Texas here we come!

RVingOne of just many pluses to living in a home on wheels is the way at which we are able to travel.  Traveling can be done as quickly or leisurely as we desire.

That said, when it came time for us to depart Phoenix, we allowed ourselves 2 weeks to travel 1,300 miles; destination Galveston, Texas.

Long gone are the days of Al and me pushing a drive like that in a day and a half.  Actually, more than once we’ve done 1,200 miles in one day… a very long day.  This slow meandering style of travel is the only way to fly drive.Heron

So let’s see …. In previous posts I’ve already talked about our stops in Apache Junction in Arizona, and Rockhound State Park and Alamogordo in New Mexico which leaves us with the Texas journey yet to talk about.

November 2nd we bid farewell to New Mexico and skirted around El Paso, Texas as quickly as possible on an early Sunday morning.  We were grateful traffic was light in what normally is a very congested city.   Knowing this, the early Sunday morning drive was planned well in advance.  The 4 ½ hour drive to Balmorhea State Park was uneventful and whizzed by.  Well, ‘whiz’ is probably an exaggeration because anyone who’s driven west Texas knows it goes on forever.  Texas is one BIG state…. bigger than a lot of country’s.

How big is Texas
Hey look – Balmorhea State Park is located in the same spot as Paris. Our destination is by the S in Austria

We first heard about Balmorhea State Park about 3 years ago from fellow full-time RVer’s.  What makes this place so unique and a destination for families is the large swimming pool.  But this isn’t just any swimming pool, this is the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool.

spring-fed swimming pool
world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool

The Civilian Conservation Corps built Balmorhea State Park and the swimming pool in the 1930’s and nearly 80 years later folks are still cooling off at the park.  Although this particular fall day the air was cool enough and thus no swimmers – including us. largest swimming pool in the worldSan Solomon Springs; water comes from a large underground aquifer flowing through porous limestone and fault lines.  Worker’s hand dug and constructed the pool using local materials. world's largest swimming pool

The water temperature averages 72-76 degrees Fahrenheit (22-24º C) year round.  The depth of the pool goes from a shallow 2 feet to as much as 30 feet (9.1m) deep allowing swimmers and scuba divers alike to enjoy this spring-fed pool.

Swimmers can expect to share the water with plenty of fish.  We saw lots of minnows and some large catfish swimming around.Texas State Park

As we strolled around the park we noticed a series of waterways and wetlands. The fresh clear water quickly moves throughout the park.cienga wetlands

San Solomon Cienga; a wetlands habitat for endangered fish and other aquatic life was near our campsite.Texas State Parks

I found myself strolling over there several times to observe the turtles.Texas State ParksAnd speaking of campsite, Balmorhea State Park offers 34 campsites.  Some of the sites even have cable hook-up which is something we’ve never seen before in any state park.  We didn’t opt for a ‘cable’ site but next time through I think we will because you won’t find any TV reception with the RV antenna…. ‘we be in the boonies, honey!’

Texas State Parks
our campsite at Balmorhea State Park

We enjoyed our one night stay at this state park. We did purchase the seasonal Texas State Park pass for $70 since we planned to stay at more state parks this season.

limestone
I loved the use of the local limestone used throughout the state park

Next stop South Llano River State Park.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 12.1 MP Digital Camera with CMOS Sensor and 24x Optical Zoom – Black

Perfect for the little ones!

The weather here in Colorado has been a little uncooperative lately.  It feels more like the Midwest with days and days of overcast skies and unending rain.  I’m wondering what happened to the over 300 days of sunshine a year Colorado receives on average .Butterflies

Butterflies My trip to Mt. Evans has been once again thwarted due to the storms, not to mention a trip to the botanic gardens to see the Chihully display.

Last spring, I had the greatest of plans to be out and about exploring all parts of Colorado this summer.

You know, spend two weeks here, two weeks there, a few days here and a few there ….. but life happens, responsibilities beckon, and being available for loved ones seem to take center stage.Butterflies spiders tarantula

I’ll admit I was somewhat disappointed when hubby and I decided to park in Denver for the entire summer, but I’m discovering the upside to staying in one location for an extended period of time especially when the weather is less than agreeable.

ButterfliesBeing a believer in the mantra, “things happen for a reason” … I’ll admit, I’m actually glad we’re spending the entire summer camped in one spot.

It has allowed me the opportunity to explore Denver like never before as well as discover some hidden gems in and around the area.  Oh, and I can’t forget about the time I’ve had to reconnect with friends which has been absolutely wonderful.

So back to the lousy weather and discovering hidden gems; where to go and what to do on a rainy day?  With camera in hand, I’m off to the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, Colorado.  It’s only a ten minute drive away from our home base at the Westminster Elks Lodge.Butterflies

Tarantula spiderThis is a fantastic place to visit with children, especially ages 2-14.  After paying my admittance, my first stop is at the Crawl-A-See-Em exhibit; a journey through invertebrate habitats – home to “Rosie”.

Rosie is a Chilean Rose Hair Tarantula accustomed to lots of visitors and attention.

tarantulaI took a pass on holding Rosie and stuck to looking at her from behind my camera lens.  I was impressed with all the little kids more fascinated by this hairy creature than afraid.  The curator was fantastic with the children and handling of Rosie.

horseshoe crabMoving on, I entered the Water’s Edge exhibit; explore water environments. This area had tanks filled with corals, sea cucumbers, jellies, lobsters, and more.

There was an area to touch a sea star or one of their horseshoe crabs.

tropical rainforestThen it was on to the real reason for MY visit…. Wings of the Tropics exhibit; travel through a tropical rainforest with over 1,000 butterflies.

As soon as I passed through the doors, I was greeted with hot, humid air feeling like I was indeed in the tropics.  The pavilion is filled with lush vegetation.

The tall glass ceiling is outfitted with a series of pipes providing on again off again misting and rain, simulating the tropics.Butterflies Several times I found it necessary to protect my camera by stuffing it under my T-shirt to protect it from the rain.  Hmm, rain outside and now rain inside!  Whatever was I thinking?

Butterflies The pavilion is a flutter with butterflies of all kinds and colors.  Touching of any kind is discouraged for the health of the butterflies, but it was somewhat common for the butterflies to land on people.

It was particularly entertaining to see the butterflies land on the heads of little children.  And yes, there were LOTS of children.

I was so engrossed with the butterflies flying either at eye level or higher I failed to look low to the ground for other hidden creatures until a sweet little 4 year old girl exuberantly exclaimed, “Look mommy, a turtle”.  Ah, Ingrid…. remember to look around!

turtles

Not only did I enjoy photographing all these unique beauties, I had fun playing photographer for several families as cameras and phones were handed to me so all members of the party could be in a photo together.

This is a place I definitely would’ve taken my kids when they were young and for a bit I did enjoy observing all these young minds, but without my own children in tow and after about an hours tour I’d had my fill and made my exit in hopes of exploring the outdoor garden.Butterflies

The exterior Garden looked beautiful even in the rain and worth exploring on a sunny day.  If I can catch a morning without rain, I’ll most likely venture back over here to stroll the garden.  Until then, I’ll keep searching for inside excursions, preferably without rain 🙂Butterfly Pavilion
Stokes Butterfly Book : The Complete Guide to Butterfly Gardening, Identification, and Behavior