Sunday, April 29, 2007

Snakes on a Dock!

Well not technically on the dock...but most assuredly under it. We saw so many water moccasins on this trip that Thomas started parodying the movie "Snakes on a Plane" by saying "Get these mutha fuckin snakes out of their mutha fuckin habitat!" The set up was perfect for a cheap horror flick.

Lake Fairfield is a wildlife bonanza. We saw several bird species and even spied an animal in the water that looked somewhat like an otter. I couldn't tell what it was, but Thomas and Matt were saying nutria. I'll have to look it up and see what I can find out.

We didn't get to hike a full hike today because of my little toe being ground to a pulp by my new hiking boots...yes Sean, you can say I told you so if you wish ;). Another pair bites the dust...I am so disappointed. I thought I had the right shoe this time, but back to the old drawing board. I don't think it will be possible to break in these boots without terrific pain involved. It shouldn't be that way in my opinion. Will I ever find a shoe that's right for me?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

He Had to Show it To me

The Pacific Crest Trail. The through hike of all through hikes. It looks amazing beyond belief and not for the light adventurer. To conquer the PCT one must be rugged and fit not only in body but maybe more importantly in mind. This is extreme hiking in some of the most beautiful and wild lands America has to offer.

The PCT is not as well hiked as the AT because of the level of experience one needs and the degree of difficulty. Imagine river crossings in rushing water thigh high and hiking on a small ledge hugging a cliff side with a sheer drop hundreds of feet below. Wild country indeed, and thrilling. This is the kind of hike that would be the pinnacle of all hikes and a way to personal greatness.

I'm so ready to get outdoors this weekend. I need a good long walk...

Freezer Bag Cooking

The concept is ideal for back packers. We need something light weight, convenient, easy to prepare, and easy to cleanup, not to mention tasty and substantial. I did some internet research on the subject after Thomas introduced the concept to me a few months back. Freezer bag cooking is a brilliant idea that uses simple dehydrated and freeze dried ingredients, a zip lock bag, and some boiling water to cook up good hot food that has plenty of calories for hard hiking.

Considering I'm an experienced cook, I want to use what knowledge I have of cooking methods and food prep to come up with easy recipes that will work well for our needs. I found several sites on the internet that explain how to dehydrate foods and can use my own oven for many different things. I can also use the sun, or a semi cool dry room. I can even build my own dehydrator and found plans for several different types.

Cooking can be an art form and I wonder if there is any artistry to freezer bag cooking. Just how gourmet can one get on the trail? I found several different recipes that sound interesting. One of them contains an odd flavored Crystal Light, or Tang. It's for making sesame chicken! Use lemon flavored drink mix for lemon chicken. I'm a little skeptical until I test it out in my own kitchen. I'm already brainstorming and trying to come up with an alternative that might be better...such as the zest of a lemon rind, lemon pepper seasoning, and maybe a pinch of brown sugar, but who knows. Maybe the recipes I've come across online are the best of what can be expected, but I will find out.

The important thing is kitchen testing. I've already tried one recipe that I gussied up a bit which worked great in my kitchen and the field test. It was chicken and stuffing. I have ideas for pasta primavera and spagetti with meat sauce too. I can't wait to gather up all the stuff I need and start making up a few things. Stay tuned for updates on this project.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Gonna Camp this Weekend

To the outsider I'm always camping, but to me it's never enough. The destination this time is Fairfield lake. It will be a very easy trip and a good time to break in my new Asolo hiking boots. They are so cool.

Monday, April 09, 2007

8 Mile Loop on the Madrone Trail at Canyon Lake

It took us roughly three hours to finish this walk. It was more of an exercise hike than a scenic stroll and I pretty much disliked the trail because it constantly folded back on itself and had many pointless ups and downs. It's made for mountain biking but thankfully no one was using it yesterday but us, so we didn't have any worries of being run over.

I could easily name this hike "Picnic Table Trails" because they were EVERYWHERE. This part of the park looked like it used to be a big recreational area that was re-designed to be a bike trail. On the plus side, we did see some wildlife...

I saw three little emerald green grass snakes...all extremely cold and not moving fast. They were lucky Thomas stepped right over them each time and not on them, since all were right on the trail. We saw white tail deer and buzzards too...all at fairly close range. I have no pics to share this time and nothing else much to report.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

I Love the Lyrics to "Passenger" by the Deftones


Here I lay
Still and breathless
Just like always
Still I want some more
Mirrors sideways
Who cares what's behind
Just like always
Still your passenger
Chrome buttons, buckles and leather surfaces
These and other lucky witnesses
Now to calm me
This time won't you please
Drive faster
Roll the windows down
This cool night air is curious
Let the whole world look in
Who cares who sees anything
I'm your passenger
I'm your passenger
Drop these down and
Put them on me
Nice cool seats
There to cushion your knees
Now to calm me
Take me around again
Just don't pull over
This time would you please drive faster
Roll the windows down
This cool night air is curious
Let the whole world look in
Who cares who sees what tonight
Roll these misty windows down
To catch my breath
And then go and go and go just drive me
Home and back again
Here I lay just like always
Don't let me go
Take me to the edge

Monday, April 02, 2007

Lost Mountain Laurels(actually Lost Maples Re-visited)

When the Maples are not turning blazingly beautiful colors, the Mountain Laurels take over Lost Maples park in the Spring time. The heady sweet smell filled up the air which was luscious and welcome. Smelling the blooms directly was even more intense and so fragrant I can't even describe it. The butterflies in the park were huge. Must be the super nectar from the Laurel blooms...

