Bullet Holes in the Telescope?
This evening was the “dinner and 107" telescope viewing” which we had based our visit around. After dinner everyone headed up to the observatory for a talk on spectroscopy by one of the visitor center staff and a talk by a Phd student who was scheduled to use the telescope tonight — both were very interesting. The dome cannot be opened if the wind reaches speeds above 50 mph in the previous 30 minutes and as the wind was gusting to 57 mph the dome didn’t open so no viewing for us. Plan B was to put the telescope into maintenance mode (i.e. lower it and make it parallel to floor) so we could look down the telescope at the mirror. This was actually really interesting. When you looked down the telescope you noticed a couple of marks on the glass about the size of a dime. Turned out that a year or so after the telescope was in operation (late 60s) one of the astronomers had a melt down and shot at the mirror, he also hit it with a hammer or some other heavy object which explained some of the “scratch” marks. The mirror is more than a foot thick so I guess it takes more than a bullet to shatter it. The only effect of the “flaws” is to make the 107" telescope equal in power to a 106" ---- pretty amazing. We also went into the control room where the Phd student showed us how the some of the equipment worked.
The Hobby Eberly Dome was sparkling in the sun.
The tour guide and his "spectroscopy" equipment.
Spectroscopy is about splitting light into the colour spectrum --- this is what we saw when we looked through a glass reflector. Astronomers use spectroscopy to determine the composition of an object, the direction it is moving and probably other things as well.
The Phd student in the control room --- he has 4 computer screens in front of him.
Looking down the telescope at the mirror --- the bullet holes are the three dots on the right side of the photo.
Starry, starry night --- a view as we were getting ready to head home.
Probably a Lesser Goldfinch.
The owners of this vehicle have a couple of opinions.
A House Finch.
The 107" telescope --- the floor moves up and down so people can access parts of the telescope.
The dome for the 107" telescope.
The Hobby Eberly Telescope. It doesn't have the conventional tube but is a metal frame. The mirror is sitting on the blue frame near the bottom of the photo.
This gives you an idea how the mirror looks.
The dome for the Hobby Eberly Telescope
The domes from the 82" and 107" telescopes.
Pronghorn --- he/she has true horns not antlers and really big ears.
One of the views we saw --- we liked how the moon was over the hill.
Some of the many cattle we saw --- this guy has one horn pointing up and one pointing down --- I think there was a joke about that.
A mule deer beside our trailer at the park.
The winds died down a bit by mid afternoon so we hiked one of the trails in the park. The trail led us up to the top of one of the mountains where we had good views of the surrounding area and led us along several ridges till we descended near Indian Lodge. Built in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Indian Lodge is a pueblo style hotel and restaurant that is part of the state park.
After supper, Ed and I headed up to the McDonald Observatory to attend a “Star Party”. We were able to look through a number of different telescopes and see a variety of “space objects” — the moon, Saturn, a pair of stars, a nebula, etc.
Female Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Ed and Zaph on top of the world.
Looking down on Indian Lodge.
Some of the interesting rock formations around here.
The dead flower stock of the "century plant", an agave
The winds picked up this afternoon and about 5pm I looked out the windows and thought it looked sort of foggy but a light brown instead of the usual greyish white of fog. Later we found out that there was dirt in the air — apparently a normal occurrence for this area. If it rains during a “dust storm” everything gets covered in mud — I was happy we only had the dust.
The pool at Balmorhea --- it covers 1.75 acres --- now that's one big pool.
A view from the lookout on "Sky Line Drive"
The main reason we came to the Davis Mountains was to visit the McDonald Observatory but now that we’ve seen the state park and brochures for the area we realize that there is a lot of other things to see and do here. There is a large population of mule deer in the park, a lot of different birds and by the smell a fair number of javelinas though we haven’t actually seen any. Javelinas have a musky smell much like a skunk.
The visitor center at the McDonald Observatory. The 10 meter by 11 meter telescope is in the dome at the top of the photo ---- now that's one big telescope (4th largest in the world!)
One of the many mule deer in the state park.
Big Bend Ranch State Park
This area called Las Cuevas is full of caves.
Hey Zaph, whose hiding in the bushes?
Don't want to tangle with this Texas Longhorn!
Interesting rock formations.
Zaph and I enjoying the view.
And this is what we're looking at .... the Cinco Tinajas.
The ranch house.
This area is called Solitario and is very interesting geologically speaking
The Big Hill
The RV park in Presidio (yup we only found one RV park) also has a golf course though I wouldn’t call it challenging — well except for someone like me who hasn’t played golf. The holes appear fairly flat and straight, no woods, no water traps. I guess if you are going to park your trailer pretty much in the middle of nowhere you need something to do.
