Travel Guide Proofs are Here and Lookin’ Great!

Claret cup cactus in Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center botanical garden.

Claret cup cactus in Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center botanical garden, Langtry, Texas.

 

From the Frio to Del Rio: Travel Guide to the Western Hill Country and Lower Pecos Canyonlands has landed in my hands this week in the form of page proofs from the publisher! Hooray!  Texas A&M Press has done a beautiful job on layout and design of the book.  My brother, Thomas C. Self, contributed some great photos of the Western Hill Country and friend Jack Johnson has some wonderful photos of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands in the book.  Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Shumla Research and Education Center also graciously shared photos with me.  The pictures really make the book pop and add a lot to the story.

The book tells lots of forgotten history about places in the region, and tries to include all the players.  For instance, did you know that a woman named Jerusha Sanchez was one of the first settlers in the Nueces canyon?  She was a widow and served as a midwife to the few women in the area in the 1870s. Did you know that a Texas Ranger named Bigfoot Wallace fought Comanches in Val Verde County around that same time?  And wait ’til you find out what Charles Lindbergh did!

Besides what to see, where to stay and where to eat, I also tell you where to buy gas and groceries, where the hospitals are, and other information travelers need to know.  But the part I like the most is the section on Scenic Routes.  There’s the New Money and Old Art Trail, the Bat Trail, the Buffalo Soldiers and Black Seminole Indian Trail, and the Aviation History Trail to name a few.

I’m doing my final proof reading and making a few corrections before I send it back to the publishers by early October.  Then a couple of months for the magic of the printed word (and picture) to happen.  The actual book itself should be in a bookstore near you sometime in April, 2017.

We have a Winner! Thanks to Everyone Who Played “Where’s Mary?”

What's missing from this old picture of Barton Springs that is there today?

What’s missing from this old picture of Barton Springs that is there today? Guess and win a free, autographed book.

 

Rachel is our winner for August!  She correctly identified  ‘sky scrappers’ as  missing from this photo of Barton Springs taken several years ago.  Yes, progress marches on, but at least we still have our sacred swimming hole. Stay tuned for another picture in “Where’s Mary?” and play again in September.

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No one responded correctly for the last photo posted in “Where’s Mary?”, but here’s another one to try.  This photo was taken a few years ago in Austin. The question is “What’s Missing?” The first person to give the correct answer in the comments section below wins a free, autographed copy of Peyote Fire: Shaman of the Canyons.  

You’ll find the location of the mural below in my new travel guide From the Frio to Del Rio: Travel Guide to Southwest Texas, which comes out in April, 2017, from Texas A&M Press.  I got samples of the pages last week, and they are beautiful, thanks to the designer at A&M, and my great photographers.   I hope to get the proofs in mid-September.

Find out where this is in my new book!

Find out where this is in my new travel guide!

It’s August. Where’s Mary?

Where's Mary? Identify the location of this photo and win!

Where’s Mary? Identify the location of this photo and win!

Recognize this mural?  If so, reply in the comments section below and tell us where this is.  The first person with the correct answer (city and state) wins an autographed copy of my novel Peyote Fire: Shaman of the Canyon. Contest will run for the next several months as design continues for my new travel guideFrom the Frio to Del Rio: Travel Guide to the Western Hill Country and Lower Pecos Canyonlands, which will be published by Texas A&M Press hopefully in April 2017.  So take a good look at the picture above and give me your comments. We’ve had three winners in previous months, and this could be your turn to win!

The Nueces River: Rio Escondido– New from Margie Crisp

Camp Wood Crossing on the Nueces River

Camp Wood Crossing on the Nueces River–painting by William Montgomery

 

I’m happy to have Margie Crisp as my guest today. Margie has a new book coming out in Spring 2017 called The Nueces

Margie Crisp with a 7 foot Texas Indigo snake

Margie Crisp with a 7 foot Texas Indigo snake.

