Archive for March, 2011

A Bit of the Bends in the Bend

Posted in Uncategorized on March 26, 2011 by Queenie

Well here it is going on the end of March, and I’ve been away from the blog.  It’s been that Celebrating Month you know, and I’ve been keeping busy at it.  Where I sit right this minute is miles and eons away from some of the things I’ve been experiencing, and I’ve taken myself to and from all ends of the spectrum of some sort of sublimity.  Music – there’s been lots of music – from the full blown orchestration accompanying the incredible spectacle that is Cirque du Soleil – to that special, very special evening with Bobby Bridger as he did one of his final performances of Seekers of the Fleece – his narrative and musical interpretation of the story of Jim Bridger, the mountain man.  I never knew I shared my birthday with Jim Bridger, so now I am further honored.

But here…. here I sit under the wide open skies and in the vast spaces of West Texas, very far away from the hustle and bustle of cities and bigtime entertainment, and here the entertainment is what you make it.  It wouldn’t suit everyone, but it suits me just fine.  The way things are turning out, it’s much more a solitary experience that I had thought it was to be… maybe there’s a deeper message somewhere in that.  But meet-ups with friends still come, and it seems the days have been pretty much my own to make of them what I will.  (A little like life.)  So I’m following some familiar roads out here, and making it a point to go down some trails I’ve never seen before.  It’s obvious that there are not to be anything resembling firm plans on this trip.  Fluid – go with the river – that sort of thing.  Followed with a big heapin’ dose of Let It Go.

It’s painfully dry out here – hasn’t rained since last August, I hear, and it shows.  The last two springs I’ve spent time in these parts, it was lush – unbelievably  so.  The clarets and prickly pear were popping, the yuccas were purely ridiculous, and the fiery ocotillo were out of control.  Not so this year.  Everything that was a verdant green in past springs is some shade of brown, excepting the mesquites and a few tamarisks, (the water stealers), and most of the cacti are sucked in on themselves and some turning red-purple when they’re not even supposed to.

There is, of course, still life abounding, but likely struggling.  I was blessed with a big hawk sailing over me the other morning, and the canyon wrens still sing their operettas.  But fires have been around here, and some of the hills look like volcanic vistas, their grasses reduced to stumpy black nubs, and the yuccas stand silent dark vigil, stripped of their headdresses and being only gaunt bodies against the sky.  I’m working on making that lemonade, and looking for the treasures, but I have to say I prefer the days of plenty ‘nuff and bounteous blooms.  Of course that can go the other way, too, when the rains get too full of themselves and turn into flood, and then that wreaks its own flavor of destruction.  Roads and structures are washed away, but so it is, and so has it been in these cycles for hundreds if not thousands of years.  No plenty this year, except for plenty dry, and the land is hurting, and like I said, it shows.

So as I’ve always said in these presentations, these aren’t meant to be the bigtime art shots, just a little show and tell of what is the flavor of the day.  Click To Make It Big still applies, and here’s what I found on this adventure.  Sad to say, though I prowled about the park for several days, I found none, not one image worthy enough to think to try to print and hang out there as art.  It was a frustrating search, so there are no show stoppers here, hardly even anything to cause a long glance.  It’s merely some scant details of scrambling around, and apologizing to the “tourists” I came across who had come to see something better than this – a landscape that should be in the midst of bounty and bloom, the lush and the divine – only to find dust and wind and hills from Mordor.  So goes the cycle of life, and now we wait for the rains.

On arrival there was a hint of color in the sunset that turned out to be only a tease with not a lick of payoff in the coming days.  Not even clouds to add any interest to the skies.


While waiting for my friend from Arizona to make an appearance, I was for a while occupied by some other company.  I figure this guy came with the room, for he made himself right at home.  I called him Slick, though I think he’s seen his best days.  Like any guy on the prowl, he made as much as he could out of the opportunity, and maybe was grateful for a soft place for a little while.


