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  • Archive for November, 2016

    The sunshine from Thanksgiving Day had disappeared when we woke up on Friday morning. It was cloudy and dreary outside and quite chilly. When I packed for the trip I overloaded on clothes for Forest and blankets for sleeping. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to convince Forest to wear a hat but in the end he managed to keep it on. I think he was actually cold and realized he was warm and cozy with the hat on.

    After sleeping in for awhile and being a little lazy in the tent that morning we managed to get up and eat breakfast before deciding on our hiking adventures for the day. An interesting feature to this park is that the entire prairie area at the front of the park is only open for use during the hours of 10am-3pm to allow the Rio Grande turkey to safely roost the rest of the time. There was a slight buffer between the closed area and the campsite where visitors could walk to the bird blinds set up in that area, but otherwise it was off limits during off hours.

    From our campsite that morning we were able to see turkey in the scrub/prairie behind our site. The turkey meandered through the campsites further down, too. Turkey are not common in our part of Texas and they are an animal I miss seeing that we often saw when we lived in Florida. So, encountering the turkey here was a bonus point to the trip. Because of the hour restrictions we decided to go for our hike that morning on the trails in the turkey roost area and possibly hike the backcountry trails later that afternoon or the following day. While the temperature was chilly and the sky overcast, the lighting for photos was perfect in my opinion.

    Chris packed up his backpacking fishing rod so he could fish at Buck Lake and along the river when we got to it. Since we had no agenda we took our time walking the trails and I was able to poke around, looking for photo opportunities in the woods. There were quite a few people out hiking or riding their bikes that morning, which was nice to see, but it was a fairly quiet walk otherwise. Forest looked tired and in generally had an air of malaise about him but he would perk up whenever Chris caught a fish so I wasn’t too worried. I just figured his teeth were hurting (he’d been poking at them) or he was cold.

    We came back to camp for lunch and Chris wanted to go back to the river to fish but Forest and I were ready for nap time. Our usual two hour nap turned into a 3-3.5 hour nap that afternoon followed by playtime in the tent afterward. There was no hiking that afternoon. That’s how I like some camping days though, to be relaxing and restful. And the cozy weather made it all that much easier to pile up under the covers for the afternoon.

    It turned out, around midnight later that night, that there was something to that malaise with Forest. He ended up vomiting twice which we were able to clean up fairly well and get him back to sleep. Somehow he managed to at least put on the appearance that he was fine the next morning and we decided to stay instead of head home, which is what I’d tossed out as an idea in the middle of the night. Neither situation sounded fun: sick kid while camping or sick kid on 6 hour car ride home. Chris nor I ended up sick so I’m not quite sure if it was just a bug or something he’d eaten. All I can say is that I’m thankful I’d packed more towels than usual—I had them planned for potty training oopsies and not for this situation!

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    Thanksgiving, and our typical camping ritual, came as a much needed respite this year in the post-election angst and haze of the last few weeks. Weather is always the factor on if a camping trip will happen this time of year; last year we were rained out and changed our plans for a weekend in Galveston. It appeared that the weather was going to mostly cooperate so we headed off for South Llano River State Park which is west of San Antonio off of I-10 near the town of Junction. The drive out on Thursday went as smoothly as it could go with a stop at Buc-ees to pick up lunch to eat somewhere down the road since most restaurants were closed for the holiday. We stopped in Fredericksburg to eat lunch and despite most of the businesses in the historic downtown being closed, there were quite a few tourists out walking the streets. After our lunch and a playground pit stop, we kept heading west and arrived at the state park mid-afternoon to set up camp.

    Sometimes when you get to a state park you aren’t quite sure how their campsites will be situated. Often you will find crammed together sites that were poorly planned or have a hard time finding a good place to situate your tent. Site 33 turned out to be spacious with lots of room for a toddler to roam and plenty of space between our neighbors. Honestly, most of the campsites here were well planned and I don’t think you could really go wrong when choosing a site.

    The trail system in the state park was much more robust than I had thought but we only had a little time before dinner so Chris, Forest, and I opted for a short but semi-steep hike up to a Scenic Overlook. The sun was out and the air was warm and our out-of-shape selves had to take a few stops to catch our breath on the way up. The trail to the top was an old road; the property was formerly a homestead and ranch so some trails are really just former roadways.

    Our legs stretched out from the car ride, we popped over to the river crossing for Chris to fish for a few minutes and Forest to play. There was new places to explore and the sun was perfect and I took photo after photo. It was truly the golden hour with the early evening sun shining on the changing foliage. Explorations over, it was dinner time. Chris had smoked a turkey the weekend before and whipped up some gravy to go with it. We kept our Thanksgiving feast fairly simple with yeast rolls and mac and cheese as our sides. I was missing the dressing but before we left I figured I’d just save it to make for Christmas.

    Dusk settled in and we ate dinner by lantern light, something we rarely do while camping. I hurried to do the dishes by headlamp and we cleaned up camp to turn in for the night. More explorations were waiting for us the following day!

