Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Take a Hike Monday?

We interrupt our normally scheduled hike for a detour.

Take a Hike Tuesday was superseded by Up the River Without a Paddle Monday. Memorial Day, May 26, 2008, we headed for the Columbus Paddle Trail in Columbus, TX on the Colorado River. Our outfitter was Howell Canoe Livery where you will find the friendliest folks around. They'll get you fitted with all of your canoeing/kayaking needs whether it is a day float or a long term camping/canoeing trip.

We ended up renting a canoe and a kayak which came with PFDs, paddles, some rope, and a map of the river. Before starting out we were given a talk of hazards and places to explore on the river.

Once we put in, we almost immediately stopped at a small island for some exploring. We found several clam shells and pieces of petrified wood and some interesting rocks. We were told that arrowheads and teeth could be found but we didn't take the time to search very hard for them. We had 6 miles of river to cover!

While on the island we did come across a nest of killdeer eggs. They blended in amazingly well with the rocks!

The paddling was going great and we were all having a good time (except for when someone would rock the boat a little too much and there would be screams and threats coming from the canoe). Everything was running smooth until we ran into some heavy headwinds. There were some gusts that had to be 20-25mph which is not too good if you are in a canoe. There were even a few whitecaps.

Chuck was in the kayak at this point and I had Rachel in the bow while I was in the stern. We were having a really tough time controlling that canoe and spun around in circles down the river some. Chuck finally came over and tied the canoe to his waist and helped us get through the strong winds. It was an exhausting stretch of the river.

We stopped on a sandbar for lunch which was sandwiches, pickles, chips, fruit snacks, water and granola. After lunch, it was time for some splashing in the water despite the pictures of
hellgramites I had shown the kids on the internet before the trip. Yes, those scary looking grubs actually live in the Colorado River.

Once in the canoe and kayak (my turn in the yak) we headed up Cummins Creek to explore. There was one section that had cotton from Cottonwood trees falling from the sky and floating in the water that was particularly beautiful. It looked like snow in summer. Very beautiful and relaxing. We also saw a snake swimming across the water but when I tried to paddle up to him he went under the water.

After coming out of the creek, we stopped and Rachel attempted to get in the yak but fell right back into the water. These things are not easy to get in and out of! I have heard that the sit on top kinds are easier. This was not one of those. :)

Once everyone was situated we paddled for a while longer, saw some beautiful birds including an osprey and stopped at another sand bar for some swim time. While I was sitting in the water some ugly larval stage of a critter kept hanging on to my legs. I got out and sat in the canoe.

Off again and we came to something called "The Wall" which was in ruins. It marked the end of our trip. After passing under the railroad bridge and Hwy 90 bridge we took out at Beasons Park and were picked up by the livery shuttle service.

It was a wonderful trip and we can't wait to go back again. We slept so good that night and had some hearty appetites.

Lessons learned: don't go when heavy winds are expected and always put sunscreen on before you are sunburned.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"Take a Hike Tuesday"

Today's Take A Hike Tuesday is brought to you by Gehenna: hot enough to melt your face off.
It was so hot outside today: 97 degrees......Celcius! Kidding, it was Fahrenheit but it was so hot that we only lasted about 15 or 20 minutes and then it was time to run to air conditioning. Thank G-d for AC!

Today we went to Oyster Creek Park in Stafford, TX. Below is a slide show of a few of our findings including, but not limited to:

  • baby mockingbirds in our own front yard

  • kids on a bridge over Oyster Creek feeding turtles leftover lunch

  • TONS of turtles eating up cheetos and whatever else the kids through to them

  • a night heron

  • kids running and looking for shade

  • various water features

  • elderberry bushes in bloom

  • beautiful scenery

  • a red rose

  • Rachel and Charlie enjoying nature (and that's really what it's all about)

We're thinking about this as a possible place to launch once we get our canoes. Hopefully soon if my prince buys one for me. :)

Caldwell Zoo Trip in Tyler, TX

While on a mini vacation in Tyler, TX, we visited the Caldwell Zoo. It was April 18, 2008 and we had such a wonderful time! The weather was perfect and overall it wasn't too crowded. Chuck's parents were with us for the trip so it was nice for the whole family to go on the outing.

The zoo is not very large but it is packed with beautiful exhibits and wildlife. There was even a giant cage where you could go in and buy seed sticks to feed the cockatiels and parakeets flying around. Not sure why this was such a big draw for us since we have 4 birds of our own!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Flamingo Friday

A brilliantly colored flamingo at Moody Gardens in Galveston:

Did you know?

A flamingo's pink or reddish color comes from the rich sources of carotenoid pigments (like the pigments of carrots) in the algae and small crustaceans that the birds eat.

Field Trip: Moody Gardens in Galveston, TX

On Friday, May 2, the family all got in the miniature van and headed out to Galveston. The Titanic Exhibit was (and is as of this posting) at Moody Gardens.

Rachel has been a Titanic enthusiast for a few years so we couldn't let this go by without seeing it.

The pictures of the exhibit really did not turn out that great but here they are for your viewing pleasure

Here Rachel is looking at a replica of a first class passenger's bedroom

Charlie is checking out the guest room replica

While we were there, we had to check out the aquarium. There were one of my favorites: PENGUINS! I hope I get to pet one at least once in my lifetime.

Here's one of the cute penguins saying, "To the left, to the left....everything you own in a box to the left" You must not know 'bout me.

