environment

Weekly Sketch: Elk

Back in May, the kids and I took an exploratory road trip to Colorado, in order to make a final decision about whether to move here and to decide which front-range city we preferred. While we were in Denver, up near Genesee Park, we saw a majestic herd of elk walking alongside the highway. A bit farther on, I stopped to let a big graceful doe amble across the road. I was enchanted by the idea of living in a city where elk wander freely amongst the humans.

Alas, I haven’t seen a single elk in the week and a half since we moved here. I suspect it was the Covid shutdown that had emboldened them to roam so near the city.

Categories: Animals, Artwork, Covid-19, environment, Family, Life, Road trip, Travel, Weekly Sketch, Wildlife | Tags: | Leave a comment

Weekly Sketch: Aspen

The part of my brain that does art wasn’t here for it last week. We finally made the move from Texas to Colorado, and in the few moments of rest I got during all of that, my brain just wanted to zone out on a bubble-popping app. So no sketch last week.

I just now remembered that I hadn’t drawn anything this week either. So here is a quick sketch of some Aspen leaves.

Colorado is beautiful, even in the sweltering dog days of August with the smoky haze of wildfires blurring the mountains. We are glad to be here.

Categories: Artwork, environment, Travel, trees, Weekly Sketch | Tags: | Leave a comment

Goodwater Loop Trail

Luke wants to get into through-hiking and backcountry wilderness backpacking. My enthusiasm for living in tents has waned with my advancing years, but I’m all for helping Luke acquire whatever knowledge and skills he needs to survive his future treks into the wild.

Now that the parks are reopening, this weekend seemed like a good time to try out a nice safe through-hike with training wheels and safety nets. The Goodwater Loop Trail around Lake Georgetown is a good starter hike, because there are campgrounds all along it and help is never too far away.

The trail is 28 miles long and looks like this:

The plan was to leave the car at Overlook Park Saturday morning, hike 14 miles around the lake clockwise to Tejas Camp, spend the night there, and then continue around the lake back to the car.

We got a late start, and by the time we got to Overlook Park it was full and they were turning cars away. We saw what looked like overflow parking at the foot of the dam, but we didn’t know how to get to it. So we drove to Cedar Breaks Park. That was full too, but we were able to grab a spot in their overflow parking. That put us only 11 miles from Tejas Camp, with a longer journey back to the car on Sunday. No problem.

We set off, feeling cheerful and adventurous. Other hikers wished us a good morning, and we returned their greetings. The trail is very pretty.

There is a gorgeous waterfall about a mile and a half from Cedar Breaks Park. Photos don’t do it justice, it’s magical.

Saw some photogenic livestock in a pasture adjacent to the falls.

A donkey came up for pets.

The most important thing we learned from this test run is that our current gear is too heavy for long-distance backpacking. Almost all of our equipment, from our 10lb tent to our insulated steel thermoflasks, is designed for car camping rather than backcountry jaunts. The first four or five miles were fine, the next four or five miles were a slog, and after that it was just kind of an ordeal. I was carrying about 40lbs of gear in a pack that was only rated for 30, so it didn’t provide enough support. Pretty soon my shoulders and hips were bruised at the points of contact. Elizabeth and I got blisters on our feet! Blisters, in our comfy old Ariat Terrains! I can’t even remember the last time I got blisters from walking. Turns out pack weight makes a huge difference as the miles add up.

But on we went. Really a beautiful trail.

Texas is in full summer now, with highs in the 90s every day. We passed a couple of primitive campgrounds and detoured into them in hopes of refilling our water flasks, but all of their spigots had been capped off. We ran out of water somewhere around mile 10. In the future we will supplement our water supply with portable purifiers/filters so we can drink out of lakes and streams if need be.

We were so tired when we arrived at Tejas Camp, I didn’t think to get any scenic shots of our tent. There was still plenty of daylight, but we just filled our flasks at the community spigot, set up the tent and collapsed. We really need better-quality sleeping pads. We do have a nice comfy self-inflating queen size pad, but it’s so bulky and heavy we didn’t attempt to bring it on this trip. Our cheap starter pads are…yeah. We got what we paid for.

