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    Ever since I made these fingerless gloves I have wanted to make more. For some reason it has taken me six years (!!!) to get around to making more! I was at Hobby Lobby recently and they had a huge pile of yarn on clearance. I was about to put the blinders on and walk on by but curiosity got the better of me and the hankering for fingerless gloves was there, so I had a look. I walked away with a two rolls of sport weight in neutral and brown colored yarn by Sinfonia. And some other cheaper yarn in Christmas colors for my weaving project. I have a ton of acrylic yarn that was my grandmother’s which is good for things like blankets or more utilitarian items but for garments and the like I don’t have much diversity in yarn. Enter sale yarn!

    I hadn’t been on Ravelry in a long time so I logged in there and found a lot of the boards I was on were dead so I deleted them. The forum and site is still very active but it looks like I need to get new boards to follow. I searched their patterns and found two quickly and printed them. Ravelry has free and for-purchase patterns. I got two free ones and the one you see worked great so far. Sometimes I’ll find a pattern on a blog but then read the comments to see if there were any problems with it and if I find too many people complaining about something I skip over it. The last thing I want to do is try to interpret what the pattern writer was going for.

    The pattern called for worsted weight yarn but I had the sport weight which was what I wanted, so I opted to make a looser gauge than I would done normally. The first glove is a little looser than the other but they look fine once they are on. I’m excited to get to making the other pair soon. It was immensely satisfying to have a FO (finished object) so quickly!

    +In My Head
    Another summer is over. I know there’s three weeks or so until the equinox and more weeks after that in which it will still be hot here in Texas, but the sterotypical ‘summer’ is winding down. Forest’s birthday is next weekend and the little baby will be two! TWO! He’s becoming such a little kid and all summer, with an increase the last month, his language skills have been flourishing. I am really loving this age so far because there’s just so much fun surrounding it. Chris has already reframed two to be Terrific instead of Terrible. Let’s hope!

    +Watching
    As I type this we’re watching Peppa Pig. “Sorry Madame Gazelle!” It’s a nice change from Wonder Pets. For myself, I haven’t watched much this month. I did watch Tristan and Isolde the other night which was nice. Usually Masters of Sex has been on during the summer but it isn’t premiering until September. I was dissapointed with the last season so I may or may not watch all of this season. Homeland should be coming back as well later this fall so I am looking forward to that. I will probably be watching more tv again soon so there might be more of an update than this.

    +Outside My Window
    Sunshine and mowed grass! There was supposed to be a greater chance of rain this weekend but that seems, so far, to have not proven itself. Keeping our eyes on Invest 99L (welcome TD 9!) out there in the Florida Straits. Last week when everyone was really freaking out about it, Chris decided to get a small stock of non-perishable food for hurricane supplies. He also found a new generator on sale at Cabelas and ordered it. We haven’t done much or had to do much for hurricanes since we left Florida. Really, nothing. We live about 80 or so miles as the crow flies from the coast so the main effect from a hurricane wouldn’t be as harsh as closer to the coast but there would definitely be opportunities for a power outage with all of the trees around here. The last big hurricane was Ike back in 2008.

    +In The Art Studio
    There’s actually an update here! I’ve been in the studio twice recently and have plans to make it a more regular affair in the coming months. I finally finished cleaning out a storage container of papers that were from various things ranging from college, our wedding, to trips I was going to scrapbook over the years. After I finally sorted out the different types of ‘keep’—stuff to go in a photo album, stuff to keep in another box, stuff that didn’t even belong in the studio—and the stuff to recycle or shred, it is finally a lot cleaner in there. I still need to do some more organiziation. Next plans are to catch up and finish the scrapbook album I started last year that I was going to chronicle Forest’s 2nd year of life. *Insert maniacal laughs here.* I am not a scrapbooker anymore. I like the idea but I need to figure out another option. Mini-albums, certain seasons…something. I’m thinking the second album I have is going to be a December Daily album. I did a December Daily album once back when I lived in Florida. I prepped it all before December and all I had to do was print photos each week and stick them in the album throughout December. I really love having that album now. So, prep an album and take photos throughout December, that’s my goal with scrapbooking now.

