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.