Crossroads

When life starts pulling you apart, what do you do? Until today, we were at a crossroads. Both of us had job offers come our way. Sounds great at first, but the jobs are not in the same place. One is out of state. The out of state job would have been much more of a challenge up front because moving takes a lot of time, effort and money, but it would have brought us closer to our family and friends, and most likely would have lent to a less chaotic life a large city provides. The other offer would keep us here where we are, and give a good pay boost (not as good as the other one), but would help out, and possibly help enough so that we can at least fly home every once in a while instead of driving 19+ hours. Continue reading “Crossroads”

Lost Maples Nature Trail

Friday was a good day to get away from the city and plant ourselves into no-signal land. After work, we quickly finished packing up, grabbed the pups and headed out of town. Three hours later, we landed in Lost Maples Nature Trail, set up camp for the night, cracked a beer or two in front of a small fire, then proceeded to bed.

I had been in charge of most of the packing, as I was working from home that Friday, but I failed a bit in the food department. Continue reading “Lost Maples Nature Trail”

Five years overdue

Time gets away from us so easily. Four years ago, Dylan and I moved to Texas, a move that I would never have imagined I would do years and years ago. Texas had never been a thought, but jobs and opportunities came through, and we did it. Two years ago, we bought a house. In Austin. Another feat in this town, where houses go on the market and come off in the same day, where prices are gouged and there’s a competition on even the shack-house in the neighborhood. We’ve had our trials and our triumphs, we’ve made a few friends and explored a lot of country.

But often, we miss out or can’t do all the things we want to do in time. We’d spent four years in Texas and our friends, who moved to Phoenix had been there five, and we had never visited them. Reasons ranged from time, to money, to schedules. It doesn’t matter. We just hadn’t visited them. So we finally picked dates, bought tickets and flew out to Phoenix to visit.

We ate some great food at Bobby Que’s, The Yard,  Matt’s Big Breakfast, Joyride Tacos, among others. We climbed a modest mountain called Squaw Peak and visited the zoo, all over an extended weekend. Always, these trips are too short, but always, they’re invigorating and fun and remind you to take time away from everything to see the people you care about, because this is what really matters.

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Churn Ice Cream – delicious ice cream and awesome service
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Matt’s Big Breakfast – tasty and kept me full even after climbing a mountain
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The Yard- good food and great atmosphere for some games and drinks

Natchez Trace Parkway Pt.6: To the End

Our last stretch of the Trace was from David Crockett State Park to the terminus at mile marker 444. David Crocker State Park is a great park for the hike-lovers. There were multiple different hiking routes you could take with trees marked with a designated color dot to help you navigate your way. Even with the color-dotted trees unfortunately, we zigged instead of zagged and took a much longer route than we had originally inteded. We planned on being on a trail for about 30 minutes, but ended up walking for around an hour and a half, and hiked around three and a half miles. Ah well; it was well worth it. We saw some very beautiful Tennessee country and the weather was good, although it did start to chill down once the sun went down.

It’s easy to start imagining yourself in a wooden cabin on a hill, surrounded by thick woods, cup of coffee in hand, and warm fire in the fireplace when hiking through the parks of Tennessee. I don’t know if I could become a complete recluse but if any place makes me want to become a hermit, it’s this area of the country.

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I love some of these photos, but even the photos don’t do the scenery real justice. Sometimes I want to take a snapshot in my mind and keep it there for when I need to get away. I want to crawl inside this memory, feeling, seeing, and smelling all that was, but the colors and the smells and the cool breeze on my face can never truly be replicated.

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We realized how far we’d gotten off the path when we ended up on a paved road near the Trail of Tears. I’m glad we did though. We found an informational section about the Trail of Tears, and saw this beautiful site of cows grazing on their evening meal during the sunset (below). There was an artist’s rendition of the Trail of Tears and the people who walked among the worn down path. It invoked one imagining the stark quiet among the trees, even with hundreds crossing this path at one time, only the sounds of shuffling feet in the dried, dead fallen leaves. The absent look in these people’s eyes as they were forced to move from their homes to another part of their country. Everything they knew, changing, and not knowing who these people were, why they were doing this, and if they were capable of other things.

