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  • Archive for November, 2011

    wedquote
    Photo looking east from the Dog Canyon Visitors Center, Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

    For the next month I will be doing Quote Wednesdays instead of my usual Wordless Wednesdays. Join me and share your favorite quote!

    When I told my dad we were going to Guadalupe Mountains National Park for Thanksgiving he recounted his tale of it being one of the hardest hikes he’d ever done. He regaled me with a story about my brother and him being ahead of the rest of the Boy Scout troop, and climbing and climbing to the McKittrick Ridge campsite they were all supposed to stay at that night, however night fell and they ended up laying out their sleeping bags somewhere in the middle of the trail. Eventually everyone got caught up together but then there was an issue of getting water and the only place was several miles downhill, so my dad and a few others carried everyone’s water bottles down to fill them up and then hauled them the several miles back up.

    I just kept thinking, It can’t be that hard!

    Um. It was.

    Or at least for out-of-mountain-shape me. Patrice and Justin were still rocking their trail legs so they were patient with me as I eased up McKittrick Ridge.

    First, we had to descend Guadalupe Peak, approximately four miles, then refill on water and shuttle a car over to the McKittrick Ridge trail head. Patrice and Justin were going to come back out the same way the following day so they could head to Carlsbad Caverns for the weekend.

    When we pulled into the McKittrick Visitors Center I noticed a Backpacker Magazine vehicle parked in the lot and two people, a man and woman, with gear outside of it. Our interest was piqued. Chris headed over to the car as soon as we parked and we all followed suit. It was the Get Out More Tour, with Sheri and Randy Propster. Chris told them we were all AT thru-hikers to which they said they were as well, but they’d also completed the American Discovery Trail which is how they ended up being chosen for the position with Backpacker.

    We chatted with them for quite awhile, very interested in their lifestyle of traveling the country nine months a year, testing gear, traveling trails that readers choose as some of the best routes and then reviewing them on their blog, and giving clinics at various outdoor retailers around the country. It’s a pretty good gig and they know it! Patrice and Justin informed them they were interested in doing something similar and it seemed that the possibility of something being available could happen in the future. I was definitely envious!

    Sheri and Randy had just done part of the loop we were planning and did inform us that the trail up to McKittrick Ridge was a good trail but very relentless with many false tops.

    Chris was anxious to get going since it would be our longest and hardest day and he was still hoping to get to the campsite before dark. The first several miles would traverse along McKittrick Creek through the canyon and would be relatively flat. Yay for flat! Then it would be a steep and relentless hike up to the ridge and campsite.

    four
    The first mile or two were slowly busy with day hikers traversing the creek.

    tree and sky

    chris

    mosaic
    I did a double take at the vegetation along the creek and had to run my hand up the side of it. It was sawgrass and I even looked it up on the USDA database to see it was listed for that county out there. Definitely stunned! The big tooth maples were past their prime but still held a bit of color.

    mckittrick

    prattcabin1
    For lunch we made it to the Pratt cabin where we sat at the picnic tables next to the creek and chatted with some older day hikers from Austin. Patrice and Justin showed up shortly after we sat down for lunch, we’d left them back at the cars since Chris knew he wanted to go slower and take photos, knowing they would catch up to us.

    prattcabin2
    This is part of the cabin that was built by Wallace Pratt back in the early part of the 20th century. On Google Earth it appears that a road continues through the canyon to the north; someday I’d like to walk back on that road and see where it leads.

    creek2
    A little further down Chris stopped to take photos of trout in a small puddle of the creek.

    creek

    lavignes2

    10

    grotto
    About a mile past the Pratt Cabin is a grotto down a short trail and then a bit further another cabin. Patrice and Justin scoped out the cabin while I sprawled out on the top of a picnic table to rest.

    canyon
    The open area to the south of the grotto appeared to be a good stealth camping place…

    lavignes

    fern

    Shortly after the grotto the climb up began. It was about four miles to the campsite and it was definitely 95% up! Switchbacks and more switchbacks…it was never ending! But it offered up some amazing views and as we climbed I didn’t feel too guilty for stopping to catch my breath because we could stop and peer out over the canyon below.

    Eventually we wound up high enough and spotted four other hikers that Sheri and Randy had told were ahead of us. I was surprised to have caught them, thinking they were further ahead than we were. Patrice and Justin pulled ahead of us when Chris stopped to take a photo of a yucca. Eventually when we came to the top of the first false summit and then realized we had to go down to cross a knife edge and then go back up I was a bit disheartened. Chris kept saying we wouldn’t make it for sunset and since I didn’t wear a watch while hiking I had no clue what time it was, nor did I want to ask because knowing the time and distance only frustrates me when I am not going fast enough.

