Monday, May 26, 2014

Hiking in Mission, Texas

Roger here...  If you have followed our posts, you know that hiking is probably our favorite outdoor activity.  When we travel, we seek out interesting day hikes that take us to vistas that we have never before seen.  State and national parks are among our favorite jaunts, but we also go on three- to five-mile hikes several times every week during our stays in South Texas.

We brought the camera along today so that you could join us on one of our frequent routes.  So get off the couch and put on your hiking shoes!

We are starting in our back yard at Retama Village in Mission, Texas.  Tequila is resting up for the trek. Don't pay attention to  Bandido.  He is just letting us know that his patience is running thin and that it is time to go.  Do you have your shoes on yet?

We are heading for the back construction gate passing our new (under construction) casita in the background.  Lots of construction activity today :-).

At the back gate we hook up with a City of Mission hike/bike trail.  The trail is four miles in length (one way), but we will only be on it for a short time.

A quick look back from the trail gives you a view of our neighborhood (Retama Village) beyond the undeveloped grassy area.

We will need to turn right at Schuerbach Road. We are exiting the trail and heading south toward the Rio Grande River levee.  There is not much traffic on this road, so it is a good place to walk or ride a bike.

An endless field of sunflowers dominate the views to the east.

There is literally nothing other than sunflowers in this field.

The western view is dominated by a heavily wooded national wildlife refuge.  

The green trees in south Texas are often very different than those from our native Indiana.

We are now strolling past the National Butterfly Center.  The diversity of butterflies in this area is staggering.  This is an interesting facility that now offers segway tours of the acres of fields filled with butterflies.  Be sure to keep your mouth closed unless you want to see how butterflies taste.

Tired yet?  Lots of interesting things to see ahead.  Let's go under that barricade and climb to the top of the levee that protects our property from the Rio Grande River from infrequent flooding.  Hurricanes do make their way down here, but we have not experienced one yet.  Since we are about sixty miles from the Gulf, flooding is more of a concern than the strong (but waning) winds.

You want to know about the barricade?  You may already have guessed.  It is a deterrent to the use of cars by the illegal folks that travel across the river.  More about that later.

The view changes from the top of the levee.  No, you can't see the Rio Grande River  here but it is only a quarter of a mile away across the meadow and trees.

 The surface of the levee is hard-packed gravel/dirt.  It is quite smooth and great for walking.  (Actually, you could have worn your sandals.)  It is also drivable even for low clearance cars like our Toyota.

Did you notice that we crossed a small bridge as we climbed onto the levee?  The canal on the right will stay with us for all of our walk along the levee.  The canal is one of a series of waterways that provide water to the Rio Grande Valley.  We could have walked along the dirt road on the other side, but the views are better up here.

Don't be concerned about the Border Patrol agent who is heading toward the river. We are GLAD they are here.  We usually see two to three trucks on the levee when we hike up here.  The agents are always friendly and occasionally stop to talk.  Be sure to wave as they go by.  They usually wave first.

Thirsty?  Hope you brought some water.  We always bring water for the dogs on hot days.  You can have some, too.

On any hike Tequila is diligent in her quest for lizards.  She frequently finds them along this stretch resulting in several jolting stops for Dianne.  You are welcome to take the leash, if you like.

Ok... Our second Border Patrol sighting.  This time the agent is on an ATV.  This is probably a good time to let you know that you do not need to be concerned about your safety on this hike.  Illegals definitely travel through this area, but the ones we see are not dangerous.  Most of them are from Central America and have traveled through Mexico seeking a better life for their families.  The drug traffickers would only be interested in us if we were involved in the drug trade.  We are obviously not part of that sad reality.  The border patrol does a great job keeping us safe.  Bandido and Tequila are also deterrents.  So, let's continue our hike.

We have now passed the wildlife refuge so the view to the north now lets us see the farmer's field behind our home.  There are often Brahman cattle in those lots.  Our casita, motor home and the starting point of our hike are located behind the first tree line.  If you look closely, you can see a motor home in the upper left corner of the photo.  You can also see a couple of homes behind the trees.

