Finding Our Way to Vancouver Part I

Saturday –posts are being drafted in real time and posted a few days later. Or I’m trying at least.

On the way to the airport.

Chris and I have a poor track record with passports. Back in 2008 we showed up to MIA with tickets to La Paz, Bolivia with our friends Marc and Eliana only to find out my passport was fine because I’d renewed it recently, but Chris’ wasn’t because it had less than three months left on it. Queue us rescheduling our flight for the following Monday so we could get a new passport last minute for him and us flying later into Bolivia and meeting our friends there. It worked out but we lost a couple of days.

Earlier this summer we began planning a vacation. It involved traveling to Canada for a short period of time. We renewed our passports and looked into if we needed one for Forest but it appeared like we only needed a birth certificate for him. We even tossed around going ahead and getting a passport but because of that birth certificate language we didn’t.

Tickets were bought, reservations were made and it come down to departure. We are at the airport at 4am, checking into Air Canada. We hand the ticket agent our passports and Forest’s birth certificate and he asks if Forest has a passport. We of course answer no because of what we’d read on the websites and because of what Chris supposedly heard from an airline rep when he called.

But no. That’s for land or boat travel into Canada. Air travel requires a passport for minors too. *expletives* Of course we find this later when digging on a different page–so infuriating that the websites are quite cryptic and never spell it out directly on one page. How about bold and highlighting? Bullet points?

Now we are scrambling to cancel flights, hotels, car rentals, and reschedule to fly into Seattle to drive into Canada. Oh boy. And rechecking rules for minors getting into Canada. Finally Chris calls the border station and asks for clarification, to verify the things we’ve read online. And yes, we should be good. *crosses fingers*

The pit of worry in my stomach eases a little but not much. We settle into naps and lazing about for the day at home while waiting for our late evening flight. Let’s hope thunderstorms don’t delay flights this evening.

Afternoon nap vibes.

Saturday evening

We made it to our gate! Bummer is that our plane still hasn’t left Florida. Before we left the house Chris said that the incoming plane was early. And as we approached the airport he got a message on his phone that there was a delay. Good times.

1:37 am PT Sunday morning. On the ground in Seattle. 

Let’s find some sleep.

Life Lately | August 2019

Me and my niece Zoe a few weeks ago.


About our upcoming vacation! It’s a good one with a lot of moving parts involved so I’m hoping it all goes smoothly!

And generally having an existential crisis on the creeping fascism growing in the world and the rapid state of climate change.


I spent most of the summer heavily working in the edible garden on the soil solarization of the paths. So much was involved in this process:
-from first removing the weeds in the path
-then scraping up several inches of years of decomposed mulch that had turned into dirt and transporting it to the backyard in one of our low spots to raise it up
-cutting and spreading out the plastic
-moving rocks to hold it down (this involved shuttling by wheel barrow rocks we have stashed for future garden projects—my dad helped me out with this one weekend back in May)
-and finally moving mulch to put down into the path after the section was complete.
-wash and repeat three times.

I still have a small section I’m solarizing and will need mulch for it in a few weeks. In addition, I was trying to keep on top of the weeds in the beds themselves and just do some general gardening. Over this last weekend I prepped some of the empty beds with bat guano (from our bats!), biochar (Chris made it from a tree we had to cut down back in the spring), compost, and then mulch on top. I had also added in some new soil into a couple of the beds earlier this summer as they had settled/lost soil over the years and I didn’t have enough compost to fill beds.

Something we’ve also been lacking for quite a while are greens for the compost. Leaves are easy to come by every autumn and we get bags of them from Chris’ mom or we rake up ours, but greens are usually just whatever we cut down from the garden, which doesn’t happen that often and isn’t enough to get the compost hot. I haven’t picked up bags of grass from neighborhoods in years and that’s really what I needed. However, I mowed the yard last week after maybe six weeks of it not being mowed and I was able to blow enough of the cut grass into piles that were easily rakeable and I moved several loads to the compost to help that get started.

The flower garden was weeded once or twice this summer and I tried to work on the paths twice this summer but the paths needed a blow torch or solarization as well. I’m about done with them. At this point a grass path that is weed-eated once or twice a month would be less time consuming then ‘weeding’ it multiple times a year. Less tedious, that’s for sure.


