Sunday, November 29, 2020

11/29/2020 New Orleans, Louisiana

    The weather is not cooperating in New Orleans, it is raining. And not just some drizzle, it is pouring. Well, we dig out our rain gear and off we go to explore the historic downtown. Not what we imagined it would be like, but it's still nice. It is a ghost town in the rain, just a few tourists strolling through the streets. The famous French Quarter is definitely worth seeing and the fact that the stores and pubs are closed does not bother us a bit. Colorful buildings with cast-iron balconies full of tropical plants definitely attract your attention. I'm pretty sure it would be a totaly different atmosphere during Mardi Gras. But it is COVID time and rainy, too.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

2020.11.21 Padre Island

    On the coast again. This time it's the Gulf of Mexico. Padre Island National Seashore Park in Texas is the longest undeveloped barrier island in the world with almost 70 miles of coastline. The park is also one of the last remaining costal prairies. Five species of threatened and endangered sea turtles found in the Gulf of Mexico nest on the beaches at the park.
    I wish we had 4x4 vehicle so we could drive further down to explore the primitive gulf beach. But since we don't, we anchor down in a developed camp and get some rest for a few days. We keep ourselves busy by beach walking, crab chasing and trying to take pictures of the birds who don't let us too close.

    The very first day we walked along the beach we noticed enormous amount of trash, mostly plastic that washed up to the shore. It is a big problem in Texas. They have an 'Adopt a Beach' program but it was suspended due to Covid. On the bright side we, were amazed by the presence of beautiful Portuguese Jellyfish and the Ghost Crabs. Also, there are over 350 species of birds living or migrating through the park. It is a true paradise for bird watching.

Monday, November 16, 2020

11/16/2020 San Antonio

    San Antonio is the first metropolitan area we've run into in Texas. So far, we've traveled hundreds of miles through a land of nothing, just tumbleweed and oil fields. We decided to stop here to visit the well known Alamo mission and fortress, but it turned out to be little disappointing. Only a church and a garden, worth about a half-an-hour walkaround. A few displays explaining the history of the fort and a lot of visitors, making us uneasy in these Covid-19 times.
    Fortunately, we discovered other things around San Antonio to entertain ourselves. Since the Alamo Fortress is in the center of San Antonio, we ventured to a quite unusual downtown park, the River Walk. It is a network of walkways along the San Antonio River, one story beneath the streets with many restaurants, shops and hotels. Unusual placement and really great idea how to turn a busy commercial place into an island of tranquility.
    Then, we visited the San Jose Mission, well preserved ruins of an 18th century settlement. The place was quiet, mainly because the visitor's center upfront was closed and a lot of people just turned back. Luckily, we found an opened gate behind the center and strolled inside.
    Second nice surprise was the Japanese Tea Garden near San Antonio Zoo. Nice and quiet place with ponds full of colorful Koi fish, waterfalls and nicely arranged plants.

Random facts about San Antonio:
    - San Antonio is the most visited city in Texas.
    - Charles Lindbergh received training at Brooks and Kelly fields in San Antonio.
    - Theodore Roosevelt recruited his famous Rough Riders in the Menger Hotel, still located in downtown.
    - The Milam building was the first air-conditioned office building in the US, opened in January 1928.

Friday, November 13, 2020

11/13/2020, National Parks inTexas

11/10/2020, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

    This is the first of only two National parks in Texas. We didn't have any camping reservation as we rarely do, but to our surprise, the campground was first come first served. So, we were able to secure a spot. Most people come here to hike the highest peak in Texas, Guadalupe Peak 8,751 ft (2,667m). Because it was a very windy and cold day we decided for a shorter hike " The Devil's Hall". And it turned out it was a good choice. Agaves, prickly pear cacti, cholla and yuccas are abundant in this area. It reminded us of the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. The only thing that's missing here are the Saguaro cacti.

11/13/2020, Big Bend National Park, Texas

    Big Bend National Park is one of the most remote parks in the United States. It runs along the Texas-Mexico border created bythe Rio Grande River. It is a long way from any civilization. The name Big Bend comes from a large bend in the Rio Grande River along the park boundary. The Chisos Mountains was our favorite area here. After a quick visit and just one hike we had to leave. Too many people were in the park and not enough camping spots available.
    Due to Covid-19, one campground was closed and two others reduced the number of sites. We were a little disappointed but we fully understood the situation and the reasoning. Unfortunately National Parks struggle with a crisis; just too many visitors.

Monday, November 9, 2020

11/09/2020, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

    Fun fact: The town of Carlsbad, which lends its name to the caverns and a national park, is named after a Czech town 'Karlovy Vary', 'Carlsbad' in German, both of which mean "Charles's Baths".
    The park contains 19 caves; only three are open to the public. The most impressive chamber at the Carlsbad Caverns is the Big Room, which is 4,000 feet (1,220m) long, 625 feet (191m) wide, and 255 feet (78m) high. The Big Room is the largest cavern chamber in North America.
    Lechuguilla Cave is well known for it's delicate speleothems and pristine underground environment. To protect the fragile environment, access is limited to scientific expeditions only. Recently an antibiotic-resistant bacteria have been discovered in this isolated cave.Carlsbad Caverns is also a sanctuary for Brazilian free-tailed bats. It is unfortunate that bats stay here only from early spring through late October. They fly to Mexico and further south for the winter. So we'll have to return to see the "Night Flight Show" some other time.