In early October we headed east to Martin Dies Jr. State Park for our first car camping trip since late February/early March. Our plans when we made reservations back in the summer were for three nights out there as it was a long weekend for Forest from school. But Leo was still around at that point and we knew we could not be gone for more than one night with him, even with the pet sitter coming by. Plus one of the myriad of tropical systems we’ve had this year was coming in along the Louisiana border once again and that thwarted our plans as well.
We found the park busy but not crowded when we arrived on Sunday before lunch that weekend. Navigating camping during COVID was also new for us so we were glad that it wasn’t a completely packed park and our spot was spaced with plenty of room that we wouldn’t have to worry about someone being on top of us, so to speak.
It was a bit of a wonky camping trip as even though we’d had some cooling down by that point it was basically summer-lite that weekend and the humidity was up. And Chris somehow managed to bring the wrong air mattress, a twin mattress we had bought eons ago by mistake but have kept around because it could come in useful. So he slept on the ground and Forest and I tried to sleep on the mattress. And then ants managed to get into our food bin so that was fun to deal with. Thankfully not a lot needed to be thrown out but we had to maneuver everything off the ground for a while. Needless to say, a few rough patches but we had a good weekend.
Our main hike that weekend was down the Sandy Creek Trail, a trail we hadn’t visited on our last trip there, which was somehow two years ago! Our first trip there four years ago we did hike this trail and had come across the marsh ladies’ tresses and being as it was the same time of year they were blooming last time I wanted to head down and see them again. They are easily viewed from the boardwalk on that trail so keep an eye out for them.
This trail connects all the way to a US Corps of Engineers park down to the south. Four years ago we walked about half of the trail down there before turning around. This time we continued on, stopping to take a break for a few minutes at a campsite at the park while we were eaten by mosquitoes. Needless to say, we didn’t linger long.
Though it was only one night, we had a great time! It is annoying to car camp for only a night with the amount of packing and unpacking but it is always worth it to get out and into a tent. Since then we’ve camped at Huntsville State Park and have another trip coming up soon.
I will say, even though signs are posted about wearing masks in bathrooms and other buildings, of course very few are following that. That’s probably my biggest complaint but so far I think camping feels fairly safe. I do have some thoughts about a hike we did at Huntsville SP but will keep that until I write that trip up.
What a damn good day for Democracy!
A short video I put together on my phone from a camping trip last weekend. I figured out iMovie on my phone and so expect more short videos in the future! Of course I’ll do a proper post eventually—probably February at this rate! haha!
I thought I would dust off a few of the drafts languishing in my WordPress files and send some nature out into the world. There’s a lot going on right now and my mind is cluttered with it all, so why not deviate a bit and share some goodness. I had hoped we would get back to Watson Preserve this fall but we haven’t gotten there yet. Maybe in November!
Actually looking back at these photos brightens my mood a bit. With autumn happening and everything senescing, it is sometimes hard to believe everything was alive and in bloom a few short months ago.
I was glad to see the pineland hibiscus, Hibiscus aculeatus blooming this time we went to Watson as the time previous in May it hadn’t been flowering. I love the photo above with the dashes of pollen on the petals.
I just discovered some of this growing along our pond shoreline here at home and I’m thrilled about it. I moved a couple of plants from the dam area where they are located over to our part of the shoreline but will also wait to see when they go to seed and spread a bit around the shoreline then, too.
I’m not sure what this plant is. I thought I had put everything into iNaturalist back in the summer but I couldn’t find that I had done this plant so I just submitted it and nothing is coming up. I will need to flip through some books and come back to edit this one later, but it is located on the north side of the house in the bracken ferns.
I’m still a fan of the more purple variation of the red milkweed that is growing along the boardwalk near the house. I wonder if it is a variety or a subspecies? It is just so different than the others.
And greeting us on our way out were Physostegia sp.. Chris tried for years to get some established into our flower beds and the first year, maybe the second, they did ok, but they deer won’t leave them alone.
Hope this was a little spot of brightness in your day!
Our sweet Leo has crossed the Rainbow Bridge. His estimated birthday was May 2004 as he came to us in July 2004 at our West Kendall apartment in Miami. It was the middle of the night and Chris and I were awoken by what sounded like a baby bird chirping. It chirped and chirped, annoying me enough to get out of bed and walk around to the back porch to see what was going on. I could never find anything but the next morning Chris woke me up because he had found the culprit—or rather, Samson had found the culprit! It was a scraggly kitten at the back sliding door, pawing and wanting in! Samson was aloof but kind of entertained by the fact this cat wanted in. Of course I went around and tried to pet it and we gave it some food and Chris and I decided that if it was still there when we got home from work that we would keep it.