River: Rio Escondido.  She is also the author and illustrator of the award-winning book River of Contrasts: The Texas Colorado, published by Texas A&M Press. River of Contrasts won the Texas State Historical Association Award for the best illustrated book on Texas History and Culture in 2012, and the Best Book of Non-Fiction from the Texas Institute of Letters, also in 2012. You can learn more about her at www.margiecrisp.com, or www.coloradorivertx.com.

Welcome, Margie. I know you traveled over 800 miles along the Colorado River to write River of Contrasts. How did you do that? Mary, first of all thanks for this interview. I’m a big fan of yours so this is a thrill. To be

honest, when I started my research for River of Contrasts: The Texas Colorado, I didn’t have a clue what I was getting

River of Contrasts--Available now at book stores and Amazon

River of Contrasts–Available now at book stores and Amazon

myself into. I didn’t have any training as a writer (though I had taken a few courses from the Texas Writers’ League) and ended up just following the issues and subjects that interested me. Luckily the river’s geography determined the structure of the book. I chose to start at the headwaters so I pointed my car northwest and started driving. In the upper basin the river is nothing but a trickle so I asked ranchers for permission to walk along the river. When I started exploring the river’s middle reaches I began hauling my kayak along but only the reservoirs held enough water for boating. The best paddling was without a doubt in San Saba County and down to the head of Lake Buchanan where the river runs through limestone canyons and pecan bottoms. From the Highland Lakes to the coast I paddled numerous day trips and a few overnight trips. I wish I could say I’d run the river in one trip from the headwaters to the Gulf but by taking many shorter trips I got to experience the river through flood, drought, and different seasons.

Did you do something similar for your new book on the Nueces River? I started the project the same way—looking on maps and then taking off in my car with camera, coffee and sleeping gear. I’d spent time along the Nueces but I’d never followed the river. Because my husband, artist William (Bill) Montgomery agreed to create the art for the book, we took trips to the river together as well as separately. We started the project in the midst of a record drought and it wasn’t until the fall of 2015 that there was sufficient water for paddling the upper sections. So most of our paddling and boating trips were in the lower part of the river.

What made you want to take on such a project? I am passionate about Texas rivers. Historically people relied upon

My photo of Camp Wood Crossing

Photo of Camp Wood Crossing by Mary S. Black

our rivers for food, water and transportation. A look at settlement patterns shows camps, farms and towns clustered around waterways and moving from the coast inland along the rivers. Nowadays, the people of Texas seem to have forgotten just how essential rivers are to our communities. There has been a shift towards viewing rivers as the private domains of the wealthy instead of as the great common resources that they are. I try to entertain and engage readers long enough to slip in a little education but ultimately I hope to help people feel a connection and appreciation for our amazing Texas rivers.

Traveling down these rivers requires significant time and energy. What advice would you give someone about a long river trip? Honestly there are so many variables with weather and river conditions that it is impossible to plan for every contingency, but sunscreen, a good hat, and a set of dry clothes are my essentials. Plus, lots of water and snacks!

Tell us about your other art. What media do you work in? What subjects intrigue you? I’ve worked in a variety of media over the years. Currently I’ve been working on a number of large watercolor and pencil drawings for a January 2017 show at the University of Mary Hardin Baylor in Belton. My art is based upon my personal experiences in the natural world so local flora and fauna are my mainstays.

Fish Camp by

Fish Camp by William Montgomery

You’ve exhibited many, many places and have work in the Austin Museum of Art. Do you have any exhibits coming up next spring so people can get a taste of the new book? When I considered the Nueces River project, I realized that I wanted to research and write but creating the art was daunting (the Colorado River book took over five years). Luckily my husband was interested in the project and he created a body of artwork (oils, watercolors, pen & ink) for the book. It was great to work together but we describe our journey as being parallel tracks: my writing and his art are our individual responses to joint experiences. I don’t describe his art and he doesn’t illustrate my words. Obviously I’m biased but I think the art is magnificent! We both contributed photographs for the book.

What’s next on your agenda? I’m in an art period. One of my quirks is that I have to either make art or write. After I finish up the art work for the next show, I’ll go back to writing again. I’ve got a couple of ideas for novels and there are lots of wonderful rivers to explore!

Many thanks for joining us today. I’m looking forward to tracing the Nueces with your new book. 

