Goatweed Leafwing Caterpillars & Chrysalis


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One of my more spectacular finds this last summer was finding a goatweed leafwing (Anaea andria) chrysalis tucked up under some croton (Croton lindheimeri) that had come up in our front right-of-way over the summer. I had noticed some leaves curled up on the croton but could barely make out the caterpillars, only knowing by feel that they were inside. And then I found the chrysalis!

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I looked for more and found an empty one and never did find any other chrysalides later on in the summer so either the caterpillars I later found never pupated or they crawled off elsewhere to pupate.

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And then a few days later I lucked out and found a caterpillar out and about from their leaf roll nest and I ran inside to grab my camera to take better photos.

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They blend in so well!

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I wouldn’t say they are spectacular looking caterpillars but their gray-green coloring and the speckled texture is interesting to look at. I think they are adorable, if I may anthropomorphize a bit!

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How the caterpillars typically look, rolled up in their little nest.

I’m hoping the croton will reseed and come back in that area this coming year, maybe get a chance to have more caterpillars. I never saw the adult who laid eggs, I didn’t even realize they were utilizing the yard! A lot goes on under our noses in nature if we’re not looking close enough. We did get new neighbors on that side of the ROW and they seem to be much more involved in their landscape than the previous owners who we rarely saw and sometimes didn’t even know if they were still living there. The place has been empty and for sale since late last spring but we came home from Christmas and it was evident the house had been sold. They’ve since mowed their ROW which I had kinda used as a bit of a buffer and enjoyed some of the plants that came up there and now I don’t think I’ll get to do that. Their house is set back far off the road like ours with a wooded area up front so it is easy to feel like it’s separated but they did mow too close to our daffodils that we had planted and I’m a little miffed about that. So, I can’t expect any nice croton meadows beyond our ROW this coming summer which means I’ll be tending to our little patch and hoping for a repeat of caterpillars to enjoy.

Nature Tidbits from 2021


With my blogging taking a significant hit over the last year mostly due to a lack of desire to write, I now realize I have a lot of things I can post about now that the desire to write here is back. With that, today I’m going to share some random nature bits from the last year, mostly from my yard or neighborhood but also some other areas around the state! Let’s dive in!

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First up is a spring ephemeral that comes up in and around our yard (and the state), scrambled eggs, Corydalis sp.. There are a couple of species and this one is likely to be aurea or micrantha, likely the latter.

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The always lovely Herbertia lahue

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A box turtle! I actually saw several last year, which was exciting. This one found itself in the yard at work.

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Another office find, this is an Imperial moth that Chris found on the back of one of our work buildings.

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Beach evening primrose, Oenothera drummondii on Galveston Island

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I found this momma wolf spider with her spiderlings clinging to her back one evening in the garden. She let me take some photos before I finally let her go about the business of caring for her brood.

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We see racoons from time to time and I know they are around a lot more frequently than we usually see but one evening one of them came out to scrounge in the compost piles for a bit.

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Some lovely lemon beebalm, Monarda citriodora, at a field site locally during the summer.

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And some meadow pinks, Sabatia campestris, to go with them!

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A newly emerged pipevine swallowtail that I moved from the door to the man cave where the chrysalis had been. I had caught it mere moments from it emerging and it was barely clinging to the door and chrysalis. I went in to grab my phone and by then it had fallen to the ground so I moved it where it would better be able to dry its wings.

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A gray hairstreak, Strymon melinus, at the San Antonio Botanic Garden

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A checkered white, Pontia protodice also at SA Botanic Garden

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American sicklepod, Senna obtusifolia on yet another field site, though this one has since been wiped away to bare dirt—yay, more concrete boxes and parking lots!

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Same site, a Passiflora incarnata

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Also, same site, a lovely Celithemis eponina—sorry friend, you and your brethren will have to find another spot to rest.

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Our front door is usually host to great moths throughout the year, such as this yellow-collared slug moth, Apoda y-inversa.

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And this even cooler Tersa sphinx, Xylophanes tersa!

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Aztec Spur-throated grasshopper, Aidemona azteca, one of the middle instars I believe.

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Cloudless sulphur, Phoebis sennae, caterpillar on one of the sennas I posted above.

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A green lynx spider, Peucetia viridans, probably looking for caterpillars, one of the senna as well.

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One of our beautiful orb weavers, Argiope aurantia in the garden at home.

