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In October 2010, I camped on my way to visit my daughter, Val, and her husband, Larry, to celebrate a couple of birthdays. The trip involved camping two nights on the way there and two nights on the return trip. I left at 8 AM the day after the October CSO meeting at Silver River State Park, after getting the minutes of the meeting done.

Arrived at the 590-acre Blackwater River State Park in Holt, Florida, at 2:15 PM, and temperature was 97.9 degrees, 364 miles. No problem getting a campsite, fee for seniors was $11.05. Used my tent with the one broken Fiberglas pole which was repaired with tape. Hiked the Juniper Lake trail and walked the boardwalks down to the river enjoying the antics of the canoeists. Took pictures of an old garden cart that the park rangers had repaired using discarded metal park signs. Left the park at 8 AM CDT the next morning when it cooled off to 57 degrees.

Got a tent camping site at Sam Houston Jones State Park in Lake Charles, Louisiana, for $22 a night. Hiked the Cypress Tupelo Trail which had a short boardwalk through the swamp. The Texas Welcome Center on I-10 had a beautiful boardwalk into the Blue Elbow Swamp. Following my Garmin GPS I took the wrong highway from Houston, but still managed to arrive at Val and Larry's home in Austin, Texas, in time to enjoy Fright Night in the Nature Nights series at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The theme for this Halloween program was "Spiders." As one of the Center's volunteers, Val led several tours through the garden showing people several live spiders in the garden setting.


Campsite at Blackwater River State Park


Canoeists on Blackwater River

Peri, their wire-haired fox terrier, was constantly a great source of entertainment and amusement. She has several games that she made up and one was pushing a blue ball with another separate toy. She has learned to use tools.


Peri playing her game.

The next day we visited the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum with its multitude of art works and exhibits, including the Walter Cronkite "Eyewitness to a Century" special exhibit. Then to the Harry Ransom Center to see "Discovering the Language of PHOTOGRAPHY - The Gernsheim Collection." We were going to visit the Texas Memorial Museum, but there was a special activity going on and it was very crowded. Instead, Val gave me a walking tour of the campus area, viewing fountains, landmarks, and libraries.


View of the Texas Capitol building from the campus

On Sunday we went to the 33-acre San Antonio Botanical Garden. After visiting the formal and display gardens, we saw six little houses on Watersaver Lane, each with a distinct landscaping plan. We took the "walk across Texas" through the 11-acre Texas Native Trail. This included the Hill Country trail with restored buildings, the East Texas Pineywoods trail with an oak log cabin built in the 1850s and boardwalk along a one-acre lake, and the South Texas trail with a unique Bird Watch with mirrored glass front for close-up views of birds.

Several futuristic glass pavilions housed the palms, cycads, tropical plants, desert flora, and special exhibits including rare orchids. There was an overlook in the middle of the garden with magnificent views of the gardens, buildings, fountains, and the circling aqueduct. There was also a special exhibit of eight unique playhouses and forts scattered throughout the garden.


Palm and Cycad Pavilion

Monday we went to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in Fredericksburg. Used my car since it was already packed for camping. Val brought two big, thick air mattresses and two Therma-Rest pads. My free Texas Parks senior pass that I received in June 2001 was still good, but was replaced with a new plastic card. Only tent camping at the park at $17 per night and $6 per day entrance fee.

The camping area was beautiful and we selected a site near a little creek, and nobody else was camping in the area - no smoke from campfires. On our first trail hike, a young couple were passing by and the man asked Val if she was the "bug person." Val had just recently seen his collection at one of her insect meetings and saw him briefly elsewhere. It really is a small world.

We explored on Echo Canyon Trail, Summit Trail, Turkey Pass, Base Trail, Canyon Trail, Loop Trail, and any other trail we could find. Got many beautiful pictures of plants, insects, and scenery. Even taking the tent down, we discovered several insects between the tent and the tent fly. It was a fabulous camping trip.


Val on Enchanted Rock

On the way back home, we stopped at Wildseed Farms, the nation's largest working wildflower farm. We enjoyed the flower fields, display gardens, water exhibits, trial rows, but the live butterfly exhibit was closed for the season. However, there were many free-flying native butterflies in the gardens. On display also were many colors, shapes, and sizes of gourds priced from $4 to $8 and up.


Wildseed Farms

On Wednesday we went to tour the Natural Gardener, a nursery that features a butterfly garden, wildflower meadow, donkeys, all sizes of pottery, statuary, Lady Bug World Headquarters, and water features, plus a regular store.

Thursdays of every week are spent at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center where Val conducts a Fauna Survey with other volunteers. Each day typically starts outside the administrative office where insects seem to seek shelter on the natural stone walls. Then the walks progress to various areas of the garden searching for anything in the fauna genre with binoculars, magnifying glasses, and cameras.


Fauna Survey

Every fourth Saturday of the month, Val participates in the Austin Butterfly Forum survey at the Austin Area Garden Center in Zilker Park, rain or shine. After touring Zilker, the group might travel to other locations.


