“The ballot is stronger than the bullet.”  -Abraham Lincoln

“The ballot is stronger than the bullet.” -Abraham Lincoln

The Illinois state slogan is “The Land of Lincoln” and while we were in Southern Illinois in September, we found this to be true because we were confronted with a bit of his history completely by chance.  While heading up to Great Cities State Park in Makanda, we found one of the three sites for the Alexander County Courthouse where Lincoln practiced law.

selfie with lincoln

As you probably already know, I am obsessed with county courthouses and am determined to visit every county in the United States.  This can be an issue sometimes when we are on the road towards our destination, but I am lucky to have a husband who enjoys the thrill of a good travel hunt and, in this case, encouraged me to go find one.  On Illinois State Route 3 we found a roadside park with a large historical marker.  We do not often stop to read the historical markers, but thankfully we did in this case.

welcome to illinois

We found the Alexandra County Courthouse once resided in Thebes, just a mile or two back from where we turned on to Route 3.  Since this was what I like to term “encouragement from serendipity,” we turned around and drove to the once bustling village to find a tiny community quietly living along the Mississippi River.  Driving up to the shoreline, we were pleasantly surprised with a view that was breathtaking.  Here we stood in the shadow of the Thebes Bridge crossing over the great river as it had done since it’s opening on April 18, 1905.

Thebes Bridge

The Thebes Bridge’s total length is 3,959 feet and is 104 feet above the Gathering Blue and was designed by Polish American engineer Ralph Modjeski in the continuous truss bridge style. The truss bridge is one of the oldest types of modern bridges and most commonly found in America.  However, many of these bridges are being demolished and replaced with new structures because of the time and wear on the metal making it unsafe for those using them. Thankfully this does not seem to be the case for this beautiful structure. (https://www.johnweeks.com/river_mississippi/pagesC/umissC14.html

As I am looking at this bridge and in awe of its presence, Scott points to a building high on the bluff behind us and says, “Now that house has one of the best views around here!”  I had to agree with him and found myself a bit jealous of whoever was lucky enough to own the building.  The views over the past 170 years have probably been extremely impressive and I couldn’t wait to get up there to see the view; at least I hoped we would be able to see a view from there.

house on the hill

Having the GPS in front of him, Scott drove to where it showed the building and we were stunned to find an extremely steep road that was not one for the faint of heart. (Keep in mind I was not the one driving; also keep in mind, I am a terrible passenger.)  He made the turn into what we thought was going to be a drive way to a privately-owned home, only to find a public, historical building; we had found the former Alexander County Courthouse.

In the early 1830’s two brothers, the Sparhawk brothers from New Orleans, settled in what is now Thebes calling it Sparhawk Landing.  On October 15, 1835, this settlement was platted by Franklin G. Hughes and Joseph Chandler.  Later, in 1843 Sparhawk Landing was renamed Thebes and, finally, in 1844 the townsite was laid out to become the town we were visiting. (Thebes History http://genealogytrails.com/ill/alexander/thebeshist.html)

Alexander County which was created out of Union County in 1819; it was named after early settler and physician William Alexander of America, Illinois.  He became the Speaker of the House of Illinois Representatives in 1822, making this the county seat of the new county.  However, soon after, the village of America was found to be in the newer Pulaski County, causing the Alexander County Courthouse needing to be moved to Unity, Illinois, in 1833.  In 1842 the courthouse and county records were burned, therefore, moving the county seat to Thebes. 

An architect named Henry Ernst Barkhausen came to America in 1835 and settled near Thebes where he operated a woodyard and ferry across the Mississippi to Missouri.  In 1845 he was contracted to build the two-story structure out of local stone and trees from the area. The land, a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, was donated by George and Martha Sparhawk.  Completed in 1848, the total cost of the construction was $4,400.

As we wandered about the amazing building, we found there was actually a fantastic view both of the Mississippi River and the 170-year-old structure.  I was pleased to see the natural stone and that my hand embroidery piece portraying a stone wall looked much the same.  It always amazes me when art takes on a bit of nature, it helps to preserve the beauty we find around us daily.  

