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Friday, November 17, 2017


Hi Blog!

We've been hanging out here in Brookshire, Texas (just west of Houston), preparing to put the rig in storage and take off on our Around-The-World-in-45-Days adventure. While we are away, Buster will go in for routine service and some remodeling. Dusty and all our stuff will go into a storage unit. Flip and Baxter will be staying with a pet sitter. All of this requires lots and lots of planning. Our lists have lists!

However, all work and no play makes for a dull stay. So, we decided to take a day off from our trip planning and explore a little bit of Texas history. On Friday, November 17, 2017, we drove up to Washington-on-the-Brazos, a Texas State Historic Site.

Washington-on-the-Brazos is located along the Brazos River in Washington County, Texas. It was founded when Texas was still a part of Mexico. The town was the site of the Texas Convention of 1836 and the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence. The name "Washington-on-the-Brazos" was used to distinguish the settlement from Washington, D.C.

Because the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed here, the town is often referred to as The Philadelphia of Texas!

The Texas delegates declared independence on March 2, 1836. Sixty men signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. Three of them were born in Mexico. Fifty-seven of the sixty moved to Texas from the United States. Ten of them had lived in Texas for more than six years, while one-quarter of them had been in the province for less than a year. This is significant, because it indicates that the majority of signatories were illegal immigrants!  They had moved to Texas after the Law of April 6, 1830, banning immigration, had taken effect.  Put another way, the majority were legally citizens of the United States, occupying Texas illegally. Fifty-nine of these men were delegates to the Convention, and one was the Convention Secretary, Herbert S. Kimble, who was not even a delegate.

Here's one of the first printed copies of the Texas Declaration of Independence:

There isn't much left of the old town site of Washington.  The most prominent original structure is an old stone cistern:

The only building on the site is a replica of the original Independence Hall. It was here, in the raw frontier town of Washington in 1836, that 59 men elected from municipalities across the territory met in an unfinished frame building to determine the fate of this vast land called Texas!

 Meanwhile, the forces of General Santa Anna laid siege to the Alamo.  We all know how that ended.

Even as the settlers fled ahead of Santa Anna’s army, the convention labored for 17 days. During that time they declared Texas independent from Mexico; penned a new constitution; and organized an interim government, giving birth to a new nation: the Republic of Texas. It all took place in this tiny one room building.

After checking out Independence Hall, we walked over to the Star of the Republic Museum.  Its purpose is to collect and preserve the material culture of the Texas Republic (1836–1846) and to interpret the history, cultures, diversity, and values of early Texans.

The museum's exhibits are displayed on two floors, the first of which is in the shape of a five-point Texas star and the second floor in a pentagon shape. The exhibits on the first floor present a chronological history of early Texas, beginning with the first Texans, the Native Americans, and continuing to the Texian soldiers who fought for Texas independence. The second level's attractions include a simulated riverboat trip down the Brazos River and an observation deck to view the 300 acres of the Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site.

As we walked up to the second floor, we followed a historic timeline of Texas.

The word "texas" (tejas, tayshas, texias, thecas?, techan, teysas, techas?) had wide usage among the Indians of East Texas even before the coming of the Spanish, whose various transcriptions and interpretations gave rise to many theories about the meaning. The usual meaning was "friends" or "allies."  How and when the name Texas first reached the Spanish is uncertain, but the notion of a "great kingdom of Texas," associated with a "Gran Quivira" (the mythical Seven Cities of Gold) had spread in New Spain before the expedition of Alonso De León and Damián Massanet in 1689.

The origin of the Texas  “Lone Star Flag” started long before the Texas revolution, a revolt that was due to Santa Anna´s abrogation of the special rights given to the “Estado de Tejas” under the Mexican constitution of 1824.  The Lone Star Flag was created from concepts of human rights that blossomed from the “age of enlightenment” that in turn brought about the American and French revolutions that used combinations of the colors red, white and blue in their flags and in the case of the Americans, the addition of stars in a blue field. 