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Chris and I noticed bladderwort on the other pond in our neighborhood for the first time. I haven’t keyed this one out yet!

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Wand blackroot, Pterocaulon virgatum, a not super common or well-known native. I’ve seen it a few times but spotted it in the neighborhood this summer and grabbed some seeds which I am trying to grow out now.

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We caught a snapping turtle moving from one back dune wetland pond to another while driving down one of the beach access roads in Galveston back in September.

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Achemon Sphinx, Eumorpha achemon, a lucky find I spotted near our dam one evening. It was happily munching away on peppervine. I tried to find it again the following evening but had no luck. Hopefully it managed to pupate and will live a second life as a moth.

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Black-blotched Schizura moth, Schizura leptinoides–this was an interesting find in our yard. We were working on the edible garden beds and I was wheeling some dirt or debris to the burn pile one weekend morning and happened to look over to a hickory tree and saw the caterpillar. Forest and I oohed and ahhed for a few minutes before putting it back onto the tree.

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Spiranthes cernua, a rather common ground orchid that happens to come up in our yard in the fall. I love seeing them! Gotta catch them before the deer mow them down.

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Hübner’s Pero Moth, Pero ancetaria, from our front porch.

That’s it, a bit of nature to get your day going! I’m doing my best to get back up and running here with multiple posts a week, so stay tuned!

Extreme Low Tide at Pine Gully Park


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On Sunday we made a trek to southeast Houston to Maas Plant Nursery in Seabrook. Unfortunately the trip was a bust, a lot of plants weren’t out quite yet for spring and their native plant selection was lower than it has been in years past. We’d promised Forest a trip to a playground and just down the street is Pine Gully Park, a park I’ve seen for years during our trips to this plant nursery. We opted to poke into the park and see what it looked like and luckily enough there was a playground to go with the hiking trail that I had seen. But before either of those, we were all enamored with the fact that the cold front that had blazed through with strong winds the previous day had pushed out the water in the bay several hundred yards. This meant fun exploration for the three of us and the many groups of people up scattered up and down the beach. A quick search of this park online shows that the water is indeed usually up near the rocks that reinforce the shoreline. I had hoped there’d be a few more interesting tidbits that the low water would reveal, but only a few shrimp and jellies that didn’t escape as the water was swept out were what we primarily found, though Chris did spot this live shark’s eye, Neverita duplicata near the waterline.

Afterwards, Forest played at the playground and we watched as a tanker left the Houston Ship Channel heading for the open bay and beyond Bolivar Roads, the Gulf of Mexico. It was a gorgeous day to be out on the bay and if we would have had lunch with us we would have stayed even longer. It made me miss the water and wish I had more time to sit and stare at the ocean.

*I mentally waved at you Linda as we passed Shoreacres!*

Top 5 Books I Read in 2021


Last year I read 60+ books (not counting the ones I read with Forest) and I keep tabs of it over on Goodreads. Feel free to friend me over there if you’d like! By far the heavy lifting of my reading last year was audiobooks and I have significantly replaced podcast listening with audiobooks over the last two years. If you keep your audiobooks to 10 hours and under and listen at 1.5-2x speeds then you can easily read an audiobook every few days or so. I listen while I work most often but I have tasks that don’t allow me to focus on two things at once so I don’t listen straight through.

Anyway, I thought I would highlight a few of my favorites from last year:

The Puma Years by Laura Coleman is my number one for the year. In 2008 Chris and I went to Bolivia with our friends Marc and Eliana to visit the country but also to visit a wildlife refuge/rehabilitation park that Eliana had found the year previously and had been taking veterinary equipment to them. Inti Wara Yassi exists to take care of wild animals in Bolivia that have been abused or sold in the markets there as pets—and as you can imagine, pumas and ocelots and monkeys aren’t good pets and therefore once people tire of them or they are confiscated by the government they aren’t usually able to be released again. Inti Wara Yassi is a non-profit and often operates on a bare bones budget and the kindness of traveling volunteers who live at one of the (once there were three) parks. We visited Parque Machía in Villa Tunari but this book takes place at Ambue Ari in a similar time frame as our visit. Laura had been traveling in the mid-2000s when she found herself at the park only intending to stay for a few weeks. She was given charge of Wayra, a puma (panther/mountain lion) who was on the friendlier side of what pumas can be but also also still a wild animal. Eventually Laura extends her stay for longer and the book details her relationship with Wayra, other volunteers, the life of living in the Bolivian jungle, as well as what is like to attempt to feed and care for animals, and live in this situation long term, including dealing with wildfires that destroyed rainforest habitat and often came close to endangering the animals themselves. Our stay was less than a week and I wasn’t even a volunteer but I could feel the sights and sounds and the feelings in this book very deeply because the park had left a deep impression on me for months after I came back. I wanted to go back and volunteer, too.

