Day Trip to Caprock Canyons


Caprock Canyons State Park, at the southern end of Palo Duro Canyon, requires about 1 1/2 hours to drive from my house.  Yesterday, we met the Panhandle Native Plant Society there to investigate flowers and grasses.

IMG_3636

When we first arrived, it seemed blue might break through the cloud cover, but it did not.

IMG_3637

The park ranger took us to several different sites to identify different flower and grass species.  The above is an area which in the early 90s was a cotton field and has been restored with native vegetation.

IMG_3638

We drove to another area which remained “wild”–never cultivated.

IMG_3639

IMG_3640

IMG_3641

IMG_3644

IMG_3645

IMG_3646

Then we drove to a picnic area overlooking the lake.  Close to there we found the poppy below.

IMG_3647

After lunch, we parted with the rest of the group and drove to the end of the road.  Martina had hoped to see bison–the state bison herd roams there.  At this point we had seen none. As I drove along, a bison bull was strolling down the road.  Martina took this photo from the side window.  He was only a couple of meters from the car.

20190511_132914

We stopped and took a few more photos where the road ends. I have hiked from this point in the past, but not yesterday.

IMG_3649

IMG_3651

After leaving the park, we headed to Silverton, Texas, to visit a coffee shop there which was recently featured in a Texas magazine as the place to go.

IMG_3652

I loved the murals and sculptures.  The owner is a sculptor and also a raptor trainer. The shop features coffee, desserts, unique clothing, and art.

IMG_3654

IMG_3655

On the way back we stopped at the Palo Duro Canyon overlook/picnic area on highway 207.

IMG_3657

If you are in the Amarillo or Canyon, Texas, area, I highly recommend this day trip.

 

 

A Birthday Tale


Several weeks ago, the tail of my favorite horse, Miracle, disappeared.  When she died from colic after giving birth several years ago, one young lady at the vets took hairs from her tail, made a braid, and gave it to me.  Since then, it had hung in the hallway next to Dad’s spurs and a photo of the family farm above Dad’s parade saddle. Suddenly, it disappeared.  Where could it have gone?  No one had recently been to the house except Martina, my Italian exchange student, and me.  My daughter and grandson had stopped by, but no one else.  Nothing else had disappeared.  It was a mystery like the time I found a handful of dry dog food under the saddle.  I never solved that one and had given up on solving this one.  I had even considered looking for something else to hang in its place.

On my birthday yesterday, the principal walked to my room with a bouquet of flowers and a package.  The bouquet was from my grandson.  I opened the package. Much to my astonishment, there was Miracle’s tail, the top of the braid carefully and colorfully wrapped, a thin copper wire winding through it, and and then wrapped around the bottom.  My daughter had managed to take it without my seeing her do so, took it home, and had wrapped it so it would not come apart.  When I originally told her about it, she and my grandson commented how strange it was and made note of the dog food incident as if some mystery lurked in that particular place in my house.

IMG_3599

IMG_3591

My grandson had picked out each individual flower.  He obviously knows my favorite color is orange.

Then to top off the day my son also sent flowers.  It dropped 50 degrees from yesterday afternoon to late last night, the wind shrieks, clouds loom dark and ominous.  It is a good day for bright flowers.

IMG_3601

Argentinian Adventure–The Road to Wine Country


Late on a Monday morning, Gaston’s parents and I headed toward Cafayate, a relatively small town at the edge of the sierra which grows some of the best wine grapes in the world.  It is a long drive through incredibly varied landscapes.

IMG_3113

One of the first towns we drive through is Jesus Maria.  As in many Argentianian cities, trees line many streets.  Here acequias provide water for the trees.

IMG_3122

Except where cleared for farming–giant soybean and corn fields, much of the land through which we drove looks like this.

IMG_3124

Taken as we sped along, this photo show soybeans in the distance.  Since it seemed relatively dry here, I asked if they were irrigated.  Gaston’s father told me no, that they had developed a type of soybeans that require much less water.

IMG_3119

When I first saw this out my window, I thought maybe water, but no, this was the beginning of miles and miles of salt.