Chris got home before I did and by then Leo had been given a rinse off in the sink and had found his way to the litter box! And that was it, he was part of the family! This two month old squeaker was young enough to still try to nurse on Samson! Which, Samson let him do! That was a good cat, too. I wish I could hug them both right now. And then they would meow for treats or try to barge their way into my lap for a nap. Yep, I would be ok with that happening.
Instead we are faced with an empty house of pets for the first time in nearly 18 years. We adopted Samson at the end of December in 2002, Leo came to us in 2004 and its been cat city around here ever since. But on Monday evening that ended.
Leo had been dealing with hyperthyroidism for several years. We had been giving him thyroid pills in his food during this time after he lost a bit of weight sometime after Forest was born. With that he had been mostly thriving with some periods of old age setting in but he was in it for the long haul. Then in July he lost some more weight, stopped eating much, had some vomiting issues, and I noticed a bit of hair in his poop in the litter box. More than what was normal for him. So off to the vet we went and after some x-rays and blood work it was determined he likely had a tumor in his intestines and possibly his lungs. Honestly, we thought he was going to die then because his behavior really changed. We braced ourselves and at the same time started him on some anti-nausea medicine and an appetite stimulant. Both of those helped and we eventually weaned him off the anti-nausea medicine until recently. The stimulant got him eating and his mood and attitude changed for the better, or at least better than it had been. We knew that this wasn’t a cure and things were going to get worse, especially when he still lost more weight and you could feel changes in his rib cage. Something was definitely wrong.
And then last week things went off the rails with avoiding the litter box entirely and bigger behavior changes, hiding in different places, not able to get comfortable, more labored breathing. I wasn’t ready to face it then but Chris was. But by the weekend I changed my mind because the litter box issues weren’t one-off and the silly hiding places got worse. I mean, he climbed into the pantry and on top of some of the stuff we store on the floor—this was never a thing he did.
So, we spent the weekend cuddling, loving, and hugging him. I took a bazillion photos on my phone and some videos and Forest even recorded some stuff on his tablet.
Leo really evolved over his years. He started off as the spry and feisty cat, being fairly particular about who he liked, but he came into his own as he got older and mostly liked anyone he met. I was worried how he would be with Forest but he was only ever nice unless Forest pestered him too much. And even then it was only one whack and a warning to leave him alone! Of course, Forest wanted to love on him too much and we were constantly telling him to be more gentle, especially in the last year as Leo aged more. But Leo was the cat who played fetched with toy mice, loved a pile of catnip, would steal greens from the garden on the counter if I left them out, would be the bug hunter if needed…he was such a good cat. And he always loved to cuddle and would seek you out to find a place on your lap. If there was a computer out there was a good chance you wouldn’t be able to work because there would be a cat on top of it. He and Forest became my coworkers this spring when the pandemic started. I have a lot of photos of a lazy cat sprawled up next to me while I worked. Oh, how I will miss that. I already did this week–even the grouching about “Leo, move, so I can work!”
At our apartment in Miami, where we found him, Chris and I didn’t use our kitchen table at that time. It was in the dining room but pushed off to the side and was mostly used for storing stuff. It was near a window and of course Leo became used to going up there. Eventually we moved to a town house and then a house and started using the table and it was too late to try to convince Leo that he didn’t belong on the table. So for 16.5 years we’ve had a cat at meal times on the table. He had his spot, off to the side so there wasn’t cat hair flying into our food, and he would sit or lay there while we ate, a constant companion. That was one thing about Leo, he enjoyed human company. Samson did too but I think Leo even more so. Of course he went off to take his naps during the day but if you called him he would usually come unless he was especially lazy.
It’s been hard to get used to not hearing him move about the house. Knowing that when Chris got up in the morning, Leo would to. A jingle of the collar because he would stretch and shake, then trot down the stairs and begin meowing for breakfast. I’ve anticipated it all week and it doesn’t come. Or I’ll turn my head and hear a phantom jingle and realize my brain is tricking me. I’m having to stop myself from wandering off to the laundry room to check the litter, or stop the impulsive reflex from looking at the spot where his food and water were to see if anything needed to be picked up or re-filled. It’s hard.
Forest took it especially hard. We’ve been harping on it for months, that Leo was at the end of his life and he would die sometime soon. When Chris and I knew last week that it was coming up quickly we started talking to Forest about it. But it wasn’t until Sunday evening, with Leo cuddled up on the bed with Forest and me as I was getting Forest to sleep, that the grief overtook him and the tears poured out. He’d kept it at arms length, trying not to tear up when he saw Chris or I crying or getting sad about the situation. Forest would say he was sad or that he would miss him but he was holding it back. And then seeing it all let out, it was heartbreaking.
I went alone to the vet on Monday evening. Thankfully our vet is letting those pets with end of life situations to allow their humans to come in and be with them. I was worried about this back in July because otherwise everything is curbside, you leave the pet with a tech and wait in the car or come back to pick them up. But I was able to go in. Chris stayed home with Forest, though Forest was begging me at the end to go in the car.