Sitting on the wooden stairs, looking out at the massive body of rushing water while the barges passed under the massive iron Thebes Bridge, I could envision the steamboats of the past making their way while transporting people and cargo to various ports along the Big Muddy.  These large ships were moved by large paddles powered by steam and it was the main source of travel along the river.  Here you would find people of many statuses from the Southern Belle to the gambler to the slaves and you would find the cargo hold to be full of cotton, grains, and everything a river settler might need to survive.  These machines revolutionized travel and life along the shores of the Mississippi River Basin.

The steamboat was the main source of travel in this area from the late 1700’s until around the 1880’s.  People used this mode of transportation for business, personal travel and for entertainment.  You could find a showboat paddling up and down the Mississippi River; these boats were floating palaces with every type of luxury found at popular resorts of the era.  It was a slow mode of travel and that was the cause of its demise.  With the railroad being unified so all of the rails from the North and South were the same, the speed of transport was much better for travel and the moving of items.  Granted the steamboats were still in use until the 1940’s, but they were not used like they had been.  It was the end of an era and culture.

Coming out of my time travel trance, Scott and I moved on towards our state park destination of Giant City State Park just north of Jonesboro, Illinois.  As we drove through the Trail of Tears State Forest (actually within the Shawnee National Forest), Scott realized we were going to be passing through the town where where a pivotal moment in Lincoln’s political career happened on September 15, 1958.  Before the Great Debate of 1958, Lincoln was just a regular man trying to get through life working as a boatman, store clerk, surveyor, militia soldier and lawyer, but in 1834 he was elected to be in the Illinois Legislature.  From there he moved through the political arena, as most do, and found himself in a political fight for a seat in the House of Representatives for Illinois.   Which brought him to the Great Debate of 1958, more importantly Jonesboro, Illinois, September 15.

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1958 were a series of debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas in Illinois, a free state.  The main theme of these seven debates was the expansion of slavery in the new and future territories of the United States. Granted, Lincoln lost the seat he was trying for, but he later had the transcripts from these seven debates causing him to open a door of opportunity for him to receive the nomination as the Republican candidate for the 1860 presidency.

Eventually, we arrived at one of my favorite places, Great City State Park.  We had originally thought about using this site for our viewing of the total eclipse on our trip in August.  Makanda, the town just outside of the park, was the location where the eclipse would happen for the longest period of time.  However, because rain was predicted that day in that area, we chose to visit Indian Cave State Park in Nebraska instead.  Unfortunately, we were not able to see the eclipse due to rain, while Makanda, Illinois, was basking in the eclipse they counting on.

As we were driving down the road, passing the Jonesboro area, a thought came to mind, “Whatever happened to the Alexander County Courthouse?  Where did it go if it were not in Thebes?”  I, being in the passenger seat, began to hunt through the interwebs to find the answer.  It was relocated to Cairo, Illinois; just down river from Thebes.  With this information, Scott drove us to Cairo to find where the county seat had been moved.  There we found a city in shambles and an old downtown almost a ghost town.  

Cairo sits just North of the the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers confluence, a point called Fort Defiance State Park.  This city, once a bustling port town, was home to writers, generals and gods.  It is the location of Neil Gaiman’s award winning novel American Gods, the movie Cairo Time, and documentary Between Two Rivers.  No matter how “famous” these media outlets make the name of the city, it is a city in economic decline because the railroad impacting the barge traffic causing the loss of income, the interstate bypass causing people to go around the city, and people leaving the area to shop causing tax dollars to go elsewhere.  Because of this situation, the area has dilapidated buildings, loss of tourist money, and a community left frustrated. I cannot, however, leave you thinking this city is not worth visiting because this would not be truth.  

Your first impression of this place is a city that is dying; but if you will stop and speak to members of this community, you will find people who are doing their best to rebuild by cleaning up their communities, encouraging the arts, and helping each other out as much as possible.  I find myself rooting for this place and her people because there is such a determination.  Here will you not only find the determination, but you will find a people who know their history and are encouraging the use of it to bring in tourism.  They have the Victorian building such as the library, federal building, and private homes, but what about the Alexander County Courthouse?  

