Sunday, December 25, 2016

Potter's Creek COE, Canyon Lake, Texas

We so enjoyed Guadalupe River State Park.  Nice walks by the river with clear water and old , very interesting bald cypress trees.
With no dam on this section of the river, note is made in the park that flood waters can top the cliffs across the river.
 While at Guadalupe, the temperatures went down to 24 degrees at night.  We saw these plants along the road and thought there was ice somehow on the plants.  Turns out they are called freeze weed. Everyone there thought they were quite common. The rangers indicated that this is how they blossom.
 In the park, are pictures of the male painted bunting.  A tropical bird with bright colors of blue, red, pink, purple, yellow, and green.
Not here in December, but a popular bird watching bird during the summers.
 Jan and I have mentioned before that we seldom make reservations.  Well, we tried for this campground, Potters Creek COE in Canyon Lake, Texas.  The first time , it was unavailable , closed for hunting.  This time we find just one loop open.  But great sites available with water views.
 We had been here two years ago, and the whole park was open. What we didn't realize was that there was a flood here on Memorial Day, 2015.  Most of the park was under water. The picture above was the bathroom for our loop--up to the roof.  The first picture of Lady Blue, our current site, would have all of Lady Blue under water!!!  They are a long ways from repairing the entire campground--a lack of funds, we are told.
From our window, we are entertained by the large flock of coots.
Also, every day, we can track the wandering of the white heron.  He usually stays close to the coots.
The coots never stop moving.  The splashing is from the diving for food.
Right in back of Lady Blue is our picnic table with a shelter attached.  This kestrel enjoyed the roofline, several times a day, to hunt for insects and small food.  Note his head turns completely around while he looks along the grass for food.
A small bird, about the size of a bluejay.
But, a real powerful, sharp beak .

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sam Houston National Forest to Brazos Bend SP and Guadalupe River SP

Returning to Texas usually means Jan and I catching up on normal business.  This means renewing our motorhome insurance, this year renewing our drivers licenses,vehicle inspection, and annual dental checkups.  All of which are done.  Good experience all the way around.  The only iffy section is that the licenses take up to a month to be processed. With our mail delay that might be a little dicey--we'll see. The above picture is from Sandy Creek COE on B.A. Steinhagen Lake.
That is on the way to Livingston from Jasper and Rayburn COE.
We know that a lot of our friends from Lazy Daze and other campers will have their dental work done in Mexico and their satisfaction and stories about the service are generally extremely good.  No waiting. Good dentists.  Modern facilities.  $10 cleanings.  But, we are quite happy with our dentist in Livingston.  If we lived in the area full time, we might be tempted to have work done in Mexico.
Another big event for Lady Blue was the replacement of 6 Michelin tires in Conroe, Texas. Our tires had worn well, but there was some uneven wear which hastened our replacement.  That meant adding an alignment as well.  We found an excellent place just outside Conroe in Willis, Texas for that alignment.  We were taken right away as a walk in.  We were reasonably confident knowing a huge firetruck was right beside us in another stall having similar work done.
Every campground has its own "feel".  Cagle Campground in the Sam Houston National Forest in New Waverly, off Route 45 always has a comfortable "feel".  The price was $19 per night with Senior Pass, but that was with full hookup.  All of the sites are full hookup, which is very unusual for a National Forest campground.
We also find some very friendly campers each time we stop.
Another memo on the list of " to do's " was rejoining Harvest Hosts.  For $44 per year, an RVer can visit vineyards, farms, and orchards; stay for free and get to see some of our U.S. Agriculture in action.  Our first visit a few years ago was to an Alpaca farm in New Mexico.  We happened there on a day that was set for the shearing--fun to watch.  The expectation in return is that RVers will purchase some wine, vegetables, apples, pies, wool, etc that is for sale.  We are hoping to put this to use again in the wine areas of California in a few months. Stay tuned.
 Our interesting RV of the month would be this Airstream Globetrotter in Cagle that belonged to a work camper.We did not catch him for a conversation, but we think goes back at least to the 1960's , if not older.  Looks like some welding modifications on the door and front window. Anyone know the year?
If you follow us on the maps, we left Cagle on Route 1375 to Route 149 and Route 90 to Navasota , Route 105 to Brenham and Route 36 north to Somerville Lake and Yegua COE.  This COE was $13 per night with Senior Pass. We actually prefer the Rocky Creek Campground. But that is still being repaired after flooding from two years ago.  Scheduled to be finished around March of 2017.
As on our previous visits, there are many deer in the park.  We counted four bucks as well as does and young. 
Jan and I had hoped to take a tour of the Blue Bell ice cream factory in Brenham.  But, unfortunately their tours were closed indefinitely.  So, we head on down Route 36 , all the way to Brazos Bend State Park , a little Southwest of Houston.  
This is a beautiful park that we had visited before.  Lots of alligators and birds, even in this colder weather.  The more colorful birds above are more likely to be seen in the warmer months.
Does this sign get your attention? Even in the cold weather, we saw at least 4 alligators along the waters edge.
No "venomous" snakes!!!
 Many different birds along and in the water. We thought ducks for many groups, but we were told not ducks but waterfowl.
As a note, we discovered that there was a lot of work being done in the Texas state parks we visited.  Some of this was expensive remodeling of camping areas with new utility lines, bigger sites, repaving, etc.  
When we asked, we were told that there was a good sum of money from an outdoor sale tax.  This is a portion of sales tax from sporting goods like tents, running shoes, hunting goods, boats,fishing, etc. that is sent to the parks for their budget.  It seems to be working quite well with little complaint that we heard from customers. In Brazos, there are two camping loops that are being remodeled.
A well designed nature center with a working windmill is a draw at the park.  Among other things is a large collection of live rattlesnakes.
One of the larger alligators. Note the reflection on the water.
 White snowy egret
With 37 miles of trails in the park, there are good places to view birds, alligators, and more. This viewing tower offers good overviews.
Jan is checking the view.  Lots of herons, egrets, and more.
 This link will give you more information about Brazos Bend.
A super large site.  Plenty of room on the sites at Brazos.

