Sunday, March 25, 2007

Camping at Bastrop State Park

Keryn (my sister in law), my son Ben, and I, went on a little over night camping trip yesterday. I wanted to camp in the forest so chose Bastrop SP. I'll probably not camp there again unless it's back country. The camp sites are too close to the highway and all I heard all night were trucks and cars. That sucked balls, but I know it's part of the territory when camping family style.

The other bothersome part of the trip was when a bunch of dads with their prissy little girls, at least 50 of them, showed up in the campgrounds. They identified themselves as "Indian Princesses". Gag! Obnoxious prissy little brats is more like it. They left the women's bathroom a horrid mess(I'll spare the details), which was not that way before they arrived. To make matters worse, they screamed and hollered for at least two hours before they moved on. Thankfully they didn't camp right there...that would have been too much for me.

How I long for a decent backpacking trip away from trucks, cars, and Indian Princesses. The LST weekend that's where I'll be hopefully.

On a positive note, Ben had a great time and that made me happy. He played on the playground for several hours and enjoyed roasting marshmallows, eating junk food, and playing in the tent. He was filthy from a day of play outdoors and enjoyed having a shower to clean up before bed. I then had to contend with the most wiggly four year old ever for the next couple of hours as he tossed and turned. He kept getting his sleeping bag messed up and I'd have to help him straighten it out. This went on what seemed like forever, but finally he zonked out. I was quite happy for the opportunity to relax and wait for sleep.

This morning we got up very early and headed for home. I was happy to do so since I knew I'd be walking later on to get some much needed exercise. Ben didn't want to hike and I didn't want to force him. I'd rather he enjoy the outdoor experience so he'll want to continue going without having bad memories of being made to hike and make him not want to go on trips.

Oh and the "green slime" that covered Thomas's car when he was in the piney forest covered mine too this trip. It's really just pollen, but a thin layer of green muck none the less.

Ahhhhh, Pine Forest. I love the carpet of pine needles on the forest floor.

Home sweet home away from home

Lots of stuff

I made fire. It was hard rubbing those two sticks together for so many hours...Ha! Had ya goin there for a second. ;)

Auntie Keryn and Ben enjoying a roasted Artichoke. They were tasty.

Ben getting assistance with marshmallow roasting

Notice the foil wrapped artichoke roasting in the fire

Mmmm, now it's smore time. Man it looks like all we did was eat eat eat!

That's a happy camper.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

What's for Dinner?

Potato and leek Soup
French bread
mixed green salad

I haven't made soup in ages and today feels like a good day for it. I look forward to using some of the herbs from my garden. The fun thing about making soup is that it doesn't have to be the same every time. Simply adjusting the amounts of herbs will vary the flavor a great deal. I never measure anything, I just throw it in...taste...and adjust. If you don't have the confidence to try it that way, take a small amount of your base and season it to experiment. That way if you don't like it, you didn't ruin the whole dish.

Herb Garden

Herbs, Leeks, Potatoes, onion, celery

Chopped garlic, onions, celery, herbs

Quick Saute

Cooking with potatoes

Monday, March 19, 2007

Doeskin Ranch Yesterday

This is a pleasant place for a leisurely stroll and we only encountered one other couple on the trail while we were there. This time around there was a healthy amount of water in the creek beds and emerald pools that we followed for a while. In one or two spots the water came straight out of the ground crystal clear and fresh. It looked rather inviting.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Caitlin's New Favorite

Suicide Holiday
Nice people!
Ralph is a clown...give it up dread lock boy, punks rule!

Various Pictures....

Trail Angel Photos First try (Wednesday 03/14/2007)

My car and Thomas's car as we are gassing up for the trip

Taking off...
Weather not looking so great...

But we're going anyway...Actually it wasn't long after this shot was taken that we aborted the trip for that day. I never imagined I would end up at South by instead. But as one can see, the weather was all wrong.

Back at Thomas's new place. This is a creek that runs by his back patio. It was flowing that day and the water sounded quite peaceful. We rested up a bit before heading back out for a day of music fest. The contrast between the quiet of Thomas's place and the intensity of sounds from live music was pretty amazing to me.