    We were on the south side of the knife edge and we saw the four hikers climbing up the north side of the knife edge. Later we found out that Patrice and Justin were both waving to us from the top of the other side but we didn’t see them. Eventually on the other side we did catch up and pass the other four hikers who were hiking in jeans. I know, hike your own hike, but really, jeans? Ouch!

    The four had separated into two groups of two and both asked us how far we thought camp was to which we estimated about a mile to a mile and a half. When we passed the second group it wasn’t but ten more minutes before we arrived at the McKittrick Ridge campsite, thankfully a shorter distance than anticipated.

    And it was only 4 o’clock, an hour until sunset! I hadn’t walked as slow as I thought, not thru-hiking pace but not the turtle pace I felt I was going.

    P&J said they’d only been there about ten minutes and were in the process of setting up camp. We got our tent ready and dinner too, and then spent a few hours chatting with them about the A.T. and thru hiking as well as post trail life.

    And then it was all of 5:45pm or so and time for bed. Yep, hiker midnight!

    camp

    We arrived at the Pine Springs Visitors Center at Guadalupe Mountains National Park somewhere around 11am MST. Patrice and Justin were going to be meeting us in a few hours and I was surprised that we’d arrived at the visitors center so quickly. That and we didn’t anticipate a time change though I should have figured that we were going far enough west to have one. The extra hour was definitely a bonus.

    Inside the center we filled out our backcountry slips and took a look around the exhibits, watching the video in the small room behind the main desk. Killing time, we decided to get everything together so we could book it as soon as they arrived. A few texts were exchanged and they were going to arrive around 1:30 MST, which they did pretty much promptly. Chris was anxious to get to the top of Guadalupe Peak, the 8,749′ mountain that reigns as the highest point in Texas, for sunset. The ranger at the visitors center said that three hours would be a fast time for anyone to climb the mountain, but he didn’t know that there were two recent Appalachian Trail thru-hikers that could probably whip that out pretty fast (Deal and Steadee) and though our thru-hike was well over a year ago we figured we could do pretty well. (I think it was somewhere around 2.5 hours to the top for us…Patrice can verify, she had a Garmin Forerunner clocking our time and altitude).

    We were the only ones to start up that late and most folks were coming down by that time. I took my time, slowly and steadily, and not feeling so great from the slowly increasing altitude and from not eating a good lunch. Bad choice on my part! A mule deer was scared from its resting place just off the trail about a quarter of the way up and we encountered an obnoxious if informative kid saying that “we had a long way to go” still. Yeah, we know, dude. Then, since we were all A.T. thru-hikers we lamented about the ever persistent question on the trail when descending a mountain “How far to the top?”. The answer in our head would have been “Well, for you or for me?” After one has covered so many miles it is easy to become quickly efficient at hiking up and down a mountain. Of course we didn’t answer so snidely and are nice about it, “Well, it’ll be awhile, sorry!” This time though I definitely felt on the other end of the stick since I was out of mountain shape and my lungs were feeling the pressure.

    The peak we thought was the summit turned out to not be the summit, of course. This is the ever annoying curse of “That must be it!” and it really isn’t. The false summit was instead the 1-mile from summit campground. Looked promising.

    Up, and up, and up. Round, and round, and round. We spotted the horse hitching posts and then Chris noticed the monument on the top of the summit.

    We’d made it! The rotten thing was I was so shaky and had started having leg cramps on the way up (a banana would have made me feel a lot better!) that I immediately started making dinner. That, compounded with the wind chill at the top didn’t allow me to share in the hub-bub of making it to the summit. I just wanted food and to get in the tent. We decided to find a good patch of rock to set the tent up on instead of descending the mile down to the campground and pitched the tent on the summit instead.

    It was a great choice, the view was magnificent and the stars—-wow, the stars! We left the fly off the tent that night so every time we woke up to turn over, our view was to the beautiful stars above. Before we went to bed we were stunned by the amount of cars driving down the road to the east of the park. The lights were endless and we only guessed that it was holiday travel coming to the park or going to areas in southeastern New Mexico (Carlsbad is less than an hour away) and west Texas. Chris took some great shots of the lights and when he gets them downloaded and processed I’ll post them here.