Sparkling water. I’ve never been a fan of the plain stuff but my mom has been on a Bubly kick for a while now and when she was down with everyone else over Memorial Day I tried one of her lime flavored ones—and I was a convert! Another brand I had been hearing about was Spindrift but it is usually a buck or two more than Bubly and I was leery about buying a whole case of them if I didn’t like them. Luckily one of our grocery stores had a can in their drinks fridge and I bought one and really love it!

I stopped drinking soda many years ago and sometimes I want something different. I’ll make iced tea on occasion but I primarily drink regular old water as I just generally love water! However, having the sparkling water this summer has been a nice treat on the super hot days and a little change in pace!


Since I’ve not been writing my book reports here much this year I’ll share a snippet of what I’ve been reading this year.

Plant Dreaming Deep by May Sarton: I’ve been reading this one on and off for like two years, mostly because I was savoring it and partly because I couldn’t focus at first. But as I got reading I fell in love with this journal/set of essay by poet and author May Sarton. This book focuses on her mid-life settling down into the small town of Nelson, New Hampshire. It’s a quiet book, writing about the people and happenings of a small town but she also captures these delightful paragraphs about the way light falls in her house—and as someone with an affinity for the way light falls in my own house (or previous houses), I was lapping up all she could give to me!

Sarton has several other fiction books, poetry, and other journals and essays that I will be dipping into soon.

Upstream by Mary Oliver: I used some birthday money to order this book of essays, something I’ve had flagged to read for several years now. The book was a lot thinner than I imagined it was going to be but it was so delightful. I was a bit dismayed at her noticing and then stalking a freshwater turtle who had come up to nest from a waterway and then digging up some of the eggs and making a meal out of them! And I did get a smidge cross-eyed as she analyzed some poetry and poets in a couple of middle essays and had to skim through those, but her natural history essays were perfect.

“For me the door to the woods is the door to the temple.”

The Royal We by Heather Cocks: A total chick lit book that I devoured. Hat tip to the gals at Friendlier Podcast for getting it on my radar!

The Whole Okra by Chris Smith: Finally a book about one of the most maligned edibles there is! I previewed this book on NetGalley first and then ordered it after it was published. It’s very good with great historical context on how okra came to this content plus talking about how it is used in other cultures throughout the globe. I did not grow a bunch of okra this summer but will get it back on my growing agenda next summer. I did have a couple of rows of smaller growing plants but not the big harvests I was getting last year.


I had plans for studio time this summer but that didn’t really happen much. I managed to finally get curtains for the windows after all these years and it has made a difference with the temperature in there. Despite the room being connected to our a/c, it just never stays as cold or warm over there. I’m thinking we’ll head over there more as the evenings get darker earlier.

My desire to crochet is returning after a three year hiatus. So, I expect some projects this winter on that front.

Watching & Listening:

The Americans: I spent the last part of June and most of July binge watching all six seasons of this show, which originally ran on F/X. It was a show I had wanted to watch when it originally aired but I never got around to seeing it and didn’t want to start in the middle. It’s currently on Amazon Prime. The premise if you aren’t familiar is that there are deep cover Soviet spies living and working in the US in the early to mid-80s. There’s lots of violence and sex so if you are at all averse to that this isn’t for you—but there are great storylines as well. Honestly, it is in my top 10 tv shows I’ve ever watched and I was stuck thinking about the ending for weeks after. And! it’s partly based on a true story from 2010!

Orange is the New Black: Oof, this was a hard season to watch. I knew the ending wouldn’t tie up nicely because well, all of the ladies are still in prison doing their time. Some of the storylines I didn’t particularly like how they detoured or left them (Red, Carla, Maritza) —with Carla’s storyline you know that’s based in truth and that hurts to think about. And I’m sure Martiza’s as well. I just hated seeing Red end up how she did. It was a great season and I’ll be sad not to have it as my summer watching every year.

Stranger Things: I finally managed to get around to this last week. It was tied up nicely in case the show isn’t picked back up again but there’s that sort of cliffhanger at the end where you just wonder…and I’m not going to give anything away.

I don’t have any particular podcasts for you to listen to but I was glad to find that 91.7 KXT based in DFW has an app so I can listen to their music from my phone now! I’ve been put off with Spotify recently as their algorithm has gotten stale—same for Pandora—so being able to listen to my favorite radio station from afar is awesome! I have listened on the computer before but this makes it easier to take it with you.