Catherine Wins a Free Book from “Where’s Mary?” Play and Win!

Where's Mary? Rocksprings, Texas, the Angora goat capital of the world.

Where’s Mary? Rocksprings, Texas, the Angora goat capital of the world.

We have a winner!  Catherine was the first to correctly identify the location of the little goat in the picture as Rocksprings, Texas.  Her winning answer came at 8:11 pm on July 2.  She wins a free autographed copy of my novel about the shaman who lived along the Rio Grande over 4000 years ago,   Peyote Fire: Shaman of the Canyons. Thanks to everybody who entered through the website and Facebook.

The little goat sits on the corner of the courthouse square in Rocksprings, the self-proclaimed “Angora goat capital of the world.”  With a population of about 1200, Rocksprings is the county seat of Edwards County, on the edge of the Hill Country.  It’s also the location of the Devil’s Sinkhole Visitors’ Center, right on the square.  Sign up there for an evening bat tour at Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area, a few miles out-of-town.  Millions of bats fly out of their daytime home in the sinkhole about sunset every evening from March through October.

Watch for the next “Where’s Mary?” and enter your guess for the location of the photo.  Remember, you gotta play to win!

Where’s Mary? Part Three Guess Right and Win a Free Book!

Where's Mary?

Where’s Mary?  Guess right and win a free book signed by the author.

 

This week in part three of “Where’s Mary?”, this cute little statue is the clue. Guess the right town in Texas and win yourself a free, autographed copy of my novel Peyote Fire: Shaman of the Canyons.  Just post your guess in the comments below. Contest will run for the next several months as design continues for my new travel guide, From the Frio to Del Rio: Travel Guide to the Western Hill Country and Lower Pecos Canyonlands, which will be published by Texas A&M Press hopefully in April 2017.  So take a good look at the picture above and give me your comments!

Somebody Knows Where Mary and the Smoking Dragon Are!

A reader has correctly identified the location of this dragon!

A reader has correctly identified the location of this dragon!

Emil is the winner in this month’s contest of “Where’s Mary?”  He responded correctly that I was in Uvalde, Texas, at a display of artifacts from Ft. Inge.  Well, he’s right, but the dragon is not from Ft. Inge.  It used to be on top of the Janey Slaughter Briscoe Grand Opera House, but during renovations several years ago, the original smoking dragon was put on display in the Opera House, along with materials from the abandoned U.S. Army post, Ft. Inge.   A replica dragon now tops the building.  Read about how to see the Opera House, the remains of Ft. Inge, where to eat and where to stay in my new travel guide coming out in Spring 2017.  Look for From the Frio to Del Rio: Travel Guide to the Western Hill Country and Lower Pecos Canyonlands wherever books are sold.

Emil will receive a free copy of Peyote Fire: Shaman of the Canyons, my novel about the ancient Lower Pecos. Watch for the next edition of “Where’s Mary?” coming soon.  Play and win a free book!  Thanks to everyone who ventured a guess on this one, and be sure to enter again!

As if you needed another reason to visit the Lower Pecos!

Blind Mexican catfish found in underwater cave in Lake Amistad near Del Rio

Blind Mexican catfish found in underwater cave in Lake Amistad near Del Rio

 

Jack Johnson, National Park Service archaeologist for Lake Amistad near Del Rio, spotted the creatures over a year ago and worked with a team of specialists to identify and preserve them. Dean Hendrickson, curator of ichthyology at The University of Texas at Austin, identified the live fish, discovered in a deep limestone cave at Amistad National Recreation Area near Del Rio, Texas, as the endangered Mexican blindcat (Prietella phreatophila). The pair of small catfish, collected by a team in May, have been relocated to the San Antonio Zoo.

The Mexican blindcat, a species that grows to no more than 3 inches in length, is known to dwell only in areas supported by the Edwards-Trinity Aquifer that underlies the Rio Grande basin in Texas and Coahuila. The new blindcat finding lends additional weight to a theory that water-filled caves below the Rio Grande may connect the Texas and Mexico portions of the aquifer.

