Friday, January 9, 2015

Kings Day, "Dia de Reyes" January 6

An unexpected treat at work on Tuesday, January 6th.  When I came in at 8:00 there was a large box containing a fancy looking bread.  Shortly after 8:30 all the other park staff began to filter into the back office.  The pictures are poor phone quality.  I did not expect to need my camera today.



Steve Mondel, one of the six park hosts, was in the kitchen making "Abuelita", traditional Mexican hot chocolate


When the hot chocolate was done and everyone had a cup, complete with whipped cream, we learned the story about this local celebration.  Pablo, the Park Superintendent, explained why January 6 is an important Mexican tradition.



The day is called Dia de Reyes, Three Kings Day.  The legend reports that six days after the birth of Jesus three wise-men arrived in Bethlehem with gifts for  baby Jesus.  They had followed the star from their kingdoms far away. Today, many Spanish speaking families celebrate this as their Christmas when gifts are exchanged. Part of the giving tradition includes a sweet bread, shaped in a circle like a kings crown.  Inside this traditional "Kings bread"  are hidden tiny baby figurines.  The hidden figurines are symbolic of the fact that Jesus was hidden in a stable from King Harod's solders who were sent to kill all recently born male children.Today's bread contained four, we were told.  Anyone who finds a baby in their piece receives the privileged of giving a party, called "Rosca de Reyes" on February 2.




Albert cuts the first piece while Cynthia looks on.  First piece, the very first baby, which means he must be the host for a party on February 2th.


Stephanie and Sherry,



Lauren and Jan,


Marlin, Dick, and Carlos are all glad they did not have to plan the next party.   Wait---Marlin did get a baby.  Guess he needs to practice making enchiladas!  This is going to be a fun place to work for three months, if only the sun would come out.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Boca Chica Beach

Although I was actually missing "Yoga in the Park" yesterday, I was anxious to use the day off to visit a new area in this lower Rio Grande Valley.  We headed out to Boca Chica Beach, located at the southern-most tip of land on the Texas side of the Gulf of Mexico. Route 4, out of Brownsville covers about 15 miles of marshy ground, posted as National Wildlife areas.  This stretch of land also has some interesting history.  You never know what you are going to find out about when you stop and read every Historical Marker along the highway, which is one of Marlin's favorite activities.  Who knew that the very last battle of the Civil War was fought in Texas.


Even though Lee had surrendered more than a month before this May 12, 1865 battle, the Colonel in charge of the Union troops ordered an attack on Confederate troops stationed in Brownsville.  This confrontation ended in a Confederate win when Union troops fled back to the coast.  Makes you wonder how "the rest of the story" played out.  Further along, another marker described the cypress post remains of a railroad built by Zachary Taylor in 1846 to move supplies during the war with Mexico.

At the beach it was cold and windy but we headed out for a walk anyway.  Vehicles are allowed on this beach and the only people we saw were inside cars or trucks.

Boca Chica Beach


Not as many shore birds as we would like to have seen but the walk was very enjoyable.  We will definitely come back here often.



One cold Heron.  He/she let me walk very close before taking flight.


Miles of beach.


and dunes


Only a few scattered birds were to be seen



On the ride back through the tidal marsh we got one more treat.  A Harris hawk sat on a fence post for at least five minutes, eating the lunch of a nice fat mouse he caught on the dunes.



So far we are seeing a great selection of hawks in this area.  Hopefully I can get some good pictures when I remember to bring the tripod. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Resaca de la Palma - first week

After four days of getting settled, finding groceries, doing laundry, we got into the swing of working on Monday December 29.  This park has a smaller staff than where we were last year, and a stronger focus on watching wildlife in the natural habitat rather than at multiple feeding stations.  There is a three mile paved tram road and an additional 13 miles of bike and hiking trails that provide a varied habitat where that wildlife can be seen.

  The visitor's center

The gift shop inside the visitor's center



Tram road

This is one view of the resaca, which is an "oxbow" section of the Rio Grande river that was cut off from the direct flow of the water by normal changes in river migration.  These resacas are common in this part of Texas.  Many are currently part of wildlife refuges or State Parks where the water levels are regulated for the benefit of local wildlife.  That is sometimes quite a challenge in a state where water is less abundant and agriculture is the major economic staple.  Snowy Egrets, ibis' lesser yellowlegs,  multiple species of ducks and many more bird species are commonly seen in the four miles of resaca in this park.

As I said, lots of wildlife in their natural habitat!  (None seen yet)

Beautiful grassland section can be enjoyed on the tram loop


The staff and volunteers getting important dates on the calendar. 

