I parked my truck and headed up the low mountain path to begin what I later would call a great day at Big Bend. To the left you can see the Rio Grande River snaking its way toward Boquillas Canyon.
Standing on the US side of the Rio I can see the small town of "Boquillas ". Prior to 9/11, one could cross the river anytime to drink at Falcon's bar or have a great Mexican dinner in
Boquillas. Farther upstream, at the town of Santa Elena, Mexico, cowboys and Park Rangers would cross over to Santa Elena for a meal. Looking across the river at the town of Boquillas, I am
reminded of a tale I was told of two guys who went across the border at Santa Elena to find a good meal some years ago. They paid an old Mexican man to ferry them across the Rio Grande in
his small boat, and then traveled a short ways up the only road in town to a small adobe house. A knock on the door, and they were seated in the dark "living" room of that little humble home. In
the kitchen, the senora of the house prepared a meal as good as any you can get in San Antonio. As the men ate, the front door swung wide open and in walked the man of the house, dusty from
head to boot from his hard days work in a nearby mine, he greeted them with a simple "Ola" and went to the kitchen for a meal of his own. As they left the little adobe home, and back out
onto the street and the fading light of day, the first sight they saw, were two caballeros ahorseback, coming down the street with six shooters on their hips. A scene straight out of a Clint
Eastwood movie. A tip of the hat, and a quick walk back down to the river to be rowed back across. Once back on the US side, One of the Americans said to the other "That was a bit scary" and the
other replied, as he opened his day pack "Naw...I was armed too". That was how it was done several years back on the border in this remote land. After several years of the border being closed
completely, you now can venture across the border at Boquillas, for food and fun, as long as you have your passport handy.
As I walked farther towards the mouth of the canyon, I found these holes in a rock outcropping high above river. Turns out they are called "metates" The ancient people of the area would grind grains on the rock by hand with another stone in preparation of their dinner, and over time these holes were worn into the stone.
Not far from the there I stumbled across these brass disc monuments, "Triangulation Stations" drilled into rock along the river. Remnants of the International Boundary Survey completed along the Rio Grande River by the US government.
Just at the mouth of Boquillas Canyon, I was greeted by this sign listing the trinkets I could purchase for a small fee from some of the Mexican artisans across the Rio Grande. I chose a whimsical black and white beaded rooster and a Ocotillo plant, with red beads on the top that portrayed the fiery red flowers of an ocotillo in full bloom. I put my money in the tin can, that can be seen next to the item menu. I wondered how they would get their money...my answer came not long after I continued on my hike.
After making my purchase, I continued my hike along the banks of beautiful Rio Grande river. It was a very quiet except for the wind rustling through the Georgia Cane that line the banks along the rivers edge. Then I faintly heard what I thought was a song being sung in Spanish, wafting up and out of the canyon I was hiking toward. It wasn't sure of what I heard. I was alone out here and didn't see any cars or people up to this point...at least I thought so. Louder and crisper, this time I heard it quite clearly and walked just a bit farther to catch a glimpse of a lone "trovador" across the river singing beautifully in his native tongue. The canyon walls carried his rich voice up high and out of the Rio's canyon to where I was. Can you see him across the water on the rock to the left of frame?
As I worked my way down to him here are a few images along the way.....
The crooner saw me at about the same time I saw him. We visited for a spell, in broken English/Spanish. He was pleasant and kind and asked if I had a request for him to sing. I asked for "El Rancho Grande" and sure enough he sang it beautifully and then mentioned that he had a can there behind me on the ground where I could tip him for his music. So I obliged him happily. In what felt like the middle of no where, I couldn't believe I would be serenaded in Spanish as I photographed the gorgeous scenery about me. It was a wonderful day. He continued to sing as I took these images.
On my way out of the canyon I saw some caballeros on horse back crossing the river to collect the day's earnings and replenish the wares for the next round of tourists to visit the canyon.
I traveled to a few more destinations within the park and was pleasantly surprised at all the visual offerings Big Bend showed me. Be sure to make Big Bend National park a destination in your future, plan to spend a few nights in the park as it is hard to see all in a day or two. The Park covers close to 1 million acres and you can be alone most of the time. I saw only a few people during my stay. At night and in the morning no one was around and the camp sites are just a railroad tie marking the space to park your vehicle. You can stay at the Basin, rent a room, have a meal and go to the gift shop. The rest of the park is wild and magnificent.
