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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Sandhills State Park, Monahans TX

Jan and I traveled together to far West Texas this past week, out to Midland and Odessa. These two towns sit pretty much in the heart of the Permian Basin, one of the first "big hits" in the oil boom of the past millennium. There are still oil wells pumping steadily scattered all about the open fields, though most are not pumping any more. Driving back from Pecos, TX (the subject of a previous post), we drove by the Monahans Sandhills State Park. I had driven by several times, but somehow I was called to stop and see what the big deal was. It might have been because I am re-reading Dune, or it might have been because I have been so involved with water and flowers and needed a change. Either way, we were in for a real treat!

I guess you figured out that I couldn't pass up a flower without trying to shoot a photo of it. The sunflower I recognize, but the second one is a "mystery flower." I have never seen it before, and will have to find out what it is. Thank goodness the rains had come while we were here, 'cause I don't think they'd have been out otherwise.

UPDATE: I sent the photo of the "mystery flower" to several wildlife and conservation websites to help me identify it. First to respond was Kirk Anderson of, who pointed me in the direction of Mentzelia species. Then Nan Hampton (aka Ask Mr Smarty Plants) at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center wrote and said that their resident expert Joe Marcus had identified it as Mentzelia strictissima, or grassland blazingstar. I love that name! Joe said it was a rare find. I am amazed at all the directions this photography hobby has taken me.

As we walked along, Jan got ahead of me due to my constant search for good photos of the sand hills. We walked carefully in the loose sand at the bottom of the hills, but had an easier time of it at the tops. The rain had packed the sand there, and it made the most interesting patterns where the drops fell.

The photo above shows the pattern that the rain made in the sand, overlaid on the wave pattern that the wind had made before. I was very intrigued by the variety and beauty of the sand. It certainly was not all the same! There were so many variations between the troughs and peaks of the dunes, and I wound up short of breath from the exertion from time to time.

The photo above, although a little stark, is one I particularly like because of the tracks in the sand going over the dunes. We did not make those tracks, but we followed them up to the top of the dune to get a view of as much of the area as we could. When we got to the highest one, I turned and took the photo below. Until I did, I hadn't realized how far up we had come.

I trailed behind Jan for most of the trek, and shot the photo below as she waited patiently for me to catch up.

Last photo is my favorite of the hike. As I walked along admiring the pattern that the rain had made in the sand, I almost walked over these tiny footprints made by a much younger visitor to the Sandhills. They made me think of the grandkids and how much we'd like to bring them out here to run and play in the sand. One day soon we will.

I hope you have found this interesting. I am glad we decided to stop and see the Monahans Sandhills. Sometimes the spur-of-the-moment decisions are the best! It certainly worked out that way this week. Next post will probably be the mural behind the Taco Villa, I know you won't want to miss that.

Best regards,
Mike Z

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