History is sometimes hard to look back on, knowing the harm we caused, but if we don’t look back and learn what we did wrong, and what we can do to never do it again, we will never grow and change. DSC00891.JPG

The next day we took off for our last bit of site seeing on the Trace. We stopped off  at the Meriwether Lewis grave site. There was a tall stone grave with a post explaining Lewis’s death, or the lack of information thereof. A couple of interesting items I discovered while at this site: The first was that Mr. Lewis was very young when he died, around 34 years old. This also meant that this guy was discovering new lands in new parts of the world in his 20s. That’s quite the ambitious guy. What is also interesting about him is that, to this day, his death is considered mysterious. DSC00907.JPG

The grave itself is a depiction of a broken column, a life ended tragically and too soon.  According to the Smithsonian Magazine, he was passing through this area, on his way to Washington D.C. to settle some financial matters, but was found by his traveling companion with a gunshot wound to his head and abdomen. His companions assumed suicide because he had been known to suffer “depressions of the mind”. Perhaps he had some sort of bipolar disorder? Apparently Lewis, a young, innovative explorer, with all of his explorations and discoveries, felt like a failure, as he hadn’t fulfilled his initial goal of creating a successful system of trading posts. These trading posts had started to fail once he’d gotten back home, and he fell into depression and drunkenness.

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But a lot of people don’t believe this story and believe there’s more to be told. One of the biggest question marks, is why did he shoot himself twice? He was an expert marksman, very familiar with guns. Why would he need to shoot himself twice? People that question his suicide have come up with a multitude of theories, anything from an assassination plot, to the innkeeper finding his wife in bed with Lewis. Currently the Smithsonian is working on developing more facts with DNA. Who knows if we’ll ever know the full and true story about him, but any clarification always helps.

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Our next stop was an old tobacco farm, donated to the trace by an old farming family. There was a display of an old barn with real tobacco leaves drying. The tobacco process was much more time consuming than many other farming ventures, as the labor of hanging the tobacco, and the time it took to dry it all took up valuable resources, but it must have paid off because the industry remains today.

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We took a nice hike at the Duck River Overlook, to catch some great views. We’d planned on going down the Jackson Falls route as well, but the dogs were wearing out so we headed out to the next spot instead.

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The Gordon House was our next stop. It’s one of the few houses left standing from that day and just shy of 200 years old, so understandably, you were not allowed into the home. What’s neat about this home is that its owner, John Gordon, worked closely with General Andrew Jackson. He was away from the home much of the time due to this, so his wife overlooked and supervised much of the construction. Possibly the first woman foreman? Pretty sweet.

You go girl.

She also outlived her husband by about 40 years. DSC00947.JPG

We stopped at a small place to rest, and I was able to capture some wonderful scenery at the bottom of the hill. This is probably one of my favorite photos. I felt transported in time, and placed right into a painting of Courier & Ives.

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Our last “stop” on the trip before its end was the Birdsong Hollow, which is a beautiful double-arched bridge, that actually won a national design award in 1995. We approached the lookout and I noticed a woman with her back to us. She looked serene, like this was a place she came to often, to gain a sense of peace and quiet. Unfortunately, as we were quietly making our way up to observe the bridge, my dog sneezed loudly and scared her. She jumped and looked back, but just laughed and went back to her relaxation.

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Once we crossed the bridge, we had a handful of miles to go until the end of the Trace. I was really hoping for a photo op right at the end, like on roller coasters, when they take a snapshot of you screaming as you’re catapulted down at 60 mph+. No such luck unfortunately. That was just the end.

