An Eclipsed Trip

Scott and I were able to go on a four-day road trip to see the total eclipse recently.  We traveled into Kansas and found it to be more than fields of corn.  I had no clue there were so many rolling hills and beautiful places here; we have been to the Witchita area and found it to be prairies and F-L-A-T.  However, as we drove up I-69, this was not the Kansas we experienced before.

While we drove our way up to the Kansas City, Kansas, area to visit our friend Amy and view the eclipse, Scott and I visited two new Kansas State Parks, Elk City State Park and Eisenhower State Park.  These would be the first two parks for this state for us and we were not disappointed at all.

Elk City State Park was beautiful.  As we drove through the park we found amazing oak and hickory trees surrounding the campsites with full hook-ups.  I could actually see the Beast parked in the spots and us hiking along the many trails and enjoying the lake.

If you drive out of the park, you will find a road that will take you to an overlook of the lake.  It goes up, up, up to a stone building and a fantastic view.

The plaque on the building says, “This overlook and its vistas of America are dedicated to the memory of Tulsa District employees and those citizens who have made significant contributions to the mission of the U.S. Army Corps of  Engineers.  Those who are honored, while from many walks of life, were united in their dedication to help build a stronger and better nation.  Today their efforts live on in the memories of their families and co-workers who look to their examples as guideposts for the future.”

I just fell in love with the view and the fact that it had a connection with Tulsa, a place that has deep roots in our lives.  It has made this place special for us and I look forward to spending more time.  It always amazes me how we seem to find some type of connection with the parks we visit. Here it was an outlook.

Yes, you see that right, we went to Kansas and visited Eisenhower State Park.  But wait, didn’t we just leave Eisenhower State Park where I park hosted?  Yes, but that was in Texas on Lake Texoma. These two parks are totally different, but both are fantastic to visit.  We were able to stop and chat with some of this park’s Park Hosts and they had some very funny stories, like most hosts do.  In my experience at the Texas Eisenhower, we would have many calls for the Kansas park; turns out they had many calls for the Texas park too.  The host we spoke with at the Park Store said she had a man come in for his reservation, but there was nothing there for him because he had made it for the Texas park.  I know it has happened at the park in Texas because I came across it happening.  It can be frustrating, but it has taught me to be a bit more careful when making our reservations.

Photo from Eisenhower State Park website.

The Kansas’ Eisenhower is a good example of the rolling plains you will find in the state.  There are not as many trees as Elk City State Park, where we visited earlier that morning, but you will find plenty of trees within each of the campsites and the normal full hook-ups.  Both of us liked the feel of the park and how they provided plenty of opportunities for shade and beating the summer heat.  The shade covers were unique and fun.  We eventually drove the full park and found ourselves ready to head towards Kansas City to spend time with our friend Amy.

Sunday morning the three of us were up and ready to hit a Missouri State Park named Weston Bend State Park just across the Missouri River from Leavenworth, Kansas.  It was our first park in the state of Missouri and it was perfect.  The park system, as you can see from the above photo, is celebrating their 100 year anniversary, which thrills us because we get to celebrate along with them.  The day was perfect for this visit and we were able to take a nice hike along one of the more difficult trails Scott and I have taken.

We took a mixture of the Harpst, Northridge, and Paved Bike Trails. I found myself wondering if we were crazy to take this mixture, but I really had an amazing time.  Our friend Amy is an avid hiker and is in excellent shape so knowing that I was able to keep up with her on her slower pace made me feel as if I was a bit accomplished.  I have not been able to do much hiking since we moved back up to Tulsa from Eisenhower (the Texas one) so I was needing to grab my outdoorphines.

One of the things Scott and I are trying to do is get out of the house and do new things.  Doing this we have found ourselves meeting new, interesting people; tasting unique, cultural foods; and visiting fun, out-of-our-way places.  We have, in this process, discovered so many things about ourselves as individuals and a couple.  Myself, I never thought I would be doing the things we do because I was never one to enjoy the outdoors, but I am riding a bike, hiking trails, and going to new places.  The one thing I have learned from all this is that we can’t lock ourselves away and expect experiences to come to us, we have to step out of our comfort zone and just try.

