Sunday, April 29, 2012

Facts About this Refuge

Wichita Mountains NWR was established in 1935.  It has 59,020 acres, and it is west of Lawton Oklahoma.  The granite mountains were formed over 500 million years ago and stretch over to Amarillo, Texas (Palo Duro Canyon).  At one time it was a large game preserve.

In 1907, 15 bison were brought here from the New York Bronx Zoo. The herd is presently maintained at 650 head.

One bull elk was brought here in 1908 with 20 more cows and bulls coming from Jackson Hole, Wyoming in 1912.  There are about 700 elk on the refuge today.

In 1927, there were funds to purchase 30 longhorns.  The herd is now 300.

In the 1930's, the CCC constructed 15 concrete dams for permanent water areas and most of the 8' high big game fence.  Highway 49 runs the entire length of the refuge, and with big game roaming freely, the speed limit is 45 mph going down to 30 mph in some places.

The refuge has about 1.5 million visitors a year.  There are 15 miles of hiking trails.  There is also a campground in the refuge for tents and rv's with water and electric, plus a dump station.

Until next time...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Where the Buffalo Roam

This is where we will be for the month of May.  We arrived here on the 23rd, one week early.  Our first impression is WOW!!!  We see the mountains first, yes, Oklahoma?!?  Big rock mountains.

Inside the refuge boundary, we see our first buffalo.

Then our first Longhorn.

This one is a bull...the steer has the longest horns.

Then we come to Prairie Dog Town.

I learned something new about Prairie Dogs today.  They never need or go to water.  They get what they need from roots and plants.  One berm had five little ones with mama.  Now I'm getting real excited!  

We stop at the visitor center where we hear a familiar sound.  A Northern Bobwhite.  We are to meet Quintin, Park Ranger, where we pick up our keys to the kingdom.  He shows us the "Volunteer Village" where we will be staying.

A Summer Tanager announces the Sternbergs are here, here, here.

We are the only resident volunteers with four rv pad sites.  We have not fully settled in yet in this photo, but you can see how nice it is.

This is Quintin, park ranger.  He gave us the tour where we met some of the staff, and he helped us back into our site.

That evening, we had some guests drop by.

Mr. Tom Turkey welcoming us with his gobble, gobble, gobble.

How about this big Elk.  He comes through often.  We are serenaded in the evening by Chuck-wills-widow, another bird that says its name.

Two of our friends from Santa Ana are now working here.

Meet Joe, in the foreground, and Russ.  They are one reason we came here.

Boy, did we sleep well...yep, we think we are going to like it here.

This refuge is 59,020 acres HUGE and we just got here.  Stay tuned to find out more about this fabulous of 550 that belong to you and me, the taxpayers.

Until next time....

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Sea of Grass

We decided to take a road trip of 200 plus miles to this place in hopes of finding Greater Prairie Chickens!!!

There once was 170 million acres of native grassland that stretched from Mexico to Canada, now only 4% remains mostly here in the Kansas Flint Hills.  The preserve is made up of 11,000 acres.  It is a joint effort between The Nature Conservancy and The National Park System.

This is the house that was built for Stephen Jones back in 1881.  He spent 19 million dollars and lived here only 5 1/2 years.  The barn is bigger than the house.

A highway for horses going up into the barn, unloading, and then exiting on this other side.  

In this picture, you can see there once was a windmill attached to the barn.

There is construction on a nice big visitor center to open later.

We took this trail up to the top of the ridge and the wind was soooo bad we did not see anything!!  No, no prairie chickens!!

The solid mahogany stairs was the best thing inside the house.  The best thing outside the house in the front yard was:  ta duh...........

Not a GREAT photo but....a life bird and at 736, they are getting harder and harder to find.  Harris's Sparrow!!!

Tomorrow, come with me while I show you where we are now.  It's a pretty place with exciting things to see!!!

Until next time....

Time in Chanute, Kansas

We came to Chanute, Kansas to have some things fixed in our rig.  They have "fixed" things and all is well.  Chanute is home to Nu-Wa Hitchhiker.  There is a city park where you can stay free for the first two days, then $10.00 a day thereafter for up to ten days with water, electric, and a dump station.  It is near the factory.

It seemed to be a Hitchhiker rally!!!  These rigs are made for fulltimers.  You can take a tour of the place to see how they are made.  They take trade ins and you can buy direct or place your order to be picked up later.

While they had the rig, we took a tour of the downtown.

The old buildings are of particular interest to me.

The historic 1929 Tioga Hotel.  It is one of the first fireproof buildings in the state of Kansas.  It is listed on the National Historic Register.  The next few shots are of this building showing some architectural details.

This old hotel has housed many a people in its day and still houses guests today.  It has a micro brewery with 13 kinds of beer.

This is the Santa Fe Depot.  The towns foundation was built on the development of the railroad.  Built in 1902-03.  It featured a large Harvey House Restaurant and handled 10 passenger trains daily.  The library is in this building.

Since I was unable to blog while there, I will be bringing you up to where we are now.  Can hardly wait to share this place with y'all, but have another place we visited while in Kansas before I bring you here.

Until next time..... 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Dodging Bullets

We got off to a bad start!!!  Just as we we turned north on 907, Wallace ran over an object on the road.  Luckily there is no obvious damage.

We had a wonderful stay at a COE park at Canyon Lake called Potters Creek near New Braunfels, Texas.  

All the relatives on my side put together a big feast.  It was great to be with family again.  We were there two days.