Day Two...second and final attempt

As you can see, the weather isn't looking much better, but this was primarily fog and would clear. The drive was exceptionally pretty. Unfortunately I didn't take any other fog pictures when I should have, but I suppose driving and picture taking probably isn't a great idea, especially in fog!

We made it and there is sunlight even!

Where Thomas would be hiking back to. He reported that his car was covered with a ultra thin layer of green slime.

Water for caching and Thomas's pack.

Water Stash...see the little trail note?

This notice from the Forestry Service warns of the bridge being out at a water crossing on the San Jacinto river. Thomas made the decision to start from this trail head instead of a different one that would force him to have to cross the river this note warns of. It shaved about 4 miles off of his trip.

The trail was high and dry in this part of the forest. The terrain changed dramatically the further in Thomas went. This is where I turned around. The next several pictures were taken on the walk back to my car.

Tree Sap. It sparkled like glitter in the sunlight, but don't think the photo captured it.

Violet. These were just getting started for the season.

Friday, March 16, 2007

My Trail Angel Duty is Done

In a nutshell I had a great time and learned some cool stuff. We left early Thursday morning and met again at the same place. No hesitations or delays this time and the drive was very pretty! Fog was heavy in some areas and most of the way we encountered it to varying degrees. There was also standing water in fields and such and I knew it was going to be a wet hike for Thomas. Little did I know at the time how wet...which I only found out about today. More about that later...

We dropped off Thomas's car at the first trail head...the one he'd hike many miles back to. We then drove to a couple of different locations to stash some water and unknown to Thomas at the time, some trail notes I left for him. Nothing special...just a couple of little notes he'd find when he retrieved his cached water. He reported today that he found one of them(a riddle) but not the other, which was simply a note of encouragement that he was almost done. That one must have been lost in the leaf litter as he was pulling the water out of the pile it was hidden in.

He didn't even know the note he did find was from me. He thought someone was messing with his head because the night before he heard poacher's guns and their vehicle driving back and forth in the night not too far from his camp. In hindsight I should have signed my name on the note. It didn't occur to me that he might not know I was the one who planted it there.

After arriving at the last trail head which would be Thomas's starting point for his trip, it really hit home that the trip was going to happen. He was going to be putting in some serious mileage and I was starting to feel a little anxious for him wondering what he would be encountering "out there" because I was still concerned about the terrain conditions. He said we would walk along the trail for a couple of miles and see how it was looking. I was happy to walk a little way into the forest with him actually. I was dying to go on this trip with him in the first place, but couldn't pull it off this time around.

The instant I started walking into the woods I was immediately swept into the moment and felt a rush of emotion over come me, including that peaceful sensation that takes hold once I'm out in nature away from it all. In all honesty, I got sad as can be. I would have to tell Thomas goodbye and drive back to Austin alone, when I wanted nothing more than to accompany him on the adventure.

We walked in silence for a while before coming to a T in the trail. I wanted to keep going, but I knew the further I went in, the longer it would take me to get back to my car and the longer it would delay me getting back home and relieving Caitlin of her babysitting duties. It was hard to stop there but that is where my walk ended and Thomas's big adventure began. The trails seemed to be in great condition from what we could tell and I hugged my capable friend goodbye, told him to be careful, and that was that.

The drive back to Austin was without incident and I got home around 6pm. Being a trail angel was a good experience for me and I learned more about the mysterious LST. It was fun supporting Thomas and helping out however small my role was. He did all the real work, all I did was give him a ride.

Now about that phone call. Thomas called me today around 1pm and said he had completed his trip ALREADY! I was pretty amazed because I wasn't expecting to hear from him until either Saturday or Sunday night at the very latest. That means he powered out well over 15 miles of hiking the first day and 11 miles the next. Not only did he accomplish the distance quickly, but he had to cover it in the swamp like conditions I feared he would encounter. What a bad ass!

The Whirlwind Continues...

The next place we ended up was Room 710. We listened to the tail end of a band I don't know the name of and then moved on fairly quickly to Head Hunters. While there we saw a band called "Suicide Holiday" and drank a couple more drinks. Things were starting to blur all together at this point as I tried to recap the days events so far. Anyway, the band was good and I enjoyed their show quite a bit. They had a pretty female drummer who I'd say seriously knew how to rock out on the drums, and their lead singer was this cute guy with dreads that went down past his butt. We watched their show from a bird's eye view which was an interesting angle because when the lead singer would jump, his dreads would fly up all around him. It looked cool from up top.

Then I believe we went back to room 710 and watched Pat Todd, which turned out to be seriously great music and I'm now a fan of yet another band I never knew existed. After that show, Thomas asked me if I'd like to see a mind fuck of a band and of course I didn't hesitate to say yes. We went over to a bar called Plush to see "Rubber Robot". When we got there, two guys were playing their heavy metal music and the bar was almost empty. They were playing their hearts out though. At the end of their show, I chatted up the drummer(I like drummers) and found out he was also an artist. He offered me the backdrop for their set up, which was a largish white board with a black skeleton bull painted on and the words "Plastic Assassin" written down the sides. I was thrilled with the score but I didn't want to carry it with me the rest of the day and left it at the bar behind the counter. Unfortunately I never did get to return and retrieve it, so lost it.

Win some lose some...back to "Rubber Robot"...the mind fuck band. Yes indeed, I'd say that is an accurate description. I fell in love with "Rubber Robot" and am going to see them play again on Saturday night. This band had a psychedelic sound layered over heavy metal. It was something I've not heard before and instead of a lead guitarist, they had this guy playing a Theramin, which is this bizarre instrument with a bizarre sound and I had never seen one before. I couldn't even begin to describe it really, but it's spacey sounding and I thought the guy played it very intensely. One of the best parts of this band was their gimmick. They all wore matching plastic horse heads and the whole affect was freaaaaaaky! They way the moved their heads and bodies to their music was fascinating to watch.

Thomas and I left Plush and walked the 10 or so city blocks back to his place, where we would part ways until time to meet up the next morning so he could finally get started on his LST trip. I don't remember exactly what happened, but I ended up sticking around and not going home...I had caught the South by SW fever. Thomas and I ate a snack, we rested, then we walked back downtown in the evening for more. I can't even tell you what bands we saw but we didn't stay out late because both of us still had to get up early the next morning and meet up at the Texaco again so he could finally begin his LST trip.

Whew! If you have read this far dear reader, you are a glutton for punishment. I'm long winded today and don't want to stop writing but must take a break again. I still have to write about the actual trail angel experience I had. In fact you are getting blow by blow descriptions almost hot off the presses! It's Friday afternoon, and Thomas completed his trip already at least a day early! There are some interesting details regarding that. I'm heading out again tonight for more music festival fun and I still have to write about my phone call earlier today with Thomas and describe everything he told me about his experience out in the wild. He has quite a story to tell too. I'll be back...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

First installment...All Wrong and Plans Change

If you have read my entry regarding being a trail angel for the first time, this story is a continuation of the events that took place the day of my TA debut. Thomas and I had arranged to meet up early Wed morning to head out because he felt the weather would be more kind as in rain moving out of the area. He originally wanted to leave on Tuesday but there was way too much rain to make the attempt. It was disappointing that he had to put it off another day, but what can ya do?

Wednesday morning arrived and Thomas and I met at the Texaco on 290 to begin our three hour or so drive to the first trail head in the Sam Houston National Forest. Even though the rain was supposed to be clearing the area, it was still very drizzly and gray out and didn't seem to be improving much. Thomas started to think twice about this trip while we were standing in the parking lot debating what the conditions would be like. I imagined the forest would be swampy in several areas and that the many creek crossings could prove to be too difficult. Thomas imagined lugging 10 extra pounds of mud around on each foot as he walked. We've had trails do that to us before after a rain. The mud builds up in layers on your shoes and you feel like you have big heavy Frankenstein boots on. But after some deliberation, he made the call and decided we'd press onward and see what the trail was like.

We only got about another mile down the road before Thomas pulled over and decided to wait another day. All was wrong and plans change. I knew he was doing the right thing and couldn't blame him one bit for postponing another day. The question at that point became "Now What?"

I already had the day free and Thomas didn't want to waste another day of vacation, so we decided to go to the opening day of South by Southwest. This would be my first time ever to experience it and I was very excited! For those of you who are unfamiliar with what I'm talking about, this is a HUGE music event in Austin each year. I could go on and on about the finer nuances of what it is and what it means to Austin and the local bands who play here, but basically thousands of bands come through downtown packing bars with live music all day and well into the wee hours of the night for four days. Outside for several city blocks thousands of people move in and out of bars and crowd the streets. You will see all kinds of characters and a sea of rockers and sound waves of music surround you as you walk down the streets.

So just like that plans changed and we were off on a new adventure. First we needed to have a plan of action and went back to Thomas's place so he could look up online to see who was playing and where for that afternoon and evening. That's when he saw the name of the band, "All Wrong and Plans Change". HA! That was classic and of course had to be the first band of the day. They were playing at a club called Moonshine. Other acts on our list were "The Affairs", "The Applicators", "Rubber Robot", "Pat Todd", and a few others I can't remember right now.

We left Thomas's place on foot and walked the 10 city blocks to Moonshine to see "All Wrong and Plans Change". It was noon and I found myself with beer in hand in a bar in downtown Austin, on a weekday, and couldn't have been happier. The band started playing and even though I was a little disappointed they weren't some punk band, they did have a pleasant indie rock sound and the lead singer was cute as could be. There was a ton of free stuff promoting the band out on a table and I ended up with a cd, and a cool lighter. After their set, we left to go eat.

Our next stop was Habana Cubana or something like that. I ordered a cocktail and some food and felt excitement in the air. I still couldn't believe how different the day was turning out to be and how much fun I was already having! The food turned out to be very good and if the day had ended there, I would have been happy.

But thank goodness it didn't end there! After eating we walked over to the next venue, Emo's Annex to see "The Affairs". The band sponsors were out in force handing out free t-shirts, buttons, stickers, etc...and I scored two cool t-shirts. Thomas ordered us a couple of drinks while we were waiting for the band and found out from the bar tender that the drinks were free! Amazingly, the sponsors were picking up the tab for the hundreds and hundreds of people that were there. They were also serving free food. So with free booze and food, it was hard to leave but we did not long after the band started playing. They pretty much sucked lol. We thanked a sponsor or two for footing the bill and made our way to our next spot.

Next up on the list I believe were "The Applicators" at a bar called Creekside. This was an all chick hard core punk band. They rocked some serious butt and I totally enjoyed it. I had another drink in my hand and not one care in the world. The afternoon was well underway and much left to see. I was still reeling at this point in the excitement of it all and having one hell of a great time.

Wow...I just heard from Thomas(this is actually friday btw as I write the rest of this)! He is done with his through hike already! This story just got more interesting...Stay tuned for part two.

All Wrong and Plans Change...

Stay tuned to find out what this means in terms of yesterday's events. It's a good story...

Monday, March 12, 2007

So I'm Officially a Trail Angel Now...

Or will be on Wednesday. So what exactly is a trail angel? Trail angels are people who assist through hikers with food, rides, water, showers, laundry, etc... And who am I trail angeling for? My hiking partner Thomas. And where is he headed this time? The LST which goes through the Sam Houston National forest. I'm envious...I LOVE forests and this one is large!

We are leaving Wed very early for a drive to Cleavland Texas. We'll caravan there, drop his vehicle off at one trail head, then he'll get in my car with me and we'll drive to another trail head where his adventure will begin. Along the way we'll cache water for him at various spots so he can be sure to have enough.

It's all quite least to me it is. Of course I wish I was going on the through hike too, but I'm more than happy to help a friend out. He's covering my expenses but I would do it anyway because he has been so good to me and has taught me a lot about hiking and backpacking . Now let's hope that the weather is in his favor...

So after I drop him off and say goodbye he'll walk all the way back to his car...30 something miles. He'll take three days to do it. Cool huh? I love through hiking! It has a culture all it's own and is so interesting. I've read trail journal after trail journal of people's adventures on trails like the Lone Star Trail, The Appellation Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail. I hope to get on all of them someday myself! But for now, I'll live vicariously through Thomas and hope he gives me a good trip report when he gets back. :)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Colorado Bend State Park

Even though the threat of rain was over us, today turned out to be a lovely day of hiking in the Colorado river valley. It was a short walk but very pretty, with waterfalls that sounded very peaceful and pools of clear water all over the place. I think Thomas said the section we did was about five miles...but it felt more like three to me. We wanted to go on the guided hike to Gorman Falls too, but didn't make it in time. No worries though, I'll catch it on the next trip...

The park was crowded and had a bit of a Garner SP feel to me...lot's of families camping out. It made me wish I was camping too. This weekend I think I'll get the family out for a little trip. There are so many choices of where to go but I might head back to this park because I think the kids would love it and there are still some trails I haven't been on yet that I'd like to hike.

As we were leaving the park today, we got some great photos of a little armadillo that was foraging right out in the open in the camp grounds. It was totally comfortable with all the humans near by and didn't pay anyone much mind. A young girl told me it had been there most of the day just hanging out. We got tons of was so darn cute!

And one last photo...Thomas took it on a previous trip to this park. I wanted everyone to see what Gorman Falls looks like. I think this photo is pretty spectacular. To see more of his beautiful photography, be sure to check out his "All things Fried" site.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Party Austin Style

Went out with friends last night to party it up in downtown Austin. A great time was had by all and it was a ton of fun dancing and thrashing around to metal and punk. The drinks were strong and the music rocked hard.

Music has always been important to me and I want to see more of what Austin has to offer. I love seeing new bands and can't believe I've been in Austin 7 years and haven't been more actively on the music scene. From what I tasted last night, I know I've been missing out. Don't get me wrong, I've been to several concerts at various venues in the warehouse district, but there is an undeniable distinction between those and the local flavor of last night's shows. Not to mention the bars we saw the shows in were way cool and definitely part of the magic.

Here's a little heavy metal poetry to mark the occasion...

Heartbeat of Thunder, it's pulsing in my brain
It's no damn wonder, pure lust can mix with pain

Ride the red devil all fire consumed aglow
No where to hide what surfaces from far down below

You can't run from what you feel inside
You might try but you can't deny

I saw it in your eyes
it was there, I swear
I heard it on your breath
It carried in the air

Shout out Shout out
Thunderous heart
Shout out Shout out
Where do we start

Shout out Shout out
Thunderous beat
Shout out Shout out
Feel the furious heat

We're in trouble now, we let it consume us
This rocking high it's going to drown us

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Back in the Garden

My poor yard and garden look terrible since I've been choosing to go backpacking/camping/hiking in my spare time instead of gardening. I think in the last freeze I lost my Asclepias which is the milkweed the monarchs all went nuts over a few short months ago. I'm going to have to replant them so I can provide habitat again.

Yesterday Caitlin and I went out in the back and did a ton of spring cleanup. We picked up trash, we weeded, and made big piles of fallen debris to be hauled off to the composting area of the yard. I was pleased to see that all of my herbs are doing excellent. That's the great thing about growing them, they require so little care and the benefit they bring is enormous.

Today we will cultivate the soil, add some nutrients, and plant some seeds. I'm going to put in lettuce, white radishes, snow peas, and maybe some kale. These should all grow fairly quickly and be done by the time the weather is too hot for them.

In addition to the vegetables I'll work on habitat for the geckos, cliff frogs, tree frogs, and toads. I love hearing the frogs sing in the summer time and usually have a yard full of them. I also hope to coax the butterflies back. The Greg's Mist is coming back nicely...they like that. They also liked the Zinnias and Mexican Sunflowers. I'll re-seed those by hand if nothing comes up on it's own...but it should.

New in the garden this year are the California poppies my friend sent to me. They will be stunning and I hope they pop up soon. A neighbor of mine grows poppies, so when hers come up mine should too. I don't know where mine are planted, so it's going to be a surprise when they do show up on the scene. I can't wait to see them! I love my friend dearly and those flowers will remind me of her every time I see them. They will keep coming back too, and make more!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Car Camping HCSNA style

What a great trip! I knew it would be and am so happy I was able to go, but it was a sketchy start. When I woke up Saturday morning I was sick and having to run to the bathroom constantly. My heart sank because I thought I'd have to cancel and miss out on all the fun, but with modern medicine and a heaping dose of sheer will I was out the door. Ben had been extremely sick with a stomach virus and I knew I was taking a huge chance that I was getting the same thing, but I got lucky this time and was able to beat it. In attendance on this trip were Thomas, my friend Elliott, his girlfriend Amber, my daughter Caitlin, and myself.

Once we arrived at our destination(nice drive btw), we found that our camping spot was still being used by picnickers so we took advantage of the situation and did the only sensible thing...we hiked! We did a small three mile loop to get the blood going and then came back and made camp. Actually Amber, Elliott, and Caitlin ran off right away to explore the ridge behind our site as Thomas and I munched a bit while setting up our tents. They were rather loud and called out to me when they were sitting up on the ridge directly behind our campsite. Thomas announced "The Cleghorns have arrived" as he's shushing me because I'm yelling back. The timing of the comment and the context made it completely hilarious and I can always count on being entertained by his comedic prowess.

The day started out beautiful with the temps in the 50's, but as the sun went down it started to get pretty cold. The moon was full and astoundingly bright that night and the "kids" couldn't resist the opportunity for a game of hide and seek by moonlight. We could hear them running in the dark and sliding down the steep hillside behind us. I was a bit unnerved by their activity as I'm picturing someone taking a nasty fall into cactus or on some rocks. I kept my mind off of it by reading to Thomas from the Big Bend book he brought along, but was so relieved when they came back to camp and settled down. Elliott reported it was so bright up on the ridge that you could see facial expressions from ten feet away, yet it was dark and shadowy in the scrubby areas so perfect for their game. Caitlin reported later that it was some of the most fun she's had. Amber was equally as content.

That night it got really cold. We are guessing the temps were around the 27 degree mark. I stayed warm until about 4 in the morning when I woke up feeling chilled. I had to get up and go to the bathroom too, which is never fun in the middle of a cold night! But I was rewarded with a bunny sighting. As I was walking off to the privy, I encountered it in the middle of the trail. It was a baby and so adorable! I watched it for a few seconds before it disappeared into the underbrush.

After I got back to my tent, I was quite cold and quickly hunkered back down in my sleeping bag. I shivered some but for the most part warmed back up again. I then heard Elliott and Amber complaining in their tent about being cold. I contemplated getting up and moving in with them to offer my body heat, but no sooner had the thought entered my mind, I was back out again. I didn't wake up next until probably close to 9:30 am which seemed really late, but I was rested, happy, and ready for a fabulous day of hiking without a care in the world. Everyone else seemed in good spirits too despite spending a chilly night out.

Sunday's hike delivered. It was my birthday for one thing, and I couldn't believe the luck of being able to celebrate it in the great outdoors. It's a birthday I'll not soon forget. The hike we did was a 7 mile loop with several great climbs and stunning views. I was totally energized and met each hill with enthusiasm. Funny how before I always dreaded the hills and now I look forward to them. A good hill always means a great view at the top and I get a good sense of accomplishment when I reach the summits.

In fact I felt so good, I could have climbed hills all day yesterday. Of course I wasn't carrying a heavy load either, so that helped make a difference and the weather was perfect. There is no way I'd be doing that hike in the middle of the summer because it's all out in open desert like terrain and the heat in Texas hill country can get quite brutal. There were one or two areas that had big stands of yucca and that was really cool to see. Usually one sees big stands of prickly pear out in our hill country, but the yucca seemed to be the stars of the show this time.

As with all good things, our time in the outdoors had to come to an end. I didn't want it to either, especially after we arrived at the primitive camping area of the park. I wanted so bad to pitch my tent again and stay another night, but I suppose it's always good to leave wanting more and we'll have a great back packing adventure to look forward to in the future. We all had a great time and can't wait to get back out and do it again.

Day One:

Very large Armadillo

Caitlin, Elliott, and Amber, posing for me while they were up on the ridge behind our camp

Beautiful clear water....this stream was directly behind our campsite

Wow, look how skinny Thomas is getting

Darkness taking over

Day Two:

Big Blue sky! The weather was gorgeous!

Desert Hills

Wide open Country

Caitlin looks back at the big climb she just accomplished. See the trail down below?

Elliott and Amber enjoying a view from one of the summits

Fields of Yucca

Ice Cream Hill...we scrambled up this on the left side where the trees were thickest. Coming down this was a bit challenging in places where the rocks were very loose.

A pond

Different view of pond

Yet another pond view

The unusual pattern of lichen on this rock made it look painted on

Shrub remnants

Primitive camping area