Thursday, April 14, 2011

A fortnight, and still

It's been two weeks today of being on the road. I realized how much I'm becoming addicted to watching sunrise every morning, and sunset every night. And, gazing at the stars every night because that's what you see. You don't have to make an effort. We haven't used the rainfly on the tent for a while now, and so all night long I wake up, look at the stars or gaze at the moon, and fall gently back to sleep. How wonderful this is!
Monday morning we headed to Amistad National Recreation Area, which is a beautiful reservoir just west of Del Rio, TX. Our campsite was surrounding by water on 3 sides. And it was cheap! Our camp hosts there ended up giving us some excellent advice on what to see and do in and around the area. Camp hosts are incredible resources, and usually pretty amazing people- so make a point to talk to them! They are volunteers from who knows where, and we've realized that many of them know each other and can connect you with some cool opportunities as well as fill you in on history, local flora and fauna, and tips about the area. I have a deep appreciation for all of the camp hosts we've met so far.
So Monday we explored Del Rio a little, found a grocery store (the first one in TX to sell tofu!! Yay!), and did a lot of enjoying the cooler weather (relatively, anyway) and the beautiful lake. Tuesday we (on the advice of our camp hostess) found the sole health food store in Del Rio. It's called Nature's Medicine Shoppe, and was an absolute paradise for me. We were able to find nutritional yeast, among other things, and the store had so many products that I know and love. The book section was even incredible. I could have spent a lot more time and money there. The woman who owns the place is incredibly kind, and we were able to chat with her about where to buy organic produce in the area. Places like this are invaluable assets to a community, in my humble opinion, and I'm so glad that this place does enough business to continue to exist.
Later, we visited the local winery which happens to be the oldest winery in the state of Texas, the Val Verde winery. Every wine in the tasting was delicious, which is not typical, and the hostess was so nice.
We then spent a couple hours in the library, where I randomly picked up a book of essays by Barbara Kingslover (I love her) entitled High Tide in Tucson. The first essay shared this title, and just happened to discuss many ideas about the differences between being animal and being human. I highly recommend this read, as it went right along with many of the thoughts I've been tossing around on this trip.
After a brisk and brief swim back at the campsite, the rest of the evening I spent enjoying nature. The area is populated by an energetic group of cliff swallows, and several scissor tailed flycatchers, one of which graced us with his presence.
Wednesday morning was a 35 mile jaunt over to Seminole Canyon which boasts the oldest rock paintings in North America, dated at 4000 years. The tour took us into the Fate Bell Alcove, where the paintings, although fading, can still be seen. Our guide said that they are fading at a rate which suggests they won't be visible at all in 20 years, so we may be the last generation to be able to view them. The feeling in this place was, of course, ancient, and magical. The symbols have yet to be interpreted since they are so old and belong to a group of hunter gatherers we know little about. The paintings were beautiful, and I would recommend trying to see them before 20 years goes by.
That afternoon we left Amistad to head for Kickapoo Caverns State Park. The Stuart bat cave is there, and is home to 500,000 bats this time of year. This place is truly in the middle of nowhere. To my delight, armadillos were running around all over the place (first time I've seen them in the wild), and porcupines too. Racoons and scorpions bigger than any of the ones I've seen in Arizona were also taking up residence there. A hybrid boar that is the offspring of domestic pigs and some sort of German boar also roam the twilight. The many many birds include the black capped vireo, which is endangered in large part due to the parasitic cowbird. All these things I saw. Including the 500,000 bats fly out of their cave at dusk, and proceed to be hunted by 2 peregrine falcons (the fastest animal on earth), which definitely dined well.
One of my favorite parts about this week was spending time with a couple from Quebec. We were on the same tour at Seminole Canyon, and wound up camped beside each other at Kickapoo. We were the only campers around, and the only 4 people at the bat cave. We enjoyed good food and drink, and wonderful and enjoyable conversation and company. Since they are native French speakers, I got to pick up some new phrases.
They are taking a similar route through Texas, so we may run into them again actually. It's easy to get so caught up in the solitude of nature (even when you are with one other person) on a trip like this, you sometimes forget about the joys of dinner with friends, etc. It's really nice to get to share the wilderness with others who appreciate it.
It helped the transition into San Antonio today in the sense that I was happy to be around other people. Our day began with breakfast in the woods, and right now I'm in a hotel room right next to the Alamo, in the middle of the 7th largest city in the US. To say that my senses have been overwhelmed today is an understatement. From driving into town, to trying to check into our hotel (which had somehow had us booked for two separate dates in May and not today), to finding a place to park, to fighting the Fiesta crowds to see downtown, I am exhausted. I am not a city girl, though I appreciate some of the things cities have to offer. I just think I needed a gentler reintroduction into the hustle and bustle of a city. Everything is so loud and so fast (I know this), but it seems so much more so after a time spent away from it all. Especially having lived in Tucson for the past three years, where even the hustle and bustle is nothing comparatively. So, I did get to see the Alamo, which was, like everyone said it would be, smaller than I'd imagined. But, I am glad I was able to stand before it. I also got to experience the River Walk, which is lovely if busy. We attempted to go to a vegan restaurant for dinner, which google maps said was only 1 mile away (it lied), but that didn't work out. So one margarita and a dozen mariachi bands on boats later, I called it a night. Too overwhelmed to appreciate it right now, so I will try again tomorrow. (By the way, mariachi bands on boats are a bad idea because you can't actually hear an entire song. I have a soft spot in my heart for mariachi bands, and I will follow them around drooling if left to my own devices. See, I have this vision every time I hear one play, of myself dressed in a beautiful flamenco dress with flowers in my hair on a moonlit veranda with the band playing and my feet flowing. Luckily, I got to hear one song from a stationary band tonight. Ah, yes.)
So, all is well, and I keep being reminded to let every feeling come, to be in awe, and to be here now. I've been trying harder than ever to live fully in the moment (though today was much more difficult for me). Que sera, sera. Right?

By the way, this internet connection and the fact that I left one of the cameras in the car means that I will have to post photos later. Ah well.

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