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Thanksgiving in Texas -- Nov. and Dec. 2010
central texas

Liz and I headed to Austin, Texas, for Thanksgiving with my siblings. We stopped in New Mexico to visit Liz's brother along the way, and we birded the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Big Bend National Park, and southeastern Arizona on the way back. Link to map of the trip.

Petrified Forest National Park Day 01, November 14. Traveling towards New Mexico, we stopped at Petrified Forest National Park, near Holbrook, AZ, for the afternoon, then got a room in Gallup, NM, for the night.
Albuquerque, NM

Day 02, November 15. We left Gallup and drove to Albuquerque. We spent the afternoon with Karen puttering around town. We got a little snow today.

Day 03, November 16. We spent a relaxing day around town with Karen doing errands, eating lunch out, and spending time together at the house. Bill arrived home from an out-of-state trip in the evening.

rio grande nature center

Day 04, November 17. A nice day out hiking and birdwatching at the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park near downtown Albuquerque.

Day 05, November 18. We spent a relaxing day around Bill and Karen's house doing errands and walking to the little nature park near the house.

Petroglyph National Monument Day 06, November 19. Our last day in Albuquerque, we went to Petroglyph National Monument with Bill and Karen for the afternoon. We hit the Visitor Center and walked around the Boca Negra Canyon area.
Bosque del Apache Day 07, November 20. Albuquerque to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, then to Carrizozo for the night. We saw lots of snow geese, sandhill cranes, and ducks, and we even caught a western painted turtle.
bitter lake nwr

Day 08, November 21. Carrizozo, NM, to Big Spring, TX. We tried to visit the Smoky Bear National Historic Site, but they open late on Sunday mornings, so we looked in from the outside and drove on to the Smoky Bear overlook. From there, you can see the area where the slightly burned bear cub was captured.

From there, it was on to Roswell, NM, where I were disappointed by the small amount of alien architecture. Of course, some might have been disappointed by the large amount of alien architecture.

From Roswell, we stopped at Bitter Lake MWR for the afternoon. The place is known for its dragonflies, and sure enough, there were flocks of dragons. We drove into the late evening and stopped at Big Spring, TX.

enchanted rock state park Day 09, November 22. Big Spring, TX, to Enchanted Rock State Park. We drove several hours and arrived at Enchanted Rock State Park around noon. Unfortunately, the campground was full due to holiday traffic, so we spent the day hiking down the creek chasing frogs, snakes, birds, and little fish. Later, we huffed and puffed in the south Texas heat and humidity to the summit of Enchanted Rock where a nice, cool breeze cooled things down. We spent the night in the private Western Outpost "campground," which was a cleared area behind the store with a few rocks piled into fire rings. It was serviceable, and the restroom was surprisingly pleasant. Dogs from across the road came to visit, and Liz threw sticks for them until dark.

Day 10, November 23. Enchanted Rock State Park to Austin. We awoke to light rain at the campground, but things mostly dried out, and after breakfast, we headed back to the state park. Today we hiked a few miles around the Enchanted Rock. After the hike, it was time to drive to Austin, where we stayed with my sister and her family.

Day 11, November 24. Austin. Liz cooked all morning, and Peter cooked all afternoon. Several of us took the dog for a walk and picked up trash at the local elementary school and along a creek. John and his family arrived. After dinner, we all walked to the neighborhood ice cream stand.

thanksgiving Day 12, November 25. Austin. A 5-mile Turkey Trot, then Thanksgiving with the siblings and their families.
pedernales falls state park

Day 13, November 26. The gang coalesced at Cathy's house in the morning. By lunch, the weather had cleared and warmed up, and we'all drove out to Pedernales Falls State Park for the afternoon. Uncle Peter (dad's brother) and Aunt Mary-Helen met us there. Uncle Peter found crinoid fossils for us to see in the limestone at the falls, and Andy found an interesting beetle with what appeared to be parasite eggs stuck to its back. After hiking around the falls until sunset, we headed to the world famous Salt Lick for real Texas BBQ.

group photos Day 14, November 27. We did the traditional group photos, then John and family left around noon. The rest of us toured the University of Texas Austin campus, including the library, biology pond, and LBJ Presidential Library.
aransas nwr Day 15, November 28. Bill and family left Austin around 10 AM, and Liz and I left around 1 PM. We drove to the Gulf Coast and arrived at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge just before the Visitor Center closed at 4:30 PM. We drove the refuge roads and climbed the observation tower. We saw two Whooping Cranes, about 20 Roseate Spoonbills, and one very ornery cottonmouth.
texas coral snake

Day 16, November 29. Like any day destined to end in disaster, today started out calm and quiet. Liz and I packed early and drove out to Aransas NWR and were greeted by a flock of Wild Turkeys at the Visitor Center. After photographing Great Kiskadees and watching a Crested Caracara harass roosting Black Vultures, we started walking trails. The first trail was open and grassy, but the only things flying were butterflies and dragonflies, and alligators were nowhere to be found. We then ventured onto a trail in the woods, and after less than a minute, we spotted a beautiful snake on the trail -- and our plans suddenly changed.


Day 17, November 30. They let me out of the hospital before lunch under the condition that I stay within 30 minutes of a major hospital in case I start having breathing difficulties. To that end, we spent the afternoon in San Antonio with an old friend from the Yucca Mountain days, then drove about an hour to Austin to convalesce at my sister's house for a few days.

Day 18, December 01. We spent a quiet day in Austin relaxing, shopping for fabric for Liz who is doing a project for Cathy, and walking the dog around a local park for an hour. My hand is getting better -- I can type 2-handed and the swelling and stiffness are down enough so I can make a loose fist.


