A Plethora of Parks

Weekly Sketch: Old School Bunny

My water-damaged iPad has settled into a limbo state where I can charge the battery, adjust the volume (as evidenced by how loud the “connected to power” chime sounds) and sync it with my MacBook, but the screen is completely black and unresponsive. It’s out of warranty, so Apple will charge almost the cost of a new iPad to service it. And with the Apple Stores closed down for the pandemic, I can’t even just go pick up a new one. Soooo, I’ll be going old-school with my sketches for the next few weeks.

Here is a bunny. I like bunnies.

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Animals, Artwork, Weekly Sketch, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Goodwater Loop Trail

Luke wants to get into through-hiking and backcountry wilderness backpacking. My enthusiasm for living in tents has waned with my advancing years, but I’m all for helping Luke acquire whatever knowledge and skills he needs to survive his future treks into the wild.

Now that the parks are reopening, this weekend seemed like a good time to try out a nice safe through-hike with training wheels and safety nets. The Goodwater Loop Trail around Lake Georgetown is a good starter hike, because there are campgrounds all along it and help is never too far away.

The trail is 28 miles long and looks like this:

The plan was to leave the car at Overlook Park Saturday morning, hike 14 miles around the lake clockwise to Tejas Camp, spend the night there, and then continue around the lake back to the car.

We got a late start, and by the time we got to Overlook Park it was full and they were turning cars away. We saw what looked like overflow parking at the foot of the dam, but we didn’t know how to get to it. So we drove to Cedar Breaks Park. That was full too, but we were able to grab a spot in their overflow parking. That put us only 11 miles from Tejas Camp, with a longer journey back to the car on Sunday. No problem.

We set off, feeling cheerful and adventurous. Other hikers wished us a good morning, and we returned their greetings. The trail is very pretty.

There is a gorgeous waterfall about a mile and a half from Cedar Breaks Park. Photos don’t do it justice, it’s magical.

Saw some photogenic livestock in a pasture adjacent to the falls.

A donkey came up for pets.

The most important thing we learned from this test run is that our current gear is too heavy for long-distance backpacking. Almost all of our equipment, from our 10lb tent to our insulated steel thermoflasks, is designed for car camping rather than backcountry jaunts. The first four or five miles were fine, the next four or five miles were a slog, and after that it was just kind of an ordeal. I was carrying about 40lbs of gear in a pack that was only rated for 30, so it didn’t provide enough support. Pretty soon my shoulders and hips were bruised at the points of contact. Elizabeth and I got blisters on our feet! Blisters, in our comfy old Ariat Terrains! I can’t even remember the last time I got blisters from walking. Turns out pack weight makes a huge difference as the miles add up.

But on we went. Really a beautiful trail.

Texas is in full summer now, with highs in the 90s every day. We passed a couple of primitive campgrounds and detoured into them in hopes of refilling our water flasks, but all of their spigots had been capped off. We ran out of water somewhere around mile 10. In the future we will supplement our water supply with portable purifiers/filters so we can drink out of lakes and streams if need be.

We were so tired when we arrived at Tejas Camp, I didn’t think to get any scenic shots of our tent. There was still plenty of daylight, but we just filled our flasks at the community spigot, set up the tent and collapsed. We really need better-quality sleeping pads. We do have a nice comfy self-inflating queen size pad, but it’s so bulky and heavy we didn’t attempt to bring it on this trip. Our cheap starter pads are…yeah. We got what we paid for.

When the sun did set, the forest filled with a raucous symphony of sound, much louder than daytime birdsong. Crickets, frogs, the full orchestra. We enjoyed the concert.

We didn’t bother with the rainfly, so in the morning I got a nice shot of the tree above our tent.

Before we broke camp, we tested out our shiny new ferro rods. It took a little practice, but eventually we each struck up a small fire in the fire pit.

Confident in our fire-making abilities, we doused our little flames, packed up and headed down the trail.

We started out stiff and sore and bruised and blistered, and the packs just got heavier with every mile. The next time the trail came near the lakeshore, we took the opportunity to cool off.

Elizabeth soaked her feet. I waded in up to my knees. Luke just walked straight out into the lake.

Thus refreshed, we continued on.

Just before the mile 17 mark we came to Russell Park, a full-service park and campground. Luke said, “Welp, I think we’ve learned everything useful here. Wanna call a Lyft?”

“What? Admit defeat? Accept failure?” I rubbed my bruised hips.

“I mean, we came to learn. We learned.”

“That’s a good point. Let’s call a Lyft.”

So we took a Lyft back to our car. Luke was right, to keep hiking would have been pointless masochism.

There was a yellow slip on our windshield warning us that we weren’t supposed to leave cars overnight in overflow parking areas, and further offenses would result in citations. Duly noted.

I’m SO sore today. But I’ve already started a list of future gear upgrades, and I’m looking forward to our next trial run.

 

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Animals, environment, Family, kids, Life, maps, Travel, Wildlife | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Adventures in Nepal, Part V: Disneyland!

Wednesday the 18th dawned sunny and clear. Elizabeth had heard about a local theme park in Lakeside, and was excited to go see it.

And here we have the completely legit and totally not fake Pokhara Disneyland:

A magical entryway to the Sketchiest Place on Earth.