The "lone star" appears to have been drawn from the lone star flag used by a shipping company affiliated with Stephen Austin.  In its shipping activities in the Gulf of Mexico, it flew a flag that its owners designed to resemble both the U.S. flag and the flag of Chile, which bore a single star.  A variation of this was adopted in Washington-on-the-Brazos:

On February 28, 1845, the US Congress passed a bill that would authorize the United States to annex the Republic of Texas. On March 1, 1845, US President John Tyler signed the bill. The legislation set the date for annexation for December 29 of the same year. 

P.S. We couldn't help but chuckle when we saw this depiction of The Mosquito War! Everything is bigger in Texas, especially the mosquitoes!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017



The name sounds so romantic.  It means "thick or heavy bush," for the heavy canebreak that once filled the Gulf Coast in this area.  While it refers to a place in the Canary Islands, it also refers to a beautiful beach area in Texas.

Matagorda is the 3rd oldest town in Texas. It was established in 1827 when Stephen F. Austin obtained permission from the Mexican government to build a town to protect incoming settlers. Elias R. Wightman, who was one of Stephen F. Austin’s early surveyors, traveled to Matagorda in 1829 with 60 immigrant settlers.

The beach at Matagorda produces beautiful shells.  Look at these gorgeous sundial shells that we collected in 4 hours of strolling along the beach:

We arrived at the parking and picnic area, which was decorated with abstract sculptures across the top of the dunes:

A long, wooden pier juts out from the beach, crosses the dunes, and extends to a jetty that juts further out into the Gulf of Mexico:

The most popular activity in Matagorda is visiting the beach. Matagorda is a fishing hot spot on the Texas coast. It provides access to both East and West Matagorda Bays, Matagorda Beach, and the Gulf of Mexico.

On the pier, we spied several fisherman who were trying their luck on this gorgeous, sun-filled day.  One caught a huge redfish, which Kathy admired so much, she expressed her appreciation directly to the little feller:

After congratulating the fishermen on their catch, we walked further out on the pink granite jetty.  Kathy paused to summon Poseidon, the god of the oceans, to join us on the jetty --

-- and he surprised her with his eagerness to join her!

There were several jetties, on each of which fishermen were trying their luck.  We spied one framed between two large wooden logs buried in the beach:

Here is how the granite jetty looked to us as we strolled out along it toward the point:

Once we reached the end of the jetty, we had to take a selfy with the guardian of the beach:

Once we had explored the jetties and pier, we started a 6 mile walk along the beach.  Everywhere we went, we spotted tracks of local birdlife:

Matagorda County has been #1 in the nation since 1997 in the North American Audubon Christmas Bird Count with 234 different species spotted. Among the more impressive species which have been reported are the Prairie warbler, Common poorwill, Broad-winged hawk, MacGillivray's warbler, and Swainson's warbler.  We spotted hordes of seagulls, some cormorants, and one very huge white heron on a small island in the middle of a pond in the wetlands:

Further along the beach, we discovered a probable survivor of Hurrican Harvey - a pound of coffee, unopened!  We thought it best not to take the coffee home to taste.  Beyond probably being very salty, it probably had spoiled from its stormy saturation:

The day was hotter and much sunnier than we expected.  Luckily, we came prepared with shorts and t-shirts.  We had plenty of suntan lotion, and - on the walk back - we took our shoes off to cool our tootsies in the gentle surf.

By the time we returned to the Jeep, we were tired and hungry.  We repaired to the River Bend Restaurant & Tavern, where we tried a Ziegenbock Amber Lager:

Kathy had a half dozen oysters on the shell.  The oysters were way fresh, having been harvested right on the Gulf here at Matagorda.  David chose a basket of shrimp, also locally harvested.  What a great afternoon meal!

Matagorda is also known as one of the best kayaking and kayak fishing destinations on the Texas coast due to miles of shallow marsh area only accessible by kayak. There are miles of designated paddling trails in the Matagorda area.  Had we known that before we drove the 1.5 hours down here from our campground, we would have brought our kayaks.  But our visit gave rise to a vision that, in a couple years, we'll spend the winter crossing the southern border of the nation, and include many stops on the Gulf, including a stop to kayak the marshes of Matagorda.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Kayaking Lake LBJ - Day 2

Hi Blog!

