Posts Tagged With: Visitors Center

CAMERON PARK VISITORS CENTER-LAKE ARTHUR

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We spent the night in the parking lot of the Cameron Park Wildlife Visitors Center.  Employees coming to work  knocked on the door and told us there was no camping in their parking lot. Jim explained about taking refuge from the storm and told them we would be visiting the center before we hit the road.  There is a boardwalk to an observation platform.DSC03074 (Copy)

There are no trails to walk here, just one huge wetland very busy with birds and ducks.  The center has  two films,  artifacts and information about wildlife in the area.

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We were amazed to see about 40 roseate spoonbills huddling in a copse of trees at some distance from our lens.  Their feathers are all fluffed up in an effort to keep warm. It was still windy and cold in the morning.

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Like the egrets they are such majestic birds and obviously hungry.

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It was fun watching them eat.

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One bird would fly back to the group and another would come out to eat. I tried to get a decent shot of them flying but by the time they lift off and you try to find them in your viewer, they are too far away.

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Birds high in the sky made a pretty sight. I thought they were geese, but on closer inspection they have medium long curved bills and I don’t know what they are. If you left click on the photos they enlarge. Do it twice, and they get bigger still.

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I caught this fellow just swallowing his food.

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Each time I’d turn back and try to isolate a bird from the mob huddled in the trees, the clarity suffers from the distance. Fascinating anyway.

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Then as we were driving away, I could see a path behind the copse of trees near the road. Jim turned around for me and I walked behind the birds and got a couple of crisp shots. They were edgy and most of them flushed somewhere out toward the wetlands.

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The thick brush made photos difficult, but they are so beautiful, it  was  worth the effort.

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We stopped for groceries  in Lake Arthur and got permission to park at the American Legion Post 405. A very friendly group. In fact, when I came out of the grocery store, a gentleman coming into the store offered to help me with my groceries. A very friendly town. No one locks their doors. Very little crime. God’s country.

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They wouldn’t let us buy a drink in the place. This is Norman, Joe and Sally. Sally looks much like Loretta Lynn. She loves her music.

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Everyone I asked was born and raised right here in Lake Arthur. Norman loves to dance and he informed Jim that everyone there is staunch Catholic and we were living in sin, at which time the whole bar erupted into laughter. We could hardly get away. They’ve asked us to stay for their jambalaya feed on Thursday afternoon. We have another storm warning for Thursday, with a tornado watch, so we have no plans to drive anywhere on Thursday.

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THE THREE GORGES DAM

Aboard our ship, we eat sumptuous meals and last night, we danced the macarena. Our guide is obviously a political person. She tells us that the employees aboard the ship work horribly long hours. They get up before dawn and begin breakfast, cleaning and all those things that make our trip a smooth, seamless adventure. It is the army of workers that, after their toil, stay up late to entertain us. The costumes, the music, the dance.  It is a sobering experience and for our group, not unwelcome information. Today, we offload from the ship and are delivered to a landing where we take a motorized sampan ride up one of the canyons.

Many fishing families live on their sampans, most are motorized like this one. At one time they were hand paddled or poled along the river. The boatman demonstrated the woven rush garment the old-timers once wore when it rains. Now they have plastic tarps and jackets. Several members of our group were invited to try out the rain coat and pole the sampan.

We happen upon just such a family as we continue up the gorge.  Like the subsistence farmers, these people live hand to mouth. They have no medical care. We see a few monkeys and birds in this gorge and our guide tells us the locals kill and eat them.  In fact, it is eerie to realize that you hardly ever see a bird except domesticated ducks. You see no insects or animal life of any kind in the “wild”.  The monkeys are the rare survivors in this steep canyon where they cannot be hunted to extinction-yet!

This entrepreneurial fellow has positioned himself in this cliff house to take pictures of the tourists in sampans. Then he scurries ahead to the ship and has the pictures posted for sale before we leave the following morning.  Our guide says he also catches sturgeon and delivers it to the back-end of smaller tourist boats that serve meals. Fishermen below the dam love it. Sturgeon get three feet long. There are no fish ladders and they cannot get past the dam. Their environmental problems are still ahead of them.

From the sampan we see a wall of inaccessible caves.

