Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

Many of you know I spend part of the year in Austin to be near Bernie and Pai.  Well, stay with me here,  Bernie has a friend Willow who's Mom, Paula, also from California, comes to Austin to spend extended time with her two grandsons. How cool is that?  We hit it off and have been doing some fun outings together.

Recently,  just before the wildflowers really burst here in the Hill Country, Paula and I spend a morning exploring the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Continuing with the Mother and Daughter theme, a mom and baby turtle greeted us in the lily pond.

Several Spider Lilies were growing in the same pond.  I've never seen one of these in the wild.  Probably because I'm not going into the swampy areas where they grow!

The main entry was covered in a blanket of (what I think is) Trumpet Vine.

The springs in Texas are AMAZING.  A lovely example has been created in the center of the courtyard.

An army of happy volunteers keep the Wildflower Center humming.  The employees are clearly loving their jobs too.  Who wouldn't, working here AND driving a flower power truck!

Each day a couple blossoms are displayed of each of the currently blooming wildflowers.  It's a big help in identifing new flowers!

OK, it's true, I probably won't be riding a horse in the desert anytime soon,  Still, I was glad to learn about this scary cactus.

Bluebonnets are among the early bloomers in the Hill Country.  They are abit ahead of the native grasses and that results in the gorgeous fields of bright blue.

Every year I intend to visit the Wildflower Center more often.  Maybe I'll go out next week to see who the late bloomers are in this part of the country.

Monday, April 2, 2012

White Sands National Monument

After we got registered for the Bataan March, Bernie and I took a quick side trip 30 miles east to visit White Sands National Monument.  The white sand dunes are amazing and definitely worth a trip, but I had an ulterior motive for this visit......purchase of my National Park Service Senior Pass!  Ten dollars for free access to all the national parks (and many other mutual sites), not to mention reduced camping rates, FOREVER!  How cool is that?!?

White Sands is 275 square miles of white gypsum sand dunes.  Most of the monument is not open to the public.  A good portion of the dunes are part of the White Sands Missile Range.  When missiles are tested, parts of the Monument are closed to public access.  The size of these  dunes is mind boggling.....100 miles by 40 miles!

We drove only a short way down the 8 miles to the end of the road and stopped only once to do a one mile nature trail. If you are interested in spectacular photography of this area,  do a goggle search.  It's truly one of the most amazing places in the south west.  In the meantime,  here are a few shots from our visit.

The beginning of the trail.....

Few trees are able to withstand this harsh environment.  Some appeared to be dead; while others had tiny leaf buds.

Many of the visitors were, like us, taking a detour from registration at the Base.  All were happy to exchange photo opportunities.

Back to the car with shoes full of sand that ended up in my bag and, of course, back to my condo in Austin.

There is no camping at the Monument,  but about 25 miles east is The Oliver Lee State Park with developed camping.  Next time I will plan a longer visit and explore all the way to the end of the road!