I don’t think I’ll write about being in the room other than to say it was beyond difficult to do and there was wailing involved. I mean, constant companion from kitten to grandpa cat for 16.5 years…what else can you do but wail?
And so, Leo crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I look at photos and I can’t believe he won’t come around the corner and purr and meow and want some pets. Forest and I were flipping through photos of Leo and Forest when Forest was a baby and then I flipped to the photos I took last weekend and I saw it. It was hard to see when he was here because there was some parts of him that were still there, but now I could see the pain and weariness he was in compared to the photos from a few years ago, or even just earlier this year. It was time.
We will miss him terribly. He was one of the best.
This year the Bidens laevis, the bur margiold or beggar’s ticks, are on fire along the pond! We’ve had them sporadically over the years and then the taro choked them out, so I am delighted that they are returning in force this year in the area that is becoming a wetland behind the pine trees that fell during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. I wish the whole shoreline was covered in them as I recall seeing an entire wetland of them somewhere between Center and San Augustine, Texas 10 years ago near Sabine National Forest. That was gorgeous and it would be wonderful to have the entire pond shoreline lined with them instead of taro.
I just wanted to send a little sunshine out into mid-October! I’m feeling the blog vibes starting to come back a little so maybe I’ll be around here more soon!
It was early September and we were eating dinner and Forest was in his usual eat a bite-turn around to look outside mode and he said he spotted a hummingbird that was red. We figured he had just seen the ruby part of a ruby-throated and didn’t think much about it. The next morning I was working upstairs and had a glimpse of the now dead mimosa tree that the hummingbirds always love to perch on and saw something rust colored. It sat there long enough for me to realize Forest really did mean a completely red bird, not just a throat. Chris was out in the field somewhere and I took some bad phone photos and sent it off to him because I wasn’t familiar with many hummingbirds. He mentioned it could be a rufous and after I got a better photo and sent it to him he agreed. So did iNaturalist once I ran a rough photo through there! What a great change for hummingbird migration season!
It was easy to identify one of the birds because of the wayward feather on the back of his neck and we ended up calling him Rufio. He had a friend (and sometimes enemy because they would run each other off from the feeders) along with the ruby-throateds that came through and stuck around for several weeks. I haven’t seen them in a week or two so they must have moved on further south to somewhere warmer.
I hope we get to see them again next year, even if it isn’t our particular friend Rufio.
The season switch is hitting me hard this year. It’s happening and I am not experiencing it how I normally do. Suddenly it is dark by 7:30 and with some cloudy and wet weather it is more like 7pm. Paired with this, my bike riding endorphins have disappeared with a schedule change the last few weeks. I had been able to get out at lunch for 30 minutes most days of the week and if not I would go after dinner. Losing the light in the evening means I haven’t gone as much in the evenings and when Forest switched teachers a few weeks ago she now often does Zoom classes at noon which really throws a wrench in being able to go for a ride at lunch on days I am doing school with Forest. Paired with dreariness this week from Tropical Storm Beta it has been a hard switch to autumn.
In addition I’ve seem to have lost my mojo for doing much creatively and have driven straight into a reading binge which always seems to cleanse the palate. I did, however, make this scarf (Naturally Southern on Ravelry) over the course of a few days a couple of weeks back. I had leftover yarn from the top I made earlier this year and this worked out perfectly to use up that leftover stash. I’m also in the midst of a much harder wrap. It is very intricate and uses crochet thread so it doesn’t move along very fast. I should work on it more but haven’t. And art has fallen by the wayside but I’m working on sketching out something else to paint soon.
With all of that, my desires to write here have really gone out the window. I have two posts drafted from earlier in the summer but don’t really feel inspired to share them. Everything feels boring and a bit of waste to share, which I know sounds ridiculous but there it is.
My internet friend/acquaintance Sarah recently shared a post (linked) recapping the last six months of COVID-19 and I may snag it as an idea to write about soon. It would be a great thing to brain dump and look back at in the future. Or in six more months to see how things change.
That’s about it. Posts will likely stay sporadic for a bit until I can get out of this funk.
Last night after dinner I retreated to my bed to finish up a book I was reading. I was at 90% done and was making my way towards the end. I spent a good hour or so curled up in bed, quietly reading as the early autumn sun retreated for the evening. Eventually I got up, took a shower, and then made my way downstairs to my phone, thinking I would casually check a few things before getting Forest ready for bed.
