Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Texas April 2016 Westward Ho! 7 and we are headed west again Junction, Ozona and Fort Stockton/Balmorhea SP

It was time to head west again but we really wanted to get west to Fort Stockton to start our journey northward toward Carlsbad Caverns.  I have not been making reservations much ahead of time because between the excellent Day's End directory from Escapees (an RVing club) and the wonderful books by a Canadian, Marianne Edwards, The Frugal Shunpiker's Guide-which cover a number of states and have incredible information, we have been finding places off the beaten path and available for boondocking (no amenities and usually free).  So, I had seen that Junction, TX has a city park that allows 2 nights of parking for RVs right next to their lake and that is where we headed.  But FIRST...we had to have the tire changed and do some groceries.  When we'd had what we thought was a flat tire back at Quintana Beach and the wonderful tire service guy had changed it for us, we'd used our spare.  It looked to be in excellent condition but it is 8 years old and Don felt we'd be safer using our new tire.  We'd taken it to a Good Year dealer in San Antonio and determined that it was utterly fine so now we were stopping at Camping World to have it put back on.  We didn't have an appointment so we had to wait-with Cadbury and Phoenix in the waiting room, and then wait some more to have it done.  Once that task was completed we stopped at Trader Joe's to stock up on some things we can't find anywhere else and hit the road-4 hours later!  Junction would be a great stopover since it would only be a few more hours.

The day was hot, really hot and after hours of driving-even with the air conditioning on-we were hot.  What a lovely find.  We drove through town and down into the city park, at first confused as to where to go and then found a lovely spot right next to the lake where a group of local teens were swimming.  When Don complained of the heat I suggested a swim which he took and was completely refreshed.  I, in the meantime, hopped on Facebook to share this and a friend, in St Croix, mentioned a park near Fort Stockton where "there is a river in the middle of the desert" another friend posted a link to Balmorhea State Park and we then knew where our next stop would be.

The lake at Junction TX

prickly poppy

Bald Eagle carved with a chain saw

ground squirrel

Our spot in Junction turned out to be wonderfully quiet, we got to meet a couple from SD and spend time sharing stories. The next morning, which was cooler, we talked some more with them, picked the innumerable burrs out of Cadbury and Phoenix's fur, walked around a bit appreciating the beauty and a really neat carving of an eagle done with a chain saw, and then got back on the road.

I'd read that there was a statue of David Crockett, of Alamo fame, whose story has also been "Disney-fied" in Ozona and when we drove into town at lunch time it seemed to be a perfect place for a break. The pets enjoyed walking around the shady park and after a nice light lunch of sandwiches we headed out to Balmorhea State Park.

Main St Ozona TX

Town Square Ozona

a patch of oenothera

the County Seat

David Crockett

We'd left the rolling hills of Hill Country as well as the green and flowered roadsides and were driving long, straight roads with dry earth and towering buttes and mesas and after only a few hours arrived at Balmorhea State Park where there is a spring that has been fed into a swimming pool that stays a year round 72F/22C and has small canals or cienagas running from it around the property.  Nt only is there a campground but a small hotel as well with shade trees that is really lovely.  The mountains in the distance were clear when we arrived but the wind came up and by the next day the dust was so think they had almost disappeared.  The park was great and we happened to be in a site right next to a bush under which a roadrunner had a nest.  We would see a number of these interesting birds and learn that they will fake injury to prevent attack and to protect the nest.

The roads were not all straight

a butte

searching for oil

a mesa

rock strata

the land opens up

a distant mesa

the spring fed pool at Balmorhea State Park

and cienagas

The campground with the mountains visible when we arrived

several of the ramadas in the campground

Once the wind and dust kicked up the mountains were harder to see

A curious roadrunner

struts across the grass

while another brings home dinner
There were birds all over.  Ducks in the cienagas,

Mourning Doves sitting on the bridge railings and singing their mournful tones from the trees

American coots looking for worms in the lawns
and a tufted quail hopping around next to me while I walked.

the dust in the air made for a really interesting sky at sunset

The bunnies were fearless and all over and were as fascinated with Cadbury as he was with them

while turtles swam in the cienagas

Sunrise the day we left

Since our original "plan" had been to visit Fort Stockton, now about 1/2 hour east, we reserved a site for 2 days.  It was hot again so we headed to the pool but ran into a couple from England who were on their way in a camper to Mexico and talked until the day got cool.  We swam anyway but it was a might chilly and we did not last long.

The next day we drove to Historic Fort Stockton and spent several hours walking around and learning not only about the fort but the Buffalo soldiers who were stationed there. The "Buffalo Soldiers"-the name is a matter of conjecture as to its origins-were former slaves who joined the US Army after the Civil war.  The officers were white and the soldiers were sent to the frontier to "deal with the "savage" and "dangerous" Indians who were at that point fighting to save their lands.  Sending "Negroes" where they would not be stationed around those who might object and into lands that were being settled by the white man is an issue that has a number of interesting considerations.  This would not be the last fort we'd visit where Buffalo soldiers were posted and at each I thought of the irony of men whose ancestors had been taken from their own lands by the white man and now being used to chase Native Peoples from theirs for the white man.  Our history is not a pleasant or, on many levels, a glorious one.  However, a number of these soldiers would rise through the ranks to become officers and many of them settled out west.  One of the other notable features-or lack thereof-at Fort Stockton was the stockade we tend to associate with forts.  Because of the vast views in all directions and the dust that follows anything moving on the plains, stockades were unnecessary since anyone approaching could be seen for miles.  It was another warm day so this time when we got back to the park we headed straight for the pool and had a nice long swim which was really refreshing.  Once again we had the chance to talk to another traveling couple and share suggestions-a really great part of being on the road.

Paisano Peter the Roadrunner who welcomes visitors to Fort Stockton

Officers' Quarters

One of the barracks buildings

the barracks inside

2 views of the church

Fort Stockton is not all historic so when Don wanted to stop for some booze where else would he go but here?

An older DQ

From Balmorhea SP  our route would head west again for awhile and then turn due north headed for the Guadalupe Mountains National Park where we planned to stay for a few days.

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