On Monday we were on a mission, we had a full eclipse to observe.  In order to see the full eclipse though w had to find the right place.  Scott and Amy had decided to look at White Cloud, Kansas, for the viewing.  To get there we opted to take the Glacial Hills Scenic Drive and it did not disappoint.

 

It was almost surreal to think about the glacier that traveled across these hills leaving the large stone deposits to create the rolling hills we drove past filled with green fields of corn and soybeans.  As we came closer and closer to our destination, you could see people lining up along edges of fields preparing for the eclipse. This was a once in a lifetime chance and it seemed as if everyone was showing up to experience it.

An hour and a half after leaving Amy’s house, we arrived in White Cloud and the end (or beginning) of the Glacier Hills Scenic Drive.  Here we found a marker for the for the Lewis & Clark Trail and information about the drive.  Unfortunetly, the sky was overcast and Scott and Amy decided to go further north into Nebraska.

We still had time to get ourselves up to our eclipse viewing destination Indian Cave State Park, we just had to get moving because the bridge to take us directly there was being worked on and we had to take a detour.

Within forty-five minutes we arrived at Indian Cave State Park in the pouring rain.  It was raining so hard we were not able to stop for an entry photo.  It was not looking good for the eclipse, but we were at our first Nebraska State Park and it was beautiful even in the rain.  Fortunately for us, the rain stopped within the first twenty minutes of our arrival.  Driving through the park to visit the cave where you could view prehistoric Native American petroglyphs.  It was a little difficult to view them because of the many decades of people scratching their names in the same rocks, but you can find the petroglyphs if you look.  It caused us to question what the tribe’s elders thought of the petroglyphs and how much trouble the “artists” got in to from their graffiti.

Finishing our viewing of the cave, we looked for a good spot to view the full eclipse.  The sky was overcast and it was too late for us to find another location to do the viewing, so we were now committed to this location.  From the shore of the Missouri River, Scott and I set ourselves ready for the on-coming eclipse with our special NASA approved glasses while our friend Amy decided to climb the trail at Trailhead 11 and enjoy a run during the eclipse.

As the moon began it’s path across the sun, Scott took photos and I pouted because the viewing was awful.  We were able to see the beginning stages on the sun, but because of the overcast sky we were not able to view the full eclipse.  However, we did experience the darkness and the 360 degree twilight.  I actually saw some fireflies in the middle of the day and that was pretty cool.  There will be another total eclipse traveling across the United States in 2024 and that gives us another opportunity.

Just as suddenly as the excitement began, people started packing up and leaving.  Having been lucky enough to not come across lots of traffic while we were enroute, we were going to pay our dues on the way out.  What should have been a twenty-minute drive took us an hour and a half!

Even though we were not able to view the eclipse, we were able to come closer to our State Park Goal by four new State Parks, visit a new state, and, most importantly, spent some amazing time with our good friend Amy.  It was such a fantastic trip and I can’t wait to go back to the Kansas City area and see what else we can find.

 

 

 

 

On Top Of An Enchanted Rock

On Top Of An Enchanted Rock

In 2016 Scott and I were just over 20,000 miles in travel miles; this included a trip to San Francisco, Yosemite, and Athens, Georgia. We also visited Oklahoma and the Western edges of Arkansas using up about 9,000 miles for all of that, the left over miles were in Texas. We are actually focused on visiting all 95 of the Texas State Parks and have managed to visit 48 of those before the end of the year. This took us all over the plains areas of the state, the piney woods, and even into the Hill Country just north of the Austin area. Fortunately, we also were able to visit the far southwestern area of the Davis Mountains helping to give us many, many miles of travel in Texas.

Over the first three weeks of January 2017, we have worked hard at not traveling outside the Dallas-Fort Worth area; but instead, we are finding things locally to keep us entertained. However, we were not able to tame the travel bug much longer. Since I was having to attend the Texans for State Parks Board Meeting in Austin, Scott and I decided it would be the perfect jumping off point to visit a few new-to-us Texas State Parks west of Austin. He took off Thursday and Friday from work and we were set for a good amount of traveling on a four day weekend.

