Posts Tagged ‘Garner State Park’

And Maiden to Crone

Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued is always just beyond your grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly may alight upon you.” — Nathaniel Hawthorne

Bald cypress trees along the Frio River at Texas’ Garner State Park. — Wikimedia photo by John Bonzo

I was camping at Garner State Park, back in my full-time RV-ing days, looking for birds when I came upon one of nature’s many surprises.

Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly — Photo by Pat Bean

Chomping down on tiny ground plants hidden among the short grass were a dozen or so pipevine swallowtail larvae. That morning, I had seen, and photographed, the end result of all this chomping and transformation business, an awesome pipevine swallowtail butterfly.
To become that beautiful butterfly, it had to first give up being a caterpillar.

I thought about this as one of those lessons Mother Nature shows us if we look to her for advice. Just as the landscape and wildlife change from season to season – the land from green to white between summer and winter, and birds molt their feathers for drabber ones and foxes change their fur color, so we

Pipevine larva

are changing with the years.
There are even names for the female cycle, maiden, mother and crone. I’m definitely in the latter cycle right now, although I prefer the term old broad to crone. I’m the butterfly to the caterpillar. I like thinking of myself that way. While time may have left me a bit worn and tattered, happiness has alighted upon my shoulder with the quietness and beauty of a butterfly.

And now this wandering-wondering old broad wonders if the butterfly enjoys its final cycle as much as I am enjoying mine.

Bean Pat: Nature has No Boss https://naturehasnoboss.com/2019/06/12/luminous/#like-12113 Yellow is my favorite color

The Book

*Available on Amazon, Travels with Maggie features a list of birds saw each leg of the journey.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com


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Pipevine swallowtail butterfly ... Photo by Pat Bean

 “Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly,may alight upon you.” — Nathaniel Hawthorne

Day Four

Pipevine larvae

My camp site at Garner held one of nature’s surprises. Chomping down on tiny ground plants hidden among the short grass were a dozen or so pipevine swallowtail butterfly larvae. This morning as I took Maggie on her first walk of the day before getting back on the road, I saw the end result: an awesome pinevine swallowtail.

How do you become a butterfly? You have to give up being a caterpillar. It’s one of those lessons Mother Nature teaches us about ourselves. And with that thought on my mind, I left the Edward Plateau country behind and headed north on Highway 83.

Just as I exited the park, about a half dozen deer crossed the road ahead of me. The spots on their bodies, since they were adults and not fawns, identified them as axis deer, a species imported to Texas from India as game for hunters. While I’m not anti-hunting, and gladly eat the venison my youngest daughter shoots for her freezer every year, I could never put a bullet in one of these beauties – a contradiction many of us face in a country where food comes wrapped and sealed from a supermarket. I’m old enough, however, to still remember my grandmother wringing the neck of a chicken that would be our Sunday dinner.

I don’t long for those “good old days.” I’m quite happy living in a world that lets me, a lone female, travel cross-country in safety, with plenty of books to read and a microwave oven to cook my store-bought dinner. Maggie, I suspect, prefers these days, too. In my grandmother’s time, dogs were not allowed in the house.

My mind was all awash with such thoughts when I passed through Leaky, a town of about 400 residents and an antique store with a sign that read: “Sophisticated Junk for the Elite.” I laughed out loud, but didn’t stop to investigate. Sophisticated or not, there was no room in my RV for old, or even new, doodads.

South Illano River State Park headquarters, where purple verbena brightened the landscape and a vermillion flycatcher kept watch. ... Photo by Pat Bean

My sight-seeing stop for the day was at South Llano River State Park, where a vermillion flycatcher served as guard dog for the rustic headquarters. I was amazed to see this bird fly right up to the fence next to me. It was almost as if I was being scolded. When I mentioned this delightful, but unusual occurrence to the staff, they laughed and said he greeted all visitors that way.

Vermillion flycatcher ... Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

“He considers our office his personal territory, and wants everybody to know that,” a park worker said as she looked at my pass.

I spent a delightful hour birdwatching on the Illano River before saying good-bye to this small Texas park, giving myself a promise I would be back one day for a longer visit.

My traveling day ended at Spring Creek Marina and RV Park in San Angelo, a commercial park where I knew I could use my cell phone and get on the internet. My Verizon services hadn’t worked anywhere within a 50-mile radius of Garner State Park. That’s one of those traveling surprises that are not nearly as much fun as being able to photograph a pipevine swallowtail butterfly.

Sitting beside Lake Nasworthy, the park caters to fishermen. San Angelo is a convenient stopping place for me on my way between Texas (where family mostly lives) and Utah (where I worked for 25 years) so this was not my first visit to the marina. It’s a quiet quaint place, where a sign on the small combination office/grocery store tells everyone they can get snow cones and pickles, and where scissor-tailed flycatchers played this afternoon in the campground trees. 

After a walk around the lake with Maggie, I spent the rest of the evening catching up on three days of e-mail.  

Birds seen this day: red-winged blackbird, eastern bluebird, northern cardinal, American crow, Eurasian collared dove, mourning dove, white-winged dove, bald eagle, scissor-tailed flycatcher, vermillion flycatcher, blue-gray gnatcatcher, great-tailed grackle, ruby-throated hummingbird, kestrel, killdeer, northern kingbird, northern mockingbird, eastern phoebe, common raven, house sparrow, lark sparrow, vesper sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, European starling, bank swallow, barn swallow, cliff swallow, tree swallow, summer tanager, black vulture, turkey vulture, Bewick’s wren.

