Borrego Springs, CA

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ringing out the old

I find December 31 a good time to take stock of what happened in my life in the previous year.  In some ways, 2011 was very different for me, and in other ways it was the same.  As I did last year, I will share some of these remembrances with you.

53 Anahuac NWR 20101

I spent the first two weeks of January 2011 finishing up my stint at Anahuac NWR.  One of my proudest moments came when I was honored with The President’s Volunteer Service Award.  I still have that letter signed by President Obama. 

56 On the way to Mississippi

The middle of the month found me at Thibodeaux’s Premiere RV in Scott, Louisiana, having my new residential fridge installed and some other work on the rig.  Little did I know that this would start a theme of residing in repair shop parking lots this year.  While I was waiting I tried my first shrimp po-boy, and toured a number of places in this Cajun area.

58 Escatawpa Trail

Then it was on to Gautier, MS, for a three month volunteer stint at Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge.  To my great dismay, this morning I found that one of the folders of pictures from my time there is missing.  Sad smile

59 Fountainblue

About all I have left are mostly flower pictures from the three hiking trails.  When I get a chance, I’ll have to have my oldest son see if the folder is tucked away on the computer someplace that I don’t know how to get to.

60 Oak Grove Birding Trail

I guess it’s a good thing I’ll be returning there so I can try replacing many of those pictures with this year’s experiences.  At this point, I don’t even have one picture of a Mississippi Sandhill Crane.

61 On the way to Indiana

When I left the refuge in May, I had to make another stop at Premiere RV to have the MCD shades installed, and some other minor maintenance items taken care of.  While there this time, I toured the Tabasco factory on Avery Island, and my finished memory quilt was delivered to my daughter’s house. 

62 Pioneer Campground, IN summer, 201110

The battle of the squirrels ensued while I camped all summer in Indiana close to my daughter Robyn’s house.  While there, my sister and I took a trip down memory lane by visiting the neighborhood we grew up in in Chicago.

62 Pioneer Campground, IN summer201110

So many memories were made with the two grandgirls this past summer!  My new name became Belt, and Phoebe’s became Buckle.  Smile  I also checked out how well hung the Jolly Green Giant is on one of my fast trips to South Dakota to renew my driver’s license.

63 On the way to Anahuac, 201121

Then as I tried to leave Indiana in September, I ended up spending another three weeks in a repair shop parking lot because of no brakes.  I found some things to do to keep me busy while waiting.  A day after I got back on the road, my new refrigerator broke which resulted in me only having a cooler until I made it back to Premiere RV for the third time this year.  I have ended up living for two months this year in repair parking lots.  Not a record I ever hope to break.

64 Anahuac NWR 201128

Toward the end of October, I finally made it back to Anahuac NWR almost a month late for my assignment.  These picks were taken in the last three days as I made one more farewell trip through the refuge.  I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I sure hope Murphy leaves me alone in 2012. 

I wish you all a Happy New Year, and hope you’ll continue to come along with me on my Travels with Emma.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you next year,  Judy

Friday, December 30, 2011

The last roundup

As I gazed out the window above my bench table this morning,


I was surprised to see a cowboy in the field rounding up the doggies.  That could only mean one thing.  It was time for a cattle drive.  I was hoping I would get to see another drive before I leave.


About an hour later, three mounted cowboys trotted past the rigs, and not far behind…


came the herd.  My estimate was about 300 head were being moved to greener pastures.


Since Emma was going berserk, I put her inside the rig and went out to the fence to watch the parade go by.


As the cows flooded the road, I could have reached out and touched them.  There were upturned horns, and downturned horns, and no horns at all. 


And last, but not least, was the rear guard cowboy making sure no cattle wandered where they weren’t supposed to.