Looking for breakfast in Terlinqua usually means you’re headed for Kathy’s Kosmic Kowgirl Kafe where you can get a breakfast burrito bigger than your two fists, and get an eyeful of the local color.  In this case, it happens to be rather pink.  I can’t say as I know what H-Mon means.  Must be Terlinquese.


Breakfast at Kathy’s usually involves sitting around the firepit with the locals.  Sometimes they talk to you, sometimes they don’t.


Desert fences are often made of ocotillo, quite the dissuader for anyone wishing to transgress or trespass.  It’s supposed to take hold and grow, but even if it’s dead, you’re not going to be wanting to get through this barrier.


There’s a lot of kitsch around Study Butte and Terlingua, and here’s a little more.  Out here you see more Texas flags than the usual USA variety, and Texas this and Texas that.  Texas cactus, too.


Appropriately fueled for a day of exploring, hiking and image seeking, I headed out to the Western end of the park, and decided to take a road not ever traveled to the Burro Mesa Pouroff trailhead.  Along the trail, there was much evidence of the drought that has taken hold and not let go.  The creosote bushes seem to be holding their own, but the cactus, not so much.


Lots of  beasties flying around, and here was a big wasp of some variety seeking nectar from the mesquite blooms, also doing well enough and some of the only green around.


Pouroffs are the waterfalls of the desert.  You’ll just have to imagine water coming off the flats above, but none lately.  If you look close, you can see a maidenhair fern showing an incredible attitude of Hope Springs Eternal, for it bore a little bit of green.  How, I have no idea.


Big Bend is full of conglomerate rocks – rocks within rock – likely picked up in volcanic flows, or floods, or volcanic floods – more or less.  I’m thinking that looks like some fossil critter there on the left.


There was so little to see that my eye caught a bright yellow-orange leaf settled into a niche in the rock.  I hate to say how pitiful the offerings were this time, especially since my last two spring trips to Big Bend were ridiculously filled with water, bloom and fecundity.


I did snag me some wood art.  Don’t you just love this beast, all camouflaged, sitting on the rock?


And yet more challenged cactus.


My next destination was Santa Elena Canyon that sits on the Rio Grande River – Mexico on the left, Texas on the right side.  Behind the yucca bravely offering up a bloom, (somebody had to do it), you can see the cleft in the horizon line that marks Santa Elena.


Not much river for sure, and I was surprised that they were running some canoes.  As the river runners approached, I thought I’d go stick my toes in the Rio Grande, and have a moment with the water.


Well, let me tell you, I have a whole new respect for quicksand.  Oh sure it looked solid… sort of…. enough, I thought.  I’d hardly considered the next steps when I sunk down to my calves.  No easy escape, either.  I knew enough to sit down, (my new Indian name is MudButt), to disperse my weight and prevent further sinkage, but it was a purely pitiful situation.  I was trying to get myself out before the canoes went by right in front of me.  Lalalalalalalalala.  Dumbass.


I finally extricated myself, and didn’t even lose my Chacos.  Thinking better, I went over to the rocky part of the river’s edge, and proceeded to clean myself up.  Stinky, gooey, slimy, claylike ooze.  Yuck.  This whole trip’s been this way, one way or two others.  WTF?  I mean, seriously? Really?


About the time I got myself unslimed, I turned to look back where I’d been entrapped, and saw another woman sunken down further than I was.  I couldn’t get my lens cap off fast enough, but the image of her husband trying to pull her out of the muck was hilarious.  She was gracious enough to share her mudpack experience with me.  She lost her shoes though.  I can’t tell you how hard it is to get your feet out, much less the shoes you had on.  I don’t think I’ll be doing that trick again…. (she said hopefully.)


Oh, those water travelers.  They looked somehow ridiculous paddling by in that little trickle of river.  Dinky boats on a dinky river.  They could’ve waded the length of this part I think.  Nothing looked right about it.