On Sunday, October 29, 2017, we set out to kayak another part of Lake LBJ. We woke to brilliant blue skies, but slightly chilly temperatures. We didn't launch until 11:00 a.m. in an attempt to avoid frostbite! As we pulled away from the campground, we looked back at it.

What a difference a day makes. While yesterday was a blustery, choppy paddle, this morning was like gliding on silk.

Most of the land surrounding the LBJ Lake is privately owned, but there are a few small pocket parks that dot the shoreline. After a little Google searching, we decided our turnaround would be at Crockett Park.

We meandered along the shore line for almost four miles.

The fall foliage is very sbttle, but you can definitely tell it is fall.

We paddled around the Honeymoon Ranch, a private primitive campground that juts out into the lake.  There were some sections where we saw tent campers --

-- but other sections were empty and open:

This area of the hill country is know for its granite. Granite Mountain is a solid dome of pink granite rising over 860 feet one mile west of Marble Falls. Since quarry operations began in the late 19th century, the distinctive pink-red colored rock has been used in the construction of the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas, and also for the construction of the Galveston Seawall.

We spotted several blue herons along the way, but they tend to spook before we can get close enough for a photo. Here we caught sight of a great white heron perched high a top a tree.

The next great white heron we spotted was fishing along the shoreline.

Who can resist pretty yellow flowers reflected along the shore of the lake?

After four miles of paddling, we made our way to Crockett Park. It felt good to get out and stretch after a couple hours of paddling. We found a nice picnic spot and ate lunch.

After lunch, we began our journey back toward camp.  Across Elm Creek Inlet, we spotted this guy hanging out at Clear Cove Park:

As we left the sheltered cove of Elm Creek, we noticed the wind had picked up. We had about two miles of bumpy, bouncy paddling before we entered another sheltered cove. We finished our paddle with a leisurely tour of our neighbors' boathouses. This poor sailboat had seen better days.

This was a tale of two paddles. The morning was calm and quiet, but the afternoon was windy and choppy. 

Tomorrow, we move on to Houston West RV Park to prepare for our round-the-world trip. Not sure how many more blog entries we will have before we leave. 

Until then, stay thirsty my friends.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Kayaking Lake LBJ - Day 1


It looked like today would be the day we would finally get back out to paddle on a lake.  Our campground, Sunset Point RV Park, in Marble Falls, Texas, is on the shore of Lake LBJ, one of several lakes near Austin formed by the damming of Texas's Colorado River.

We couldn't get out early, however, because it was cold this morning.  Our low was 35F, and it didn't get over 60F until after 1pm.  Further, the winds remained high this morning after yesterday and we wanted to wait until the breezes died down to less than 10 mph.  We occupied ourselves with other things this morning, and even tried lunch and a beer at the local DoubleHorn Brewery in Marble Falls.

Once we returned home, it was about 63F and winds of less than 10 mph, so it was Go! for kayaking.  We could carry our kayaks over to the lakeshore to put in, which was a real treat.  Here, Kathy is putting hers into the lake:

The breeze was heavier than we anticipated, and our kayaks were rocking and rolling as we started out onto the lake.  We got a great view of the granite bedrock outcropping at our campground:

We don't think we've seen as many waterfowl in any one place, as here at Lake LBJ.  We startled three great blue herons, and we saw hundreds of coots.  Here, some of the coots flew away from us as we approached:

We explored the shoreline.  Here, Kathy poses against the granite bedrock outcropping:

Further around the point, we got a view of the campground boat dock --

-- and Kathy loved that little palm tree so much, she insisted we take this palm tree selfy:

We continued around the lake and got a close look at the dam, which provides hydroelectric power to the local area:

After inspecting the dam, we decided to paddle across the lake, into the wind and the choppy waves.  Here's Kathty pausing to rest in her paddling labors:

