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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Roswell: An Out-of-This-World Experience!

October 30, 2018

Hi Blog!

We finally made it to Roswell, New Mexico, the mecca for tourists interested in UFOs, science fiction, and aliens. Roswell is most known for having its name attached to what is now called the "Roswell UFO Incident," although the crash site of the alleged UFO was some 75 miles from Roswell and closer to Corona. The investigation and debris recovery was handled by the local Roswell Army Air Field. Roswell is a popular town for tourists from around the galaxy because of its many alien-themed stores. You can't walk down the street without coming across an extraterrestrial.

Even the street lights have a little ET flair about them.

In order to learn more about the Roswell UFO Incident, we stopped at the International UFO Museum and Research Center. The Museum endeavors to be the leading information source in history, science and research about UFO events worldwide. The International UFO Museum's constituents are committed to gathering and disbursing, to all interested parties, the most qualified and up-to-date information available. While it's good to get some education, there's no harm in having a little fun along the way.

As the story goes, an unidentified flying object crashed on a ranch northwest of Roswell, New Mexico, sometime during the first week of July 1947. Rancher W.W. “Mack” Brazel said later he found debris from the crash as he and the son of Floyd and Loretta Proctor rode their horses out to check on sheep after a fierce thunderstorm and mysterious explosion the night before. Brazel said that, as they rode along, he began to notice unusual pieces of what seemed to be metal debris scattered over a large area. Upon further inspection, he said, he saw a shallow trench several hundred feet long had been gouged into the ground.

Meanwhile, Glenn Dennis, a young mortician working at Ballard Funeral Home, received some curious calls one afternoon from the RAAF morgue. The base’s mortuary officer was trying to get hold of some small, hermetically sealed coffins and also wanted to know how to preserve bodies that had been exposed to the elements for a few days and avoid contaminating the tissue.

The next day, Dennis met with the nurse, who told him about bodies discovered with the wreckage and drew pictures of them on a prescription pad. Within a few days she was transferred to England; her whereabouts remain unknown.

On July 8, 1947, Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF) public information officer Walter Haut issued a press release stating that personnel from the field's 509th Operations Group had recovered a "flying disc," which had crashed on a ranch near Roswell. The military decided to conceal the true purpose of the crashed device – nuclear test monitoring – and instead inform the public that the crash was of a weather balloon. Years later, when the military story of a downed weather balloon was debunked and UFO investigators pinned it down about the bodies, a test dummy was brought out with the explanation that it was a test for manned space flight.

In the 1990s, the US military published yet another explanation:  two reports disclosing the "true nature" of the crashed object: a nuclear test surveillance balloon from Project Mogul. Nevertheless, the Roswell incident continues to be of interest in popular media, and conspiracy theories surrounding the event persist. There are loads of historical documents to review, as well as photos and artifacts. There are also lots of artist interpretations.

One theory reported an unnamed source as claiming that Josef Mengele, a German officer and a physician in Auschwitz, was recruited by the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to produce "grotesque, child-size aviators" to be remotely piloted and landed in America in order to cause hysteria similar to Orson Welles' The War of the Worlds. Other alien invasion movies were also highlighted. "Klaatu barada nikto!"

As we made our way around the research center, there were a number of rooms devoted to photos of UFOs from around the world. We also spent some time exploring the information on ancient astronauts. Proponents suggest that this contact influenced the development of modern cultures, technologies, and religions, and even human biology.

We loved the detail in this wood carving which recreates the stone sarcophagus lid of K'inich Janaab Pakal in the Temple of Inscriptions in southern Mexico. It is a unique piece of Classic Maya art. Around the edges of the lid is a band with cosmological signs, including those for sun, moon, and star. It appears as if the occupant is flying a spacecraft and about to take off into space.

Whether you believe or not...The Truth is Out There!

The City of Roswell has certainly embraced all things alien, as can be seen in many storefronts such as this:

For $5.00, you too can take home your souvenir photo!

And, as icing on the cake, just in case you were wondering what the Mars Rover found...

May the (Alien) Force Be With You!

Eddie and George Wake With Ros in Roswell, New Mexico

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Hike in Lake Colorado City State Park

We're traveling across Texas toward Roswell and Albuquerque, and it was convenient to stop in Sweetwater, Texas.  We had a free day today and were eager to get out and do some hiking.  The only hiking trail within a short drive was the Cactus Cut Trail in Lake Colorado City State Park.  It was moderately strenuous but only 2.5 miles out-and-back.  We would have liked a much longer hike but, as it turned out, the 84F weather with hot sun convinced us that we should be careful in our first desert outing in a year or so.

Here we are at the modestly signed trailhead:

As we prepared to hike, we spotted our first wildlife -- a cute little roadrunner who -- perhaps because he wanted to cooperate with the photographer, or, more likely, he was just curious about us -- posed for a money shot:

Just 2 days ago, we were in humid bayou country, with moss on the trees and wet ground underfoot.  Suddenly, to our surprise, we are in flat-out desert.  This landscape reminds us of hikes we've taken in Arizona:

A touch of Fall color has come to western Texas:

About halfway out the trail, we came to something we've never encountered before -- a fishing barge.  It amounts to a roofed fishing pier perched far enough out into the lake to permit casting into deeper water for fish -- here likely to be large-mouthed bass, channel catfish and sunnies.

On a hot, sunny day such as today, we appreciated immediately the value of a roof over our heads.  Imagine how that sun would burn and bake anyone who tries to stay out fishing all day:

The geology of this area is intriguing.  The surface is clearly eroded sandstone, but in places, much older, harder rock seemed to have been exposed.  Kathy consulted a Texas geology map that suggests it is only sandstone that has been exposed so long that it has developed a dark patina.  There is evidence of old watercourses and erosion throughout the area, which may have been the cause of the unusual rock formations we hiked across.

Sandstone and limestone cliffs drop sheerly down to the lake, which has been formed by damming a local creek:

We've grown a bit rusty with our desert plant identification, but we successfully identified this little beauty as Christmas Cholla:

Pausing for lunch at a ramada in a campground at the far end of our trail, we noticed an overturned nest in the tree next to where we were sitting.  There was no evidence of a recent tragedy, so we speculated that the nest had gone unoccupied this year.

We didn't spot too many waterfowl at the lake, but as we stepped along a dock at the lakeshore, we disturbed these two ducks, who turned tail on us:

Depending on your point of view, this fellow was probably our most spectacular wildlife sighting of the day:

We encountered him (her?) at the campground restroom just before we left the park.  We thought s/he might be a (VERY) deadly recluse spider, but when we got home, we did a little research and discovered it was a wolf spider.  While still venomous, this little one isn't nearly as dangerous as a recluse spider.  Still, Kathy declined to take him/her home as a pet for Baxter.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Natchez Trace - Hiking the Potkopinu

Alas, this was our last day on the Natchez Trace.  We drove down the southernmost section of the parkway to Natchez, Mississippi, and then to our RV campground in Vidalia, Louisiana, just across the Mississippi River from Natchez.  We got settled and hurried back up to hike one last section of the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail before rain closes in this evening.

We stopped to take a photo of the sign at the entrance to the Southern Terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway:

Here we are at the trailhead, about 17 miles up the parkway:

Potkopinu, the southernmost section of National Scenic Trail, is only three miles long, but it is the longest remaining stretch of "sunken" historic Old Trace. Named for the Natchez Indian word meaning "little valley," this trail has some embankments over twenty feet high.  Below, David marvelled at the large trench as we first entered it:

Even the shallower segments of this section are sunken.  While some have said that the trail was worn down by the thousands of "Kaintucks" who marched up the trail from Natchez and New Orleans after riding their boats down to deliver goods to the southern ports, we think it's more likely that most of the wear on the trail occurred over the centuries before that as bison used the trail for north-south migration.

It is late October, and this area of Mississippi is still not showing too much autumn color.  However, a few trees, and many grasses, are starting to glow gold, orange and even red as temperatures continue to drop:

This is the deep southeastern forest, and we found many trees entwined by vines and ivy:

The further north we hiked, the deeper the trace sank below the ground on either side:

It's difficult to show you the scale of the depression left by the Old Trace until you see this 360-degree video of the Old Trace.

As we hiked, we found many souvenirs of autumn, including this hickory nut --

-- and some puffballs which we tried to pop as we walked along -- with little success.  Kathy spotted this very large fungus along one wall of the sunken trail:

Something Kathy didn't spot -- until she almost stepped on it -- was this huge rattlesnake -- at least four feet long.  He was stretched lazily along the trail and we almost didn't spot him due to his camouflage:

We speculated that he had just eaten something and was lazily stretched out, digesting his meal.  He didn't even react to us as we stood nearby to discuss him and then took his photograph.

