Sunday, January 5, 2014

Southern Texas (San Antonio and Seminole Canyon State Park)

We enjoyed a few hours of sunshine and a walk on the beach at South Padre Island before a massive low pressure system brought heavy rain, wind and cool temperatures for the remainder of the few days we had there. Our spirits were not dimmed, however, because Sarah and her sisters were together and enjoying each other's company.
South Padre Island

The New Year was rung in with dancing and merry making. Everyone was so much enjoying the music and dancing that no one was paying attention to the time. It was only when I happened to glance at my cell phone that I saw the time was 12:00. It was nice being so involved with the party that we did not do the traditional count down to the new year. We have been in Times Square for the dropping of the ball, but this New Year's Eve was no less memorable.

Fortunately, the rain stopped the next day for our departure from South Padre Island (it is never enjoyable hitching up in the rain). Sarah's sisters had to begin their drive back to Minnesota. They decided to stop in San Antonio at the end of their first day on the road so we chose to follow and spend one night there before continuing our journey west.

The weather was warmer when we arrived at Traveler's World RV resort just a few miles from downtown San Antonio and the River Walk. Once settled in at Traveler's world, we drove to the city center and strolled along the River Walk, a wonderful pedestrian walkway along section of the San Antonio river that has been diverted in the central city area. Lined with hotels and restaurants and, at this time of year bedecked with holiday lighting, it is a magical place. I enjoyed the varied architectural elements, sculptures and views of the city skyline. 

Views from the River Walk

Because we had been behind the wheel for many hours, we wanted to stretch our legs even more than the River Walk offered. So, Sarah and I walked to Mi Tienaa's restaurant where we enjoyed a margarita. This venerable establishment is a tourist destination, expensive and a victim of its own success. Still, the bartenders were genuinely friendly. When Sarah asked for a margarita that was not made with sweet mix, the bartender instantly responded that he would make us skinny margaritas, made with fresh lime juice and just a little agave syrup. After he delivered our margaritas, his colleague delivered another that he wanted us to compare with the first that we had received. Not wanting to hurt either bartender's feelings, Sarah and I decided that we would divide our vote, each saying the other was the better. 

For dinner, Sarah's sister, Nora chose Rosalina's on St. Mary's Street. Rosalina's was an excellent choice. The cuisine is based on Mexican tradition but infused with a modern touch. 

On our walk back to the River Walk from Mi Tienna's earlier in the day we passed Penner's haberdashery on West Commerce Street in which window I saw a hat that I wanted to buy. So, before hitching up to leave Traveler's World, we drove to Penner's to purchase the hat. As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by Matt Penner who gave us his full attention and used his eminent skills as a salesman to make us very happy with the purchase of not just the hat but a shirt and pair of shoes for me as well as a dress and belt for Sarah. Penner's reminded me that quality clothing is still available and the art of personal service is still alive. Thanks Matt.
At Penner's (I guess I do need a haircut)
We are now traveling at a slower pace. Seminole Historic Site State Park, just 190 miles west of San Antonia was our next destination. We arrived late in the afternoon because of our trip to Penner's and the need to provision our food supplies. Since leaving South Padre Island we have passed through two border patrol checkpoints. The last one, just west of Del Rio, where there is a border crossing, looks like it has received considerable funding for expansion as there we saw a major construction project clearly associated with border protection being conducted. We also saw a border patrol vehicle smoothing the gravel on the road that ran along the border in an effort to detect foot traffic crossing the road. The presence of Homeland Security here is everywhere. Those who claim we need to do more to secure the border should come and see what is going on here. I'm not sure the Yankees in Maine would put up with the inconvenience of border checkpoints the way the Texans do.

Seminole Canyon State Historical Park is about 30 miles west of Del Rio near the Pecos River. The landscape is drought ravaged West Texas. We noticed that the farmers nearby have resorted to sheep and goat ranching as was done here in the late 19th century. Cattle cannot thrive here with the drought. Sheep and goats are called the 'pay the mortgage' livestock. Amistad Reservoir is a huge lake created at the confluence of the Rio Grande, and the Pecos rivers. The water level was about 20' feet below the high water mark. Businesses hoping to capitalize on the recreational draw of the lake are boarded up, and expensive lakeside houses are far from the water's edge. 
The original roadbed of the Southern Pacific Railroad built in the 1880's runs nearby the campground
Here is a culvert from that period
A cook oven along the railroad line for the workers who built the railroad

The major attraction, besides the wide open spaces and the ability to hike in the beautiful desert, are the pictographs left by the residents of this land more than 4,000 years ago. The canyon, carved by the abundant waters prior to the climate change shortly after. Abundant rainwater carved deep canyons on this uplifted seabed. At places the water curved a bend and made large undercuts into the limestone where the ancients took shelter. Here they left beautiful paintings on the walls and ceilings of the rock shelters. 
Seminole Canyon

Using three pigments of naturally occurring minerals, red, yellow, white and black, they created complex and detailed images, of which no one has definitely concluded the meaning. Is it art, spiritual offering, an instructional for the succeeding generations. No one is certain. What is certain is that they are magnificent. Sadly, what is also certain is that they won't last much longer. Images that have survived since more than 1,000 years before Christ, are now deteriorating rapidly. The cause is a small rise in humidity from the reservoir. The limestone is dissolving and the pictographs are being destroyed. If I have an any grandchildren, they will never see these ancient paintings.
This painting has been here for 4,000 years. I can't keep paint on my house for more than seven.

Just a couple miles from the state park is the Rock Art Foundation's White Shaman site. This magnificent archaeological site near the confluence of the Pecos and Rio Grande is home to a marvelous 4,000 year old shelter that has one large wall covered in intricate and colorful pictographs. Sarah and I seek out ancient petroglyphs and pictographs wherever we travel. The pictographs here are the finest we have ever seen. The meaning or purpose is still a matter of debate, but there is no debate about the historic value of these works. 
A challenging hike to get to the paintings
Vibrant colors
/White Shaman or Moon Goddess?

Our last night in Seminole Canyon State Park was spent around a campfire on which we grilled chicken breasts and gazed at the stars in a place with such dark skies. Tomorrow we will move to Great Bend National Park. 
This deer bid us farewell at Seminole Canyon

Stay tuned

No comments:

Post a Comment

I appreciate all comments whether about content or style