Family

Parr Park Sprayground and Kimzey Park

Spring is creeping back into the Metroplex. This is a beautiful place three seasons of the year, but holy crap is it bleak in winter. I’m always so glad to see that first translucent shimmer of green in the treetops.

I had never seen Bob Jones Park in any season but winter, but on my last ride there I finally saw the first hints of green.

Mahogany is never calmer than when we are cruising through those woodsy trails. I think she and I are forest-loving kindred spirits. She is even becoming a pro at water crossings and lakes.

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The kids and I celebrated the return of spring by combining our first real hike of the year with the addition of two new parks to our collection: Parr Park Sprayground in Grapevine and Kimzey Park in Colleyville.

The parks ended up on my radar thanks to a metal pedestrian ramp that runs for no apparent reason up out of the Big Bear creekbed to the bridge where Pool Rd crosses the creek. There is no place to park nearby to take a closer look at it, and Google Maps was no help. This was a mystery that required solving!

Then Google added that trail system to its maps, and the mystery was solved: the ramp connects to a bike trail along Big Bear Creek. The trail was immediately added to my to-do list for when the weather warmed up. Our first attempt was rained out, but for our second try we got lovely 70º weather.

Parr Park Sprayground is a great water-spray park for small children, a sports park for older kids and a connection point for a much larger trail system for the rest of us.

The water features are not in operation this early in the year, but there is a great playground for younger kids (and for those of us who never outgrew our affinity for climbing stuff).

There are a few different trail options here. We chose the one that would take us to the ramp at Pool Rd.

Part of the path was labeled “Bluebonnet Trail,” but we saw a grand total of three bluebonnets. Here they are in all their Texan glory:

We reached the metal ramp more quickly than we had expected. When you cross Pool Rd, you also cross from Grapevine…

…into Colleyville.

Being the contentious rebels that we are, we opted to cross under the bridge rather than utilizing the ramp.

Once across Pool Rd, Google instructed us to turn left and take a public road to Kimzey Park, but I opted to turn right and stay on the bike trail because I thought I was better at reading maps than Google.

Yeah…the bike trail eventually dead-ended. So we ended up taking the long way around via Colleyville Blvd and LongWood Dr.

We got there eventually.

We found a tree that was wearing birds instead of leaves.

For the return trip, we followed Google’s advice and took the road. It was indeed the shortest route. We crossed atop Pool Rd this time and took the metal ramp back down, and then backtracked the rest of the way to Parr Park.

Our next stop was Chan’s Mongolian Grill, which is basically an all-you-can-eat version of Genghis Grill. My fortune cookie told me that it’s time for another road trip.

As soon as Texas gets a bit greener, I think I might take my fortune cookie’s advice.

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, environment, Family, Horses, kids, Life, maps, trail rides, Travel, trees, Weather, Winter | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Crystal Canyon, and Back to Bob Jones

Our most recent park discovery is Crystal Canyon Natural Area in Arlington.

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This is a smallish park with a single half-mile soft-surface trail loop.

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It packs a lot of appeal into a tiny package, thanks to the woodsy setting and some interesting geographical features. The creek is fantastic, but you have to go off-trail to explore it.

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The “canyon” part is what lured us to this park. We miss the mountains of California and were looking forward to a bit of climbing, so we were kind of disappointed by the overall flatness of the loop trail.

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But near the end, a smaller “desire path” branches off from the main trail and heads straight up the canyon wall. It’s not exactly rock-climbing, or even particularly steep, but it’s a nice little workout and offers a rewarding view from the top.

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In the end we gave Crystal Canyon three thumbs up, but mostly for the creek and the hill-climbing detour.

In other news, the Texas mud has finally killed my 19-year-old Ariat riding boots.

My new Ariats are waterproof. Let’s see if they’re a better match for the Texas climate.

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The day after my new boots arrived, I got to try them out at Bob Jones Park, which was just as awesome the second time around.

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This time I used my Professional’s Choice saddle pad, which puts a solid inch and a half of high-density foam between the treeless saddle (and my butt) and Mahogany’s spine and withers. It also has a cut-out over her withers, so there is no pressure on them.  It was very comfortable for both of us, but almost comically oversized for the saddle. Here is a picture of me taking a picture of sailboats on Grapevine Lake, in which you can see the pad and the saddle .

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On a related tangent, every time I see a photo of myself on a trail ride, I am jarred by how much my camera case disrupts the lines of my clothing. I’ve decided to buy a small tactical pack to hang on my saddle that will hold everything that I carry on rides: camera, phone, keys, etc. I much prefer having that stuff on me rather than my horse, because if we get separated only one of us knows how to use the phone. I think vanity is going to win this one, though. Also my keys jingle-jangle distractingly when I hang them from my belt loop, and my phone tends to work its way out of my pocket at the trot. So I guess the pack will solve three issues at once.

Anyway, beautiful park. I can’t wait to see it in the summertime.

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I have a future post brewing about all of the benefits, problems and solutions involved in transitioning to a treeless saddle. Stay tuned!

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Animals, environment, Family, Friends, Horses, kids, Life, trail rides, treeless saddle, Winter | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Thankful, 2016

The kids and I explored the trails at Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in Plano earlier this month when the weather cooled down for fall.

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It’s one of the nicest parks we’ve seen so far, but we caught it in the evening rush, so it was bustling with people out walking their dogs and unwinding after work. We even had to park in a shopping center up the street because the regular parking lot was full.

Arbor Hills has miles of woodsy trails and a pretty overlook with a nice view of the surrounding area.

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I am thankful to live in a place with so many beautiful spaces to explore.