When the sun did set, the forest filled with a raucous symphony of sound, much louder than daytime birdsong. Crickets, frogs, the full orchestra. We enjoyed the concert.

We didn’t bother with the rainfly, so in the morning I got a nice shot of the tree above our tent.

Before we broke camp, we tested out our shiny new ferro rods. It took a little practice, but eventually we each struck up a small fire in the fire pit.

Confident in our fire-making abilities, we doused our little flames, packed up and headed down the trail.

We started out stiff and sore and bruised and blistered, and the packs just got heavier with every mile. The next time the trail came near the lakeshore, we took the opportunity to cool off.

Elizabeth soaked her feet. I waded in up to my knees. Luke just walked straight out into the lake.

Thus refreshed, we continued on.

Just before the mile 17 mark we came to Russell Park, a full-service park and campground. Luke said, “Welp, I think we’ve learned everything useful here. Wanna call a Lyft?”

“What? Admit defeat? Accept failure?” I rubbed my bruised hips.

“I mean, we came to learn. We learned.”

“That’s a good point. Let’s call a Lyft.”

So we took a Lyft back to our car. Luke was right, to keep hiking would have been pointless masochism.

There was a yellow slip on our windshield warning us that we weren’t supposed to leave cars overnight in overflow parking areas, and further offenses would result in citations. Duly noted.

I’m SO sore today. But I’ve already started a list of future gear upgrades, and I’m looking forward to our next trial run.

 

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Animals, environment, Family, kids, Life, maps, Travel, Wildlife | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Adventures in Nepal XIII: Patale Chhango

On January 25, Emma and Elizabeth went to see a waterfall.

Interesting backstory: a Swiss couple with the surname Davis went swimming there in 1961, and the wife drowned. English-speaking visitors started calling the place “Davis Falls.” In the Nepali language, this is commonly pronounced as “Devis.” Also, “Dev” and “Devi” are popular names in Nepal. So now, when you try to find out what the waterfall’s actual damn name is so you can write a blog post about it, you find the waterfall listed on various sites as Devi’s Fall, Devis Falls, Davis Falls, Hell’s Falls or its Nepali name, Patale Chhango, which means “Underworld Waterfall.”

The girls took a colorful Pokhara bus to their destination.

Just a guy out walking his water buffaloes.

A theme park has developed around the waterfall…

…featuring a scale model of the Annapurna mountain range…

…assorted shrines and tributes…

…a “luck pond,” or what we would call a wishing well…

(try to land your coin on the little platform in the center for good luck)

…some fun photo ops…





…and a traditional Nepali house.

Adorable Emma is adorable.

Finally, down to see the falls.

The stream flows from Phewa Tal, eventually forming a tunnel in the rock and creating a semi-underground waterfall that you can only see from a certain angle. Here’s a pretty section of cliff wall along the descent:

The stream in its deepening bed:

First glimpse of the fall:

There it is!

Shortly after the fall, the stream flows into Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave…but that’s another blog post.

Back up to the surface.

Bonus pic of the friendship bracelets from the Tibetan weaver:

To be continued!

Categories: environment, Friends, Holidays, Life, Nepal, Travel | Tags: | 3 Comments

Weekly Sketch: J is for Juniper

I dabbled in color this week.

I’ve always known juniper berries were used to flavor gin, but I never really thought of them as edible until my uncle came to visit us in Austin and we took him hiking around Mount Bonnell. It had been a rainy winter, and the juniper berries were exceptionally big and round and vibrant. My uncle got very excited and started eating them right off the trees. So I tried some. To my surprise they were sweet and tasty, although the pits were a bit piney. I am now a fan of the humble juniper!

Categories: Artwork, environment, Family, food, Health, Life, Nutrition, trees, Weekly Sketch | Tags: | Leave a comment

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