Adventuring in McKinney

The school year ended in mid-June whereupon I instantly got sick with a cold. It’s only been a couple of days that I’ve felt well enough to leave the house so I was ready for an adventure.

My adventure had three parts: a volksmarch, pie, and a geocache. I know. I know. Pie doesn’t seem to fit but I deserve it!

McKinney is some forty-odd miles from home. The last time I was in McKinney was almost a decade ago when I brought my cat to McKinney’s animal shelter for a low-cost spay. McKinney was much, much smaller then.

Historical downtown McKinney dates back to the 1860s. The downtown area is in great shape, full of boutique shops and local interests. We ate breakfast at Snug on the Square because it had been highly recommended on TripAdvisor. The breakfast sandwiches were good; the service was okay.

This historical walk begins at the Grand Hotel. It’s lovely. The lady at the desk told me that it used to be part of the McKinney Opera House. If you go, check out the ceilings and the display of weapons . Their reading library is impressive, too. I was disappointed to see that we were walkers #2 and #3 for 2018.

I had a suspicion that the hotel was haunted. I was right.

The walk takes the pedestrian past many historical homes (marked with placards) with lovely, fragrant, shaded gardens. Because of construction, we got lost and ended up walking a bit more than the 5k we signed up for.

This food pantry volunteer collects food to place in the food pantry boxes placed around the McKinney town square.

Food Pantry Volunteer

One of our favorite discoveries was a Food Pantry Box. We thought we’d spotted a Little Free Library being filled. Then we noticed that it wasn’t books being loaded into the box–it was food!  It turns out that the city of McKinney, in cooperation with several entities, including Lowe’s, had nine Food Pantry boxes around the town square. Volunteers load the boxes with food items and anyone in need may take food from the boxes. The boxes operate 24/7/365. No paperwork; no shame. Awesome!

After our walk, we headed over to the Pie Emporium, only a couple of blocks from the Grand Hotel. I knew the pies would be expensive ($6 a slice) but I’d also heard it would be worth it. Sweetie had a slice of Mellow Yellow–a citrus chiffon pie. I had a slice of Cherry Bomb a la mode. It was worth it.

Finally, we were ready for step 3: the geocache. I’ve had this one in my sights since the Texas Geocaching Challenge. Nailed it!

Truthfully, it was a great way to celebrate the onset of summer.

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Geocaching Adventure: Goatman’s Bridge

While the Texas Geocaching Challenge was officially over, the Geocaching Labs were still open. Sweetieheart, having completed all of our duties, headed back to Denton to do the labs.

We saved the best lab for last. It’s been on our bucket list for about a year. We first heard of Goatman’s Bridge on Youtube. Then I heard it on a podcast. Obviously, all the signs were there. When it popped up on the lab, I knew the stars were aligned in our favor.

Frankly, I would never visit this place at midnight in search of the Goatman. I’m entirely too superstitious. I would, however, visit this place in broad daylight with lots of witnesses/survivors.

Once we finished the lab, we began the hunt for the cache. While we were waiting for details to upload, I noticed a couple behind us. The male was wearing a Texas Geocaching Challenge t-shirt. He generously let us sign the log even though he was the one who found the cache.

Thanks, Catbert, for the smiley! Thanks, Catbert and the Texas Geocaching Association, for giving us the opportunity to meet at the Goatman’s Bridge.

16th Annual TXGA Challenge and Festival 2018

We’ve known since last year that the Texas Geocaching Challenge would be local, Denton to be exact. Sweetieheart has never been to a challenge or mega-event. The one I attended last was one of the first mega-events with over 1000 registered participants.

We attended a meeting in February for planning/volunteering. I really should have done a better job. Everything was posted to Facebook but I gave up Facebook for Lent. I ended up on missing some information.

In any case, I volunteered Sweetieheart to work registration on Friday with me. They had a pretty good jazz band playing while we manned the t-shirt table.

We arrived early and everything folded early. Still, we felt we’d done our bit for the geocaching community.

A photograph from the first night.

What We Saw

 

Ghostly Hauntings: Carter, TX

I want to log this cache as a cemetery cache. But it’s not marking the death of an individual. It marks the death of a town.

A historical marker and a memorial stone mark Carter, TX.

Sweeties studies the markers.

Carter, Texas, was once a bustling, growing town. It was on the Goodnight Trail. Then it was struck by Indians (their words!). Then there were gunfights. Finally, there were tornadoes. These calamities killed the town of Carter.

Memorial stones mark ihte history of Carter.

This marker reminds us of how wild the Wild West was.

All that is left of Carter now is a church which has been heavily vandalized but bravely soldiers on and a pavilion for reunions.

The church and the pavilion

The Town of Carter

I learned about Carter in some books about paranormal (haunted) Fort Worth and Tarrant County. People have reported hearing gunshots (from the gunfights?), children crying (from children kidnapped by the Native Americans?), and piano music (from the church or saloons?). People have reported having rocks thrown at them or thrown on the roof of the church. People have reported ominous feelings.

I felt a cool spring breeze. I heard traffic in the distance and the calls of many birds. Most of all, I felt that peace that comes from an isolated spot.

