It is 6:00 p.m. Friday October 12, 2007. This will be second night that Inu and I have camped at Calamity Creek on Woodward Ranch, about 16 miles south of Alpine, Texas.
We are almost underneath Cathedral Peak. Our ICBM/GPS coordinates are N 30.14394, W -103.61227 This is a really beautiful place at about 4,700 ft above sea level (1,450 meters). You drive several miles west of Highway 118 which goes from Alpine, Texas to the Big Bend.
Calamity Creek runs year round, is clear and cool, and has fish. About 200 meters downstream from where I have the teardrop parked there is a really nice pool that one could swim in. I guess it is about 50 meters across (150 feet). It sits right underneath a rock cliff which has a grotto/cave about 30 feet up the cliff. You can be sure that in the past, what with there being ample water all year, that there were native peoples here.
There are hills all around us, and the plant life is mostly oak and juniper.
There are wild javelinas living in the area, wild turkeys, and of course skunks.
This is such a wild area that not only do I not have cell phone service either on either of my cell phones, AT&T or T- Mobile. I scanned for FM radio stations a bit ago and didn’t pick up any. So I have the stereo running; at the moment playing some nice Jefferson Airplane.
Yesterday we took our time driving down from El Paso. We passed the giant heliostat between Valentine and Marfa. I guess it allows the federal government to spend a lot of money trying to stop drugs and poor folks looking for work from coming north.
We stopped at a rock shop in Marfa, and then also at the public radio station in Marfa where we joined up to the tune of $60-. KRTF 93.5 mhz. A really fine station.
We also went by the rock shop in Alpine yesterday where we bought the Audubon book on minerals and rocks (I had left my book at home) as well as some really nice fluorescent minerals. A nicer sample of benitoite than what I already had, and two pieces of calcite from Boquillas canyon in Big Bend which are like Terlingua material. Under long wave ultraviolet they fluoresce red, under short wave UV light they look blue, and when you shut off the shortwave UV light they phosphoresce.
Today we drove up to Fort Davis. We went into the Indian Lodge. I have probably passed it 75 times in the past, but have never gone in. It is a 1930s WPA project. Nice hotel, scenic road leading to the top of the mountain, and plenty of RV spots. Afterwards we drove all around Prude Ranch. I stopped and visited with the folks in the visitor center; basically next to the dining area for people who know the place.
John Robert Prude is still alive and active in the business.
We then drove across Limpia Creek and back to the radio telescope. When I was 14 it seemed much bigger and neater. Of course since then I have seen a little of the world and also the very large array west of Socorro.
We got out and walked up Limpia Creek on the way out. Then we went up to McDonald’s observatory.
Afterwards driving back through Ft. Davis I stopped at a combination car dealership and live snake exhibit. Honest. West Texas is interesting! I tried to buy a little old Suzuki 4 wheel drive from them. The price was not out of line, but we couldn’t come to terms on the license plates and the safety sticker. Probably just as well.
About a block away we stopped at the rock shop in Ft. Davis. A nice lady runs the place. And she has a black light area, and a very good black light too! Her prices were reasonable. What more could you want? I got some polished fluorescent silicon dioxide (agate) from the Woodward Ranch and from Balmorhea. One dollar per piece…a very good price.
There is a big greenhouse in Ft. Davis which grows hothouse tomatoes, so I stopped and bought a few pounds of these tomatoes.
Tomorrow I will meet up with my friends from the El Paso Mineral & Gem Society, and we will go rock hunting on the Walker Ranch, which abuts the Woodward Ranch that we are camping on. Then we plan to spend one more night here next to Calamity Creek, before slowly making our way back on Sunday.
It is the second morning I have woken up here in the wilds. The sun has not yet risen, in fact it is just starting to be dawn. Lots of stars are still visible. Goodness there are a lot of stars at night here. One can see cassiopea, the pleadieds (spelling?), of course the big dipper, orion and his belt, and much more.
Inu and I got up about an hour ago. I slept like a baby last night.
Before we went to bed we went and visited our neighbors. They are a family of 5 that is tent camping nearby. They are the only other people within miles. They are really interesting people. A man who looks 35 but just turned fifty and his four children. Two girls probably 10 and 12, and two teenage boys around 14 years old. I think the kids are Guatemalan citizens.
They work on the ranch black one day a week, and in return they get to camp here free of charge. They are basically living off the land.
The children’s mother is an Aztec, from Guatemala. They used to own a ranch there. So the kids are 100% fluent in Spanish and English. No accent at all in English. Honest.
They collect honey and beeswax from the hives up on the cliffs near the stream and sell it. They did this same thing when they were living in Northern Mexico too.
They fish, and not long ago one of the boys killed a wild javelina with his bow and arrow, which they ate. Yesterday they killed a large rattle snake (ten rattles on his tail). They eat snake and although they have offerered me home made whole wheat bread, tea made from herbs growing in the stream, with their wild honey, fortunately they were nice to me and did not offer any of the snake meat.
So last night at sunset Inu and I took our LW/SW UV lamp and some fluorescent rocks down to show our neighbors. I began by explaining how dogs can hear higher sounds than humans, and young people like them can hear higher sounds than us old men. I told them about cell phone ring tones that teens can hear but adults can’t. The kids loved this idea, the old man wasn’t so sure.
So then I talked about rainbows and the spectrum of light. How you can feel the heat from a campfire even though you can’t see it - infrared light, and how there was also light beyond the purple in a rainbow. Just the human eye can’t see it. I told them that my battery powered lamp could put out two different colors (frequencies) of UV light. Long wave, which is just beyond what the human eye can see. Black light, like the cheapo hippie lights; and also the harder to make shortwave UV light. I explained how shortwave UV was bad for your eyes if you looked directly at it. Might give you snow blindness which is very painful.
Then we looked at some Benitoite I had bought at the rock shop day before yesterday. Next I showed them some terlingua type calcite which came out of boquillas canyon in the Big Bend. Under LW it glowed reddish, under SW it was blueish, and when the light was removed it continued to glow (phosphorescence).
The Dad asked one of the boys about a pickup truck that had driven in. The boy said the men had gone hunting. The old man asked him how he knew they had gone hunting. And the boy's answer is what reminded me of when I was living with the Cajuns in South Louisiana. The boy answered, “Because they had their spotlight.”
Then all four kids went off for about 30 or 45 minutes hunting at night with my battery powered UV light. They came back with lots of rocks they had found which glowed green, red and orange.
The Walker Ranch property abuts the Woodward Ranch. Prior to people getting old and dying, inheritances, etc. the Walker Ranch belonged to the Woodwards.
Teri Smith guided us on a rock hunting trip on the Walker Ranch. We turned off the highway at N30.13476, W-103.57852 and went through a locked gate. After driving several miles on a fairly rugged dirt road we parked the cars at N30.13221, W-103.59854
To get in to this site one really should be driving a high clearance vehicle, but my plucky little Toyota Crayola came through again.
It is a really interesting area with lots of chalcedony, agate, and various quartz varietals.
If one is able and willing to climb to the top of the hill at N30.13391, W-103.59778 there is a large site where the ancient Indians chipped their arrowheads.