The golf course with the trailer park in the back of the photo.
A Yucca in bloom.
One of the buildings at the old mercury mine in Big Bend.
Old and rusty --- what's left of a car at the mercury mine.
More old buildings at the mine
One happy jeep driver.
We had seen the front of this mountain many times .... but is was a first to see the backside.
A Big Bend Blue Bonnet ... these can grow to over 5 feet tall.
A view of the river.
These buildings are part of the Contrabando movie set. A couple of made for TV movies were shot here in 1995 and 1999.
Some very interesting rock along side the road.
The Yucca plants are starting to bloom.
A yucca in bloom.
Some wildflowers by the side of the road
One of the scenes along the road.
Ok, Zaph start pulling.
One of the many rooms in the fort.
Zaph decided to check out the oven.
A mural on a building in Presidio.
I Thought No One Lived in a Ghost Town
In the afternoon, Ed and I headed to the Terlingua Ghostown. Terlingua had been a prosperous mercury mining community until 1942 when the Chisos Mining Company went bankrupt. All operations ceased permanently in 1944 with all the equipment being sold off. All that was left of the town were empty buildings. In 1967 the first international chili cook off was held in the ghost town and a homes were begining to be rebuilt and occupied. Our jeep tour guide is one of approximately 120 people who currently live in the ghost town and the town is also home to several restaurants and bars, a general store and a guest house. After our tour of Terlingua we headed to Lajitas about 15 miles west along the Rio Grande. The Big Bend Ranch State Park begins in Lajitas and continues north about 50 miles to the town of Presidio. The Barton Warnock Environmental Education Center and Museum presents an archeological, historical and natural profile of the Big Bend Region — lots of good information as well as a wonderful desert garden. Lajitas is also home to a large vacation resort .... I guess this is the place you go when you really want to get away from everything.
This is a Button Cactus.
The metal tubes are condensers used in the refining of mercury from the ore. Just to the left are 2 vertical shafts going down hundreds of feet.
A view from the mine site.
Willow mountain an example of columnar jointing --- jointing occurs when a thick body of magma cools slowly underground, contracts and splits into pencil-shaped columns.
One of the many ruins in Terlingua Ghostown.
Some of the ruins have been repaired and additions added making them livable. The one in the front is used as the reception area for the guest house.
Take me to your leader .... interesting decoration on this home.
Is this a Yucca or an alien?
Yeah, Ed really is on the trip.
A pretty flower
The resort in Lajitas
One of many buttes along the road.
I guess the locals are in a hurry for their beer --- Speedy Drive Thru Beer.
Study Butte (pronounced stoodybyoot)
Hike to the Hot Spring
A House Finch
A view from the trail looking up the river.
Another view of the river from the Hot Springs Trail
Another great view.
Hanging Out with Zaph
A couple of Ravens hanging out in the campground
A female Vermillion Flycatcher --- not flashy like the male.
Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive
Cerro Castellan --- the white stuff isn't snow, it's tuff (compressed volcanic ash).
Santa Elena Canyon
Another view of Santa Elena Canyon.
Mule Ears --- a landmark you can see for miles
Another great view.
Is this the Javelina Highway? As soon as the Javelinas noticed the truck they dove off the side of the road.
Another beautiful sunset.
This coyote was wandering through the campground. Ed was able to take some photographs as it stood across the road from our campsite.
Looking for Birds
A Crissal Thrasher
Our first siting of a Javelina at Big Bend. Last year there was a band touring through the campground every day but they were not as evident this year.
A view in the Chisos Mountains.
A view from a trail in the Chisos Basin.
An interesting cactus.
There is a tunnel on the main road heading to the campground. The view you see as you go through the tunnel.
Dog Canyon and the Devils Den
On the hike out of the canyon we saw a sign for the Devils Den so we decided to hike that as well. This hike was a little tougher and we did lose the trail a couple of times but we found some cool looking tinajas and some great views. Oh it added about 5 miles to the original hike. I’m sure we burned off enough calories to justify the ice cream we bought we when got back to the campground.
Looking down Dog Canyon.
The holes in the rock high on a wall in Dog Canyon reminded Ed of a face.
We found this tinaja as we hiked up the wash towards the Devil's Den.
The cut in the ground is the Devil's Den.
That's me on the ridge looking down into the Devil's Den.
Another view of the the Devil's Den.
As the sun set's it reflects off the Sierra del Carmen. This is a view from the our trailer.
Spring is Here!
