Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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Wildlife Rocksprings, TX, Saturday, 22 September 2012 10:00pm

I managed to see some of the local wildlife in Big Bend: deer, rabbits, and a roadrunner. And I heard a couple other identifiable critters: coyotes and javelinas. No mountain lions, though. There were a lot more deer outside of the park, and even more turkey vultures eating them.

Big Bend National Park is big. From my campground to the park exit was 50 miles, and from there to the nearest town (Marathon) was another 40. I had brunch at a nice little bakery in Marathon: biscuits and sausage gravy, with a hot peach pie for dessert. These are the sort of "pies" that gave rise to the fast food pies you might get at a burger joint: dough folded over and sealed around a filling. Quite tasty.

The ride out of Marathon was flat and dull for a while, and then it started to get more interesting near Del Rio. I passed through a border patrol checkpoint on my way north. This time they walked a dog around my bike while they made smalltalk about my tires. One guard mentioned that he'd just put a Pilot Road on his bike, so I warned him to watch for uneven wear. The guard on the way out of Marfa just asked if I was a citizen and waved me on my way. I think this will be the last I'll see of the border patrol, but maybe not. They've been ubiquitous for the past few days in their marked pickups. I also saw a tethered blimp that I assume was border-related. I didn't notice any border wall, though.

My plan for tomorrow is to ride a set of roads they call "The Three Sisters" and then head in to Austin, so I found a little hotel at one of the ends of one of the roads, in Rocksprings. It's a charming old place that's been nicely restored. My room turns out to be a suite with a sitting room with two armchairs and a writing desk. It's amazingly cheap.

I was wandering around the town square, looking for food, when someone came out of one of the shops and asked if I was looking for the bat tour. I realized that I was wearing my new Carlsbad Cavern Bats shirt. I told her I hadn't been looking for a tour, but sure I might go on one. It turns out that the biggest room in Texas is nearby (underground), at a place called Devil's Sinkhole, and that the room is filled with bats.

As the sun was setting, they started swirling out of the sinkhole, like at Carlsbad, but much denser, and much closer to the observing platform. They were zooming past us on both sides, and one actually ran into one of the other people on the tour. They estimate about 4 million bats are in the sinkhole right now (it's a migratory population, so the numbers vary), compared to roughly 200,000 at Carlsbad. The guide mentioned that Carlsbad supposedly had 30 million bats before they installed the elevator, but that the bats seem to dislike the elevator, and have been avoiding that cave. Joining us in our bat-watching was a pair of Great Horned Owls, who were treating the stream of bats like a buffet.