Thursday morning we left later than we had expected from our friends John and Faye’s, but it was worth spending a few more hours with good friends. They are always generous and happy to play host to us. They sent us on our way and we headed to our first of eight state parks, two of which were the only ones not new for us.  We needed to move quickly, but stopped to view a couple of the scenic overlooks on our way towards Inks Lake State Park.


We stayed at Inks Lake State Park for two nights because they had an available cabin. Unfortunately, weekends in Texas there are rarely campsites or cabins available, no matter the time of year. If you are expecting to stay within the Texas State Park system, especially on weekends, you must make reservations as soon as you know when you are planning to visit, even then you are not always able to get a cabin.


We arrived at Inks, obtained our cabin key, and dropped off bedding, clothing and other such things then immediately headed towards Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.  The is located just south of Llano off highway 16. Just before reaching the turn off (RM965), we noticed a sign that said, “Closed When Flashing – Enchanted Rock State Natural Area 9 miles.” It was not flashing, but according to Texas Hill Country website, the pack fills up fast on weekends and is closed due to lack of parking space and the insane amount of people.  Fortunately, we were there on a Thursday so it was not full, but there were a lot of people.

This location is the site of a huge pink granite rock that stands 1825 feet high and is one of only two such sites like this in the United States; the other location is Stone Mountain located just northeast of Atlanta, Georgia. While the Texas batholith is much smaller than the one in Georgia, it is still impressive. Both of these granite rocks were once magma chambers for what was once volcanos.  Over time, the magma became granite and the soil around them was eroded away leaving these beautiful stones.


This giant rock welcomes all who wish to climb its seemingly smooth surface to enjoy a unique landscape called sky islands and vernal pools. Here we found what could be compared to tide pools only with cacti and lizards. These depressions shelter different types of plants and animals that have adapted to this hot/cold, windy, and barren environment. In fact, by studying these depressions, ecologists learn how plants and animals come together and live in this habitat; how they modify their environment and help develop soils where there is no soil; and, how plant and animal communities are created and change over time and situation.

In the stone, as we climbed we saw long lines of crystals which have been created by an intense pressure of earth movement and the heat from having been a magma chamber.  Unfortunately, I am not a geologist so I do not know all the right terms and explanations. I do know when the sun hits the granite just right, you can see the crystals within it shine and shimmer reflecting the rays of light.


Scott and I took our time to climb this giant rock, which is an estimated 45-minute climb. Unsurprisingly, it took us over an hour, but we were more concerned with my knee and our safety. Taking it slowly, we took many breaks so we could evaluate my pain level; they were definitely needed breaks for this, resting, and drinking water. Neither of us are use to the hiking, especially such a vertical path; however, we were both determined to reach the top to see the view and to find the survey marker we were positive would be there.

At one point, I almost gave up. I was two-thirds of the way up and I was just exhausted, of course, the knee was telling me off at this point. I told Scott to just continue and I would wait for him. He suggested we sit and drink some water and rest a bit. This was definitely good advice because about fifteen minutes later I was ready to attack the rest of the climb. He reminded me it was okay if I didn’t go, but asked me if I would regret not reaching the top. I would have regretted it very much. This was something I had on my personal “bucket list” and I decided I was just tired and not in much pain.  I was wearing my knee brace and using my trekking poles so the knee did not have as much pressure as it would have.  It always amazes me how using the correct equipment can make an activity so much more enjoyable.

Upon reaching the final five feet of the climb, the sky island made itself known and I was stunned at the beauty of vernal pools. There were small trees, cacti, pools of creatures and algae, I even found one of in the shape of a lopsided heart containing fern looking plants. I was amazed to see the life growing out of the large, round granite rock. Then I looked up and saw the surrounding landscape. My eyes tried to take it all in at once, only to find I was tearing up. I had made it to the top and was able to see the quick rising hills all around the country side full of cedars, scrub oaks and green winter grasses. Needless to say, I was completely overwhelmed and thrilled at my success.