Thus humbled by my experience, (surely my feet are better for the mudbath, likely expensive if I’d gone to some spa), I headed back to check out the rock formations on either side of the road you see on the way to Santa Elena.  There’s just something about a long and winding road, but then I like those straight ones, too.


This stuff is TUFF.  Actually it is – Tuff – a porous rock formed by consolidation of volcanic ash.  And you can’t walk on it worth a hoot.  And when it crumbles and slides underneath you, the bushes you then stumble into are full of thorns.  This is at least the third time I’ve tried to get something here, and maybe I should give up.  Last time I lost a lens cover.  But I just know there’s a picture here, which is why I keep trying.  Sigh.


As I flail around on the unforgiving rock, PonyGirl waits patiently for me to finish up my quest.  She’s been a good steed, manifested for many months before I found her last year.  Finally, the 4WD I needed for these runabouts.  And now, time to give it up for this day, and head for a shower.


The next day I adjusted my attitude and my pride and headed out again to explore the east side of the park.  This time to the hot springs, one of my favorite places.  Down the river from the springs there was a nice scene, almost too perfect.  Horse and rider on the Mexican side, taking a break.


The last times I’ve been out to the park, the river has been in flood and the hot springs submerged.  Not so this time around, and many people were taking advantage of the waters.  I can remember how good they felt after a 3 day backpack of the South Rim years ago – what balm for aching muscles.  The springs are hot, and the river runs cold right next to the walls enclosing the hot water.  Those walls have crumbled a lot through years of time and flooding, since this used to be a place for the swells to come and have themselves a unique experience out in the wilds.  But they still work, and they are a highlight of the park for many people.  Even saw a naked ranger one time.


Up high on the cliff walls close to what’s left of the old bathhouses are the mud nests of the cliff swallows.  There are also some petroglyphs in the area, so you know that the Native Americans knew about this magical place, too.


There are some huge palms around the buildings.  What the drought hasn’t about crippled, the incredible hard winter last year tried to do everything else in.  It was the coldest winter in decades, but here lost in the dead fronds of the palm hides a little bit of green.  Life will come back.


The big palm next to the main structure looks to me like exploding fireworks.  Grey fireworks.  Still beautiful without much color or  life.  And somehow strange.


Now off to see what it looks like around Boquillas Canyon, which is very different from Santa Elena.  Still parched on this end, (what, I was expecting something different?), but the river still flows, and the cattle in Mexico on the other side look relatively content, with the notes of a cowbell clinking in the wind.


And here’s Homeland Security at work, with a fellow from the other side walking across the Rio Grande just like it was nothing.  And evidently it was.

Turns out he was coming over to check out the sales and donations being collected on the honor system for painted sotol walking sticks, crystals and small art objects being sold along the trail.  After 911 they closed the Boquillas crossing, cutting off “trade” and contact across the river.  Now families that live mere miles apart, separated only by the Rio Grande, are supposed to travel way down to Presidio to make legal crossing, a hardship that is fairly ridiculous for friendly people who make meager enough living as it is, and just want to keep in contact with their families.  The good news is that they are going to reopen Boquillas crossing.  Meantime, everyone sort of looks the other way, and the Mexicans bring over their wares and the tourists leave their dollars in little jars next to the art for sale.  A little further down the river a man sat on a ledge on the Mexico side, singing his heart out, his voice reverberating down the canyon.  He had his own sign and jar, looking for donations in reward for his serenading the tourists.  There’s that, and tending the cattle and goats.  And making walking sticks.  The dollars collected go to the Boquillas schools.  I got a little beaded wire roadrunner and a crystal that looked like very dark amethyst – my souvenirs of Boquillas Canyon.


More dead grasses in the dried mud with a nice ledge – close as I can get to an art shot.


Just how many pictures of struggling cactus can I take?


