Jefecito’s Cross-Country Adventure

My friend Jeffery and I embarked on a cross-country bicycle ride in June. Unfortunately I had to quit because of heat exhaustion but Jeffery is still going! He is currently in Wyoming. The costs of his solo adventure are starting to hurt his bank account (camping fees, food, bike repairs, etc.) so I’ve starting fundraising for him. It’s the least I can do since I couldn’t continue the trip.

Please consider sending some money to my friend! Any amount would help and continuing donations would especially help! He obviously can’t work while he is riding so he would greatly appreciate any assistance!

Donating is super easy! Just go to PayPal here: https://www.paypal.com/cgi​-bin/webscr?cmd=_flow&SESS​ION=LzqbgzTLIvSz5KnzLO9p8k​i_wPeupZxMNaSoh5lQZd5oa_gz​xFqiW3cTICS&dispatch=5885d​80a13c0db1f8e263663d3faee8​d1e83f46a36995b3856cef1e18​897ad75. (If that link doesn’t work, go to https://www.paypal.com/ and click on the Send Money tab.
Then follow the instructions and copy/paste or type in his email: gronkin@gmail.com.
(If you would like a different method of donating or if you have any questions, email me at angelika.fuller@gmail.com)​.

If you would like a special thank you card with your donation just shoot me an email with your address. Also if you would like to follow Jeffery’s blog, here’s the web address: http://exigente-frito.blog​spot.com/.

And PLEASE tell your friends!!

Final Pecos Family Reunion Post

Hopefully…it took me awhile to filter through over 400 pictures but the end is in sight!  Now to continue the family reunion…

Cheers!Here’s more raffle items (in the foreground) and more family (in the background).Unfortunately my camera doesn’t take very good pictures in low lighting (did I mention that already?) so I didn’t capture many good pictures in the ballroom….