These are some of my favorite plants. The Sotol spire can grow up to twenty feet. The root of the Sotol plant can be made into a liquor similar to tequila. Look for it at Twin Liquors.....Yum!
So I am having coffee out on the third story veranda at my sister's home in San Antonio. Enjoying my morning and gazing out at the scenery when my eyes catch movement to my left. Now that is just too high for someone to be working! I watch them for a few minutes then decide to get my camera and take a closer look.
Who are these guys? They are called Cell Tower Workers. As they say "just two guys and a rope". Their job is to scale towers that can be up to 1,000 feet but on average 200 to 500
feet. They climb to fix or upgrade the tower's capability to deliver phone, music, video and online games at faster speeds. The 4G network has become the driving force for this type of
work. There are more active cell phones in the U.S. than people. These guys work for $16 to $20 dollars an hour under rough conditions depending on the time crunch the company has
from the cell phone carriers. In storms, at night, with rusty equipment they scale the tower to keep your cell phone working so you can send that text or picture or just have a friendly
chat. Many tower workers have lost their lives. Jay Guilford was one in many. At twenty five years old he finished his job and was dismounting the tower in a happy
mood. As he descended he laughed to his buddies down below saying "bouncy, bouncy" as he repelled...then the gear malfunctions and broke. He died with in minutes of
impact. Tower climbing has approximately 10,000 workers with a death rate roughly 10 times that of construction. In a nine year span, nearly 100 tower climbers have been killed on the
job. (According to an internet article)
“It’s the wild, wild west of the technology industry,” said Victor Guerrero, a construction project manager and former climber. “You’ve got to have a problem to hang 150 feet in the air on an 8-inch strap. You’ve got to be insane.”We were working in the field for 40 hours straight. They had crews in rain, sleet, snow.” No, not insane... it is just to bring home a steady paycheck to their family.
These guys I met were fun and full of life. They sang while they worked and even gave me a wave and a big smile from a top that tower. I only wish I knew their names. I wish they knew I was trying to give them recognition by sharing their story on my blog. I hope next time you turn on your cell phone and make a call, text a friend or even curse the thing for not working fast enough....you will remember these brave souls high on the tower getting the job done. Maybe even whisper a safety prayer for them.
The above image was shot in morning's first light in the Chihuahuan desert. I had made the long drive to Big Bend National Park the previous day, and had hiked most of the day thinking I would end up in a comfy bed at a hotel somewhere for the night. At the last unprepared minute, I decided I wanted to shoot the sunrise in the desert. I had Kipper the Kelpie with me and a cot, not much else. The sun had already gone into hiding, so all I could see was what my truck headlights illuminated as I drove down a lonely gravel road looking for a spot in this empty portion of the park to camp for the night. We found a suitable spot in the absolute dark of the moonless desert, put the cot up and piled on all the blankets I had, then Kipper and I snuggled in together for warmth against the cold desert night air that crept in to chill us. The absence of a moon that night, and with no artificial light to be seen from this area of the park, made the desert night pitch black except for the starlight of a million points of light, twinkling like diamonds against an indigo sky. The stars of the Milky Way are so numerous, it provides its own type of blanket in which to wrap yourself up in. The silence of the desert was welcome, and quite the departure from what I am conditioned to hearing at night in Los Angeles. Only the gentle wind filtering thru the agaves, ocotillo and other desert plants was to be heard. An occasional sound, heard only in Kipper's ears, caused her to lift her head and nose the wind to catch the scent of a possible intruder. With Kipper on patrol, I drifted off to sleep. Just prior to sunrise, I came wide awake to purple rays of light in the distance to the east. I hurried to setup my tripod in anticipation of the light show the desert was about to provide. Light in the desert has mysterious qualities, it is an ever changing and delightful sight to behold. Every few moments the quiet purple hues of day's dawning morphed into pinks and blues and orange streaks across the sky. The light began to illuminate my surroundings, and since I had set camp in the total darkness of night, I did not know what would greet me this morning. What a pleasant surprise that awaited me as sunrise revealed to me what I had not known the night before, the almost perfectly painted picture of the Chihuahuan Desert Kipper and I had slept in. It was truly breathtaking. A moment in time I will cherish. The simple event of sunrise in the desert reminded me of just how incredibly awesome and big God is. I only wish I was better at low light photography to mirror what He created and I observed. Next time.
The sun rise bathed my surroundings in its orange glow as I got a first glimpse since my night in this desert.
