Can you believe that it’s been six months since we pulled in and set up the RV in Alamo, Texas?
You might recall that I blogged about our arrival to the Rio Grande Valley on the evening of October 4th. Here we were at Marinoff Compound — a fenced in area at the end of a farm road. Marinoff has 14 oversized RV pads with full hookups, a bunkhouse, laundry shed, and several small (unoccupied) travel trailers. There was only one other RV set up on a site nearby and the next morning, shortly after we stumbled out and started looking around, we were greeted by the occupants of that RV, Jackie and Kaz. Eventually, we were joined here by several other volunteer couples and singles (Kathleen/Tom, Carolyn/Charles, Janice/Bob, Virginia/Kurt, Larry, Jim, Emily, the ACE Crew, and Debbie/Mark). And over time, it also became less of an event when we would hear and see Border Patrol speed off (from their compound next to us) in their vehicles or ATVs to investigate or apprehend a(n) UDA (undocumented alien).
We began our volunteer duties in the Visitor Center at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge on October 9th where we worked for four months. Then, after a week of training in January, we transitioned to Tram Operations on the 31st. Now, we are closing in on three months of hosting visitors and driving them on the 7-mile tram tour route. Every week, we work on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and tours are 9:30, Noon, and 2:00. Every tour is different — we never know what might be seen on any given tour — we have seen Roadrunners, Hawks, birds of all kinds, snakes, rabbits, Bobcats, Javalena, and Armadillo. Most visitors have been interested, but some just ride to ride and don’t care to hear the narrative. The kids are the best; they soak up the nature, ask lots of questions, and are genuinely interested as we walk and explore. I really get a kick out of their reaction to the prickly pear cactus growing up high in the snag or when we see a Texas Indigo Snake stretched out on the tram road.
Overall, we have had many good days here in the Valley and working with the “brown shirts” at the Refuge. We cannot say enough good things about Raul. From the beginning he taught us so much about the Refuge, birds, where to find specific specialties, trails/maps, how to answer visitor questions, and generally how to do our volunteer jobs. He really has been a tremendous help to us and we believe that he is an invaluable asset to the Refuge.
When we worked in the Visitor Center, we helped out in the Nature Store. We really enjoyed working with Karen and love what she has done to develop the store in the short time she has been there.
I have to thank Christine for letting me talk her into accepting us as volunteers when she really didn’t have an opening for anyone (I can be pretty persuasive).
I was was nervous about having our Tram supervisor, Laura, ride along with us but finally she and her son Imer rode along with us on Saturday and she had all good things to say about my narrative and Ken’s driving. And, I really got a kick out of having Imer walk along Jaguarundi trail with me and he listened intently to most of what I said on the tour.
The Refuge manager, Gisela has helped us on a few occasions here, so we have to say thank you to her for always having our back, being interested in what the volunteer experience is like, and wanting to improve how things are done.
Last, but not least, is Rosa. As an intern, you bring a fun, youthfulness to the “fishbowl” and visitor center. I love it when you giggle, but then that serious side pushes through and I know you are going places! If you keep absorbing all that you can through education and sharing that with youth, it can have such an infectious impact.
Thank you to all here who made this the exciting and positive first volunteer experience that it has been.
We still have a few weeks here before we move on, but unless something changes, the next blog should be about moving on to the Mesa/Chandler, Arizona area as we head toward the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Until then, there is much to do… Cleaning inside and out, and a couple of minor bucket list items before we leave the Valley.
Peace and love (throwback, lol),
Dorothy & Ken
Previously posted favorites and recent photos: