Sunday, March 3, 2013

Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge

The picture above perhaps gives you an idea of what we have to look forward to when we comment to each other: "let's go for a hike".  The above is the winter landscape of the Rio Grande Valley, and this park especially has plenty of prickly pear cactus, which you see in the foreground of the above picture.  And there is not much of a chance of seeing any wildlife if you head out in the afternoon, which we are wont to do.  My brother Wayne and I have told John that for out next hike he will have to haul himself out of bed early in the day!  Surprisingly, we did see a fair number of wildlife Friday afternoon.  We saw our first road runner since we have come to the Valley, also a caracara (that bird is like a vulture, he feeds on carion and small animals).  A distance ahead of us on the trail four javelina walked across our path and, coming back on the trail, an armadillo scurried away from us into the underbrush.  All of them moving to fast for me to get a picture.  There are three hypersaline lakes in this refuge, which are currently quite dry.  This use to be a stopover for migratory birds.
That is Wayne and John setting out to explore the lake called La Sal del Ray, or "the salt of the king".  By royal degree all minerals found in the New World were considered the property of the King of Spain.  Salt was the first export of the Valley, it was hauled out by ox carts.  Over the years the salt has been used for brine shrimp harvesting, for therapeutic mineral baths as well as drilling fluids and lubricants for oil field operations.  Not sure at the present time if the salt is being harvested because of the lake being so dry.  However, we soon discovered that the lake is not entirely dried up, as we walked on its surface we starting sinking into mud.  In the picture below is a puddle of mud and salt.
Not very exciting, right?  But I must say there really is not much picturesque in this barren wasteland.  We did find a scattering of large animal bones, I will spare my readers that!  Seriously, there were numerous deer tracts on our hike in the refuge, it sure puzzled us as to the location of their fresh water source!

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