We have enjoyed our special 35th anniversary travel season so much, both our RV and non-RV trips, but our adventures have mostly come to an end for now. Hubby inherited responsibility over a second department at work a couple of months ago, and we need to spend more time at home to give him the time he needs to get some things done at work for a while. Such is real life, but good things are happening there, too. We have more travel plans coming up in the RV later on this year, but we will most likely just revisit some places we have enjoyed in the past.
For this reason, I have had more time alone lately, so I made a decision a few weeks ago to finally get Red into puppy school before he turned a year-old. I originally planned to schedule these classes in the early spring, but that plan did not work for several reasons. On Wednesday, Red will (hopefully) graduate from beginner classes and will start intermediate classes two weeks later. If we stay on schedule, he should be ready for advanced classes in early December, and by the end of January, he should finally be done with regular obedience classes. I am also planning to take Girly Girl for her advanced classes that we never took three years ago, and I am still looking into the timing of those classes for her some time this fall or in early winter.
With the successful completion of beginner, intermediate and advanced classes for both dogs, they should be able to test for their Canine Good Citizen certificates with the AKC early next year. Obtaining this certification, which is open to all dogs, opens doors to participate in other programs, such as therapy dog programs. Participating in service programs with one or both of my dogs is something that I would truly enjoy, if the dogs ever achieve that level of obedience.
I believe that most (but certainly not all) people love spending time with a good, well-behaved dog, and both dogs have done so well with the obedience training they has already completed. I have envisioned visiting schools to let the dogs sit with kids while the kids read, visiting hospitals to let the dogs bring smiles and comfort to sick persons and children, and visiting elder care facilities to let the dogs bring joy to residents. For the past couple of years, Girly Girl has brought smiles and laughter to residents of the community where my mother lives, and I love taking her there to share in part of that joy. Many of those residents had dogs in their own homes and miss them, so having regular visits with a good dog can be such a beneficial thing for everyone.
I love this recent quote by Cesar Millan.
Dogs and kids go together like peanut butter and jelly.
— Cesar Millan (@cesarmillan) October 9, 2014
I would also like to say that dogs and the elderly are such a great combination, too. Just ask my 93 year-young mom and her friends.
Standard poodles always seem to garner attention from others in just about any setting, probably because of their outgoing personality, their intelligence and the pretty grooming that they receive. Our dogs have been singled out by reporters on more than one occasion when we have taken our dogs to public events, and Big Ol’ Baby, who we lost a year ago tomorrow, was on the news and in the newspaper several times. He was such a beautiful, loving dog, even in his old age.
I will always regret that Big Ol’ Baby never became a therapy dog because he would have done a great job. All of our standard poodles have pretty much lived to have someone love on them, play with them and exercise them, and they are always willing to return the love. I am excited to hopefully share this wonderful breed and our sweet dogs’ personalities in a more meaningful way with others soon, and perhaps someday when I am old and all alone, someone will bring a sweet dog to visit me, too.
Even if we are never able to participate in these programs, though, completing advanced obedience courses and earning the Canine Good Citizen certification will be something that I have never done with any of our dogs and will be a great accomplishment for both dogs. It will also be something I will be proud to have done personally, too, since much of the training is about “training the owner.” Having well-behaved dogs is also a necessity when we take them camping in the RV, and we always enjoy taking our dogs on walks and letting them visit with other campers who are usually quite interested to meet them and learn more about them. Girly Girl is pretty much already there, but Red is still quite the puppy with a mind of his own, for sure. I’m beginning to think there really is some truth to the idea of mischievous red-headed kids and red-headed dogs! :-)
This is going to be a very busy week for me, as I finally have my first colonoscopy scheduled for this afternoon. The roofers will hopefully be able to install our new roof and our new solar attic fan on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and Wednesday night is puppy school test and graduation. I am grateful that the colonoscopy prep has not been bad at all, and I am also grateful that the pups and I can retreat to the motor home while the roofers are here, too. There are a couple of little projects that I would like to work on in the RV anyway, so this will be a good opportunity to hopefully get those done this week.