Our next plan was to stay at another COE just Southwest of Fort Worth....we did NOT stay!!!  On interstate 820 going around Fort Worth, we dodged another bullet.  Someone had lost a sofa and it just happened to be in our lane!!! But that's not all folks. 

Now it is getting late so we pulled into a Flying J at Ardmore, Ok.  It was a comfortable night.  Next morning, I happened to notice a low tire on the rig.  Wallace airs it up and we go to the rest stop a little way down the road to check on it.  Well, it had lost another 20 pounds that quickly.  Sooooo, we call Progressive and about an hour later, they arrive to change the tire.  I can't even begin to explain what a joke this was, but they show up in a car.  When they approached us, we thought they were panhandlers.  They pull out two air pressure tanks from the back seat of their car!!!  They did not even have an air gauge with them!!!  Well, anyway, they got the tire changed...did not even have enough air to fully inflate the spare!!!  You just had to be there!!!  Progressive WILL hear about this little adventure.

Now we are off to another COE park west of Tulsa, Ok.  Need I say more?  Yes, tornado alley.  And yes, we have been under severe weather with chance of hail with tornadoes for two days!!!  

It is a very nice park.  Below is a picture of the lake with a bridge that goes into the town of Mannford.

Well, that bridge just happens to be for the train.  Do you see where I am going with this story?  We were sitting at the dining room table when we hear this noise.  They say a tornado sounds like a freight train and we think we are about to be hit!!!  Boy, you should have seen us jump.  We are now in the clear and enjoying this park for another day before we go to Chanute, Kansas to have some work done on our brand new Hitchhiker!!!

This was what the sky looked like just before that TRAIN!!!  It's times like these that make you wonder if it is time to give it all up.  But then a new day dawns.

Oklahoma's state bird, the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.  This is a male as the female has a shorter tail.

We have so many friends and family praying for us and we give thanks to God for delivering us thus far.  It does make me wonder about spending  the month of May at Wichita Mountains NWR in Oklahoma...we shall see how that goes, will you?

Until next time....


Monday, April 9, 2012

Heading North


Our time has come to an end and we are headed north with the rest of the migration.

The Chachalacas came to say goodbye and the Texas Tortoise has evidently taken up residence in our yard and will be laying eggs pretty soon!!!  Take Care my friends.

Until next time....

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Park Day @ Palmito Ranch Battlefield NHL

Clean up and interpretation day at America's Civil War battlefields 2012.  This is one of the most significant Civil War military sites in Texas.  It is the site of the last land battle of the war (May 12-13, 1865).

We all met at the Palo Alto Visitor Center in Brownsville.  There were six of us volunteers and four staff from the refuge to support this effort.

We were treated to doughnuts, juice, coffee, and were given tee shirts for participating.

William McWhorter, military historian for the Texas Historical Commission, gave a nice power point presentation.

2015 will be the sesquicentennial and there are some great plans in store for the site.  Plans include a parking lot with two observation decks and a short trail.

We assembled at the kiosk on highway 4, just north of the site to pick up litter along the roadway.

Here we are donning gloves, spraying, and getting trash bags...we set off on our mission.

Dot was the last to come in!!  We all did our part though.  The area was fairly clean this year.  Whoopee. 

Jennifer and Scott gave a short presentation before heading over to the battlefield site.

Here is the new parking area with the battlefield all around looking just as it did back then in 1864-65, barren.  The trail will be off to the right amongst the trees with one of the observation decks just before the trail starts.

Christine made plaster molds of animal tracks for the kiddos.  Our LE officer was on the highway slowing vehicles down to keep us safe.

The beautiful plaques to mark the sites will soon be placed.

This picture is in the brochure from the very first Park Day.  Notice the fellow in blue with me on the far right.  We restored the plaque you see here.  It was first cleaned, then painted totally black, then using a sand paper, the raised letters and state emblem were sanded to remove the paint making it readable once again.

We finished off the day by having our fill of delicious fresh gulf shrimp, our last for the season as we are all soon to be departing for the year to various other places!!

Until next time.... 

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Day Out With Kim

This is Kim, plant ecologist for the refuge.  I had been wanting to go out with her for some time as I love plants as well as the area of Starr County with its rolling terrain.

We found several Peyote plants while we were out from fingernail size to orange size.  Peyote plants contain hallucinogenic substances and have tufts of woolly hair where spines would be.  These are harvested by poachers and they are becoming hard to find.

That is my finger to show you how tiny this one is!!!

This is in the ephedra family, Mormon Tea.  It was once thought to cure syphilis, and is used in some medicines.

We saw many kinds of cacti.  This is a nipple cactus.

Here is pencil cactus...the diameter of a pencil.  Most of the blooms had passed and this one had not opened yet.  I found this one!!!

When Kim discovered this plant, she thought she had discovered a new species.  This is her goal.  We were already thinking of what she could name it.  Not this time as we later found it in the book.  It is Large Flower Broomrape.  Only in Starr County.

This is Hierba  De La Hormiga (ant plant).  

Scarlet Musk Flower, showing the leaves up top as well as the flower.  This is my favorite find.

Purple Ground Cherry.

This was Kim's objective.  Ridding the area of salt cedar.  Since the flood, they have become a real big problem, popping up all over our tracts.

After sawing the tamarisk down, she then sprays this green goop that kills the roots.  The downed tree when left on the ground, can take root once again, so they are removed.

When we came upon this area, my thought was, wow, another potential managed wetland.  I shall show this to Imer.

We saw many threatened and endangered plants on this tract.  It was a really hot day as we walked all through the thorny area, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat.  I even found another Texas Tortoise resting under a bush.

Until next time....