We are still walking along the top of the levee next to the canal.  Bicyclists (myself
included) frequently travel on the quiet stretch of Old Military Road on the other side of the canal.  Maybe we can go on a bike ride later?

The canal and dirt path are especially scenic here.  

As we turn a corner (still on the levee) the manicured lots of Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort come into view.

The park is full during the winter months, .....

... but as you can see, this is the off season.

Our neighborhood of privately owned RV lots and homes where we started the hike (Retama Village) is right next door. We share some facilities with Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort, including the dog park, the wood shop, and the organic garden plots.

Those casitas at Bentsen Palm Village look pretty nice don't they?  They are the luxury answer to "camping cabins."  My brother and sister-in-law stayed in one during a recent visit.  Extremely nice.

Take a right at Bentsen Palm Drive  (north) and walk down from the levee.  That is the visitors' center of Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park.  This facility is also the headquarters of the World Birding Center (for good reason).  The variety and number of easily-seen birds here defies description.  They are often outrageously colored like the Green Jays (green, blue, yellow), tanagers (red, black) and the orioles (orange, black).  There are also noisy, interesting chicken-like chachalacas.  Roadrunners, hawks, and several varieties of doves are also prevalent.  We will have to visit on another day.

Dianne always stops at the visitors' center at this stage of the hike.  There are lots of interesting displays in the World Birding Center.


Dianne is not going there.  She is making her obligatory stop at the facilities.   You will just have to wait with me and the dogs until she comes back --- unless you have to go, too.

It is a good thing that you did not go with Dianne!  You would have missed the three Border Patrol agents on ATVs zooming toward the levee.  Wasn't it nice that they waved to us?  Looks like they are having a busy day.

The hike/bike path where we started our trek begins at the state park.  Let's take it.  We still have a little way to go, but there is some cool stuff up ahead.

That looks like a corn field across the street.  A corn field with palm trees?  

As an Indiana boy, I think the rows look a little too close together to be corn. What do you think?

Let's go across the street and see.

Definitely not corn.  It is sorghum.  Sorghum is a big crop down here.  It is used to make syrup and silage.  

Moving on.... the landscaping along the hike/bike trail is getting a little lush.  What do you think this is?

It is the entrance to the RV Resort that we spied on from the levee.

As you can see, it is not too shabby.  The Best RV Resort in America award was granted just last year.  Impressive.  

If you want to stay here during the peak months of November, December, January, February, March... reservations are a good idea.  It is definitely worth the pre-planning.  It was our visit here four years ago that led to the purchase of our lot at Retama Village.

Look.  Up ahead is the adobe wall that separates our neighborhood, Retama Village, from the hike/bike path and the local roads.

The landscaping along the outside of the wall is a highlight of our hike, so let's slow down a bit.  The areas on both sides of the hike/bike path are covered with blooming shrubs of every color.  Those shrubs attract and are often covered with butterflies.  The National Butterfly Festival is held at the nearby butterfly park in early November.

It looks like we are almost home.  Retama Village is just up ahead.

Turn right at the entrance and walk through the gate.

The clubhouse is straight ahead.

Let's take a quick look at the clubhouse entrance before we walk down the street to our coach house and our motor home.

Are you tired or invigorated?  You just walked four miles in an hour and fifteen minutes.  What's that you say?  You were sitting at your computer the entire time.  In that case, it is time for you to take a hike :-).


Bill and Nancy said...

Thanks for the exercise...great hike:o)) Now what is the blue flower in the picture near the end of the hike along the wall??

Travelwithwhippets said...

Bill and Nancy, that is a purple sky flower shrub. Butterflies love it. We have one in our coach house lot and also requested one at our new place.

Jarrett Morgan said...

I just found your blog and it is good to see other South Texas hikers. I am originally from Central Texas and just moved here. Any advice on how to get my hiking/backpacking fix in the area?