Lake Life

& Such

Boy Scout Troop #398 meets at the Cedar Creek Bible Church from 7-8:30 p.m. each Tuesday. For more information, call (903) 498-5725 or (903) 498-3830.
Cedar Creek Art Society meets from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. the last Thursday of each month at the Mabank Volunteer Fire Department. A $3 donation per artist is asked.
Cedar Creek Domino Club meets each week on Wednesday at the Mabank Volunteer Fire Department. For more info, call (903) 498-4351.
Cedar Creek NAR-ANON meets at 8 p.m. on Tuesday at 715 S. Hwy. 274, Ste. D in Seven Points. (903) 432-2405.
Cedar Creek Narcotics Anonymous meets at 8 p.m., Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, at 715 S. Hwy. 274, Ste. D in Seven Points. (903) 432-2405. Saturday is a 10 p.m. candlelight meeting.
Cedar Creek 49ers Club meets every Thursday and fourth Saturday for fellowship and dancing. Doors open at 6 p.m. The club is located off Arnold Hill Road in Seven Points. Call for more information, (903) 432-3552.
Cedar Creek Lake Kiwanis Club meets at noon each Wednesday at The Jalapeno Tree in Gun Barrel City, except the second week of the month, when the club meets Thursday in conjunction with the area chamber of commerce luncheon.
Cedar Creek Optimist Club meets every Tuesday at noon at the Dairy Queen in Seven Points. For more information please call Danny Hampel at (903) 778-4508.
Cedar Creek Republican Club meets every fourth Thursday. For more information call (903) 887-4867.
Cedar Creek Rotary Club meets at noon each Friday at Vetoni’s Italian Restaurant. For more information, call Dee Ann Owens at (903) 340-2415.
Cub Scout Pack #333 meets at the First United Methodist Church of Mabank the second and fourth Monday at 7 p.m. For information, call Mary Harris at (903) 451-5280 or Tonya Capley at (903) 498-4725.
Girl Scout Troop #112 meets at the First United Methodist Church in Mabank the second and fourth Monday at 7 p.m. For more info, call GeriLeigh Stotts at (469) 323-7943 or Malisa Bilberry at (903) 340-7451, or email
Disabled American Veterans Chapter 101 meets the second Monday of each month at the Senior Citizens Center on Hwy. 31 in Athens.
Girl Scout Troop 2667 meets every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Aley United Methodist Church. For more information, please call Suzann Smith at (903) 887-3889.
Gun Barrel Quilter’s Guild meets from 10 a.m. on the second Wednesday of each month at the Tri-County Library in Mabank. For more information, please call (903) 451-4221.
Kaufman County Republican Women’s Club meets the third Saturday of each month at the Farm Bureau Insurance Company, located at 2477 N. Hwy. 34 in Kaufman. For more info, call (972) 287-1239 or (903) 880-6770.
Kemp Kiwanis Club meets at noon each Tuesday at the Nutrition Center in Kemp. For more information, please call Dr. Jim Collinsworth at (903) 887-7486.
Lake Area Council of the Blind meets at 6 p.m. on the second Saturday of the month at West Athens Baptist Church.
Lake Area Democrats Club meets at 6:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month at Dairy Queen in Seven Points. Everyone is welcome. Email  for more information.
Mabank/Cedar Creek Area Lions Club meets at 6:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month at the Tri-County Library in Mabank. Call (903) 887-5252 for info.
Mabank Garden Club meets at 2:45 p.m. at the Tri-County Library on the third Tuesday of every month (different times in May and December).
Oak Harbor/Tanglewood Crime Watch meets at 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month at the R.T. Beamguard Community Center in Oak Harbor.
Roddy Masonic Lodge meets at 6:30 p.m. the second Monday each month. Call (903) 887-6201 for info.
RootSeekers meet at 7 p.m. on the third Monday of the month in the Tri-County Library in downtown Mabank. The public is welcome to attend.
Southeast Kaufman County Senior Citizens Center Board of Directors meets at 1 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month at the center, located at 300 N. Dallas Street in Kemp. For more info, call (903) 498-2140.
SUICIDE SURVIVORS GROUP for those grieving the loss of someone by suicide, meets every Monday at 6:30 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Mabank.
TAMARACK LADIES CLUB meets at 11 a.m. the first Wednesday of each month at the TLC Hall.
TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) meet at 6 p.m. each Monday at the First Baptist Church of Mabank. Contact Gaye Ward at (903) 887-5913 for more info.
TVCC Singles meet at 7 p.m. each Monday in the Nutrition Center at TVCC, located off Park Street near the Athens Country Club. This is a support group for singles of all ages and is supported by TVCC. For more info, call Hilda Anding at (903) 489-2259.