Check out the size of this fish!!!

This stingray has the neatest looking face. I know I wasn't supposed to but I couldn't help myself...I touched him. It felt like he was soft and covered in slime. Pretty cool! Doesn't it look like he's smiling?

Inside the Rainforest Pyramid there was this cool lizard that was performing some sort of Yoga move:

There were also these beautiful Hyacinth Macaws in there:

I LOVE LOVE LOVE the hair of this white pelican. He had some sort of deformity on his beak. Poor fella

We had a wonderful and exhausting day. We saw a 3D film about the Grand Canyon and another IMAX movie about the Titanic. We came home and crashed!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

"Take a Hike Tuesday"

Our nature walks have been named "Take a Hike Tuesday" by popular vote from the family. Tuesday we had our first inaugural outing.

After searching and looking online at various nature trails, we decided to venture to somewhere completely new:
Brazos River County Park I had a little difficulty finding directions how to get there. Finally I found a web site that was giving directions on how to get to a family reunion held there.

So off we went out the door with camera in hand (little did I know that it was low on batteries and would only take a few pics).
The first thing we found (photo 1 in the collage) was a mockingbird nest in our little oak tree in the front yard.

Then we were in the miniature van and headed to the park. Woo hoo! We were making all of the right turns (well, we might have missed a couple and had to turn around) and then we came to our next turn.

I knew I was in trouble when the road went from pavement to dirt and all of the local dogs started lining up along the "road" (and I use that term losely) to chase my car. We had just left civilization. So I maneuvered amongst the dogs barking and nipping at my tires until finally I had had enough and yelled at one like an angry mother to a wayward child, "Go home! Shame on you!" The dog dropped his head and turned homeward while all his buddies looked at him.

Things went from bad to worse at this point. A construction worker stopped me and told me to be careful as they were working on the "road." I asked him if he had ever heard of the road I was trying to find and he said, "Nawwww. But I'm shur it's up thar somewar." Small comfort. He then told me to drive slowly and to the left of the big tractor ahead of me. I proceeded cautiously as the bottom of the miniature van started scraping some of the mounds of the road. (
photo 2 in top of collage)

Fortunately, we found the park. YEAH!

As we turned in (to a paved road!) we passed by a deer standing so still that it looked like a statue. I quietly put the van in reverse and told the kids to be very quiet. The deer then started to walk towards the car. We were so surprised! (
photo 3 in collage top row)

I just happened to have had some Ritz crackers in the car and offered the deer one...and he took it and crunched happily. (see above several pictures) It turned out he was a young buck and very friendly. He wore two tags that made him look like he was wearing earrings. We fed him a few crackers and moved on, certain that this was an omen of good things to come on our nature hike.

The forest around the road was thick and lush. You would have thought we had just driven to a rainforest. The park was small but very pretty and had slides built into the side of a hill. The kids ran immiediately to a look out tower and climber the winding stairs.
(see 3rd row, 2nd pic in collage)

While the kids were in the tower I found a leaf with two cocoons on it.
(see collage)
And then disaster struck: the camera went dead!

So for the rest of the trip you will have to use your imagination. We made our way to the trail head whose entrance was completely shaded by vines and bent branches. As soon as you walked onto the trail it was almost completely dark. The trees made such a canopy over the top that we didn't even get wet when it started to rain.

We found ourselves on a foot bridge surrounded on both sides by tall horsetails. We came to the end of the trail at the Brazos River. It was a nice but very short hike.

The kids played for a while on the playground and then we started on the other trail. It was also very dark and made out of a wooden footbridge. The first thing we saw was a HUGE black and reddish colored snake. It scared us pretty good. And we were walking very quietly and then heard some rustling in the bushes. We were all holding hands wondering at what could be in those woods. Was it watching us?! Rachel started walking ahead again and Charlie was beside me. he then claps his hands loudly and Rachel almost jumps out of her skin.
"I was trying to scare whatever was in the woods so it wouldn't get us," says Charlie.

The rest of the walk was uneventful except for a skink and some sort of howling noise that we could hear in the distance somewhere. We came upon a small pond with slime and algae all over it. I sure would have liked to have some of that to look at under my microscope but I wasn't about to get near that water. I mean, what if an alligator or the creature from the green lagoon was in there?!

It started to rain so we ran to the car and left. Fortunately, the trip home was uneventful. The road had been repaired and the barking dogs stayed home.

And thus ended our first
"Take a Hike Tuesday."

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Mother's Day 2008

Saturday: Charlie woke me up with breakfast in bed.
Menu: 2 cookies, water and bubble gum

Sunday: Rachel gets up at 6:45am and makes chocolate chip muffins for me!
Menu: chocolate chip muffins and chocolate milk

The kids were so sweet to do that. I also got a homemade card form Rachel. Homemade cards are the best!

And a gift from all: a MICROSCOPE! I was so excited.
I also got a Timber Bamboo!

After breakfast, we stayed around the house for a while and decided that we needed to get out. We had all been couped up too long in the house after a run of different illnesses. So where did we choose to go on this most hallowed of days? Texas City Dike It's about a 5 mile dike into the Galveston Bay area. When the kidsand I had gone out on a Thursday afternoon, there was hardly anyone out there. Let me tell you, it's different on the weekends! It was so crowded.
We did see some people wind surfing and that was pretty cool. :)

It was a terrific day.

Happy Mother's Day to me!