Our last couple of days on the road were much less eventful We stayed at Meeman-Shelby State park, on the north side of Memphis, but we got there late at night, and left early, so no pictures were taken or hikes walked, so I couldn’t give you much of a review.

We stopped in Little Rock to visit some friends who lived there and ate at a dog-friendly hamburger place called the Purple Cow. The food was good, and it was kind of nice to be able to just order food and eat it, instead of having to cook and clean up on a make-shift kitchen.

We then trekked to White Oak State Park, our last park of the trip. This park was loaded with people, and the vast majority were hunters.

We got some great pictures of fall colors, cranes, and other wildlife, and the camp was full of friendly people, so overall the quick stay was pleasant. This park definitely felt like one that was mostly made for hunters just needing a place to stay, instead of something like Tishomingo, which was made more for recreation and hiking. The bathrooms here were very nice, most likely built within the last 5-10 years, and were heated well (which was good as this was our coldest night of the week).

 

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We got the trailer back to the owner around noon, and were back in Austin by 4pm. We napped in our own bed, which felt amazing, then heading to a concert that evening.

If you are looking for a great, easy going road trip, to reinvigorate your love of the country, I highly recommend it. You can take it slowly, like we did, averaging around 80-100 miles a day, or you can go quicker if you want, but with all the stops and the history, I definitely recommend a nice slow trip through this historic area.

 

Natchez Trace Parkway Pt. 4: Hurricane Creek to Tishomingo

In the last post, I’d mentioned that we stayed at Holmes County State Park in Mississippi, and that it definitely gave off creep vibes. When I walked into the bathroom to shower, it sounded like there was someone sweeping the central part of the building, but when I opened the door to leave, no one was there. Dylan mentioned to me as well that when he went into the bathroom, a toilet fully flushed on it’s own. Creepsville. Add on to the fact that the only other signs of life at this park were two trailers parked nearby but both looked abandoned. More creepsville. Needless to say, we left quickly.

Our first stop was Hurricane Creek. It was a nice educational trail that had posts every 20 feet or so, explaining the different types of vegetation and how even small levels of elevation or water levels change what trees and vegetation grow where.

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What’s great about this trip is that, along the 444 mile path, you don’t just drive from one destination to the other. There is so much to see in between the stops. I took time to think about what this would have looked like as the first explorers, or what it was like even 50 years ago. I imagined this would have been a great destination for families to load up the Buick and spend a week on.

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I loved how descriptive the signs were. They didn’t just tell you what was ahead, but offered up excitement. “Whole new worlds unfold…” and sentences like this were inscribed in so many of these placards.

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The Jeff Busby site was also a popular one. It’s one of Mississippi’s highest points at a staggering…..603 feet. But it still boasted a great overlook.DSC00653.JPG

I was excited to see another stop called Pigeon Roost, because, who doesn’t like Pigeons. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a let down, although I did learn something so I can’t completely discount it. The site was home to a man named Folsom. From the signage, I thought maybe he owned a bunch of Passenger Pigeons (this sounds like the start of a poem; There Once Was a Man Named Folsom, Who Found Pigeons to be Wholesome). I’d assumed this collection of Passenger Pigeons was for a business he had in the area, and obviously enough, all the Pigeons are now dead and the business shut down (stupid telephones).

*I decided to do some research before posting this and I was a bit off. Here’s what Natchez Trace Travel’s site says:

Pigeon Roost Creek is a reminder of the millions of migrating passenger pigeons that once roosted in trees in this area. The species has been completely destroyed. One mile east where the Natchez Trace crossed the creek Nathaniel Folsom of New England and his Choctaw wife had a trading post before 1790. Their son, David, later operated it and accommodated travelers. When the Reverend Thomas Nixon stopped here in 1815, David’s wife prepared suitable nourishment and would have no pay. David Folsom, strong supporter of Christianity and Indian education, was elected chief of the northeast district of the Choctaw Nation in 1826.