A cow herd of this size doesn’t move very fast, and they certainly pave the road with lots of cow pies in their passing.  Smile with tongue out

I waited another hour before I got into the car and headed to town.  I couldn’t avoid the pies as I listened to the blatt blatt blatt as my tires squished them and sprayed them on the underside of the car.  Yuck!  I was on my way to what turned out to be the worst Chinese buffet that I’ve ever eaten.  My two recommendations are don’t eat Chinese in Winnie, TX, and don’t drive a road after a cattle drive! 

As you may have figured out, I decided to stay at Anahuac NWR until New Year’s Day.  Then on Sunday, I have reservations for four nights at Lake Fausse Pointe State Park in Louisiana.  I’ve been slowly getting ready to blow this popsicle stand.

I thought the cattle would be in their new pasture by the time I left for lunch, but it was not to be.  That herd was moving over four miles down the road, so I caught up with them.  I leave you tonight with a picture out the front windshield of my car as I was directed by the cowboys to push through the herd.  Easier said than done…

_MG_5358                                                                                THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why do I keep coming back here?

I received a thought provoking, for me, email today from one of the readers of this blog.  I’ll include a portion of it here:

Hello Judy,

Mice, mosquitoes, wind storms, few visitors at the VIS, wet, cold and dreary days. You really don't make Anahuac sound like a nice place. Yet you have returned 5 times! Is this all part of your plot to make it sound bad so that no one else will go there and you will always have an open spot? :-) Seriously, why do you keep coming back?

I can assure Grant that it is not a plot to turn people away from volunteering here.  Each refuge, or national park, or state park or hatchery that I have volunteered at has its own set of challenges for volunteers to overcome, but these challenges have never detracted from the overall enjoyable experiences that I’ve had at each assignment. 


                                                       (I took pictures of the neighbors today)

Mice?  Yep, I’ve had an influx of them this year and the year after hurricane Ike.  Would I prefer that they didn’t get into my rig?  You betcha!  My thinking is that the draught coupled with the mowing/tilling of surrounding fields were the reason this year, and Ike was the cause the other year.  That means weather which, try as I might, I can’t control.  It seems to me the folks in Arizona are a little chilly this year as well.


Mosquitoes?  That’s just about a given at any refuge along the coast with marshes and wet areas.  Kind of an occupational hazard.  They make me itch, and I complain about them, but they don’t keep me away from the grandeur of everything else.


Perhaps I’ve explained away some of the drawbacks, but more important to me are some of the pluses.  Stephanie is a great volunteer coordinator and understands my need to have a variety of things to do.  Anahuac is one of the few refuges I’ve been at that truly matches the strengths of each volunteer to their assignments.  Bird surveys, photography, tour leading, public interaction, and education are my strengths, and I spend the vast amount of my volunteering time in those areas here.  In my five times here, I have only spent two days in an office situation (which I hate), and those two times were because of emergencies. 

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This post could probably go on for pages about my other reasons for returning, but I won’t go into those.  The above is the most important to me.  Will I return again?  Probably, but I’m really going to try to stay away in 2012.  Smile  When I started out, my plan was not to return to any assignment, but things change with different experiences.  Now, if you’re still reading, here’s something on a lighter note:


It’s a little quiz.  Remember those pictures from your youth where you had to find things?  Let’s see how you do.

1.  How many cow tails can you find?

2.  Can you find the red-tailed hawk?

3.  How many cow faces do you see?

4.  Where is the cattle egret?

5.  How many of these cows have horns?

6.  What breed(s) are these cattle?   (Click picture to enlarge)

_MG_5232                                                                               THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Monday, December 26, 2011

Coming up with plan D?

Aw shucks!  It was another wet, cold, and dreary day today.  That makes six in a row.  I find I am less and less interested in doing anything the longer the dreariness persists.  I’ve only taken three pictures in the last three days, so tonight’s photos are retreads from my time here at Anahuac. 


My original ‘Plan A’ was to leave here today, and take my time getting to Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR (MSCNWR) by the end of the year.  I scrapped that plan several weeks ago.


