Adios, Texas

Fourteen days after crossing into Texas from New Mexico, we’ll finally be crossing into Louisiana tomorrow.  Whew!  It’s been a marathon trek .  Seeing the Whooping Cranes at Goose Island was definitely a highpoint – the RV park in Ft. Stockton was a big low.  Lots of middle ground.

Leaving Hill Country (Austin area), we headed for Galveston Island State Park.  In the three years that we’ve wandered around in the Fireball, this is the only place we’ve returned to each year (with the exception of our favorite camping spot in Michigan).  Hard to pinpoint the reason for this, other than it’s the perfect storm of history, fabulous scenery, cycling, and food.  We enjoy moseying around the beach.  I was told that these holes may be hermit crabs.  Further research says (maybe) ghost crabs.  In any case, they are curious….(I put the penny down for size in photo #2)20150316_19261320150316_192059For this first time, though, we were unable to camp on the Gulf.  For us, it’s amazing to be camped right on the Gulf of Mexico, where we can hear the surf pounding all night long.  But, it’s Spring Break, and we didn’t make reservations early enough.  So, we were forced into a spot on the Bayside Loop, which actually should have been pretty great.20150316_142407Except it wasn’t.  It was a HIKE, (or actually a bike ride) to the bathroom/shower.  We rely on campground facilities for these needs.  It was a long way away from our spot.  There are no firepits at the campsites. The mosquitos were ridiculous!  No fault of the State Park, but we were bombarded!! Even with all of our best pest-protection in place, we had dozens of blood sucking pests inside all night.  My feet and legs are a mass of welts.  The Fireball ceiling is a bloodbath (where we thought we were carefully plucking mosquitoes off, but actually smashing them into the fabric that covers the ceiling.)  Hopefully, the blood is our own.  Can’t want to get home to get this cleaned up properly.  Ugh.  We did have some nice views, though.20150316_191717BUT, although it was a soggy, wet campground, it’s still Galveston.  We decided to cycle down the beach into town.  It’s about 15 miles.  The beach is lively.  There are access points for cars, and folks are pulled up right to the surf.  Radios are blasting, and there’s a lot of bikinis-babes and muscled-up young men working their magic on each other.  Riding directly on the beach is a treat.  We don’t get that chance very often.

Sand art abounds.  A tiny young girl (about 7 years old) had just finished this when I rolled past.20150317_123656 Another guy was finishing his tribute to a friend who had drowned nearby.20150317_12420820150317_124126 There’s something for everybody here.20150317_124850We wandered around through the historic area, the touristy area, and the not-so-desirable area.  All fun to see.We couldn’t help ourselves, so we stopped for takeout ribs at our favorite BBQ joint from last year.20150317_154436(Sorry, Leon….the Austin folks have you beat.). You still rock, though.

We may need a Barbecue Intervention.20150317_191421 As we turned toward camp, the fog was rolling in.  It got chilly in a hurry, and the cycling turned from a fun romp into a slog.  It was REALLY thick.20150317_16081920150317_162539Leaving Galveston the following morning (on the ferry), we headed to Village Creek State Park in Lumberton, TX.  These will be our last two nights in Texas.  We’ve chosen this site because it’s about the only spot to camp between Galveston, and the next place we WANT to be – New Iberia, LA.

This State Park was a pleasant surprise.  It’s located right near the center of a small town.  The park itself isn’t anything special, but it is relatively new (about 20 years old).  Campsites are level – we have a firepit.20150318_184440 There are trails, although most are under water.  The map they gave us at checkin has the closed trails marked.20150318_160016

We need firewood, so I cycle into town to see what’s available.  Wow!  Huge bags!  I do love carrying a bunch of stuff on my bike, but this taxed me to my limit. It wasn’t the weight so much, as the fact that I only had one bungee cord.  One of the workers at the grocery story offered to give me a ride to camp (“I’m into overtime, so I punch out for a few minutes to give you a ride”).  Can you believe that?  20150318_154936After crossing some bumpy railroad tracks, my load shifted.  I rode into camp, holding on to the bag, behind my back, with my right hand, trying to keep the wood out of my spokes.  (John owes me for this one!)

The best thing about camping in Lumberton, TX is that we are only 20 miles down the road from The Big Thicket, a National Preserve.  The Thicket is an area where several divergent ecosystems converge – cypress swamps and pine forests.  The westernmost slopeforest and arid sandylands.  All in a relatively small area.  After a stop at the Visitors’ Center, we decided to hike the Kirby Nature Trail, Cypress Loop, and the Sandhill Loop.  The heavy, overcast air seemed to kill any photographic light, but we still saw some gorgeous landscapes.  20150319_12231920150319_132052There was a deciduous holly tree that with a very unusual bark that really caught my eye.  I couldn’t quite get close enough….it was alive with color, although I’m not sure if the red spots were natural coloring, or a lichen or growth that lived on the tree.  20150319_12362020150319_12373420150319_123747We saw a turtle, and the tiniest little snake I’ve ever seen (about 4″ long, and about as big around as an earthworm).  The mud was impressive, from recent rains.  Other hikers turned back – we slogged ahead (happy to have our boots on!)

The fungal growths on this sawn tree were unusual in their patterns.20150319_134223One of the big mysteries we saw were the giant mound of leaf-cutter anthills.  One colony, off by itself, was crazy with ants carrying green leaves OUT of the mound.  We couldn’t figure it out – stood there and watched – yep….the leaves were coming out, not going in.  YOu can see a few of the red ants if you look closely.  Their ability to carry these large leaf pieces is impressive.20150319_135033Just a ways down the trail was an entire village of mounds.  But these did not have the leaves being moved outside.  Instead, the ants were carrying other insects in, and moving pieces of sand/ground matter out.  This was the only spot along five miles of trail where we saw any anthills.20150319_135802The other aspect of life in East Texas that really intrigued me was the Loblolly Pine.  These huge pines grow straight up, and have needles only at the very top.20150319_134652The needles are HUGE – probably 12″-14″ in length.  They grow in clumps of 3.20150319_152445We enjoyed wandering around the Trails in this unique area for several hours.  The heat and humidity were quite unexpected, though.  Down in the swamp, there was zero moving air.  I had doused myself with bug spray in anticipation of an attack, and was surprised that we found no mosquitos in the area.  Guess they are all in Galveston.

So, tomorrow morning we head off for New Iberia, LA.  Fans of author James Lee Burke will understand why we are headed there.  (For those of you who may listen to audio books while traveling, I have to say that his Dave Robicheaux mysteries are the bomb!  The reader Will Patton is incredible).

See ya, Texas!  We sure made good use of our $70 State Park pass!