On the advice of Rich Luhr, Dan and Marlene were keen to visit Balmorhea State Park, not too far over the Texas border. And a good idea it was. Set on a natural spring whose waters are warm year-round, the park is also home to a restored desert wetland area. Here, birds abound and the endangered pupfish thrives among the tall green grasses. I specify green because it had been a very long time since we had seen anything green – apart from agaves, saguaros and other cactuses. Here, the air felt soft, and the sun no longer burned – we were, after all, several thousand feet lower than we had been for ages.
We even detected a hint of…springtime. But back to the spring itself: the park’s main feature is its 77,053 square foot pool fed by the San Solomon Springs (22 to 28 million gallons of water pass through it each day!). Visitors are invited to swim, snorkel and even scuba dive, cohabiting with the area’s many types of fish and turtles. So, at the end of February, the eight of us enjoyed a day at the pool. After a picnic, the girls splashed around and the adults snorkeled.
Having grown up swimming competitively, I have always loved swimming – fast. Learning use the snorkel was scary – breathing under water does not come naturally. But Daniel, who has his PADI license, explained how to do it, and it was great. Swimming just below the surface, making minimal splashes, regarding the fish – teeny and tiny – working to disturb their home as little as possible, appreciating the refraction of sunlight underwater, I achieved a previously unknown calm. Which seemed like the perfect metaphor for this trip.
Claire – On maternity leave from career as editor of monthly finance trade magazines, and occasionally a freelance translator. Half-American/half-English, raised in the suburbs of New York, has lived in London for almost nine years.
Daniel – Furniture designer/maker based on London’s Columbia Road flower market, for ten years, also an aspiring painter and DIY supremo. On one-year career break to reconsider options. English by birth, but mother is half-American and spent part of her childhood in Bronxville, New York.
Sophia – 3.5-year old spitfire who loves school, singing, swimming and being a big sister
Lulu – Born May 8 of this year, a model baby who eats, sleeps and gurgles.
Special guests – American, British and international friends and family who drop in along our trip to see whatever part of the country they fancy. They’re welcome to travel in the car with us and sleep in an adjoining tent.