Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Medina Lake, Texas

John Carlton calls a mainstream square.
Wayne Ratcliff is in the purple shirt, promenading.
We are staying at a Thousand Trails RV park in Medina Lake, Texas this week. I was pleasantly surprised to see such a lovely, large clear lake after driving over ground that looks pretty parched. And there are lots of birds and deer for further entertainment. Fishing is also an option with largemouth bass, white and hybrid striped bass and catfish in the lake. Not sure I'll take advantage of that, however.

Last night we went to a local square dance called by John Carlton in a nearby town.

Steven Ratcliff feeds a zebra special approved pellets.
Our visit to Wayne's son, Steven, in Killeen last week gave him a chance to go fishing at night and during the day and he really enjoyed that. We also visited an exotic animal park in Topsey where we saw numerous kinds of deer, antelope, sheep, llamas, camel, buffaloes, elk, and my favorite: zebras.

The nighttime temperatures are cooler than I expected for central Texas, but it makes sleeping nicer. They range from the low 40s to the low 50s. Daytime temperatures are pretty dependent on cloud cover; upper 70s and low 80s with clear skies, 10 degrees lower if there are clouds.

My nose has been stuffed up with a minor cold or allergies since we drove past El Paso, so I am not able to determine if Texas really 'smells' different, as one person suggested it might. I walked by the lake yesterday and there seems to be a lot of limestone and not much grass with live oak trees dropping nuts, so there is a crackling sound as I walk. Very peaceful place.

There is a swimming pool here, along with other amenities, but the temperatures are not encouraging for me right now to think about getting wet all over. What a woos I am.

My desire to do any painting has been thwarted somewhat by the driving schedule and other activities. Perhaps since we are here for a week I can get at least one project done. I did complete this one with Susie Ratcliff last week.
We went to a painting place to do some art together. It is
always interesting to try new things.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

I Could Not Waltz Across Texas

First of all, it's a huge state. Texas has not gotten any smaller since the last time I drove across it, but there are signs of growth all along the I-10 corridor. El Paso is finally expanding the lanes through the city and there're plenty of indications that other roads are being improved as well.

An overlook in Texas someplace; I'd lost track of where.
But more disturbing is a Border Patrol 'incident' where one agent died and another lies in the hospital severely injured. We came upon a huge gathering of police and Border Patrol vehicles and assets at Milepost 151 east of Van Horn, Texas on I-10 about 10 a.m. Sunday morning as we were heading for Fort Stockton. It was clear to me that something was afoot, but no traffic was being stopped so we kept on at our 65 m.p.h. rate. It was only later in the day when I decided to look for more information that I even got some of the details.

At first all the media was saying one agent was murdered, but in later reports the story has been tamped down and all the intensity about illegal aliens wielding rocks in a murderous rampage has been defused. I would like the truth to be revealed, but perhaps it never will be. I'm only theorizing but it seems like it might have been some kind of accident which did not necessarily involve any folks from the south and after all the saber-rattling of the media, no one wants to admit they jumped to conclusions.

As you arrive in Fort Stockton from the west, this very
impressive metal art sculpture can be seen on the right hill.
As we drive through the lives of the folks in Oregon, Nevada, Arizona and now Texas, it is inevitable that we will see only portions of the fabric of their lives. It was one of the reasons I stopped being an EMT; I didn't like not hearing the conclusions of the events I was participating in.

Texas mountains just before sunset from Fort Stockton, TX.
We stopped in Fort Stockton because I wanted to see the reconstructed fort, read about the history of the area and make sure we didn't race across Texas like we had gone through Nevada.

We were able to get into the fort and also to see the Annie Riggs Hotel Museum with tons of interesting artifacts from settlers who were involved in making their home in Texas. It turns out that taking matters into one's own hands to achieve a particular result is not unique to this area, either.
Texas sunset in Fort Stockton.
"Buffalo Soldiers," so called because the Negroes' nappy
hair reminded the Indians of buffaloes, were key to helping
settle the region after the Civil War.
We saw the largest roadrunner in the U.S., the old pioneer cemetery which has fallen into such disrepair that almost no headstones remain readable, and a number of original buildings which are still being used today. But the downtown/main street is in a sad state of abandonment; the city of Fort Stockton has failed it's constituents by not giving benefits to those who want to have shops there.

It is not enough to have wonderful old historic sites and no main hub reinforcing that history.

However, we did enjoy the actual fort and grounds and some of the video presentations. We made our donation and hopefully along with those of other folks, the Historic Commission will find the funds useful to repair the video that wasn't working and to take care of other aspects of the site so that future visitors will get the full effect.
An artist's rendering of the original fort's site.
It is quite large, unlike the Lewis and Clark fort, and I could almost hear the ghost soldiers and their horses as I walked over the ground.
A building used as a kitchen still stands.
This fort was a key spot for travelers to receive refreshment and support as they wended their way westward. There was a huge natural spring offering fresh water and the troops offered protection from the indigenous tribesmen who didn't want the colonizing Americans on their lands. 