    When we were in DFW a few weeks ago I picked up my old potholder loom. I’m now interested in making something out of what I weave on that loom but also interested in making my own bigger loom to weave with yarn. Weaving has been a popular thing on craft blogs the last two years and I was always interested in it but I’m making strides in starting. I bought a plain wooden picture frame at Hobby Lobby last weekend and now I just need to measure out a row of nails on the top and bottom and get started. There are a ton of tutorials out there so it shouldn’t be hard to figure out.

    Art…planning on doing small pieces this winter in a watercolor book I have. More on that soon!

    Crochet…I made a quick pair of fingerless gloves. More on that soon, too.

    +In The Garden
    We had a week of rainy weather so my gardening wasn’t too strong recently. I need to get back on top of weeds in the vegetable garden. I’m also working on reweeding the first flower bed I weeded this summer because weeds are returning. I just need to kind of wrap up the gardens going into fall, clean up the paths, etc. It doesn’t look horrible but definitely needs some cleaning up.

    I found an empty monarch chrsyalis yesterday so that made me very excited that there was some kind of success with our monarch caterpillars this year!

    +Reading
    See yesterday’s book report.

    +Drinking
    A menagerie of coffees. Target had a whole selection on clearance a few weeks ago so I stocked up.

    +Loving
    A few weeks ago Chris went to the HEB grocery store instead of Kroger to get groceries. He came back with Texas farmed shrimp that was on sale. I stopped eating shrimp in college when I learned how detrimental shrimp trawling was in regards to bycatch. At first I ate some farmed shrimp but most of it was from other countries and I learned how bad that was in countries with little environmental regulations. So, shrimp went off the list as did a lot of other fish. Well, we looked into the company that was farming it locally and I am much more comfortable eating farmed shrimp from the US than anywhere else so Chris has been stocking up on it since it is in season and priced on sale right now.

    Fall decor. I haven’t decorated in a few years but I’m going to go for it this year. Not too much, mostly little pumpkins and such, but I’m really excited about making it pretty around here. Resisting urge to decorate too early, so waiting until mid-to-late September.

    Being outside in the late afternoon I’m getting that feeling of my fall coming on. Florida made me really love September-March, well, there it was most like October-April. Aside from some dreary grey days mid-winter, for the most part I love this upcoming time of year. I might have to write an ode to the cool season. (note, cool, not cold. I don’t do cold. Ok, let’s just call it how I like it: 70* and sunny. :) )

    What’s up with you?

    I haven’t read a whole lot this summer. Evenings until recently were spent outside in the garden and I kind of lost interest in reading on my phone while Forest fell asleep at night in favor of scrolling social media. Now that it is pretty much dark by the time Forest falls asleep and I escape his room around 8-8:15 every night I have evening time to read or craft. I’m also trying to make a point to read again on my phone instead of endless scrolling. I don’t have a huge update but here’s what I can brief you on. The last update was for May.

    Completed
    Olive Kitteredge by Elizabeth Strout: When I was home in June for my parent’s 40th anniversary my mom, SIL Stephanie, and I went over to this thrift store where everything is $1 and it benefits, I think, a Leukemia foundation. I’m always drawn to the books and I found a couple and brought them home, this one was included. It was a Pulitizer Prize novel and unlike All The Light We Cannot See it appeared much more readable to me. Overall the novel is written very well. It’s an every day life, minute stories kind of book. Little glimpses into the life of people in a small town in Maine, primarily focusing on Olive and her family and friends but also on acquaintances. The individual stories may or may not have her involved in the plot. It was a good but slow read and I found myself definitely disliking Olive herself. She grew more tolerable as she aged but she was not a nice person overall. The small stories about the other townspeople were interesting and it would be as if you picked out anyone in any town and wrote about whatever struggles or triumphs they were having. That was the most interesting aspect of it all. It’s not a book I want to keep so I listed it on Bookmooch but it hasn’t been mooched yet, so if you think this book is something you’d want to read I’m up for sending it to you via media mail in the US. Let me know!