Also, for my regular readers, you may notice that I have opted to begin moderating all comments going forward. I did not realize that feature was an option on my site or I would have selected it from the beginning. One RV-related post of mine is going a bit viral right now after being featured on Buzzfeed, and my visitor count has increased pretty dramatically in recent days. I would prefer to keep a better grip on what others share on my site, at least for now, and I truly appreciate each and every one of you that visits regularly and comments here to hopefully make this a friendly place for all.
Our final destination on our long weekend trip during the last week of September was to the Fort Davis area, specifically to go camping at “the top of Texas” in our RV at Davis Mountains State Park once again. This beautiful and historic state park has become one of our favorite places to visit over the past three years, too. We have previously visited this area three times in the RV in winter months, but this was our first trip to the area in a non-winter month.
I posted about this area almost two years ago at Winter in the Davis Mountains, and there is some good information there that I will try to not repeat here, especially for first-time visitors to the area. I also shared a pictures post from this area at Wordless Wednesday – Vacation Pictures back in January. However, I truly wanted to share pictures while the park was a bit more green, and happily, I am finally able to do that.
It was such a treat to visit this unique area that was so gorgeous after recent rains, and the pictures really do not do justice to the beauty. The seasonal monsoon rains helped to create a wonderful display of Goldeneyes that blanketed the mountains almost everywhere we looked, and their rich color helped to create a “carpet” of green and gold across most of the landscape in this area. The floral display this year was apparently one of the best in the history of the area for this time of year, and we were so fortunate to see it on this trip. In fact, I’m not sure we will ever see this area as beautiful as it was on this trip, so I will count that as a wonderful blessing.
We also enjoyed introducing two of our good friends to the area for the very first time, and we had a great time showing them around in the two days we had there together. We also attended both a twilight party and a star party together at McDonald Observatory on Saturday evening. This time, we saw several Messier clusters (11, 13 and 17 that I recall) and close-up views of the moon and Saturn, including Saturn’s rings. But perhaps one of the most surprising and memorable sightings for our star party group that did not even require a telescope was seeing a discarded rocket stage that is in a long-term earth orbit that passed overhead at dusk just as the party started.
The employees at the observatory do such a fabulous job with their star parties. My inner space nerd was so happy, and our friends had a great time, too. It was also interesting to hear that the big telescopes were shut down for the evening, as the humidity was over 90%, which adversely affected their operation.
While we typically enjoy camping in parks that are out of cell range, our friends required a cell signal several times each day for business reasons. So, we found ourselves at the top of Skyline Drive inside the park several times on this trip, as everyone was able to get full cell and data signals there from Fort Davis. We even made a trip up the mountain around 11:30 pm on Saturday night after the star party for two reasons – to check messages and do a little more star-gazing. We discovered this little trick to see some fabulous stars on our previous trip, so we purchased the $3 after-hours pass for Skyline Drive and made the trip up there once again.
We pulled up to the highest observation point and turned off all of the lights, and even though the clouds were starting to move back in, we were once again so impressed with the many bright stars in the sky. However, we also heard something rustling around in the brush nearby, which quickly got our attention because it sounded like it might be pretty large. It was so dark that we could hardly see where the car was nearby, and since there are signs posted all over the park to watch for mountain lions, we all agreed that our star-gazing adventure would just have to be cut short as we bailed back into the safety of the car to finish checking phone messages. Experiencing the thrill of a surprise close encounter with a mountain lion was definitely not on our agenda for the evening.
We all hoped to make the hike down from Skyline Drive to the Fort Davis National Historic Site, as it is an easy hike downhill that takes less than an hour, but time did not permit us to make this hike on this trip, unfortunately. It works quite well to leave a vehicle in the parking lot of the fort and catch a ride back to Skyline Drive to make this downhill trek, ending with a tour of the historic fort area, as the trail is well-traveled and well-marked. The hometown Thriftway is also just across the street from the fort area, if visitors need groceries while in town.
We also did not have time to drive the 75-mile scenic loop with our friends, which is one of the most beautiful drives in Texas. I’ve driven it twice, and it would have been a gorgeous drive on the trip. I suspect we will all be returning to the area again sometime and will catch-up on some of these great things to see and do while in the area. Highway 118 from the park to the observatory is actually part of that scenic loop, so at least they were able to see that portion of the drive, which also happens to be on the highest state-maintained road in Texas at 6,791 feet at the McDonald Observatory.