In 1859 the courthouse was moved to Cairo and it was housed in a beautiful building, after the completion in 1865. After contacting the county courthouse, I found that sometime before 1963 the building above was destroyed by fire and had to be demolished for safety issues.  The building of the new courthouse was started in 1964 in the same location as the first building.  This is one of the things Scott and I have found with many of the old county courthouse buildings that are now of a modern designed; rarely are they because the citizens wanted something modern.  However, has seemed to happen in a few cases.  Concerning this county, it was fire and so the citizens of Alexander County decided they needed to move forward.  

During my research to find out this moving county courthouse drama, I found the reason and it was Abraham Lincoln who explained it.  From the book More History, Mystery, and Hauntings of Southern Illinois by Bruce Cline we are given this story:

“In the early 1800s, when Illinois was still a young state, there was great debate about where the county seat of Alexander County should be.  Would it be Cairo or Thebes?  According to an old story told by Abraham Lincoln, it happened in this fashion…

Thebes was already the county seat, but Cairo was growing rapidly and thought it should be moved there.  Tempers were flaring and the Thebians said that Cairo was no more than a daub of mud on the tail of the state.  That statement did not set well with the fine citizens of Cairo.

Just before the election was held to decide the location of the county seat, a Cairo man came up with an inspired scheme.  He fetched a green animal hide and stuffed a large boulder inside.  He tied this bundle behind his mule and drug it around the countryside.  The next day he made sure that the townsfolk of Thebes made notice of the strange marks on the ground.  He suggested  that the marks were made by some species of large serpent.  Rumors were spread that dogs, cats and small farm animals were missing.

Greatly alarmed, the citizens of Thebes took up arms and went in search of the great serpent that was supposedly decimating the small animals of the farms.  So frenzied were the Thebians in their search for the mystery serpent, that many of them did not make it back to town in time to cast their votes for the county seat.  Cairo won the vote hands down.” {31-32}

How Did I Get Here?

How Did I Get Here?

If you are a person with anxiety and fear everything, what do you do to better your life?  You step out of your comfort zone and ignore the anxiety and fear.  At least that was what I did on August 24, 2014, and I have found my life changed for the better.

August 24, 1014 - freedom

The Tulsa Zoo at Mohawk Park had a small amusement park nearby in the early 70’s. It was there I remember my first experience with fear and, to this day, it brings the butterflies in my belly and makes my hands sweat.  There was a small roller coaster that had children laughing and enjoying the thrill of the ups and downs.  I begged my parents to let me ride so Daddy climbed in with me saying it was going to be fun.  As the ride began it was slow and enjoyable, but quickly it escalated, and I was crying out for it to stop.  I recall the uncomfortable sinking feeling as the car raced up and down along the track.  I screamed for the ride to stop so I could get off the ride, but it felt the controller was intentionally going faster, and my father just laughed at me as I cried and felt myself urinate in fear.

photo-taken-by-jeffery-blum

I realize now that the ride was not increasing just to increase the uncomfortableness I was experiencing. Nor was my father laughing at my fear, but he was just enjoying the ride and having fun.  Unfortunately, because of my misconceptions as a child of four or five, I allowed that moment in time to rule my emotions.  This would cause me many, many years of anxiety and hold me hostage not allowing me to find the joys of experiencing new things.

Milam County Jail, Milam County Texas

Because of this fear, events that happened throughout my childhood would do nothing more than validate the emotions I had about the sinking feelings, causing frustration for me and the people who were part of my life. Unfortunately, my father seemed to be most affected by this situation.  He would often become angry and argue with me telling me I was never going to succeed at anything if I were too afraid.  This would further my anxiety causing me to become even more self-conscience of my failure and I would retreat further into anxiety.  I am not blaming my father for any of this; I have, over the past few years, come to understand what the catalyst was for the overactive anxiety and fear giving me the ability to start overcoming the issue.  Often when we come to understand the why of a situation, we can overcome and move forward.

martin creek lake hike

With all of this in mind, I am hoping you can see I was a ball of stress and worry.  Yes, I was, and still am, an extrovert who loves to spend time with people and enjoys being out and about.  However, fear caused me to worry so extremely that I was not able to enjoy the things of travel that most people are thrilled to experience.  I would dread the road trips to my grandparents because of the mountainous, curvy roads my parents drove; traveling in an airplane due to the takeoff, turbulence, and landings; visiting amusement parks and experiencing the vast amounts of gravity-defying rides; and so many other issues.  This state of irrational fear grew into a fear of the unknown and caused my “what if’s” to derail plans and visions of what tomorrow would bring.  Because of this, I missed out on many opportunities for fun, friendship, and success.