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This is Gato, a puma I got to know for a short bit while there.


Coyote America by Dan Flores was a book that I wasn’t expecting to love so much but I came to really enjoy it and I learned so much about coyotes and their historical and expanding range and how humans over millennia have lived alongside these animals. I was disturbed at the historical and on-going coyote hate and how extensive the coyote poisoning and trapping programs were and how they were often tied to the extermination of the buffalo and in turn with the extermination of Native Americans. Dan has a couple of other natural history books that I plan to read in the next year or two.


Open Book by Jessica Simpson. I am not usually one to read celebrity memoirs but I had heard a lot of good things about this one. I listened as an audiobook and so I got to hear Jessica read the words herself which I think brought character to the audio. As someone who used be somewhat invested in the celebrity gossip of her and her first husband back in the early 2000s, I found it interesting to hear about some of the trauma that was going on behind the scenes in her life and how that was manifesting itself in the public eye.


Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook by Celia Rees was one of the few fiction books I read this year. I tend to enjoy my fiction on paper or Kindle but am trying to open myself up to some fiction on audiobook. I had actually read (listened) a YA fiction by the same author called Witch Child and enjoyed that so I downloaded this on our drive across I-10 at Thanksgiving. Taking place directly after WWII, we get the stories of several women enlisted to work as spies in post-war Germany. The Nazi’s were scattered and the Allied forces were trying to track down the ones who were in hiding and Edith Graham has a history with one of the people of interest, though she didn’t know in the mid 1930s what his actually connecions to the Nazi party were. There’s intrigue, a lot of interesting history that I didn’t know about (Nazi’s being traded to the Americans or Brits instead of being tried because of what they could offer knowledge-wise to the countries) and of course some twists and turns along the way. If you like typical WWII historical fiction, try this early Cold War historical fiction!


Amazon Woman by Darcy Gaechter caught my eye while flipping through books to listen to while doing some walking this summer. Darcy is an expedition kayaker and has had an extensive career guiding all over North and South America with her partner. Then cue a client who wanted to kayak the Amazon from Source to Sea and this sets Darcy and her partner on quite the adventure! The book highlights the logistics of planning a Source to Sea paddle of the Amazon, a feat that only a tiny handful have even done or even attempted. This isn’t a Mississippi River Source to Sea adventure—this is multiple countries, disputed theories on the actual source location, crossing through tribal and guerilla territories, dangerous waterways, and well, I mean, it’s the Amazon! Darcy does not sugar coat anything—we hear about arguments between her and her partner, how frustrating their client is (who is not an expedition kayaker), and thoughts and feelings that arise while tackling this endeavor. Darcy is still the only woman on record to kayak the Amazon from Source to Sea. If you like adventure books, this is one to read!

That’s it, my top 5! I could have snuck a couple more in but let’s keep it tidy. The only one in this list I didn’t listen to on audio was The Puma Years and that was a paper book I checked out from the library!

Tell me what I should add to my reading list—what was your favorite book last year?

Charon’s Garden Wilderness | Wichita Mountains NWR


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Getting up to DFW for Christmas break was one of those is it going to happen? ordeals since Omicron broke out. Skipping out on a trip up there last December meant that I really wanted to get up there this year. Plus, my nephew was going to be my parent’s house for a week while his sister and parents went to New Mexico for a scouting ski trip. Which meant a lot of uninterrupted cousin play time for Forest and Grayson and in turn meant that Chris and I could likely slip away for a couple of days and let the grandparents wrangle the two boys for a few days. So, that’s what we did!

I suggested to Chris that, weather permitting, we try to go backpacking for a night or two and thought the Wichita Mountains sounded lovely as I had heard about them for years but had never been. Chris turned it into one night in the Wichitas and then a bed and breakfast the following day, which turned out to be a perfect plan!