“Since the 1960s there have been rumors of sightings of blind, white catfishes in that area, but this is the first confirmation,” Hendrickson said. “I’ve seen more of these things than anybody, and these specimens look just like the ones from Mexico.”

Jack Johnson, a caver and National Park Service resource manager at Amistad, first spotted some of the slow-moving, pinkish-white fish with no eyes in April 2015. After several attempts to relocate the species, Johnson and biologist Peter Sprouse of Zara Environmental LLC led the team that found the fish again last month. Mexican blindcats are a pale pink color because their blood can be seen through the translucent skin, and they dwell exclusively in groundwater.

“Cave-dwelling animals are fascinating in that they have lost many of the characteristics we are familiar with in surface animals, such as eyes, pigmentation for camouflage, and speed,” Sprouse said. “They have found an ecological niche where none of those things are needed, and in there they have evolved extra-sensory abilities to succeed in total darkness.”

The Mexican blindcat was originally described in 1954 when found in wells and springs near Melchor Múzquiz in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila. It was subsequently listed as an endangered species by the Mexican government, and as a foreign endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Hendrickson led efforts to locate additional blindcat sites in Mexico and Texas for years but only located them in Mexico on previous expeditions.

“Aquifer systems like the one that supports this rare fish are also the lifeblood of human populations and face threats from contamination and over-pumping of groundwater,” Johnson said. “The health of rare and endangered species like this fish at Amistad can help indicate the overall health of the aquifer and water resources upon which many people depend.”

The fish are not yet on public display. They will be maintained alive in a special facility designed to accommodate cave and aquifer species at the San Antonio Zoo’s Department of Conservation and Research.

“The San Antonio Zoo has a series of labs specially designed to keep subterranean wildlife safe and healthy,” said Danté Fenolio, vice president of conservation and research at the San Antonio Zoo. “The fact that the zoo can participate now and house these very special catfish demonstrates the zoo’s commitment to the conservation of creatures that live in groundwater.”

Others involved in the discovery were Andy Gluesenkamp and Ben Hutchins of Texas Parks and Wildlife, Gary Garrett and Adam Cohen of UT Austin and Jean Krejca of Zara Environmental.

The finding brings the number of blind catfish species within the U.S. to three, all found only in Texas. The two other species of blind catfish in Texas, the toothless blindcat (Trogloglanis pattersoni) and the widemouth blindcat (Satan eurystomus), live in part of the Edwards Aquifer complex, the deep Edwards pool below the city of San Antonio.

This story and photograph are from the University of Texas in Austin.  Congratulations to Jack Johnson for his discovery!

Where’s Mary Today? Win a Book!

I could see this smoking dragon. Where am I?

Where could I see this smoking dragon?

Week Two of the Contest!  Guess where Mary is from the photograph above.  Answer must be the correct town, state, and exact place (business, park, museum, etc)  Enter your guess in the comments below.  If you are correct, I’ll send you a free copy of my novel, Peyote Fire: Shaman of the Canyons!

Contest will run for the next six months as design continues for my new travel guide, From the Frio to Del Rio: Travel Guide to the Western Hill Country and Lower Pecos Canyonlands, which will be published by Texas A&M Press hopefully in April 2017.  So take a good look at the picture above and give me your comments!

From the Frio to Del Rio! The Travel Guide Gets a New Name

Commissary Building at Fort Clark in Brackettville

Commissary Building at Fort Clark in Brackettville

 

The editors at Texas A&M Press have brainstormed a catchy new name for my new travel guide to Southwest Texas.  How do you like From the Frio to Del Rio: Travel Guide to the Southwestern Hill Country and Lower Pecos ? I really had not put much thought into the title, even though that’s pretty important, so I was counting on the editors to come up with something more compelling.  I think they’ve done that very well!  What to name the area from Utopia to Barksdale was also a quandary for me.  I’ve gone back and forth between “Southwestern Hill Country” and “Western Hill Country” several times–having to change the text each time, of course!  I’m glad the title specifically designates the Lower Pecos  because the area is so  special in so many ways, yet a lot of people don’t know much about it.