So, it looks like it was just a places that Passenger Pigeons liked to hang out, which is too bad because in my head, I had a vision of this man with a booming Passenger Pigeon business. My story is so much cooler.

The next stop was Bynum Mounds. These were mounds created by Native Americans. I don’t really recall a whole lot, because instead of learning about the mounds, we encountered three dogs that took a liking to our car. They seemed harmless; I think they were locals that wandered around looking for tourists to hand out scraps, but since we had our dogs out, I took them over to the displays. I didn’t want them to see the other dogs and get overly excited, so I distracted them by teaching them the differences between summer and winter housing units that were constructed by the Natives, while Dylan hustled the locals out of the area.

We left soon after, and headed to Witches Dance just up the road for some lunch. According to local lore, and Legends of America, Hopewell Indians escaped oppressive Mexico and came up to the Natchez Trace area, carrying bones of their ancestors (these bones supposedly became parts of the Bynum Mounds – maybe that’s why the dogs stick around). During their journey, their leader followed the path of a medicine stick he carried and was led by a white dog along the way. During this same time, after the people settled in to their new found home, witches would gather for nighttime ceremonies and dances, and wherever they danced, grass would die and never regrow. There is a lot of mystery rooted in these stories, but they were believable enough at the time that Andrew Jackson, who traveled the Trace frequently, kept the stories in his journal.

Next stop was the Tupelo National Battlefield. This site is actually in downtown Tupelo, not off the highway like the pamphlet said. We decided to skip this due to the fact it would take us so far off the path.

At a little over the halfway point is the Natchez Trace Visitor Center. It’s the only place on the whole path that has any sort of souvenirs, which is refreshing. We stopped for a bathroom break and Dylan went in to check it out. There were more displays and a few trinkets you could purchase if need be.

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One of my favorite stops was the Confederate grave sites that marked 13 unidentified Confederate soldiers. You walk up a short winding path that leads you up a small hill, where 13 unidentified Confederate soldiers lay. No one really knows the complete story behind the 13 soldiers, but it serves as a reminder to one of the most deadly wars in American history. This area is also one of the few spots where you can walk the original Old Trace. I put myself back in time, in the shoes of soldiers and young explorers, thinking back to the conditions during the Civil War and what it would have been like during those times, walking this quiet, lonely path during a violent and changing time.

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We made a couple more small stops, at the Dogwood Valley site to see Dogwood trees, and the Donivan Slough (pronounced “slew”), before heading to the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.

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The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway & Jamie L. Whitten Bridge is a waterway that opens a navigable route between the Gulf of Mexico and the Tennessee River, and boasts some great scenery and picture taking opportunities to boot.

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We finished our day, heading about seven miles up the road to Tishomingo State Park. This was a winding, beautiful park that I would love to come back to and spend more time at. This was a big, sprawling park loaded with activities, a pool, hiking trails, a suspension bridge, pioneer house, and more. It was all nicely taken care of, and had some of the nicest bathrooms that we stayed at during our whole trip (something you remember while camping for a week).

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More pictures of Tishomingo to come during the next segment. Until then…

 

Wanderlust

I’ve got it folks. I’ve got the wanderlust. I think they call it post-vacation blues as well.

Whatever the term is, I’m squirming in my seat, wanting so badly to take the hubs, the dogs, and a bunch of water and snacks (and sunblock of course) and wander around somewhere I’ve never been, away from everything.

I can’t right now, so I made this instead. The photo is actually a park in my hometown, that somehow, I never knew about (the town is around 3000 people). We (the hubs and I) took the ma-in-law out for a walk with the dogs and found the path littered with frogs, which was great entertainment for us and the dogs.

Hopefully we’ll get to plan another getaway soon, even if it’s just a day trip wandering around a new park. Get out and explore before it’s too late! Enjoy not knowing where you’re going. There’s something very freeing in that feeling.