Texas, being the huge state it is, has a lot of nooks and crannies that I haven’t visited. Only an hour and 45 minutes from my parent’s house and where I grew up, is Wichita Falls, a town that I hadn’t been to before, oddly enough. Chris I briefly stopped in there to get something at Academy (zip off hiking pants for me which are apparently impossible to find at the moment for women–and I’m not paying the $75 that REI wanted for their brand–I left Academy with non-zip off hiking pants but at least I had hiking pants. I had recently hiked a hole into the crotch of one of my pairs and a snap button had busted off the other pair. Le sigh.) and to get lunch and dinner for the day. We opted to go stoveless for this hike but not in the way that most backpackers think of stoveless, which is cold soaking ramen or the like and eating it for dinner. Nope, we packed out a sandwich (me) and some chicken tenders (Chris) for dinner. Ah, so delicious!

And then we zipped off for the Red River and crossed into Oklahoma!

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Chris took some back roads into Cache, OK which were mostly farm fields and very flat. I spotted a coyote running alongside an interior fence and that was an exciting sight as we sped down the two lane roads. It didn’t take long before we could see the mountains off in the distance, rising from the flat farm lands around. We finally arrived at the southern entrance and being that it was a holiday week after Christmas, even though it was a Monday, there were plenty of cars out for scenic drives or heading to trailheads. We found the visitor center closed, presumably for covid, but I found a bathroom outside of the also closed education center and was ready to go for the trail.

The Charon’s Garden trailhead (pronounced Karen) was very busy, so busy that I worried we wouldn’t even have a parking spot or would have to wait until someone left. We ended up finding one tucked up near the front, thankfully, and spent a few minutes eating lunch, gathering our gear, and watching day hikers trek up either Elk Mountain or head out to the Charon’s Garden area.

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Once we got going I was immediately enamored. The terrain was wonderful and reminded me a lot of the Enchanted Rock area in central Texas with limestone boulders and interesting formations. Considering it was winter there wasn’t a lot of flora to take in, but there was quite a bit of cacti and plenty of interesting grasses. We quickly found that the trails here are not labeled well at all and the maps you can find online vary in detail. The trails on the ground meander with various paths wandering to different rock formations. Chris’ goal was for us to hike from the north trail head down to the south trail head and see Treasure Lake or Post Oak Lake and then head back north to the designated camping area which we only found labeled on one map and it was certainly not labeled anywhere on the ground in the refuge. It was a big blob on the map that had a generalized dispersed camping zone, which made sense because that was really the only flat area to set up a tent that wasn’t in the middle of the trail.

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Because I hadn’t studied any of the maps I was mostly relying on Chris’ use of a map on Avenza and we had poor cell reception so it wasn’t like we could look up anything online while we were out there. Eventually I figured out we’d come down a western trail loop when we saw Apple and Pear, two large boulders perched atop one of the low granite mountains. Yay, a marker of some sort to acknowledge our location! We passed and were passed by several various groups of people, some with kids in broad age ranges. It was a busy trail!

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Eventually we made our way to the Post Oak waterfall which was not running at all and was a trickle. A few minutes respite and we continued down towards the lakes, which again, there were multiple trails that led up to the ridge here and we were never sure we were going in the right direction. I finally noticed Treasure Lake out the corner of my eye and then noticed we’d made it to the southern trail head. I headed over to check the trailhead out and amazingly they had a decent map on their board so I took a few photos. I was glad it included other trails in the park because we had plans to check a few others out the following day. There was no signage showing the trails at the north trail head.

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With plenty of light left in the afternoon, we paused for a break above Treasure Lake and I took a few minutes to check in with my mom since I had cell service. After, we headed north again and it certainly seemed like a lot of a shorter distance than I had thought we had covered initially.

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Amorpha canescens, leadplant, I believe! It’s an amorpha, just not totally certain which!

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We headed onto the east trail this time which took us through the boulder field below Apple and Pear, with large chunks of granite creating interesting cave-like features ripe for exploration. Forest would have had a lot of fun exploring them! Then the trail skirted the boulder field and took us up and above to the top of the boulders! Chris had mentioned that there was a mini Mahoosuc Notch (a mile long boulder field on the Appalachian Trail in Maine that takes about three hours for the average person to get through) along this trail and we had finally found it! On the AT at least there’s a blaze every so often marking a best way through but there was nothing marked along the trail here, which wasn’t any different than what we’d already experienced with this trail. I took a few photos with my phone, careful not to drop it down into a crevasse and we carefully inched our way along the boulders until we could find solid ground once again. We passed two 20-something women at this point who had no clue where they were and asked which way they were going and if they were heading to the trailhead. It took a few minutes to suss out where they had even began so we could help them get to their car safely. Again, I’m not impressed with the maps and signage in this area, especially in a highly trafficked trail with a lot of day hikers unused to the terrain or hiking.