There’s also a geocache. The geocache is surrounded by brambles and poison ivy but it gives geocachers an excuse to get off the beaten path and explore Texas history. In other words, bring gardening gloves.

Sweetieheart signs the Log

Sweetieheart signs the log.

Pounding the Impoundment

After weeks of freezing weather, the weekend was looking up. Temperatures would be in the 60s with a southerly wind. I was ready for a new adventure.

For several years I’ve been aware of a geocaching trail along Joe Pool Lake. I had no idea where. My only clue was Joe Pool Lake.

So I went to Geocaching.com and began my hunt. I found the trail. Then I looked up Google Maps, seeking the dam and how to get to it. I cross-referenced the two maps then added the location to my phone GPS.

Sweetie hasn’t been walking much. He hurt himself and is still healing. I promised him that we’d walk only as far as he could go. I knew the trail was 3.9 miles thanks to AllTrails.com and I really hoped to walk the 3.9 miles (and back!). I was fairly sure I could do the 8 miles. I was feeling really good but I was also realistic. I would be lucky if Sweetie could finish five miles.

We hit our first hurdle when we arrived at the park. The government shut down had shut down the park to the lake. It falls under the purview of the Army Corps of Engineers. We saw other people on the trail ahead of us so we knew it was still doable.

We went around.

Buddy the Bison bears the sad news that the park is closed today.

We found a spot to park and walked to the gate, then around it. Coincidentally (NOT!), a geocache was located near the gate.

The log was soaked.

The cache was soaked.

Sweetie holds the soaked log of the cache.

It’s not a terribly interesting trail but there’s stuff to see if you pay attention. Basically, it’s a raised levee along Joe Pool. It’s paved. There are overflow grounds to either side. A bit off to the north, there are a couple of neighborhoods. To the south it’s fairly wild. Way off to the northeast, you can make out the Dallas Cowboys Stadium if the air is clear. Hawks glide overhead. The wind rustles the tall grass to the sides.

The Cowboys Stadium is just to the right of the center horizon.

Can you see the Dallas Cowboys Statdium off in the distance?

Eventually we reached the lake. At first it was just glimpses in the distance. Then more emerald green lake appeared. The lake was beautiful that day. I had never seen it so green before. Usually it’s brown.

A glimpse of the lake.

Joe Pool Lake and the Aerial Towers

The wind made the water choppy. Nevertheless, there were boats out on the lake. A few joggers ran past us. A few bikers rode around us. There was a family fishing.

It was peaceful.

Sweetie fills out the caching log sheet.

Sweetie taking a rest while filling out a log sheet.

Every .1 miles, there’s a geocache. They’re easy magnetic caches. The caches gave Sweetie a chance to rest. I credit those caches with giving Sweetie the strength to walk 7 miles that Sunday.

The trail is dog-, kid-, and bike-friendly. It’s paved. It’s also very vulnerable to the sun. There is no shade. Bring your own water. Restrooms are not available on the trail. Wear a hat and sunscreen.

The Pumping Station and Me

The Pumping Station and Me

 

 

 

2017 in Review

Happy New Year!

I haven’t been blogging regularly but then I haven’t been doing much regularly. I walked 1255 miles in 2017 but very few of them were volksmarches. I logged less than 20 geocaches. But 2017 was a good year.

My father stands on the edge of a badlands canyon.

Daddy in the Badlands

I went on a week-long trip with my daddy. We went on his first hike together. I took him to his first national park. We knocked “visiting Mt. Rushmore” off his bucket list. Best of all, I spent time with him, something I haven’t done since I was a preteen.

I made a new walking friend, Madelyn, when Victor and I went to Houston for a volksmarch. It was her first volksmarch.

After the volksmarch, Victor and I visited Galveston. I hadn’t visited Galveston in over a decade; Victor had never been. Two weeks, the hurricane hit.

A view of a Galveston Street

Galveston Street View

I finally found a geocache I’ve been hunting for but not finding due to muggle activity at the Fort Worth Train Stations.

It’s been a good year but I’m ready for something more.

My Resolutions for 2018

  • Walk more than 1255 miles.
  • Log more than 50 geocaches.
  • Go on another Daddy-Daughter trip / Explore more.
  • Meet up with Madelyn for volksmarch in February.
  • Walk at least 10 volksmarches.

 

 

My Father’s First Hike–and National Park

Last December my father turned 70 years old. We planned to go on a 70th birthday trip this summer. I’d hopes to go on Amtrak but summer is their busiest season and we weren’t able to get the trip we wanted so we opted to road trip it.

After much back-and-forthing, he confessed to wanting to see Mt. Rushmore and to an interest in Native Americans. I pulled out a National Parks map and off we went.

Photo of me in Kansas

You are now entering Kansas.

He wanted to visit some friends in Missouri so off we went. But where would we go afterwords? I began looking at a route to get us to Mt. Rushmore.

  • Effigy Mounds National Monument, Iowa
  • Pipestone National Monument, Minnesota
  • Badlands National Park, South Dakota
  • Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota

As we drove, Daddy and I talked. I learned that he’d never been to a national park. We’d be fixing that at Effigy Mounds.

