Bug Bites: 2
Cool sunsets: 6
Full moon: 1
We had a little trouble getting the trailer hooked up with the new hitch and new truck. At one point my frustration came out as I exclaimed “We’re never getting out of Wichita!” My brother-in-law laughed. He came for the summer 30 years ago and he’s still there. But we did finally get everything hitched up correctly and made it out of town.
Our eventual goal is Big Bend National Park in south Texas but Texas is huge and there’s lots to see so we’re taking our time as we move in that general direction. First stop, the most awesome free camping yet at Lake Meredith National Recreation Area.
Chuck found this one and I didn’t really know anything about it except that it was just north of Amarillo. He told me it was dispersed camping, so I was expecting a big open undeveloped area. I think we were both happily surprised when we pulled in to find an amazing free campground with lots of amenities. The sites are pull offs along the road, but there are clean restrooms with showers, picnic tables with shade shelters, fire pits and BBQs, a dump and water, a boat ramp, an amphitheater, and stunning views! All this for free. We couldn’t believe it.
There are several small campgrounds around the lake. We stayed at Fritch Fortress. It sits on a bluff overlooking the water. It’s run by the National Park Service and all we could figure is that oil must fund it (some of the land is leased for oil drilling). I was also surprised that we were right next to Alibates Flint National Monument. Turns out this is another cool NPS site I had never heard about before and, like Pompey’s Pillar, it was a great stop on our journey.
Alibates Flint is a rock that started as dolomite, a porous rock formed by layers of silt. It is speculated that it was later covered by ash. Then, like petrified wood, over time rainwater carried silica and minerals from the ash through the rock which replaced the organic matter. Depending on the minerals various colors are left in the rock—reds, baby blues, whites, greys, yellows. The crystals are so small that they form a very hard rock, harder than steel, that can be knapped into sharp points. Humans have been using it for thousands of year to make tools and weapons. In fact they found Alibates Flint spearpoints in the remains of mammoths from 12,000 years ago. This special agatized dolomite is only found naturally in about a 10 square mile area, but archeologists have found pieces much further away as ancient nomadic people carried it with them and later local tribes traded it for pottery and shells.
The small visitor’s center has a nice display explaining how the stone was formed and how it was shaped and used. Around 1200 AD local tribes quarried the stones for their use and for trade. Because rock exposed to weather was poor quality, pits were dug using shovels made out of bones like bison shoulder blades. Large river rocks were used to break off 8 – 10 pound pieces of flint which were then broken into many smaller pieces. Finer work shaping the blades was done with antelope antlers. There are hundreds of these quarry pits in the area where Alibates Flint is found. The monument protects an area of quarries as well as the ruins of a village.
The only way to see the monument is on a ranger led hike. Because the flint is so rare and beautiful they’re worried it will be carried off by visitors unless they keep a watchful eye on the place. Lucky for us, our hike was led by a ranger who is a geologist (and oddly from Tacoma WA!). He was informative about both the geology of the area and the lives of the ancient people who used the flint. Although only one mile long, it took us almost two hours as the ranger stopped to share his knowledge, but was well worth it!
There were lots of bugs at the campground, but we were happy to be camped out in nature again after the gravel parking lot in Wichita. Luckily the constant wind helped keep the bugs at bay. Mostly we enjoyed the fabulous sunsets here at Lake Meredith!