  Gloria, park Naturalist, and Sherrie, Volunteer host, work on a monthly butterfly report
 
While I got familiar with some office wildlife, (staff pets), and began work on a bird project, Marlin spent some time fixing rental bikes.  Flat tires are a constant hazard here where most all plants possess sharp thorns of some sort.




 We have the  next three days off and plan to investigate a few spots we did not get to last year.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Heading south

Our "Get out of Dodge" trip south was uneventful, even somewhat boring.  Drive--stop in PA, drive-- stop in VA, drive-- stop in SC.  The stop over in South Caroline did include a short visit with Sharon and Frances Merrow, who have moved from Rockland to Spartenburg, S.C. last year.

Camping near their home at Croft State Park gave us a chance to see their new screen porch and share a great dinner provided by Sharon.  Came away with a new fantastic biscuit recipe.  Best I have ever tasted, and I don't care for biscuits.

Three more uneventful stops and we made it to Texas, where we had reserved a week in a park just north west of Houston for a visit with Fred and Charlotte Siems.  Fred and Charlotte were co-hosts with us last year in Mission, Texas.

 

The Siems' arranged a very interesting trip to the battleship Texas where they had hosted before coming to Mission in 2014.  The ship just celebrated its 100th birthday




 The battleship Texas was commissioned in 1914 and at that time, according to the welcoming pamphlet, was considered "the most powerful weapon in the world".  Today her claim to fame is that she is the only surviving U.S. Naval ship that served in both World Wars.
The ship saw no active duty in World War I but after receiving major modifications in 1927 and again in 1941, she was involved in campaigns in North Africa, Normandy, and Southern France before being moved into the Pacific theater  to provide support at landings in Iwo Jima and Okinawa.




below deck



The ship store










Soda fountain in the mess hall



Each group area had one of these folding tables set up during meals.  After each use it was stored in a rack on the ceiling and the beds were unfolded for sleeping.



 When the ship was retired in 1946 it was scheduled to be used as for a bombing target. Texas citizens launched a campagn to have the ship become a memorial battleship and she was officially transferred to the state of Texas in April of 1948.




Unfortunately, I spent most of the week helping with a family matter and missed the rest of our planned visit. Marlin did enjoy some local events with Fred and Charlotte so he wasn't lonely.

After leaving Houston on Tuesday we had one more over night stop and  arrived at Resaca de la Palma State Park on Christmas Eve.




Home for the next three months.  Hoods are up in an effort to thwart rodent nesting in the engines.







Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Holiday weekend at the Cooks

A new tradition has been established.  Because Marlin and I started volunteering at Texas State Parks beginning on January 1, we have to leave Maine before Christmas. So, for the second year in a row, the Cook family has celebrated, what we are now calling, Thanks-Birth-Mas.  That wonderful four day weekend on Thanksgiving seems to be the only weekend we can all be in the same place at the same time, so it has evolved into squeezing the turkey dinner, two birthdays, and Christmas all together.

Jed is the Thanksgiving dinner cook.  He handles the entire meal by himself, allowing no one else in the kitchen.  That night we gear up for a birthday party for Jed, who's birthday is the 28th, and Lola, who's birthday is December 9.  Friday morning we all go out to get a tree, then spend most of the day decorating it.  After supper we hold a scavenger hunt for presents, then scramble into a free-for-all opening stocking stuffers.  It has turned out to be everyone's favorite way to do the holidays.

 Thanksgiving cook at work

That afternoon we had a great visit from Jacob Dunton and his, now, fiance Carlie Suek. Living in Wyoming we don't get to see them too often.



That night Birthday party.  Guess who is 11 and who is 39?

Favorite Birthday presents

Friday- tree cutting/trimming

Shellie gets the honors of topping the tree.

When the tree is complete, dinner over, the scavenger hunt begins.

The clues were tricky.

But he succeeded 


Marlin's turn
James loved the game




Shellie is next, but look who is enjoying it the most!



Jed found the wrong present and had to look again.

Lola enjoyed each and every search, documenting with her own camera.


I even got a set of clues to follow.
Jamien found a clue in Lola's bed.


And her present was in the oven.

That was only part one.  On to stocking stuffers.







Second annual Thanks-Birth-Mas - a success.

The week before Thanksgiving we had 18 inches of snow, 14 more the night before the holiday, and two inches of ice the next week.  Time to get out of Dodge with that camper.  We left Dixmont on December 8, crossing our fingers that we would make it over the hill.  On to the next adventure.