Chiricahua National Monument!

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I was captivated with the rock formations and all the different colors!

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Very interesting rocks!

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Amazing rocks!

Today was a wonderful step back in time. I have been to the Chiricahuas in the past, but it has to have been at least 15 years ago. I think the rock structures within the Chiricahua National Monument are awe inspiring and beautiful.

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The green-yellow lichen on many rocks was striking!

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Very interesting balanced rocks! It is amazing that a big gust of wind does not blow it over!

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I was excited to see so many amazing rock formations!

Around every corner on the trail, there are new perspectives and new sites that seem to be even more beautiful.

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I was amazed at the size of so many boulders!

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These rock formations were quite unique and amazing!

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These structures sort of reminded me of stacks of pancakes!

Hiking the trail was supposed to take about 2-3 hours, but it took me 4.5 hours because I kept stopping to take photos of new scenes.

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This is the Echo Canyon Grotto! A unique series of arches in the rock formations.

The Echo Canyon Grotto was a unique series of arches. It was tricky to photograph because of the bright sunshine in a few spaces combined with dark shadows in most of the grotto. I combined a series of photos with different exposures using “high dynamic range.”

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This seemed to be a sleepy rock formation that was resting against a close friend.

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I loved all the shapes of rocks!

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All these rock formations are simply glorious!

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Very unique balanced shapes!

My mind was captivated with so many beautiful and amazing structures.

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I thought this formation looked like a smiling person!

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This formation made me think about organ pipes!

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The rock formations are so unique and such a treasure!

Years ago, I remember camping in a tent with Charlene when Amy was a baby in the campground within the Chiricahua National Monument. I have many wonderful memories of this beautiful place.

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What a beautiful day for a hike to such an awesome national monument!

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It looks like someone simply stacked all these boulders all together!

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Big Bend Ranch State Park!

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I absolutely loved Big Bend Ranch State Park! Here is a photo in front of a “hoodoo.”

Big Bend Ranch State Park is not a national park but is park in the Texas state park system. Before visiting, several people told me they thought the state park was more beautiful. It is also known for having some excellent trails for mountain biking!

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I loved so many beautiful areas of Closed Canyon!

My first day, I went to the visitor center and asked about mountain biking trails. The lady grabbed a map specifically showing the multiuse trail systems. You could hike, ride a horse, or mountain bike on the trails. However, mountain biking was by far the most common.

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Intense beauty!

I had a grin from ear to ear. The last time I had written my mountain bike was in October, when it got too cold to ride in Lubbock. I was out of shape, but I loved moving along the trail system. I followed the suggestion from the visitor center and rode on a combination of single track and dual track trails. The scenery was spectacular! I stopped several times to marvel at the ruggedness and beauty of the landscape. I met people riding bikes that were from Telluride, San Antonio, and Houston.

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A nice scene all along the trail!

I rode 16 miles round trip out to an old mine and then back. It was wonderful. Some sections were easy, but I walked around some large boulder areas. It was refreshing to have no agenda and simply ride to enjoy the area.

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Don’t slip on the smooth rock as you are staring all around you!

After the bike ride, I started driving the road through the park the runs near the Rio Grande river. It was fun to enjoy all the rock formations and solitude of the area. Big Bend Ranch State Park is not as developed as the neighboring national park. That is good and bad. The beauty is more “natural,” but there are few services available. There are no gas stations or food available within the state park.

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Amazing scenes!

My second day, I duplicated the 16 mile round trip bike ride to start the day and then went to some of the more well know sections of the park. The “Big Hill” is an area that has a nice view of the Rio Grande river and the nearby mountains.

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I was so incredibly excited to hike through Closed Canyon!!

For me, my favorite area was “Closed Canyon.” This hike enabled us to walk along a narrow canyon and stare at the rugged mountain walls around us. It was truly awe inspiring.  I took many photographs along the hike. It was a bit tricky with the bright colorful canyon walls combined with relatively dark shady areas along the trail.

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A wonder to behold!

I then drove to the “hoodoos” trail area and went on the hike along the river. There were some fun rock formations!

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Funny rock formations!

My third day, I went on the 16 mile bike ride again. I was more prepared for what to expect on the trails and I did not get as short of breath on the hills. This was my last ride, so I was saying goodbye to the sites. Big Bend Ranch State Park is truly a spectacular place to ride a mountain bike. Now I understand why people travel here for that purpose alone. I loved my time riding their trails!