I had to leave the Tejano party early because I needed to wake up early to drive to Carlsbad Caverns for my cave tour.  The following morning I took a last look at Pecos, including the drive-thru zoo:Poor animals…On the way to Slaughter Canyon Cave, which is outside of the main area of the park, I took a short detour to a geocache on the same road.  I met a gaggle of turkeys on the way to the cache.  Why would the turkeys cross the road?This virtual cache is located at a desert spring, an oasis for wildlife including the bats that fly out of the caverns.  The steering wheel contraption was missing in order to claim the cache but hopefully I can give the owner enough information to get my smiley.The drive to the cave was beautiful as always.  One could see the Guadalupe Mountains from here.The Slaughter Canyon Cave is in Slaughter Canyon (creative name right?).The cave was discovered around the 1920’s (I think).  A goat-herder was caught in an intense storm during monsoon season and took cover while letting the goats fend for themselves.  When the storm stopped he searched for his goats and heard a faint bleating up one of the hills.  He followed the sound and eventually discovered all of his goats in a cave.  Later the cave was explored and guano was mined.  After this cave became a part of the national park, guano mining was eventually discontinued and the cave was opened to public tours (by reservation).  The trail up to the cave is pretty steep which affords some nice views of the canyon:and the cave is gated.This cave is not like the main caverns.  It is not lighted.  There is no paved trail.  The trail is demarcated with tape.  It is quite slippery, especially at the beginning.  There is also a part where we had to use a rope to make our way up a slippery slope.For those of you who have never been inside a cave, everybody should experience a cave!  Caves are amazing environments.  These caves in particular were formed by sulfuric acid which is uncommon in these parts.  (They are normally formed by water over a VERY LONG time).  Also some microbes have been found in these caves that can eat the plastic that we can’t recycle and other microbes that could possibly cure cancer.  Testing is being done on both.  For those of you who are nervous about caving, find an easy cave where you are standing upright the whole time and somebody like a ranger is guiding you through it.  The NPS rangers at these caves were awesome.  The whole experience at this cave was awesome except for some 12-year-old disrespectful kid who I wanted to choke…The ranger even yelled at this kid…Anyways, go caving everyone!  Every cave has a twilight zone, the edge of natural lighting into the cave.  Here’s a picture of the cave entrance from the twilight zone:After the twilight zone, you enter the most impenetrable darkness you will ever know.  When we descended as far into the cave as we were going to go, we all turned off our lights and plunged into the blackness.  Being deep in a cave is like being totally blind.  Some Native Americans came into this cave long ago and drew pictures on the walls.  They didn’t have headlamps to aid them…  After a few minutes of darkness, the ranger sparked a lighter and showed us what the cave would have looked like to the explorers in the early 20th century.  We were then told to shine our headlamps on the formation straight ahead.  It was the Christmas tree formation which sparkled like a Christmas tree because it was covered in gypsum.  On the way out we could also see the Klansman or the Guardian, a scary looking formation.  We also got to stand beside an 8 foot tall pile of guano that is estimated to be hundreds of thousands of years old (if I remember correctly).  It’s so old, that within the guano we could see bones from long dead bats.  These bones have been studied and they are actually from an extinct bat species, the Constantine bat! So cool!After exploring Slaughter Canyon Cave, it was time to drive to the main attraction.  On the park road, I could see the wildfire devastation from just a few weeks prior:Then I finally arrived atMy original plan was to hike through the natural entrance and take the elevator back up but it was crazy busy and the elevators back up had a wait of up to an hour so I decided to hike out.  First I did the mile loop around the Big Room.  The incredible beauty of these caves is hard to describe in words…Then I hiked the ascending mile out of the cave.  The hike can be strenuous for some but I’m young 😉  At the natural cave entrance a bunch of cave swallows have made their homes.  The bat homes are just inside the natural cave entrance.After exploring the caves, I needed to busy myself before watching the bats exit the cave.  There are informative ranger programs here that were great to sit through.  There was a Polish female ranger who was awesome.  She was funny and passionate about caving and bats.  I learned a bunch of bat facts from her.  Mostly Mexican free-tailed bats are at Carlsbad.  There are only a few thousand there this year because of the drought (no rain since September) and the wildfires.  No bugs or water for the bats!  Lady bats have one pup per year.  Pregnant bats eat their body weight in bugs every night and their baby will weigh 1/4 of their body weight (imagine that in human proportions)!  Bats range in size from bumblebee size to having six-foot wingspans.  They eat fruit and bugs.  The vampire bats that suck blood prefer chickens and cows to humans.  Bats are incredible creatures!  At Carlsbad they have a program where one can adopt a bat and all of the money ($5) goes towards research.  Bruno, my newly adopted bat, flies out of Carlsbad Caverns every night, at least until he goes back to Mexico 😉  After watching most of the bats fly out, I decided to leave since I had a decent drive to Odessa ahead of me.  I stayed at my brother’s place that night.

It was time to go home the next day (and finish my geocaching passport :D).  My first stop was Big Spring State Park.  Here’s its scenic view:Here I learned about the Texas Horned Lizard, or horny toad as I used to call them when I would catch them as a kid.  These guys can squirt blood from their eyes.  In late fall they burrow just below the surface and hibernate.  After leaving Big Spring, I came across more evidence of oil country:My next stop wasI had a lot of trouble finding the cache (an ammo box haha) here, but when I did I read about the Nine-Banded Armadillo.  These cool mammals can swallow air and float across bodies of water.  They are always born in sets of four identical siblings and will not survive if it’s too hard to dig for food.  The lake hasn’t dried up here.I left and entered the land of the wind turbines.  They seemed endless!My next stop was The trail to the cache here was nice and shady.  I learned about the beautifully colored painted bunting.  Males of this bird species will vigorously defend their territory against other males, occasionally fighting to the death!  My last passport destination wasThis park had a busy pool and nice lakeside trails.  I read about Scissor-tailed Flycatchers here.  Their nests include human products like string, cotton, paper, and cigarette filters.  A study found that artificial materials accounted for about 1/3 of the weight of the nests.  One good use for those nasty butts huh?  (*Most of the wildlife information on these past few posts are courtesy of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department*).  Here’s a view of the lake and the start of the trail where the geocache was located:After this cache I continued the drive and found two more caches.  I retrieved four Travel Bugs on this trip (yay!).  The last cache was at a cemetery where I met a group of deer with several baby deer in tow (so cute!).