I will let the pictures below tell more of the story about this memorable trip.
The Davis Mountains region of far West Texas is such a great place to visit any time of the year, and we look forward to returning again for more fun times with family and friends in the future.
Over the past three years since we began to travel primarily by RV, we have discovered that we need to spend a night in a particular park to fully appreciate it. Seeing a park in the softer golden morning and evening sunlight helps to see any location at its best, and this was certainly our experience at Balmorhea State Park on our most recent trip, not to mention how wonderful it was to finally see this little oasis in the desert when everything was green from recent rains. After several day visits here over the past few years in the winter, we finally spent one night here last week for the very first time, in hopes that we might also be able to swim with the fish in the world’s largest spring-fed pool, but the cool and rainy weather on Friday morning changed our swimming plan.
The RV sites at Balmorhea State Park are great. We were surprised at how many other RV campers were there on a weeknight like we were, and several of them were likely winter Texans spending a bit of time in this area before heading further south. We opted for a site with water, 50 amp electric and cable television. Yes, this tiny little park offered several channels of cable television with our $17 site. Since we had cable television here and at our next destination, we were able to just leave our satellite dish at home this trip. While we were not terribly impressed with the restroom and shower facilities in the campground, the showers in the building by the pool were much better. I suspect that is where most campers shower anyway, and it is an easy walk to the pool area from the campground.
We arrived at the park in the early evening hours just before the pool closed for the day, and we took a nice sunset walk with the dogs around the entire park before enjoying a late dinner back at the RV. The next morning, we also enjoyed a magnificent sunrise from our campsite, just before breakfast. And even though the weather did not cooperate for a swim, we enjoyed one last walk around the park in the morning to take a few pictures before we left on our short drive to Fort Davis for the rest of our trip.
I will let the photographs tell the story of this unique little park for us on this particular trip.
I previously wrote about this park at Springs in the Desert at Balmorhea, if you would like to also read that post. While this park is small as compared to most Texas state parks, it is full of history, beauty and fun for those that like to swim or scuba dive in the clear spring waters of San Solomon Springs. We enjoyed our overnight stop here very much and hope to stay here again and again as we return to this area in the future.
When I think about visiting a desert location, I do not think about seeing green landscape everywhere I look, and I certainly do not think of beautiful flowers that are so prevalent in the landscape that they literally change the color of it as you gaze across it from a distance. This was our experience as we visited the Davis Mountains of far West Texas for the first time in a non-winter month this past weekend. We had such a fabulous time, and I will share more about our brief time there in a series of upcoming posts soon.
We had the happy task of introducing two of our favorite state parks, the quaint town of Fort Davis and the famous McDonald Observatory to two special friends for the first time this past weekend, and I believe they fell in love with this area just like we did three years ago when we made our first visit in our new-to-us RV in the last week of December in 2011. Honestly, it would be hard to not fall in love with this place when it is absolutely gorgeous like it was during this trip, especially since the fall monsoon rains were quite generous to the area this year.
Over the past few years, my love and appreciation of this mountainous desert area has grown as we have spent more and more time there, and seeing God’s unique handiwork in this region is always such a treat. It is a very popular place to visit, and we have to plan further out to reserve a spot for the RV now than we did just three years ago. If visiting by car, having a hotel reservation in advance is an absolute must most of the time, especially on weekends and holidays.
I have previously written about this unique part of Texas, even though both of those posts told about our experience in winter months. We love this area even in the winter, and those first posts have a lot of good information in them for potential visitors, which I will try to not repeat in this post and upcoming posts. I would still encourage everyone to make this area a bucket list destination at least one time in the appropriate season of your choice.
Normally, we escape chilly winter weather in the Texas Panhandle for the more moderate climate in this area in the winter months, but I suspect we will now likely add yet another yearly visit in the fall. We may even try a spring trip sometime, as the scenery is supposedly beautiful then, too.