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    I can’t remember where and when we bought these marigolds this year but sometime in the last few months they spread their branches and took over a corner of the garden. That was fine with us, really, because they looked good and really made the garden perk up a bit. My mom grew marigolds when I was growing up and when they went to seed my brother and I would pick the seed heads and spread the seeds in the garden where they would germinate the next growing season. Forest has also love the marigolds and cannot resist, no matter how much I tell him, to pick one. He smells it and then drops it and goes on to the other so it then becomes necessary to redirect him to something else, otherwise we’d have no more marigolds!

    Happy Friday!

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    It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve seen a lot of activity in regards to the monarch butterflies. About two weeks ago, when I took these photos, there was still some adults flitting about and at least one new caterpillar but since then it seems the majority have moved south towards Mexico. I caught the adult female above resting on the ‘Wendy’s Wish’ salvia one day at lunch and it was only later when I looked on a photo I took on my phone that I saw an empty chrysalis. Due to the docile nature of the butterfly at the time I put two and two together and decided it had probably just emerged that morning.

    When I went home that evening I stopped back by the salvia to scope out more chrysalises and found two more. My excitement over the find was diminished when a garden friend of mine with monarch raising experience thought one was dead and the other was iffy. I spent a lot of time looking at Google images of dead monarch chrysalises, trying to determine if she was right. I gave it through the weekend we went camping just in case and when I returned I saw that there was no change. The darker one at first appeared to be at the very end of the pupa stage, ready to emerge, but based on everything I read it really should have happened within a few days of taking these photos.

    Last week, election day ironically, I got myself together and opened up the one that my friend thought was truly dead. Sure enough, it was a gooey, smelly mess. Definitely dead. And it had the dented spot on the back of the chrysalis. It’s now a week later and the other one still looks the same and I know it didn’t make it either. I’m opting to let nature takes it course with that one.

    For the most part we were hands off in the monarch raising this year—well, every year we’ve had milkweed and had monarchs. In Florida we had a few plants of tropical milkweed and would get caterpillars year round (south Florida had a year-round population) where we saw a chrysalis here and there that were evidently successful in metamorphosis. This year has really been the first year living here that we’ve had a substantial amount of caterpillars and I wasn’t that interested in dealing with keeping caterpillars in a tent and having to feed them constantly. So, I let nature do its thing: some survived, I’m sure a lot didn’t. In all of the reading about why a butterfly may not complete metamorphosis I learned quite a bit about various insect predators and their life cycle, using the monarch (and other caterpillars) for their own gain, but also about random things that just happen, and diseases that are spread around the lepidopterans and how prevalent they are.

    It was sobering to face the reality that these two were never meant to be. But I’m about to start preparing for next year and working to cold stratify more milkweed seeds in the fridge so I can put them out in January in the garden. We’ll see what next year’s migration brings!

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    On our way up to Caddo Lake we passed a sign for Martin Creek Lake State Park. It looked enticing so when we were deciding what to do on Sunday morning, stay near Caddo and find something to do or head back towards home and do something in another park, we opted to check out this park before we hit up lunch in the town of Henderson. As we turned down the park road I saw that the lake had a power plant on the opposite shore. When we checked in at the park office the trees shielded most of the view so I put the idea of camping at the state park on my list, that is, until we got out of the car. While we couldn’t directly see the power plant from where we were hiking or where we parked at the trailhead, there was a constant low humming noise that really disrupted the natural setting.

    Despite that, we did get out and hike the Old Henderson Loop which turned out to be pleasant despite the noise. The Old Henderson Loop is part of the Old Henderson to Shreveport road and it turns out there was quite a bit of interesting history in the area. I did like this park which makes it too bad about the low humming. I wonder if it is constant? If you are in the area or driving through the trails are worth getting out on for exploring!

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    There are just handful of trails at Caddo Lake State Park and it was easy to cover them all in a short amount of time. Surprisingly there was a good amount of terrain change on the trails, at least for this part of Texas. That’s because there are quite a bit of slope forests in the region associated with creek systems. We had to split our hiking time up between my parents so that one of them stayed back to watch their Boston terrier, Daisy. Mom hiked with us Friday afternoon after we’d set up camp and we promptly got lost on the trails because they weren’t labeled appropriately. Luckily we had the trail map and could guesstimate where we were in relation to the trailhead and we easily found our way back. It was overcast on Friday which gave off a cozy fall-like vibe in the forest.

    On Saturday morning Dad hiked with us and the clouds broke and we got some sunshine through the canopy. It was beautiful to look up and see the changing colors on the trees and to look across the forest at the leaves littering the slopes that lead to the creeks. It reminded me somewhat of Sabine National Forest and our time in parts of that area six years ago. I wanted to take off cross-forest, exploring what might be lurking in the leaf litter or growing along the creeks but we never did get off to explore.

    About five photos up you see me holding a big seed. There was one particular spot on the trail where there were many of them littering the area and I couldn’t figure out what kind of seed it was. Upon initial inspection before I picked it up I thought it was a fungus but once I looked it over a little more closely I was baffled. Now I think it might be a black walnut seed. Anyone else have an idea for that? I believe Chris called the toad a few more photos up an East Texas toad.

    Overall, a great trail system in the park but I was left wishing the park was bigger so there would be more to explore!

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    Last weekend Chris and I met my parents at Caddo Lake State Park in northeast Texas. It is a 5ish hour haul from our house with stops for the toddler. And while it is about the same distance time-wise of other places we go to in the Hill Country, this just seems like a harder place to get to because of the need to take multiple smaller highways to navigate through east Texas. There’s not really a direct route.

    We took Friday off to make it a more enjoyable weekend due to the distance and my parents came down on Friday as well. I really loved this state park for multiple reasons, one being that it happened to be pretty quiet. I’m not sure if it was because it is a smaller campground or because of its location but it seems we’ve had problems (my parents included) recently with loud campgrounds and campers turning the volume up at the sites once the sun set. The only noise that was a problem here was our campground was relatively near the road so we heard cars driving by quite often; the campers were pretty quiet. In fact, the toddler was probably the loudest person in our section!

    With the abnormally (or hey, maybe it’s the new normal, especially now post-election) warm weather fall has seemed to show up much but we did find some semblance of the season and a bit of a cozy feeling at the state park. The forest was starting to turn various shades of brown, yellow, red, and orange and a cool front brought a chill for the evenings and mornings. It was perfect weather, honestly.

    Having my parents at the campsite, though it was cut short due to illness from my mom, was wonderful. They got to play with Forest and we got to chat and hang out with them. I like this joint camping thing! It was quiet Sunday morning when we woke and they weren’t there.

    I am definitely looking forward to returning to this state park in the future when Forest is more boat ready because paddling on the lake will be a lot of fun. There’s also a Wildlife Management Areas and National Wildlife Refuge nearby that would be worth checking out, too. Chris and I rented a small boat six years ago to tool around the lake and had a lot of fun; the area is ripe with exploration!

    I’ll be back soon with a write-up about the hiking in the state park as well as hiking another trail at another state park in our way home last Sunday.

    Happy weekend, y’all!

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    “Whoa! Big Boat!” – Forest

    wearwhite

    This was an unplanned post. This was me yesterday at lunch. I voted in the morning, wore a white shirt in solidarity because I don’t have a pantsuit that I can fit into, and happily cast my ballot for Hillary Clinton. Tears welled up in my eyes when I was getting dressed; it was going to be a monumental day!

    As the evening wore on I tried to go to bed at 10:30, only Forest woke up and I had to go calm him back to sleep. As I sat on my phone more tears came to my eyes as it was evident it was going to be monumental in the worst possible way. I slept in fits last night. I hoped that the split electoral college outcome was going to be an option, or that we’d squeak by. But no.

    This is a much scarier feeling than in 2000. If you haven’t been paying attention and think Voldemort was blithely running his mouth, think again. There are a lot of people who are very worried, nervous, and scared about someone who was endorsed by the KKK being president. If you think that other people around him will keep him in check, have you seen what some formerly respectable politicians have been saying on social media or real media? Moreover, look at some of his constituents. Words matter. And what happens when words turn into actions?…well.

    I’m going to relish the last few months of the Obama Administration and be so very thankful for that man. And remind myself of what Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high” and make it a mantra for the next four years.

    *comments will be disabled. If you really need to say something, you can email me. Political posts aren’t my thing, so regular writings will return after I’ve had time to sit with this for awhile.*

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    This is a fun age. I remember liking the toddler stage when I was around Zoe and Grayson, my niece and nephew, at that age. Every day is a new learning opportunity, where something clicks in his brain and new words sprout out of his mouth and phrases are put together. Sure, there are the tantrums, the trying moments, but once you manage to wade through those it is pretty enjoyable being the parents of an exuberant toddler! I mean, it is of course exhausting, too, but thank goodness for weekend naps. Oh, well, when he wants to take them; he’s fond of figuring out how to get out of at least one of them on many weekends lately.

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    It all changes so fast. Words that were unintelligble are slowly becoming cute little words and then slowly clearer, to real words. I keep meaning to get more on video so I can listen to the sweet words one day in the future, before they are gone. Outside, he still loves being outdoors and exploring the yard. We’re on constant caterpillar watch and he loves watching the butterflies. These days it is mostly gulf frittilaries and various sulphurs. The sulphurs are all over out Turk’s cap hibiscus. If it isn’t butterflies, it is keeping an eye out for deer or sometimes an owl or hawk. He loves snakes, well at least toy and cartoon ones—we don’t see too many real snakes—and sometimes earthworms become ‘nake’ when we’re out exploring the yard.

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    I’ve been experimenting with freelensing some and the rest of the photos are from me trying to figure it all out. My friend Joni does it quite a bit with her kids and I’m always emamoured by the photos she takes. It just reminds me to take more photos of this little kid because he’s going to grow up so quickly.

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