We arrived early. (My dad gets up early so we usually do.) We opted to check out the mounds. We knew nothing about the park. We knew nothing about the mounds. But, it turned out to be the site of my father’s first hike. He’d never hiked before.

 

If you haven’t already,–and you’re eligible–buy a senior pass now. The current price for a lifetime senior pass is $10. In August, the price will rise to $80. My father bought his and it brought us much enjoyment.

 

 

A Bulwark against Boredom: Podcasts

I’m going to admit it. Sometimes I get bored while walking. Sometimes I’ve just walked this particular trail too often recently. Sometimes I just can’t settle into a groove. I look to technology to help me get over this particular hump. One of my bulwarks against boredom is podcasts.

What is a podcast?

Well, it’s a radio show based on listener interests. I have an Apple Smartphone and I use iTunes to find new podcasts. A podcast may be just a few minutes long or over an hour long. You decide how long you want to listen. After I download the podcast (necessary when there is no Wi-fi or when I’m not interested in using up more of my data plan, I go into the podcasts and select what I’m going to listen to.

Pros

I learn something new. I’m able to distract myself. I often want to continue walking just so I can hear the rest of the podcast.

Cons

This may take some pre-planning. You may lose some phone memory because podcasts take up space. I find my walking pace slows down as I listen.

I have some podcasts that I’m subscribed to and have set up so that I get regular updates. This means I don’t have to download the podcasts; they download automatically.

Podcasts I’m Subscribed to

  • The Day Tripper – This is a Texas podcast based on the popular PBS show, The Day Tripper. While each show focuses on a Texas town (it’s history, points of interest, etc.), the podcast focuses on the ins-and-outs of daytripping and the back scenes of the show. Each podcast is roughly an hour long.
  • #EdChat Radio – This 15-minute podcast tackles topics of interest to teachers while focusing on the latest and greatest in education.
  • The Naked Scientists – The Naked Scientists are based out of the UK. They cover a variety of scientific topics and each podcast usually features a panel of experts (aka scientists). They produce several different podcasts with a variety of themes, including Naked Archeology and Naked Astronomy. Each podcast is about an hour long.
  • Sidedoor – Sidedoor is a new podcast by the Smithsonian. Episodes run about 20 minutes.
  • StarDate – Stardate is based out of the McDonnell Observatory in west Texas. Each podcast is about two minutes long and it lets listeners know what’s going on in the night sky tonight.
  • Stuff You Missed in History Class – These podcasts are usually about 30 minutes long. In them, the two hosts focus on a particular topic and go into the history of that topic.

I also occasionally listen to Stuff Mom Never Told You, a podcast about feminist topics. While this podcasts tends to be quite liberal in its bias, it also focuses on women’s history, something of interest to me.

What interests you? What podcasts do you enjoy?

920 AM Geocacher Radio

Symbol for a Multi-Stage Cache

Multi-Stage Cache

Summer had begun and I was already bored. What do you do when you’re bored? I go on Facebook. L.T. on SWAG (South Arlington Area Geocachers) had just posted.

**GOING TO BE ARCHIVED SOON IF YA HAVENT GOTTEN IT AND YA WANT IT COME BEFORE THURSDAY 6-15-17**

The link to Geocaching.com was attached.

Geocache Description:

This cache is a redo of the most famous 9Key cache ! This is a two stage multi with a twist! You will need exit your vehicle at stage one. ****PLEASE READ HINT**** If having trouble locating correct house (1829) look for the Geocacher Parking Only sign (attached pic) Best to tune to 920am prior to arrival!

I normally don’t care for multi-stages but this was too good to be missed. On Thursday, Sweetie and I headed out.
I had studied the maps closely and I knew which neighborhood to go to. I knew the house number. I asked Sweetie to pull over in the shade to study our clues more closely. He tuned in the radio. I looked up and there it was: the geocacher sign.
There were two songs on a loop, along with the information about the cache. The two songs were “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking for” by U2.
We walked up to the house, much to the distress of neighborhood dogs. The cache was full of swag. Someone else had signed the log earlier that day (not bad, considering it was not yet 10AM).
We both agreed it was the best cache we’ve found thus far in 2017. I’m glad we found it before it was archived.

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Walking the Lake

Many years ago, Sweetie was a student at Tarrant County Community College, Northwest Campus. Many years before that, I was a professor at the same campus. A few years later, Sweetie and I visited an art exhibit being held on campus. After the presentation, we went for a walk around the lake. Kind of.

A photo of the early stages of construction.

The way it looked before construction of the new trail.

When I was there, the lake was there but there was only a bit of sidewalk around the campus touched the lake. When Sweetie attended, not much had been done to extend the sidewalk. By the time of the art exhibit, construction had begun on a trail around the lake.

The Art Scene

One of the artworks and me

The trail is opened and the Tarrant County Walkers held a walk to celebrate the occasion.

It’s been a while since I last went on a real walk. But it was such a beautiful day and I was feeling so good that even though we signed up originally for a 5k, we extended it to a 10k. As a result, we were the last ones to return. They were so worried that they called us to check up on us.