What a time it must have been for all concerned. As we were driving east from here, we discussed the distance and the time it would have taken riders to get from Fort Stockton to Fredericksburg, TX, the nearest bit of civilization in those days, some 270 miles away. We estimated that riding hard, it would have taken about five or six days... over ground that had rattlesnakes, badgers, foxes, wolves, coyotes, wild turkeys and other birds and rodents. We made it in about 4 hours. Grateful it was by vehicle!!
Buildings have been salvaged or reconstructed to give an
historical replication of Fort Stockton as it was in the 1860s.
Fort Stockton parade grounds and officers quarters today.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Random Thoughts and Shots Along the Trail

Up at the Elwha River dam location
 in Port Angeles, WA.
As we planned our journey, we took side trips and walks in the woods or along city streets and so here are a few thoughts and shots that are nice reminders along the way. Perhaps they will make sense to you, or maybe not. But like me, just enjoy and see where they take you.

These birds are very pretty, easy to train, but cannot hold a
candle in intelligence to the African Grey, a bird I once had.
Still, it was a treat to have a feathered connection this day.
In Seaside, OR, the beach simply goes on forever. I didn't actually feel like walking on it, but wanted to watch the waves roll in. As I was sitting there, along came a fellow with his pet bird. She was more than eager to jump on my arm and shoulder, and it was a nice reminder of the days when I had a bird.

Wayne cast off all inhibitions in Seaside, OR
and jumped on a reindeer on the carousel!
Then later in the day, Wayne decided to throw caution to the winds, so we rode the carousel together. Up and down, up and down, we listened to the music, smiled and watched folks looking at us, two senior people being kids again. Such fun!

Along a path after our trip to Mt. Saint
Helens, we walked a marshland trail and
saw millions of spiderwebs being made.
The marshlands trail below Mt. Saint Helens offered us a chance to walk easily through woodlands changing colors. It was also a breeding ground for some kind of spiders and every step was a challenge because of walking into another web being created. 

At one point Wayne was streaming threads of spider webbing like braids of hair from his shoulders.

It caused me to think about how there is so much energy being trailed behind each of us as we move through our own worlds, only we don't have the eyes to see it (in most cases). And our positive thoughts emanate from our auras either lighting us up or bringing lights to others.

An abandoned building sits in a town that used to be full of
mining activity and now has to find other ways to maintain
its existence.
As we journeyed through many towns along the route taking us from Reno to Las Vegas, there were all the signs of hope being delayed or denied with small towns that once were probably rollicking and rich with laughter as the people found resources and spent the value gained. Now those towns are grabbing at tourists like a lifeline, hoping with each stop something will be exchanged for the time they've invested in trinkets, arts and magnets to remind the tourist where they've been.

The red rocks of Sedona, Arizona push up all over the desert.
We finally made it to Sedona, where I feel the sacredness emanating from all the red rocks. Where I find my energy being wound up and realigned with Mother Earth. And when we arrived at the top of the Oak Creek Canyon Road, there were Navajo men and women artisans with their created treasures. I did not want something expensive or large; and Source pointed me to a woman who created copper pendants with turquoise and coral inlays. It was enough. A reminder that I am connected to the earth that gave up the copper and the semi-precious stones for a small adornment.

Sedona as seen from the airport area; growth continues in the city and its
surroundings changing it every time I visit. But the earth is still sacred.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Exploring Native Lands in Arizona

There are a lot of locations in the NW and the SW of the US to draw greater appreciation for native peoples and their lifestyles. As my partner in travel and I drove from the Olympic Peninsula south, we passed through Oregon and then Nevada and now we are in Arizona.

Northwestern states are where many of the Ratcliff clan can
be discovered; a tour guide is helpful however.
The native folks we observed in the other states were mostly of the Ratcliff clan. They can be found near water or up in the mountains where they fish and hunt quite successfully. We were really fortunate to be invited to a clan feast where Candy Ratcliff served up some delicious venison and vegetables all from their own backyard - literally. The deer was taken down in a field very near the homestead.

Then as we were leaving, another member of the clan, Willis Ratcliff, handed over some frozen trout for us to enjoy along our journey. We are truly blessed to have such wonderful connections!!

Montezuma Castle, a National Monument site protecting an
example of cliff dwellers lifestyle 700 years ago in Arizona.
Here in Arizona, the Southern Singua, an indigenous tribe that lived in the Verde Valley thousands of years ago, were farmers and peace-loving hunters and gatherers. They grew and processed corn, mined for salt, created tools and crafts, including making things from cotton.
A closer look at the home in the stone...

My telephoto lens does not give a sense of size in this view,
but the opening is easily 5 feet in height.
The use of mud and other materials created a warm and safe
abode. Thick walls hold in the heat, repel the wind and cold.

