Big Bend Rafting and other stuff…..

As you all know, the Big Bend area of Texas is far and away one of Ann’s and my favorite places to spend time.  Last week we spent four days there again.  We again stayed at the Casitas at Far Flung Outdoor Center, in Study Butte.  They are the best outfitters for the rafting, jeep tours, and other activities in the Big Bend.  Before I get into trouble, I want to emphasize that is just my own opinion.

View from porch of our cabin at Far Flung Outdoor Center.

View from porch of our cabin at Far Flung Outdoor Center.  Long lens used.

You already saw some of my images of some birds from the trip, but I also was able to get a few more landscape photos as well.  The area was as greenest as I have ever seen in the many years that we have visited.  The above photo was taken in the evening as the sun was setting from my far right.  It is a view from the porch of our Casita, albeit with a very long lens.

One photo that I left out yesterday I would like to insert here.  This man, Joseph, a park service employee, has the job of traveling around the Basin in the Chisos Mountains cleaning out the composting toilets.  The boxes on his pack horses have HUMANURE  painted on them.  A thankless but necessary job, I am sure.  I spotted him while I was scoping out some birds with my 500mm lens.  He was riding towards me about 200 yards away.

Joseph, collecting from the trail toilets.

Joseph, collecting from the trail toilets.

Here are a couple more of my favorite landscapes from our trip.

Sotol and Santiago Peak - Big Bend National Park

Sotol and Santiago Peak – Big Bend National Park

"Dawn Sun on Distant Mountain" - Big Bend National Park

“Dawn Sun on Distant Mountain” – Big Bend National Park

On Thursday morning, we decided to take a half-day rafting trip that Far Flung has as one of their scheduled activities.  We load up and head up-stream to a river put-in area called Grassy Banks.  It is about 10 miles west of Lajitas.  We launch there, then float back to Lajitas, where we are met by the Far Flung crew to load up for the trip back to Study Butte.

Tim, our guide getting the raft ready to launch.  Notice fast moving water of the Rio Grande.

Tim, our guide getting the raft ready to launch. Notice fast moving water of the Rio Grande.

Ann getting into her life jacket.

Ann getting into her life jacket.

Away we go!

Away we go!

The ride wasn’t as dangerous as some of the trips that go through the canyons, but nevertheless I had to hang on to my cameras, grab the side of the raft, and try to keep my balance.  I managed to get a few shots from the raft, though.  Even with the Image Stabilization feature of my Canon lenses, it still was difficult to keep some images in focus.

One view from the raft.

One view from the raft.

Goats high on a bluff on Mexican side of the river.

Goats high on a bluff on Mexican side of the river.

Turkey Vulture warming wings for morning flight.

Turkey Vulture warming wings for morning flight.

After the float trip, we were happy to spend the rest of the day on the porch of our canyon sipping refreshments and watching the surrounding scenery and seeing the quail, rabbits, birds that play around the cabins.  What a great time we had.  Be sure and click on the images to see some nice enlargements.

Record Cold Temps

After reading the weather news this morning, I can see why Ann and I might have been the only crazy people to try birding on Saturday morning.  It seems that the official low of 10 degrees was the coldest Saturday ever recorded in San Angelo.  The previous record was 15 degrees set on a Saturday in 1967..  The 10 degree temp was also the second coldest temp ever recorded on any date since we reached a low of 7 degrees on Feb. 4, 1996. Tonight the low should reach only the mid 20s, a more normal and manageable temperature.

The good news was that the wind didn’t get very high.  It can really whistle your britches here.  After all, there is nothing between here and the Canadian border except for a snow-fence.  And I think it’s lying on the ground. 🙂

American White Pelicans

As for our weekend, after the aborted birding trip, we just more or less just hung out around home.  I got cabin fever and ventured out once to see what was happening at the park lake, but just saw some gulls walking on some ice.  However, we did spot a few American White Pelicans farther out in the lake.  They were pretty much huddled up against each other.  This picture was taken a few months ago.  But you get the picture, pun intended. 🙂

We celebrated Ann’s 71st birthday yesterday.  But we just done our usual thing, going out to breakfast, she doing some more of her famous afghan knitting, me doing the Sunday crossword in a record time, for me, of three hours, in ball-point of course.  Ann’s birthday gift of her new Leupold binoculars won’t arrive ’til Wednesday.  But she knew in advance that she was getting it.

We are making plans to visit the Big Bend area the last week of

Bob & Ann rafting trip

 February.  This time we plan to stay at the Lajitas resort.  It is just outside the western boundary of Big Bend National Park.  In fact, on one hole of the golf course, if you happen to hook your drive, it will go over a high, strong, chain-link fence.  The only way you can retrieve the ball is to make a 60-mile round trip in a four-wheel drive vehicle through grease-wood and cacti. 🙂

Anyway, it should be a fun trip.  Lajitas will be a good central jumping off place for various side trips.  If the level of the Rio Grande is up enough, we may even take a rafting trip.  The above photo was taken on a previous trip several years ago.  Believe it or not, we saw an alligator in the water.  It was about 7 feet long.  Our guide had pointed it out, saying that he thought that someone had a pet, and tossed it when it got too big.  I got a few quick snap-shots of it’s snoot sticking above the water.  But they were on film and I don’t know what ever came of them.  On that trip, the river was running only about 18 inches deep.  Heck, we could have walked.  In fact, our guide had to get out and pull us over some shoals where the raft was scraping the bottom.

So that’s about enough rambling for today.

Happy Birding!!