    The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer:
    I first mentioned this book back in
    March when I had to put it on hold because my audio loan ended before I could finish. Well it took until this week for my turn to come up again and when I saw I had only less than two hours left to listen I kicked myself for not staying up top of listening back in March! I still hold by chosing to listen to this versus reading it because Amanda is a fantastic narrator and there’s all sorts of interesting music interspersed. I would like to check out the book sometime just to take in the words that way. I loved this book! I definitely had some disconnect between the two listening sessions, having to remember where I’d left off and what was going on where I’d stopped. I think the best thing about this book was about showing up to do the work and not being afraid to ASK, to take action on anything…asking for something seemingly trivial, asking for payment for creating something…anything. The last 5-6 years have shown that creatives are starting to take things into their own hands, asking for donations or subscriptions via services like Patreon or asking for donations for special content on otherwise free sites. There’s a rising tide turning against people coming to creatives asking for them to donate something for free because it will be ‘good exposure’—a lot of the time coming from businesses who *can* pay. ‘Good exposure’ doesn’t pay the bills. Creatives of every kind of tired of that trope. I definitely recommend this book!

    In the Middle of
    Second Nature by Michael Pollan: Another thrift store find, this is Pollan’s first book he wrote. I am about a quarter of the way through, maybe, but I am loving it so far. It’s about the intersection of gardening and nature.

    The Journey in Between by Keith Foskett: I came across the site Free Book Sifter a few weeks ago, a site that looks for currently free digital books via Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Some of them aren’t as updated as the site is having issues with Amazon so books that might have been free back in early summer are now priced. This one was only $2.99 and looked interesting so I grabbed it for reading while Forest goes to bed. The author has a lot of hiking memoirs and this one in particular is about the Camino de Santiago. I’ve not read any books on that trail, have only watched The Way(highly recommend), but it sounded interesting. I’m not far into it but I should make some progress on it soon.

    You are a Badass by Jen Sincero: Getting back into Palmer’s book above reminded me that I could do audio books again. I kind of forget about them because they are sometimes hit and miss with the narrators. I borrowed this one from my Hoopla Digital service at the library. The book has been making the round of all of the lifestyle bloggers lately and seemed interesting. It’s short, about 5 hours. Just started!

    On Hold
    Paths of Desire by Dominique Browning: I mooched this one earlier this summer and was intrigued because it was a gardening memoir. I’m probably halfway through but kind of got bored. While interesting, the author gets a little weird with her naming conventions for her boyfriend and friends and it kind of turned me off. I’ll definitely return to this when I’ve got the mind for it.

    The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf: I’ve had this on reserve digitally for months and my turn came up. I started it and was loving it but it is very detailed and I quickly realized that I didn’t want to read it on my phone, that it deserved to be read from paper. So I requested the book from the library and am waiting on that so I can finish it.

    That’s it for now. What are you reading?

    Great Smoky Mountains
    Even though I had been to the adjacent town of Cherokee, NC several times for work, I had never ventured over to see the Smoky Mountains until our thru-hike on the AT. Clingman’s Dome hosts the highest point on the Appalachian Trail, the joke being that once you climb the summit then it is all downhill from there! Hah! My experience with the Smoky’s is limited to the AT and seeing it via the road down into Cherokee where Chris and I took a zero day with his mom and step-dad while we were hiking. To ease usage of the natural areas around the shelters, it is required for hikers to stay in the shelters versus camping, and those hiking in from other places in the park had first choice of staying in the shelter compared to thru-hikers, who could tent if shelters were full. I know there were a lot of permit requirements that were added in recent years due to the increase in hiking traffic in the park so thru-hiking rules have even changed. I recall that at the time we hiked the ‘bathroom areas’ were hideous and privies were desperately needed at some of the shelters. Otherwise, our traverse of the Smoky’s was incredibly beautiful. I hesitate to pick a favorite section but I think the portions north of Newfound Gap, especially around Mt. Guyot, were spectacular. I would love to return to this park someday and hike the many other trails the park has to offer!
    Great Smoky Mountain National Park from Lake Fontana
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    Entering Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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    Derrick Knob Shelter

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    Chris & Misti on Chalies Bunion

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    Guadalupe Mountains
    Hiking to the top of Texas is a must when visiting this park! Texas’ tallest mountain, Guadalupe Peak, is the prime attraction for visiting this park but don’t let that stop your from exploring the rest of the park. McKittrick Canyon is also another highlight to a visit here, though next time I would prefer to go down it versus up! We hiked here Thanksgiving 2011 with our friends Patrice and Justin. They were freshly off the Appalachian Trail and we had been trail dormant since March when we got off the Florida Trail and altitude dormant for over a year, post AT. They were in much more trail shape than we were at the time. Chris and I saw quite a lot of the park while we were hiking and I know we would love to go back some day!
    Some posts from the trip: Thanksgiving Morning from the Top of Texas, McKittrick Canyon, Dog Canyon, Pine Top Campsite

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    Hot Springs
    Three summers ago Chris and I went for part of a vacation with my parents, brother, SIL, and niece and nephew to Hot Springs where we stayed at a house on Lake Hamilton. For whatever reason we barely touched much of this park, primarily walking around the area that is downtown where the springs are located. There are quite a lot of trails and drives but we did not go on them.