I left the area of the park I awoke in, and headed to the "Hot Springs" along the lower reaches of the park bounded by the Rio Grande River. In the 1930's ,Big Bend was privately owned by several families. One rancher decided to make the Hot Springs on his property a resort for the rich and famous. Below is a picture of the post office built to service as the market and resort office. The other buildings there were potentially a part of the resort which never fully took off. Keep in mind that Big Bend is truly in the middle of no where. To have had the mind to develop that area into a resort was boldly innovative for the times. I am glad it didn't work so we can enjoy the park in it rare undeveloped beauty. It is sad that in 1945 , the government literally "took" it away from the landowners so they could turn it into the National Park it is today.
These three buildings are only what remain of one man's dream, and the only buildings in this area for miles. The rock façade of the building above, was to be the resort inn. After following a short path flanked by tall, deep green colored Georgia Cane (Some might call it bamboo) that line the river's banks for miles, you will pass the angular, eroded cliffs, where cliff swallows choose to build their river mud nests up to fifty-feet high on the walls to your left, you then end up at the hot springs sitting as they did in the 1930's surrounded by the fast moving current of the Rio Grande River. These springs run at a constant 105 degree temperature year round.
Below is the exit of Santa Elena Canyon, with its cliffs rising straight up to 1,800 feet above the river's surface. Downstream a few miles, is the little town of Santa Elena, Mexico, where at a time before 9/11, you could pay a few dollars to be rowed across the river and enjoy a mexican dinner amidst vaqueros riding horses down the middle of the streets with holstered six guns.
Thank you for joining me on my trip to these magnificent places. Part two of Big Bend and Terlingua coming soon...so stay tuned!
Meet my friend Lucy the Lemur. I don't know about you but I completely love lemurs. I was in Temple, Texas and happened upon this unique
pet store downtown. I walked up to her cage and we spotted each other. She was perched in the far upper corner and when our eyes met she lunged down her long narrow home bounding off
the wire walls until she reached me with eyes bright and an inquisitive nature. I was in love. She grabbed at me through the cage with her soft leather padded fingers. I quickly
met her caretaker Marcus who was kind enough to let me into her cage for a visit hoping to get up close and personal shots...they were up close for sure. A few quick clicks of the camera is
all I got. She would leap off his shoulder onto my head so fast I couldn't "get the shot"! So after many blurred attempts I gave the camera to Marcus and he managed a few of my
adorable friend Lucy. I could have spent all day with her. She was non-stop fun! (And I do mean non-stop.) Here you can see her grooming Marcus. Then you see her leap off
his shoulder with me catching a blurred leg as she landed on my head. Literally each picture you see of her...the next shot was her on my head then down my arms chewing anything she could
as she climbed all over me. I laughed until I cried and had the best time!
She decided to try her hand at photography since I couldn't get a clean shot. Then in the picture below she took aim and was on my head yet again. <sheesh>
I had a great day also meeting a few others that were looking for a home. A chameleon, baby wallaby and a very intelligent parrot with quite the vocabulary.
So next time you happen to be in Temple, Texas...stop by the shop on 2nd/east Adams street. You'll be glad you did and maybe just maybe you'll
end up taking one of these talented critters home with you! Talented you ask?...yes, because they will steal your heart!
As a landscape photographer, I have to hike for miles in search of THE shot. It never fails whether I am in a field or walking down a street...dogs, donkey's, cattle, horses, lemur's, fish,
llama's, wild boar and even insects can be curious see me. Soemtimes they come from far away to catch up to me and say "hello". I am delighted to visit for bit with all the menagerie of sorts
that want to sniff me or my camera. This particular guy seemed mean and had a furious bark that is until I sat down and slipped part of my lunch between the slats of the fence. Next thing I
knew he was licking my fingers and listening to me tell him about my day. We were stranger's no more.
Here I was, minding my own photography business and then I spot these two characters I named Jack and Jill off in the distance. I am shooting the other direction with my back to them until I hear their hooves crunching through the grass. Turning around I am greeted by their delightful curiosity. They are pygmy donkeys roaming on a ranch in the Post Oak Mesa area of Burnet County. They were so short I got on my knees to take their portrait. Jack leaned in close to take a sniff of my camera just in case it might be a tasty treat for him. After a few pats on his nose and scratching on his neck I had to pull myself away from this adorable couple.