    The next morning was awesome! Sunrise was wonderful…perhaps almost as good as Sunrise on Katahdin, I mean, I think the 2,179 miles behind that summit made that one, but it was still pretty awesome.

    sunrise
    Was not going for composition here. I literally reached out of the tent for my backpack, got my camera (we carried our good dSLRs up) and shot the photo out the door of the tent.

    tent2

    tent

    shadow
    Looking west, the shadow from Guadalupe Peak on the flats below.

    lavignes2
    Deal and Steadee

    dawn

    elcapitan2
    View south to El Capitan and the salt flats

    elcapitan

    saltflats
    The salt flats again

    view2
    Looking northwest towards the rest of the range

    view

    summit1
    We camped directly on the other side of the canyon, there, our last night. You can see the trail, the Tejas trail, that goes down the mountain on the far right side of the photo.

    top2
    About the monument erected by American Airlines in 1958 honoring the Butterfield Overland mail route that went through the region.

    top1

    morning

    lavignes
    Deal and Steadee studying the map…

    mistisummit2
    I took Ridley, the little sea turtle mascot my niece gave me when we did the Florida Trail, to the top.

    mistisummit

    Next up, we’ll descend and then hit up McKittrick Canyon for some strenuous, but beautiful, hiking!

    • Husband flew home from Pennsylvania after a flight delay on Tuesday night. Delayed our intention of leaving for far west Texas until the wee hours of Wednesday morning.
    • As in 2 a.m. wee hours of the morning.
    • Arrived in Mountain Standard Time at Guadalupe Mountains National Park and was thus happy to receive an extra hour of hiking.
    • Our friends Deal and Steadee who we know via the Appalachian Trail met us out there and we then climbed up the tallest mountain in Texas.
    • Got my ass kicked by said mountain.
    • Had salad for lunch…I wonder why mountain kicked my ass? Hrm, let’s see here….
    • Saw a beautiful sunrise from the top of Texas!
    • Got my ass kicked yet again going up endless switchbacks to the McKittrick Ridge campsite.
    • Saw tons of mule deer.
    • Got pelted by rain and wind.
    • Hiked among snow flurries. Got worried a white out would happen and then pondered the thought of losing the trail.
    • Pondered for no reason as the sun came out a few hours later.
    • Walked along beautiful creek beds
    • Saw Barbary Sheep on the way down from the mountain this morning.
    • Am very tired.
    • Will hopefully get a few good posts up soon!
    • Hope your Thanksgiving was great!

    Some plants are waning in the garden while others are waxing. The cucumbers, zucchini and corn are done. I pulled the cukes a week ago and got the zucchini a few days ago. The corn is still drying and will be ready to pick for seed soon. The rest…well, you will have to take a peek through…

    lettuce2
    The lettuce mix we started is doing wonderfully! I need to harvest some soon. I haven’t even tried it yet!

    lettuce

    beets2
    I’m excited for the beets. I’ve never had them and so this will be a great opportunity to try them out.

    beets

    carrots2
    Most of the carrots are doing well. I had to thin them out finally…rather I finally got around to doing it. I felt bad pulling out little carrots but it’s all about getting the most out of your harvest I suppose.

    carrotsabstract

    carrots

    kalebed
    This bed has collards (the small ones), kale and I think some sort of oriental cabbage. The cabbage is the biggest of all.

    kale

    turnips2
    This is the turnip and radish bed. Most of the radishes are picked so all that is left are the turnips. I’m going to harvest some turnip greens and try them out while I let the roots continue growing.

    turnips

    purplehull
    We didn’t plant these purple hull beans, but they were in the community plot and the lady who runs the garden said some would be ready this last weekend so I went ahead and grabbed a few to try out.

    watermelonradish3
    The watermelon radishes were finally ready for harvest. They were gigantic!

    watermelonradish2

    watermelonradish1

    watermelonradish4

    watermelonradish3
    +Watermelon radishes at Tiny Urban Kitchen.
    +Watermelon radishes at Happy Healthy Life.

    Love the radishes! The only thing I forgot to take a photo of were the Brussels sprouts…oh well.

    I’m interested to see how our winter is here because I’m curious on winter tomatoes. Yes, I’m still on Florida mode on these. It seems Texas sucks for tomatoes, the growing season is narrow, with periods of spring and fall being the best. Summer is too hot. Winter too cold. But, maybe, just maybe, here in NW Houston we could get some winter tomatoes. I’ll have to see how this winter goes.

    samandleo
    It’s been a busy few weekends and before that I was in PA so I really haven’t had a weekend to decompress in awhile. This weekend I had absolutely nothing planned.

    leo3
    My poor cats have been sick the last two weeks. First Samson came down with a cold, sneezing and all, and then I took him to the vet. I told the vet that Leo was fine. The next day Leo proved me wrong by sneezing.

    leo2
    He was promptly fed the same medicine Samson was getting. Though he appeared to be worse off than Sam ever was. I went to the field for work for a few days and when I returned he was all stuffy and his eyes were watering. It made my eyes want to water, I felt bad for the poor boy.

    leo1
    Soft treats are the way to go for tricking pets into eating their medicine. Shoving it down their throat—not so much a good idea.

    samson
    Spending this weekend with them has been nice, cuddling up with them. Chris is returning from PA on Tuesday so I’m sure they will be happy to spend some time with them. My cats are more like dogs and really enjoy attention. Of course they have their moments of solitude but for the most part they like being around us.

    bobs
    I had to pop into the dollar store to get treats for them and found my favorite Christmas candy. It reminds me of my grandmother, my mom’s mom, and they are just plain delicious. I prefer them over regular candy canes, plus they make coffee taste so good!

    s'bucks
    I also popped into a Starbucks for my first peppermint mocha of the year. I had a love affair with it many years ago but then I kept getting poorly made ones so I switched to regular lattes and caramel macchiatos. This one turned out to be great and I’m so glad I got it. The nearest S’bucks is 20 minutes away so they are not a regular habit of mine. Probably a good idea for my waist line!

    mums1
    The chrysanthemums are blooming! (Just had an Anne of Green Gables moment spelling that out).

    mums2
    The community garden is looking beautiful with the mums out!

    four o'clocks
    And the 4-o’clocks provide a heady aroma in the evenings. They have perked up from their leggy looking status this summer.

    A very good weekend. Looking forward to seeing my husband this Tuesday after a month away! Having gone from living with each other day in and day out for a year and a half to not seeing each other much for six weeks—kind of strange!

    Hope your weekend was relaxing!

    I came up with the idea to do this post after stumbling across Alastair Humphreys’ post a week or so ago. I’d never heard of Alastair before that night and the only reason I had was because I’d just voted for Jennifer Pharr Davis as the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year for 2012. I clicked through to see who else was nominated and followed through to Alastair’s blog and wa-la, here was this magical blog post. Actually, there’s a lot more magic and adventure with Humprheys that I will talk about later (I’m still writing/ruminating my Living Adventurously post).

    Anyway, I’ve been to some cool places in my life but there are still places I want to go to and a few I want to go back to. Here’s my top 10 list of places to visit…maybe some are far-fetched, maybe not???

    In no particular order:

    1. Prince Edward Island, Canada: This love affair has been on going since I was 9 and first read Anne of Green Gables. Yes a day or two in the touristy Anne areas but then I would meander around the island slowly, taking photographs and relishing the red dirt island of L.M. Mongtomery.
    2. Antarctica: Um, hello, big adventure! Now, I don’t need to go to the South Pole or anything, but setting foot on the continent itself would be great, maybe visiting McMurdo Station, check out some Weddell seals and of course a few penguins. Going to the bottom of the Earth would be awesome!
    3. Salar de Uyuni: Bolivia’s Uyuni Salt Flats. The brief one week I spent in Bolivia was mostly spent in the tropical areas of the southeast and not near the salt flats. If I went again, this is where I’d want to go.
    4. Paris, France: This one will have to be a long term affair. My dream would be to live there for a year, soaking up the culture and learning the language fluently, seeing all of the historical landmarks, doing plein air paintings in the many parks and sightseeing the whole country. I’m jealous of my friend Rosemarie who is living in France for a few months this fall and winter as her husband goes to school there.
    5. The British Isles: Again, I think I’d have to live in each of these countries that make up the British Isles in order to fully enjoy them. That and I’d want to do the Coast to Coast hike or any one of the numerous pub to pub hikes in Ireland or England.
    6. Patagonia: A friend from college went to Patagonia a few years ago and as I looked through her photos I realized this region of Argentina and Chile had to go on my list of places to visit. I haven’t done enough research to figure out where I’d want to go exactly, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be disappointed with anywhere I went!
    7. Rancho Nuevo, Mexico: Seeing an arribada of Kemp’s ridley sea turtles…*awesome*! I could also handle Ostional, Costa Rica to see their turtle cousins the olive ridleys. My hiking trail name is Ridley for a reason!
    8. Oyamel Fir Forest, Mexico: Another place involving masses of fauna in one places, the winter home of the monarch butterfly!
    9. Everest Base Camp: This one might be a bit cliché but I think it would be fantastic! I ruled out climbing to the top of after reading Into Thin Air, when I said no thank you to pulmonary edemas and other high altitude illnesses that often result in death. Despite the fact that many people go to base camp, I don’t think enough people in the general public have gone to make it a ‘routine’ place to visit.
    10. New Zealand: Some friends of ours in Florida, geocachers named FootTrax aka: Chris and Sarah, went there for their honeymoon and did a backpacking trip through some of the national parks there. Their photos were beautiful and I’ve heard New Zealand is the new Australia, as in, it’s the cool place to go.

    Now for the places I want to go back to:

    Galapagos Islands, Ecuador: Five days on three islands was not enough time during the summer of 1998. One of the islands we only spent one day on due to a protest on the island that prevented us from being able to go ashore. What I saw was just a teaser, a trailer to a larger adventure and more beautiful sights. It was freakin’ amazing!

    Bolivia: Yeah I mentioned the salt flats, but I only spent a week in Bolivia and I want to see more! It is such a diverse country, high altitudes of La Paz down to the western Amazonian jungles…so much there to see!

    The Bath’s, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands: I think it was my parents 20th anniversary when we went to the BVI and at the last minute we kids got to tag along! We primarily stayed on Tortola but one day we took the ferry over to Virgin Gorda to sight see. Unfortunately for me I’d got a speck of sand or salt from the ocean in my eye and it had been irritated enough to go to the doctor on Tortola and I was thus banned from swimming. Therefore I did not get to enjoy The Baths much at all! I would revisit Tortola, too. I could enjoy also a Pusser’s painkiller now whereas I was only 15 then!

    So, what about you? Where do you want to go? Entice me with your list so I have more places to add to mine!

    Last weekend I had the privilege to do a maternity session with one of my best friends. Stephanie and I met while sailing on the U.S.T.S. Texas Clipper II during the summer of 1998, between our senior year of high school and freshman year of college. I don’t recall how we got introduced but she, paired with our friends Michelle and Rosemarie and my friend from high school Erika, all became good friends in college. So, that summer we sailed through the Panama Canal and down through the southern Pacific Ocean and to the Galapagos Islands and here we are in 2011 when she is expecting her first child in February! Time flies!

    I love this photo a lot because of these tiny little Aggie shoes. Her husband is an avid Longhorn, errrr…t-sip, and of course she bleeds maroon. She’s not the only one to be in a divided household, I know several others! Of course this might all be moot after November 24th and perhaps the final Aggie v. t.u. game.

    We shot photos inside the nursery and then went to downtown McKinney to take the rest. We weren’t the only ones out there doing portraits, there were at least two other photographers out there. McKinney offers up a lot of unique backgrounds for shooting portraits and I’m glad to have asked Steph about going there. The only downside was the wind had kicked up that day so we had some hair-in-the-face issues.

    It was definitely a learning experience for my first official gig as a portrait photographer and it gave me a bit of a buzz to keep doing it. I would love to do this a few times a month; coming up with creative ways to take portraits is exciting. After I started processing them at home I thought about all the shots that I wished I had gotten and just filed them away to remember later.

    Can’t wait to meet the wee one in February!

    garlic1

    garlic2

    dill2

    dill

    +More garlic are emerging and starting to grow taller. The dill on the other hand appears to be static. Grow already!
    +Our 100mm macro lens was returned to us from Canon earlier this week. It had been sick and needed a part replaced. Now it is working magically!
    +Enjoy your weekend!

    frenchbreakfast1

    frenchbreakfast2

    pickledradishes

    You thought I was going to write about espresso and a croissant while sitting on a quiet Paris street? I wish! But, I’ll take these sweet little French Breakfast radishes anyway. Chris bought these seeds for my birthday and we planted them in the ground on October 3rd. They are now ready to be harvested and most of them are already pulled, though a couple are still in the ground. As you can see I ended up pickling them. I just wasn’t sure that I could eat that many radishes by myself. I ended up using a variation of this recipe. Most of them seemed to have an Asian flare and required rice vinegar so I made a special purchase. You definitely wouldn’t want to make a lot of these because rice vinegar is much more expensive than apple cider vinegar. But I had just the right amount and threw some onions and carrots in for additional flavor. I can’t wait to try them!

    I didn’t realize how much was written about the French Breakfast variety of radishes, but there is a plethora of information.
    +French Breakfast in the Washington Post
    +French Breakfast via Gourmand in the Kitchen
    +French Breakfast via Blue Kitchen
    +And a Butter Poached Radishes recipe.

    I may have to start another round of radishes soon since some of the other vegetables are waning right now, their cycles are coming to an end. And 30 days for a harvest? You can’t beat that!

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