Winter

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

Winter Woods

The stars and my schedule finally aligned enough to let me join a few other members of my riding club for a trail ride at Bob Jones Park in Southlake.

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I have mentioned before how bleak and dreary the Metroplex looks in winter, but even in the off-season this is a beautiful park.

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Mahogany and I are absolutely loving the treeless saddle. She’s like a different horse now, so relaxed and agreeable. It’s killing me to realize how much of our past trouble was caused by something as easy to fix as an ill-fitting saddle.

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I will admit that about two hours into the ride, my butt was missing the nice comfy seat of my Circle Y saddle. But I think I can resolve that issue (and a couple of others) with the right saddle pad.

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The equestrian trails at Bob Jones Park lie along the southwestern shore of Grapevine Lake.

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Mahogany was a surprisingly good sport about venturing out into the lake, as long as her buddy Kokomo went too.

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This is such a great place to ride! I can’t wait to go back.

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Animals, environment, Friends, Horses, Life, trail rides, trees, Weather, Winter | Tags: | Leave a comment

Spring Break, Part I

My blog hibernates during DFW winters. There’s not much here that inspires me to reach for my camera during the bleak gray months, although I did get a few nice shots this year at the place where I board Mahogany.

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I’ve been less and less satisfied with the performance of my aging camera, so I finally picked up a new one earlier this month. The dreary winter landscapes didn’t offer much worth aiming it at until Elizabeth’s bff flew out from California to spend spring break with us. She arrived on a Saturday night and left a week later on a Saturday morning: a week of gorgeous spring weather bookended by chilly drizzles. I had Tuesday and Thursday off work that week, so we crammed all of the sightseeing we could manage into those two days.

Our Tuesday morning began at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens. I’m still getting the hang of my new camera; my old one excelled at outdoor shots and struggled in indoor settings, while the new one seems to do just the opposite. I do love the way the new one captures the luminous quality of sunlight.

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The weather couldn’t have been nicer. Mid-80s and sunny, with a light breeze that smelled like spring.

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Love the giant Texas bluebonnet.

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Of course the Japanese Garden was the highlight of the day.

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Hopeful koi are hopeful.

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After the Botanic Gardens, we headed downtown to the Water Gardens.

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And from there we went to the Stockyards.

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Don’t tease the mechanical horses!

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Saunders Park is still my favorite little hidden gem of the area.

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All in all, a fun day!

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Next: Thursday in Arlington.

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Birthdays, environment, Family, food, Friends, Horses, kids, Life, Love, trail rides, trees, Uncategorized, Weather, Wildlife, Winter | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

A Few Words About Depression

Sometime in January I started to experience the symptoms of clinical depression. It was very gradual, but over the next few weeks I lost interest in most of the things that used to make me happy, like writing and drawing and reading and hiking. I felt like all the life was draining out of me. I wasn’t sleeping well, but it was hard to find the motivation to even get out of bed unless there was someplace I had to be. Riding Mahogany still offered a temporary relief from the dull numbness, but between my job and the weather I’ve been going weeks at a time without seeing her at all.

I know that depression is a complex and sensitive topic, but in this particular case I knew what was wrong. The friends I used to hang out with and laugh with and cry with and share my most intimate thoughts with are now physically unavailable to me. We live in different states. Facebook is a lifesaver for sure, but it can’t provide the sort of personal interaction and platonic physical affection that I apparently require to thrive. I haven’t had any luck yet making those kinds of friends in Texas. Although, as Giles once said to Buffy, “I almost made a new one, which I believe is statistically impossible for a person of my age.”

Anyway, the holidays had also taken their toll. This was the first Christmas and New Year in my entire life that I have ever spent completely alone. The kids were in California with their dad, and I was here in Texas discovering that working in retail during the holidays is its own kind of special. I made a few efforts to share some of my favorite parts of Christmas with my coworkers, but it obviously wasn’t the same.

After the holidays, some new issues cropped up. These were not problems that I could fix or change; my options were to endure them or walk away from them. And if I had had my close friends around me, I think it might have all been endurable. In my depressed state, walking away was definitely the right choice. The whole situation was starting to affect my health, which is where I draw a pretty hard line.

As soon as I made the decision to change what I could and leave behind what I couldn’t, the fog started to lift. As I implemented the changes, the numbness went away completely. I still have some bad days now and then, because it’s painful to walk away from things that you would prefer to have in your life, even when you know they’re not good for you. But that kind of grief has a keener edge than depression, so at least it lets you know you’re still alive.

And that’s enough exposition. The reason I came here to write this post is because I haven’t had much firsthand experience with depression, unless you count the last year of my marriage, and now that I have I would like to offer a personal observation.

When I finally admitted to my loved ones what I was dealing with, they were there for me. All we had was Facebook and my cellphone, but their love and support and well-wishes shone warmly through the fog I was drifting in. It made such a difference. Friends are so fucking important.

But there’s something else I need to say, as lovingly and respectfully as I can. There was one person…and I know that this person meant well. I know for an absolute fact that this person loves me and wants me to be happy and healthy and have a successful life. But when I began speaking openly about my depression, this person began treating me like A Depressed Person. Like that was my new identity, my defining characteristic. They would talk about all the changes I was going to have to make in my diet and lifestyle and whatnot, as if I weren’t already doing the best I could with what I had to work with. And I was like, “This isn’t my normal state of being,” and they were like, “That was then, this is now.”

Life tip: When someone is muddling along in a numb fog of depression, they don’t want to hear, “This is your life now.” They want to hear, “It’s going to be okay. I love you, I’m here for you, you’re important to me. We’ve shared some great times together, and we’ll share more in the days to come. The best is yet to be.”

I feel like people need to understand that, but I’m not trying to hurt anyone here, so that’s all I’m going to say about it.

In related news, I have traded my retail job for one that I think is a better fit for me. I am infinitely grateful for everything that I’ve learned during the past year, but I never really felt like I belonged in retail. I’m back in the food industry now, where all of my earliest jobs were as a teen and young adult. Retail felt like a soulless alien world to me. Going back to working in a restaurant felt like walking into a crowded party where all the people seem vaguely familiar. Plus it’s closer to where I live, and I’ll probably end up making more money there. I was afraid it might not be strenuous enough and that I would gain back the weight I’d lost in the retail job, but it turns out I’m going to have to develop more upper body strength before I’ll be able to keep up with all the heavy lifting. So that should keep me nice and fit. And as an interesting bonus, most of the people I work with there have absolutely no concept of personal space. It’s a busy, crowded, interactive environment and there is more friendly oversharing and casual physical contact going on than I know what to do with. Which is great for someone like me who thrives on that sort of thing.

Maybe I’ll even make some new friends there. I never cared much for statistics anyway.

Categories: Family, Friends, Health, Horses, Life, Love, Weather, Winter, Work Life | Tags: | Leave a comment

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