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.

 

 

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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.

April Fools! Walk

The day began beautifully. The sun was already shining and the birds were kerthumping.

“Kerthumping?” you ask.

Yes, kerthumping. I’d never heard a sound like this before. As I stepped off the stoop, something kerthumped on the roof. The kerthump was soon followed by a bird call.

“Kerthump,” I heard again. Then there was another bird call, but this time it came from the tree, not the roof.

Looking up in the tree, I spotted the bird. Our temporary neighbors were back! A breeding pair of yellow-crowned night herons have laid eggs and had their babies in the neighborhood for the past three years. The herons were a local celebration of spring. They were checking out our yard as a nesting site.

Kerthump! The other half of the pair had arrived in a neighboring tree.

I greeted them, pointed them out to Victor, and we headed off to the car to head to Denton for our walk.

Denton boasts a popular photo spot: a bluebonnet field.

Visiting a bluebonnet field in Denton

It was truly a lovely day and a lovely walk. The April Fools! Walk was held in Denton. We walked by several historic buildings (someone in Denton’s historic crew is doing some excellent work!) with checkpoints that featured fun puzzles and food!

A view of the north-facing courthouse.

Denton went all out when it had its courthouse built.

I had two favorite points. Both occurred at the courthouse.

Some of the band in front of the courthouse.

This little boy was rockin’ out with the band.

There is a tradition in Denton that began several years ago. The legend goes that once upon a time a man began drumming at the courthouse on Saturdays. He invited other musicians to join him. Eventually they did. Weather-permitting, they continue to jam on the Square every Saturday.

We arrived in time for the jam session. It was great!

A historical marker to teach us more about Denton's history.

Historical Marker at the Denton County Courthouse

As we listened to Rocky Top,  I saw a bit of a ruckus. I turned the corner where a group of people were gathered. It was a courthouse wedding! The bride wore a short white dress sprinkled with sparkling rhinestones. The groom wore his military uniform with pride. They were surrounded by joyous friends and family. It was a beautiful sight.

An eastern view of the courthouse with a wedding party waiting for the big event.

The Wedding Party

I haven’t lived in Denton since the 90s. I graduated from UNT but it wasn’t until this walk that I found the building where the first UNT class was held (northwest corner of the Square).

I learn something new every walk. That’s why I continue walking.

 

First Cache

For 2017, Sweetieheart and I went for a first hike at Fort Richardson. We met up with a group of people interested in hiking and history.

In that group was a nice lady with her dog. She came with her son, husband, and another dog but we only interacted with the lady and her dog. They had spent the night at Fort Richardson. Her son had planned on sleeping in a hammock tent but storms overnight had brought him into the tent of his parents. He was spending the morning drying stuff out while she took the dogs for a morning walk/hike.

At the end of the two-mile hike, she noticed Sweetie and I peeling off from the rest of the group and consulting my phone.

“Are you doing that treasure hunt thing?” she asked.

“Yes. There’s one less than a 1/4 mile away. Do you want to come with us?”

She handed the dog off to her husband and then came along with us.

We stayed on the marked trail. The cache was a bit off-trail but I’m uncomfortable with disturbing the wilderness (and any sleeping snakes) so I try to stay on-trail for as long as possible.

We chatted and learned about the storms and her family. She was interested in geocaching because she has grandsons who are getting old enough to geocache. She thought it would be another family activity for camping trips. (Apparently camping is a favorite family activity for them.)

We described what we’d be looking for and she was the first one to spot the cache! Sweetie signed the log as we explored the contents of the cache.

Will she become a caching grandma? Maybe. I hope so. She seems like a nice lady who loves her family. Anything that keeps a family together is good.

Happy 2017!

Our new lady friend explores her first geocache.

The Lady and the Cache

First Hike

Many Texas State Parks sponsor a First Hike for the new year. We had a beautiful day scheduled for January 1st so Sweetieheart and I went for it: we drove to Fort Richardson to celebrate the new year.

Rain and storms were forecast for later in the day but the morning featured clear blue skies with a light breeze from the south.

Fort Richardson offered a guided hike. We had a park ranger and a volunteer to wrangle our group. The hike covered slightly over a mile of park and about a century of Texas and American history.

It was, in my opinion, the best way to spend New Year’s Day.

Earthcache at Texas’ Newest National Monument

Symbol for an EarthCache

EarthCache

I love dinosaurs. I’ve never outgrown my fascination with fossils (and rocks in general) so I was enthralled to learn that Texas would have a national park based on finds made in Waco.

On July 10, 2015, President Barack Obama designated the Waco site as a national monument. On July 9, 2016, Sweetie and I went to explore the site, celebrate the monument’s birthday, and find an earthcache.

Normally, visiting an outdoor park in July is an exercise in cooling but we had an abnormally cool July. It would only be in the low 90s so we set off bright and early. We were the first car at the entrance (although there must have been another entrance because we were nowhere near the first car in the parking lot).

There’s a small visitor center and gift shop. There’s a short trail which is mostly shaded although you should be on allergy medication if you’re like me with allergies. There are several opportunities for wildlife watching and viewing of native flora. The bone/fossil site is air conditioned.

Huge hint: There’s an earthcache here! Pay attention to your ranger guide and you can find it easily.

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LaGeek at Texas’ newest national state park

 

First Badger Meeting in the US… kinda

I’m participating in the #1000 mile challenge for 2017. Last year there were only three walkers in all of Texas participating. This year we’re up to five walkers in the Metroplex alone. I’m jazzed!

In the UK, participants in the challenge receive a badge to sew on to their clothing or backpacks. (It’s not an option for participants outside of the UK.) While on the trails, they look for people also wearing the badge. This is called a “badger meeting.”

Buddy the Bison is my mascot so when I met with Patricia, a challenge participant from Arlington, I brought Buddy along. Our goal is to get together with other #1000 mile challenge participants in Texas for social events and walking.

We don’t have a badge but we still met. It counts, right?

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The first “badger” meeting in the US was held at a Starbucks in Bedford, TX.

Ye Olde Traine Cache

Sweetieheart and I arrived early to the ballet. What could we do while we waited for the show to begin?

Coincidentally, there is a park across the street from the historic theater in Plano. It’s a lovely park with a bridge, a train, and a geocache.

My father retired from the railroad nine years ago. He started with Southern Pacific Railroad in 1966. He was nineteen. When SP was bought out, he switched to Burlington Northern. I grew up playing among the trains. I love that I got to play with a train for this geocache.

Even though this is rated an easy cache, it took us a while to find it as we avoided muggles and Sweetieheart avoided spiders. The photos posted on the site provided us with the necessary hints we needed.

We had really good seats.

The Russian Dance