    Olympic
    Chris and I went to Washington State four years ago for our 10th anniversary. We spent one night at the Hoh Rainforest campground and did some hiking up to a waterfall along the Hoh River Trail. The following day we hiked to another waterfall and mostly did a lot of scenic driving around the area. We barely dipped our toes into this park and it is definitely on my list to return to someday.
    Posts from the Trip: Hoh River Trail, Marymere Falls, Evening Light on the Hall of Mosses Trail, Further Explorations Into the Hall of Mosses, Hall of Mosses Macros

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    Rocky Mountain
    I was lucky enough to go to Denver three times for work training and finally on the last visit I was able to make a trip over to Rocky Mountain NP after a class I was taking ended early. I remember we took the long way around, through Winter Park and Granby and for a long time this route up through and to Estes Park was my favorite scenic drive. That changed when I took the Beartooth Highway to Yellowstone, but more on that shortly. I was fairly enchanted by this national park, mostly because of the gauges at the top of the mountains that marked snow depths during winter.

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    Saguaro
    Another work trip…and this time my dad tagged along for a couple of days to golf while I was in class. I flew to Dallas where, either I had an overnight stay and then dad and I flew on to Tucson or he met me at the airport on a layover and we went on to Tucson. I can’t remember. (Oh, hey, looks like it was a layover. Found some dog and cat photos from my parent’s house in that photo set on Flickr!) Anyway, the afternoon we arrived we drove over to the east section of the national park and popped out at a few sites in the park to scope out the cactus. The next night after my class we took a drive to the west side of the park and found a rental car accessible dirt road to drive down. We had a park map but no GPS or smart phone so it was a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants experience. Ah, the dark ages! After our national park adventure we proceeded to try to find dinner but we were on the north side of town and driving and driving and driving and finally we found a Carrabba’s. Or Macaroni Grill. Again, fuzzy memory there. Short but memorable trip to the park!

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    I was really excited and startled to see this giant jackrabbit!

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    Shenandoah
    My experience with Shenandoah is along the section of the Appalachian Trail called the Shenandoah Highway. It’s where the trail finally reaches that mythical point where everyone tells you Virginia is flat and you can begin cruising the miles away. There’s lot of food stops with all of the waysides the park has, plus plenty of road crossings of Skyline Drive. I loved the park from the vantage point of the AT but again, like other parks, would love to see more of it via the other trails and campgrounds.
    Also…lots of bears!

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    Yellowstone
    My intention when I arrived in Billings was not to drive to Yellowstone. I had arrived just after lunch and the airport had been plastered with Yellowstone advertisements. When I arrived at my hotel I asked the lady checking me in how far it was to Yellowstone. She said it was at least 2 hours one way but that the sun didn’t set until late, as it was the height of summer. I checked into my room and got online to scope things out. Yep, it looked like a long way but I made a plan to just drive and see how far I got. It appereared that there were a few interesting places to visit before I even arrived there, anyway. First was Red Lodge, a town near the Montana/Wyoming border. And then there was the Beartooth Highway. Photos online showed the highway to be pretty damn scenic so if I didn’t make it to Yellowstone, no big deal. Once I got to the Beartooth Highway I knew I was in for a thrill! I stopped at most pullouts to take in the views. It was freakin’ fantastic! I know this is about national parks but really, the highway was probably the highlight of the trip—except for maybe seeing my first bear ever once I got to Yellowstone. I was still making good time and decided to continue on to the northeast entrance and just see from there. I didn’t know how much it cost to get in muchless if there was a trail nearby or what. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to go very far into the park due to the drive and having to head back to Billings. Ok, it looks like based on a photo of the Trout Lake trailhead, that I went as far as that and turned around. I do remember the roads being very busy with a lot of people pulled over and of course when I saw a throng of people pulled over I stopped too…and found a bear! There were some idiots out in the field getting closer but I stayed at the car and used a long lens to get a few photos. I was definitely spooked about hiking alone so my explorations on foot were not far. I dipped around Trout Lake and then looked at a creek that had a trail that went to The Thunderer but for the most part it was enough for me to just stay in the car and view the scenery that way! It was definitely a long evening and I rolled back into Billings about when it got dark. It was worth it, though!