Paluxy River May, 2015

Since my life had become a string of fear induced failures, I had a very low self-esteem.  Because of this low self-esteem, I made poor choices and was unable to accomplish anything.  Between failed marriages, poor parenting choices, and a lack of commitment I was failing in most things I tried.  Fortunately, my husband Scott saw something in me and he gave me the opportunity to become the person I am today.  This, however, was a very rough road and his patience and encouragement are greatly appreciated.

Atychiphobia is when the fear of failure stops someone from doing things that can help one achieve his or her goals.  Everyone experiences a fear of failure, but when it interferes with a person’s ability to succeed, it becomes a problem.  This type of action can cause a person to never accomplish anything; that anything can be as simple as walking out the door to meet people to something as major as taking the steps needed to improve one’s career.  The fear is real and if a person does not work to break the cycle, it can ruin their life.  However, if a person is willing to fight self-doubt, self-hatred, and self-sabotage, they will be able to eventually succeed.

 

DSC04510

For me, my weapon to battle this issue is my husband Scott.  Through his persistence, patience, and encouragement, I can now see myself as someone other than a failure.  Because I can see myself as someone who can accomplish things, I am able to step out and face many of my fears.  This didn’t happen overnight; we were married in 2004 and it took him speaking positively constantly and encouraging me to try to overcome my fears.  I honestly had not realized this was what was happening, but over the past couple of years, I have found myself pushing myself when I start to be afraid.

Lost Valley Trail

One of the issues Scott dealt with concerning me was the not wanting to go out into the wilderness.  I would say, “I don’t like camping in a tent, on the ground.”  “There is nothing for me out of doors, just bugs and getting sweaty.” “I just don’t like to do that.”  When, in reality, I was afraid; afraid of everything.  I feared we would get lost if we hiked in the woods, die because of a crazed ax murderer, or, worst of all, come across a snake.

When Scott and I first met, we were in a medieval recreation organization name the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA for short). In this organization, we would camp in tents, but it was more like clamping with fluffy beds, pretty medieval clothing, and parties.  The camping Scott wanted to do afterward was the tent, sleeping bag, and out in the middle of the woods.  It terrified me.  He was wanting to be out in the wild with no people, no electricity, and snakes.  All I ever said was no.  I would always come up with an excuse, but finally, I couldn’t give him a good excuse.  So on August 24, 2014, we visited our very first Texas State Park.  Fort Richardson State Historic Site & Park in Jacksboro, Texas.

Walking into the main office, we introduced ourselves, found out the interesting places to visit, and paid our fee.  We then drove to the first area on the map, the hospital and grounds, and explored it all. Then we drove throughout the whole location and found there to be electricity, water, and civilized bathroom facilities.  The trails were clearly marked and everyone was very excited to see us. That was the beginning for my real fight against my fear.  It was time to force myself to not give in to fear any longer.

 

I found getting outside helped me battle the anxiety and depression along with sunshine.  There was just something about walking under the canopy of trees that seemed to not just lift my spirits, but helped to ease the depression that occurred.   Often we would walk the trails in the state parks enabling us to see the beauty we missed in town.  Not only spending time in the outdoors has helped, but the driving to get to the new locations and state parks has helped to ease the anxiety.  As we drive, I am able to focus on the journey.

 

Roman Nose State Park Inspiration Point

Needless to say, this is an ongoing issue, but isn’t that what life is all about?  I find that taking a few moments to enjoy the outdoors and challenging myself helps to take my mind off the scary things that try to take away my peace.

What A Crazy Transition!

What A Crazy Transition!

My last post here was in February when we came back from the Enchanted Rock trip.  I was a bit shocked at how long it had been because it has been an extremely busy and fast moving month or so.  See, we purchased our RV on February 24, 2017, and did a test run at Eisenhower State Park for Spring Break, but never returned to reality!  I know, shocking!

