Thursday, May 21, 2009

Travelog Day 2; Down by the River

It was an easy drive across east Texas. It was smooth sailing through Houston, with no traffic at 10AM. Out of Houston, I had a good tail wind and found several big rigs going just the right speed for me to surf their wake.
The speed limit was 70, but the van's cruising speed is between 60 and 65. No need to push my old beast harder than necessary.
The cats complained a bit in the morning, but soon settled into the rhythm of the road and fell asleep.

As I traveled west, the countryside changed into gentle rolling hills populated by prickly pear, yuccas and honey locust. Everything seemed to be blooming, and a light elusive fragrance filled the air. Many sections of the road had been cut straight through the little hills, leaving artificial cliffs with colorful layers of rock.

It was still early when I decided to take a rest at South Llano River State Park, near Junction, TX. My intention was to take a nap, then travel on, since I had not slept well the night before.
As I crossed the little river it was a beautiful shade of turquoise. All the rivers in south Louisiana are the same shade of mud brown.
I stopped at the ranger station to inquire about camping. At $17.00 it seemed a little steep, but the river and the countryside were so beautiful I decided to go for it and spend the night.

I found a nice shady campsite so as not to fry the cats. The sun was still high, I had stopped early; about 2:30pm.
I was quite tired, but I had to see the river. I walked through a field where wild turkeys roosted in the evening, past a pond, and through a grove of wild pecans before finding the river.

Startled turtles plopped into the water as I peered down at bass and sunfish cruising through the shallows.
It had been years since I'd seen a clear rocky stream. I scrambled down the bank to test the water with my toes. It was a very pleasant temperature, and I nibbled some watercress I found growing at the water's edge.

As I walked back through the pecan grove, I mulled the extremely difficult decision I was now faced with; should I
A. Take a nap
B. Go fishing
C. Go for a swim

Boy, life is rough.

I was tired, but I couldn't resist that river. Clear rocky streams are one of my favorite things. Since my tackle box was buried in the van I decided to go swimming.

The water was just cool enough to be refreshing. I had my goggles, so I snorkeled for a bit, watching the fish. When I dove under, I realized I could hear them. I thought only salt water fish made noise; I heard them a lot in Key West. But there was the same unmistakable popping noise in this river. It sounds like someone banging rocks together underwater. I swam to a deep area, following the noises, then dove to the bottom and startled several large bass who swam away quickly in alarm. The fish noises stopped briefly, then resumed farther upstream.

After a thrilling ride down the rapids on my belly, I sat on a driftwood log to rest and warm up in the sun. I had the place to myself. I couldn't see or hear any evidence of other humans.

It was GREAT.

I noticed a strange glassy type of rock on the riverbank, and broke it with other rocks to make a crude but very sharp stone knife. Hungry now, I wandered back to camp in a foraging mood.
Wild turkeys gobbled in the distance as I cut some prickly pear pads with my new stone knife. I found some new shoots of catbriar (smilax spp.) and snipped them off too.

I sauteed both veggies in olive oil with a little salt and pepper. The smilax shoots tasted like asparagus, but a bit milder. The prickly pear was good too, but turned slimy as it got cold.
To get some starch and protein, I made red beans and rice with spam.
Deer wandered through my campsite as I ate, competing with the jack rabbits for tender new grass.

Life was good.

A pretty wildflower

There's a carp in this picture, can you see him?

The view from camp


  1. thanks for the update. You're really good at foraging already -something I need to learn more about. I recently ordered a guide to edible plants of eastern and central North America.
    Sounds like a nice little river... I love rivers and lakes and streams.

  2. Howdy! Glad you stopped to enjoy a little bit of God's country. The Texas hill Country is absolutely beautiful! One of my favorite places on Earth (though I've never been west of Carlsbad NM, and have never seen the Rockies, soooo......).

  3. Man, it sounds like a very good trip so far. I think you'll the rest of the trip through Texas!

    You enjoy the beautiful Texas spring, and be careful on the trip. Looking forward to the next post already...

  4. Texas sure is tall and wide, its hard to travel across them in less than a day and you will feel it. It sounds like you got your money's worth at the park you stayed at - enjoying the journey to destination is part of the unexpected pleasures. Looks like you and cats are having a good time so far.

  5. Great to hear you are back and what a trip, very cool posts.