Scott is really the photographer between the two of us. He geeks out over the cameras and their settings, while I am just trying to understand it all. I am told I have a great eye, but I just can’t seem to the get the excitement that he has. This can be rather frustrating for him, I fear. At one point we were at a Texas State Park called Mineral Wells State Park just outside of Mineral Wells, Texas. He was taking photos of the dam while all I could see was the tall grass against that turquoise water. When we compare shots, he had some of the prettiest dam shots and all I got was this grass photo. I think it is one of my favorites that I have taken.
Fort Worth’s Sundance Square taken by Ren
Fort Griffin State Historic Site Campground’s Mill Creek Access photo taken by Ren
Street Sign at the Veterans Park Southern Tip taken by Ren
Selfie time! Me at Fort Griffin State Historic Site
I don’t take many photos with an actual camera, but when I do I try to do the best I can. The photography is more Scott’s hobby, but to make it more enjoyable for him I join in. I can always tell a difference when we work together on a set of photos because he is happier and always appreciative for my input making his photos better. If that makes any sense.
Thank you all so much for taking a few moments to view my photos. I don’t share my own photos often, but you all have been so encouraging I felt they would be appreciated.
If you want to watch the video that matches Scott’s post, visit our dTube channel and view https://d.tube/#!/v/xcountytravelers/065bt48w
As I’ve said before, there is something about mountains that call Ren and I. When we get to the mountains, it feels like coming home. I don’t think we have ever visited the mountains without at least discussing the possibility of moving there, and I expect that eventually, we will do so.
One of my favorite trips was in June of 2016 when we headed west to Davis Mountains State Park. As you would expect, this is a State Park located in the Davis Mountains of West Texas. There are several attractions in this are that make it worth the trip.
After a long drive, our first stop before heading to the park was the nearby, Balmorhea State Park, just outside of Balmorhea Texas. This unique park is in the foothills of the West Texas mountains, built around the San Solomon Springs, it is an oasis in the desert. In the 1930’s the Civilian Conservation Corps took this spring and made it into a huge swimming pool. Up to 30 feet deep in places, the cool, crystal clear waters flow up from the bottom of the spring at a rate of 25 million gallons a day and flow out through canals to irrigate the surrounding countryside. We were both surprised to find it home to fish and other underwater creatures. The waters maintain a temperature of 72 to 76 degrees year round. We expected to find this a refreshing stop, and we did, but we did not anticipate how beautiful the setting was.
As the day got warmer we took advantage of the air conditioning in our truck and drove through the Davis Mountains Scenic Loop. The Davis Mountains Scenic loop is a 75-mile loop that begins in Fort Davis, heads west into the Davis Mountains on Highway 118, before turning south on Highway 166 which will bring you back to Highway 17 and Fort Davis. The Davis Mountains are an ancient range of volcanoes, with many rugged and beautiful peaks. The Davis Mountains fill a rough square about 31 miles on each side. The Scenic Loop is one of the best ways to appreciate this amazing area of Texas. It takes 2 hours to drive if you do not stop, it took us more like 4 hours as we stopped frequently to take in the views.
We drove the loop from Fort Davis to Alpine, to Marfa, and back to Fort Davis. While this is not officially a Scenic Byway, it could be. The scenery is beautiful and dramatic, and Alpine and Marfa are both interesting towns, well worth a visit.
August 23, 2018
Scott and I drive a lot when we do our travels. There are 3,144 counties in the United States and we intend to pass through each of them; driving tends to be the way we are best able to do this. It enables us to stop and visit a town, getting to experience the people, their foods, and their culture. This is a bit slower than flight, but we both feel the hours getting to a destination is well worth it when we see the colored in space on the maps.
When we decide to go on what we call “Collecting Grab” trips, we sit down with Google maps or even a paper road map to plan the best route there and back going through as many different counties as possible. This often means never taking the same road twice. It is extremely rare for us to take the major highways or toll road unless we need to get through previously collected counties.
If we are on trips that are more than a day trip, we will fill our SUV up with delicious food, changes of clothing, and hammock/sleeping gear. While Scott is at work, I am able to get everything together and packed away; this enables me to pick him up as soon as his workday is finished and we can be on the road towards our destination.
Since we started doing these three to four-day trips to cover as much ground as possible we find National Forests and State Parks that are along our route to rest when we can no longer drive. We will pull in to a camping area and set up our hammocks or, due to weather, we will inflate the air mattress and sleep in the back of the SUV. Both are quick to set up and take down so we are able to pull off the road as late as we need and leave as soon as we can minutes after we have woken up.
One of the things we find ourselves saying when we travel is that it is never a true adventure until we have left the pavement. Surprisingly, this happens to us a lot. We have been driving along a perfectly good paved road when “BLAM!” we have crossed onto a gravel road. These roads, however, have been some of the most beautiful places and there is almost always a surprise waiting for us.
Yes, we drive a lot. This means gas is our largest expense when we are on the road. Because of our style of travel we do and not needing to use a hotel room, we are able to afford it. There have been times we needed to stay at a roadside hotel or motel, but we will stay in the most inexpensive place we can. We have been able to find some really awesome deals at Priceline Express Deals. However, a room with a view is a very rare occurrence for us.
