Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Our West Texas Vacation-Part 1

David and I decided to drive to West Texas rather than fly somewhere. We were only gone from the ranch for a week. We saw and did amazing things, and it will take at three posts to share it with you. So this is part one!

As we were driving westward on I-10 the skies and clouds were amazing. I'm in love with the changes we see in the realm of atmosphere. The fact that our trip was during the rainy season of West Texas made it very exciting.

I couldn't decide if this cloud looked more like a camel or a dinosaur. At any rate, it looks like some sort of critter that is running across the sky.

The green grasses along the road were really a nice change from the dry grasses we were seeing in Central Texas.

We turned south off of I-10 near Sheffield onto State Hwy. 349 and reached US 90 at Dryden. It was raining off and on during the late afternoon. This sky struck me as especially dramatic at the time I was seeing it as well as in the photograph..

As we approached the town of Marathon which is 74 miles west of Dryden, we found ourselves driving past some fascinating rocks in the roadcuts. They are rocks that were formed during the Paleozoic period hundreds of millions of years ago. We were looking at rocks that had been folded in a belt that was created in a tectonic event when two continental groups, Laurasia and Gondwana, collided at the beginning of the Permian period 280 million years ago to form a single land mass called Pangea.

South of Marathon Ave. D turns into a small county road called Post Rd. which took us to Post Park. It is amazing to find an oasis in an area that is so dry, but that is just what this little park is. There is a spring that feeds a series of ponds with clear water.

The county park is well managed with nice signs that describe the Geology of the area. A clean bathroom, shaded picnic tables with BBQ pits nearby, provide a lovely spot for birds and people.
Just outside of the area that receives abundant water is a desert hillside topped by some of the harder rocks of the Marathon basin.

US Hwy 385 takes you 40 miles to the Persimmon Gap entrance to Big Bend National Park. As we left Marathon, we saw hills that were topped with chert in Caballos Novaculite Formations. When chert (a form of quartz which is resistant to erosion) runs parallel to the side of a ridge, the overlying more easily eroded materials have fallen away, and the white chert beds appear as scallops which are called flatirons from their shapes.

Deserts exist on the flat land between mountains. One of the most common plants in the Big Bend in desert areas below 4000 feet is the Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata). It has yellow flowers, fuzzy seeds, and small leaves covered with a resinous material that restricts evaporation, and smells fresh when it rains.

Look for Parts 2, 3 and 4 of our West Texas Adventure in the next few weeks. Also, watch for another post by Amanda Fulton who did the wonderful bluebirds photographs in the post of March 10th, and wrote as well as photographed the Butterflies of Selah in Spring, featured in the post of June 22nd.

I've decided that it is time to tell the story of how and why I started this blog last December, 2007.

The story starts in 2004. Four years ago David and I spent a good part of August in northern Arizona. I was breathless when trying to hike up hill, and felt tired much of the time. When we got back to Texas I told my family doctor about my experience, and he said that I was getting older, and we were at a much higher elevation. Three weeks later David and I were in Rome, Italy on our way to meet with my sister Mary Weiss, her husband Jeffrey Greene, my daughter Margie Crisp and her husband Bill Montgomery for several weeks along the coast on the island of Sardinia. Our first day in Rome I had pain in my side and we decided that we should check it out before going off to Sardinia, and went to an Emergency Room. Six hours later, after tests and a long wait for an English speaking doctor to arrive, we had the news that I had lesions in my lung and liver. In no uncertain terms I was told I needed to be seen in a hospital for diagnosis. I returned to Texas, and went directly to the hospital in Fredericksburg, where I'd been a patient before. Within a few days I had my diagnosis, Stage IV lung cancer which had spread to my liver. Wow- what a blow.

The last 4 years have been a medical adventure, with lots of treatments, and I've gone from being a very sick puppy with several months to live, to feeling well most of the time. I've been under the care of a wonderful oncologist, Dr. Jose Lopez and his staff in Fredericksburg. I'm currently a "referred patient" at MD Anderson, and will have radiation treatment in September, which I'm hopeful will give me a long time without cancer.

One of the side effects of my cancer treatments these 4 years, is that I feel like I'm on a roller coaster. Being a regular teacher in the programs here at the ranch became impossible. We now have enough staff members that I'm free to do what I feel up to, which at times is helping with camps, workshops, or programs. I missed the regular contact with people who came here to learn. But most of all I missed being involved with nature on a daily basis. When my friend Chris Johnson suggested that I could do a blog about the ranch, it struck me as a perfect fit. I would have a reason to take lots of pictures, and to pay attention to what is happening around the ranch. I hope that lots of you enjoy my efforts, and my photos.

1 comment:

Charles said...

I have been reading and enjoying your blog since our meeting a few weeks ago. I sincerely regret that You, J. David, and your family have experienced the pain and all the problems associated with your battle with cancer. However, the initiation of your blog during this journey allows many of us to share and profit from your knowledge and expertise. I trust that the treatments at M.D. Anderson will lead to a total cure and allow you to resume your hands-on educational efforts at the ranch while continuing to expand your educational influence in cyberspace. Many of us can vicariously experience and learn from the travels and sights that you share in your blog. Sandy and I made the trip to west Texas and visited the Big Bend Park back in 1972. It would have been much more enjoyable and educational if we had the benefit of a guide like you to explain what we were seeing along the road and in the park.

Thank You.

Chuck Wohl