Getting toward the end of another rather frustrating day, (I haven’t even told the story of the two hour four wheel drive adventure to nowhere, and no pictures to back it up – it’s that ridiculous), it seems there’s little else to do but head back for another shower, and then make for the local watering hole of another kind.  The Starlight Theater in Terlingua is a legend of sorts – the hangout for locals and tourists alike.  The locals sit all along the benches out front, usually there are guitars involved, and the tourists gather around to soak it all in, or get soaked themselves.  Monday nights are two for one, both alcohol and burgers – cheap thrills.  I didn’t get a shot of the “cool tables,” but each one is indeed an art piece.  Take it all in when you’re in the neighborhood.  It’s another world down there with characters abounding.  Some people go to the desert and the Big Bend to get lost, but more than a few have managed to find themselves.


The disappointments or wonders of the day are soothed or toasted with tequila and song.  Nothing like Terlingua and tequila, a good match for each other.


And as the sun settles in the West, we think on the next adventure, but have sort of put the fork in this one – at least this part of it.  Plans have changed – I have to head home earlier than anticipated, but Eve’s Garden still soothes, and I renew myself in that oasis in the high desert.  As in the beginning of this runabout, as I left the park, that hawk again soared right over me.  A good sign.

Wasn’t exactly the trip I thought it would be, but that’s OK, too.  We learn, and then we let it go.  Especially that quicksand thing.

See you down the road, y’all.


It’s March! Come Celebrate and Take a Ride With Me!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 3, 2011 by Queenie

The wind always changes in March.  Almost like it’s the wind in my soul.  I can surely count on it – almost every March 1st something just happens, and it’s always on the good side of things.  Or at least I remember it so.  I’m still not much into pontificating these days, more just living in the good.  I’m sure I’ll get riled up again before long, but for now, enjoy the journey.

So as March returned, I orchestrated my own sea change, with an assist by a most glorious day, weather-wise.  I start celebrating in March, because it’s my birth month, and as good an excuse as any to raise the flags.  And I fly them all month long.  I declared that it would be the day to finally take my kayak out of dry dock and set sail, or paddle, into the waters and head out to sea, or the cove at least, and Captain Picard would be proud of me – I made it so.

After a few necessaries of business and home, the next order of the day was to take the kids down to the lake first, for they are most perturbed if they are not so entertained.  They come up the stairs and make their presence known until I get my shoes on and get with the program.  They are most insistent, with the intention of not being denied.  Perhaps they take after their person, since I seem to display some of the same tendencies once I get a bead on something.  Sometimes that’s even a good thing.

As always, the Click On Pic to Make It Bigger rule applies.  Should that be true in Real Life?  Real Life – huh, there’s another topic, but not today.

And so, first trip to the lake, and I noticed immediately that the waters had become clear again.  I don’t know what happened, but since the last time I was there, it looked really clean and inviting – and yes, summer, and swimming, are surely coming.  We haven’t been getting those shimmery reflections in so long, but there they were.


Cold water holds no deterrence for the four foots, and it’s always time for water sports, even if the stick is about as long as the dog.


I am remiss in that I don’t know the name of this plant.  They’re all dried and going to seed, waiting for the new growth of spring.  When they bloom, they are fuzzy and pretty, and much preferred to the cockleburs that I have grown to hate, especially when trying to remove them from the dogs.


Most days, other neighborhood playmates show up – of the dog variety, that is.  The usual suspect is Edgar, whose only reason for being on the planet seems to be to retrieve sticks thrown into the water, then destroy them.  He’s strong and plays too rough sometimes, but loves attention.  On days when I haven’t had my camera, there have been maybe nine dogs down there, outnumbering us human types.  Fortunately, so far, they all play well together, or tolerate each other.  Maybe like most of us humans…… Should Be!



The dogs having had their day, it was time for MY day, so I took the kids back home, loaded up the Yak, (I’ve still yet to name it/her/him? – but I did buy it because it was beautiful and had the name Commitment included in its pedigree, emblazoned on the side), and it was Off to the Waters!  What I envisioned as my personal time was not quite as ordered.  A young couple appeared the same time I did, with pick-up truck and loud radio which they parked right next to the water, (some folks just don’t get it about peace and quiet and the moment), and the construction people were still making much noise at the property nearby. You just deal, or “ignore,”  and so I launched and headed for the back end of the cove.