‘Plan B’ was to leave this coming Friday and caravan with my friends, John and Diana, to MSCNWR.  They will be volunteering there also.  It turns out that Diana has to stay in the area longer for some physical therapy, so I scrapped that plan too. 


In the meantime, I made an appointment for Emma to have a spa day for a bath and nail trim for tomorrow.  That meant I had changed my plans once again to leave on Wednesday.  That would be ‘Plan C’.


Well that may just come under the axe as well.  My latest plan involved spending several nights at Tickfaw State Park in Louisiana before beginning another volunteer stint.  I went on line today to check out campsite availability, and found nothing available.  What?  I gave them a call, and sure enough; the campground is closed for a month as they repave the road in.  Annoyed


Okay, so I switched to Lake Fausse Pointe State Park instead.  There seems to be a lot to see in that area as well, and the park looked very nice.  Checked with availability on line, and once again got skunked for my time frame.  Are you kidding me?  So I gave them a call since Reserve America sometimes does funky things, but in this case it was true.  Nothing is available until after the first of the year.  Looks like I need a ‘Plan D’.


So here’s my dilemma tonight.  I could still leave on Wednesday, and stay at a private campground somewhere east of Lafayette, LA, and then head for MSCNWR on Thursday.  I’m really not interested in a private campground for more than one night, so that would mean pushing on to my destination on Thursday.  Or, I could stay here until Sunday, and then do the state park trip to Lake Fausse Pointe with a stay of four nights or so.  I’ll be mulling over my options tonight.  What’s your vote?

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A soggy holiday weekend

It’s been wet and overcast for days now, so this weekend was pretty laid back.  I actually spent yesterday afternoon watching the entire Lonesome Dove mini series to the sound of rain on the rooftop.  That’s a pretty boring day for me.  Emma has been so bored that she ripped apart her stuffed duck.  She’s had that for a couple of years, but it’s in the garbage bucket tonight. 

I think even the wild barn owls are tired of this weather.  One of those owls sits under the eave of the community building and coughs up its pellets onto the cement area in front of the door.  These pellets are usually like small compact eggs consisting of indigestible bones and hair.  Well, this morning’s deposit was a only slightly digested mouse.  Yuck!  Bill and Carol saw a barn owl sitting on a post just next to my rig last night.  I wonder if that’s why I’ve had a decrease of mice in the rig this week.  I hope it perches there each night.

At least this afternoon we were all able to share a Christmas Dinner in the community building.  That was definitely the highlight of the day.


I volunteered to get and cook the ham so I could make my favorite raisin gravy.  Luckily, Bob stepped forward to carve the ham for me so I could work on the gravy.  Raisin gravy is a once a year treat for me, and I sure do enjoy it.


I was in culinary heaven with side dishes of mashed potatoes, a baked pineapple garnish, green bean casserole, broccoli cheese casserole, hot rolls, cranberry, pecan pie, and a chocolate pudding/angel food cake dish to go along with the ham and gravy.  I don’t talk about food very often, but this feast was delicious!  There wasn’t a thing on that menu that I didn’t like.

IMG_5228                                       (from the left: Bill, Carol, Annie, Roxanne, Bob, and Dorothy)

Good food, good company, and good conversation warmed the cockles of my heart.  I hope you all had a heart warming day as well.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Friday, December 23, 2011

Life’s little adventures

I don’t know about the rest of you bloggers, but for me my time outside with Emma in the late afternoon is a good time for me to review the happenings of the day in my mind.  It’s also the time when I decide if the day is worth blogging about.  Sometimes, my biggest challenge is coming up with a title for the post.  Today was one of those days.  Quite a bit happened, and yet, none of it was earth shattering. 

I also want to say that it has been very enlightening to have fellow bloggers staying here for more than an hour or two.  I have really enjoyed reading about Roxanne’s and Annie’s  perception of our shared experiences.  It just reinforces how each of us in this world perceive happenings through our own personal window on life. 