Lost Maples State Park is a gem...I know I've said it before but it's so true in my opinion. There is only about 11 miles of trail, but it is in beautiful country with several good steep climbs to get the blood pumping and the thighs and calves burning. Camping there was superb and I almost hate writing about it because the selfish part of me wants to keep the place as secret as possible. Not that it's a secret now, but the place still offers solitude and perfect peace and quiet, especially at night. And yes, I consider the yipping of coyotes to be peaceful.

Oh where to begin...I saw and experienced so much! I can remember on the drive home thinking my brain couldn't possibly drink in anymore sights.

On this trip were Matt, Thomas, and myself. Thomas picked us up and we got on the road around 10am. I was so excited about getting back to this state treasure. I loved backpacking there the first time around and wanted to see more of the place. I also knew at the time there were better areas to camp in and wanted to experience those places as well. So yeah, I was pretty happy to be going back knowing I would get to pick up where I left off.

We arrived around 1pm and it wasn't long before we were parked and out on the trail with full packs. We first headed up the West trail and stopped by camp site D, exactly as Thomas and I had before. Then we climbed to the top of the hill and sat under a pretty shade tree for a few minutes before moving on to campsite E where we camped before. After sitting a few moments there, we moved on to the parts of the trail we had not experienced yet...Mystic Canyon.

The trail started descending down down down, to the valley floor into an almost jungle like canyon of incredible beauty with weather as perfect as it gets. The path followed clear streams that disappeared in and out of the ground...gushing in some areas and we knew with certainty that a river ran below us in a limestone rock world unseen.

The sounds of various birds surrounded us and the ferns and trees were lush and emerald green. Butterflies almost as big as my hand floated in and out of view, and I felt like I was in another world. The pictures I took won't do the place near justice unfortunately. The only thing wrong with Mystic Canyon according to Thomas is the fact it's not long enough. We all agreed though and could have walked for hours and hours through it.

After another long steep climb we got to campsite H where we would spend a lovely evening out. We had plenty of time to make camp, walk around, eat, talk, and relax. I have to say again, that the weather was as perfect as it gets. Thomas remarked that the air was a perfect ambient skin temperature and he was right. There was barely a breeze, yet it was totally refreshing and felt amazing. It was as serene as can be. We kicked back on the ground for a long time and drank it all in waiting for night to fall. When it did set in, the moon lit up everything except the dark shadows of the trees we were lounging under. We heard a single call of what we think was a screech owl.

We left the tree cover briefly to inspect the night sky. We couldn't see many stars but were able to point out Orion's Belt, the Big Dipper, and the Little Dipper. Venus shone brightly too that night and all was lovely. I had no trouble falling asleep but did wake up a couple of times in the night to coyotes yipping and calling to each other off in the distance. It put a smile on my face.

The next day's hiking was probably a six miler. We stopped by the "Water Maple Cache" but I didn't get to sign the log this time. I wanted to, but I think we were a little pressed for time due to a late start that morning and we still had adventure left. Sometimes I find breaking camp to be a chore I don't much like doing, but yesterday it wasn't bad at all. The only thing I had to contend with that wasn't pleasant was my sore foot. I injured it several days before the trip and knew it would be difficult to hike on. The first day was manageable, but the second day I was in considerable pain. Today I can barely walk on it, but it was well worth it. I'll ice it down and baby it all week...should be good as new for next time.

Anyway, we got back to the car, but the adventure wasn't over. Thomas took us to a tiny nature preserve called Old Tunnel on the way home. There is a bat colony three million strong living in the Tunnel, which served as an old railway tunnel back in a day. The preserve also had a tiny trail being developed. I stopped and sat down next to a small clear stream and put my bare feet in the cold water, which felt damn good after all that hiking.

It wasn't late enough in the evening for us to see the bats come out but perhaps another time we'll get to see it. I'm sure it's a spectacular sight...maybe even more so than the bats coming out of the Congress Street bridge here in Austin. The drive home was exceptionally pretty because Thomas took more back country roads this time. It was at that point I felt like I couldn't take in any more. I'm sure I've lost some details of the trip and more and more feel the need to carry a personal tape recorder so I can be sure not to forget a thing.

In closing I have to say again how grateful I am to Thomas for getting us out there. He is a gem too and I'm lucky to have him as a friend.

Day One
Maple leaf in stream. I love the solid rock bed.

Fern growing from rock and crystal clear water

Large overhang

Water droplets from fern into transparent pool

Waterfall into another clear pool

Loved this shot of the fern and water next to each other. I wanted to dunk my head in!

Matt Descending. Thomas a bit ahead of us

Mountain Laurel

In camp Matt prepares to heat water

Thomas and I prepare Chicken and Stuffing in a bag

My bag before adding water

After adding water. Notice I put dried cranberries in. They plumped up nicely!

Night starts to sneak in. The tree in the background still hanging on to what light it can

Day Two

Close up of Mountain Laurels. A hummingbird came within inches of me at this tree. It was too quick for me to capture on film.

Pretty scenery

View from up top on one of the scenic overlooks

Thomas found a beautiful spot under this tree for us to rest towards the end of the hike. We lounged up against a boulder that was slanted perfectly.