A Geocaching Adventure: Mineral Wells Fossil Park

polar vortex struck Texas in July. Temperatures during the day dropped all the way into the 70s and 80s during the day. Temperatures at night dropped into the 60s. Texans learned how those crazy northerners survive their summers.

I’m a nerd. In October of 2013 I attended Fossilmania in Glen Rose and learned about Texas’ newest park: Mineral Wells Fossil Park.

Visitors to Mineral Wells Fossil Park may hunt for fossils from the Pennsylvanian period for free. Visitors may keep their finds. I don’t think I drooled in anticipation but I may be mistaken.

Symbol for an EarthCache

Paleontologists are just as nerdy. There’s an earthcache here! A geocacher may choose to either answer a few questions about the area or may post a picture of his or her fossil finds.

The Road to Mineral Wells Fossil Park Is neither Long nor Shaded.

My advice for those choosing to visit the park:

  • Plan to stay only 1-2 hours.
  • The road isn’t paved all the way. Drive in a low gear and slowly once you leave the pavement.
  • Bring water and a cooler filled with ice. There’s no water available.
  • Wear close-toed shoes and jeans.
  • Bring sunscreen. There’s no shade.
  • Bring a hat. There’s no shade.
  • Wear sunglasses. There’s no shade.
  • There’s a port-a-potty if you absolutely need to go. Personally, I’m terrified of finding a snake, spiders, or scorpions basking in the shade of the port-a-potty. Go to the restroom before visiting the park.
  • Bring plastic baggies to store your finds.
  • Bring knee pads. You may spend time on your knees.
  • Be aware of the wildlife (see bullet above).
  • Read the information board. It’ll help you identify your finds. (We found lots of crinoids.)

A Geocaching Adventure: Black Jack Ketchum

I rediscovered Black Jack Ketchum in Rusk.

Black Jack Ketchum is a legend. Born in Texas and dying in New Mexico, Black Jack was a train robber from the turn of the 20th century who operated in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona (where he joined the Hole-in-the-Wall gang).

But that’s not what made him legendary.

My mother grew up near Clayton, NM, the scene of his death. Black Jack was captured in Folsom, NM, and brought to trial in Clayton. He was sentenced to hang.

What the people of Clayton lacked in experience in hangings, they made up in enthusiasm. The hanging was botched and Black Jack lost his head in the hanging. Black Jack was buried in an extra wide coffin in an extra wide grave in the Clayton Cemetery to accommodate his head which was laid to rest under his arm.

That’s still not what made him legendary in this neck of the woods.

Almost a century later, teenagers still visit Ketchum’s grave and recount the legend that at midnight Black Jack rises from his grave to seek his head. Fortunately, most teens have an earlier curfew so they miss his appearance. But that doesn’t stop boys from daring boys to stay in the cemetery to await Black Jack and it doesn’t stop boys from trying to make time with girls with the legend. So the legend of Black Jack lives on.

There’s a wonderful little hotel and restaurant in Clayton. It’s been restored to its turn-of-the-century glory. The Eklund is a popular place to eat a nice dinner, talk about old times, and hear the legend of Black Jack Ketchum. You can even see pics of the Black Jack and the hanging.

And there’s a geocache hidden near Black Jack Ketchum’s grave to bring in out-of-towners to hear the legend.

Clayton is proud of its legend and his grave.

Here Lies Black Jack Ketchum–the legend.

Accomplishments in Walking

Yesterday, Victor and I attended the Historic Rusk Walk in historic Rusk. To be honest, I had never heard of Rusk before the event was published. However, I am into geocaching and volksmarching because they take me places I’ve never been before.

I forgot my camera/phone so I haven’t any pics. However, I have accomplishments to post.

  • This was our first volksmarch outside of the North Texas area.
  • This was Victor’ first visit to East Texas.
  • We joined a nice lady, Maki, for the 5k. (Normally we avoid other volksmarchers because we’re really slow.) We were able to keep up with Maki!
  • We turned in our newcomers booklets and bought the next level of booklet. We’re no longer newbies!!!! (A very nice lady at the walk told us she’d take our booklets to headquarters personally and to expect a certificate and pin to celebrate our accomplishments in the mail.)
  • At the end of the walk, my Fitbit announced that I’d completed 250 miles since I joined Fitbit in April 2014.

I’ve learned a bit from this walk.

  • I’m faster than I used to be.
  • 5k is no longer the challenge it used to be, even with hills.
  • Rusk has the longest footbridge in the world. It’s also an old bridge–originally built to keep sections of Rusk connected during floods.
  • 85-year old birthday girls can walk 10ks. (I hope I’m able to when I’m 85.)
  • If I get up at 6AM, I can drive 200+ miles to make a walk.
  • It’s cheaper than I thought it would be to drive 200+ miles to make a walk.

I’m glad I went to Rusk. It was well worth it.

Volksmarch: Dallas Downtown 5k

I needed a pick-me-up, something new. I wasn’t in the mood for a new dress or even a new book. Instead, I wanted a new walk: the Dallas Downtown walk.

Our weather this week has been amazing. In the low 90s, the strong south breezes have ameliorated the humidity (79-85%). Partly cloudy conditions prevailed in the morning. By lunchtime, the clouds had cleared, leaving the bright sunshine.