First adventure was a walk to the overlook by the picnic area, something we hadn't done last year. Second adventure was a walk to the Rio Grande (we seem to do that a lot at many different places). We spotted a couple of grebes, a coot and a Great Blue Heron .... are we really in a desert? Second adventure was a drive to Boquillas Canyon. After a short hike we were having a great view of the canyon.
Looking up at a Ladder-backed Woodpecker.
A female Cardinal having a snack.
View from the overlook.
Off to Big Bend National Park
Another Walk to the Rio Grande
I was up early .... Ed and Zaph were still asleep .... and saw a beautiful sunrise.
This is an old oven that was used by the workers building the railroad line through this area of Texas in 1882.
Ed took this picture of a pictograph with a telephoto lens as it is across Seminole Canyon. I believe there are trips out here once a month but not during our visit. Binoculars or a telephoto lens were needed to see the pictographs.
Looking down the Rio Grande. Seminole Canyon goes off to the left.
A view down Seminole Canyon.
Ed decided that he wanted to see if he could get pictures of the canyon with the light from the setting sun. This meant another walk on the trail to the Rio Grande ---- happily we only did about half of the trail.
An artists interpretation of Indian lore.
The canyon floor.
This slide and the following two are some of the pictographs.
Many of the pictographs are found high above the canyon floor in a protected cave-like area.
A red tailed hawk soaring above the canyon.
Some of the rocks have weathered in a almost lace-like fashion.
Along the "Windmill Trail" we came across what is left of the windmill.
This little camper really wanted to take a dog for a walk so borrowed a couple who happily obliged.
A small herd of sheep were tromping along the river ... they knocked some rocks loose with scared me and the noise Zaph and I made scared them.
The sun striking the water just before sunset.
Mom, what is that bird?
Zaph admiring the setting sun.
Wow .... What an Incredible Sunset
That's our trailer in the middle --- the sun is starting to set.
A metal statue near the park headquarters.
Next stop on the birding tour was Roma Bluffs. This birding center is in the town of Roma and overlooks the Rio Grande River. It was pretty quiet there with only a few ducks, a Couch's Kingbird and a couple of egrets following a pig around.
On the way back to the park we stopped at a community RV park to look for sparrows — White-crowned sparrows and lark sparrows were spotted — both new birds for Ed and myself.
It was great going with experienced birders as they were able to identify a lot of the birds for us.
An Altamira Oriole
Hooded Oriole on the front of the feeder and an Audubon's on the back
Juvenile Brown Jay --- definitely not as colourful as it's relatives the Blue Jay and Green Jay but much large by approximately 5 inches
Is this a double headed cow? We were impressed with thickness of the horns.
Egrets following or is it chasing a pig?
When we arrived at the park we saw this gas well drilling rig.
When we left the drilling rig looked like this. I guess they were finished drilling the well and were moving the equipment elsewhere.
Sad to Say Good-bye
Falcon State Park is on the shores of Falcon Reservoir which was created when the Falcon Dam was built across the Rio Grande River. It is a very popular bird watching location, though we didn’t see a lot of birds on our walk along the nature trail.
There were some wild flowers and shrubs blooming --- I guess spring is coming to south Texas
Pyrrhuloxia --- the "desert cardinal"
Walking through the campground you saw a lot of side mirrors with plastic bags on them. The Pyrrhuloxia loves to attacked his reflection. Here he's attacking the chrome bumper of a van.
Hello and Good-bye
The Clay-colored Robin posed for us. The valley is the only area in the US where this bird is found.
The Rose-breasted Grosbeak --- a rare winter visitor to Bentsen State Park.
Canoeing Down the Rio Grande
Back at the campground it was fresh cinnamon rolls baked by Rosetta — they were oh so good. Then 17 of us headed out for dinner. The excuse for dinner out was “hello” and “good-bye” — we are leaving and heading west on Sunday and two couples (one of the couples went to college with one of our neighbours 40 or so years ago and have kept in touch) arrived today. Mexican food was the choice and we went to a place called Panchos. The restaurant is fairly large and has several rooms and we got a one to ourselves. The food was excellent especially the Charro beans, a spicy Mexican pork and beans style soup.
It was a little foggy when we set out.
floating down the river
A Harris Hawk was spotted in the campground sitting on a pole ---- Ed caught the hawk as it was leaving.
In the evening we went to see the Senior Ambassadors Mens Chorus at an RV about 15 minutes away. Bob, one of our neighbours, is in the chorus and Rosetta, another neighbour, plays the piano for the chorus. There are 40 some odd gentleman in the chorus ranging in age from 65 to 82. We thought the show was great — Rosetta was happy that they didn’t goof up a song they had been having trouble with and Bob thought they did OK.
Zaph ready to hit the trails
The Senior Ambassadors