This trip was so awesome.  I saw so many places and people who I’ve never seen before.  Unfortunately I’m low on $ so the next trip is on the distant horizon but I’m thinking the gulf coast might be next 😉

Pecos Family Reunion #3

I’ve been pretty dormant ever since coming back from the trip.  I’m missing the exhausting 8 mile hikes right now…Where was I?  Oh right, Ft. Davis!  On the way there I came across this random structure:It’s a Prada store in the middle of nowhere…It’s actually a permanent art installation with the Prada accessories from 2005.  I heard about this thing a few weeks before coming here so I was surprised to see it.  It was completely by accident.

The town of Ft. Davis is so quaint!  They were having a 4th of July celebration but I didn’t have the time to join the festivities.  I loved the time I spent here though.  I can’t wait to come back and camp here.Indian Lodge is also located here.I had to take the scenic drive to the top of the mountains in order to get to the cache.  You could see McDonald Observatory from there:Like a lot of places around here, this area experienced some wildfires:There are of course some gorgeous views out here as well.This park is home to Montezuma Quail!  They crouch down and hide when a predator comes along, using its beautiful feathers as camouflage.  My next stop was The cache was on the other side of this cienega.This park has a large spring-fed pool.  I would’ve really liked to swim but it was that time of the month and I didn’t feel like it…next time!The endangered Comanche Springs Pupfish lives in this park.  They completely rely on flowing desert springs and can withstand a wide range of temperatures and salinities of water.  That’s one reason this park is important!

After leaving Balmorhea for Pecos, I raced these storm clouds:When I arrived in Pecos, I drove by the Reeves County Detention Center which is one of the ICE detention centers included in my Honors thesis.  There have been strikes about maltreatment here….I met my aunt in Pecos and we shared a hotel room.  The next day was a memorial service for my great-grandparents and the family reunion.  The headstone had several mistakes on it…My great-tios and tias (several of whom I had never met before) placed some flowers in front of the headstone and spoke a few words.The party started soon after the memorial.  There was lots of food, family, games and music.  (Most of the family I had never met before).  I met a cousin that my mom went to school with (Fonzy), saw my godparents for the first time in a very long time, talked to my aunts from my grandpa’s other marriage (not to mention listening to his stories), and saw my big bro dance for the first time.  It was fun and cool to see so many relatives in one place.  There was also a raffle of some of my great-grandparents stuff; I won a glass with the Last Supper etched into it.The family reunion will be continued in the next post!