We met with a man in Krum, Texas, who had a 1982 El Dorado Firenza for cheap and the bones were good and so was the engine.  It was originally from Alaska and the man he purchased it from had done some basic work to it but eventually decided he just didn’t want to continue the work.  We looked at it and thought this might be a great opportunity and bought it.

 There were so many things we didn’t like about the RV and they were just cosmetic so we decided to do some major changes on the inside.  We took out the bathroom for future plans later, the wall between the kitchen cabinet, the kitchen cabinet, the stove area, and the ugly 80’s couch looking thing.  We decided it all had to come out to fit what we needed it to be so we took a sledge hammer and began knocking out walls, counters, stoves, and couches.  Like I said, good bones, scary interior.

The floorplan was pretty much for a double bed-marine shower set up and we needed a space for two twin beds, kitchen area, and a sitting area.  So we decided to take out everything except the closet area and bed space.  This left a very big area to do what we wanted.  We were actually able to get the two twin beds in and get it somewhat ready for basic living.  This doesn’t mean we were able to get cabinets, counter, bathroom, or pantry in yet, but it is a work in progress.  At this point in time, we are paying off some bills and getting money situated so we can take a full two weeks to finish the rig, but that is more towards October at this point.  We are just living day to day.

During the demolition, we have found some pretty interesting things about this rig.  It was paneled with some 1980’s wood looking paneling, the ceiling was covered with wine-colored velour that was tufted with giant velvet buttons, had a rather odd sepia colored wallpaper and orange-red carpet.  It definitely brought back the 80’s and caused me to question my thoughts about taking it back to its original interior.  The answer would be “no, not a chance.

Because we were set up to spend a one-week spring break tour with Eisenhower State Park in March, we decided to just take the full week to live as we would full time.  This was where the “sudden” happened and we found ourselves in a whirlwind of change.  I packed everything we thought we would need from food to clothing, seating to entertainment, and It was one big mess, but we were packed and we headed off on, what I thought would be a two-hour drive.

It took me almost five hours to get to Eisenhower State Park from our apartment in Bedford, Texas because the side mirrors were not working.  I would get them into place only to have the wind from driving push them back to where all I could see myself.  This was not going work for my safety or anyone else’s.  I stopped to have Scott help me get the mirrors right and was off again. The driver side mirror acted correctly from that point, but the passenger mirror would not stay in place.  This meant I was either having to stop every time it did this, meaning I was stopping every five to ten minutes.  I ended up driving in the right lane at 55 mph extremely stressed because I could not see anything but my own reflection in the right side mirror. I know, stupid decision, but the girls and I made it safely to the parking lot of Eisenhower State Park.  I stopped, got out, shut the door when the driver’s side mirror crashed to the ground.  I was relieved to be there in one piece.

Once I was signed in at the office, I was given my spot and what a beautiful sight it was.  I was given a pull through which meant no backing in with the two useless mirrors.

This was the second weekend in March and spring break was in full gear, come to find out it was the first of three weeks called Spring Break and I was only supposed to do one week.  I contacted the Park Host Coordinator, Kate, and she was shocked to find I was scheduled for the full month of March!  Wait, we weren’t supposed to be full time Park Hosts until June 1!  Something was not right. Scott and I discussed what we were going to do and we decided we would give a 60-day notice to our apartment and move out.  Obviously, the park needed us and we thought we were ready for the move.

We took the last week in March and packed up the apartment.  Fortunately, I was able to go through all of my personal stuff over the previous six months and was down to what was going into the RV and two totes which sent into storage.  Scott had been busy working and was not as fortunate so most of his things went into storage along with the items we both were not ready to let go of.  It had been a rough time, but we were done and out of the apartment.  We had lived in a 2,000 square foot house, moved to a 547 square foot apartment, then lived in only the 14′ x 12′ bedroom plus the bathroom and kitchen, now we though we were ready to move into a 25 foot RV.  Our world was not only going to change, but it was going to change in a way we were not really prepared for.  They say March comes in like a lion and exits as a lamb, this would not be so for us and we had no clue what was getting ready to happen.

To be continued.

 

 

 

 

 

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.