Anyway, on to today’s little adventures…

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This morning, the Good Luck Ducks joined me for part two of the wildlife refuge tour.  We visited both the VIS and the new Visitor’s Center after dropping off the five bags of sorted rice grains to the biologist. 

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We also took the trail through the bald cypress swamp down to Lake Anahuac.  It was a peaceful little hike, and the woods were very quiet.


While at the Visitor’s Center, I visited the ladies room, and just need to tell you about the latest thing in hand drying.  This is a state of the art building powered by solar panels.  After washing up, you just insert your hands into this thing, and it automatically blasts your hands dry with warm air.  No more having to rub your hands together while trying to punch the start button, and no more trees destroyed for paper wipe towels.  Pretty cool, huh?  ( I know, simple pleasures for simple minds.Smile)

64 Anahuac NWR 201127

On the way back to the rigs, Annie suggested we stop for lunch at a little place I had told them about.  Dolly’s Quick Food is a little shack on one of the back farm roads.  The only other people I’ve persuaded to stop here are my sister and her husband about five years ago.  Big improvements have been made since then.  When I first stopped here with them, you just knocked on a window to place your order.  There wasn’t any door with an enclosed porch then.  This is definitely not an eat in restaurant.  You go in, place your order, and then wait while Dolly goes back to make your lunch or dinner.  That’s Dolly, on the right, working away at the grill behind the window preparing our eats.


I don’t know how long Dolly has been in business, but she sure puts out some good grub.  Roxanne and Annie ordered chopped beef bar-b-queued sandwiches, and I ordered the pork rib sandwich.  The adventure part for me here was to figure out how to eat a pork rib sandwich with the bones still in the ribs!  Do Texans eat the bones and all??  You know, there were onions and pickles on the sandwich as well as the bread.  It was definitely an experience.

Last, but not least, is the adventure I observed as I sat outside with Emma just before sunset.  I will leave you with this slightly different ending picture, and in all due respect, fellow volunteer Bob does not know that I took this pic.  He was working on making some gutter drains for the community building.  I’m thinking maybe he has some roasted oysters there as he straddles that spout…


                                                                                    THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Got the crap scared out of me last night

In less than the blink of an eye, I went from deep sleep to total awareness last night at 3:17 a.m.  A wind blast hit the rig so strongly that I sat right up, and my hair was standing on end!  The two slides were moving in and out, and the sound was deafening.  I flew to the front of the rig to grab the keys to turn on the motor so I could pull in the slides.  I’ve never rearranged things so quickly to pull in the slides as I did last night.  Emma and I huddled together.  I thought the slide toppers were ripped off for sure.  That wind went on for what seemed like forever, and then the lightening, thunder and rain began.  We had a real windy downpour.

We survived with no damage to the rig, but I had to hunt for some of my outside furniture in the morning.  It seems everyone in the volunteer village has been up since the wee hours today.  I thought of going to the community building for safety, but wasn’t sure I’d be able to get the door on the rig open, and if I did I thought it might tear my arm out of its socket.  It was a scary four hours waiting for dawn.

_MG_5191By the afternoon, it had calmed down enough for me to give Roxanne and Annie a tour of the refuge.  We started out at the Skillern Tract.


Two locals set up fishing along the bayou.  There were about 2000 snow geese behind them honking away.  What a grand way to spend the afternoon.


Here’s a teenage snow goose going against the flow of the adults.  A rebel with a cause?


                            Found a pair of blue-winged teal in the marsh that had weathered the storm.


                                                         And a young white ibis on the overlook. 


The storm had stirred up a new hatch of thousands of insects, but at least they weren’t mosquitoes.  I hope my visitors enjoyed this quiet walk with nature along the trail.  We then headed to the main part of the refuge.

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A slightly soggy adult red-tailed hawk was the highlight of the drive down those roads.  I was surprised to see it sit so still for us.  Guess it had a bad night too.  I just can’t imagine being out in the midst of that storm.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy