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.