Whew!  Another near-death experience, with disaster narrowly averted.  This is how we roll.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Natchez Trace - Hiking the Yockanookany

October 23, 2018
Hi Blog!

Yesterday, we spent the day driving the Natchez Trace from Tupelo to Jackson. It was probably the most relaxing move day we have ever had, until we had to leave the Trace and drive through Jackson to our campground. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times! The best - 50 mph speed limit, no traffic, rolling hills and woodlands with deer dancing by the side of the road. The worst - highway construction, washboard roads, bumper to bumper traffic, low hanging branches, everything in our cupboards tossed about. We can't wait to get back on the Trace.

Today we decided to visit a few of the places we passed on our way to the campground. Our first stop was the Cypress Swamp.

We entered a realm of trees, water, and reflections. Water tupelo and bald cypress can live in deep water for a long periods. After taking root in the summer when the swamp is nearly dry, the seedlings can stay alive in water deep enough to kill other plants. A boardwalk through the swamp gave us an up close and personal look at these water dwelling giants.

The trail led us through an abandoned river channel. We were soon surrounded by bald cypress. While it is a cone bearing member of the coniferous redwood family, it is in fact deciduous, losing its flat, one to two centimeter long needles in the winter, a characteristic that led to it being dubbed the “bald” cypress. “Cypress knees,” or protrusions that grow from the trees’ roots and stick out above the water are thought to help stabilize the tree against hurricane force winds and may aid in respiration for trees that are consistently standing in water.

The water tupelo tends to gather more moss than the cypress. The name “tupelo,” a common name used for several varieties of Nyssa trees, literally means “swamp tree” in the language of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation . In North America, there are several species of tupelo: black, black gum or swamp tupelo; water tupelo; and Ogeechee tupelo. It is the Ogeechee tupelo in Florida that bees use to make tupelo honey.

Just across the Trace from the Cyrpress Swap is a section of the original Old Trace. While part of the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail, this section of the trail is marked as unmaintained.

Now, we've hiked on unmaintained trails before. It usually means climbing over or working around some fallen trees. However, with most trails, you can usually find your way back to the main path. What we encountered here were sections that were truly impassable.

As we worked our way through the woods, we discovered these bright purple berries. Known as the American beautyberry, the raw berries, while palatably sweet, are suitable for human consumption only in small amounts, because they are astringent. Some people have reported mild stomach cramps after consumption. We'll pass on berry picking today.

We found a few old blazes and trekked on some small portions of the Old Trace before losing it again in a jungle of fallen trees and creeping myrtle.

We decided to give up on our hike and head over to River Bend for lunch, where the Pearl River takes a left turn and empties into the Ross R. Barnett Reservoir.

While eating our lunch, we watched the butterflies work along the banks of the river.

After lunch, we found another section of the Old Natchez Trace. Here you can really see the "indication of the passing of something." The first thing to pass where the huge herds of buffalo; next, the native peoples that followed the buffalo; and then the hunters and trappers exploring the new frontier. By the time the Kaintucks began traveling back to Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania, the Trace was a well established route.

The pullout for the Old Trace, was also tagged the Brashears Stand Site. The park brochures indicated that this site was the location of "a house of entertainment in the wilderness." However, we found nothing indicating where said house was located.  Kathy did find a local resident to quiz about the mysteries of the Natchez Trace:

From the Old Trace we followed the Chisha Foka Multi-Use Trail to the Reservoir Overlook. Chisha Foka roughly translates to “among the post oaks,” and was the Choctaw settlement that once stood where the City of Jackson is today.

Fall is just starting to catch up with us.

The newly created path has a massive footbridge over a tiny little creek.

The Ross Barnett Reservoir is a reservoir of the Pearl River. The 33,000-acre lake serves as Mississippi's largest drinking water resource, and is managed by the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District. The lake features 105 miles of shoreline impounded on the south by a 3.5-mile man-made dam and spillway. The western shore is bounded by the historic Natchez Trace Parkway. So much water, so little time.

Time to head back to camp and get our chores done. Tomorrow, we follow the Trace down to Natchez, the town that gave the Natchez Trace its name.

Stay tuned.