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Traveling Morgans 2010 Destinations and Travel Highlights

Early Spring in South Texas

When discussing South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley, many people will disagree with our opinion. Keep in mind The Traveling Morgans includes our dogs, and we like places we can all go. The Rio Grande Valley features many large RV parks used as winter homes by folks who like organized group activities, including group bike rides and shopping trips in Mexico. This is wonderful if it is your preference.

We found only 3 places we liked. Perhaps you will find others.

Boca Chica Beach is at the very tip of Texas, further south than South Padre Island, and extends to the mouth of the Rio Grande (left). This is a relatively unspoiled beach and dogs are not prohibited. It is a great place to spend a few healing hours. There are absolutely no facilities except a few trash cans and no fresh water.

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is on the lagoon opposite South Padre Island (left) is dog friendly and features great opportunities to bird watch. There are miles of trails and a one-way loop road.

Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco TX (left) offers more moderate (but still fine) bird watching , and is also dog friendly. Watch out for large ant colonies and termite mounds. We chose not to go near the alligator pond with our small dogs.

We did not go to the world renowned birding center at Bentsen Palms State Park due to the way access is now limited to tram trips, and the trams do not allow dogs.

Our Route North

Click on map to see a larger version.
Map reference numbers should be easier to read.


Our trip north from Donna TX (  on map) to the Black Hills of South Dakota (  ) began March 31.

We stopped in San Marcos TX (  ) for a little over a week to take care of medical issues and vet issues for our dogs, as well as visit friends. We were at Blind Salamander RV Park on the banks of the San Marcos River (left). We found a new restaurant to recommend, the Cafe on the Square. Good home cooked food at reasonable prices. No RV parking.

April 10 we left San Marcos and had a beautiful drive through the Hill Country. The roadsides were carpeted with miles of wild flowers. We stpped at a Walmart at Abilene.

The next day we went into the Texas Panhandle, passing at least 50 miles of windmills.

With a stop at Canyon, we unhitched and headed for Palo Duro Canyon (  ) to see what we have heard is a natural wonder. We saw it April 13. It exceeded expectations as the pictures to the left will show

Our trip north through the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles convinced us not to take rough US 287 through that area again.

Lamar CO had a nice Walmart for an overnight stop.

Cabelas campground and store in Sidney NE was a double overnight stop.

We then went north to the Black Hills, passing through Wind Cave National Park (more on Wind Cave NP this summer) on our way to Custer SD(  ). We worked the summer at Beaver Lake Campground .

Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota - Move cursor over picture to identify.

Custer State Park. Needles Tunnel Custer State Park. Needles Eye Custer State Park. Cathedral Spires Custer State Park. Begging Burro with head in car Custer State Park. Bison Calves Custer State Park. Wild Turkey Elk near back roads of Wind Cave National Park

Movies from the Black Hills

Night Blast at Crazy Horse (go to full screen). Bison in Custer State Park. More can be seen at the Black Hills web page.

Summer

The glory of a summer in the Black Hills of South Dakota cannot be over stated. The weather can be cold in May with snow, and there are Thunderstorms with very little warning, but generally it is a pleasant, cool summer with few mosquitoes and other flying insects. The towns of Custer and Hill City are over a mile high and either makes a good base of operations.

Badlands National Park (lower left) is best done on a cool day and within an hours drive. Devil's Tower is within two hours.
Wind Cave NP is delightful above and below ground.
You can use Mamouth Site in Hot Springs as a rainy day activity.
Fabulous Custer State Park (pictures above) has geological formations and wildlife and is one of the largest state parks in the country. Take a day to do the Wildlife Loop and some of the gravel roads that cross it.
Start at Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park, take the Needles Highway, and Iron Mtn Road and you will have a fabulous days trip. To do the whole Norbeck Scenic Loop add stops at the following:
Everyone knows about Mt Rushmore, but the Crazy Horse Memorial is already larger and it will take another generation or more to see it completed. There are NIGHT BLASTS twice a year, typically Sept 6 (the anniversary of Crazy Horse's death and sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski's birth), and June 26 (Ruth Ziolkowski's birthday). See one if at all possible. See the link above to a VIDEO of an AWE INSPIRING night blast.

Do not rush The Black Hills. Take your time and see them right.

To make the Black Hills even more ejoyable, share it with family. Our daughters came to visit for a wonderful week.

Fall and Heading South

The season ended well after Labor Day. Our winter destination was Rockport TX. Initial plans to stop at Rocky Mountain National Park or Carlsbad Caverns did not work for various reasons. We will visit both of those another time. This year, instead we visited friends who were in Lawton OK. Parking in their yard was high adventure. We saw some very interesting things at the nearby military base, including Geronimo's grave. Pictures are at upper right.

Early Winter in the Texas Coastal Bend

Pictures are at lower right. Movies are below here.

The Texas Gulf Coast has some bad points. Not many, but some. The month of January can be contentious and spring often comes early in February, perhaps with hoards of mosquitoes. Like all ocean front stays there can be salt damage.

Now for the good news. The Texas Gulf Coast welcomes "Winter Texans" with open arms. There are special sales, special events and some good inexpensive restaurants, especially Tex-Mex. There are some RV parks with reasonable seasonal rates. The wildlife, especially the shore loving birds and dolphins, can be outstanding. For salt water sport fishermen and duck hunters, the area is considered outstanding.

For those who simply like to watch dolphins and enjoy birds, it is even better. The largest birds in North America, the rare and endangered Whooping Cranes, make their winter homes in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge a few miles north of Rockport. Two boats offer the best chance to see these large and rare birds: the Skimmer out of Fulton, and the Wharf Cat out of Rockport and Port Aransas. For those who like beaches, there are many. The best may be Padre Island National Seashore. Not only are there outstanding beaches and the chance to move miles from the road, but great wildlife as well. Sea Turtles nest here and are protected.

Movies from the Texas Coastal Bend

Dolphins in boat trip, Dolphins in bay at Aransas Pass, For fans of Roscoe and Harpo (our dogs)here are some movies of them having fun at Padre Island National Seashore.

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