Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
We didn't see a lot of wildlife, but I did catch these at midday from the comfort of my porch.
We topped things off with a slice of pie from the Lost Maples Cafe in Utopia. Just another nice, relaxing weekend in the Texas Hill Country. Another month of this, and I'll be spoiled rotten.
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Here in Temple, my top hobby recently has been checking the sky. A significant amount of rain over the past month has slowed projects to a crawl. We have gone from about 6" below normal rainfall for the year to several inches over normal within the last month, and several more inches are predicted for tonight and tomorrow. And, of course, as you know, getting in and out of my private retreat is often a function of the weather.
So, I've naturally started paying more attention to the sky. Last night I saw a shooting star for the first time in several years. Sunsets have sometimes been spectacular. And, the pond is full and occasionally reflecting a blue sky and green grass. Also, a few days ago, I witnessed a lightning show so spectacular that it prompted me to get out my camera. Lightning in the north lit up huge thunderheads like white pillows. Meanwhile, to the south and west, we had horizonal and dramatically forked lightning appearing to go both from the clouds to the ground, as well as from the ground toward the clouds. Unfortunately, good photos of lightning are beyond by capabilities. But after a few minutes of experimenting I did get a couple of shots that at least show some of what I saw.
For all that, the rain has put a damper on my fun here in Temple. Mosquitos have become an issue for the first time in months. Fishing or hunting with the mosquitos is less fun than otherwise. The dove I enjoyed hunting in the first few weeks of the season have become more dispersed. Besides, hiking around the fields in their pursuit is less pleasant in the muddy conditions. I've even gotten to the point where I can tell almost to the minute when the rain will start by looking at the radar on the full time weather station. So, I'll soon be moving on. I leave this weekend for College Station and an Aggie game against Oklahoma State. (Oddsmakers say there is a good chance I won't like the ending, but I'll enjoy the game.) Then, it is on to Houston for a couple of days and eventually back to Bandera, where I'll be for a month and a half. I've worn out most of the great hiking spots there, but Bandera is lovely in the fall. And, several folks have promised to visit there, so maybe I'll pull out of my hermit persona for a while. After that, a quick trip to Ireland with the kids. Then, who knows... North Carolina, perhaps?
Ahh, the life of Riley!
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Thursday, August 06, 2009
Well, I made it to Temple and got everything set up. I had to put my pump in the pond and connect up the electricity and hoses to bring water into the cabin. I took the lawn mower out of the cabin, mowed the grass and parked it underneath to clear some space. Then I moved in what I would need to set up housekeeping for a while.
Everything seems in order, although a few mice have moved in and set up housekeeping as well. Looks like they consumed all my D-con and survived. No evidence of the snakes that sometimes follow them. No problem, just a few minutes of cleanup and a note to replenish the rat poison. Also a note to self to try to find out how they get in. It seemed like the place was tight as a drum when I left.
The corn has been harvested, and from what I can see, it looks like we had a decent crop. So, I should get a nice check. I was a bit worried, since extreme drought in the area was prominent in the news, but it looks like we may have been on the edge of it and were lucky to get a few extra showers that prevented a disaster. I can see a significant deterioration of the crops even just a few miles to the south.
Speaking of crops, many people ask me what crops are grown here on the farm. Most people recognize the top two, corn and wheat. But many are unfamiliar with a third, milo. So, I thought I would include this picture taken of a nearby field. Unfortunately it was taken just a few miles south, so you can see the crop is marginal. Just a couple of miles further south, it looked even worse. And, I think milo, also know as maize or sorghum is a bit more drought and heat tolerant than corn. I’m not completely clear on its uses, but I think it is mostly hog or chicken feed.
Across the road, I saw a new crop. Looks like they are raising sunflowers for seed production. I picked a head, and have been savouring the snack. But, with the small amount of edibles from each seed, I wonder about the economics of sunflower seeds. Wild sunflowers certainly thrive around here. In fact, where I come from they are considered weeds. Check it out: it looks like they are ready to be harvested.
I made a quick trip to Houston and picked up my Houston Texans tickets, taking advantage of the opportunity to spend a long weekend with the luxuries of cable and internet service at Jon’s apartment and great meals with several friends. Jon’s apartment is very nice, including a view of downtown
Now, it is back to the farm and some more mowing and clearing of brush plus addressing a few other maintenance issues. I’ve tried a bit of fishing with moderate success. The pond is less than half its normal depth and size, due to the drought. We could use a nice gully washer, although that would mean I’d be marooned here for a couple of days. There is no way out after a heavy rain.
