This past weekend, we decided to venture out for yet another day trip. This time we headed in the opposite direction than we normally do and turned our sights south on the Rio Grande Valley. The valley has a number of state parks in it, from Laredo all the way down to Brownsville. We decided to venture to two parks that are within close proximity to each other - Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park in Mission and Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco. Both parks are part of the World Birding Center, which is made up of nine different sites in the valley that offer superb birding opportunities.
Our first stop was Bentsen RGV State park, and after a three hour trek from Corpus Christi, we finally arrived. I was immediately confused as shit. Where the hell is the entrance to the park? How the fuck do I get in? It took me about two loops around to realize that you cannot drive in the park. Odd, I thought, but okay. We parked in the parking lot and walked into the visitor's center. There were cottontail rabbits everywhere and Lily pointed gleefully. We got squared away with our wristbands, borrowed some binoculars, and began to explore.
Since there is no driving in the park, they offer a tram service that can transport visitors to various stops around the interior. We had some time to kill before the next tram left headquarters, so we explored the garden area around the buildings and had a snack. I munched on cashews, Lily on animal crackers, and we shared some slices of fresh cucumber.
I swear she likes cucumber more than her face would suggest.
Once the tram left, we enjoyed a leisurely, scenic drive. The park sits on the Rio Grande flood plain & we learned about the extensive flooding that the park experience back in 2010. The Rio Grande river marks part of the park's boundary, as well as the boundary for the country, so needless to say, Mexico is only a hop, skip, and a jump away. It is so close, in fact, that my phone thought I was indeed in Mexico. No, phone. I am in the U.S. Please do not charge me international rates, you asshole.
We hopped off the tram at the Hawk Tower stop. The park gets massive amounts of hawks that migrate through and we were hoping to catch a glimpse, but alas, no hawks were in sight when we were up there. We still enjoyed the scenic view and the refreshing breeze, though.
Unfortunately, after a few minutes of gazing out, the drizzling started. The next tram wouldn't be back around to pick us up for another hour or so and the walk back to headquarters was over a mile, so we decided to get a move on in an effort to avoid getting really rained on. Luckily, the rain did hold out on us and we made it without incident.
The nice thing about not being able to drive in the park is that I could let Lily romp around in the streets without any worry regarding traffic. We meandered along, taking our time to enjoy the blooms of the Retama bushes, pointing out flitting birds and butterflies, and waving hello to the passing Border Patrol agents.
We finally made it back to headquarters and decided to head over to our next destination, Estero Llano Grande State Park.
As I stated before, Estero Llano Grande State Park is in Weslaco. Just wanted to be sure you're paying attention. There's going to be a test afterwards. The park was only about a half hour's drive away from Bentsen. Once you exit the highway, if you happen to miss the entrance to the park on your left & unknowingly continue down the road, you may very well end up in Progreso, Mexico. I have no desire to end up in Mexico so I was on the alert for our turn off.
Just like Bentsen, there is no driving allowed in Estero, either. We parked in the lot and had a quick lunch at a picnic table before making our way into the park. Tuna fish and avocado. It was delicious and we gobbled it up. Lily sure does like avocado.
Once we were properly refueled, we wandered down a densely vegetated path that eventually opened up to a very nice viewing deck that overlooked a beautiful wetland area. At this point in our adventure, my phone was dead so I didn't get any pictures, but here is a photo stolen off the web so you can see what I am talking about.
We went inside headquarters to say hi and met Park Superintendent, Javier. He was nice enough to show us around the park a bit and we hunted for Chachalacas, to no avail. We heard the bastards, but they were elusive that day. Oh well, next time. We saw hummingbirds, more cottontails, ducks, and a very cool Altamira Oriole's nest, which looked like a hobo sack hanging from the power lines. Javier pointed out many interesting things and even offered Lily a stick to carry around, which she promptly threw back on the ground. I told him she was just trying to leave no trace.
We cut our time at the park shorter than we would have liked, but it was approaching 4PM and we had another three-ish hour stretch of driving ahead of us. We bid farewell to the friendly staff and headed back home.
Now, to end this post, someone please help me find a home for this pooch.
We found her at Goose Island State Park last Saturday when we did a star party and I, being the bleeding heart dumbass that I am, took her home and now I am trying to find a permanent home for her. She is terrific, she really is. I just have my hands full enough already!