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Archive for March 25, 2010

Friday, 26 March, 2010 – Sanderson, TX to Monclova, Coahuila, Mexico

Although this is now my fifth visit to Mexico, there is always a tenseness among those in the car as we head for the border crossing. ‘What will go wrong this time?’ is at the back of our minds.

Absolutely nothing.

The cafe in Sanderson was closed for breakfast, so we had brunch near Los Rios, still in Texas. We had opted to cross at Eagle Pass into Piedras Negras, Coahuila, rather than use the big crossings at Laredo or El Paso. The crossing went in fact too smooth, just a traffic light changing from red to green – we did not even get a stamp in our passports! The Tourist Visas that Eunice and I had from our trip to Baja were valid for 180 days, but John needed to buy one, so we had to turn back to the alternative crossing, where there were more formal offices.

We learned that the import of the rental car would be at Allende, some 80 km south, at the first check point. It only took 45 minutes, and that included getting our passports stamped at immigration. We had anticipated the main snag experienced last year and had insisted on a letter of authority from Dollar, granting permission to take the car into Mexico.

Today’s stops were S1788, a scenic stop to photograph the bridge across the Pecos River, but a cactus stop as we spotted an Opuntia sp. S1789 was our first Mexican plant stop with Opuntia sp., Echinocereus sp. and Escobaria sp. formally identified at genus level anyway, plus three more different cactus sp. to keep me awake wondering what they are.

We arrived safely at the Best Western in Monclova around 7 and enjoyed a nice Mexican dinner (well, I had a Margarita, a Negra Modelo cerveza and a burger and chips) before retiring to the hotel for Diary writing.

I wonder how this weekend’s clock changings will work out in the end. We seem to be 7 hours adrift from the UK and probably still will be tomorrow.

Thursday, 25 March, 2010 – Alpine to Sanderson

Today provided a good example of how temperature ranges, rather than minimum temperatures affect our plants. We woke up to a white frosting on the ground and ice on the windscreen with the thermometer indicating 31F (just below 0C, i.e. freezing), at 7:30 a.m. By midday, the temperature had climbed up to 85F (29C). In the UK, it is not uncommon to start the day in March with scraping the ice of car windows first thing in the morning. By midday, the temperature may have crept up to 45F (7C).  While cacti bodies are reasonably well adapted to protect the core of the stem from the extreme high and lows experienced at the epidermis; they are less likely to endure low temperatures throughout a 24 hour period for days on end.

Back to today. We had a very ice breakfast at the Best Western in Alpine and I forgot to take pictures of the cacti planted out in their front garden. Just after 8 a.m. we were on the road, back to Terlingua, to look for IW#3, our name for a stop recommended by Ian from one of his visits, a.k.a The Starlight Theatre stop. Eunice had entered the coordinates into her SatNav system, a similar one to mine.

Except that mine shows the distance to the end destination in the bottom right corner of the screen, while hers shows the distance to the next turn. So when we had ‘arrived’ we were disappointed not to see the Starlight Theatre or any of the other features mentioned. But as the ‘town’ of Terlingua is a ghost town where most of the 2,000 original inhabitants have now died or left, all that remains are tourist outfits, including doom buggy operators, with some redevelopment in progress. Perhaps the Theatre had been pulled down? 

We had a good look around at the spot where the SatNav had taken us, including a ‘promising looking hill’ that Ian had mentioned (S1781) and were about to leave disappointed, when John reported an interesting cactus in flower on top of the hill. It’s amazing how fast I can still climb (short distances) when there is a cactus as reward. The plant in question was Echinocereus russanthus, and while I made my climb, John had found several more. An excellent find!

Back in the car I asked Eunice to set up the GPS for the next stop. Looking at the display, she exclaimed: but we still have 7 miles to go to Ian’s stop! Oooops. As I followed the new instructions we did find the Starlight Theatre etc, (S1782) as well as Ariocarpus fissuratus, Echinocactus horizonthalonius, Mammillaria lasiacantha, Echinomastus sp. (I bought the 2008 Cacti of Texas book, so should be able to get the name later).

S1783 was at the turning on TX 385 heading towards the visitor’s centre. We found Agave lechuguilla, Corynopuntia emoryi and/or C. schottii, Cylindropuntia leptocaulis, Echinocactus horizonthalonius, Echinocereus russanthus, E. stramineus, Fouquieria splendens and another tricky Sclerocactus sp.

S1784 was roughly half way between the road junction at S1783 and the visitor’s centre at S1785. We saw Agave lechuguilla, Echinocactus horizonthalonius, Echinocereus russanthus in flower, Echinocereus sp., looking like E. enneacanthus, but with stems much shorter than plants seen in Mexico later on this trip, E. stramineus, Mammillaria heyderi and Opuntia sp.

The next stop was at the Big Bend National Park visitor’s centre junction at Panther Junction (S1785) where in the small garden I photographed Agave sp., Fouquieria splendens, Mammillaria heyderi, Opuntia sp., Yucca elata, Yucca faxoniana (s.n. Y. carnerosana). They were numbered with the names printed in a small guide that of course I have since mislaid, hence the ‘sp.’ names again.

We continued driving along TX 385, through the Chisos Mountains and made a leg stretch stop (S1786) where we saw Agave lechuguilla, Echinocactus horizonthalonius, Echinocereus enneacanthus, E. stramineus, Lupinus sp., Opuntia sp. (like O. santa-rita) and Sclerocactus sp.

We headed to Daggerflat’s Road for the last stop of the day (S1787) where we saw lots of Ariocarpus fissuratus together with Echinocactus horizonthalonius, Echinocereus pectinatus, Euphorbia antisyphalitica, Opuntia engelmannii, O. rufida, Sclerocactus sp., Yucca torreyii, Yucca elata, said to be the tallest Yucca at Big Bend State Park, and Yucca faxoniana (s.n. Y. carnerosana), very impressive, with large, thick leaves.