Geocaching Leaders

We Real Cool

Victor and I took the TRE to Dallas Union Station ($10 for an all-region ticket), the location of the AVA box and the beginning of our 5k. We walked to the counter where we were greeted by two friendly DART employees who handed us the box and watched us check in.

We left Union Station to begin our trek. We were on familiar territory. We have geocached Downtown Dallas before but construction changes Dallas and transforms landmarks regularly.

We walked past a historic federal building (if you walk this, check out the architectural details of the building! I love the bronze lamps.) We passed Dealey Plaza (I’ve never really paid attention to Ol’ Man Dealey’s statue before) and crossed over to the Old Red. We crossed to the fountains at Founders’ Plaza (love the pedestrian crossing!) before heading north again.

I have never approached the historic West End from the angle we were led. It was nice to be in the shade again. We stopped off for breakfast at the Corner Bakery (only one restroom!) before continuing on our way. I was looking forward to encountering the Historic Marker where North and South Texas were joined via Preston.

I have a fascination with historic markers.

Connecting NTx to STx.

Having never approached West End from this angle, the tribute to music passageway was unknown to me. I stopped to read several of the plaques before we crossed under the highway through the musical archway.

It must have been shift change for the downtown police station. Cops and cop cars were everywhere! I felt quite safe.

I reminisced with Victor about Tricky Dick’s and the House of Blues. They’ve moved about since I was in college in the 90s.

We walked past El Fenix (Closed, alas! Too early for lunch.) up past the Perot Museum. We had to cross the street because of sidewalk construction. Green stripes and directions have been added to the sidewalks to direct pedestrians to the Perot and the new park. We passed several families on their way to the Perot. Lots of up on this leg of the walk.

The directions for the park were a bit confusing. We weren’t too sure how far we were supposed to go counterclockwise before circling back to the entrance to the park. It was Victor’s first visit to the park. I pointed out several of the features, including the misting park and the free reading room with games. We’ll be bringing nieces and nephews here on their visits.

Our next landmarks included the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) and the Museum Towers. It was the first time I’d walked past the Museum Towers. What an interesting building!

We noted that the Crowe Asian Art Collection appears to be either moving or expanding. Either would be appropriate. It’s a great little museum.

School buses lined the streets around the DMA. The drivers wisely parked in the shade. We approve highly of the trees shading the sidewalk.

We walked through the DMA lot, passing the familiar statue and mural. At the corner, we faced a dilemma. The sidewalk was temporarily closed as workers cleaned up the fountains and gardens. The workers indicated we could walk around them so we continued to Fountain Place. Unfortunately, we couldn’t cut through Fountain Place because the fountains were being worked on.

On Field Street, we saw a woman enter a building through an obscure entrance. Above the entrance was a small sign indicating that this was an entrance to the Dallas Underground Tunnel System. Score! I’ve been telling Victor about the Dallas Tunnel System for years but I couldn’t remember how we got into it when we used to explore the system back when I was in college. We entered.

We luxuriated in the air conditioning and shade (it was reaching the 90s by now) as we road down the escalator. We began following random turns in the tunnels. We passed restaurants, shops, ATMs, and office workers in our explorations. We found the restrooms and freshened up before finding an exit back to Field Street and continued on our walk.

We arrived back at Union Station with 20 minutes to spare before the next train. (It would be almost two hours before the next TRE train would arrive.) We signed back in and boarded our train.

I wish I’d taken more pictures. We’ll take more in November when we return for the longer walk.

Welcome to Summer!

I grew up in South Texas. We learned in school the signs of heat exhaustion, heat rash, and heat stroke. Now that summer has begun (6 hours ago!), I’d like to remind you what to do for the heat.

You're subject to heat problems with almost any outdoor activity in Texas during the summer.

Drink water!

 

Sauntering

It is a great art to saunter.

Henry David Thoreau

The Benefits of Mall Walking

I live near a walking-friendly mall. It was built with a softer-than-normal floor. It is a mile-around.

  • Free!
  • Ease of use
  • No weather – no rain, no humidity, no 100+ temperatures
  • Shade
  • Lots of parking
  • No pests – no barking dogs, no mosquitoes, no snakes
  • No fear of West Nile Virus
  • Police/security presence
  • Restrooms
  • Water fountains (with cold water!)
  • Convenient benches
  • Storefronts
  • Air conditioning
  • Many opportunities for people-watching
  • The food court
  • No walking partner necessary
  • Many malls open early just for mall walkers!
  • No one is judging you for how fast or how slow you walk.
  • Stroller-friendly
  • You may bump into friends!
  • Many malls also host geocaches. (Two hobbies in one visit!)
Walking improves happiness.

Walking: It’s not just for the outdoors!

What Might You Find (or Leave) in a Geocache?

Mandatory:

  • logbook

Optional:

  • pen or pencil
  • unusual coins or currency (low value)
  • small toys
  • ornamental buttons
  • band-aids
  • coupons
  • pathtags
  • trinkets
  • “hitchhikers” such as Geocoins or Travel Bugs

What May Not Be Left in a Geocache?

  • Food
  • Drugs
  • Weapons
  • Pornography
  • Fireworks/firecrackers
  • Explosives
  • Dangerous items
  • Illegal items

Geocaching Rule of Thumb: If you take something from a geocache, you should leave something of similar or higher value.

GC4D9X3

This is an actual cache in Israel!

GC4D9X3

In Honor of National Trails Day

Something to think about as you ponder National Trails Day!

Something to think about as you ponder National Trails Day!