Travels With Dick and Judy

Follow us in our trials, triumphs and tribulations, while on the road in our motor home "The Liberty Belle". We chose to forsake the conventional lifestyle in our 3,000+ square-foot home to move into a 40-foot Winnebago Ultimate Freedom. Travel with us as we take you on the road with us in our new lifestyle.
I may grow older, but I'll never grow up!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Controlled Burn At Reynolds Creek Parkl

Shortly after 3 p.m. Monday afternoon, we got an unexpected call from our Volunteer Coordinator, Ranger Jay Morris, and were told they had moved the date to burn the 180-acre sea of Johnson Grass prairie behind our motorhome up to Tuesday morning.  Baylor University was predicting the conditions would be best at that time.  So the rest of the day was spent sterilizing and refilling our water tanks, flushing the gray and black water tanks and generally getting prepared for moving to a “dry” campsite for at least the day, possibly more.

Johnson Grass - The objective: to remove

Dave and Sue, our comrades here at the park, had already scouted and found a couple of really nice campsites in the closed section, on a bluff, overlooking the lake.  It wasn’t to be a real “dry camp”; electricity was available.

If this site would have had sewer and running water, you couldn't have gotten me out of here!
With the exception of not opening the gates at 6 a.m., the day started normally.  Professors with their students from Baylor and COE Rangers with their equipment soon began to arrive.  While they were getting organized, we and our neighbors began the move to our temporary home for the next couple of days.

Sorry Folks!  We're closed, for your own good!

Our site and the grass in the back yard?  Johnson Grass, of course...all 180 acres!
Activities began with the burn crews making small “back burns” as a stopgap for fires that might possibly do unwanted damage.
Small back burns were created at first to protect telephone poles, etc.

All the back-burns around the perimeter of the pastures were completed before the crews broke for lunch.  As soon as their lunch was over, Dr White of Baylor University gathered his students and the fire crews and proceeded to go over a plan of action for the main burn.  Emphasis was heavy on the safety aspects.

After a short lunch, Dr White of Baylor University, gave instructions
and procedures to both COE rangers and his students.

After the brief meeting, the business of getting on with the “burn” began.  For those of you who have never seen or experienced a control burn up close, take my word for it.  It is an awesome experience.  It is not by any stretch “fun”.  It is real and dangerous.  The only difference between a controlled burn and a true wildfire, as I see it, is the burn crews start the control process before the real fire ever starts; whereas, with an out-of-control wildfire, all of the efforts are made to bring the situation under control after the fire is well underway and doing unwanted damage.  Both are equally dangerous and constant caution must be taken.
Burn crews are working under the most grueling conditions imaginable, in stands of Johnson Grass taller than the fire crew members themselves. Once started, flames jump from one clump of the dry weed to another, sending flames upward to heights of 20 and 30 feet.  Heavy gusts of wind push the flames first in one direction, then off to another.  The oily smoke, heavily laden with soot and hot embers, creates a hell on earth for those in the midst of all of it.  Fire crews must watch not only the burning in front, but the flames directly behind and off to either side.

Next time you are griping over the “inconvenience” of a park or campground closing when you want to go in, think about the following pictures and thank the rangers for opting to close, rather than put you at risk.   As for myself, I thank you, USACE Rangers, for a job well done and a chance to watch you in action. 

I really hope you enjoy these pictures.


Dr. White directing crew in starting initial blaze.

Fire with back-fire well under way.

Baylor students creating back blaze directly behind our RV pad

Judy had to escape across the street to get this shot!

The fermament when both fire and back-fire collide!

Ranger Liz Anderson.  Vigilance is a must!  

Shimmering waves of heat can suck you dry.

The beauty of the beast!

...and out of the firmament...

This little fellow got the hot foot!

Visibility was less than a car length

All of this ... took only about 10 minutes to completely burn and put itself out ... frightening!
180 acres up in smoke!

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Good Day At Reynolds Creek Park

Every day that passes here at Reynolds Creek on Waco Lake carries with it new surprises!  Saturday evening, we were sitting around, visiting with Dave and Sue, our volunteer neighbors, when suddenly two Waco PD cars raced through our entrance silently, with lights flashing.  Dave and I hopped into my SUV and hurried after them (not as recklessly I might add) and found them pulled up on one of the points looking out over the lake.  It seems a group of guys had rented a houseboat to celebrate one of their son's birthday.  Somehow, during their cruise at one point, they fouled the boat's prop in the anchor rode.  We were having steady winds across the lake of about 20-30 mph and the party was, to put it mildly, in deep doo-doo!  While we were there, the approaching Waco Fire Dept. Rescue Boat lost power and they were dead in the water.   Finally, after about another 10-15 minutes, they were able to get under way and make progress to the hapless houseboat, tie a line to it and tow it to one of our boat ramps and floating docks.

Early Sunday morning, they bribed the birthday boy into going for a swim in the freezing water and freeing the prop.

Also Sunday morning, I was making my rounds, checking on how much the lake had risen - we had over 2" of rain in the past 24 hours - and the water was rising steadily.  This didn't deter a horde of hopeful fishermen as they launched their craft with the prospects of the heavy rains bringing about good fishing.  I was engaged in a conversation with a couple when I noticed what looked to be a dark shape slinking across the road about 200 yards away.  I immediately grabbed my camera and started shooting, and I was lucky enough to capture a few shots of a fairly rare sight.  It was a really large and very dark bobcat.  I apologize for the lack of clarity in these shots, but my equipment and my ability to hand-hold the camera steady enough was beyond its limits.

Soon afterwards, I arrived home and saw a couple of birds twittering and playing up on our utility pole next to the motor home.  Once again, I grabbed my camera and was able to get a few good shots before they flew away,  The Eastern Bluebird is a regular here, but I usually can't see their colors because the bright back light makes them look a nondescript black or dark gray. 


Thanks for your interest...more to come.