Suddenly, Scott says, “There has to be a geological survey marker somewhere on this rock!” He quickly walked towards the location he believed to be the highest spot on the rock and there it was; the US Geological Society had placed their mark on the hill to show that it was significant. For hikers today, it is a symbol that they have beaten nature and achieved a great height. For me, it was proof that if I had to stay focused and not give up; I could not have done that without my husband, he encouraged me and reminded me not to give up.


Eventually, we decided it was time to climb down the granite mountain and prepare to take some night sky photos, which was the true reason we had visited this park. The Milky Way was supposed to show itself near the center between the two granite domes and he was determined to get a very nice shot of it. Fortunately for us, I had packed hot chocolate and plenty of warm layers. It was so extremely cold and I hate being cold.

The nine figures at the top of the rock are people.

At one point, while he was taking photos, we heard the worst sound (link goes to TheCrotalusfreak‘s YouTube channel).  It sounded like a person in pain screaming in bursts of three. It sent chills up my spine for sure. I am very prone to my imagination running off with me and it had jumped out of my skin and was running around in fear. It didn’t help any that Scott says, “I sure hope that’s not a person hurt or worse.” I then began to think the worst. Come to find out from another couple who were also taking night sky photos, they had seen a bobcat approaching. They shined their flashlights at him and scared him off. I felt relief to know it was nothing more than a cat named Bob.


At one point the cold had convinced Scott it was time to pack up and return to our little cabin at Inks Lake State Park. We had an hours drive late in the evening, but it was sure to be an interesting one. Deer roam all over the area and often there are carcasses near the road showing the dangers for the wildlife among humans. We actually saw about three deer, but, fortunately for them and us, we had no ill-fated meeting.

This deer was hanging around at Inks Lake State Park when first arrived, he was one of at least a dozen we saw that day before the drive in the dark.

Upon arriving at our home for the next two days, we made beds and promptly went to sleep. The day seemed as if it had been 24 hours long between the driving, climbing, and adventuring. We were ready for a rest because the next morning we would be up and ready to adventure again at a new-to-us Texas State Park; Pedernales Falls State Park would be our 50th State Park and we ready to celebrate.

50th Texas State Park and Loving Every Minute of It!

50th Texas State Park and Loving Every Minute of It!

Scott and I finally made it to our 50th Texas State Park, Pedernales Falls State Park, just outside of Johnson City.  We were able to do a little hiking and just enjoy being in the outdoors. While we were there, we took a few minutes and did a quick Outside Our Box so we could celebrate our latest goal achievement.

We had such an amazing time getting lost on the hike and seeing some of the Pedernales River.  The camping looked to be clean and comfortable so we will be looking to visit again so we can kayak the river eventually.

Thanks for all the support all of you have shared and all the encouragement.

SFO Vacation – Part Three – Adventure in The City By The Bay

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While we were visiting San Francisco, California, we took approximately 4,000 photos on just Scott’s camera; this does not include my phone camera or his. That is a lot of photos to process and explains why we have taken so long to get only four days processed.  Please enjoy the photos from our Tuesday and Wednesday of our January trip.

