For "Travel Tuesday", another area in TX:
The Big Bend National Park. SW Texas.
"Big Bend National Park in Texas features broad expanses of Chihuahuan Desert shrubland and grassland interspersed with smaller areas of high-elevation woodland in the Chisos Mountains, near the center of the park. Riparian and wetland areas hugging the Rio Grande and associated with springs throughout the park represent geographically small but ecologically valuable contributions to the park, while deep canyons along the river are among the park's most striking features.
The black bear, mountain lion, and javelina, along with bats, turtles, frogs, toads, and 450 species of birds, either reside in the park or use park resources. The area's rich and varied human history is clearly evident through widespread archaeological and historical sites."
"Explore one of America's largest yet least-visited national parks on this unique ParkScapes journey. The trip begins with a drive through the wide-open West Texas cattle country to Fort Davis National Historic Site, where you will explore one of the oldest preserved frontier military posts in the Southwest, formerly home to the "Buffalo Soldiers."
Continue south to Big Bend National Park for adventure-filled days in the Rio Grande Village, Boquillas Canyon, Chisos Mountains, and Santa Elena Canyon. Finish off your trip with a stopover in Marfa, a great little arts community." From: http://www.npca.org/exploring-our-parks/travel-with-npca/big-bend-1.html
Center for the State of the Parks: Park Assessments
"Big Bend National Park was created in 1944 to preserve a portion of the Chihuahuan Desert, an ecosystem that otherwise goes largely unprotected in Texas and Mexico.
The park features broad expanses of Chihuahuan Desert shrubland and grassland interspersed with smaller areas of high-elevation woodland in the Chisos Mountains, near the center of the park. Riparian and wetland areas hugging the Rio Grande and associated with springs throughout the park represent geographically small but ecologically valuable contributions to the park, while deep canyons along the river are among the park's most striking features.
The black bear (Ursus americanus), mountain lion (Felis concolor), and javelina (Peccary angulatus), along with bats, turtles, frogs, toads, and 450 species of birds, either reside in the park or use park resources. The area's rich and varied human history is clearly evident through widespread archaeological and historical sites.
Big Bend may appear pristine, but historical land uses have caused extirpation of several native species, considerable soil erosion, and a general decline in the condition of both natural and cultural resources. Insufficient funds prevent the Park Service from hiring staff needed to preserve historic structures, archival documents, and other cultural resources. Air and water pollution stemming from outside the park and ever-growing demands for water from the Rio Grande are seriously degrading visibility and water resources within the park. The results? Diminished visitor experiences and widespread effects on all species that rely on the river for survival." From: ://www.npca.org/about-us/center-for-park-research/stateoftheparks/big_bend/ View Full Report
(PDF, 648 KB, 15 pages)
"Are there jaguarundis in Big Bend National Park?
When you live in a place as vast and wild as Big Bend National Park, you learn to read the land. You synchronize your schedule with the rising and setting sun. You predict weather patterns and learn the daily habits of resident wildlife. You steadily cross species off your life list: mountain lion. Bobcat. Badger. Black bear.
And then, as you relax on your front porch under a starry night sky, you see something move in the darkness. It doesn’t walk—it bounds. Its head is small, its tail unusually long. And it doesn’t look like anything you’ve seen before.
For decades, stories just like this have been trickling in from both visitors and long-time residents of the West Texas park. Many witnesses believe they’re dealing with the rare and endangered jaguarundi, a close relative of the puma that looks kind of like an otter and weighs slightly more than a house cat. But so far, no one has been able to prove it."
More at: http://www.npca.org/news/magazine/all-issues/2010/spring/on-the-prowl.html By Amy Leinbach Marquis
"Across the Rio Grande from Big Bend National Park, Mexico is taking a vastly different approach to land conservation and we might just learn something from it.
Big Bend National Park is the pure definition of unexpected. As you drive south from Marathon, Texas, the Chihuahuan Desert suddenly swells into a cluster of giant peaks ahead in the distance. Twenty minutes later you’re climbing into the Chisos Mountains, where woodlands sway with Emory oaks, weeping junipers, and pinyon pines. Mountain lions reveal themselves on a surprisingly regular basis. At dusk, tarantulas tiptoe across the asphalt in clusters of furry brown legs and eyes that reflect car headlights. Scorpions glow green under pocket-sized black lights that you can purchase from a nearby rafting outfitter.
But at the base of Casa Grande Peak, mystery falls away to a familiar scene: A lodge. A restaurant. A parking lot. A trailhead. Rangers in full-brimmed hats. It’s all part of a tidy little package we know as America’s national park experience.
