Interesting Things I Saw On My Way to Work

At any given moment, no matter where you are, there are hundreds of things around you that are interesting and worth documenting–Keri Smith

 As if I needed anything else to do, I’ve got a new project–the #100DayProject. Each day, for 100 days, I’m going to create something and post the result to Instagram. I use Keri Smith’s How to Be An Explorer of the World as inspiration for #100DaysOfExploringMyWorld. I’ll take a photograph each day that relates to an “exploration” from Keri’s book.

Recently, I find myself sitting at home thinking that, wow, the light is exquisite and I really, really, should get out and do some photography. But my cameras are too heavy and I’m tired. It’s too hot/cold or whatever. So this is my no-excuses photography project. The camera of choice is my iPhone. I always have it with me, and it’s light weight. There can be no excuses. To make the project more creative, I’m playing with some editing techniques that make the images sort of fun.

Yesterday’s exploration was to photograph at least 30 things on my way to work. Well, joy of joys! My work location was Big Bend National Park. For the #100DayProject, you’re only supposed to post one piece of creativity per day, but my trip to Big Bend was full of interesting things, so I decided to share this day of exploration with you. (Be sure to click on the images!)

Tiny Target Marathon faux storeTarget Marathon

First Prada Marfa, now Target Marathon. West Texans have a quirky sense of humor, and this faux box store just strikes our funny bone. No one knows if it's an art installation, a political statement, or wishful thinking. It just appeared one morning in 2016.
A tiny piece of ancient coral and a couple of pretty rocks.Fossil Hill

If I were making this trip 300 million years ago, I'd need a boat. Want proof? Here's a piece of fossil coral (and some pretty rocks) that I found in a roadcut just west of Marathon.You can usually find some crinoid stems (sea lilies) there, too. The fossils are eroding out of the 310 to 300 million-year-old Gaptank Formation.
Stopped to wait for the train to pass in Marathon.Waiting for the Train

Waiting for the train to pass is just a West Texas thing. We all do it. But watching someone film the train passing is different and somehow sort of interesting.
Flowers, sculptures, and green grass at the Gage Gardens.I love it...I hate it...I love it

I have a real love/hate relationship with the Gage Gardens. They're beautiful, and they draw me like a moth to a flame. There's green grass! Columbines blooming in the shade! Hundreds of butterflies! And there's water. So much water.
A fountain in the Gage Gardens.I hate it...I love it...I hate it

So much water. All that green grass, those beautiful trees, ponds, and fountains require a lot of water. I feel mildly guilty at enjoying the lushness of this oasis in the desert.
The white rocks of the ancient Caballos Novaculite gleam in the hills south of Marathon.Caballos Novaculite in the Hills South of Marathon

The pinkish-white cherts of the Caballos Novaculite glow in the early morning sun as I drive south of Marathon. The rock formation is called a "flatiron" because of its upside-down V shape. The Caballos Novaculite is about 100-million-years older than the coral that I found west of Marathon.
Roadside Memorial

Roadside memorials range from simple affairs to elaborate ones like this. I never knew Mr. Augillar, but his memorial tells part of his story. He was a veteran, a POW/MIA, and was proud of his service. He rode Harley's, was Catholic, and had friends. Someone who served with Mr. Augillar left a dime at the foot of the cross, other loved ones who made a pilgrimage to the site left clam shells. May you ride in peace, Mr. Augillar.
Three brilliant yellow flowers cover a rainbow cactus.Rainbow Cactus in Bloom

When I pulled over to photograph some erosion control structures, the first thing I noticed was this beautiful rainbow cactus. The flowers are nearly as big as the plant!
Eroded Soils in Big Bend National Park

The extensive grasslands of the flats south of Persimmon Gap disappeared by the mid-1900s due to climate change and heavy grazing. Without grass cover, the soils erode away leaving deep gullies. The NPS is restoring grasslands to the flats with their Grasslands, Not Badlands project. Natural Resource staff and volunteers spread brush piles across the barren flats in long rows perpendicular to the water flow. The brush cover keeps soil temperatures cooler and reduces evaporation, giving the grasses and forbs a chance to grow.
Three yellow flowers adorn a prickly pear pad.Prickly Pears in Bloom

It seems early, but the prickly pears are already in full bloom.
The bridge across the pond at the Rio Grande Village Nature WalkBridge Across the Beaver Pond

I finally made it to my primary destination: the beaver pond at Rio Grande Village. I'm looking for water things--fish, water snakes, or water birds will do. I didn't even make it to the bridge before I realized there was a problem with the plan. There wasn't any water in the pond! In fact, it looks like the reeds and cattails had an excellent year and completely choked the open water. But I still love this bridge, so I kept going.
Bench on the Bridge

Not all was lost though. When I got to the far end of the bridge, there was water! A swarm of small fish, cichlids, and a brown water snake seemed to think it was enough.
Black Setwing Dragonfly

This Black Setwing dragonfly flirted with me, landing on a twig nearby, then flying off as soon as I raised my camera. I persisted, he decided I wasn't all that bad. Although common, I've never seen a Black Setwing before. They have the most beautiful plum-colored eyes, and metallic blue-black faces.
Steps Up the Nature Trail

When I finished photographing the fish, dragonflies, and snake, I headed up the trail. I have to say, Big Bend NP has the most amazing trail crew. Steps like these aren't easy to make, nor to maintain, but they sure make a difference to us (ahem) mature hikers. Good job, crew!
Lyside Sulphur Heads for Hechtia

At the top of the Nature Trail hill is a large clump of Texas Falseagave. The stalks of small white flowers were swarming with Lyside Sulphurs. These butterflies are extremely common in the park right now, but I rarely get a photograph of one in flight. Cool, huh?
Big Bend Scrub Hairstreak

Drum roll, please. Here is my sighting of the day: a Big Bend Scrub-Hairstreak. This butterfly may not be the flashiest, but it's pretty special. It wasn't until 2012 that Nick Grishin and Chris Durden described it as a new species. The Big Bend Scrub-Hairstreak lays its eggs on Texas Falseagave, and it appears that the delicate white flowers are a favorite nectar source as well.
Dead Cottonwood Tree at Dugout Wells

I know this happens, but I still hate to see it. For years, I've gone to Dugout Wells to picnic under the cottonwoods and look for butterflies along the seep spring. But drought, rising temperatures, or just old age are now claiming these beautiful trees.
Gryposaurus Skull

On my way out of the park, I stop at the new Fossil Discovery Exhibit. It's amazing. I'm a little frustrated because dust, finger smudges, and reflections make getting a decent photograph challenging. But then, I press my iPhone flat against the plexiglass and start shooting. True, the cropping is a bit extreme, but I think that makes the image kind of fun. Think of it as Gryposaurus Art.
Old Growth Forest in the Chihuahuan Desert

My last stop is Dagger Flats. I love this valley with its forest of Faxon yuccas. These slow-growing plants can reach a height up to 30 feet tall and have trunks 2 feet in diameter. "How old are these yuccas?" a visitor to the park asked. "Don't know," the ranger replied. "No one's ever lived that long."
Rush Hour on the Way Home

I come out of the Dagger Flats Road and turn north, fighting rush hour traffic the whole way. While vehicles were absent, I counted 37 deer along this 70-mile stretch of road from the park to Marathon. "Been dodging deer?" the Border Patrol agent asked. I wonder what tipped him off? My white knuckles or the wide, blank-eyed stare?

So those are the 20 things that I found most interesting and worthy of documentation on my way to work. What did you see?


This entry was posted in Chihuahuan Desert.

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