Tuesday, January 19, was an early and wet morning for us.  Our friend dropped us off at one of the BART stations so we could head into the famous city by the bay.  The BART travels all round the Bay Area while the MUNI is only within the actual city and has some really great deals for visitors of the area. We decided to go with the three day pass because it was actually cheapest for us with unlimited travel on the MUNI.  I loved riding on them and really enjoyed the vintage cable cars we were able to ride those two days.sfo1 Anyway, we were loaded up with our packs filled with clothing, food and camera stuff while we wearing plenty of layers and rain gear as we waited for the right train.  I must say we had an amazing view as we waited, however, my photos just did not do it justice.  This was definitely a test for both of us where map reading were concerned.  However, the transit system has a really great set of maps to get you where you need to go within and outside of the city.
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One of the wonderful things I loved about taking the train into to San Francisco was the fact that there is a lot of street art along the rail side of buildings that you can only see from the train.  Unfortunately, we were moving way too fast to take any decent photos of any of it.  There was also a difference in the style of (rail side) street art from city to city.  I was very thrilled to see the art, as you know my love for street art.  This was only a taste, however, of what was to come because we would be entertained by more than just the paintings, but by street entertainers or buskers.
sfo3Once we emerged from the subterranean depths of San Francisco, we found ourselves drenched and umbrellas destroyed from the rain and swift wind wanting to push us down and roll us down the street.  We gathered our composure and headed to the nearest cable car so we could go find breakfast at Crepevine Restaurant on Church Street.  Since going gluten-free I have not had a crepe in a long time so I was extremely excited by this and had been planning that specific meal for weeks.
sfo4 sfo6We finished breakfast and then headed out for more adventures.  Since we could not check-in at our hotel until after 3:00PM, we had to explore the city with our packs in tow.  However, this didn’t seem to be an issue since we saw many people with packs; unfortunately this was due to them being homeless. I am accustomed to the homeless here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but they are mostly hidden here by overpasses and shelter/help locations.  In San Francisco, they are not hidden at all.  At night you will see them sleeping in doorways of closed businesses and alleyways to protect them from the elements.  You will see them on street corners during the day busking and begging.  Never once were we treated badly by any of them and we were able to share what little change we had.  This is one thing that you need to be ready for when you visit because it is a bit of a culture shock.  Don’t be afraid of them though because they are not looking to rob you blind, just looking for a bit of your compassion.
sfo5One of the things I love about many of our trips are the surprise of finding embroidery where I do not normally expect it.  This trip was not lacking in that area.  There were many amazing pieces of bead work, goldwork and costuming. Unfortunately the shops selling the purse and coat bedecked with beads, gems and embroidery knew they could sell them for a small fortune, but they were definitely a pleasure to look at.
DSC03980 The dress you see on the mannequin was made for the San Francisco Ballet Troup’s production of Romeo and Juliet.   It was stunning.DSC04357We went up and down as many streets as we could looking at the many different churches found within San Francisco as well as everything else to see.  These churches were amazing to see because of the architecture and artwork outside and inside as well.DSC03954DSC03951DSC04230DSC04232DSC04239DSC04124Then of course there was all the street art.  I have never seen so much within one place.
DSC03970DSC03985DSC04182DSC04190DSC04198Of course it was not just paintings on buildings that we found to be amazing on the subject of street are, but there were statues and more.DSC04243DSC04307DSC04321Then you had interesting lights and rows upon rows of flags everywhere.DSC04206DSC04208
They also had these kiosks all over the city with bits of art and history inside them!

DSC04361We also ventured to the area the City Hall was located.  I am honestly not quite sure how we arrived there, but we found it.  That is pretty much how the day went actually.  We would be riding a cable car and I would see something that looked interesting to me and tell Scott we were getting off.  I never heard a complaint from him so I am assuming he was on autopilot and ready to take some fun photos.
DSC04165 DSC04174One of the things I had planned was to visit a specific shop to purchase a button for my “May the Hands” sampler project.  I wanted something vintage looking that would fit it with the nature theme of the project.  It took a while, but I managed to find one and enjoyed every minute of it.  The place is called Britex Fabrics and it is full of wonderfulness!
DSC03896DSC03899DSC03904DSC0390320160504_093953_resized We were only a block or so from the hotel at this point so we checked in and dropped off our packs.  The hotel The Park Hotel at Union Square is an older place that is not expensive at all, especially for San Francisco.  We were rather shocked to find them next to the Union Square area where the high end shops were located.  The rooms are sparse with a bed, dresser, desk, tiny fridge and a couple of lights.  That’s it.  Most of the rooms do not have bathrooms in them so you have to go down the hall to a shared bathroom, but we were lucky and they offered us one with a bathroom for the same price we were going to pay for one without.  The manager said they were in between conferences so there were plenty of rooms.
park hotelPhoto taken from the Oyster.com website.
DSC04369Going up to your room, you are greeted by a rather old elevator.  We honestly wondered if it had been here ever since the rebuilding of San Francisco after the Great Earthquake of 1906.  It had amazing decorative touches.
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The room itself was bare, but very nice without any type of bugs.
The bed was comfortable and the view was interesting.
room7 DSC04366 room3room5To the left…
room6to the right.