While shooting down south on a Port Lavaca ranch, I was sitting on the ground changing lens then looked up to see these friends. The horse sniffed my camera for about five minutes...I think he was wanting to play with it. His friends didn't want to come to close they were content to peek around their brave friend. Here are a few of what we call in the business a "environmental portraits" of my friends. They are real farm animals. Fly's ticks and the lick cover their hides. No baths and grooming for these folks. They were fat and happy none the less.
As I sat down on an old concrete ledge by a barn I felt something crawl on my hand that was resting on the ledge. Looking down slowly there he was...a Nexara viridula (Linnaeus) known to you and I as a Southern Green Stink Bug. That's right, this little guy has a fetid odor he could have delivered on me at any moment so I decided to be his friend so he wouldn't have reason to live up to his name. Fortunately for me, they love to dine on the cotton, soybean and other succulent plants. They live mostly in the south eastern states as well as Texas, Arkansas and even California. Believed to have originated in Ethiopia and now reside in many tropical and subtropical countries. I remember seeing these guys when I was a kid growing up in Texas. Nice to meet up with him. You can see them in October and November then again in the Spring time. Below is the Anolis Carolinensis, easier said...the Green Anole. This one is a male. He thinks I'm pretty apparently because he is using his brightly colored throat pouch to attract me. It worked so I quickly picked up my camera to bring you this shot. These cuties can be seen from mid Texas all the way to the Carolina's. My siblings used to catch them and gently tap on their beaks so they would open their mouth and when they did...they told me to hold still while they put the lizard on my ear lobe! Yes, that is correct...the lizard would bite down and dangle like earrings.
I was out shooting the famous bluebonnets in Willamson County when I happened upon this charming fellow. Why was he charming you ask? Well, seems he took a liking to me rather quickly. When I came up to the fence he was far across the field. He saw me and headed my way. I was a bit concerned because minutes earlier a burly cowboy in his pick-up truck pulled up not far from where I was standing to inform me that these guys are dangerous. Seems they can spit bile at you from a good distance away that is highly acidic and can harm your skin or blind you if it gets into your eye! I decided to tough it out and see what happened. He came right up to me and looked me over then turned around and backed up next to me surveying the field in front of us. Moments later a crazed multicolored llama came running at me screaming. My night in shining fur stepped forward with ears back in attack mode and confronted my enemy face to face! The crazed llama backed down after being chased away leaving my valiant protector back at my side standing guard until I left. Pretty cool I must say...
I'm driving along on a South East Texas ranch on an extremely hot, humid and mosquito infested day. I was trying to get to a remote location to do some shooting. I thought I would save myself some time and a few less mosquito bites if I drove instead of hiked as I usually do....when I saw this fellow in my way. Naturally, I knew when I got closer he would just step aside and let me pass, right? Wrong. I got as close as I dared that didn't work. So I honked my horn with his face right in front of my grill as he continued to munch on his lunch. He just raised his head and looked t me calmly as he chewed. His look seemed to say "what's your problem lady?" ...then when 'his' moment was right he slowly sundered off.
Spring In My Backyard
I found myself sitting in my backyard enjoying the warmth of springs first sun rays after a three day storm that darkened the sky. To my delight, I heard the buzzing of honey bees on my citrus trees. I walked over to watch them a bit closer. I began to think about their little lives and how they intertwine with humans. Bees are dedicated creatures. The term "busy as a bee" is very true. They never stop moving to accomplish their goal and oh what an important goal it is to us. Their work produces not only some of the sweets treats for us but most beneficial health wise as well. Not only in the fruit they pollinate but also in their gift of honey. Yet they are so small and unassuming in our giant world. Never the less they are hugely important. Then there is the thought that they don't wish to hurt anyone but in defense will sting to the point of losing their own life to protect themselves which in turn protects the pollination that feeds us. Self-sacrificing in a way and similar to the meekest of humans. Small but extraordinary. Oh the small Whoville world in my own backyard that I forget to see in my busyness. Next time I stop to smell the most fragrant orange blossoms I will remember my friend the honey bee and thank him. Now if I only had a "macro" lens to take his portrait instead of a hand-held zoom. Next time for sure!
I remember as a child lying down under the Christmas tree looking up into the branches and as the multi-colored lights danced on each bow I was filled with wonder. Now when I drive home late on a frosty evening tired from the days activities, I am welcomed by the countless display of beautiful lights that adorn the homes surrounding me...almost as if to say "No matter what age you find yourself, enjoy the wonderment of Christmas again."