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    And that wraps up this week of park service visits! Lots more to see out there!

    Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
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    Less than an hour from Billings, Montana on the Crow Reservation is the memorial to the battle of Little Big Horn, or what many people know it as, Custer’s Last Stand. One of the perks of my job in Florida was being able to travel multiple times a year and seeing a lot of different and unique places. Standing in what as once a battlefield was a little spooky and it wasn’t difficult to imagine the carnage that went on. Yet it seemed a little surreal to see the wide-open expanse around me and imagine that in the 1870s and think of just how much more remote it must have felt then. I was glad I was able to drive down there after I was done with work for the day to see a bit of history that I might not have ever been to otherwise.

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    Pompey’s Pillar National Monument
    I forgot to include this one on the main list the other day as I thought it was a state park not a NPS site. This was another interesting visit one evening after I was done with my work duties in Billings. It was a short drive down I-94 and not far off the highway, making it easy to access. Leave No Trace ethics obviously don’t go back to the early 1800s but maybe that’s a good thing in some circumstances? Typically we (the greater outdoor enthusiasts ‘we’) don’t approve of carving our names into stones, trees, or other natural (or artificial) surfaces in our parks but seeing a lasting impression of the William and Clark expedition? Pretty damn cool!
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    Harpers Ferry National Historic Park
    Conveniently located on the Appalachian Trail, Harpers Ferry serves as the psychological halfway point for the trail for thru-hikers. Chris and I stopped for an extended stay (two nearos) in town where we met up with our friends Meghan and Jesse who live in Maryland. Our stay coincided with Memorial Day weekend so the town was pretty busy the first day we were there. A lot of cool, old buildings!

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    Harpers Ferry, VA

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    Mount Rushmore
    Ah, Mount Rushmore! I flew into South Dakota mid-afternoon for another work trip and found myself without my luggage. It was mid-October and thankfully I’d carried on a light jacket! The luggage had been delayed in Denver for some reason and so after checking into my hotel I opted to drive down to Mount Rushmore about 30 minutes southwest of town instead of waiting around at the hotel. I had a lot of mixed feelings about Mount Rushmore after seeing it. For me, I felt that it was one of those monuments or places that is built up so much to be something so grand but when I stood in front of it the whole thing seemed much less majestic than I had imagined. Still, I’m glad I saw it! Later in the week I would go with the people I was taking a class with to the Crazy Horse Memorial that is being carved on private land. If you are ever in the area be sure to stop and see that monument too.

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    I know that I was probably more enamored by the mountain goats!

    National Mall
    The first time I went to DC was pre-9/11 with Chris, his mom, and his step-dad. After that I went several other times for work conferences and always enjoyed seeing different parts of the city. I hit up most of the memorials that first time but the WWII memorial was finally built during the subsequent visits. I love visiting DC and the vibes it has!

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    Castillo de San Marcos
    Dating to the late 1600s, this fort is the oldest masonry fort in the continental US. St. Augustine the town dates back to the 1500s with many other wooden forts built prior to the stone fort. We visited with our friends Randy, Kathy, and Robert, Michelle, and their son when we went up to Jacksonville one Thanksgiving where Robert and Michelle were living at the time. We took a tour of the fort and definitely got the creep factor in a few spots, places where people definitely died. Still, it is pretty unique to have something that old still in tact on this continent!

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    LBJ National Historical Park
    I’m totally sneaking this one in here because we’ve done a drive-by through the park but have never actually gotten out to tour the grounds or the house. It’s beyond Pedernales Falls State Park and is located on the Pedernales River which makes this park very scenic. Next time we head that way we need to make it a more legit visit!

  • Appalachian National Scenic Trail
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    All of my Appalachian Trail posts are here

  • Florida National Scenic Trail – While part of the National Trails System, it is administered by the US Forest Service.
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    All of my Florida Trail posts are here

  • Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
    This recreation area we hit up on our AT thru-hike, but I’m still going to count it as a separate visit!
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    Sunfish Pond

  • El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail
    This historic trail dates from the Spanish colonization period and multiple paths from western Louisiana were forged through Texas as a highway to Mexico City. I’m mostly familiar with the area of the trail around east Texas from the Davy Crockett National Forest over to San Augustine, Texas along SH 21. When we were doing field work in Sabine National Forest we saw multiple historic signs about this trail, including one that was on the motel property we were staying at. Imagine settlers and other explorers forging a path through east Texas at that time period!