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By this time I was very much in the mood to stop for the evening and we still had to find our way back to the camping area on the one vague map Chris had found. We lost the trail junction and ended up walking down a dry creek bed in the general direction we knew the trail would be heading back to the west and eventually we found the trail again. Eventually we stopped at a grassy area and walked a bit off trail and found a flat area behind some boulders amongst elk and buffalo scat and set up our tent for the evening. We saw no one else that evening.

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Dinner was eaten on top of some of the rocks and we watched the sky, which had clouded up, turn into pinks and oranges as the sun started to set. Chris had brought binoculars and spotted elk and buffalo in the distance, which I took a few photos of with my 75-300mm lens. It was extremely peaceful! But the downside to backpacking in winter is the early nights in the tent and we were in the tent before 6pm. I read my Kindle for a few minutes before dozing and Chris tossed and turned for a few hours before realizing his NeoAir had a hole somewhere and he was laying on the ground. Needless to say he did not sleep well. I woke up several times because I had nightmares, something I don’t typically have but I had like three of them that night. Sometime far into the night it started to lightly rain and I heard thunder in the distance. Chris had enough service to check the radar and it appeared it was going to pass to the north of us but we fixed up the packs under the rainfly a bit more and tidied it all up in case it did rain.

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Elk in the middle ridge here.

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A couple of buffalo.

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Dainty Sulphur, Nathalis iole

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Echinocereus reichenbachii ssp. baileyi – This was the predominant cactus throughout the refuge.

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Bleary eyed and leaving the Wilderness Area!

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We were quite tired the following morning but after 12 hours in the tent there wasn’t any sleeping in. Chris got out before I did but I was too chilly to want to get out. I emerged at the perfect moment as the sun was coloring the sky behind the mountains to the east. It really was a spectacular sunrise, one of the best I’ve experienced! We ate breakfast quickly and then had a fairly short hike back to the truck.

We weren’t far from the trailhead when Chris stopped me. I had one mind and it was getting to the truck and I didn’t see the giant beast next to the trail! A buffalo! We eased by quickly after snapping a few photos. After we got back to the truck, with plenty of parking spaces at the early hour it was, we dropped back by the bathrooms at the education center to refresh ourselves and plan out where to go next. I’ll share a few separate posts from the other places we visited in the refuge before we left for Lawton to get lunch and to return to Texas later that afternoon. But otherwise, I highly recommend the Charon’s Garden Wilderness Trail and securing a permit for an overnight there. It really was a great hike and the solitude was wonderful!

First Day Hike – 2022


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Chris and I got out on Saturday morning to get a First Day hike in at Tandy Hills. Every year the Friends of Tandy Hills hosts a First Day hike over the perimeter trail, which is usually done in a group. This year they continued last year’s option of going solo and emailing them and getting a certificate for completing it solo. I haven’t gotten around to submitting for a certificate but I will say it was a lovely 2.5 mile hike. Plus, we got to see sections of the new Broadcast Hill purchase that has expanded this little prairie remnant just east of downtown Fort Worth.

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As it was winter, most everything has gone dormant up there but we did see plenty of interesting treasures like this Spiranthes seedhead.

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Penstemon cobaea seeds

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A new view of downtown Fort Worth from Broadcast Hill.

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Hedeoma reverchonii, Reverchon’s false pennyroyal

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A cool fossil, I presume some kind of Ammonite.

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*we did not start here! LOL we walked in reverse not realizing there was a method to the trail flagging! Needless to say we missed a few turns and had to trace our steps back a few times*
Chris and I got back in time for lunch and to pick up our niece Zoe to bring over to my parents to join her brother Grayson and cousin Forest who had both been playing and hanging out all week already. A great way to start the New Year—and I know we just had our first freeze on January 1st/2nd but I’m already ready for spring! Bring on those ephemerals!

Chris and I also got away for two days to the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma over Christmas and I’ll be sharing photos in a post here soon!

