by Taylor Lasseigne and Angela Driscoll / August 18, 2005
Via I-10, the trip from Houston to San Antonio is about 240 miles and then another 155 miles from San Antonio to Amistad via Hwy 90. Just 5 miles before reaching Amistad, we stopped in the large border town of Del Rio to stock up on water and food for the next 2-3 days.
Leaving the grocery store in Del Rio, I got a bit discombobulated and accidentally wound up facing the US/Mexico border patrol! I swerved off the road to avoid visiting Mexico and found myself staring at some sort of bus parking lot filled with goats.
Finally we arrived at Amistad National Recreational Area. Aside from a few guys launching a boat at Black Bush Point, three men fishing, and two ladies that would only stay for about one hour, we were the only people out there.
According to the park brochure, Amistad means “friendship” – fitting for a location on the US-Mexico border where the boundary is blurred by a giant reservoir whose recreations are shared by citizens from both countries. The brochure states, “The reservoir was created by the 6-mile-long Amistad Dam on the Rio Grande. The United Sates and Mexico cooperated in developing a combined recreation area, flood control, water storage, and power generation project. The waters present an extraordinary blueness because of their great clarity and the area’s limestone character and lack of loose oils.”
Here is our campsite before we set up the tent. Each site is equipped with a sheltered table and grill.
The path leading down to one of many swimming areas accessible to us at Amistad.
Angela and I braving the mysterious waters of Amistad. It felt really strange to put on goggles and swim so close to these submerged trees you see there in the water. The trees look perfectly normal above the water, but underwater they look frosted with some kind of greenish-white growth. The floor drops off quite suddenly just three or four feet in and the trees go down to a surprising depth. There's an eerie feeling down there because the water, while being relatively clean, is just murky enough to keep you from seeing at comfortable distances. Several times I surprised small schools of with, and they surprised me.
Here again are the trees I mentioned before. I believe they are ocotillo plants; Latin Fouquieria splendens. What you see here is the tip of the iceberg. There are many many more, whose tops do not reach the water line.
Turkey vulture; Latin Cathartes aura
Our camp was situated on a small peninsula called Governors Landing just along the east side of Hwy 90. This is the bank on the other side of camp.
Nopal "prickly pear" cactus; Latin Nopal opuntia
There were 8+ campsites in our area of Governors Landing, and we shared these facilities.
More prickly pear cactuses or cacti... there is actually some ongoing dispute as to which is the correct spelling.
Hwy 90 crossing the Amistad reservoir. Notice the men fishing on the rocks.
We decided to set up camp so that the tent would be positioned under the roof of the shelter. That way, we would probably not have to put the tent cover on if it rained. This created a problem - the tent was on pavement, so we certainly could not use spikes to keep it from flying away in the strong winds. In the end we used gallon jugs of water. They can be seen in the image.
With the day coming to an end, Angela and I were quickly running out of things to do, so we built a tower of flat rocks as a tribute to the artist Andy Goldsworthy.
At last it was suppertime. We unloaded all the groceries from Del Rio: bread, green onions, red and green peppers, sausages, and for desert a nectarine. Now how was I going to make a fire? I had totally forgotten to pick up charcoal at the store, and there was no real wood in sight (all the wood you see in the picture was useless). All I had were a few fire starter sticks and no more than two leftover charcoal briquettes. I finally decided, after many failed attempts with the useless sticks, that I would go to all the campsites, collect all the leftover charcoal, and bring them back to out grill. It worked. We were enjoying grilled sausage and veggies before long, and the grilled nectarine was surprisingly scrumptious.
That night we hit the sack early so that we might wake early and get a jump on the second leg of our trip. The wind blew fiercely until the sun went down. Then the wind, as though powered by the sun, completely stopped. The temperature rose quickly in the tent. Neither of us got much sleep.
A quick anectode: We did wake early, before the sun came up even. We quickly packed the tent and gear into the car and were ready to hit HWY 90 when I decided it would be a good idea to walk down to the water again, to see what it looked like at night (it was still pitch black). Angela said she would wait in the car. I grabbed my mini maglight flashlight and started down the rocky trail to the water, only able to see about five feet ahead at most. I was almost at the water when I noticed a set of eyes staring at me from the direction of the water. I stopped and then noticed another set of eyes. Then something happened that completely frightened me, both sets of eyes came together and started slowly moving toward me! Thinking of all the nice creepy crawlies in these parts, I slowly started to back up. The eyes were gaining on me so I turned and ran for it. I ran straight to the car, threw open the door, and lept in. I can’t remember the expression on Angela’s face. I can only remember wanting to get out of there. “There were two animals coming for me out there!” I said to her. I backed out of the parking spot and as I put the car in forward the beasts walked right out in front of the car – two ferocious kitty cats; Latin Felis catus.