Even beyond the pavement, where the desert experience is entirely unscripted, visitors take comfort in these touchstones: People will always have access to this land. Congress will always provide some amount of funding. And federal law will always keep certain protections in place. This is the very definition of our national parks—a formula celebrated as our nation’s best idea, and exported all over the world with great success.
But gaze across the river into Mexico, where the landscape mirrors—if not outshines—the Chisos Mountains, and you’re witnessing the result of a dramatically different conservation model. Here, land is owned by those who live on it: wealthy ranchers, poor villagers, and Cemex—an international cement company with a conscience. Although these areas are protected by the federal government, Mexicans have never relied solely on state and federal conservation initiatives to protect the land."
More at: http://www.npca.org/news/magazine/all-issues/2008/summer/pushing-boundaries.html By Amy Leinbach Marquis
Here is Big Bend Chat, with many pictures: http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/your-trip-reports/walking-to-the-bottom-of-the-bend-dec-2011-explorations-of-the-eastern-sierr/?PHPSESSID=3670ff5266481f314d6c84cc193e6429
Rio Grande Wild And Scenic River
"The history of the Rio Grande is as long and colorful as the river itself.
Spanish explorers traced the waterway inland in their endless quest for gold. Comanche Indians crossed the river to raid villages in Mexico. Settlers from the eastern United States built farms and towns along this new national border.
Winding 1,250 miles from southern Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico, the Rio Grande marks the edge of the nation and the boundary between here and there, then and now.
Much of the river lies on private property. Some passes gently through the center of towns like Albuquerque and El Paso. But for nearly 200 miles bordering Big Bend National Park, the Rio Grande runs wild.
Designated a wild and scenic river, this section of the Rio Grande is left to its own devices. It bends and flows through canyons dotted with desert cacti and stratified rock.
Take on the Class II and III rapids in a raft or canoe through Mariscal Canyon. Enjoy a leisurely three-day float through Boquillas Canyon. Or attempt a longer ride into the wilderness.
The Rio Grande National Wild and Scenic River welcomes you year round."
This was in April of this year, 2011:
"Lance Armstrong joined George W. Bush on Wednesday for the final leg of the former president's 62-mile mountain bike ride with 15 U.S. soldiers who lost limbs or were seriously injured in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The seven-time Tour de France champion commended the soldiers for their will to recover and teased Bush about his athleticism.
“Today, he started fast but then he kind of blew a gasket,” Armstrong joked.
Bush, 64, replied: “Well, I'm eligible for Medicare next year.”
The former president said his three-day ride on the desert trails of Big Bend National Park, on the U.S.-Mexico border in southwestern Texas, was "real cool, unbelievable."
“As a commander in chief, it was my decision to put them in harm's way in the first place,” he said of the soldiers. “I feel a special bond toward them and I want them to know I'll never forget them.” " From: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/sports_blog/2011/04/lance-armstrong-george-w-bush-bike-with-wounded-warriors.html
On This Day:
Berlin Wall opened for first time, Dec 20, 1963:
"More than two years after the Berlin Wall was constructed by East Germany to prevent its citizens from fleeing its communist regime, nearly 4,000 West Berliners are allowed to cross into East Berlin to visit relatives. Under an agreement reached between East and West Berlin, over 170,000 passes were eventually issued to West Berlin citizens, each pass allowing a one-day visit to communist East Berlin.
The day was marked by moments of poignancy and propaganda. The construction of the Berlin Wall in August 1961 separated families and friends. Tears, laughter, and other outpourings of emotions characterized the reunions that took place as mothers and fathers, sons and daughters met again, if only for a short time.
The Berlin Wall: 1961-1989
The construction of the Berlin Wall did stop the flood of refugees from East to West, and it did defuse the crisis over Berlin. (Though he was not happy about it, President Kennedy conceded that “a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war.”) Over time, East German officials replaced the makeshift wall with one that was sturdier and more difficult to scale. A 12-foot-tall, 4-foot-wide mass of reinforced concrete was topped with an enormous pipe that made climbing over nearly impossible. Behind the wall on the East German side was a so-called “Death Strip”: a gauntlet of soft sand (to show footprints), floodlights, vicious dogs, trip-wire machine guns and patrolling soldiers with orders to shoot escapees on sight.