Merry Christmas


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Merry Christmas, folks! I’m surrounded by gifts and wrapping paper and have turned the last episode (on Netflix) of Call the Midwife on to watch. Chris is cooking bacon and cinnamon rolls and Forest is trying his new and improved Kindle tablet out downstairs. Dusty is giving himself a Christmas morning bath on the back of the couch and Rusty, well, I’m not sure where he has disappeared to. Probably looking for bacon!

Wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas and holiday season!

Salvia madrensis Blooms + Bonus Orchid Spikes


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A few years ago I bought a Salvia madrensis plant from the local nursery only to have it never make it to its late fall/winter blooming period as it ended up being nipped by a freeze. This year our very warm fall, soon-to-be winter, has allowed a new plant I bought earlier this year to actually spike and begin blooming. While a lot of the garden is attempting to rest, many plants are trucking along, though a bit weary. Salvia madrensis is not weary, as you can tell, and is rather lovely. I know eventually winter will catch up with us (I think?!) and it will move on into the compost pile, however I think I’m going to see if I can take a cutting or find a runner that has rooted and see if I can carry it on for next year.

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In other happy news, several of my Phalaenopsis orchids at work are sending out spikes. Being battered by sub-freezing temperatures in the office for a week last February didn’t help them out and I managed to keep most of them happy and alive, losing only one or two plants a few months post-freeze. Regular watering (every 7-10 days) and the occasional top off with orchid fertilizer has been the key to keeping them happy. And I constantly peruse the clearance orchids at Kroger for something new and unusual. I really need to take photos of the ones when they bloom so I have an idea on color and type and don’t buy the same ones again. All have come without any kind of ID so they are just NOID phals and that’s that!

How’s gardening in your part of the world?

Thanksgiving Out West


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I had better write something about Thanksgiving or else I will let the months pass by and I will never get around to writing here. And to be honest, I have never finished editing last Thanksgiving’s photos! Or writing here…or finishing up writing about Alaska. I truly have been trying to let go of my need to write chronologically and yet, here I am still fighting the desire.

I believe the last time we set out for the Davis Mountains three years ago at Thanksgiving, we left on a Friday evening and stopped in Kerrville for the night. This time we left on Saturday morning, stopping in Sonora instead. Which left us with only two full days in the Davis Mountains and a half day on Sunday—and you could tell we missed out a bit without having that extra day. In reality, next time I want to stay there the entire week, though it would be sad to miss my next favorite state park, South Llano River SP, which is where we headed on our way home for three nights. It works out pretty well breaking up the drive that way, though like I said, a longer time in the Davis Mountains would also mean being able to explore some of the area more than we have in the past.

So, we stopped in Sonora on the way and were early enough to get a tour of the Caverns of Sonora. I need to look, but it may be one of the last caves in Texas that is open to the public that we need to see. I think there’s one or two others that are only open on certain times. We had a good time, though our tour guide seemed a bit bored of repeating the same tour highpoints to yet another tour. It is probably one of the better caves in Texas with interesting formations, though. We killed some time beforehand checking out a trail behind the giftshop and Forest played in a faux mining sluice where he pulled out a variety of interesting rocks. A good stopover and then a hotel in Sonora for the evening.

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We made it to Alpine for an early lunch where we stopped off at a community park to eat our drive through meal and let Forest play at the playground. Then we headed towards Fort Davis where we went to the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center and did a hike down the Modesta Canyon trail, which was magnificent. This time we even toured their gardens more than we had three years ago, a seven year old being more attentive than a four year old. The wind was ripping that day and once we got to the state park we (read: Chris) had a grand time trying to set up the tent in the wind but also in the ground that didn’t want to accept tent stakes. He ended up hefting several large boulders from the dry creek bed below our site and tying our rain fly to them!

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The mountains themselves were lovely as always. I really love this area and if I could work out here, I might consider living out here. It would certainly be remote!

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On Monday we made it to the Limpia Creek Vista which gave us wonderful views down into Fort Davis and the surrounding desert. Last time we only made it to the Limpia Creek Trail and Vista Trail junction–again, the difference of a four year old versus a seven year old. Though, Forest and I were definitely antsy because it seemed we kept tracing the contours of the mountains and I kept thinking every bend around the curve would be the vista! I need to remember to download state park maps into Avenza so I can see where we’re at while hiking.