There is only one cure for wanderlust

Pace Bend Park hike

The hubs and I decided to take a hike and get away from the city for a while. We didn’t want to drive too far so we found Pace Bend Park, out by Lake Travis, and about 45 minutes away from home. It was going to be too hot for the dogs to be out more than 20 minutes so we left them at home and took them for a short walk later in the evening. We were out for about an hour and walked almost three miles in the 90 degree heat and even higher heat index. We were very sweaty but if felt good. As long as I have shabby clothes on, I don’t care at all about sweating. Feels like I’m filtering out toxins. I tried taking a few pictures as we walked with my 8 year old point and shoot. Maybe it’s time to upgrade? It still takes decent shots though, so who knows.

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Patience

Patience is a virtue. Everyone knows this. Practicing patience can be harder with some things than others. Waiting at line at the grocery store? I got this. Waiting at the doctor’s office? No biggie. I bring my book everywhere I go. Waiting for my house to be prepped for paint so I can paint it? This is killing me!!

I thought our paint prep people would be out Tuesday, as originally planned and I’d take off Wednesday and start painting. Not so fast. Tuesday is carpentry, where they replace any rotted boards and fill in any holes. Wednesday is pressure wash day. Then we wait the rest of the day for it to dry. Then Thursday is caulking and any other rest of the prep day. Then I can paint. In the words of all Scandinavians: Uffda. That’s a lot more time to prep than I thought. I was getting so excited to paint the house until I found out it would take most of the week to get it prepped.

For me, I am pretty good with patience if it has to do with something like waiting in line. I know there are people ahead of me and all I can do is wait. But when I have these plans in my head, of how long it takes to get something done before I get to work on a project I’ve been planning on for weeks, and then the plans slightly change, it freaks me out. I get antsy and irritable. I have to call on patience to calm me down and remind myself that there’s nothing I can do about it and the house will still get painted, and really, what’s a week? I’ve been waiting to paint the house for months. Well, really, we’ve wanted to paint the house since we’ve owned it so we’ve been waiting to paint the house for a year and a half.

Once I get perspective on things, it’s a little easier to deal with. I’m able to take a breath, and realize that the painting will still get done, and anything rushed is usually regretted down the road. Plus, I still need to get rollers, and probably another good quality brush, and of course….the paint. I need to re-measure to get a good idea of how many gallons of paint I’ll need.

So perspective. Much needed. And thanks for listening to the thoughts in my brain. Typing this out helps me gain perspective. Does writing/typing your worries or thoughts help you gain perspective?

We also took a hike out at Pace Bend Park on Sunday. Getting away from the hustle of the city calms me down too. I feel more relaxed and focused – again, it’s all about perspective. Hopefully soon, I’ll get some pictures posted our hike. It was hot, but felt good to sweat. Have a great Monday everyone.

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Deer & Ditches

Yesterday was about as normal as any other day, but it took an unexpected turn when my co-worker told me he’d found a fawn stuck in a drainage ditch across the street from our building. He didn’t think the little baby could get out, and it’s mother had just crossed the street over near our building. She was turning her head back and forth, wandering, like she wasn’t sure what to do.

I went outside with my co-worker to see what was going on and what we could possibly do to help. Sure enough, the little fawn had dropped down to the ditch and couldn’t get out. The ditch was a giant cement square, about 25’x25′, ascending from two to four feet deep, like a pool, and covered with dirt and leaves. The poor baby had probably dropped down into the ditch out of curiosity, then couldn’t get out. When it saw us, it came over towards us, but then started running in circles in the ditch, bleating loudly, most likely calling for its mother for help. I had the idea that if I could corral the fawn to one area, my co-worker could corner it and we could get it out of the ditch. I didn’t want to stay too long and scare mom away from ever showing up again.

