Thursday, April 13, 2017

#48 - Thursday, 13 April 2017 - near Comstock, Texas

I’ve woken to the most spectacular thunderstorm I’ve experienced since one violent and terrifying thunderstorm near Negombo, Sri Lanka in 2014. The thunderstorms and rain began back in Laredo a few days ago and, as I drove northwest along the Rio Grande through Eagle Pass and Del Rio yesterday, the skies were extremely overcast and rains were scattered. I drove 40 miles northwest of Del Rio toward Comstock and eventually pulled into Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site. The rains held off, but the skies were threatening. Seminole Canyon is beautiful and the desert is more picturesque than it had been to the southeast.

My plan for the morning was to take the most challenging hike here. It is 7.5 miles roundtrip and the trail leads along the Seminole Canyon rim past views of Presa Canyon to the confluence with the Rio Grande. You are prohibited from venturing into the canyon itself except on the guided tours that lead you to the pictographs at Fate Bell. Seminole Canyon contains vast collections of pictographs created by the Desert Archaic people, and the Canyon Rim Trail that I wished to trek this morning leads you to a view across the inlet river to a pictograph that includes a nine foot jaguar (Panther Cave). Torrential rains fall at dawn while I type this, so I am not sure when I’ll be able to get out today.

There is no cell signal here and just some poor wifi reception near the headquarters. If the rains continue I’ll drive down the road to where I get good LTE signal so I can post this and send some files I need to get to Petco for Northwest Zoological’s 2017 Catalog. A rain out day would allow me to work on the BTS Journal as well, but that is what I intended to do over the weekend while I am staying at an RV Park back in Del Rio. Del Rio is the seat of Val Verde County and the nearest town of significance. Comstock is a small old west town.

During my drive from Laredo through Del Rio to this park I saw many Crested Caracaras. In Florida I only saw these scavenging falcons at one particular spot in Kissimmee Prairie State Park, but in Texas they are abundant along the Rio Grande. I also saw many Pyrrhuloxia, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Mockingbirds. Images of all these birds may be found on my Instagram. I also saw my first Harris Hawks, which is one of my favorite raptors.

My last day in the Laredo area I returned to a site outside of town where my friend Dr. Brent Hendrixson had given me GPS coordinates for. It was a spot he had found both of the tarantula species of the region. I had scouted it out the day I arrived and returned two days later but didn’t have any luck. During my third visit I finally found my target species – Aphonopelma moderatum. Tarantula hobbyists call this spider the “Rio Grande Gold” and most including myself consider it the most attractive of American tarantulas. Again, see Instagram for my photos.

I had intended to visit a few other waypoints Brent had generous shared, and did stop at one picnic area in between the rains. I found a couple of nice burrows, but either nobody was home or my pouring water down the holes didn’t have the desired effect due to the rains. The weather made me push on, but I may return. I first visited this stretch between Laredo and Del Rio over 30 years ago with my friend Ralph Henning. We met up with Stanley Schultz, his wife Marguerite and a young Canadian friend of theirs. Schultz is well-known for his tarantula guide, a very overrated, bloated and mistakenly lauded book that is hugely popular and in its third edition. I remember being appalled at how he collected anything that moved in the desert and had an RV with coolers full of cups of invertebrates and reptiles. All were smuggled back into Canada. As the years passed, my opinion of him only worsened, but I did get a signed copy of his first edition which was a smaller book published by Sterling. Oo-rah.

The pouring rains keep coming – and my cell phone keeps stirring with emergency flash flood alerts – (funny how you can get those when you have no signal …) so we’ll see how my two days here pan out. It is looking like today will be a laptop day. My A/C power keeps going in and out too, but I have D/C power that runs my LED lights and backup water pump and such. I was only able to book last night and tonight (Thursday) because of the upcoming holiday weekend. The area and park are beautiful and I know there are nice snakes about. I will spend Friday through Sunday nights back in Del Rio at the RV Park, but I may very well book a few more nights here afterward. If the weather is mild I could stay at Amistad National Recreation Area in the Del Rio area for cheap in a primitive site without hook-ups, but if the temperatures are hot I will need electricity for air-conditioning. I can sweat on the trail, but I have my parrot with me and I don’t wish for her to be cooked. I have to head back this way regardless as I continue west and slightly south to get to the Big Bend region. I haven’t booked any campsites there yet so I remain completely flexible.

Texas has already been terrific. Lake Casa Blanca International State Park was a bit overpopulated and chaotic at times, but I saw Javelinas, deer, raccoons, osprey, caracaras, and wonderful bird species. Lizards were surprisingly scarce and most darted to cover before I identified them except for one racerunner whiptail that I still need to post an image of. I saw another whiptail near the restrooms here yesterday. The only snake I’ve seen in Texas so far was a dead-on-road (DOR) garter snake outside of Sea Rim State Park. However, I haven’t begun to road cruise after dark yet. This area has treasures like the grey-banded king snake so when the weather improves I will be looking.

Well, my power is now out. It may just be that my surge protector has tripped, but I’m not going outside in this downpour to check. I have A/C power in my truck and can sit in there and charge my laptop if need be. Even without electricity I still have my battery powered lights, USB chargers, water pump and backup water heater, and propane powered stove and refrigerator.

Cheers, M

Afterword: I'm posting this from the outskirts of Del Rio. I had to drive 30 miles before I had a weak cell signal and another 15 before I had 4G LTE. I needed to fill up my gas tank anyway and I've been sitting in this gas station parking lot taking care of all that I need to do on the cyber webs. The storms obviously don't dissuade the bass fishermen. I've seen at least 15 fancy bass boat rigs pull into this parking lot. They're obviously all fishing the Amisatad Reservoir above the Rio Grande. It's got me thinking of Border Patrol on the water, because it connects with the border river. Now that I am driving back toward Comstock and the state park I will have to pass through a border patrol checkpoint. I did so twice yesterday. First time dude asked if I was U.S. Citizen. I said yes and he waved. Second time (the checkpoint I am passing through again shortly) the dude asked if I was having a nice trip so far and quickly waved me through.

No comments:

Post a Comment