Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Training Day 2: Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park

Hello, everyone.

Today we drove over to Bentsen Park for our walk. It was about 9 when we started walking--paused to buy an annual Family Pass on the way in. (These look like they're pretty handy. They're good for free admission at all of the Texas state parks.)

The park is in Mission--that is, it's at the edge by the Rio Grande River. There is a very nice restroom at the entrance, and a cute shop with various souvenirs and helpful ladies who will gladly sell you your wrist band. (By the day, it's $5 per person. Less for persons over 65.)

They appear to be one of the parks that's seriously interested in community use (a couple of camping sites and some picnic table areas) and handicapped access. Even the dirt trails were smooth, and often had some color or other of fine gravel on the top of the dirt or caliche underneath. Always spangled with long lines of Ant Lion pits! (These are small crustacean type predators of ants that dig a slidey sloped pit, like the monster in the second Star Wars movie only much, much smaller, and when the ant steps on the top edge the dirt granules slide under it and it slides down into the mouth of the ant lion.) There are a number of observation benches placed strategically near bird feeders or trees that are known to attract hordes of butterflies. There is also a blind overlooking one of the bird feeding stations. There were a number of useful signs to help the visitor locate things and a pair of historical-marker plaques near the entrance.

There is a hawk observation tower--with an extended, gently sloped ramp to the top. A person with a walker, if they could face the distance, could easily get up to view the hawks. An energetic mother could push a stroller up it, for that matter.

We saw various birds at the feeders. (The most popular feeders appeared to be the logs drilled with cups and filled full of peanut butter. Flat seed trays came in second, at least today.)

A woodpecker getting some peanut butter. The vegetation
was this dry everywhere at the park.

A cardinal dashed over for some goodies, but stopped
to look at the people.

This javelina, a native Texas wild pig, was cleaning up the
fallen bird seed around a platform feeder. He seemed to be favoring one
of his back legs.
During our walk, besides the pictured birds, we saw red-winged blackbirds, doves, a squirrel eating the sunflower seeds, a largish orange toned oriole of some kind, a hawk, chachalacas, a number of "snowbirds" on bicycles, and a flock of Segways. (There is a Segway touring company in the Valley and they'd brought a group to, um, ride? what do you call that? on the trail at Bentsen. The people looked like they were having fun zooming down the trail at about the speed of a fast walk in their tour group.

After getting back to the house, and tossing back a couple glasses of iced tomato juice, we tallied up our distance from the helpful trail map we had picked up. Our distance today worked out to 5.5 miles. (Just under 9 km for my metric readers.) We had probably started walking in 70F, and by the time we finished a couple of hours later is was about 81F, and the sun was trying to break through the clouds.