I planned on a big steak over mesquite for my first night here, but pork chops and sweet corn will have to do until I find some reasonably priced steaks.
That pretty much brings you up to speed on my travels. After reading through this post, it looks like it is back to the Mundane Monthly instead of Max’s Adventures. Oh well, stay tuned. Maybe something really exciting will happen soon. Could be there is a 10 lb lunker lurking in the cooler water at the deepest part of the pond. I better go check it out.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
I made it. It was quite a journey, the kind that make these trips worthwhile.
It started in Pinedale. The Elkhart Trailhead is 16 miles up a paved road from Pinedale, where I spent the night prior to the trip. This is the only paved road to a trailhead in the Winds. The others are rough gravel roads of 10-25 miles. Pinedale and Elkhart were the starting point of my first visit here in 2006. The picture below shows the Winds from a suburb of Pinedale. Quite a view for a really nice small town.
Last time, I took just a 10 mile day trip to Photographer's point and back on the Pole Creek Trail. I traced those same steps on this trip, so I got some friends I made on the trip to reprise this photo from the previous trip.
But, this time I continued on to Titcomb basin on the Seneca Lake, Highline, Indian Basin and Titcomb trails for a trip of about 31 miles, billed by my guide book as the best of the Winds. My original plan was to camp about halfway to Titcomb at Hobbs lake, making the trip in 4 days of about 7.5 miles each. However, I reached this location about 3:00pm. I was tired, but while I rested and thought about it, I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes. I knew the next good camping area was about 3 miles further, along the Highline Trail. I decided to push on. Little did I know that the most rugged pieces of the trail were still to come. I finally arrived, dog tired, at a beautiful site on a 10,600' knoll near the intersection of the Highline and Indian Basin trails. It was a rugged day of 10.5 miles with about 2000' of elevation change.
The net result was that I was able to complete the trip in 3 days of a little over 10 miles each day. It also meant I could hike the second day with only a partial pack. Good thing, because I don't think I could have made it with a full pack. But, best of all, the camp site was probably the most beautiful I have experienced.
From beginning to end, the trails were both difficult and beautiful. Much of the high country trails were still covered in snow. But the snow was rapidly melting, making for muddy trails and high water crossings. In places we were forced into scrambling up almost sheer cliffs to avoid areas where the trail was underwater. In others we had to make our way around downed trees. Where the trails were not snowy, muddy or water covered, they were rocky. Meanwhile, any rest or meal stops were swarmed with mosquitoes, so it was not practical to take extended rest stops, despite generous applications of deet. The result is that I arrived in camp each night dog tired, barely managing to force down some dinner and hit the sack. Not that I slept...I always have a problem sleeping on these trips and that continued. But at least my tent and sleeping bag gave me some rest and respite from the mosquitoes.
Forgive my fanciful engineering, but I calculate that between weight carried, slipping in snow and mud, rock hopping and elevation change, my efforts were equivalent to running a marathon on three consecutive days. And yet, around each corner was a spectacular view that made it all worthwhile. Here are a few more pictures from along the trail to give you a sample.
I mentioned the campsite. My guidebook had indicated that there were good campsites where I camped, but I was so tired by the end of the first day that I was ready to accept anything. Suddenly I look up a knoll and see what looks like a beautiful spot. Sure enough, after climbing the knoll, it was perfect. I had a least 2 parties along the way remark about seeing my tent on the knoll and what a great site it was. Here are a few pictures taken from the campsite.
And finally, I arrived at the coup de grace, Titcomb basin. This is an area of 12 glacial lakes completely surrounded by 13,000' mountains. They fail to do it justice, but here are pictures looking in all directions from inside the basin.
Wildlife? Not so much. I failed to see signs of bear, deer or elk, though we are assured they are there. About the best I could do was this marmot, whom I saw both out and back in nearly the same spot before he spied me and ran for cover.
I've had people ask me if I'm worried about hiking solo. While most hikers do travel in groups, it feels perfectly safe to hike solo. Everyone is extremely nice and friendly, and there is enough traffic along the way in case of emergencies. I probably passed an average of 5 groups per day. I even met one female hiking solo.
All in all, a great trip. But, it took so much out of me, I've decided to head back to Texas tomorrow for a more docile life of grilling steaks over a mesquite fire followed by a real bed on my farm in Temple, and maybe an occasional visit to the big city for some football.
Ah, life is good.