View of Austin from Zilker Park

The second Sunday of my trip was a visit to the San Antonio Zoo, which has over 3,500 animals representing 600 species. There were underwater views of hippos and Nile crocodiles, friendly hands-on butterfly house, reptile house, giant-sized walk-in termite mound, and Amazonia exhibit.

After leaving the zoo, we walked through the restored historic Jingu House pavilion in the Chinese Tea Garden overlooking the gardens and koi filled water features in the huge rock quarry. In January 1880, the first Portland cement plant west of the Mississippi River located near this area was chartered. Cement from this plant was used in the construction of the Texas State capitol.


Friedrich Aquarium

On Monday mornings, Val visits Martha for a few hours of cello and violin chamber music, sometimes joined with a pianist. On the fourth Monday of every month, Val goes to a meeting of the Butterfly Forum at Zilker Garden. This meeting had a guest speaker with a slide presentation of butterflies.

Tuesday morning we drove to Waco to the Cameron Park Zoo, which began as the Central Texas Zoological Park in 1955. The Zoo opened on July 18, 1993, on a 52-acre site in Cameron Park which is one of the largest undeveloped municipal parts in the USA.

This Zoo has a very easy to follow map of the grounds through the Brazos River Country, Mysteries of the Asian Forest, meerkats, and World of Reptiles Herpetarium. The paddle fish in the fresh water aquarium were being fed and their antics were awesome. On the way back to Austin, we stopped to visit Larry's mother in Waco.




Gator Reflection

We went to Hornsby several times. This property is overseen by the Austin Water Utility, Center for Environmental Research. The River Trail follows the Colorado River and there are numerous trails and roads throughout the facility. This is a favorite site for birders and we saw numerous shovel-billed ducks on the vast open water retention ponds. Insects are numerous on the vegetation and also on the buildings and other structures.


Hornsby water tanks

Winnie's garden is the destination for every Friday morning. Located in a residential area outside of Austin, Winnie and Maynard have the most perfect habitats for many different species of insects in their well cared for gardens, using several water saving techniques and rain barrels. They also have a substantial population of exotic snails. Most of my pictures were taken in their gardens, including the butterfly below.




Val and Winnie

On November 6, Val was scheduled to lead a "Blossoms and Blooms" walk for volunteers at Onion Creek. We went to the water district property on October 31 to look for the most likely place to find flowers on the property, which had extensive high grass growth even on the roads. Her car was covered with debris from the grass and when we stopped, we could smell the burning grass under the car.

There were only a few locations that looked promising: a burned-out area, the cattle pens, and the creek area. Since there had already been a freeze in the area, flowering plants were quite scarce. We checked the area again the day before and Val decided the cattle pens looked the best. As it turned out, that area was very productive and the people enjoyed the walk.

On November 6, the first Saturday morning of each month, Val participates in a survey of the Austin Nature and Science Center with a group of volunteers. After that she led the walk at Onion Creek. Right after that she went to a rehearsal for the opera "La Traviata.


Onion Creek

We finally got to the Texas Memorial Museum on October 31 and explored all floors after viewing the Texas Pterosaur on the main floor. Especially interesting was the Explore Evolution exhibit, the Ice Ages exhibit, the Hall of Texas Wildlife, and the mounted insect collections.


Val and Larry

On Tuesdays, Val usually does volunteer work at the state fisheries department, sorting, measuring, and photographing jars of preserved fish in their collections. I got to help Val one day. Friday nights we spent at Val's friend's house with several musicians playing chamber music in the music room. When the group got too large, they would set up their chairs and music stands in the living room. The group had cellos, violins, recorders, etc.

Val and Larry took me out to eat about every other day at local restaurants including Jason's Deli and Tres Amigos to introduce me to the Tex-Mex cuisine. Peri was so much fun. She would sleep with me about every other night and was always ready to play or cuddle.

Another exciting event was my surprise birthday present - a concert at the Long Center for Performing Arts with Cirque de Soleil performers. We celebrated Larry's birthday at home, with Peri trying to do some of the unwrapping and being the center of attention.

Another thriller was the special invitation to see Val at the dress rehearsal of La Traviata. Larry and I sat in the pricey box seats at the Long Center and thoroughly enjoyed the performance.

Left Austin on Sunday, November 7, and wanted to enjoy the boardwalk at the Louisiana Welcome Center. It had been damaged due to a prior hurricane and was still under repair. Stayed at Sam Houston Jones State Park again. This time the electric outlet was too far from my tent and it was cold (45). Luckily I had my blankets, sleeping bag, poncho, and my old Therma-Rest mattress (which I bought in December 1981, gave to Val, and now traded my chaise lounge for).

Next stop was Falling Waters State Park in Chipley, Florida. There was just a trickle of water over the 73-foot waterfall, Florida's highest waterfall.


Arrived in Ocala on Tuesday at 3:30 PM after picking up cheese, crackers, and grapes for a snack at the CSO meeting at 6 pm. Then I found out the meeting was postponed until the following week on Wednesday due to Ocali Days activity. Total mileage on 2010 Toyota Scion - 2,510 miles. What a wonderful vacation! Found out how busy Val and Larry are in Austin. Thank you Val, Larry, and Peri.

Texas 2010 / Home Page / Trip Index