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On Tuesday we dropped by a TNC property west of the observatory to hike on their year-round public trail, the Madera Canyon trail. I highly recommend it—even this area of the mountains is different than towards Fort Davis. It feels very much like New Mexico—and I haven’t been to New Mexico!

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Forest had a lot of fun, despite being a bit grouchy at first about having to leave the house for the week. He’s a homebody and even though he likes camping, he also likes to be at home.

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At South Llano River, Forest enjoyed playing down at the river, running on the sloped concrete from the road and throwing rocks into the river. Unfortunately I did not enjoy the park as mcuh as usual because when I woke up Wednesday morning at DMSP, my vertigo was so bad that I could barely focus on anything. I slept and kept my eyes shut for much of the ride from Fort Davis to Junction and the rest of the time there I barely hiked. I’m feeling better but it is still worse than it had been, and the worst vertigo attack I’ve had in a while. I can’t remember what I’ve shared here or not but since November 2015 I’ve been dealing with vertigo of varying degrees and was even going to get some tests done at an ENT in March 2020 until they wanted me to go to a hospital for an MRI and then to have some other testing done and…well I postponed that. And no, Epley maneuver does nothing…I don’t think it is related to BPPV at all. *Anyway*—I mostly stayed low-key at SLRSP this time around which was fine by me. I just wanted to rest, though I did miss getting out and hiking some of the trails there.

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On the way home we stopped by San Antonio and the Pearl Farmer’s Market to pick up some beef from a ranch that sells to the market there. Chris called the day ahead to put in his order and we picked it up, walked around the market, and then had lunch at La Gloria. The rest of the ride down I-10 into Houston was rough, traffic was terrible. I don’t recommend ever stopping at the Buc-ees in Luling on a Sunday afternoon. Just drive across the street to the Love’s or hold it for another gas station! That said, I can’t say enough about Praseks closer to Houston. Great food, same Buc-ees “all the things” vibe but more rustic, less crowded, and has the same clean bathrooms. We’ve stopped at both of their stores, the one on 59, too.

I was glad to be home but I’m still thinking about the Davis Mountains! I’m thinking a trip to Big Bend is in order sometime in the next year.

Winning at Writing


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On a whim at the end of October I decided to actually participate in Nanowrimo. Back in the mid 2000s I gave it a half-hearted go and quit pretty early, enough that I didn’t even have any of it documented in my Nano account. I hadn’t logged in there in years and saw the last time I gave it a real whirl was in 2011, when I was writing my FT hiking memoir. I made it to something like 26K words, I believe, at that time. I accidentally deleted that after I logged in and tried to set up my new book. Oh well.

The only way I was going to make it work was by taking my laptop camping last week and writing in the evenings. I wrote every day in November except for this last Saturday (and well, yesterday and today because I won the thing on Sunday!) as we’d just arrived home from camping and I had a pile of chores to do and fitting in some writing wasn’t on my agenda. And on Sunday I even put it off most of the day because I was thick into chores and we got a Christmas tree and then groceries…but I stayed up late on Sunday and knocked out two thousand mostly terrible words, the last that I needed.

The secret to winning is really just dedicating the time to write the 1667 words you need daily, roughly about 45 minutes for me, and then stockpiling days where you write more so when you only write 500 words a day, you have a cushion. And not really researching unless it is something easy. My problem towards the end was that I really needed to research and it became harder to really move the story forward. But, I did it, I have 50K words and somewhere between 1/3 to a 1/2 of a book! I’m going to spend December revising what I already have and outlining for the rest of it and maybe sometime in the spring I’ll have a coherent story to pitch.

Writing is harder than painting or art for me because the time dedicated to it all. I can get a finished art piece in much less time, get the dopamine hit needed from it, and move on to something else. The problem is I’ve always wanted to write, to have something published like that, and there are many different stories and essays ticking around in my head. And I’m really still learning about writing. I can certainly appreciate the undertaking that professional writers or those who’ve had a creative writing habit for years deal with.

Moral of the story: make the time to do what you want to do. It’s so much easier to put it off but when you drop the unnecessary things (scrolling on your phone!) and just focus, you can get a lot done! This week is chaotic with the catch-up at work from time off, getting the house cleaned up, Christmas decorations out, and a few other things simmering on the back burner, (and a new Outlander book!), so the book is going to have a rest for a few days and then onward to editing!

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