Friday, January 29, 2010

Balmorhea State Park, Texas

The night at Seminole Canyon was scary -- lots of wind and lightning, even a little hail. The weather map showed us in a tornado-warning box, but we heard nothing from the locals. Still, we discussed where the best ditch was in case the worst developed. But the sun rose in the clear skies of the high-pressure system that followed the monster low. The only trouble was the huge pumping wind from the North that sent the temperatures plunging to near or below freezing.

As much as we wanted to stay to hike and bike the canyon, the cold wind was just too much of a keebosh. So we elected to motor on. Our extended stays at Mustang and Goose had lowered our daily average miles to 88, which is okay since we are shooting for 85 – but left practically no cushion at all. We looked at the map of Texas State Parks and came up with Balmorhea as being one to up the average. So off we went. Today’s drive of 240 miles brought our average up to 100 for a little more cushion.

What a drive through the desert. There were several 60-mile legs between civilizations. We were well short of the mountains yet encountered snow on the road during the drive – so reminiscent of a similar motor home drive we had on the South Island of New Zealand many years ago.

The diversity we’ve encountered in the Texas State Parks is remarkable. Balmorhea is mostly a hot spring coming from the Apache Mountains that are the first mountains we have seen heading west. There is a huge swimming pool fashioned out of the spring that flows at a constant 72 degrees. Out from the pool, the water crosses the campground and creates a restored wetland for several endangered species. There we saw the endangered little fish and a big turtle with some Red-winged Blackbirds singing accompaniment. From there the spring water flows on to irrigate farms and ranches. Snow was still on the ground here right up until sunset, but several hearty souls and a scuba diving class as well as several ducks, some black catfish, and many other flora and fauna were enjoying the warmth of the spring. I would have had a dunk too, if it weren’t for that stiff, cold breeze on the walk back to Morty.  Besides, tomorrow is another day.

As we were walking through the campgrounds, a guy in a huge land-yacht asked us whether it would be a good idea to hook the hose up to the water spigot in light of the cold temperatures. I told him it wasn’t blowing any warmer, but probably wouldn’t be cold enough to freeze water under pressure. I added that I wasn’t hooking mine up though –- but mostly because I’m lazy and we don’t use that much water. Since he was being so talkative, I couldn’t resist a small needle: I noticed he had Montana license tags, so I asked him if he really lived in Montana [where there is no sales tax on motor homes]. He said no he lived in Iowa. So I said, “Wow! You’re saving a bunch of state sales tax then – sweet.”  He suddenly got a lot less talkative. But that had to be a savings in the mid-five figures range. Side note: to be legal with Montana tags you need the legal structures in place and that makes the legally-compliant answer to my question: “No I don’t live there, but my corporation [or whatever] does.”

The other amenities besides swimming are about average. On a frigid Friday night, the park is only about 15% occupied. The WiFi is only near the ranger station, the plumbing is fairly recent but tidy, except that there is no soap at the sinks. There are no television stations that we could find, yet only some of the water and electric sites have cable. Sprint cell service is on digital roaming which means no internet tethering for us and a better write-up for you. Today’s pictures were all taken with the Canon s90.

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