  • Canaveral National Seashore
    I think Chris probably spent more time on this seashore than I did—really I may have only been once when Chris stopped to fish somewhere on the Indian River Lagoon. I know he went up to fish fairly often when we lived on the Space Coast.

  • Gulf Islands National Seashore
    My visit to this park is intermingled with our Florida Trail thru-hike since the end/beginning of the trail is at Fort Pickens.
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  • Padre Island National Seashore
    Padre is one national seashore I have always wanted to hike or drive the length of. When we moved back to Texas I had the grand idea to hike the beach from North Padre down to South Padre, which meant hauling a lot of water, but that idea never made it further than being an excited grand scheme in my head. I grew up going to Port Aransas and Corpus Christi for family vacations which meant I saw my share of visits to North Padre Island. Most of this time was spent surfing the waves at the beach but most recently, as you will see below, was seeing sea turtles being released! I’m so glad that this park has had success with their Kemp’s ridley sea turtle population and I hope their success continues to grow!

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  • Acadia
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    When we finished our Appalachian Trail thru-hike in 2010 my mom came up to Maine and spent a few days with us tooling around the state with us. We stayed in Bar Harbor a couple of days and visited Acadia National Park just briefly with a hike up Cadillac Mountain to watch the sun set. I know that we barely saw what this national park had to offer and for that I am sorry because I have no idea when we will go back to Maine.

  • Big Bend
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    Chris and I went to Big Bend with four of our college friends during spring break in 2000. Oh boy, what a road trip that was! We left in the middle of the night because it is a haul to get out there. This was before everyone even had a basic cell phone so while Chris had a cell phone at that time (I think!) our friends did not, or if they did we did not think to get their number! We didn’t even make it out of Houston before we were separated—Chris veered off to take one route through town and our friends veered off for another route! In our car, we figured we would all just keep on going and we’d meet up once we got there. Not quite. Chris, Rosemarie, and I made it out to the park entrance where we had to stay just outside the park at a private campground for the first night because, either we didn’t have reservations for that night or there weren’t spots available inside the park, I can’t quite remember that. We drove to several of the visitors centers in the park hoping we’d run into our friends and didn’t see them. Eventually we found a pay phone and tried calling back to campus and the dorms but no one answered. We must have ran out of change by then so I called my parents, who at the time had a toll free number that they had gotten when I had gone to Summer School at Sea to central and south America two years before. I had my parents call and leave messages for our friends letting them know where we were staying. That’s all we could do was hope they got the message and they would find us. Ah, the pre-cell phone era!

    The next morning our friends showed up! They had driven a few hours down I-10 beyond Houston but worried we’d turned around so they drove back to Galveston! They eventually did get the messages left on the voicemail in the dorms and decided to head back to the park! When folks nowadays say things like “We did just fine without cellphones at one point in time”…well, yes, we did, but they sure would have alleviated a headache in this situation! Once we we were all together we got inside the park and got our tent site. This was before I was really into plants and knowing a lot about my surroundings so while I was paying attention I didn’t really absorb it all. It was beautiful; we went on some wonderful hikes, and we paid the Mexicans working the boats on the river to take us across the Rio Grande where we hoofed it down a dirt road to a very poor border town where we walked around for a bit. Ah, pre 9/11 days! You can’t do that anymore!

  • Big Cypress
    Dare I go on for days about this park? It is the NPS park I spent the most time in during my years in Florida. Most people are familiar with Everglades NP (a few bullets down below) and have no idea what Big Cypress is all about. For starters, it is a Preserve not a Park. Preserve is also a bit of a misnomer because while it might conjure up preservation in the conservation sense, it is more of a preservation of various uses, uses that include oil and gas exploration, tribal, off-road vehicles, and hunting. And yes, environmental conservation at the same time. The oil and gas aspect is currently under fire right now because of exploration activities that are being permitted. It’s a hard notion to wrap your head around in an area like that but it’s going to take some congressional work to change the uses of the park. Ok, I’m not going to go down that rabbit hole…so let’s focus on my experiences out there.