What’s up with you?

An Evening at Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve

In late June we took an evening out in the middle of the week, dinner at a new to us Tex-Mex restaurant and then a walk/hike over at Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve. The park is down near The Vintage in the Willowbrook area of NW Houston off of SH 249—so it is rather urban/suburban but once you get into the park it doesn’t feel like it unless you pay attention to the background noise of the roads in the distance! The park itself was very busy with joggers, strollers (not the baby kind–well, probably a few of those, too!), and fisherfolks. If we lived closer than a 25 minute-ish drive I know we’d be around the park much more often.

Driving up and down 249 over the last few years I had noticed the park being built but it wasn’t until recently that I put some effort into figuring out more information about the park. In early summer I had the intention that we would get out and do some evening hikes in the middle of the week but here it is the middle of August and this was our only foray into the greater world beyond our house during the weekday evenings. It didn’t help that for about half of July Forest and I were recuperating from an upper respiratory infection. Summer whizzed on by and I don’t know what happened.

Alas, there were some great things seen in our couple of hours spent circumnavigating Marshall Lake. Let’s rewind to June for a lovely post-rain stroll!

Mustang Grape, Vitis mustangensis — I love the fuzziness of the leaves!

After getting out of the car we took off down a peninsula that juts out into the lake towards the west. We ended up having to make a loop out of it because there was no access to the main trails from there.

Dielis sp. per iNaturalist.





One of the duskywings—not sure which because I had to stalk it around a few trees before I was even able to capture this photo.




Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis

The buttonbush were in full bloom and an enticing stop for Forest to check out. A highly underrated shrub that really should be utilized more in the landscape.


An unnamed tributary creek that flows into Cypress Creek.




The ever delightful Clematis crispa, swamp leatherflower. This brightened up the walk a bit as we made our way around the lake.


Tropical Checkered-Skipper, Pyrgus oileus

While Forest and Chris were poking around looking at something else I meandered to a grassy clearing to look for wildflowers and spotted this tropical checkered-skipper…


and this pretty wedgling moth, Galgula partita.

Brunnichia ovata, American buckwheat vine



As we rounded the corner on the east side we came across a stunning display of American Buckwheat Vine, Brunnichia ovata. I’ve always loved this vine but haven’t really been able to enjoy its full blooming glory before. The scene was perfect with a grey-ish sky and the darkness of the forest behind the vine to get some interesting shots. In my reading about the vine, it is/was apparently used for honey production in Arkansas but a producer was shutting down because the vine forage material was continuously being damaged from herbicide drift.




Eventually we came to Cypress Creek itself, a creek that flows quite a ways through northern Harris county before merging with the larger Spring Creek and not long after, the San Jacinto River.



This side of the park was heavily dominated by Passiflora incarnata vines, which were in full bloom and lovely as can be.


Another Clematis crispa, this time with some mood.


The suburban/creek interface.

My first gulf frittilary caterpillar of the summer! It’s only been in the last week that I’ve seen any caterpillars around my yard.


Look at that passionfruit forming!


I spotted some kind of weevil on one of the passifloras but I have yet to identify it.

Black Elderberry, Sambucus canadensis

A sweet little cottontail!







Loads of Helianthus annuus, which enticed Forest to want to pick all the flowers!




American Basketflower, Plectocephalus americanus

Halloween Pennant, Celithemis eponina

Halloween pennants are one of more common dragonflies I saw in south Florida and while I know they are in Texas based on iNat observations, I just do not see them. So, when I saw this one I was ecstatic! They are one of my favorite dragonflies!

We arrived back at the car close to dusk, hoofing that last quarter mile or so before it got too dark to see. It was a great feeling to have done a mid-week excursion like that and as I said, I had ever intention to do more but it just never came to fruition.

July Garden Tidbits

I think this late blooming foxglove covered in mold sums up what the garden overall looked like in July. I was finally able to spend some time on the flower garden over this last weekend, weeding two of the beds and tidying up a bit. I started working on the garden path again after having gone through it back in May. The grass issue in the path is aggravating and honestly I think we need to get one of those flame torches for weeding to keep this path in shape.