I saw a text from my mom, the tear emoji, and swiped to see what was tied to the rest of it. What was tied to it was the news of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing. The first words out of my mouth were “Noooooooo!” and then the utter need to see what the rest of the world had known for about 30 minutes already. Next the gut punch I felt on the morning of November 9th came roaring back, only this time it felt 100 times worse. I couldn’t stop the tears from falling for a good while and this morning I almost started once again when Chris and I tried to have a conversation about it all after listening to NPR. Forest tried to console me because he didn’t quite know why I was crying over someone I didn’t know personally. It is of course about the grief of losing such a spectacular woman but knowing what a horrible situation that this has put us in with this democracy of ours hanging by a thread.
In January 2017 I wrote about how it was time to pay attention and of course so much has devolved since then. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that if Joe Biden doesn’t win the presidency and/or the Democrats don’t flip the Senate, the country as we know it (knew it) really is gone. Maybe if you are white and middle or upper class you won’t feel it as soon as everyone else, but you will feel it. What is even more stab-you-in-the-heart is knowing that Justice Ginsburg was really carrying far more on her shoulders than an 87 year old should be carrying—and that we were relying on her in that manner.
I’ve had political stickers on my car in years past but this year I wanted a sign. We haven’t put it up yet because Chris wants to make sure one of our animal cams is set up on it because there’s a high likelihood it will be stolen. We are surrounded by folks who like the current office holder. It isn’t so much that I think I will change anyone’s minds, it is to say that I stand for the complete opposite of what they do. A few weeks ago a post went around from Gabrielle Blair of Design Mom called The Consequences of Your Actions. In it she writes about knowing 45 supporters in real life but also the ones she deals with on her social media platform. How she had quietly held them at bay or even catered to their feelings somewhat and she had finally had enough. Because so much of what his supporters represent is rather abhorrent. And even if you want to turn a blind eye to *all of the stuff* because, by god you are a low tax Republican or whatever, you are just as culpable. That ship has sailed, that party is gone and if you want the party back, you as a Republican should actively work to fix your party—unless of course that’s the feature and not a bug, which seems to be the going rate of things since the Tea Party took over. All of this is to say, thankfully I know very few supporters of his in real life and most are down the line adjacent that I don’t interact with very often. And if for some reason we are friends online or in real life and you’ve hidden your support for him, please don’t tell me unless you want to sever a friendship. Because that’s where I’m at right now.
Listen, if you need more information from people who know what they are talking about, where we are headed if we don’t right this teetering ship, you should check out Sarah Kendzior and her book Hiding in Plain Sight. She also hosts a podcast called Gaslit Nation with Andrea Chalupa. They are authoritarian experts and everything I’ve followed from them over the last four years has been right on point.
In 45 days there’s an election.
Vote for Joe Biden.
Do it for Ruth.
The season shift here has kind of thrown me for a loop. The light is shifting, the days are shortening, and that has made me pull inward and want to focus on other things. So much for all these photos I had ready to share!
It’s a rainy evening here in greater Houston, where we are going to miss the massive cold front everyone else is getting. It is going to fizzle out an hour or so west of here. Guess we will be sticking with summer for a few more weeks until hopefully the next front. Another reason I’ve been not-so-interested writing here is that my right shoulder has been killing me due to poor ergonomics and working from home. I’ve been working on a mapping project at work that has me creating a lot of polygons and even when I’m at my desk at the office doing this kind of heavy mapping work it still can hurt after a while. So, mesh that with the various places I find myself seated at in the house and it is a recipe for an aching shoulder. Which means the last thing I’ve been wanting to do is sit on the computer in the evenings.
This post is the first part of our trip down the Denali Highway, which isn’t a highway in the sense you will ever think! We went as far as the Brushkana Campground at mile post 104 before turning around and coming back to Cantwell and heading south to Anchorage. The photos really speak for themselves but I’ll pipe in when commentary is necessary!
My plant IDs are thanks to iNaturalist but I’m going to call on now-resident Alaskans, Patrice and Justin to correct my wayward identifications!
We wandered a bit further down the road to what appeared to be a hunting campsite or some kind of base camp area for locals. Chris attempted to fish once more and we poked around in the bush a little bit before deciding to move on down the road.
When we arrived at Brushkana Creek and campground (though the sign says Brushkana River) we knew this would be the spot we’d stop and hang out the longest. The river was good for fishing and it turned out to be the perfect spot to forage for blueberries!
Of course Forest had fun walking through the blueberries and traipsing through the mazes of trails from other visitors. Eliana was the smart one who kept reminding us to talk loudly and say “Hey Bear!” because you really never know when one could pop up!
After exploring the south side of the river we trekked across the street and walked up into the campground where we only noticed one other person camping. If we ever get to return to Alaska I would definitely love to stay a night or two at this campground!
We spent quite a while on the north side and enjoyed walking up the creek but the afternoon was going fast and we still had to drive the rest of the way back to Anchorage as well as factor in any other pitstops along the way on the Denali Highway and back on the main road south. If you don’t have a ton of time to travel the whole highway and are in the area I do recommend going at least to this part along the road from Cantwell. Missing Alaska a lot!