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    For starters, there’s the Florida Trail!

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    Blue Blazed Loop north of I-75

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    Orchid north of I-75

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    Campsite on the blue blaze

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    Turner River Road

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    Turner River starts in Big Cypress and ends in Everglades NP.

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    A Turner River alligator

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    Hitting the mangroves on the Turner River

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    Deep Lake

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    Lubber grasshopper near Deep Lake

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    Sweetwater Strand on Loop Road

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    Loop Road alligator

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    On Loop Road

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    Bear Island sunset

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    A ghost orchid in Big Cypress.

  • Big Thicket
    The Big Thicket is also a Preserve and is considered one of the most biologically diverse parks as it is located on a ecological zone change, where southeastern forests start meeting the plains and western frontier. It also has many uses other than ecologic conservation. The same oil and gas, tribal, ORV, and hunting uses also apply here. Of note, the last ivory billed woodpecker sighting was in the Big Thicket region!

    My first encounter with this park was in college. Kind of the same thing as Big Bend, while I was paying attention I wasn’t paying attention. We visited the Pitcher Plant Bog for my wetlands lab in college on one of our field trips but at the time had no comprehension of where I was going and how to appreciate it. I remember it being drizzly and grey the day we went out there. It wasn’t until I returned back to Texas in 2010 and drove by the area that I realized where I was and could even place that I’d been there before. Prior to that it was a fuzzy memory I could conjure up but with little meaning to me.

    I’ve spent a good portion of time on the Beaumont and adajcent units and a little bit of time on the other units of this preserve. Being as we are only a few hours away from the preserve I suspect we will visit frequently as Forest grows up.

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  • Biscayne
    This park is a little different in that it is not very accessible unless you have a boat. Sure, there’s a visitors center on the mainland and some areas of the park that are on the mainland, but most of the park is incorporated within Biscayne Bay or islands in the bay. I only visited the park once for a snorkeling trip with my former coworkers and I don’t even think I have photos! The trip was great and I can imagine the park would be a lot more fun with a kayak or a boat!

  • Everglades
    When people mention the Everglades and Florida together they are definitely thinking of this park. In reality the Everglades are much larger than just this park. I saw a lot of the northern end of the park via US 41 but rarely did we venture down into the southern end of the park, mostly because it was kind of a haul to get there! While there are a few hiking trails, most of the park is best seen by kayak or canoe on any of the paddling trails. One thing I do regret was never paddling the 10,000 islands. It was on my to-do list but I never scratched it off. Summers in Everglades National Park can be brutal due to mosquitoes. Chris and I attempted to go find some orchids once when they were blooming in the summer and we didn’t get very far before I had enough of the thousands of insect bodies bouncing off of me. I had Deet on (you don’t go there without Deet…forget the alternative sprays!) as well as long sleeves but that wasn’t enough. Chris continued on until he’d had enough and he went back another time to see the orchids.

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    View into Florida Bay from Flamingo.

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    Vanilla barbellata

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    Really into the mangroves on Turner River.

    Randy, Chris, and Misti at the Cigar Orchid
    I grabbed this one from my friend Kathy who took this of us at probably one of the most photographed orchids in Everglades NP!

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    Green heron

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    Catopsis berteroniana

  • Glacier
    My visit to Glacier was very brief and kind of spur-of-the-moment. I was heading to Polson on the south side of Flathead Lake for a work trip and had planned to fly into Missoula. After I’d bought my tickets my dad informed me he was going to be flying to Kalispell for a one day work trip and that was on the north side of Flathead Lake! So, I flew into Missoula, drove the hour to Polson where I checked into my hotel and then got back in the car and drove another hour to Kalispell to meet my dad and drive over to West Glacier for a few hours that afternoon. Good thing it was June and the sun didn’t set until late! It’s too bad I hadn’t flown into Kalispell because we could have spent much more time in Glacier! Going-to-the-sun road was closed not far after Lake McDonald which limited us to what was open at lower elevations that time of year. For just dipping my feet in, the trip was worth all of that driving after a flight!