Scott and I enjoy driving along the county roads within our country. This has enabled us to see what each state has to offer its people and how the people live and celebrate their lives. We love the miles we put behind us on the roads we drive upon no matter if they are paved, gravel, or dirt. We enjoy the adventure of having our expectations changed because the trip shows us so much more to a place. Yes, we drive, a lot; but, it is what we love to do.
Safe travels to you,
June 28, 2018
When you hear people talking about the Texas landscape you often hear about the beautiful red canyons and orange mesas and cactus everywhere seen in the old western movies. However, Texas is surprisingly much more diverse in its landscape. There are seven distinct regions in this massive state: Panhandle Plaines, Prairies and Lakes, Piney Woods, Big Bend Country, Hill Country, South Texas Plains and the Gulf Coast. Each of these areas are extremely beautiful and both Scott and I have found something special in each region. One of these regions we had been told how amazing it was but had no clue just how breathtaking and beautiful it was. Not only did we fall in love the landscape but we were in awe of the down below.
April of 2016 we ventured out toward Hill Country and were stunned to see these hills of limestone covered with trees and plenty of wildflowers. There had been so much rain that the wildflowers literally covered every inch of the hills along the road. We saw Bluebonnets (the Texas state flower), Indian Blankets, Indian Paintbrush, Milkweed, Texas Sunflowers and Winecups. So many colors blurring along the road as we drove along the roller coaster type road towards one of our destinations that weekend.
Scott, being the photographer of the family was wanting to stop way to often to take photos of this wildflower phenomenon, but we had a short window to get from our home in Bedford to the state park we were planning to visit that day. It seemed as if every hill we went over became more brilliant with blues, purples, oranges, and yellows. It almost made the eyes hurt it was so bright. I know it was killing Scott because you could hear him howl with anticipation and pleas to stop so he could take photos. However, I tend to be focused when we are on a deadline and rarely stop unless it is a bathroom break. This is one of the main reasons we do not plan a lot on trips because it seems to breed anxiety in me and that gets rather ugly.
With our destination in sight, I was able to relax a bit and pull over so Scott was able to take a few photos. There was this one hill where an old abandoned stone built building stood in the middle of a field covered with Indian Paintbrushes and I knew that was where he needed to take his photo. We found a semi-dry spot, pulled over and out he flew with his camera in hand. You could hear the shutter clicking as he tried to find the best angle. It was like seeing a child in the toy store trying to find the best toy; yes, I was seeing pure joy and loving every minute of it.
You see many old abandoned buildings such as houses or barns all over Texas. I always feel a bit of sadness because these were once homes to people who must have loved the land, how could they not? So much history and beauty in this state. These buildings take you back to a time when life was all but simple and there were so many dreams of a Texas that was still young. Unfortunately, progress tends to pull people away from the countryside and these buildings are left unattended and forgotten. In this spot, I just imagine a woman outdoors doing her laundry while admiring the thousands of wildflowers blooming all around her home. However, the time of dreaming had come to an end and we needed to be getting along to our destination, Longhorn Cavern State Park.
The Texas State Park System has a wide variety of state parks ranging from historical sites like Fort Richardson State Historic Site to gulf sea shore like Galveston Island State Park; from massive canyons filled location Caprock Canyon State Park to the mesa perched Big Springs State Park; then there is Longhorn Cavern State Park in the middle of Hill Country. This park is unique in many ways. One, it is CCC park built during the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps giving thousands of families an opportunity to live by sending their sons away building parks, roads, and buildings. This program enabled these young men to receive $25 a month to send to their families, saving many from starvation and giving them skills to help them in the future. When WWII pulled the United States into the fray, Company 854 was called to serve their country.
The buildings of the CCC era has a distinct style. The materials used to build the structures on this 639-acre state park were sediment and limestone and they were all from below them. Here over 2.5 tons of silt, rock, and debris was hauled out of the cavern that had been used by the outlaw Sam Bass. It was also where the Confederate army obtained bat guano to make gunpowder for their weapons. But this was not the only history of this location, it was also a church, nightclub and now a state park.
Longhorn Cavern is a very unique cave because of the way it was formed. At one time Texas was under a shallow sea and the limestone was created by the weight of the mud and millions of years of dead shelled sea creatures. Eventually, there was a mountain-building force that caused an event “Llano Uplift” that caused fractures which allowed water to get through the cracks and dissolve the limestone. This caused the caverns that are now gated and protected by the Texas State Park system. Here we enjoyed the normal tour, but we did learn that there were Wild Cave Tours for those who liked to venture on the “wild” side.
Scott and I try to keep an open mind when we travel. We have found things that have increased our knowledge, enabled us to teach others, and given us an opportunity to experience new cultures. This has given us an open heart enabling us to have empathy for others and their situations. We travel to learn, we travel to experience, we travel to find out much more about ourselves. Here, in the Hill Country, we were able to learn about the down below geological history of a state that is rich with tradition and history. It was one of our favorite travels in Texas, but there are so many more of them to tell you about; however, that is for another time.
Safe travels and see you on the next Travel Thursday.