5.21.2009,12:33 PM
Abiline State Park
Abilene State Park

Continuing south on Hwy 89, I approached the little town of Buffalo Gap. A few years ago the name had tickled my curiosity. "Buffalo Gap"? A quick online research revealed the source of the name: a physical gap in a narrow line of mesas and hills called the Callahan Divide. Centuries ago it was a bottle neck for bison leaving the high plains to the more southern lower plains. The Divide also separates the Brazos and Concho Rivers, with Elm Creek and other lesser creeks winding through.

This area was a favorite hunting and camping ground for many Indian tribes. The creeks supplied water and the lush growth of large oaks provided shade and cooking fuel. And it was a favorite of the buffalo hunters.

Because it was a natural gap within the range of hills, many trails passed through: cattle trails north to south, military roads, and the Buffalo Gap Highway (now FM 89) surveyed in 1770's. The town grew and became the seat of the county until Abilene won the vote in the late 1800's. Ironically, the stone building that served as the original Taylor county seat in Buffalo Gap remains today.

FM 89 literally winds through the sleepy town with huge oak trees overhanging the road. I felt as though I were riding through a green tunnel and really enjoyed the 30 mph speed limit to make the pleasure last. The many restored houses and buildings marked as artisan and small specialty shops suggests that the town's primary income is tourism. I saw a sign directing towards the Buffalo Gap Historic Village, but didn't have the energy to investigate. Besides, it was getting late. Perhaps on my way back through.

The highway quickly resumes typical ranch country outside of the town and heads west-southwest. Finally I found a park sign, partly hidden by branches, for the state park. While I checked in at the front desk, I asked which shelter they recommended.

"Oh, this one here. It's closest to the woods and near the bathrooms."

Not knowing what to expect since this was my first visit, I reserved that one. Following the map and turning right at the fourth turn, a group of five shelters were nested next to and under tall trees. Several of these trees were dead, one leaning against a roof. I was glad that wasn't my shelter.

Gearing down to first, I slowly rode on the path leading to the shelters off the main park road. The path was half mud and half gravel, but the bike seemed to do just fine. I steered off the path to carefully glide to a stop on old fallen ash and pecan leaves near my shelter. On the safe side, I put my right foot down to test the ground. It was solid enough but those dried leaves were very slippery! I pushed leaves away from a spot on the right for my foot and on the left for the kick stand.

I soon realized my bad for forgetting to put the kick stand puck back in my tank bag. The stand's foot sank more than an inch in the dirt. I'd have to take care of that asap. But first, I needed to get out of these sweaty jacket and pants!

Immediately after unlocking the shelter door, I literally peeled my outer gear off me and hung them on nails inside to dry out. It was at least in the mid 90's with near 95% humidity; the air was thick. With shorts sticking to my body, I retrieved packed liners out of the side bags and decided I needed a cold shower. Now. At that moment, I was glad the restroom was so close to my shelter.

I pulled out the microfabric sleeping bag liner to use as a towel and headed for the building. The forceful cool water felt so good I was reluctant to turn the faucet off. Grinning, I held my thin-fabric shorts briefly under the shower and put them on. I knew they would dry quickly, but in the mean time, I could extend that cool water feeling. My tank top was soaked from sweat. I rinsed that, too.

When I left, still dripping (and didn't care), no one was around. Perfect. All the other shelters were empty and I had the place all to myself. For a little while. By that time, the shorts were dry. Unloading the rest of my camping gear, I made camp. When I moved my boots, I noticed how wet they were inside from sweat. I decided then to take my socks and helmet beanie to the shower and rinse those out, too. Besides, I could get another cold shower. I hung everything on the bike to dry and laughed aloud at how the bike looks like a clothes dryer on my camping and long trips.

After setting up my sleeping spot and arranging space on the picnic table, it was time to eat before all light was lost. I had a package of dehydrated Jamaican Chicken to which I added water and made a cup of coffee in my little French Press. Ah, everything is fine.

I sat outside on the cement stoop and read a book for awhile until I noticed the sun going down. And saw color in clouds that had begun rolling in. Grabbing the monopod and affixing the camera, I strolled out onto the park road to see what I could catch.

And watched as the front literally rolled in above me. I especially took delight in how the edge of the front played catch with the moon.

I made my way back to the shelter in near total darkness, lit my candle and crawled into the bag. The night was still warm, but the wind suggested cooling off later on. I read until I couldn't focus my eyes anymore and fell asleep.

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posted by Macrobe
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