Thursday, October 19, 2017

Still Crocheting!

As you know, my hobby is crocheting.  Mostly I crochet blankets that I donate to a group called The Linus Connection.  This year I will probably end up donating about 25 afghans.

Here are a few that I made this summer:

There's still plenty of time to make a few more this year!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sometimes You Strike Out

Another rainy day finds us at the Frontier Times Museum in Bandera.  This turned out to be the strangest museum we’ve been to. There seemed to be little rhyme or reason to what was displayed or how it was organized.

The first room inside the front door.

Established by J. Marvin Hunter, Sr., the Frontier Times Museum opened its doors on May 20, 1933.

It's hard to see but J Marvin Hunter is spelled out in marbles.

The museum is absolutely packed to the brim.

There were some interesting things to see

Then we would come across the weirdest things:

And this:

The museum is a larger than it looks from the outside and has several different rooms.  This tramp art picture frame was nice:

 Close-up of one corner.
We both left the museum thinking it was just very odd.

After we returned home I looked at their web site and it all made a little more sense:

“As visitors walk through the museum’s doors, they are transported back to the days when museums served as cabinets of curiosities, displaying wonderful and weird treasures.

Museum founder and luminary, J. Marvin Hunter, Sr., never said no to a gift to the museum’s collection.  He felt that if the artifact was important to the donor, then it should be important to everyone.”

Oh well, sometimes it’s a hit.  Sometimes a miss.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Learning is Fun!

We have another fabulous trip to Central America planned for next year.  Most of our trips are “birding” trips.  Our main goal is to see birds but that certainly isn’t all we find.  We look at butterflies, dragonflies, monkeys, frogs, snakes, etc.

I guess we really take “nature” trips with an emphasis on birding.  For us, it’s not enough to just let our guide tell us what we are seeing.  We want to know the birds we are looking for and be able to identify what we see.

We’ve traveled to Central and South America many times and are really drawn to that area of the world.  When we took our first trip in 2004 to Trinidad and Tobago we were going to see hundreds of birds that we had never seen before.  Mark thought up a wonderful way for us to study and learn these birds so we would know what we were looking at.

We went old school - flashcards.  After 13 years and many different countries we have thousands of flash cards printed up.

Mark is still printing up flashcards for new birds we will be seeing on our upcoming trip but this is (almost) all the birds we will be studying for now. 

 Flashcards for our upcoming trip.

Green Ibis
We’ve got 4 months of intense studying.  It’s really a lot of fun and keeps us excited about the trip.  I haven’t counted this 4” stack of paper (I don’t think I want to know).


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Lava Falls Trail

There are a number of hiking trails in the huge El Malpais National Monument. Teri blogged about the El Calderon Loop Trail that we hiked during our bat watching evening. Today's hike was on the Lava Falls Trail which is on the other side of the Monument, over 20 miles away.

The Lava Falls Trail follows the top of the McCarty Lava Flow, named after a small, nearby town. The lava flow is "only" 3000 years old, which is young in the span of geologic time. Most of the exposed surface is solidified lava, with only small amounts of grasses and trees growing in cracks and crevices.

Designating the trail must have been difficult, as you can't really create any sort of pathway. So they rely on rock cairns, which are simply small piles of rock. You walk from one cairn to the next. The trail guide warns you not to leave one cairn until you've spotted the next one. The landscape is very confusing and it would be easy to get hopelessly lost out on the lava. 

In the picture above I am standing just behind a cairn. The next is about 50 feet ahead, just along the deep crack (click on the picture for a bigger view). They blended in well so trail finding was a little tricky in spots. 

The trail surface was an interesting combination of rough rock and loose cinders. The cinders were lightweight pebbles formed by gassy lava cooling while still in the air. Very crunchy to walk on!

So what about the name of the trail, Lava Falls? If you were expecting to see a 100 foot waterfall of lava you'd be disappointed, but there were several areas where molten lava had poured over a ridge and hardened, leaving a lava fall.

There were several other textures of lava. "Ropey Pahoehoe" was a common texture on the trail. Pahoehoe is a Hawaiian term for relatively smooth lava. It looks a bit like a lava fall, but is flatter. 

"Lava Toes" are lobes of lava that are formed when hot lava breaks out of semi-hardened lava.

Here is a place where a slab of lava hardened, and then got pushed in such a way that it buckled upward. This looks like a good place for a lizard to hang out!

This is a tough environment for either plants or animals to survive. In one area we found this "Pygmy Forest" of twisted, stunted Ponderosa and Pinion Pines. By putting their roots down into the cracks they can find enough water and nutrients to survive, but they will never grow to the heights of trees found off of the lava.

