Solving Yesterday’s Feeling of Loss

The Sabal Palm is the only native palm tree to Texas. The Sabal Palm Sanctuary is one of the last natural stands of Sabal Palms in the Rio Grande Valley.  What’s more, it’s close to Los Fresnos — just down the road in Brownsville.  And so it was that on the Saturday before Easter we fled to the trees!  Our first visit to the Sabal Palm Sanctuary this year!

The Sanctuary is located on 550 acres of land — that are actually outside the 20 foot tall border fence.  You don’t need papers or passport, just drive through the fence, over the levee and down the road another 1/2 miles to the parking lot.  There you will find the old Rabb Mansion — the headquarters of the sanctuary.

Don’t worry, though, the Sanctuary is on the U.S. side of the river and it’s a safe place to be.  There are overlooks that let you see the Rio Grande River — look across to the Mexican land on the other side — just don’t go across the river! 🙂

There are a couple bird blinds and feeding stations.  Mid April isn’t the best time to see birds — a lot of the winter species are already headed north to their nesting grounds.  Still, it’s a pleasant walk and a wonderful — still — place to commune with nature. (and also the mosquitoes if you are here at the right — or maybe we should call it the “wrong” season)

The trails are all on the short side; this isn’t a place for a 5 or 7 mile jaunt, but they are well cleared dirt tracks with pretty decent sign markings.  You won’t find any paper maps here; but the sanctuary has abundant signage at every junction so you aren’t likely to get lost!

There’s a small lake / pond on the property and a path that circumnavigates the pond.  It’s clearly good for a few hour visit — depending on your interests.  The research library alone is worth a browse and on Saturday they do tours of the mansion.

This is the closest of the heavily wooded wildlife areas for us.  So while we were here we bought an annual membership for ourselves.  Two more visits and the membership will have paid for the $5.00 per person admission fee and I know we’ll be here more than 4 times in one year.

The paths take you through several distinct growth areas — not all of which are about palms.  

While we were there there were volunteer youth crews working on the property — which is good to see.  Also, Texas A&M uses the property for research; there was a crew there while we were visiting.

We have had a relatively dry spring.  You’ll notice plenty of green, but as demonstrated by the one image of parched ground the rains here are quite interesting.  It’s not unusual to get a downpour directly adjacent to parched land.  Lots of little tiny microbursts!  On the 20 mile drive to the sanctuary we had the wipers turned on twice — but only for a couple miles! Then it was dry again. Then wet again.  Then dry again. This is not so common in Wisconsin!

The whole humid/arid thing about the Rio Grande Valley fascinates me.  There are so many areas of desolation interspersed with areas of lush agricultural production and irrigation canals and tunnels put there by early settlers and also by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  Were it not for the movement and management of water this area would still be sparsely populated and inhospitable.  But the access to water makes all the difference.

You will see a lot of vertical culverts in this area.  On our first visit to the area I knew they had to be “about” the irrigation but I had no idea what purpose they served.  Well, the purpose is simple.  And it’s also a testimony to the fact that in life nothing really changes from one generation to another.

The culverts — in varying heights above the ground — are all access points to the valves that control the underground irrigation source.  But the varying heights of the culverts are also a testimony to the fact that kids everywhere like to do what they aren’t supposed to be doing — the culverts simply move the valve handles up high enough that you need to be really determined to get to them before you can flood a field or divert someone else’s water to your field (or your father’s field)

It still amazes me — carrying on from yesterday’s comments — the way I can find oodles and oodles of blossoms just alongside a wooded pathway.  These I’m quite sure are Bougainville.

We’ll be back in a couple weeks. After we return from our trip to Milwaukee.

We have intentionally not been out to South Padre Island for a couple weeks. The weeks before and after Easter are particularly busy on the island.  A lot of Mexicans come up for holidays with family and I have nothing against Mexicans — what I don’t like is waiting in long lines and that is what we’ve had here for the last week and will continue this coming week.  Traffic is and will be very heavy for the 20 miles between us and Port Isabel; the bridge/causeway between Port Isabel & South Padre Island is bumper to bumper in both directions, and the streets are cluttered with cars.  For those of us lucky enough to live here — even seasonally — there are enough other weeks of the year when the traffic is minimal and there is no congestion that it simply doesn’t pay to go there right now.  We also avoid the Island during Spring Break weeks — particularly that one week a year known as Texas Week — when most of the “breakers” are from Texas universities.  It’s simply too congested to make if fun for us seniors.  And frankly, after a while looking up at the airplane pulling the large advertising banner for Trojan Condoms gets a little old! 🙂  The young will be young.

We head North in 4 days.  Today Palmdale is having an Easter Potluck for those of us who remain.  It’ll be nice and we’ll get a better sense for who is staying through the summer.


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