Photos and prose copyrighted by Pat Bean. Do not use without permission.

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A good spot to sit and watch nature flow past on the Frio River in Garner State Park in Garner State Park ... Photo by Pat Bean

“Rest is not idleness and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time. — John Lubbock

Day Three

Staying put a day or so while traveling has multiple advantages. More time to enjoy an area, a time to rest from driving and sight-seeing, and a means to balance the budget. My goal when traveling is to live on $50 a day. Ideally that means spending $20 on gas, $20 on campground fees and $10 on food.

It never works out exactly like that. State parks and other public campgrounds usually meet the nightly lodging fee criteria, but commercial parks can run up to $35 a night. Some cost even more, but those I avoid. A longer day’s drive means more spent on gas, but a multiple day stop averages that back to my budget restriction. Ramen noodles and free parking in my kids or a friend’s driveway help cover overages and things like museum fees, trolly tours, books and an occasional restaurant splurge. Volunteering for a month or two at a state park, where I get a free camp site and don’t drive, covers emergencies like an unexpected dentist bill or new tires for my RV. It’s a balancing act I’ve worked out in the six years I’ve lived in my RV. It mostly works, although red is not an uncommon color on my accounting sheet.

Maggie took the rest day seriously ... Photo by Pat Bean

Today was one of those rest and budget-catch-up days, my only expense being the $15 camping fee. Exploring the park with Maggie and Mother Nature’s wildflower landscape were free.

Garner sits by the cool, clear Frio River, mentioned by George Strait in his “All My Exes Live in Texas,” recording. The park itself is named for former Vice President John Nance Garner, also known as Cactus Jack in his hometown of Uvalde.

A popular get-away for Houstonians, many a youngster has taken his first dance steps to a jukebox tune on the concrete slab at the park’s lodge. It’s where campers hang out in summer after a day of fishing, tubing, birdwatching or kayaking. Me, I took short walks with Maggie down by the river, watched the birds from my RV, and read a China Bayles mystery.

Photos and prose copyrighted by Pat Bean … Do not use without permission

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  Day One

“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? It’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and its good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” — Jack Kerouac

The Bridge to Nowhere, circa 1939 ... Photo by Pat Bean

The future Bridge to Nowhere ... Photo by Pat Bean

Come take a jaunt with me from Texas’s Gulf Coast to the Panhandle of Idaho. I plan to make the not-as-the-crow-flies 3,000 mile trip in about six weeks. My traveling companion is Maggie,

Maggie in her favorite spot in the RV ... Photo by Pat Bean

a 12-year-old cocker spaniel I rescued from an animal shelter. She’s a great traveler, excellent company and a comfortable foot warmer on cold nights. And she doesn’t complain when this directionally handicapped driver takes a wrong turn.

My journey today began with a crossing of the old Bridge to Nowhere that spans the Brazos River into Brazoria. Bridge to Nowhere? Yup, that’s its official name, according to a Texas Historical Marker at the site. It got the nickname in 1939 when it was built to replace a 1912 bridge that fell into the river.

Having once lived in Brazoria County, I have a fondness for the concrete and rusting steel hulk that I’ve crossed many times. The bridge, however, may soon be no more. A huge new bridge – in my opinion way too large for the traffic that now passes this way – is being constructed nearby.

Maggie has her own opinion. She woke up to bark at the rusting girders of the old bridge as my RV rumbled across it.

A landscape quilt of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush ... Photo by Pat Bean

Roadside wildflowers brightened the drive on this overcast day that now and then dropped its load. My windshield wipers were working furiously when I passed through Bay City, canceling my plans for a brief visit to the Nature and Birding Sanctuary located on the western edge of this city where one my grandsons is employed at Texas’ first nuclear power plant.

The rain had let up, at least for a little bit, by the time I crossed Lake Texana. I briefly stopped at the state park here to bird. It’s Site No. 20 on the Texas Coastal Birding Trail. The rain may have chased the birds into hiding, however. I found only a moorhen and a great egret to add to the other birds I had seen along the way.

Back on the road, the rain picked up again and was coming down like water pouring from a pitcher when I skirted San Antonio on Loop 410. It continued until I turned off Highway 90 at Sabinal and dropped into the heart of the Edwards Plateau and the Texas Hill Country. It was as if I left one country and traveled to another.

Scissor-tailed flycatcher

 Suddenly the sun was out and scissor-tailed flycatchers sat on the utility wires, their graceful tails twitching beneath their white and salmon colored bellies, as they watched me drive past. Everything was green and lush. Many who had not been here might have thought the landscape as fanciful as the Tolkin’s imaginary Shire. Near the small town of Concan, I passed tube carrying Frio River floaters, waiting for their shuttle ride, I guessed. They looked sunburned and happy. If it had rained on them, who would care. I know. I’ve tubed.

Another few miles down the road and I pulled into Garner State Park. What a great day it had been. .

Birds seen this day: Brewer’s blackbird, red-winged blackbird, double-crested cormorant, crow, mourning dove, white-winged dove, cattle egret, great egret, snowy egret, scissor-tailed flycatcher, snow geese (a big flock flying overhead), common grackle, great-tailed grackle, kestrel,  killdeer,  eastern kingbird,  meadowlark, mockingbird, common moorhen, eastern phoebe, rock pigeon, starling, barn swallow,  black vulture  turkey vulture

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