Once we were checked-in our room and unpacked, we decided to walk over to the Broadway Tunnel under Russian Hill just a few blocks over from the hotel.  I had been doing a lot of research of San Francisco and this was one of the five tunnels I wanted to see.  Unfortunately it was the only tunnel we were able to see while we were there this time.
DSC04365We then walked over to Chinatown and ventured in a bit.  It was nothing like I had expected it to be, but all of the touristy shop owners were ready to sell us cheesy souvenirs.  I am apparently too nice to tell people to bugger off because Scott had to save me from the harkers many times.  DSC03923DSC03925DSC03943DSC03945And of course I found rubber duckies so there had to be a photo of that so everyone would believe me!
DSC03948Another area that was important for me to see was the Portsmouth Square near the Financial District. This was the first public square in San Francisco.  It is now a playground for both children and adults.  You will find the Asian community busy playing checkers as if it were a sport.  They are all gathered around different players, giving advice and placing bets.  It was a rather interesting thing to see.
DSC03997DSC04001DSC04010Noticing something interesting I stated towards the Financial District.  I could see what looked like three statues on top of a building.  If you will take a look at the first photo of the Portsmouth Square, you will see a large building with three items on the roof way in the distance.  That is what caught my eye and if you have learned anything at all from our blog it is that I am a curious person and it usually ends up in an adventure of some sort.
DSC04021These are three of the twelve that sit upon the room of the Atlas Building.  They are the Corporate Goddesses that watch over the San Francisco Financial District. There were designed and created by artist Muriel Castanis in 1982.  There really hasn’t been much written about the history in what I could find online; however there is a great blog post about them on Odd Things I’ve Seen.

Realizing the time we decided it was time for a meal.  We had over 20,000 steps and two dozen trips on cable cars in just one day.  To say we were exhausted would say little about how tired we were.  However, the day was not over.  We still needed to find dinner and plan out our next day in the city.  So we found a very nice Irish restaurant called Johnny Foley’s Irish House and enjoyed a plate between us. There was so much food I was glad we shared a plate because I had been promised cheesecake!  Trying to find the Cheesecake Factory was a bit of chore, but we were able to locate it on the top floor of the Macy’s Building right off of the Union Square.
sfo9Unfortunately Union Square was in total chaos due to some repairs and road work happening.  However, we were able to take our photo in front of the “Hearts in San Francisco” statue.  It was a sign of even more amazing adventure the next day when we went to visit the Golden Gate Bridge.

As we slowly made our way back to the hotel about 9:00PM we could hear the people below.  I climbed into bed tired and sore, but so happy to have finally made it to the city by the bay.  As I lay my head down upon the pillow, I remembered hearing the music of buskers below playing music sweetly and thinking, “What a wonderful end to a fantastic day.”

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Plugging In While Plugged Out

 Have you ever camped? I mean really camped; sleeping in a tent, cooking over an open fire, or relaxed without any cellphone or internet service? Scott and I have camped many times and cooked over an open fire, but we never really camped without being plugged into the internet and cellphone service before. This past weekend was just that!
 
We were unsure how things would go because we had no reception at all on our phones and I was unable to Instagram, Facebook or blog about our adventure the full weekend. However, the experience left us looking for more opportunities to do just that again – be completely disconnected from the electronic, internet world.
 
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What are the benefits I can hear you asking with thoughts thinking of nothing but bordom left to happen. Well, there was not one thing boring about this whole weekend. When we arrived, we had to set up camp. We then checked the park out via the truck. Once we finished that, we found some things to look at and discuss between the two of us. Things like what each other knew about the CCC, which trails we would venture out on Friday morning and when we would cook dinner. Then things got really weird; we met the neighbors!
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     (Here Gladys holds Chewy while Chewy and her Robin smile affectionaly at each other.)
 