Day 19, December 02. We spent another quiet day in Austin relaxing and getting ready for the next leg of our journey: Big Bend National Park. We will leave Austin in the morning (Friday) and get to Big Bend on Saturday. The hand is almost fine, and if I leave it alone, I feel nothing. If I poke and prod it to see if it still hurts, it will when I stop messing with it. Also, I've learned to offer my left hand when shaking hands with people. I'm wondering how long this nerve sensitivity will last.


Day 20, December 03. We spent a nice morning with my sister drinking coffee and walking the dog, then drove all day to Marathon, Texas, which is the last town north of Big Bend. As we pulled into our campsite, we were greeted by three Pyrrhuloxia and five Canyon Towhees -- not a bad start to bird watching in the area. The hand is better overall, but the last two knuckles on my finger have gone a bit numb on the dorsal surface.

True to his form, Jim just couldn't leave the red, yellow, and black things alone. It was just a long-horned beetle, but still -- hasn't he had enough of such colorful creatures?


Day 21, December 04. We drove south from Marathon into Big Bend National Park. At the entrance station, we asked about birds, and the ranger said: Oh, are you here to see the bird? It turns out a Tufted Flycatcher from Mexico had crossed the border and people were coming in from all over the country to see it. Sure enough, we drove into the campground, saw a gaggle of birders, walked up, and saw the bird. We also saw a bobcat with a bob-kitten saunter across the campground road.

We did some nice short walks in the desert and along the Rio Grande River and stirred up a pack of javelina. The park rangers assure us the the area is safe and border violence has not reached this remote area.

101205 Day 22, December 05. We lounged around the campground eating breakfast, relaxing, and chasing the Tufted Flycatcher with visiting birders. When we got of camp after noon, we drove east to Boquillas Canyon Overlook and chatted with a newly arrived Border Patrol agent. He transferred in from the hot zone along the New Mexico - Arizona and was liking his quiet new assignment. We then hiked down river as far as possible into Boquillas Canyon, and later hiked to the hot springs upriver a ways. I enjoyed the water, which seemed to relieve some of the numbness in my finger. We ended the day with plans to head for the Chisos Mountains (the high elevation campground in the park) in the morning. As I type this at 9:30 PM, I hear javelina grunting in the darkness ...

Day 23, December 06. We drove up into the mountains and stayed at Chisos Basin Campground. We did some short walks around the Visitor Center, then did a longer trail into the mountains on the Lost Mine Trail.


Day 24, December 07. We did a 5-mile hike together in the morning on the Window Trail and caught a Canyon Treefrog and a small snake, perhaps a Corn Snake (not sure about the species, but this one was gray and brown, with no red, yellow, or black; and it did not bite. After the hike, we got a room at the lodge. Liz relaxed and I put on another three miles on the Pinnacles Trail. Hot showers and dinner at the lodge were nice.

The finger continues to improve, with some of the numbness dissipating. However, I now have small bumps at each of the fang entry sites that itch -- not sure what to make of it.

101208 Day 25, December 08. We moved from the Chisos Mountains to Cottonwood Campground along the Rio Grand River in the western park of Big Bend National Park, doing the regular tourist things and taking an afternoon hike.
101209 Day 26, December 09. We spent the day and a second night in the Cottonwood area. The major event for the day was hiking into Santa Elana Canyon where the Rio Grande River runs out of a narrow canyon. A trail leads to were the canyon is so narrow that water runs from wall to wall. In the afternoon, we visited historic homesites and learned a bit about the local history.
101210 Day 27, December 10. We left the park and drove up (west) along the Rio Grande River. We stopped in the town of Lajetas at a state park with interesting exhibits and a going-to-waste botanical garden. From there we birded upstream and stopped for the night in Arenosa state park campground on the banks of the Rio Grande.

Day 28, December 11. We left the state park early and hit the road starting home. As usual, however, events overtake plans. Liz regretted not getting a T-shirt at the state park headquarters the day before, so we thought we could get one at the park entrance facilities on the west side. Well, the west entrance is actually Fort Leaton State Historic Site, and while they do not have the T-shirt Liz wanted, they have a very talkative head guy who cornered us with interesting tales of the site, the local community, and many of the past and current residents. Leaving the fort at lunch time, we stopped to eat in Presidio, but the combination of being waylaid at the fort and a long lunch put our goal for the day nearly out of reach. Driving fast and driving late, we made it to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, for the night.

101212 Day 29, December 12. Enroute to Albuquerque, we birded Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge all day and saw about 54 species of birds (fully half of the total for the entire trip). We then drove north to Albuquerque to stay with Liz's brother. Bill was out of town, so it was nice to have some time with Karen all to ourselves.

Day 30, December 13. Relaxing in Albuquerque, enjoying the backyard wildlife, and spending time with Karen while looking forward to Bill's return in the evening. When Bill arrived, we all went out to dinner, then relaxed at the house telling sorties about each other's trips.

The finger continues to improve. The recent swelling continues to subside. The right injection site shows some redness, but little swelling. The left injection site is still swollen and red, but less than before. The itching still comes and goes, but the numbness is almost entirely confined to the swollen area at the left injection site.


Day 31, December 14. Heading for home, we departed Albuquerque before lunch heading west on Interstate 40 with cruise control set at 75 mph. We stopped briefly at Petrified Forest and Meteor Crater. Pushing westward, we thought we would stop for the night between Flagstaff and Kingman, but we made it all the way home before 10 PM.

The finger and hand itch more than usual, and there are some small sore spots on the finger and hand.


Post Script: The finger continues to slowly improve with some good days and some not so good days. Follow my recovery here.

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 101225

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