Over Easter weekend, I finally decided to make the trip down to my land on Terlingua Ranch. It was Sabkha and me in the Tacoma. We left on Thursday before Good Friday, around 7 PM. I passed most of the burned stuff (near Alpine, TX) after dusk, but I could see burned grass at the edge of the road. Also just south of I-10 I saw a big plume of smoke coming off the northern end of the Davis Mountains. Not sure my planning was that great, as we arrived in the Study Butte area well after dark. I turned onto South County Road with only my memory of my single trip to my land to guide me. Well, that and a couple hours of exploring the Solitario district on Google Maps. We managed to find it despite the very dark moonless evening. There isn't a great pullout on my property -- road just crosses it parallel to a dry wash -- so I continued on and parked at the property just to the north. The night was hot and windy. Donning my headlamp, I could see clouds of dust whirling past in the LED light. All around me were glittering gems on the ground -- I knew from experience these were spider's eyes. Sure enough, I tracked one to the source and found a big wolf-spider but with a pointy wasp-like butt -- ewwwww. Creep out city. It was around 11 PM. I set up our beds in the bed of the truck and we went to sleep.
In the earliest light of morning, Sabkha was nudging me and licking my face to wake me up. This is her typical camping-out behavior. I got up to see a gorgeous sunrise over the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park. The dome-shaped mountain in the middleground is Pink's Peak.
The night was cool enough for a sleeping bag, but the day warmed up quickly. Worst, it was humid and felt yucky even at 7 am. It has that Tucson-monsoon feeling, where you could tell it was going to be a hot, unpleasant day and the mere thought of that ruined the morning, too.
Sabkha and I set off on a surveying walk. We first found the NW corner of the property, where I found a professional survey marker. Was my tract surveyed previously? Or one of the other three tracts that meet at this corner? I walked back east, following a due E-W line according to my GPS, and making cairns along the way to mark the property boundary.
I had the strange sensation of looking at beautiful Chihuahuan desert plants and cool volcanic rocks and thinking "I own those!". Then, looking around at the vast landscape, I realized it didn't really matter to anyone but me. The plants and rocks certainly didn't care... and the rocks will be sitting there long after I'm gone.
Down the hill and across the road to the east, down into the wash, up the next hillside we found the NE corner. There was no survey marker, but a pile of rocks and about twenty pieces of flagging tied into a creosote bush. The northing was off from the NW corner. Either the tracts and not square, or the edges do not run true E-W, or I was using a different projection, or something. But it was only a few tens of feet off.
It was time for a break. We went into town for some coffee and breakfast at Espresso y Poco Mas, my favorite Terlingua morning place despite the new, higher prices. A nice place to sit, eat, sit, and browse the web on the free wifi. The drive in or out on the best route (not shortest but fastest route) is 30 minutes driving at normalish speed. It would be tough to shorten the drive much from that without driving crazily. After bfast we went back to Andy's Ranch. The drive is fun and scenic. It is not Miata-able, but it is Subaru-able. 4WD is not required, and normal clearance could do it, likely with no damage to the car. There are a few steep, rocky parts though.
Back at Andy's Ranch, the next order of business was a parking spot. I found a pull-off that had been used by a bulldozer, probably over a decade ago. It went steeply up the hill over a rocky "step" in the Cretaceous limestone. With the shovel I cleared all the lechuigilla and trimmed back a few creosote bushes. Then, in 4-Lo I was able to inch the truck up over the rock shelf and onto a parking area. Not as flat as I'd like, but it works for now. I was tempted to keep going up the hill to the top, but the vegetation would certainly wreck my P-rated tires. Plus I really don't want a road to the top.
My little parking spot on Andy's Ranch
Next I made a few cairns where my (approx) property boundary crossed the road, and I hunted for fossils a bit. I found a cool nautilus cast, but threw it aside, thinking it wasn't that great. Then of course I found nothing like it again, and I couldn't locate the original find. Maybe next time. It was nice to be able to collect rocks or fossils and not worry about getting arrested by some park ranger.
Road across Andy's Ranch
After a break and a cold beer or two, I set out to find the SW corner. This involved hiking to the top of Andy's Ridge and down the west side, almost to the base. It was getting pretty hot and Sabkha was hanging out under the truck, and didn't look too well. Panting, lethargic. She didn't seem interested in joining me on the search for SW corner, so I left her there, untied in case she changed her mind. Halfway up the loose rock of the hillside, I saw Sabkha below me, crossing the hillside, going away from me and the truck. She often finds her own way up, so I didn't think much of it. On top, I get good cell coverage so I checked my work email, and called my parents. On top I saw some large chunks of unidentified scat. Big mountain lion? I'll have to snap a photo and see what the Llano Estacado Master Nats think. About this time I realized I still hadn't seen Sabkha. Concerned for her, I went back east down the hill (without finding the SW corner). A few times I heard yelps, but wasn't sure. Then I saw Sabkha, in the middle of a bunch of cacti, tail between her legs and not looking happy. She clearly had had a seizure and fallen into the cacti. I grabbed her out and she went into her seizure mode. She kept sitting on cacti like it didn't hurt her. I walked/carried/dragged her back to the truck. The episode upset me. It was getting hot, and the only cool place was the truck with the A/C running. I piled her in and we went out for a drive, exploring some of the less-trodden roads of Terlingua Ranch.
The next day, Saturday, we got up early again and walked some of the ranch roads near my property. I found the SE corner of the tract, also professionally marked, and made more cairns along boundaries. It was again too hot to do much, and I was still worried about Sabkha, so we again went into the Ghost Town for breakfast and internet. Then we drove over to the national park, back to Study Butte and toward TR HQ, across on dirt from 118 to US 385. Then back north on 385.
A recent mass-wasting deposit along US 385 in BB National Park