Monday, October 30, 2006

Farm, Lost Maples State Park, Bandera CoolwaterAcres

Ah, the good life...I'm livin' it. I enjoyed a few more days of puttering around the farm, spent some time with my chainsaw and caught another couple of Fightin' Texas Aggie wins on the radio. Then, on the last day on the farm I had a couple of photo ops. I captured one and missed the other. First, the one that got away... I came out of the cabin this good morning and the biggest bird I ever saw in the wild took off from the pond. I'm sure his wingspan was at least 6 foot. Some kind of heron or egret.

Then, that evening I was starting a fire for my evening steak grilled over mesquite, when out of the corner of my eye I see what at first appeared to be a huge fire on the horizon. When I looked, I saw it was a great sunset. Oddly there were great colors all around. Unfortunately, they don't look quite as spectacular in the pictures as I remember them, but here are three pictures. One, looking at the sunset to the west, another looking south at a very unusual cloud arrangement and a third looking east at a thunderhead highlighted by the setting sun in the west!! Ok, so maybe I'm too easily excited these days, but I thought the surround picture was pretty dramatic and unusual.

Next, I spent 2 nights backpacking in Lost Maples State park. I spent the first night on the back side of East Trail (about 5 miles) and the second night on the back side of the West Trail (again about 5 miles. There were nice closer sites, but the sites I stayed at were more remote and at about 2200 foot elevation, vs about 1850 for the lower sites. Very enjoyable, although I was about 2 weeks too early for peak color. Things were really just beginning to change. I also was a bit disappointed that my son, Jon, had to cancel out because he had to work over the weekend on his new job. One interesting story and I'll let you look at the pictures...On the first night out, I heard a heavy animal of some kind near by in the middle of the night. I made a noise and he charged away, snorting. I swear it sounded like a horse. It was about 10 feet away. I have to assume it was a deer., and of course in my minds eye it was about a 12 point buck.

Finally, my new place. I've rented a cabin in Bandera for the month of November. I've been here about 3 hours, but already I've fallen in love with it. It is a very nice, quiet 2 bedroom cedar and rock cabin with great views of the hill country from both the living room and porch. Perfect for me. My camera bit the dust during my second day at Lost Maples, so I'm attaching their pictures from the internet.

Hey, I've got to get into town to buy me a steak to try out the gas grill. Plus, I need bacon to go with the home grown eggs they supply from the ranch here.

One last thought...I've got an extra bedroom for the next month, so if anyone is interested in visiting just give me a call.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Reflections, Retreats and Projects

After my recent sojourn, I think it is a good time to reflect on the trip. For those who have not been with me, I just completed a camping, hiking, backpacking trip through Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah and Arizona.

One of the things that struck me is how big and beautiful the world is. As I hiked, the wilderness seemed endless. It is amazing how much your perspective on the world changes when you are seeing it from a 2 mph pace. Suddenly there are an endless number of things to see in each mile. Things that are always there, but rarely seen. Geysers, pools, lakes, wildlife, flora, sediments, lava, unbelievable vistas…it all seems so spectacular. And yet I’ve seen only a tiny, tiny percentage of what there is to see, even in the areas I traveled through. This world really is a huge, complex place, all working together in amazing ways that we may or may not understand.

On the other hand, this world is such a small place. One of the things that struck me, is that no matter how remote the campsite seemed to be, when the quiet fell and I was in my sleeping bag, I would hear jets flying overhead. Palo Duro, Flaming Gorge, Wind River, Yellowstone, Lake Powell, El Malpais, it didn’t matter. I believe everywhere I camped, I heard jets flying overhead in the night. At first it struck me as unusual, but then I began to realize they were everpresent. The sound of jets in the night, the vapor streams in the day. This world is really such a small place, in that jets were always flying overhead despite the apparent remoteness of my location.

Speaking of location, I’m now back on my place in Temple and the interior walls phase of the retreat project is complete!!!

A bit of history…approximately 20 years ago I purchased this place in Temple. At the time it was a retirement dream, an investment diversification, insurance against catastrophe. But, some funny things happened along the way…My kids and I tried a retreat from city life on the farm. We explored the property and located a campsite on the dam of the pond. We discovered there were fish in the pond. We began to enjoy hunting with family and friends. We outgrew the tents that were our initial retreat. So, my son Jon and I began putting up a small cabin. It became not just a retreat, but a bonding and learning experience as we poured the foundations, raised the walls, added the roof, siding, electrical, plumbing, cistern and insulation over a period of several years.

As the kids left home and pursued other interests, the work stopped and visits became less frequent. The exposed insulation became a problem. A few mice moved in and a few snakes followed them ( as evidenced by the several shed skins). At first I didn’t begrudge them the home, but they were a bit too destructive, so I decided it was time to complete the interior walls. Jon helped me haul in the materials and put up the ceiling earlier this year and this week I completed the walls, while doing a bit of hunting and fishing and campfire watching along the way, of course.

With interior walls, a desk and comfy chair along with the ability to watch TV on my computer, this place is becoming a palace now!!

One last photo of my duck. He showed up on the pond one morning and spent the day fishing, right through the buzz of the Skill saw and the movement of sheeting in and out of the cabin. I've been hearing the flight of geese/ducks south for the winter, and I guess he just decided to take a little retreat from the trip.

Whoa, I didn’t intend to write a book. Enough for now. Look for my next installment as I move on next week to exploring the Texas hill country.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Mom and Dad's New Porch and Sidewalk

This is a bit of a change of gears...Instead of hiking and backpacking, I've spent the last few days helping my Dad expand their front porch and replace their crumbling sidewalk.

My brother, Shawn, got wind of things and surprised us by traveling from Beaumont to help with the concrete pour. And my youngest brother, Mark, loaned us his tractor with front end loader. That saved a few blows with the sledgehammer to break up the old sidewalk. I've enjoyed a good visit and the opportunity to work with my dad and brothers just like in the old days.

All in all, a very enjoyable and productive week.