Those that are within reach are not lived in as much as simply used for night-time shelter.

The next morning, we stop at a newly built city with modern apartment buildings where many farm families have been relocated. Farmers have few city skills but many of their wives work as maids. This is part of  Hubei (hoo-bay) Province. We stopped at a brand new beautiful tourist center only to find the worst awful pit toilets on the trip so far. It kind of boggles the mind, this newly built center, in a newly built town has pit toilets? At the tourist center we saw a fight between two bus drivers from two different tours. We wondered if the Mau Zedong government had somehow erased every human emotion, but this proved it had not.

At the dam, this lock was in working condition and the engineers were testing operations by putting these empty boats through the lock.

This is the kind of traffic they will be getting through the locks. Notice the workers “hotel” at the back end of the barge.

They built a wonderful overlook to see the dam being built.You get the idea of the immensity of the project even through the morning haze.

This is a view of the unfinished “front” of the dam. Our guide told us the power generated here  will only supply 5% of China’s electrical needs. Seems kind of a shame to have displaced 1.24 million people, over one thousand villages, and I’ve forgotten how many cities for 5% of their power.

The visitor’s center did a good job of explaining the dam, its building process and design. They had a mock-up of the dam in a reflecting pool of water and it was all very interesting.  And this sculpture on the side of the overlook?  I was disappointed that it didn’t have one dragon sculpted in the stone.  In fact, the dam has been a very controversial project. You can read more about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Gorges_Dam

There were many sites on the internet covering the controversial issues of this dam if you wish more detail.

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LBJ RANCH AND HOME TOUR

We spent the night in Luckenbach buffeted by heavy winds and rain. Lightening flashed, the thunder exploded around us til’ we wondered if we would be a burned cinder sitting in the middle of a lake in the morning.
Headed for Austin, we pass through the hill country where L.B.J was born, raised and buried on the homestead his grandfather settled in the 1800’s . The LBJ ranch is now the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park which sits across the Pedernales River from his grandfather’s homestead and the Johnson family home where Ladybird and Lyndon lived and raised their two girls.

This is one of the bridges we tourists cross over. It was just at flood stage and bitterly cold when we arrived at the Visitors Center which had been struck by lightening and had no usable restrooms when we arrived.

But this is the way the Johnson family crossed the river from the ranch to their house, on the underwater road above. Johnson loved taking newsmen and visitors for a ride without warning them they’d be traveling underwater for a short distance.
The woman in his Lincoln appears to be holding on for dear life.
Johnson and Lady Bird in their 1934 Ford Phaeton. The road was actually pretty dry at certain times of year. He also owned a German made Amphicar that you could drive into the water. It had little propellers on it. It is on display along with other Johnson owned cars.

This homely old rocker along with several others for guests, sits on the porch of the Johnson home. Its a modest house, lovingly used and faithfully kept as the Johnson’s lived in it. No pictures were allowed inside, but the house exudes warmth, and family, with a lot of snapshots of the kids and grandkids in a big montage, just like you or I might have on our kitchen wall.
The visitor centers shows a film of Johnson giving a tour and history of his beloved ranch for a CBS Documentary. The cane in the case below was made of matchsticks by an inmate in a Tennessee prison. But, the best display had me howling with laughter as I read letters written to the President. Abbreviated samples:

Dear President Johnson-
My husband’s roofing busines has gone to pot, the car blew up, the baby’s teething, the sitter didn’t show, I’ve got no money for a writing course. I’m sorry to ditch you, but maybe the Republicans might be better when all you do is worry about Fulbright and that measly war…

…Now I ask you Mr. President couldn’t you be more considerate? Were all those fireworks for King Faisal necessary when I have 293 kids on a field trip staying at a hotel. How would you like it if 293 kids woke you up?…

Letter writers complained about him interrupting their favorite shows, his misuse of English, his airplane holding up air traffic. But the worst was a beleaugered man who was held up in road traffic because Lady Bird was planting a tree. What a fun visit.

Also on the LBJ homestead is the Western Whitehouse and another old homestead that is being maintained by the park service as a working homestead with docents in period costumes.

Smoking sausage and feeding the kitchen range.

The tour costs a dollar, by the way.
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