Pluto’s face kills me.

Behold, the Magic Kingdom!

Can you feel the excitement?


It has the castle and everything!

So I got two different versions of the visit to “Pokhara Disneyland.”

Elizabeth has never met a theme park she didn’t like, and she thoroughly enjoyed her experience at this one.

Emma was like, “There is rust on everything and you can literally see and hear the unshielded belt turning the ferris wheel and it is not outside the realm of possibility that we may die on one of these rides.”

Nice views from the ferris wheel, though.

Elizabeth was undaunted by rust and squealing engine belts, and embraced the whimsy.

I absolutely adore that rainbow sweater. She had just bought it the day before, and it brightens up almost every photo for the rest of the Nepal trip.

Lunch break at a cafe in Lakeside…

…And then back for more squeaky, rust-covered fun. They say the whole theme park experience set them back about five bucks.

When Emma had had enough of Disneyland, they explored more of Lakeside.

I really like this panoramic shot Emma took of Phewa Tal.

Love, peace and property destruction.

Walking back to Sabita’s house. Look at the tangles of power lines everywhere.

Panoramic view from Sabita’s rooftop.

To be continued!

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Family, Friends, Holidays, Humor, kids, Life, Nepal, Travel, Weather | Tags: | 1 Comment

Adventures in Nepal, Part IV: Basundhara Park

The next day was gray and rainy. (January 17th, if we’re keeping track.) Emma, Elizabeth and Bee Striit met the two Tibetan students at the hotel again for another photography class.

I like the grass-carpeted balcony!

When the lesson was done, our trio braved the weather and visited Basundhara Park in Lakeside.

This park entrance sign is another example of either ubiquitous ad placement or random tributes to popular brands.

Basundhara Park lies along the shores of Phewa Tal. On a clear day, the Himalayas loom majestically in the background. But even on a rainy day, the lake is beautiful.

Colorful boats!

Elizabeth and Bee Striit.

These boats all had Kit Kat ads on their canopies:

And back to the narrow streets of Nepal.

More to come!

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Family, Friends, Holidays, Life, Love, Nepal, Travel, Weather | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Above, Below and Just Beyond Texas, Part II

Read Part I here!

We climbed Guadalupe Peak mostly in sunshine, and descended in deepening shadows.

Here is a better view of the bridge.

The shadows crept up the flanks of Hunter Peak across the canyon…

…and we knew that when the last rays of direct sunlight had left its summit, we would have about half an hour of twilight left before we were hiking in the dark.

But the scenery was even prettier in the “golden hour” light, so we couldn’t rush past it too quickly.

The splashes of crimson in the canyons are maple trees showing off their fall colors.

Coming down was a lot easier and faster than going up, at least until we hit that last 1.5 miles of steep switchbacks at the base. That is equally brutal in both directions.

We made it back to the trailhead before dark, but lost the last of the light on that extra mile back to the car. Not bad though, all things considered.

We drove the 27 miles back to the “primitive campground.” There were no new campers there, and one of the two other tents was gone now, leaving only our tent next to the probably-homeless-camp.

We had done what we came to do. Guadalupe Peak was vanquished. None of us felt that sticking around to hike Devil’s Hall was worth the hassle of finding a safe place to spend the night, especially since Luke had to be at work Monday morning. We decided to find the nearest gas station, fuel up and head home. We googled up a couple of places for gas in White’s City, but they looked super sketchy. The nearest legit-and-open station was in Carlsbad. We burned most of the last of our fuel getting to a gas station, filled the tank and turned the car for home.

Less than an hour into that drive, I realized that I had overestimated my stamina. I had put in a full work shift and climbed a mountain since my last real sleep, and now the road hypnosis was kicking in. I needed to stop and rest. We located a motel in the next town, Pecos. It was as good a place as any to spend the night.

Except that when we rolled up to the motel, it was permanently closed. We found another one not too far away, but no one answered the “Ring for Service” bell. All of the other motels in town cost at least $200 more than I wanted to spend on a few hours’ sleep. But by then I was dangerously drowsy, like, not at all safe to drive. So we found a truck stop just outside of town, parked out of the way and slept in the car. That was simultaneously the most uncomfortable and the most restorative night’s sleep I’ve had in a long time.

We woke up with sore muscles but otherwise refreshed, and resumed our journey home.

A couple hours later we saw a sign for the Caverns of Sonora. That looked like a good time, and it wasn’t out of the way, so we stopped to check it out.

We were greeted on the porch by this pretty fellow:

The Caverns of Sonora are pretty cool.

But the mountains were still singing in our souls, and on that day we had no particular passion for stalactites. I feel kind of bad for the tour guide and the guide-in-training. They were obviously very enthusiastic about their caverns and we totally lacked the proper sense of wonder and awe. Sorry guys, you were great tour guides anyway, and your caverns are lovely.

We left Sonora and continued homeward. After a while we decided we were tired of camp provisions and stopped in Fredericksburg for some really good German food at Der Lindenbaum.

So that was our weekend. Very much an exercise in the Rubber Ball Philosophy, but we enjoyed it a lot.

Addendum

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Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Animals, environment, Family, Holidays, kids, Life, Travel, trees, Weather | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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