IMG_3120

Another photo taken looking through my window.

IMG_3131

And then we speed into the cloud forest. I was astonished my whole time here.  I had to idea there was such a thing in Argentina.

IMG_3141

We climbed higher and higher and stopped at a visitor’s area where displays explained the flora and fauna which live here.

IMG_3140

IMG_3138

IMG_3137

This area is a subtropical jungle.

IMG_3136

Often we drove through clouds or along the side of rushing mountain rivers. And then as suddenly as we arrived in these mountains, we were on the other side where it was dry.  The selva–jungle–stopped almost as suddenly as it began.  One side of the mountains lush and green with ocelots, all sorts of other wildlife, and on the other semi-arid country, equally beautiful but so astonishingly different only a few miles away.

IMG_3132

 

 

 

Argentinian Adventure–La Finca


After sitting in the airport in Iguazu for four hours because the plane was delayed over and over, we finally arrived in Cordoba around midnight and rushed to La Finca, the family place out in the country, for dinner.  Yes, dinner.  Gaston’s family, including his 92 year old grandfather, uncles, cousins, aunts, everyone had actually stayed up and waited to meet us.  I could hardly believe it.

I know Argentinians are the biggest consumers of beef in the world.  We did not have beef; we had leg of lamb grilled over the special grill his father and uncles had built–a separate house just for grilling and eating.  It was a warm night and we ate outside. It is a family ritual for everyone to congregate on weekends, but especially Sunday afternoons at La Finca to eat and socialize.  Gaston and I went there both Saturday and Sunday.

IMG_3100

It was the end of summer (Southern Hemisphere in March).  The crop in the distance beyond the trees is potatoes.  Gaston’s grandfather, who is 92 now,  bought this land, planted the trees, created this peaceful get away in the country.  Gaston’s uncle and aunt now live there with their college age children.

IMG_3104

The building in the background houses the grill–chimney on the left–and the dining area I mentioned earlier.  We ate inside once around the table that must sit at least twenty.  The rest of the time they hauled the tables outside and we ate under the trees.

IMG_3095.JPG

Gaston’s grandfather and I standing before the trees he planted decades ago.

IMG_3110.JPG

The same trees upclose.  Yes, those are very sharp protuberances sticking out all over the tree.  You see these trees in cities too, but there they have cut off all the sharp pieces so people cannot get hurt on them.  I could just imagine what would happen if a person pushed another person against one of these.

IMG_3108

The drive from the main road to La Finca.  Sunday afternoon Gaston’s mom and I strolled up and down this drive while Gaston with his dad and uncle and a cousin installed a drip line to water the bushes on each side.  Like here, they are suffering a drought.  They did not want years of work to die.

IMG_3093

The original house where Gaston’s uncle and his family live is on the left.  I loved it here and felt very privileged to spend a weekend with the family doing whatever they do on weekends.  On Saturday, the men all went to help someone move while I sat with Gaston’s aunt, her friend, some cousins.  We chit chatted, drank mate, took naps, ate pear tart and other desserts, and whiled away an afternoon.

IMG_3101

Occasionally the peace was disturbed by the raucous chatter of parakeets.  The huge nest in this tree is shared by many parakeets.  They do not build individual nests.  When they get going, they are really loud.

IMG_3107

Just as in New Mexico in the US, water comes through acequias.  The drive goes over this little bridge in the foreground.

IMG_3106

Near this acequia the family grows lemon trees, vegetables, flowers, and other delectables for family use.

IMG_3103

It was so lovely and peaceful here, I did not want to leave.

IMG_3094

IMG_3099

Gaston’s aunt and mother love succulents and flowers.  This is only a tiny portion of the plant collection growing everywhere around Gaston’s aunt and uncle’s house. His aunt is very proud of her plant collection. Many of her plants were familiar.  Some even have the same names in English and Spanish probably due to their Latin origins.

 

 

Argentinian Adventure–Iguazu Falls, The Argentinian Side


The largest park is a national park on the Argentinian side.  There are upper and lower hiking trails with an ecologically friendly train that takes you to where the trails begin.  For those who want to hike more, you can forget the train and hike through the forest/jungle to where the main trails begin.  We took the train.