Other tough plants included some beautiful cactus tucked down in the lava. 

This was a fascinating hike over an unusual and barren landscape. We had on sturdy hiking boots, but our trail guide asked us to imagine what it would have been like to cross these lava flows in yucca sandals like the Native Americans. Hard to imagine...


Monday, October 9, 2017

More From El Malpais National Monument

We've been back in Texas for a while, but never got to share all that we saw in Northwestern New Mexico. So I thought I'd go back to El Malpais National Monument and show a bit more from that interesting part of the world.

We got up early one morning to take advantage of the cooler temperatures and explore a few areas that didn't have set hours. First we stopped at some amazing sandstone bluffs that overlooked black volcanic flows in the valley below.

We always find it interesting to come across a USGS Survey Monument set into rock.

And we can't resist getting a "top of the world" picture!

As we left the Sandstone Bluffs we came across the ruins of Garrett Homestead. The Garrett Family left the midwest during the Dust Bowl and Great Depression, seeking a new start in the west. This cabin was built in the 1930's.

After leaving the Sandstone Bluffs area we continued up the road toward the La Ventana Arch. This entire region is a puzzle of different federal lands. In addition to the El Malpais National Monument, there is the El Malpais National Conservation Area, a couple of different Wilderness Areas, and the Chain of Craters Wilderness Study Area! A confusing jumble of public lands with many different rules and purposes.

La Ventana ("the window") Arch is located in the 60,000 acre Cibolla Wilderness Area. Wilderness Areas allow only non-motorized, non-mechanized access. So walking and stock animals (horseback, llamas...) are the only means of exploring these areas.

I wanted to get a picture of Teri with the arch in the background. I ended up lying on the ground and shooting upward. So artistic!!

Next - Our final destination of the morning, Lava Falls.


Saturday, September 30, 2017

My, What Big Toes You Have!

We have had day after day after day of rain.  Not hard rain, just a good soaking rain.  After sitting in the house for a week we decided we really needed to get out and do something.  I Googled things to do in the Bandera area and got a hit on two museums.  One we have been planning on visiting but had never gotten to and one we had never heard of. 

The Bandera Museum of Natural History sounded interesting and we were somewhat puzzled that we didn’t know it was here.

Bandera (Spanish for flag) is a small town (population almost 1000) about 20 miles from us.  When the weather is nice we drive into Bandera almost every morning.  There is a very nice 9 hole disc golf course that Mark really enjoys playing.  There are lots of restaurants and we have a few favorites.

So we plugged the museum into the GPS and off we went. 

The museum looked brand new and it turns out that it is.  We went inside to pay the entrance fee ($10 each). 

While driving in we noticed several very large dinosaurs scattered around the grounds.  Since the rain had let up we decided we had better see the outside exhibits first before it started raining again.

The museum sits on 8 acres.  I neglected to count how many life-sized, fiberglass reproductions of dinosaurs and Ice Age animals there were.

The monster was Mark’s favorite:
 Indricotherium (Indric beast)
I took about 4 pictures before my camera quit working.  Yep, it’s the same camera that quit during a kayak trip in Alaska.  That camera is now in the trash and a new one is has been ordered.  Mark got out his phone and we continued the tour.

The big toe guy is a Deinonychus (Terrible Claw).

Some of the Dinosaurs were in Texas 70 million years ago.

These play stations were a lot of fun!  You take the bones off the walls and bury them in the sand. 

 Then dig them up!

After walking around the grounds we headed inside the 14,000 square foot museum. 

The creator of the museum is 81 year old Juan Infante, an Argentina-born mechanical engineer and big-game hunter.  He’s also been a rancher in Bandera for over 40 years.

The museum initially was planned as an exotic wildlife museum filled with the mounted figures of the animals Infante had hunted on his many trips around the world.  It ended up being a $4 million natural history museum.

The museum’s six dioramas display some of the nearly 100 body mounts of animals Infante downed on his hunting.

 Artwork, all of it collected by Infante, also is displayed throughout.

Ironwood carving of two lions on attack (this was carved from one piece of wood).

 70 native masks from Latin America

  Possibly the largest collection of hardwood sculptures from the late Mexican artist Isaac Carrasco.

The museum is small but is packed with lots to see.  There isn’t a lot of written information.  Everything is nice and clean and well displayed.

Before we left we talked with one of the employees.  She told us the museum had opened about a year ago.  Now it made more sense that we hadn’t heard of it before!

It was a great way to spend a rainy morning.