    Enjoying the Creek

    Lake McDonald from McDonald Lodge

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  • In honor of the National Park Service’s 100th Birthday on August 25th, I’m going to spend this week sharing snippets of parks that I’ve been to under the jurisdiction of the NPS. Many people don’t realize there are more than just ‘parks’ that are part of that system and it extends out to seashores, monuments, preserves, and trails. I’ll be breaking down my posts this week into those parks that I’ve visted, linking photos and previous blog posts to share. While I love the National Park system I wish there was more love for the USFWS refuge system as well as the US Forest Service. Both are highly undervalued resources for outdoor opportunities. There’s the BLM, too, but you find those lands primarily out west.

    In the meantime, feel free to share parks you’ve been to or tell me ones that I need to put on my bucket list!

    National Parks
    Acadia
    Big Bend
    Big Cypress
    Big Thicket
    Biscayne
    Everglades
    Glacier
    Great Smoky Mountains
    Guadalupe Mountains
    Hot Springs
    Olympic
    Rocky Mountain
    Saguaro
    Shenandoah
    Yellowstone

    Monuments, Historical Parks, and Memorials
    Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
    Harpers Ferry National Historic Park
    Mount Rushmore
    National Mall
    Castillo de San Marcos
    LBJ National Historical Park

    National Seashores
    Canaveral National Seashore
    Gulf Islands National Seashore
    Padre Island National Seashore

    Trails and Recreation Areas
    Appalachian National Scenic Trail
    Florida National Scenic Trail – While part of the National Trails System, it is administered by the US Forest Service.
    Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
    El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail

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    It’s never a perfect scenario weather wise, right? Too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry. Spring flooding, summer drought. But we got a nice break in the drought over the weekend with rain. Rain that’s now forecast daily until early next week. Which is good for the most part but also puts a damper in finalizing summer gardening chores, pulling those ‘last’ weeds, etc. The wheelbarrow has been sitting in that spot for over a week with little activity.

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    From a distance the garden looks good. You can’t see the weeds and it is evident that the yard needs to be mowed but the mower is on the fritz again and Chris has to work on it sometime.

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    It’s almost time for the cardinal flowers to bloom. I keep seeing them pop up in other people’s blogs and photos so I had to check when we saw them last year while hiking in Sam Houston NF. It was mid-late September. I know there’s a range in blooming, but it does seem early for blooms to be starting int he garden. There’s a lot that seems early this year: schoolhouse lilies, monarchs, hummingbirds to name a few. I hope that doesn’t mean a rough winter.

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    I really like this ornamental pepper I bought back in June at Marshall Grain. Ornamental edible plants definitely add texture to the garden.

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    I’ve noticed marigolds can be hit or miss for us but the ones we planted this year have done really well. When I brush up against them as I weed I’m instantly taken back to my growing-up years and my mom’s marigolds. She planted them every year and we would save up the seed heads in bags or just pull them off and play with the seeds as they floated to the ground below where they would reseed the following year. Marigold perfume…I wonder if it would be too overwhelming? Hmmm!

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    The tansy likes to get a little out of control and when it isn’t blooming it looks a bit messy. It’s blooming now and for that I’m happy!

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    Raindrops on the Amorpha fruticosa.

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    Ever since Chris cut back some trees that were hanging over the fence back near the beehive the variegated cannas are doing much better. They probably need a bit more sun than they are getting but they do add a great ‘pop’ back there in that corner of the garden.

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    Speaking of the beehive area, here’s a shot looking east-ish from that viewpoint.

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    The Passiflora ‘incense’ has done a great job of covering the fence this year, which is what I wanted it to do. However, at the end of the growing season I think I’m going to cut it back to tame it a bit but also so Chris can fix the fence that was busted during one of the spring storms when a branch fell on it.

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    Back in the the ‘tropical’ section of the garden, the pink bananas are blooming still. We dug a few of these up for my parents back in the spring and they have even bloomed in their yard much to their delight!

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    Butterfly ginger and an untagged ginger near the potting bench, still showing off their blooms.

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    Last year the daturas got a little unruly but this year I feel like we have just the right amount and they are trimmed up well.

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    On the potting bench are several pots of scarlet catch-fly that need to be put in the ground. That hasn’t prevented them from blooming anyway!

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    I just raked the path a week or so ago but its time to do it again! Several plants sprout up in the pathway and I need to pull and pot a few so I can share with a few people.

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    Lovely Clematis crispa seed pod.

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    And a jungle looking view from down below at the clematis and blackberry lilies.

    The garden looks good, just a bit unkempt but that’s the way things are right now!

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