Friday was one of those day where the breeze was perfect and the sky was bright. It made the morning hike delightful. As usual, Scott and I took photos and chatted about what we knew and didn’t know about the wild flowers, trees and geology. I was able to find a shell fossil and I did my normal happy dance. There was so much to explore and, because it was a CCC park, we were able to relax at different times upon the benches made in the 1930’s.
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The Texans for State Parks Conference stated Friday evening with an informal discussion of what each of the Friends groups were doing for and in their state parks.  The groups are as different to each other as the parks are to the other parks.  There was Colorado Bend State Park with their caving, trail building and primative lifestyle; Brazos Bend State Park having a strict volunteer program where their members are happy to spend 48 or more volunteer hours giving trail tours, working in the gift shop/nature center, and presenting programs throughout the year; and then there were the other groups like Fort Boggy State Park who were actively rebuilding cabins, Cedar Hill working to fix flood damaged marina/day-use areas, and Lake Brownwood and Lake Cleburne encouraging guests to celebrate the seasons with Christmas Decorating Contests and Spring Runs.  So much diversity and yet they were doing the same thing; they were enjoying their park while sharing their love of those parks with others.
That evening Scott and I were also made aware of the Northeast Texas Trails (NeTT) system that has been started.  It will eventually be a bicycling and hiking path that will ramble along 130 miles across Northeastern Texas from Farmington, Texas, to New Boston, Texas.  They have some trails completed; cleaning up and preparing others, and working to obtain other parts of the property they are supposed to have.  Earl Ericson has been working tirelessly to get this project up and going.  He lost his leg when a car hit him while he was on a bicycle.  He has made it his life’s work to get something for those who want to hike or bike safely.  Scott and I can see this being something we can get behind and get extremely excited about.  It would be a wonderful opportunity to train for the Camino de Santago in Spain.
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After all the presentations were finished, we headed to our little campsite home.  There was time for hot cocoa and chatting beside Robin & Gail’s campfire.  It was peaceful and relaxing without a television, laptop, or cellphones.  It made an end to a good Friday.
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Saturday we had to get up and head back to the Oak Lodge for a full day of meetings about legislation, volunteers, and panels.  Because Scott wanted the pre-sunrising light, we left earlier than we needed to.  He went to the Grand Staircase nearby to take photos while I went in to help set up breakfast for everyone attending the conference.  I was really glad to help since we were not really part of any group there.  This, however, didn’t stop everyone from welcoming us and including us in the questions and discussions.  Unfortunately, we were one of the younger people who were attending and this brought up a few concerns within the panels.  It seems that a majority of volunteers within the Friends groups are the retired, older generation.  Often this causes some of the needs to modernize to be overlooked and feared.  Fortunately, there are some who are younger and are helping the state parks to move forward in the area of media, internet, and technology.
Scott was able to connect with Barbara who is one of the equestrian people working on the future park Palo Pino Mountains State Park.  It was really nice for him to get positive feedback that he is welcome to jump in and take part within the group.  This is one of his favorite places to do astrophotography and he wants to invest his time and energy on it.  Myself, I found the NeTT and the administrative part to the Volunteer side of things.  I see a need for those who are planning to do the NeTT in one go whether hiking or biking and I feel excited in how I can help.  There is also the administrative jobs I enjoy doing that the Texas Parks and Wildlife offices in Austin need help with.  We also have found a place for us within the Brazos/Paluxy area so we have plenty of opportunities for us.  Now to decide how to make all of this work.  I realize it is one step at a time, but at least we know we belong.
That evening we went back to the neighbor’s campfire and were able to enjoy the company of Robin, Gail, Gladys and her family.  We were pleasently surprised by Johnny as he pulled out his guitar and began singing.  Scott was in heaven.  Since we decided to step away from the SCA he has not been able to partake in what are called Bardic Circles.  He has missed entertaining and being entertained around a campfire enjoying the time with friends.  It was a wonderful night and we so hated to see it end.  There will be more camping trips with Robin and Gail’s group, that we have been promised.
Once we were packed up Sunday morning, we said our good-bye to our new friends, hopped in the truck and headed home.  When I asked him what was his favorite part of the long weekend, Scott told me it was Saturday night around the campfire.  Then he added that he was happy we had finally found a place to belong.
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