Having made it over the open water to a nearby peninsula, we rested, and Kathy inspected some tall ornamental grasses growing on the lakeshore:

We discovered an apparent pirates' den:

The sun was starting to fall to the horizon, and it made for a very tropical scene as it posed behind this small island populated only by several picturesque trees, accompanied by a little grass and a few birds:

This portion of the lakeshore is heavily developed with large, expensive houses.  While they have decimated the natural lakeshore, they have a picturesque beauty of their own:

After a two hour paddle, we returned to our campground and its small, grassy beach, where we put in, hauled our kayaks back to our campsite, and settled in with Baxter for another beautiful happy hour.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

Hi Blog!

Friday, October 27, 2017, was our first full day in Marble Falls, Texas. We are camped on the shores of Lake LBJ. We were looking forward to kayaking, but Mother Nature had other plans. While today was a beautiful day, it was too chilly and windy to kayak. After checking on the Top 10 Things to do in Marble Falls, we decided to visit Balcones Canyonland National Wildlife Refuge. The 20 mile drive took us deep in the heart of Texas Hill Country.

After checking in at the Visitor's Center, we did a short nature walk. We started with a stroll though a meadow filled with pollinators.

We were hoping to spot some Monarch Butterflies who stop here on their migration route. However, the windy weather may have kept them hidden. We did spot this beautiful swallowtail.

From a blind looking down on a pond, we spotted this turtle swimming by.

Fall has come to the hill country, but we were still able to find the occasional wildflower.

Balcones Canyonlands is not a continuous piece of land. It is actually fragmented into several sections with only 3,000 of its 27,500 acres open to the public. After the Visitor Center, we drove up to the Warbler Vista to take in the view from the Sunset Deck. From here, we look down on Texas's own Colorado River (not to be confused with the actual Colorado River).

We took a short hike along the Ridgeline Trail.

Kathy stopped to examine some of the Edwards Limestone.

Naturally acidic water dissolved the limestone, creating this unusual honeycombed rock. Over the centuries, this limestone layer was buried. Surface water drains down and pooled in the nooks and crannies, creating an underground aquifer. Edwards Aquifer is the source of many Central Texas springs and beautiful Hill County rivers.  These same rivers eventually flow into the marshes, estuaries and bays along the Texas coast.

After taking in the views from Ridgeline Trail, we drove over to Doeskin Ranch. Along the way we made several stops along Cow Creek to take in the views.

After picknicing in the parking lot, we headed out on the Creek Trail. The ranch still has a few remnants from the homesteading era. This old corn crib is still in pretty good shape, but clearly is very old because lichens have grown on the logs.

We headed out across a small section of prairie grass on our way down to Mountain Creek.

At this time of the year, the creek flows mostly underground, coming up in springs and pool along the stream bed.

There were several nature stops along the trail, posted with numbers keyed to a guide we received at the visitor center.  At the stops, the guide pointed out various aspects of the environment.

This was our favorite stop.  Can you find the prickly pear cactus in the tree? No one knows exactly how it got there, but some suspect that a ringtail or other forest dweller ate a prickly pear fruit and pooped out the seeds on the tree branch, where they took root. We'll never know.

When we looked at this tiny waterfall, it reminded us of the travertine shelves you see at hot springs. However, here the water is wearing down and eroding the limestone, not building it up with travertine by depositing its minerals on the formation when it evaporates.

We did find one little section of the creek that was running strong. Here we leave you with the sounds of burbling Mountain Creek.

Post Script: On our way back into town, as we approached the intersection of Highway 281 and Commercialburbia, we looked over to the side of the road and spotted this Great Blue Heron watching six lanes of traffic go by.

Normally, great blue herons are extremely shy and will rarely let humans approach closer than 100 yards or more.  But this heron must have become habituated to traffic, because our Jeep was only 50 feet from him.

The forecast for tomorrow is warmer and less windy, so we're hopeful we'll get a kayak adventure.  Tune in to the next blog entry to find out.