Head West, young man
Scenic vistas above and below ground revealed

By Kerry Yancey
Monitor Staff Writer

WEST TEXAS–Rugged mountains, vast underground spaces filled with impossible fairyland shapes, wide-open spaces filled with nothing except sky and scrub, ghost towns and an unexpectedly beautiful oasis erupting from the desert floor – all accessible by smooth, wide highways.
All that’s needed to enjoy these scenes is the willingness to brave butt-numbing driving distances and a well-backed credit card.

Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
Twin rails marking the walking path (bottom center) wind through a portion of the Big Room in Carlesbad Caverns, so named because it is the second-largest single cave chamber in the world, more than 4,000 feet long and 625 wide, arching 325 feet above the cave floor.

Because Texas really is just like a whole ’nother country, folks who want to get away from the Cedar Creek Lake area’s trees, rolling hills and humidity can head west to the mountains.
This reporter (and wife Shirley) recently visited Big Bend National Park, followed by a trip north across the border to New Mexico for a walk through Carlesbad Caverns, one of the largest cave systems in North America.
Being Texas, it’s a long way to anywhere.
State travel brochures say it’s about 650 miles from Dallas to Big Bend National Park, and Interstate 20 can take you there about as fast as legally possible – west of Abilene, the speed limit climbs to 80 mph – but it’s still far enough that even the most intrepid traveler will whine, “Are we there yet?”
Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
The Rio Grande carved the dramatic Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park over millions of years. The cliffs on the left are Mexico, while the cliffs on the right are Texas. The park administers 245 miles of the river for recreational use.

As one moves west of Abilene, the land flattens out and looks a lot more like desert. That flat land and open sky is being transformed by wind turbine farms, particularly around Sweetwater, where rows of giant white windmills marching into the distance generate electricity.
Interstate 20 passes south of the dual town of Midland (to the east) and Odessa. From the freeway, both cities look like clusters of skyscrapers looming out of the tabletop-flat prairie to the north.
With an overnight stop in Fort Stockton, we traveled to Fort Davis, visiting the historic fort – built to protect the San Antonio-El Paso mail route from attacks by Native American tribes – and the nearby McDonald Observatory.
The observatory, owned by the University of Texas, includes three major telescopes and several smaller instruments.

Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
Visitors gather around the base of the 107-inch Harlan J. Smith Telescope while touring the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis County.

Folks walking into the visitor’s center can stand on concrete representations of the actual mirror size of the major instruments – the original 82-inch (2.1 meter) Otto Struve Telescope, the 107-inch (2.7 meter) Harlan J. Smith Telescope and the 360-inch (9.2 meter) Hobby-Eberly Telescope.
A tour took us through the domed platform supporting the Smith Telescope. There is a small eyepiece off to the side of the massive ’scope, but astronomers almost never spend hours looking through telescopes any more – the light gathered by the huge mirrors is focused on computer-controlled cameras, spectrometers and other precision instruments.
The massive Hobby-Eberly Telescope is actually an array of meter-wide hexagonal mirrors, providing the light-gathering capability of a 360-inch telescope at about 20 percent of the cost.
From there, we moved south into Big Bend National Park, one of the largest (801,163 acres) and least-utilized national parks.

Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
Jeep tour guide Phillip points out to the wide plain of mine tailings left behind by decades of mercury mining outside Big Bend National Park, just north of the Terlingua ghost town. The hills he is pointing to mark the edge of a miles-wide caldera, left by a supervolcano that erupted millions of years ago.