Seeing the Davis Mountains region at a peak time of beauty really cinched my love of this place, for sure. And as strange as it may sound, a few views on this trip reminded us of the mountains of Kauai from our trip back in May, especially on Friday morning when the weather was very cloudy and a bit rainy as we drove across Wild Rose Pass between Balmorhea and Fort Davis.
If there was a slight disappointment for us on this trip, it was the fact that we saw very little wildlife as compared to the winter months when mule deer and javelina roam freely around the campground every day. It was only a small disappointment, and the beautiful scenery more than made up for it this trip.
Visiting two iconic mountainous areas in four weeks has certainly been a blessing for us this year, as we just visited Rocky Mountain National Park for the first time over Labor Day weekend and loved every moment of our time in that area, too. In fact, I think we may likely look back on this particular travel year as one of our best ones ever, even though the year started out quite rough in that respect due to bad weather and my mother’s bad fall in late January. I can already feel that “look back” post coming later on after the year is done, too. ;-)
In my next post, I will share more beautiful detailed photos of Balmorhea State Park.
One of my favorite weeks of the entire year is fair week. Typically, the weather is cooling down, and we may even receive beneficial rains, which proved true in a big way this year! I have a little rain update toward the end of this post, too.
While my parents were really not fair-goers, I began going with my friends on school days back in the 60s, and I have been attending the fair almost every year since then. These days, I seldom even venture into the area where the rides are, though, as we mostly just enjoy the area where the local food vendors and the exhibits are located. The fair does not charge to get through the gates until after lunchtime, which helps to support the efforts of all of the local food vendors and their respective charities.
I have been taking my elderly mother out to the fair for lunch every year now for a while, and even at 93, she is still able to walk that area on her own with the help of her walker. I am so grateful for her good health and how she recovered so well from her fall back in January, and we had a nice time together at the fair on Monday once again. We sat in “our booth” inside one of the larger restaurants and enjoyed some less-than-healthy food, as I am taking a week-long break of sorts from my diet for the fair and for our upcoming camping trip with friends on Wednesday. Honestly, I enjoy a burger without the bun as much as a traditional burger these days, but we both enjoyed traditional burger and a very few curly fries for lunch.
I have posted several times about my fair experiences in recent years, including the year not long ago when I won two blue ribbons for my photography. I have not entered any photographs since that year either, as it was quite a bit of work to prepare the photographs and get them framed properly.
As always, our main incentive to attend the fair is to partake of the amazing apricot fried pies. They are legendary here, as they are made by members of a local church. Church members make and freeze them over the course of the entire year to have enough to sell during the nine days that the fair is open, and they are cooked on site at the fair. I purchased a few extra pies to take with us on our upcoming RV trip tomorrow, and I will just have to hike a little more this weekend to work off those extra calories, which should not be hard to do at all. I planned this break back in January when I talked myself into starting my diet but only if I had lost at least 30 pounds. I am now close to 40 pounds down, and my blood pressure has dropped 40 points, so I am enjoying a guilt-free week of enjoying a few foods that will once again be off-limits for a while next week.
Our area has recently received some much-needed rainfall from the remnants of Hurricane Odile, and two of our watersheds are up significantly. Lake J. B. Thomas was 1% full and is now 43% full! Lake Alan Henry, which is a significant water source for us, was 53% full and is now up 8.8 feet and is 76% full! There are other reservoirs that desperately need water, but we are so thrilled about the rise in these two lakes, especially Lake Alan Henry. The water gain at Lake Alan Henry over the past week equaled the entire evaporation loss in the worst year of the drought in 2011, which is just absolutely amazing to see. In that year, the lake lost 5.5 billion gallons of water due to evaporation alone, but over the past week, the lake’s storage capacity increased 5.54 billion gallons. The drought continues, but we are ever so thankful for the blessing of ten days of much-needed rain! Many prayers have been answered, and we will continue to pray for more rain and an end to the drought.
It is wonderful to see everything so green again, and we will enjoy our upcoming weeks of fall temperatures and beautiful landscapes until winter finally sets in later on. I absolutely love this time of the year, and we are very excited to be traveling in the RV again this week to one of our favorite camping destinations!