Once around the bend, it all changed.  No noise.  No wind.  Nothing but me and the water and the rocks and the sky…. And incredible reflections. Ah-h-h-h.

More on that diamond in a minute.





The rocks and the water made for wonderful images.


Art Shot!  It’s that Diamond thing again.


Even the neighbor’s swim dock made for art.



And then I had some magical moments with some of the other locals.  Look for the “surprise” in this next picture.

Surely you found it – the female duck almost invisible behind the rock.


And here she is again, and Mr. Mallard, too.  So beautiful.



So much for exploring the back end of the cove.  Now it was time to head out to what I call Big Water – the open part of the lake.  Perfect day.  Perfect light.  Perfect everything.



This isn’t much of a shot, but I had to share the moment.  As I turned North, I heard a call from the hill on my right.  It took me a moment to place what I’d heard, and then, there it was.  Osprey!  I’ve seen them fly high and then dive, and come up with a fish.  I hope they make it out here, with what’s here and still coming.


And speaking of, here it is……. Progress.  This is the cove over the hill from us.  The west side is still pristine, but this is where the eartheaters are coming.  I used to walk over there, and sit and just look at the quiet water.  Found a fox den once.  All sorts of wild things.  Not any more.  The east side used to look just the same.


Look at this.  Progress.  Not hardly a tree left, denuded, and I heard that the raft of boat docks, (there are literally hundreds of slips), got wrenched and piled when the drought hit big time and the cove got shallow.  Can you spell Karma?


Having had enough of what makes me sad, I turned and headed out again.  One of the great things about living out here and not having that “real job” is the ability to take advantage of the lake in the middle of the week.  You won’t find me out here on weekends in the summer, with the cigarette boats tearing up and down in madness and full throttle noise.  What we call “The Island” is across the lake, offering a sandy beach and wonderful swimming.  How can I ever think about moving to West Texas and not having The WATER?  Guess I’m just going to have to have two houses – yeah, that’s it.


Turning for home now.  Quiet everywhere.  The light is going.  So peaceful.


I paddle over the to the rock outcrop that marks the boundary of the cove and Big Water – the furthest point I swim to when I’m out on my own.  I hear that familiar call – my favorite bird in these parts – and there he is.  I know I’ve been promising that picture of a wren, and here it is.  All King (or Queen, maybe) of everything, and nothing matches the glorious song of the Canyon Wrens.  There’s more sound coming out of that little body than can be accounted for – another wondrous miracle.


The rocks have been uncovered as the lake level lowers.  The mosses that have been happily existing under the water have been exposed, and now we have hairy looking rocks.  Very strange looking indeed.


Back down the cove now, and headed for home.  The light is almost gone, and I paddle in shade.  Quiet reigns.  The lovebirds and their music blasting truck are gone – the construction workers wham and bang no more.


As I approach the shore I see my two favorite neighborhood friends sitting and enjoying the scene with their kids, (that would be more dogs.)  I am assisted out of my kayak, helped to load, and even invited to dinner!  March is starting off wonderfully for sure.  We all sit and enjoy the last of the light, and I love the way my kayak looks on the bank.

Yak and Mango.


Miss Lucky watches from her perch.  We’re all lucky to live here, and have the water.


What a nice ride.  What a fine day.  Lucky indeed.



After dinner, I come back and reflect on the day.  What a good day.  What a perfect day.  And it’s only the first of March.  Many more kayak rides to come, time with friends, live music in the offing in the coming days, Big Bend in a few weeks.  I hate the horror of the news, but here, in my cocoon and on the water, my life is sweet and full.  And I’m keeping my promise to myself –

Purple this week.


Happy March, y’all.  Hope you enjoyed the ride.  Bless the healing waters, and remember Gratitude.