The park’s topography – steep-sided, flat-topped mountains thrusting up from the surrounding plain – means a wide variety of plant and animal habitats, ranging from desert to alpine species.
Once upon a time, the entire area was a shallow sea, but a supervolcano blew up, leaving a caldera several miles wide and thrusting volcanic rock up and nearly through the seabed.
Millions of years later, weathering has left mountains of volcanic rock standing more than 5,000 feet above the surrounding Chihuahuan Desert, high enough to catch the meager moisture drifting northeast from the Sea of Cortez off the Baja peninsula and creating rain over the park.
Just outside the park, the ghost town of Terlingua (site of a famous chili festival each October) is all that’s left of a major mercury mining operation.
We booked a Jeep tour of the valley outside Terlingua. During the three-hour tour, the guide told us about the area’s geological history, and pointed out many plants and animal signs.
Tucked into a deep valley among the park’s mountains is the Big Bend Lodge, offering dining and accommodations for visitors looking to hike among the spectacular scenery and amazing variety of wildlife.
That wildlife includes mountain lions and Mexican bears.
Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
The cemetery at the old Terlingua ghost town contains graves of miners and family members who died before mercury mining was halted and the town abandoned.

Visitors and staff members occasionally see mountain lions, and although documented attacks on humans are rare, park rangers carefully warn visitors how to react if they see either a lion or a bear.
Bear sightings are far less common – the park ranger said the usual sighting was of the bear’s butt as it disappeared into the undergrowth – but all trash is kept in bear-proof containers, and visitors are warned not to leave food out or in insecure containers, such as a cooler.
Leaving the park, we headed north, passing back through Fort Stockton and through the Pecos River valley into southeast New Mexico to Carlesbad.
The county seat of Eddy County (pronounced EE-dee), Carlesbad has embraced the idea of being a tourist destination for folks headed to Carlesbad Caverns, although there are plenty of local economic drivers, such as oil and gas, mining and agriculture.
(The high school varsity sports teams are named the Cavemen and Cavewomen.)
Formed over millions of years by the slow weathering of acidic underground water (essentially sulfuric acid), Carlesbad Caverns was discovered in 1898 by a young ranch hand named Jim White while he was out checking fences.
White saw what appeared to be a plume of smoke arising from the ground. The plume was actually hundreds of thousands of bats leaving the cave to hunt for insects overnight.
Over several decades, White explored the cave system, discovering ever more-astonishing formations, and giving them names – King’s Palace, Queen’s Chamber, Papoose Room and Green Lake Room.
White also named many of the cave’s most prominent features, such as the Totem Pole, Witch’s Finger, Giant Dome, Bottomless Pit, Fairyland, Iceberg Rock and Rock of Ages.
Pictures taken inside the cave helped spur public interest, and President Calvin Coolidge established Carlesbad Caverns National Monument in 1923.
A cool 56 degrees year-round, the caverns include the second-largest single cave chamber in the world, the Big Room, stretching nearly 4,000 feet long and 625 feet wide, arching 350 feet above the cave floor.
We took the guided tour of King’s Palace, descending another 800 feet deeper underground to view spectacular formations, while getting a history of the caverns from a young ranger, who serenaded the group as we started off.
With an unscheduled day, we headed north 76 miles to visit Roswell, with a side trip to Sitting Bull Falls.
Located at the head of a rugged canyon, the falls arise from a spring and tumble more than 100 feet to a crystalline pool surrounded by trees and grasses.
Although it took about a half-hour of driving through open range – read “no fences to keep cows off the road” – plus a little walking to get there, the falls were a spectacular sight and well worth the effort.
Getting back to the highway, another hour brought us to Roswell, now famed for the 1947 “Roswell UFO Incident,” where a local military commander reported he had recovered debris from a crashed flying saucer.
Although the U.S. government quickly denied the flying saucer part – the wreckage was officially identified as a weather balloon – UFO buffs have made Roswell a central gathering site.
Being no fools, the citizens of Roswell have embraced the alien visitation theme and its tourism dollars. More than a half-dozen shops in the downtown area are specifically geared to “alien” souvenirs, and the streetlights are painted with alien eyes.
A McDonald’s restaurant featured a big sign inviting “aliens” to drop in for a hamburger.
Heading back home the next day, we made good time going east across the Texas Panhandle, dropping south to rejoin I-20 at Sweetwater.
After a stop for a steak dinner in the Fort Worth Stockyards district, we returned to Canton, having covered 2,057 miles of God’s country.

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