Frostweed, Verbesina virginica. I threw out some seeds from the frostweed that grows in the ROW around here because it is so lovely and the pollinators love it and I now have several plants growing in the garden.

Similiarly, I am growing wingstem, Verbesina alternifolia, from seeds purchased from Prairie Moon Nursery and I am loving it! I will be encouraging more if it to grow in the garden next season.

Yellow star grass, hypoxis hirsuta. Another native, this one I bought in a gallon pot from a nursery and then divided the pot into three plants, which was rather hard to do as the corm was giant and tough to cut. I worried I was going to kill it but the plants bounced back. The deer have browsed once or twice but otherwise have mostly left it alone. I may divide them again in the spring so I can have an area fill out a bit more with them.

Sophora tomentosa, post bloom.

Salvia coccinea

Four-banded Stink Bug Hunter Wasp, Bicyrtes quadrifasciatus

It is found throughout temperate North America east of the Rockies. Females prey exclusively on nymphs (immature stages) of true bugs (Heteroptera), predominantly stink bugs (Pentatomidae) and leaf-footed bugs (Coreidae). A female seizes a nymph, paralyzes it with her stinger, and clasping it beneath her, flies to her nest, a chamber she has excavated underground in sand. She uncovers a hidden entrance hole leading to a tunnel connecting to the chamber, and, clutching her prey, disappears down the hole to her nest. She lays an egg on the first nymph she brings to her nest, and then returns to stock the nest with additional prey. Her offspring feed on her prey, while she feeds on nectar at flowers. All other members of the genus
Bicyrtes are sand wasps that specialize in hunting true bugs.27 Biddinger et al. reported that prey of Bicyrtes wasps include brown marmorated stink bugs.28

From here—click through, there are interesting photos of them and their prey.

Oleander aphids and milkweed beetle larvae on the tropical milkweed.


My beautiful friend, Madame Argiope aurantia. She appeared for a day or two and I haven’t seen her since. *sniff sniff*

Some kind of ladybug larvae I believe—I couldn’t figure out which species. You can see the aphids in the photo that it was eating.

Blue-tipped Dancer, Argia tibialis. We’ve had a lot of dragonflies and damselflies around this summer. They swarm around the garden frequently and it is lovely to watch them fly.

I haven’t been taking a lot of garden photos lately but after my weeding of the two flower beds I need to get the camera out and take some photos of a few things I found that I didn’t know where hiding in the jungle.

And I’ll leave you with a lovely read from Jennifer at The Common Milkweed, Life in Flyover Country.

Lower Fisherman’s Trail | Inks Lake State Park





Cenizo, Leucophyllum frutescens — I think. It looks rather ragged and I can’t figure out anything else that this could be.


Fairy-Swords, Myriopteris lindheimeri






Small Ballmoss, Tillandsia recurvata

Tiny Bluet, Houstonia pusilla

Sand Phacelia, Phacelia patuliflora

Now that it has been many months and moons since we visited Inks Lake State Park (February 2019), I’m now yearning once again for those spring ephemerals. Though, autumn blooms are coming our way (SOLIDAGO, I SEE YOU!)—to revisit this site now would be an interesting study in contrasts!

We hopped onto the Lower Fisherman’s Trail on our way out of the state park after our long weekend camping. You can easily complete a loop of the lower and upper, which is what we ended up doing this time around but I skipped taking a ton of photos on the upper since we had already hiked that a few days prior.

Last week we had a tinge of cool air come in, highs only in the 80s. For once London was hotter than Texas! It gave everyone a pause and some excitement about cooler weather. Of course we’re back into the dripping humidity of high 90s and heat indexes in the 100s this week—so, a typical Texas summer. But seeing these photos again and remembering the temperatures for great hiking weather—well, it has me itching for a cool down again. And I’m loving the photo of the fairy swords up against the hollowed out rock—it looks like a magical place to play, something enchanting with the ‘fairies’!

I think I can eek out one more post from Inks Lake and then I’ll move onward to some other hikes and adventures!

Zebra Longhorn Beetles (Typocerus zebra) | Wildlife Wednesday





Back in April during our camping trip to Martin Creek Lake State Park near Henderson in East Texas, we hiked one afternoon on the Old Henderson Road Loop. I had thought about doing a separate trail write-up for that portion of the park but instead I think I’ll be sharing separate portions of the flora and fauna we saw there over the coming weeks.