In all, at least 171 people were killed trying to get over, under or around the Berlin Wall. Escape from East Germany was not impossible, however: From 1961 until the wall came down in 1989, more than 5,000 East Germans (including some 600 border guards) managed to cross the border by jumping out of windows adjacent to the wall, climbing over the barbed wire, flying in hot air balloons, crawling through the sewers and driving through unfortified parts of the wall at high speeds.
Cold War tensions were never far removed from the scene, however. Each visitor was also given a brochure that explained that the wall was built to "protect our borders against the hostile attacks of the imperialists." Decadent western culture, including "Western movies" and "gangster stories," were flooding into East Germany before the wall sealed off such dangerous trends.
“Only today,” one Berliner spray-painted on a piece of the wall, “is the war really over.”"
Dec 20, 1803:
The French surrender Orleans to the U.S.
"Without a shot fired, the French hand over New Orleans and Lower Louisiana to the United States.
In April 1803, the United States purchased from France the 828,000 square miles that had formerly been French Louisiana. The area was divided into two territories: the northern half was Louisiana Territory, the largely unsettled (though home to many Indians) frontier section that was later explored by Lewis and Clark; and the southern Orleans Territory, which was populated by Europeans.
Unlike the sprawling and largely unexplored northern territory (which eventually encompassed a dozen large states), Orleans Territory was a small, densely populated region that was like a little slice of France in the New World. With borders that roughly corresponded to the modern state of Louisiana, Orleans Territory was home to about 50,000 people, a primarily French population that had been living under the direction of a Spanish administration.
These former citizens of France knew almost nothing about American laws and institutions, and the challenging task of bringing them into the American fold fell to the newly appointed governor of the region, twenty-eight-year-old William Claiborne. Historians have found no real evidence that the French of Orleans Territory resented their transfer to American control, though one witness claimed that when the French tri-color was replaced by the Stars and Stripes in New Orleans, the citizens wept. The French did resent that their new governor was appointed rather than elected, and they bridled when the American government tried to make English the official language and discouraged the use of French.
It didn't help matters that young Claiborne knew neither French nor Spanish. Claiborne soon found himself immersed in a complex sea of ethnic tensions and political unrest that he little understood, and in January he wrote to Thomas Jefferson that the population was "uninformed, indolent, luxurious-in a word, ill-fitted to be useful citizens for a Republic." To his dismay, Claiborne found that most of his time was spent not governing, but dealing with an unrelenting procession of crises like riots, robberies, and runaway slaves.
Despite his concerns, Claiborne knew that somehow these people had to be made into American citizens, and over time he gradually made progress in bringing the citizenry into the Union. In December 1804 he was happy to report to Jefferson that "they begin to view their connexion with the United States as permanent and to experience the benefits thereof.
Proof of this came eight years later, when the people of Orleans Territory drafted a constitution and successfully petitioned to become the eighteenth state in the Union. Despite Claiborne's doubts about whether the French would ever truly fit into their new nation, the approval of that petition meant that the people of Louisiana were officially Americans."
"Christopher Hitchens, arguably the world's most likable atheist, has died. His challenge to faith was a wake up call."
Jay went into Conroe with their neighbor to buy some new locks for his house, as he is finally going to throw out his non-paying tenant. After giving the guy notice to move several times, Jay and his mother have finally had enough.
My plan for the day was to move my big old computer to a more convenient place, and hook up the new printer. But it didn't happen. When they got back, Jay delivered my blackberries which were on sale, and he asked me to let him have some boxes. He knows I keep various sizes in case I have to ship something.
Misty and I went down there in the Puddle Jumper to see exactly how much needed to be packed. I found enough of the man's boxes and paper carrier bags to pack up all his
sh*t, clothes and shoes. I suggested to Jay that we bring it all up here to lock up in Pugsy, (my vintage motor home).
When I was getting rid of tenants, I could legally hold their stuff for 30 days until they paid me, and it worked. Jay didn't want to do that, he was afraid that he would drink too much and let him know where his belonging were, so then the tenant would terrorize me. So I put it all on Jay's covered front porch covered with a tarp, while he fiddled around changing the locks. Just getting Jay to stop procrastinating and do it, was like pushing a cart uphill. His mother wasn't well enough to prod him along. I stayed there until he had the house secured, and his mother had the keys. If Jay has them he will let the guy back in.
Misty quietly listened to all this while leashed to one of Jay's bar stools, as to change the locks the doors had to be open, and she might have fallen down his steps.
The ex-tenant called Jay's mother to say that he would be late, so she told him he needed to find another place to sleep THAT night.
We had rain for the first time in a few days.