Although the limestone that supports housing of these early dwellers is soft and unstable, when they left the area, they left behind a wonderful example of their cliff dwelling lifestyle at Montezuma Castle. We toured the National Monument to get these pictures and this information.

Wise folks in archaeology realized how tenuous the site was and have protected it for decades so that others may come and enjoy it as well.

It is still considered a heritage site for the several known tribes who have, in their oral history, references to the location and periodically celebrations are held here to honor their ancestors.
Diorama of the site shows how families would have likely
lived, done their crafts, cooked, and stored their harvests.

High ledge above the Beaver River.

The Beaver River offered up fish as well as drinking water.

Another view of the cliff dwelling from the river area.
Looking closely you can see holes that were partlywalled up
in various parts of the lower end of the structure.

I used my telephoto lens to get closeups of the windows and doorways which are quite large. Ladders were once used to access the 'hotel of the tribe' and a carefully created diorama shows how the site might have looked hundreds of years ago.

No one knows why the indigenous Southern Sinaguans left the area about the 1400s, but my guess is that exploring Spaniards may have brought disease and disturbance to the enclave. It was interesting, nevertheless, to be drawn into conversation with a family visiting the area from Spain; their two daughters were quite fascinated with the tour and signed up to be Junior Rangers afterwards, promising to care for and protect such sites in the future.

Sycamore trees reach up toward the tops of the cliffs.
There are sycamore trees which Wayne thinks have several hundreds of years of growth. So some of them might have been little saplings when native folks were walking around; at any rate the seeds from those venerable trees have undoubtably helped to create the soothing trees that stand here now.

A view through the trees looks toward the Verde Valley and
the mountain range that has to be crossed to get into Phoenix.

The colors were lovely and the wind moving the leaves was incredibly mesmerizing.

I wish I could have found a spot that was away from the touring folks to do a short video of the river quietly passing by with the trees murmuring above. So glad I had a chance to experience this place of enchantment for me! Hopefully it will remain available for a long time for others to come and visit and have their own experiences.

Fall colors in the Verde Valley in Arizona.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A Volcano and Memories

Mount St. Helens in Washington State on Oct. 24, 2017 from viewpoint.
On the 24th of October (a lovely and warm, sunny, Wednesday), my traveling companion, Wayne, and I drove up to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Established in 1982, after the explosive eruption on May 18, 1980, the 110,300 acre site provides an opportunity for exploration, research, education and recreation.

Remaining trees from the blow-down after the eruption.
Little trees and other plants continue to
take hold and gradually change the
landscape of the starkness of 35 years.
I recalled that day as we were driving up toward the viewpoints. I was living in Boise, ID, with two daughters who were 9 and 11.  I wouldn't meet up with my son's father until July or August of that year. And my son would arrive the following year. (Here is a link to Wikipedia's information page: Mount_St._Helens) And shortly after the eruption, the ash from the volcano began to fall in Boise. It was only a couple of weeks later that we ended up adopting a grey cat we called "Cinder."

Wayne looks out for elk and deer in the foothills.
I don't recall all the details of that particular day, but we began seeing ash fall in the afternoon. The girls were intrigued, but I was worried. What did it mean? How much would fall? And I vaguely remember news reports being broadcast of the actual eruption which was fascinating. It was exciting and scary at the same time.

A Noble Fir grows along a path that is
at the Loowit Viewpoint allowing folks
to walk a trail along the fallen trees.

Wayne walks further out on the Loowit Viewpoint trail.

The Toutle River cuts through the mud and ash.

Color returns to the landscape.

Wayne walks the Loowit viewpoint trail.
Movie viewing room has a magnificent view of the volcano.
Johnston Ridge Observatory; named after David A. Johnston,
a volcanologist who died moments after the eruption started.
He was standing on nearby Coldwater ridge.
The center lava dome that built up after the eruption. Taken
using my telephoto lens on a Canon EOS Rebel.
Right side of the crater. 
Inside the lower left side of the northern ridge (blown out)
and the newest lava dome is to the right. No significant
volcanic activity has occurred since 2008.

Seeing this huge mountain from a closer view brought all those images back and up at the Johnston Ridge Observatory the pictures were there once again. It was as if history was doing a forward and back in my head all day.

Wayne, as a former Department of Natural Resources employee, was a great source of information about all the Noble Firs that were seeded the following couple of years into the ash fall and other aspects of re-foresting a huge area that was blasted by the explosive event.

It was amazing to see these 34-year old trees and other landscape changes giving new life to everything in the area. And it was impressive to be able to look up at the open side of the mountain and see the new growth inside it as well.

Later we took a walk around the new Coldwater Lake, formed after the eruption, and came upon two bucks who were as surprised to see us as we were to see them. New life and new directions are part of living in general and I took this day as an affirmation of that occurring for me now.