IMG_3076

On the upper trail you can cross a portion of the river, cross just above the top of several of the individual falls, and get wet.

IMG_3069

The trails on the Argentinian side are impressive feats of engineering.  I kept wondering how they built them in some of the very daunting places, e.g. over tops of large falls, over the rushing river.

IMG_3075

I am standing in the middle of the “bridge” with the same distance over the river in both directions.

IMG_3063

IMG_3070

You cannot stay in this location very long without getting quite wet.  The falls are so huge and the spray so extensive, a fine mist floats everywhere.  Talking normally means no one can hear you because of the roar.

IMG_3041

The land to the left is an island.  Because it constantly receives a fine mist, the plants look lush, glistening with water droplets.  Gaston said it reminded him of the movie Avatar.

IMG_3074

IMG_3067

After all this hiking we decided to go to the hotel near the falls for a drink.  A man and a woman were teaching people how to tango.  Before I knew it, the guy had me dancing.

IMG_3027

The next day we took the lower trail.  One of the first things we saw was a group of monkeys.  Although there are signs along the road to please watch out for jaguars because too many get killed at night on the road, we did not see any.  It occurred to me several times one could have been 50 feet from me near a trail and I would never have guessed–the jungle is too dense.

IMG_3072

IMG_3049

As you can see to the right in this photo, in many places the trail is right at the edge of the falls and sometimes the trail goes over the top so you are walking over where the falls drop to the gorge below.

IMG_3023

IMG_3066

The immensity of the falls, the roar and power of the water, the lush jungle–a magical place which filled us with wonder.

 

 

 

Note:  There are several ways to spell the name of the falls, depending on the language.  I have used two of the ways.  The river which makes the falls is the Parana with an accent over the last a.

 

Iris Tough


In spite of less than 3/4 inch rain since last fall and minimal watering from the 400 foot deep well, iris bloom everywhere–even in unamended caliche, a glorious reminder of nature’s resilience.

IMG_3323

When I thinned these a couple of years ago, I had so many that I stuck them everywhere, even here at the end of the driveway.  I have watered them only once.

IMG_3324

A friend gave me just one.  I planted it by the barn among others of the color in the first photo.  In spite of the drought they multiplied a lot this past year.  Probably all the rain from last summer helped before it quit raining.

IMG_3325

I planted these a couple of years ago in front of the barn.  I watered them a few times this spring but none during the winter.  This particular iris reblooms in the fall and multiplies so fast it is difficult to keep up with separating it.

IMG_3327

Possibly because of their location by the retaining wall near the barn facing west, these are always the first to bloom.  I did water them a couple of times this spring. Insects have found them.

 

Adventures in Argentina–Flora and Fauna Near Iguazu Falls


Across the highway from the helicopter business, we visited a surprisedly large bird sanctuary, recommended by our taxi driver/guide.  We did not expect anything as lovely as what we found. Most of the birds and flowers there are native to the area.  However, a few rarer species from other parts of the world exist there as well.

IMG_3052

IMG_3084

Surprised, I recalled seeing these exact same flowers on my two trips to Costa Rica.  In fact, I found another photo on an older blog post from one of my Costa Rica trips.

IMG_3082

Endangered, many countries where these wonderful parrots live do everything they can to save them.  They pair for life–we found the evidence amusing and enchanting.

IMG_3081

Whenever we saw an uneven number together, we looked elsewhere and found the mate drinking or feeding.

IMG_3053

IMG_3088

Of course, there has to be toucans.  Some even clowned for the tourists.  People clustered all around to watch their antics.

IMG_3085

IMG_3050

Where you have flowers you have butterflies.

IMG_3078

Butterflies love Gaston.

IMG_3031

They landed on him, flew to his fingers, let him pick them up without flying away.  I tried, but no luck.

IMG_3079

IMG_3048

A fabulous morning on the Brazilian side, starting with the helicopter ride and ending here with flowers, birds, and butterflies.