addenda: wildlife and driving

My bad: I left some things out of the posts of the last few days.

I wanted to also tell you all that when Hops and I hiked up above the lodge in Davis Mountains, and back down via Montezuma Quail Trail, we saw a trio of mountain goats. Hops was so stimulated that he nearly pulled me off the mountain, at a steep and loose-rock part of the trail. I was thrilled, too, too thrilled to think of my camera til they were gone.

The next morning, stumbling out of the van so that we could both pee, we were startled by a pair of mule deer standing within a dozen feet. One of them retreated to a safe distance, but the other was so enamored of Hops that she did not leave. In fact she was approaching, head stretched to meet him, with such enthusiasm that it made me nervous. I didn’t quite want to break up the party, but every time she got close–mere feet!–I spoke to her, and she remembered me, and backed up a step or two. This went on for minutes, until another human happened along and she finally ran away. I still don’t understand what this deer wanted so much with my little dog. To snuggle him? To eat him? Whoever heard of such a thing?

Days later, I would stop the van on a state park road to admire wild turkeys: a dozen or so that ran off into the bushes, but a group of four who stuck around, pecking gravel and looking back at me. Big, fat, stately birds, they are. And such strange appendages, these “beards” hanging off their chests.

I am disappointed that while in the Big Bend region I saw no big predators living–coyotes, bobcats, black bear–though all are present. I did see several roadkilled coyotes, and a stuffed bear in the Museum of the Big Bend who was hit by a car and killed two miles from that site, in 2009. At the time (I was told by the museum man) he was the largest bear on record in the state of Texas. That wording implies that a larger one has turned up since.

I am reminded by all of this of my lifetime’s two bobcat sightings: one on the mountain in Bellingham, Washington where I used to mountain bike, and the other just weeks ago, in West Virginia, while driving in the mountains at night. I had my brights on and it dashed across the highway in front of me, and I got a good look.

I also wanted to remark on the drive north from Ft. Davis to Monahans. The first leg, from Ft. Davis to Balmorhea, was gloriously beautiful. Fortunately, there wasn’t much traffic headed my way, so I took it as slow as I pleased, and looked around and enjoyed the multicolored mountains, a fresh vista around every turn. I stopped at Balmorhea State Park, where the famous pool is closed indefinitely for renovations, but I’d never seen it before and wanted to look around. Hops and I walked up to the chained-link to see the pool from a little ways off; it looks like a lot of fun. We spotted several black-and-white water birds enjoying it, which might have been bufflehead, but it’s hard to say from that distance and without my spectacles.

The drive from Balmorhea to Monahans, however, was a great change. From little-trafficked, rolling, multicolored, wild beauty, the transition was quick to oil pumps, flat expanses, and roaring traffic of big trucks (big pickups as well as big rigs), all of them in a great hurry and very suddenly none of them returning my steering-wheel-wave. High winds and the smell of oil towns (sulfuric and chemical) completed the experience: no fun. For that matter, Monahans on to Odessa and beyond continued in the same spirit; not until getting outside of Amarillo did things turn pretty again, but that’s a story for another blog post.

graveside

The next morning, I rode up the Sheep Pen trails in the state park and took in some outstanding views. The trail itself I would not recommend for mountain biking, actually, but I’m glad I got to see this.

After the ride, it was time for Hops’s bimonthly toenail clipping. Those of you who have known Hops to have his toenails clipped will know that this damn near ruined our day. Luckily he gets over offenses quickly.

We then headed north for the town of Monahans, birthplace of Guy Clark. I checked with the author of the only book-length biography of the man, and she tells me that nothing is left in Monahans of the Clark family except this: the gravesite of Jack Prigg, star of the song “Desperadoes Waiting for a Train” (popularized by Jerry Jeff Walker, written by Guy Clark) and boyfriend of Clark’s grandmother, who ran a hotel where Guy did some of his growing up. The grandmother is buried beside Prigg, but her grave is unmarked. In the absence of a more substantial monument to this man whose legacy I so appreciate, I visited the double gravesite.

Please, take the next five minutes out and listen to this song.

For the night, I stayed just outside town at Monahans Sandhills State Park.

As I write these words, we’re snug in the van. I’m sipping whiskey and working on book reviews; Hops is snoring comfortably at my side. I wish I had some Old Crow and hot 7Up, to make it perfectly appropriate, but Guy, I’m thinking of you all the same.

scintillating Davis Mountains

From Alpine I detoured through Marfa, visiting the Marfa Book Company, El Cosmico (where I got Delaney a present – you just wait, D), saw the Donald Judd concrete blocks from afar (Chinati Foundation was closed), and ate a Marfa Burrito. Then I headed up to Ft. Davis, where the Rattlers & Reptiles house was closed (and I tried several times!), but Davis Mountains State Park blew my mind. I drove up Skyline Drive –

view from the top

(as always, click images to enlarge)

see Foxy, far left

And later in the afternoon, Hops and I hiked up from the lodge (a gorgeous building constructed by the CCC) to some incredible views.

That night, thanking my lucky stars, I drove up to the McDonald Observatory for a Star Party.

sunset on the way up to McDonald

The idea is to take in some educational talks and then see some stars through the telescopes; we had an unluckily cloudy night, but it cleared in good time, and I got to view Mars, the Orion Nebula, Andromeda, the Pleiades, and one more something I can’t recall just now… it was a magical night, though very cold. Hops and I were glad to drive back down again to our campsite, where it still hit 20 or so overnight. Under a down sleeping bag, two quilts made by my mother, and a big fluffy comforter, though, we were cozy and happy.

This van thing is really working out beautifully. I never dreamed it would be this fine.