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This panorama was made by stitching seven photos together to see the view from the overlook of the Hoodoos Trail.

After riding my bike, I started planning what I needed to do to pack up and move down the rode tomorrow to the next stop on my trip. Right now, I have no idea where I will stop tomorrow night. That is part of the fun of RV traveling in retirement.

 

Big Bend National Park!

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This is “The Window” to look through to the next mountain! It is a spectacular hike!

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All along the hikes there is amazing beauty. It changes around every turn in the trail.

I had a fabulous time visiting Big Bend National Park!!  For years and years I have heard people make comments about its beauty and ruggedness. However, it is quite isolated in far southwest area of Texas, way below Interstate 10. When planning my current motorhome trip, I put Big Bend as the first place to visit at the end of February and beginning of March. I knew I wanted to be ahead of spring break visitors and I was aware that it was too hot to visit during the summer. I stayed in the closest RV park to the national park.

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I loved all the colors in the plants!

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Sections reminded me of Arizona.

Big Bend National Park is absolutely enormous! There are gorgeous drives, spectacular hikes, and rugged backcountry. The beauty of the scenery is awe inspiring. Every new part of the park has wonderful sites to behold.

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Gorgeous and rugged!

My first day I drove the “Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive” and went on three small hikes along the way. Some sections reminded me of southern Arizona and other sections reminded me of southern Utah. At the end of the drive is the Santa Elena Canyon with the high canyon walls and the flowing Rio Grande river. It was truly spectacular to see.

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This is the famous view from Santa Elena Canyon! Incredibly beautiful!

The Rio Grande separates the US and Mexico. However, it does not seem to be too deep. I was warned to not wade across more than halfway, because then, by definition, I would be in Mexico and would need my passport to get back into the US. I stayed on the river bank and simply marveled at the beauty.

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This rock formation reminded me of southern Utah!

The second day, I visited Chisos Basin and went on a hike to “The Window.” I think this is the most famous hike in the national park. It is supposed to be four hours round trip. I took my camera and tripod, so it probably took me about five hours. The scenery throughout the hike was incredible. Around every bend was another new rugged mountain to stare at. I was expecting an arch for the “window,” but it was more of a slot in the rock that looked out onto a neighboring mountain. It was wonderful to see and I was glad to make it to the end of the hike. The return leg was uphill, and the sun was intense. Thank goodness for carrying three liters of water and wearing a big hat!

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I was very excited to have made it up the hill to finally see “Balanced Rock!”

In the afternoon, I tackled the second most famous hike. This was first a drive on Grapevine Hills Road and then a hike to Balanced Rock. Most of the hike was not too difficult, but one couple told me they were using their feet and hands to make it up the boulder section to get to Balanced Rock. I loved looking at all the different rock formations along the hike! When I finally made to see Balanced Rock, I had fun photographing it from different angles.

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Balanced Rock is truly impressive!

The third day, I drove all the way to the Rio Grande Village. I went on a hike that provides nice views along the Rio Grande river. I met a couple from Iowa and the guy was skipping rocks across the Rio Grande river. He was excited when a rock made it across and he could say he “skipped a stone all the way to Mexico.” We laughed.

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This view of the Rio Grande river shows the beauty of the area and how easy it is to cross between the US and Mexico. Gorgeous!

While walking along the trail, part of the edge of the trail gave away and I almost fell into the Rio Grande! I fell on one knee and my camera bumped into the river bank and my lens cap popped off and fell into the water. I was laughing and scrambling to try and catch my floating lens cap! I was able to move along the bank and grab it before it floated out into the meandering current. I became much more cautious about the trail after that episode!

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I almost fell into the Rio Grande river preparing to take this photo!

I made sure I had my passport and then I drove to the Port of Entry. The agent told a group of Americans what we could and could not bring back into the US from Mexico. We then walked through the doors and down the path to the Rio Grande river. A guy had a row boat and for $5 cash he rowed across the river. Once in Mexico we had several transportation options to get to the town of Boquillas Del Carmen. You could walk, ride a donkey, ride a horse, or ride in someone’s truck. Each was choice was a bit more expensive. Riding a donkey was the most popular choice, followed by walking. I opted for walking. Boquillas was a very small town that is quite isolated. There were two restaurants and a bar. Many people had displays selling various trinkets along the rode. I felt obligated to buy something to help the local economy, so I bought a t-shirt.

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I fell in love with all the beautiful rock formations!

 

 

Cowboy Poetry Gathering!

