Friday, November 25, 2011

Texas hill country

We left Mustang Island Tuesday and made our longest one-day drive yet -- 290 miles.  That doesn’t sound like lot of miles unless you are driving 40-feet worth of vehicle.   But the roads were good, Jim is a great driver, we made good time, and we spent Tuesday evening, Wednesday and Thanksgiving Day at South Llano River State Park in Junction, TX about a hundred miles northwest of San Antonio.
Junction is in the Texas hill country, so we’re seeing rolling countryside once again, instead of landscape literally as flat as a piece of paper.  The scenery is what I think of when I hear the phrase “Texas cowboy” --- cactus, sprawling trees, dry washes, shallow rivers, and yucca-type plants.  
South Llano River State Park was donated to Texas by Walter Buck, who moved here with his parents, sister and brother in1910.  Never married, Mr. Buck took care of his mom after his dad died, and raised goats, cattle and pecans (and was also a rained jeweler).  In 1977, Mr. Buck donated his 2,500 acre property on the condition that it be used as a park and/or for wildlife conservation.  The park, which opened in 1990, has hiking trails, bird sanctuaries, bird blinds where visitors can watch wildlife, and pecan trees all over the place.  What they call the “bottomland” portion of the park is one of Texas’ largest and oldest winter turkey roosts.   Up to 800 turkeys spend winter at the park eating the abundant pecans and acorns.  During the winter the turkey roosts are closed to the public because the birds scare easily.  We’re figuring that’s especially true around Thanksgiving. 
In the 1970s, Walter Buck harvested 75,000 pounds of pecans every year.   That happens to be an oak tree over our rig -- we figure pecans sound as loud as the acorns when they hit the roof of your rig.
The South Llano River.  The locals pronounce it “Lan-o” without the y-sound used in a Spanish pronunciation. 
Just a scene that looks like Texas to me.  In the foreground are Prickly Pear cactus.
Jim and what’s left of an armadillo he caught. (That’s a joke, but the skin is that of an armadillo Cooper sniffed it out.)
Up to 800 Rio Grande wild turkeys roost at the park in the winter.  In the spring, they leave and travel up to 30 miles to find a nesting area.  Then they return the next winter.
You can go 80 on the freeway in Texas.  Jim might be tempted to get the rig up to that speed, but if we drive over 65 mph we’d ruin our tow car’s transmission. 
There are three bird blinds in the park where people can watch the birds.  Here we saw a scarlet tanager taking a bath.  Volunteers fill feeders at the blinds every day. We’re thinking volunteers help with park maintenance, too, as this is one of the cleanest parks we’ve seen.  Even though it’s a wildlife sanctuary, they allow deer hunting here at certain times of the year.
Jim misread this sign and thought we were to show up here for Thanksgiving dinner.

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