environment

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 XIII: Patale Chhango

On January 25, Emma and Elizabeth went to see a waterfall.

Interesting backstory: a Swiss couple with the surname Davis went swimming there in 1961, and the wife drowned. English-speaking visitors started calling the place “Davis Falls.” In the Nepali language, this is commonly pronounced as “Devis.” Also, “Dev” and “Devi” are popular names in Nepal. So now, when you try to find out what the waterfall’s actual damn name is so you can write a blog post about it, you find the waterfall listed on various sites as Devi’s Fall, Devis Falls, Davis Falls, Hell’s Falls or its Nepali name, Patale Chhango, which means “Underworld Waterfall.”

The girls took a colorful Pokhara bus to their destination.

Just a guy out walking his water buffaloes.

A theme park has developed around the waterfall…

…featuring a scale model of the Annapurna mountain range…

…assorted shrines and tributes…

…a “luck pond,” or what we would call a wishing well…

(try to land your coin on the little platform in the center for good luck)

…some fun photo ops…





…and a traditional Nepali house.

Adorable Emma is adorable.

Finally, down to see the falls.

The stream flows from Phewa Tal, eventually forming a tunnel in the rock and creating a semi-underground waterfall that you can only see from a certain angle. Here’s a pretty section of cliff wall along the descent:

The stream in its deepening bed:

First glimpse of the fall:

There it is!

Shortly after the fall, the stream flows into Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave…but that’s another blog post.

Back up to the surface.

Bonus pic of the friendship bracelets from the Tibetan weaver:

To be continued!

Categories: environment, Friends, Holidays, Life, Nepal, Travel | Tags: | 3 Comments

Weekly Sketch: J is for Juniper

I dabbled in color this week.

I’ve always known juniper berries were used to flavor gin, but I never really thought of them as edible until my uncle came to visit us in Austin and we took him hiking around Mount Bonnell. It had been a rainy winter, and the juniper berries were exceptionally big and round and vibrant. My uncle got very excited and started eating them right off the trees. So I tried some. To my surprise they were sweet and tasty, although the pits were a bit piney. I am now a fan of the humble juniper!

Categories: Artwork, environment, Family, food, Health, Life, Nutrition, trees, Weekly Sketch | Tags: | Leave a comment

Adventures in Nepal IX: A Stairway to Heaven, Part B

When we last left Emma and Elizabeth, they were climbing approximately a hundred gajillion stairs up a mountainside to visit Pokhara’s World Peace Pagoda.

Our young heroes do not travel light.

I cannot imagine hauling that much weight up a mountain on purpose. Ah, the energy of youth.

They stopped for lunch at a precarious-looking establishment with great views of Lakeside.

And then, back to the trial by stairs. You have to earn the Pagoda.

Colorful Emma!

So. Many. Stairs.

A little Shiva temple along the way:

Surely we are almost to Heaven by now? Follow the light!

Adorable Elizabeth is adorable.

Almost there! The first glimpse of Shanti Stupa!

Zoom-lens shot of Lakeside.

AT LAST!

Shanti Stupa, the World Peace Pagoda.

M o a r . S t a i r s .

Sacred area: No shoes. Silence. Some well-earned selfies with the Buddha.

Much more to come!

Categories: Artwork, environment, Friends, Holidays, kids, Life, Nepal, Travel, trees | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Adventures in Nepal IX: A Stairway to Heaven, Part A

These Nepal posts are starting to feel like a work of historical non-fiction, like revisiting a world not yet overtaken by pandemic. Covid-19 is sweeping the globe, changing everything in its path. In just a few short weeks the death toll has climbed into the tens of thousands and is still rising exponentially.

Even so, I enjoy writing these posts. They’re a sweet reminder of simpler days, and of the beauty still waiting to be explored once the danger has passed.

On January 22 – the same day that China’s government announced a citywide quarantine of Wuhan – Emma and Elizabeth visited Shanti Stupa, the World Peace Pagoda.

Getting to the Pagoda is no simple undertaking. It involves buses and boats and many, many, many stairs.

Good morning, Paljorling Camp!

Good morning, picturesque sheep!

Good morning, Elizabeth!

This is a public bus in Pokhara:

The girls took the bus back to Lakeside…

and back to Phewa Tal.

The white dome on the mountaintop is the World Peace Pagoda. You have to climb the mountain to reach it. Not to worry, there are stairs. Lots and lots of stairs.

To get to the mountain, the girls rented a boat.

There are eateries and other amenities near the landing. Here’s a typical restaurant.

Heh.

Anyway, they found the trailhead and started up the mountain.

So many stairs.

Looking back down at the lake. I like this pic because it sorta looks like the boat is floating in the sky.

A view of Lakeside from the trail. There’s the little island with the Japanese temple!

There are lots of little rest stops and stupas and shrines all the way up the mountain.

And I’ve just about reached the limit of how many images I can cram into one post without making it impossible for my low-bandwidth peeps to access. So…to be continued!

Categories: Covid-19, Death, environment, Friends, Health, Holidays, kids, Life, Nepal, Travel | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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