To escape the fires and high winds of New Mexico, I headed east to the Texas panhandle. Well, at least I escaped the fires…
After five hours in the car, driving across the middle of Texas, the last sound I wanted to hear was traffic after I pulled into my campsite at Galveston Island State Park. So I walked away from the road and out onto the beach. Ah, the Gulf Coast is glorious, even when the sun is well-hidden behind the clouds. The waves are endless and they create a natural noise that drowns out everything else.
These two old men passed me, the sounds of a lively conversation reaching me over the surf. I loved the image of them so much I took their picture. It reminds me of long beach walks with my own friends.
An hour’s walk letting the sound of the water wash over me was exactly what I needed.
Postscript: Just in case you think beach walking on the Gulf Coast is all happiness and light, well, here’s the sign at the entrance…
Venomous snakes. I guess it’s trying to prepare me for Louisiana and Florida.
We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch, we are going back from whence we came.
John F. Kennedy
It’s kind of a bleak weather weekend for many people in the US: cold, snow, and more cold. It’s warmed up in Texas, hitting 50F as I walked around Canyon Lake today. The drowned trees (this is a Corps of Engineers dammed lake) fascinated me and so that’s what I had fun with today, both in the taking and in the post-processing.
That old-school Minolta lens I’ve been using has a much smaller field than the wide-angle I’m used to, so learning to compose shots within its field of view has been an interesting set of lessons the last month or so.
I’m learning that black and white photography is best viewed on something larger than a camera monitor or a phone screen, so treat yourself and view these images on a tablet or bigger screen if you can. The larger the screen, the more it showcases the tones of the images.
I hope you’re warm and dry today, wherever you are. The weekend, and warmer temperatures are on their way.
I don’t see the world completely in black and white. Sometimes I do.
Benicio Del Toro
Big Bend National Park is a fascinating place to learn about fossils because so many have been found here. The NPS has built a cool exhibit that showcases the 130 million years of the land’s development and the creatures that roamed the water and land here. 83-130 million years ago, this place was all water, and the only life was below the surface. But things changed when land rose above the water level.
72-83 Million Years Ag0
As the water drains off, a coastal floodplain emerges.
The Deinosuchus or “terrible crocodile” was a hunting dinosaur, as big as a schoolbus. The skull fossil looks pretty scary, and big! It was the top predator in the swampland that was Big Bend.
55-72 Million Years Ago
Rising land cuts Big Bend off from the sea, making it an inland floodplain.
The Tyrannosauraus, or “tyrant lizard” ruled the area during this time period. How big was it? 40 feet long and 16,000 pounds of serious hunting machine, this creature had the strongest bite of any land animal in history.
The Quetzalcoatlus (pronounced ket-ZAL-koh-AT-lus) was the biggest flying creature, with a wingspam of 35-40 feet. Here’s a reproduction of a skeleton of this big bird.
The exhibit had a great painting of how things might have looked during this time.
10,000-55 Million Years Ago
The earth gets wild and turns Big Bend into volcanic highlands.
The most mamal during this time was the Hyracotherium (pronounced hay-ruh-KOH-theer-ee-uhm). This little critter is the ancestor of all horses. Its feet had padded toes like a dog, not hooves like a modern-day horse.
How Big Bend Was Formed
The image below, from the fossil exhibit, shows how the landform emerged from water to form what we now know as Big Bend National Park.
For more on the fossils of Big Bend, check out this website.
Catching up on recent travel, I was down in Big Bend National Park in February, and it is yet another amazing place that Americans can enjoy as part of the National Park System. Big and wide, open and ancient, I loved exploring here. From the first glimpse of the mountains on the road down from Marathon, I was constantly challenged to figure out how to capture this place with my camera.
Just driving along a road becomes a show, and they thoughtfully provide pullouts for people like me.
We spent a whole day exploring the west end of the park by car and I kept thinking that any minute I was going to see dinosaurs. That’s how old this place feels. Not coincidentally, Big Bend is filled with fossils and has an amazing display of things found in the park. Look for more on that in an upcoming post.
One day I got up early to hike a nature trail and my reward was seeing this on my way out. By the time I came back this way it was gone, the slight morning mist dissolved by the heat.
I hiked up an overlook and took this shot of the Rio Grande Village campground. Somewhere down there is my trailer, along with about 40 others.
Surprisingly for February, the park experienced a wave of temperatures in the 90s, so we escaped up to the Chisos Mountains for a day. The higher elevation means cooler weather and it was definitely appreciated! The photo below is The Window, a viewpoint where you can see the park below. It was too hot to hike out to it so this is as close as I got.
The view the other direction wasn’t bad either.
In closing, I want to point out that the southern border of Big Bend National Park adjoins Mexico. Scroll up to the top of this post and look at that photo. The beautiful mesas in the background are in Mexico, which the ones in front of them are in the USA.
The Rio Grande IS the border here. Mexico is on the right. The USA is on the left. I was standing in the middle of the river taking the shot, so I guess I was illegally crossing the border.
This is the Rio Grande a few miles further east. Look closely on the left side and you can see a small boat landing and rowboat there. Where I was standing to take this picture, there was a small display of handmade animals made out of copper wire and beads, a sign saying each was $7, and a plastic jar where you put the money. It was late afternoon, and by the time I had picked one to buy, three young men had rowed across that river, picking up their wares at the end of the day. The jar had $14 in it.
Besides the obvious question of how you build a wall down the middle of a river, such a structure would not only take away the little money these guys make in a day, it would decimate the wildlife that depends on the river every day, completely unaware that some politicians 2000 miles away are plotting to destroy their habitat. The river here isn’t about politics, it is about survival.
For more on Big Bend National Park, you can visit their website.