When we first dropped down into the ditch, the fawn became visibly nervous, running toward the back of the ditch, slipping as she was obviously very new to walking. It continued to run quickly back and forth along the wall, but soon enough wore out. We slowly approached the fawn, and it dropped down to its haunches, worn out. My co-worker carefully picked it up and we brought it over to the other side of the ditch, where it was fenced for safety, and there were some shade trees and grass. The fawn laid down exactly as my co-worker put it down, its heart beating rapidly from the scare, and we backed away, in hopes that mama would come back to look for her baby.

About two hours, later, when my work day came to an end, I checked over at the space where we’d left the baby. It was no longer there, so I’m guessing/hoping mama came for baby. I’m no deer expert, but guessing from the time of year and size of the fawn, the baby is at the stage of its life where it stays put while mama forages for food and comes back to feed baby. My guess was that mom and baby were looking for a quiet place for baby to lay while mom went to get food, and they just happened to land in the ditch.

This all happened pretty quickly so I didn’t have my camera with me so I wasn’t able to take a snapshot of the fawn. Last year though, we had a fawn in front of our building, laying down, waiting for mom to come back from eating, so I do have a snapshot of that one, and they seem similar in size, so I’m guessing this fawn was in that stage of life, waiting for mom to return with fresh milk after foraging. One can only hope.

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It was  great way to mix up the day. You never know when your assistance will be needed. Hopefully mama and baby are safe and sound, enjoying some breakfast about now.

A walk in the National Park

I decided to try a new park in Mississippi. I’d been to the Tuxachanie Trail, which is nice but it doesn’t loop back, and I attempted the Black-something or other trail (I don’t even remember because it was so overgrown I couldn’t even attempt it). This one was called Big Foot Horse Trail. I understand the Horse part of it, as it’s a trail for both horse and human, but the Big Foot part interests me, especially since it’s part of a National Park. Maybe it’s an Area 51 type deal for Big Foot and they either though sticking Horse in front of it would fool anyone, or the just got lazy? Who knows. I can tell you though that I didn’t see any Big Foot on my hike. 

My original plan was to do the full 11-mile loop. I didn’t have much going on that day so I figured I’d torture myself in the Mississippi humidity. It was already reaching a heat index of 100 by 10:30 that morning. But alas, I only made it 5 miles. Let me back up. I think I’d planned on taking the 11-mile loop but the problem was, that when I arrived to the park, there were no maps (again), none on their website, and none on the one paragraph pamphlet I had, so the only thing I had to go on, was the excerpt from the pamphlet stating there were four different trails, to include a 5-mile and 11-mile loop. Once I found the path, which was slightly hidden, and split between the drive way so I’m still not really sure which trail I was on. All they had for indicators were colored arrows, but I had no idea what the colored arrows meant so, really, who knows. Either way, I was able to snatch some pics.

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Anyway, I think I was on the long path. I’d remembered to bring sun block and bug spray so the hike was good in that aspect. I was around 2.5 miles in when I almost ran into a spider web that ran from tree to tree across the path. I was so grateful that I saw it and didn’t smack into it. I continued to hike along, rounded a curve, and ran into a giant puddle/lake. I looked ahead of it but it looked like swamp. Well dang. So that ended my hike.IMG_2558 I decided to head back as I had no idea if the rest of the trail was going to look just as bad. As my brain would have it, I’d already forgotten about the spider web, so I walked my face right into it’s sticky, nasty, creepiness. The first reasonable thing I did was scream out loud, take my sunglasses of and frantically wipe away the spider strings. I shook with heeby jeebies for about a minute, then looked up to where I’d run into, and that’s when I saw her. A big spider, just slightly smaller than my hand. Two thoughts ran through my mind: 1- thank God she’s there, that means she isn’t on me, and 2- Holy crap, she could have been on me….

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I finished my hike without anymore run-ins with spiders or other creatures, but proceeded to shower the minute I got back to the room. 

This weekend otherwise has been quite uneventful. I’m just counting down the days til I get to go home to Texas. I can’t wait.