Pecos Family Reunion Trip Cont’d

I left off at Guadalupe Mountains.  Now it’s time to head west….Here’s a great last view of the mountains:and El Capitan:Also drove through some sand flats:Before stopping at a geocache near this old-looking structure:Then I detoured here:This place was incredible!This place offered an experience similar to Enchanted Rock but I liked exploring here more.  I wish I could have stayed longer.The incredible amount of graffiti here was depressing although the graffiti from 1884 is sorta neat (sorta).There was some really cool rock art (I can’t remember how old) here too:A limited number of people are allowed into this park every day.  Without reserving a tour, I could only explore a small portion of the park.  Here’s the view from the top of one of the domes I was able to climb:After thoroughly enjoying this park, I continued my drive to El Paso and my next destination:The tramway wasn’t running that day for some reason so I went for a hike for the geocache I needed.  The trail was steep and it was very hot but I found the cache and this view of El Paso:It was too hot to climb to the very top of Ranger Peak but I did get a good view.  This is the only tramway open to visitors in the entire state of TX and I wasn’t able to ride it :/  Next I headed to New Mexico to find a smiley faces series of geocaches that I was really looking forward to:On the way I had a great view of the Franklin Mountains:So I get to New Mexico and had a hard time finding the road I needed to take to get to the geocaches so I plugged the coordinates into my car GPS.  It takes me to a dirt road.  My car is a very low clearance sporty car so I was a little worried but it didn’t look too bad so I took the dirt road.  When my car started fish-tailing I got a little nervous but I kept going because the car was handling okay.  After what felt like a couple of miles I got to where I needed to be and started traipsing through the scrub brush for the caches.  There was more sand here and it sucked!  Plus it was hot and I kept seeing things with bullet holes in them so I felt uncomfortable there by myself.  I did find four caches in the series before I became wigged out enough to leave.  This one was my favorite:This is a great series of caches, very imaginative.  Next time (and there will be a next time because I need to get my giant smiley!) I will be more prepared.  I was supposed to camp in the Franklin Mountains that night but the code that the office gave me to open the gate didn’t work, so I had to get a hotel.  I would have preferred to camp as it was much less costly…The next morning I went back to Franklin Mountains to find the cache.The hike was pretty long with the heat and the switchbacks.  This trail allows mountain bikers and I ran across a few of them.  Parts of this trail gets pretty intense.The wildlife card in this cache was about the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.  They may eat only once every 2 to 3 weeks.  I had to make it to Pecos today so it was time to head back east after this hike.  I had to go through a Border Patrol checkpoint and was waved on through without having to stop.Next destination is Fort Davis!

Pecos Family Reunion Trip

A week full of west TX, desolate roads, geocaching, and camping.  Who could ask for more?  I think the only icing on that cake would have been a partner in it all…

My first destination was:I had to visit 10 state parks in the west TX Big Sky region and find a certain geocache in each in order to complete my passport and get a prize!  This was the first park I stopped at.  Here’s some of the local scenery:I was drenched in sweat after hiking to and from the cache, enough sweat to fill up the dry lake bed.  One neat thing about these caches is the fun fact card in each.  This one had info about the American Beaver.  Did you know these rodents can weigh up to 100 pounds and can stay underwater for about 15 minutes without any air?  Their ears and noses have valves that close when they go underwater which makes me jealous.  I can’t jump in any body of water without water going up my nose and damaging my brain…I also cached in between parks.  Here’s the view in Rankin, TX:Next stop was:This place is like a mini Sahara in TX.  The cache here was half a mile walk from the car over the dunes.  Walking a mile in sand is not easy!  Especially when it was so hot.  Shade felt like a blessing; I just wanted to fall over trudging in the sand.  I did scare a coyote out of his shade and came across some mysteriously gigantic scat.

I also saw a bunch of shin oak roots.  These things can reach 80 feet deep!The endangered Dunes Sagebrush Lizard buries itself in the sand under these shinnery oaks.  A mile in these dunes put a lot of sand in my boots:A few caches later, I’m back on the long lonely road to Guadalupe Mountains.It was so nice to finally reach the mountains.I decided to hop over the border for a cache before heading to the campsites.And then I finally made it to the park.The next day, I decided to climb the tallest peak in TX.  The trail was strenuous but gorgeous.  This trail was both exhilarating and exhausting.But the views were spectacular!This 8.5 mile (round-trip) trail seemed never ending.  Every time I topped a peak a taller one presented itself.It took me 3.5 hours to get to the top.  The whole trip took me 8.5 hours.  You would think that it would’ve been easier and faster going back down but my feet were so tired.  I met a bunch of people on the way up: The speedy and not-so-speedy Canadians, The Scouts, The Chinaman, Penn State, The Loner, The Weirdo, and The Odd Couple.  On the way back down I met Dallas.  It was surprising to see this American Airlines Memorial at the top:As the tallest peak in TX (8751 feet), you can see the whole state from the top 😉I found a picture of the trail from above in the gift shop.  It looks uber impressive:Uploading all these photos is taking forever so the rest of the itinerary will follow soon.