Benson – Rio Grande Park and the National Birding Center
The National Butterfly Center wasn’t opening until ten, and we decided to watch the sun rise over the Rio Grande. We had read you could see the Rio Grande from Benson – Rio Grande Park, so we got there by 0630. The park was closed, but campers told us people are allowed to walk in; you pay at the honors post, so we did. This is the only place on the whole trip I sprayed myself thoroughly with mosquito repellant, as mosquitos love me, especially at dawn and dusk. It’s one of the smartest thing’s I’ve done.
Walking into this park was a thrill. The birds are so excited about the sun coming up, and there is this huge, raucous clattering of bird cries. As we get further into the park, there are also owls calling to one another, WHOOOO-OOOOOOO, WHOOOOOOO-OOOOOOO; we can’t see them, but we can hear them, and it is thrilling. We keep walking to get to where we can see the Rio Grande, but all we can really see is almost the Rio Grande.
So before you go any further, remember, it is really dark, and I am shooting under the worst conditions. It is early morning, cloudy and foggy. I’m just sayin’ . . .
Benson – Rio Grande Park is part of the Texas Birding Trail, and later in the morning, like around 8, so not late, just later, all the bird watchers in the world start to arrive. They are looking for migrating birds, and they have their lists and huge bird-watching telescopes. We are not those birders. Mostly, I can identify cardinals, and blue jays. I can identify a raptor. I’m not a real birder, just a bird appreciator. These guys that come, they are SERIOUS birders, and they travel to Mission, TX to set up camp and tick off as many birds as they can, like in the movie The Big Year. This is either the National Birding Center, or a national birding center, and as day broke, hundreds of birders flocked into the park.
This is a part of the Rio Grande, but not really, it is a side-stream sort of Rio Grande place. The park guides told us if we really want to see the Rio Grande, there was a great restaurant you can see it from or you can go to Anzalduas Park, and told us how to get there. It was cloudy; I never did get a sun rising over the Rio Grande.
Campers are allowed to do ‘primitive camping’. I didn’t know what primitive camping was, but as it turns out, it’s what we used to do when I lived in Alaska. You bring everything yourself, you hike with everything on your back. There may be some paved areas, or minor structures, but you have to have brought everything you will need with you. No cabins, or things like that. There are, in this park, public restrooms and public showers. This shower is too public for me!
The floor is also covered with roly-poly bugs. Honestly, I am not born to camp. I applaud the park for having public restrooms in a place where it is simply impossible to keep the bugs out, but I cannot imagine walking on this floor in bare feet. There were some very brave primitive campers finishing up as I entered the restroom; they had showered and were brushing their teeth and they looked really happy. I am happy for them (shudder) and very thankful for a hotel with linens on the bed and hot water and no bugs!
Almost alone in the park, we managed to get turned around. I did my 10,000 steps before eight in the morning, and I was wearing the wrong shoes, so when we found benches at a bird feeding area, I was happy to sit down. There were glorious birds everywhere, and then, the happiest volunteers I have ever met came along in a little golf cart with bird seed and peanut butter, and put out breakfast. They were having the time of their lives, and gave us all kinds of good advice about Mission, Tx.
Early morning, low light and the birds wings are going faster than my camera can capture.
A little while later, the “tram” came by and we hopped on, happy for a ride back to the entry. It was a couple weeks before our blisters healed!
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