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I had so much fun attending the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering!

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This was an unexpected and amazing discovery!

 

Sometimes when traveling you stumble into amazing opportunities! I drove from Lubbock, Texas to Alpine, Texas yesterday. Today, I originally intended to see Alpine and the surrounding area. I started my day be visiting the Big Bend Museum that is located on the campus of Sul Ross State University in Alpine. Honestly, I had never heard of the university. As I started going through the museum, I heard singing and crowds of people listening all around a meeting room. It turns out that the 33rd annual Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering was being held on the university campus and two of the rooms in the Big Bend Museum were hosting presenters. Most of the presenters sang cowboy songs with guitars. It was the most amazing discovery! I absolutely loved it! I have never really heard much cowboy poetry, but this was so much fun! The speakers were from many different states, from Texas, to Arizona, to Montana, to Colorado, to Nebraska, to Canada. It was a wonderful amalgamation of talent. I loved listening to all the sessions! Most sang songs, but a few shared amazing poems. I was so impressed!

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This is High Country Cowboys. They are three talented brothers from Montana. There were my favorite group!

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Amazing musicians!

I spent the entire day listening to different groups. Some were cowboy songs written by individuals and others were classic cowboy songs everyone would recognize. I met two ladies that were retired middle school principals who attend the poetry gathering each year. There were 8 friendly people from Blanco, Texas telling me all about the poetry gathering and their favorite groups. What an amazing culture of music and poetry!! A lady from Albuquerque had won awards for yodeling. Three brothers from Montana had amazing harmony and one was incredible when he yodeled. The audience started clapping in the middle of the song after he yodeled.

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These musicians had incredibly beautiful voices!

Some songs were romantic, others were solemn, and others were about herding cattle. Many people were wearing western outfits. It was such an unexpected discovery to find so many amazingly talented people!

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Sul Ross State University was not large, but quite beautiful. I cannot remember another university that has a sculpture of a western horse. Gorgeous!

The two principles also told me their favorite areas in Big Bend National Park and gave me recommendations for hikes I should take. I look forward to that later this week. I am grateful to have the opportunity to travel and discover so many special and talented people.

Sound of Music movie!

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Elizabeth, Charlene, and I loved seeing the actual gazebo that was used to film the Sound of Music!

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The scene where Maria and the kids fell out of the canoe was filled here! What a beautiful area!

We were delighted to take the train from Munich, Germany to Salzburg, Austria and go on a tour with the Sound of Music movie was filmed.

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This gorgeous site is where the bicycle ride was filmed!

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The Nonnberg Convent on the hill was great to see in person!

It was amazing to remember a movie that had such a big impact on me growing up and see so many locations where it was filmed. Truly amazing! The famous gazebo was a key setting in the movie! The Nonnberg Convent on the hill was great to see from a distance. The mansion next to the water scene where everyone fell into the lake was beautiful! I also loved seeing the road with the trees where Maria’s bicycle ride was filmed. The Mondsee Basilica was where the wedding scene was filmed. However, I think the Mirabell Gardens and the Pegasus Fountain was my favorite. This was where the dance scene with Maria and the children singing the “Do Re Mi.”

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The wedding scene was filmed in this church.

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Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site

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This is the main gate for the Dachau Concentration Camp. The interrogations occurred inside this building.

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Prisoners were kept inside the fence.

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These beds were rebuilt for the memorial site, but obviously it was very cramped and crowded for the prisoners.

A very sobering day trip was to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. I was impressed that it was accurate and honest stating what happened there. At the same time, it was very respectful to the people that died there. As we walked through the exhibits I saw groups of high school students meeting to discuss what happened in order for it to never happen again. It was sobering to see the fence around the concentration camp, the building where people were questioned, the tight quarters where people were housed, the gas chamber, and the crematorium. The memorial site was sobering, but respectful. I am glad I visited it to more clearly understand what occurred there.

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It was sobering and shocking for me to stand inside the gas chamber! It was sad that people died right in this room.

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The crematorium site was quite sobering to view.

 

German Castles!

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The Neuschwanstein Castle is gorgeous!

The Neuschwanstein Castle is very impressive! It famously inspired Walt Disney when he planned Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty castle.

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Linderhof Castle was beautiful inside and outside!

We also really enjoyed visiting Linderhof Castle. This is where King Ludwig II of Bavaria lived and the only castle that he lived long enough to see completed. It was spectacular inside and out!

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The king slept here each night!