The semi-darkness slides gently into daybreak. The day is new, fresh, and with that early morning coolness that hints of warmth latter on. My wife and I greet this sun-up with excited anticipation. Southern Texas is a long way from home, but the distance has not dissuaded us. One advantage of early rising is the glorious feeling of having the world to one’s self. This day is no different, as we are the only ones on the refuge. The gate opened early, and we were waiting to take advantage of the situation.
But now, the park is ours alone. White-Tailed Deer are everywhere. They still feel secure because the darkness has just recently lifted. They graze the meadows beside the road, and being surprised by our sudden appearance, dissolve into cover as we pass. Bird calls break the stillness and their flitting from bush to bush catches our attention. From the brush, a pair of ears sticks up. I hit the brakes. A female Peccary is foraging with her litter of babies. Unlike their mother, who is dark and solid colored, they have stripes running the length of their backs. Now that we have detected them, the pigs dash for the wooded areas. Around a bend, appears an animal whose hips undulate in a most ungraceful gait. It is a Raccoon. He sees us and takes refuge in a water pipe. The waiting game for a photo begins – but I finally get one.
The gentle meadows and woods of Aransas are bordered on the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Most species of shorebirds find a home here, especially the endangered Whooping Crane, for which the refuge was set aside. A boat trip is necessary to see them at a shorter distance. They are in groups of three.
Upon leaving the park, there is still one more major treat – ALLIGATORS. A pair has chosen this moment to come ashore to bask in the mid-day sun. What grand, primitive, animals! Their hides are heavy and dark and somehow don’t seem totally real. They have jaws that can open “a mile” to reveal formidable teeth. They are content, however, to allow me to get close-up pictures.
This day, long looked forward to, is memorable – and this place, is one of contentment and inner joy!