As we passed by a set of thistles one I noticed beetles crawling around on the flower heads and stopped to take a few photos. I think I interrupted some private bug moments going on but I took a few photos anyway! I really can’t find a ton of information about these species in a cursory internet search (I haven’t delved into Google Scholar or anything) but they are considered flower longhorn beetles and pollinators as adults. Larvae are found in decaying pine logs and stumps.

They are a really pretty species and as I look over other longhorn beetles online, I think I could easily get into learning about other beetles. Chris has spent some time for work learning about American burying beetles because they are a protected species but I’ve not really had the interest other than finding the random iridescent or dung beetle when we are out hiking. But these zebra longhorn beetles have propelled me to want to stop and check out flower a little more closely on our hikes!

Coconut Point Sanctuary | Melbourne Beach, FL

It’s July 11, 2009, my 29th birthday. At this point we are already full throttle into planning our Appalachian Trail thru-hike. I mean, in the fact that we are pretty sure we are going to quit our jobs and pack away our things in early 2010 and head out on our thru-hike, pending on what our bank account looks like towards the end of the year of course.

With that in mind we are kind of on a roll to hit up a lot of places in Florida that we may not see for a while after we move out of the state, including a trip back to the Melbourne area to see the loggerheads nesting once again. Seeing these lumbering chelonids haul themselves onto the sandy beaches of the Atlantic coast of Florida one last time, lit up by moonlight and maybe the twinkling of lights from the condos beyond the dunes was something I needed to experience one last time. It had been of my most favorite things to do when we lived in Melbourne from 2002-2004, park in one of the beach parking lots and walk a few miles down and back along the shoreline during turtle season to scope out nesting females. If we got lucky later in the summer we would find hatchlings emerging, scurrying towards the waves lapping up on the shore to carry them out to the Gulf Stream and other oceanic currents where they will spend their lost years.

So, we did just that and I have some grainy photos from those beach moments. It’s the last time we saw nesting sea turtles and I do miss seeing that phenomenon terribly. But a few weekends ago I dug out our hard drives to look for photos for my friend Eliana, and I found a trove of photos that we never processed, including a set from our trip to Melbourne where I have memories of visiting Coconut Point Sanctuary but didn’t realize we had photos of the hike. I often rely on what I have on Flickr to remember some things we did but apparently Flickr lies—there’s more we have! I’ll be slowly going through these photos and processing them so I’m sure there will be more flashback posts like this one as time goes on.

Coconut Point Sanctuary covers about 62 acres from the Atlantic dunes on the east to the Indian River Lagoon on the west. It’s mostly a coastal scrub habitat with some thicker hardwood hammocks hugging the IRL section at the back side of the park. Let’s dig into the hike!

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Partridge Pea, Chamaecrista fasciculata

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Tarflower, Bejaria racemosa — file this one under a plant I should have learned in Florida but didn’t and only realize now what it is!

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Beautyberry flowers, preparing for that purple majesty of autumn.

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Pepper Vine, Ampelopsis arborea

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American Trumpet Vine, Campsis radicans

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Florida Softshell Turtle, Apalone ferox with some other turtle friends.

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Resurrection Fern, Pleopeltis michauxiana

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Christmas Lichen, Herpothallon rubrocinctum—a sure fire way to trick if you on the Florida Trail when you are looking for an orange blaze! Sometimes they are shaped in a blaze shape and you’ll think it is time to turn!

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Some kind of pixie cup lichens, Cladonia sp..

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Also another pixie cup lichen known as deer moss. Since I didn’t have a close up photo I wasn’t comfortable pinning down a species but it is likely Cladonia evansii, which you see commonly in Florida scrub areas.

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Lovely denizens of Florida’s uplands, the gopher tortoise.

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That is some fine Florida scrub land! Or if you say it fast as I do, scrublund. Scrublend? Either way, I can feel the heat emanating from the photo of this July day, possibly paired with a sea breeze coming off the ocean or IRL, so maybe it wasn’t nearly as stifling as I can imagine it to be? Thunderheads building inland—yes, this is a variation on a typical Florida summer scene.

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In the sky a swallow-tailed kite soars over head. I’m so glad we get to see them here in SE Texas but Chris remarked the other day that we’ve not seen one this season so far. Strange.

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And lastly as we left the sanctuary, a loggerhead shrike, Lanius ludovicianus.

One of the things I miss about Florida are all of these small pockets of preserves and sanctuaries, often part of a county’s endangered lands program. I know I’ve lamented before the poor public to private lands ratio that Texas has. As Houston continues to expand, expand, expand, large tracts of forested or farm acres are being put up for sale. Sure, some of it isn’t necessarily anything special—lots of loblolly pine and yaupon thickets—but it’s special to the wildlife. I wish there was better planning involved in leaving tracts of nature pocketed around acres of concrete and box stores but no one cares to think about that. So hard to change plant blindness—or better yet, ecosystem blindness. I know Florida faces the same thing in many ways—the state is wanting to build more toll roads and Orlando is facing the same growth issues.

And yet many more people are flocking to outdoor spaces thanks to social media—we need more of these places at “home” so people are more inclined to know what’s in their own backyard. Hah, I didn’t mean for this to turn into a lament about public lands but it was on my mind.

Momma Returning to Sea

Chironomus sp. | Wildlife Wednesday






The last camping trip we had in the spring was to Martin Creek Lake State Park near Kilgore. We had stopped here once on our way home from Caddo Lake when Forest was newly 2 for a short hike, to break up the long drive back to Houston with a then potty training toddler. Kilgore also happens to be near where my friend Michelle and her family used to live so every time we roll through there I think of her, even though she now lives an hour away from me in College Station.

We found ourselves chilling at camp one of the afternoons and I was bound and determined to take butterfly or dragonfly photos, both of which were frequenting the area. As I sat in the sun near the tent pad (that we weren’t using because we have a space ship for our car camping tent) I noticed something flitting about low near the ground. I took a few photos with a more wide angle lens and then got up to switch lenses. Eventually the insect behaved enough for me to snap some more detailed photos. Despite enjoying trying to learn some of our more gregarious insect species, an entomologist I am not.

Thankfully there’s the magical world of iNaturalist or else I would have been flipping through pages of online Google searches and weird image search phrasing (which I still do from time to time) to come up with a result. Quickly it told me it was Chironomus sp., though there were options for narrowing it down to an actual species but I didn’t want to claim that expertise. Chironomus is, to, well, cut and paste from Wikipedia: “a genus of nonbiting midges in the subfamily Chironominae of the bloodworm family, Chironomidae, containing several cryptic species that can only be distinguished by experts based on the characteristics of their giant chromosomes. The larvae of several species inhabit the profundal zone where they can reach relatively high densities. They use a combination of hemoglobin-like proteins and undulatory movements in their burrows to obtain oxygen in poorly oxygenated habitats.”

What a cool little bug to have encountered and just think about all of the bugs we’re walking by every day that are living their lives as we live ours, not knowing they even exist! I’m partial to its feathery antennae!

Weekend in Austin

Over the 4th of July long weekend, the three of us buckled in and drove over to Austin for the weekend. It had been quite a while since we had just tinkered around Austin without camping plans, so Chris found an available hotel room in north Austin and we set off to do some Austin exploring. I even came up with a list of new things to do after trolling around on Google Maps and checking out various parks, but of course we resorted to going to the places we always go to! And they are good places, of course, but one of these days we’ll manage to see something new.

(Photos from my phone. I haven’t gotten around to process camera photos yet. At this rate expect those in December. hah!)


Our first stop was Bucc-ee’s on 290 for breakfast and a toy stop for Forest.

And then a hop over the Brazos River and we were heading west. We were close to Brenham when Forest announced his belly hurt, something that has become a common refrain over the last several months, starting with a trip to the recycling center and library, with the library portion being aborted for a trip back home. It happened again later on and then he mentioned it briefly when we were near school one day. Finally it occurred to me on this trip that maybe he was getting car sick. So, I spent the rest of the time in the back seat trying to keep his attention on other things instead of doing my car reading. I always look forward to long car rides because I can get huge chunks of reading in. I guess I’ll be looking into some car sickness remedies for longer trips—though as I’ve mentioned, even shorter trips are becoming problematic.




I suppose the one thing we did do that we hadn’t done before was visit Inner Space Cavern in Georgetown. It was one of the last few bigger named caves we haven’t been to (Caverns of Sonora is what we are now missing—though there are lots of other smaller caves that requires permits and such to get into) and Forest’s first cave experience. This one is right off of I-35—and it was found when they were building I-35 in the 1960s. One of the unique features is that in one of the rooms when everyone is quiet you can hear traffic driving above you!

In the lobby area there is a great map showing all of the rooms and tunnels that the cave has. It is much bigger than the main tour that most people go on. There’s a second tour that requires a bit more skill and direction, and then of course the other rooms are for technical caving. Inner Space was interesting, though not my favorite cave that I’ve been to.

When in Austin…we dropped by one in north Austin instead of the more famous one located on Barton Springs Road due to evening 4th of July crowds.





After out dinner at Chuy’s, it was still early for getting a spot at the Barton Creek Square Mall where we planned to try to watch fireworks. We killed some time by stopping at Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park to let Forest play at the playground and go for a little hike. The park had been on my list of places we could potentially explore and it worked out for this short outing. We ended up finding Wells Branch which comes into the park from the north and eventually merges with Walnut Creek later on. We never got that far along our creek explorations. There were a lot of bike trails through the juniper in the area.

Hellgrammite, aka: Dobson fly larvae on the Pedernales River




The following day we found ourselves at Pedernales Falls State Park and swimming in the Pedernales River. In the morning we crossed at Trammel’s Crossing and found a quiet spot downstream just a bit. There was luckily a shallow enough area nearshore that Forest could play in and Chris and I took turns going into the deeper parts to wade and test our luck against the current. I can’t wait until he’s big enough to tube and we can start tubing some of these Hill Country rivers! I haven’t been tubing since college!


Roadkill porcupine on US 290. We saw it on the way out there and made a note to stop on the way back for iNaturalist photos. It’s my first porcupine, even after hiking on the AT! The map of sightings on iNaturalist is interesting: heavy in the northeast/New England through the Great Lakes, up into the Canadian Rockies, down into the Cascades and Sierras, into the American Rockies, and then down into Texas, staying central to west Texas. Sightings in the Hill Country are almost as dense as New England. There are no sightings starting in the 98th meridian or thereabouts and then pretty much south of the Great Lakes and Mason Dixon, with a few exceptions on that border area. So, nothing really in that large broad mid-west/southeastern area. Which prompted me to wonder what they needed that that area didn’t provide. I just thought it was interesting to see that spatially.


Of course Forest fell asleep on the way to Cedar Valley to eat dinner after a day of swimming. We had planned to eat dinner at a pizza place called Pieous but we caught them on their summer break and were closed. Next door was Hat Creek Burger and thankfully it had a play area, even though for the first while Forest was too sleepy to play.

Coming into Austin via MoPac


Colorado River/Lady Bird Lake

Pennybacker Bridge on Tx 360


Crossing the Pedernales River at Hammett’s Crossing on our way to Westcave.





We’ve been to Westcave many times but it has been quite a while since we’ve visited. Forest might have been a baby when we went last. Due to the holiday weekend the place was very busy. Nearby and across the river is Hamilton Pool which is run by the county and now has a reservation system in place for visitors so it is nearly impossible to visit randomly during the summer. Because of this I think Westcave is getting some of this overflow but even they still have limited tours down to the grotto. This time we actually hiked in their uplands, which was really lovely and I’ll share those photos when I process them. The tour was a bit annoying because of the crowd size. We have been used to visiting when there are fewer people and the fact that it was a bit long winded on the education aspect, that’s only because we know most of the tidbits already. We just wanted to look at plants and take our time!


Back across Hammett’s Crossing and down Hamilton Pool Rd to find lunch.

We found ourselves back at Pedernales Falls later that afternoon for a second day of swimming. This time when we were changing at the bathroom I found an interesting insect. When I put it into iNaturalist and did a little reading this turned out to be the Dobson fly, the adult to the hellgrammite larvae Chris had been finding in the river! Really cool to see it in both stages!

Hopefully I can get my act together and get my backlog of photos from spring until now processed and get some posts written before the end of August. We have some big plans for later this summer that will involve even more photos and writing so I’d like to not be constantly catching up!

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