very dramatic drop off.  During the rainy season you can't get this far as the rocks are very slippery even when dry.

Joel scurried to the edge and then couldn't move fast enough to get back to safe ground.  The rocks were very slippery.
The window.  Actually this is the pour off and would be a beautiful water fall during the rainy season.  The Chuahua desert is in the distance.

It's mid March and suppose to be the beginning of spring and until now I have not seen any signs of it.  There has been  very little rain and there were extreme cold temperatures during the usually mild winter causing freezing conditions.  The blossoms were a surprise and welcome site.

Having been unsuccessful in obtaining a spare PDF we decided it would be best to scratch our kayaking plans .  There will be lots of other opportunities to float other rivers, which most likely will be cleaner and faster.   "Hitch itch" was starting to set in so Tuesday we pulled up the jacks and hooked up the car and headed towards San Antonio. We have to be in Bandera, Texas for the SI dance rally by the end of March.