Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Heading to Big Bend National Park, Texas - My First Exposure to the Desert

After a pleasant evening last night at the great FamCamp on Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, we got on the road this morning at a reasonable time (they sound reveille at 0700 hours on base!)

We started heading west on Hwy 90 to make our way to Marathon, where we planned to gas up the Trek, fill the jerry can for the scooter, then turn left on Hwy 385 to head south into Big Bend. Hwy 90 runs just along the Texas/Mexico border and we saw plenty of Border Patrol Agents. In fact, Sydney and Barley successfully passed through their first immigration checkpoint when the inspector asked if it was just us four traveling in the RV.   Border Patrol trucks became a common site as we made our way toward Big Bend.

We drove through land that appeared very desolate and scrubby – certainly compared to what I'm accustomed to in East Tennessee! Consuelo has visited New Mexico, Arizona and Utah previously so she was prepared for the American Southwest, but I’ve never been in this part of the country and the experience is completely new to me.

I found myself fascinated by the desert... the ground is all broken rock with some areas at the bottoms of dry gullies resembling crushed concrete. It’s amazing to me that anything can grow here, yet it does. We’ve seen a few things we could identify: the tall showy flowers sprouting from the spiky yucca plants, the splashes of yellow with the clusters of wild asters, and of course, the stubborn prickly pear cacti.

But, we’re more in wonder at all the plants we’ve never seen before: Consuelo said to me at one point, “Look at that brave tree.”  Short and lush trees grow abundantly along the sides of the road. We’ve seen some wild and wondrous plants: one that is tall and fingery and reminds us of an aquatic plant reaching for the surface of the water. When we stopped at a rest area and looked at one up close, we discovered it is covered with the tiniest little leaves that hide a bristle of thorns. Later on in our drive we saw some more of these plants with bright orange flowers at the end of each branch.

As we’re whizzing through the desert at 60 mph (the posted speed limit is actually 75 mph!), I kept looking out and thinking about the things that must be out there but I can’t see: scorpions and rattlesnakes and coyotes and other creatures that manage to survive in this dry and dusty place. While driving, Consuelo saw a lizard-type critter start to dart into the road. She thinks it was an iguana and we discussed whether iguanas are jungle or desert creatures or are there different varieties that exist in both climates?

A short time later, a bird ran across the road in front of us. I got a good look at it as it ran into the vegetation at the side of the road… We agreed it looked like a small hen turkey… or did we see our first roadrunner? We’ll have to Google that one!

We saw very few signs of human habitation – occasional entrances to ranches with roads leading off into the desert; windmills here and there (only a few of them actually turning). Fencing ran along the side of the road, indicating a rancher containing his cattle… we only saw a few scattered cows and I saw one small herd of goats. The towns along Hwy 90 are few and far between, and very small by all appearances. When we drove through these small towns we wondered at how these people stay in business and how they survive – several had little restaurants, few-room motels, scrubby RV parks and shop-worn souvenir shops, certainly geared toward the tourists driving through on their way to Big Bend.

We also noticed, scattered along the way, the occasional old RV trailer (usually a Fifth wheel) sitting out in the desert under the baking sun with nothing around.  People are living in these trailers...hard to believe, but it's true.

Click here to view photos of our drive through Texas to Big Bend.


Lynda said...

So we asked the ranger at Big Bend and he said if we saw that bird in the park, it probably was not a turkey as there are not any turkeys known to be in the park, but if we saw it anywhere near Marathon (which we think we did, it probably was a turkey!) -- I didn't know turkeys lived in the desert...

Dawn and Denise said...

We love reading your post. Be safe

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