Saturday, February 5, 2005

We're at a state highway picnic area (map) and it's snowing on us!

We parked here because the campground at the nearby Guadalupe Mountains National Park turns out to be, essentially, an asphalt parking lot. This picnic area is about a mile away, and it has a better view, we can be by ourselves, and we're saving the $8 (whoo-hoo) that the Park Service wanted to charge us for a lesser caliber facility (really). I suppose if we needed the rest rooms that the Park Service provides, that would tip the scale in their favor, but we don't.

In any case, when we parked here around 5:00 Mountain Time (the time zone boundary is just south of here), it was raining, so we put our awnings out a foot or two just to keep the rain off the windows (we still have a couple leaks that are being worked out). It continued to rain throughout the afternoon and evening. What we did not notice, while we were fixing and eating our dinner, was that the rain had turned to snow at some point. As we were finishing dinner, we noticed the snow in the headlamps of a passing car. When we looked, nearly an inch had fallen -- on our awnings! Of course, there's no way the awnings would retract like this -- we spent the next half hour on the (very slippery) roof, in the dark, in the snow, brushing the snow off the awnings. Quite a chore, but we finally got them retracted.

While we were up there, two DOT plows passed in each direction on the road. We're hoping this does not stick, but if it does, we'll be snowbound here in the morning. The plows, of course, are just piling the snow up across the entrances to the picnic area, further blocking us in. I may have to break out the shovel in the morning.

We had a nice drive today along the scenic loop from Fort Davis west to McDonald Observatory, where we stopped for lunch. Today they were running several visitor programs, including an evening star party, but with the weather uncooperative it did not make sense to stay for any of them (including the tour to the 'scopes, which would have kept us there till 4:30). Our ASTC membership through the Tech Museum in San Jose gained us admission to the exhibits, so we browsed through those before leaving. For you NPR fans out there, the McDonald produces the daily audio snippet "Star Date" and we had lunch at the "Star Date Cafe."

After returning via TX166 and a short connecting road to US90, we elected to proceed north on TX54 to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, rather than hop on I-10 to El Paso. 54 is marked as scenic through this stretch, and what we could see of it suggested it was, but the fog and overcast was so low we could barely see the mountains on either side of us.

With any luck, tomorrow we will get a chance to actually see the Guadalupe Mountains before again heading west into El Paso. Unless we get a wild itch to see Carlsbad Caverns, which are some 60 miles north of us.

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