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Luke’s robotic’s team took a respectable third place in a field of nine teams at a competition in Dallas.

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It was a fun experience. I am thankful that Luke and Elizabeth have so many opportunities here to develop their creativity and talents.

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Bass Hall hosted a free screening of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” to promote their stage production. Elizabeth had to work that day, but Luke and I went and had a great time. The Hall was decorated for the holidays and offered Christmas-themed gifts for sale. I was ridiculously excited to find an ornament-sized replica of the angels from the Grand Facade.

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After the show, Luke and I walked around a bit.

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I am thankful to live so close to two beautiful cities that enrich our lives in so many large and small ways.

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An unexpected car repair put my plan to buy a treeless saddle on hold and added a scary level of uncertainty to my holiday budget. Elizabeth responded to this by, quietly and with no fuss, doubling the amount of money she contributes to the household each week from her paychecks. She did this on her own initiative, without being asked – in fact, I assured her that she should not feel at all obligated to cover my debts –  for four weeks, until we knew that I would be able to pay the repair bill and still get the saddle. I am so thankful to have such a kind and gracious daughter. I am thankful for both of my children, they are the joy of my life.

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The first time I rode Mahogany in her new treeless saddle, I could feel the relief in her whole body. For that first test drive we stayed in the arena, just walking and trotting in big, easy loops while Mahogany gradually relaxed and her movements got freer and more confident. The saddle is supremely comfortable for both of us. We are still getting used to the new dynamic, and I may end up buying a different saddle pad to solve a few minor issues, but overall we both love this saddle and I wish I had bought one years ago. Yesterday we had a nice cruise out on the backroads, and Mahogany was so happy and responsive.

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I am thankful that this seems to be the answer to so many of the problems that we have been struggling with.

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Happy Thanksgiving to all!

 

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Animals, Artwork, environment, Family, Horses, kids, Life, Love, trail rides, trees, Weather | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Fort Worth Phantom

The kids and I have not had the chance to indulge our love of stage theater since we moved to DFW three years ago. Rebooting your whole life is expensive, yo.

But Texas has been pretty good to us. Last July when I saw that the Phantom of the Opera tour was coming to Fort Worth in October, I just about sprained my finger hitting the “Buy Tickets” button.

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I chose an afternoon weekday showing, because I don’t really like driving in the city at night or dealing with big crowds. The weather turned out to be absolutely gorgeous, and there was very little traffic on the drive in. We enjoyed a delicious lunch at The Cheesecake Factory and then walked across the street for the show.

So let me wax rhapsodic for a moment about Bass Performance Hall, because it is beautiful.

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I love the two 48-foot-tall angel statues on the Grand Facade. When I got home there was something like 65 photographs on my camera just of the angels.

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The mezzanine balcony offers a charming view of the Sundance Square area.

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The Hall’s acoustics are straight up magnificent. Every note from the orchestra, every word from the performers comes through with perfect clarity and resonance. The show itself is gorgeous. The Hall is smaller than I had expected, so our front-center-mezzanine seats put us right in front of the action. We had brought opera glasses, but the only times we used them were to look closely at small details like the monkey music box or the Phantom’s unmasked face. The sets are brilliant, the scene changes are clever and seamless.

I do have one minor complaint. So let me preface it by saying that the Phantom pretty much owned every scene he sang in. His voice is strong and thrilling and just the right amount of intimidating. But…I sensed no real chemistry between him and Christine. This was an angry, frustrated Phantom who seemed almost reluctant to touch the object of his obsession. Maybe the actor played it that way on purpose, I don’t know. But since the whole premise of the story revolves around the Phantom’s ability to mesmerize Christine with the seductive force of his passion, it definitely requires a bit of chemistry to work properly. For the first time ever, Raoul looked to me like the only sensible choice for Christine, with no emotional sacrifice necessary. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the show. But I went in expecting a sensual dance between Christine and the Phantom, and instead their interactions seemed tense and at times almost perfunctory.

Still a fantastic show. Afterward we walked back to the parking garage and decided to climb the stairs all the way up for a rooftop view.

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By the way, I don’t recommend doing this. As we were leaving, a cop let us know that everything above the third level of the parking garage is for city use only and not to be accessed by the public. Oops. To be fair, there was nothing posted in the stairwell about it.

All in all though, a lovely day in a lovely city. Bass Performance Hall is an absolute delight. We will be back!

 

 

Categories: Family, Fiction, kids, Life, Weather | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Chandor Gardens

I’m still shopping for an English saddle that will fit Mahogany’s very broad, very short back. I’ve noticed lately that even her Western saddle, which is plenty wide, has begun to bridge on her withers and loins. It’s a self-perpetuating problem, since the too-long saddle creates pressure points that cause her to raise her head and hollow her back, which over time changes her back muscles and makes the bridging worse.

So I drove to Weatherford to look at a promising-looking used English saddle. Since Luke and Elizabeth both had the day free, we decided to check out Chandor Gardens while we were in the neighborhood.

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The gardens were a labor of love by the English artist Douglas Chandor, who came to the U.S. in 1926 and moved to Weatherford in 1934.

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I love all the fun details, like this brick-and-gravel “labyrinth…”

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…the moon gate…

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…and this, whatever it is.

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The estate is smallish, but charming.

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We loved Chandor Gardens, but sadly, the saddle didn’t work out. I’ve decided to get an english-style treeless saddle, since at this point I’m out of other ideas within my price range. I like the idea of a treeless saddle anyway, even though most of them are kind of hideous. They do allow much closer contact between horse and rider. Got my fingers crossed that this is the solution I’ve been looking for.

 

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Animals, environment, Family, Gardening, Horses, kids, Life | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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