Leaving Brazos, we take a back Farm to Market (FM) road.  We have seen a lot of farm country in Texas.  Lots of beef cattle, some large chicken farms, as well as goats and sheep. The road takes us to West Columbia and the Varner-Hogg Plantation

The land usage goes back to when this area was part of Mexico.  First, some settlers arrive from the east to farm and then a larger family arrives in the early 1800's with a number of slaves to start a sugar plantation.  Some of the older buggies, like this surrey(with the fringe on top)are kept in the barns
When you are looking for John Deere , this is probably not what you were thinking.
The original main building was lost in a big hurricane around 1900.
This rebuild was done by the former Governor James S. Hogg family that began an oil field here.
In winter dress are a number of pecan trees, a favorite of the Hogg family.
Does this look comfortable?. Early 1920's home of the oil field boss.
As a sugar plantation, the work was labor intensive and time sensitive.  The cane was ready in October, but needed to be processed before the first frost. The work was done by slave labor. The slaves labor was ended during the Civil War and sugar production declined and disappeared in many places, including the plantation.
This link will give more information on the plantation.
Varner-Hogg Plantation
From the plantation , we travel north on Route 36 to Rosenberg(home of a great BBQ at Schulze's), then west on Route 90 to Gonzales on Route 183 and 80 to Route 306 to Canyon Lake and Potters Creek COE.
But--What happened??? 
Potters Creek was closed for hunting.  The thing is, we had called the office, asking about availability a few days earlier and no mention was made of this little fact!!!!
No problem. We follow Route 306 to 281 and over to Guadalupe River State Park.  What a beautiful place!
The river is clear and deep, bordered by some tall limestone cliffs.
There are some marked routes here for rafters and kayakers.Some trips are more than a day or two.
It should be noted that we have a Texas State Park pass.  This $70 gives us free access to all state parks (a daily $5 to $7 or so fee). It also gives us half price for the second night of four different camping trips.  We find it usually pays for itself on our trips through Texas.
A little cold for swimming Bruce!
Our day yesterday was in the 70's--shorts and t-shirts.
Overnight down to the 20's , very windy, and stayed in the 30's and low 40's all day.
Tonight's temps could go down to 18 degrees.
Hey!!! We're in the land of orange trees.
Does that make you feel any better--New Englanders?