Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Walk in the Park

After 3 days of cold temperatures and overcast skies, I was itching to get outside. The outdoors is my medicine; it is what makes me feel good. When I'm sick, the sun heals me. When I feel depressed, the wind lifts my spirits.

To celebrate improving weather, Donna and I drove the 2 miles or so down the road to our local state park, San Angelo State Park, on Friday. We are so fortunate to have this park. As I've stated in previous posts, it has more than 50 miles of trails for hikers, bicycle riders, and equestrians, and we've walked every mile of them.

Normally when we walk in the park, we just stay on the paved park roads. Our main objective when doing this is exercise, but we like to walk in the park because we don't have to worry about traffic and we usually get to see some critters. It's nice to be away from the usual city noises. I wrote about some of our paved road routes in the park back in April 2015; you can read that entry at "Walking at San Angelo State Park".

On our walk Friday, though, a cold wind was blowing quite steadily out of the west. So, even though the sun was shining brightly, it was still chilly. To block some of that wind, we opted to walk on the loop trail near the south entrance to the park. Basically, this trail parallels park roads, rarely venturing more than 20 yards or more from them. The trail is level and well maintained. It is an easy walk except for the numerous rocks that populate the trail. But there are quite a few mesquites, junipers, and other brush, and they helped block the wind that was blowing that day.

Aside from the steady wind, it was a pleasant walk, and we saw quite a few critters. Almost immediately after getting on the trail, a red-headed woodpecker came squawking over us and lit in a nearby tree. We then spotted a good herd of white tail deer scampering away, perhaps as many as a dozen strung out to our left. Next, we spotted part of the bison herd in the distance. I tried to get a picture, but I only had my phone camera and it did not come out well. It is hard to see that screen in full sun, so I more or less guessed at getting an image, even when zoomed in.

The bison are a good quarter mile away in this photo, on the other side of the park road that parallels our trail.
The trail takes us near one of the RV camp grounds, and we always enjoy taking a look at the campers. We still have that itch to take off in a travel trailer.

Following our walk, we drove around the campgrounds a bit, looking at the campers again. We then drove to Pulliam Point, which is as far north as you can drive on park roads from the south entrance. The point is actually a ridge jutting north, and it provides good views in almost all directions. I took the following pictures from that ridge.

This image looks southwest. I love the fish scale clouds and the distant hills. If you click the image to enlarge, you should be able to see the ridge drop away.

I love the wide open spaces out here. This image looks west. You can see the ridge drop away about halfway up the picture. Notice the top of the juniper bush towards right.
This picture looks north/northwest. On the left in the distance is a rather new housing development called Buffalo Heights. Click to enlarge and you should see the trail slanting from lower left just above the juniper tree towards the right. That trail is one of the trails that leads to the north section of the park
This image is just to the left of the picture above, and I have zoomed in some. You will see the trails below, which basically turn into the trail mentioned in the picture above. 
This is the northern tip of Pulliam Point. A dry creek, Potts Creek, runs from left to right, towards the lake, which is difficult to make out. There is also a water tower on horizon mid-right, as well as the lake dam. All are hard to see unless you enlarge.
This picture looks almost due east, towards the mass of the dam. You can also see Burkett Trailhead on right. The building is a restroom. The trailhead is the jumping off place for hiking/riding to the north section of the park. At one time, all the low lying areas in the picture were under water, but that was a long time ago.
Dry pond in park. This once was a very popular fishing place. Note the sign. 
And once back home in Rio Concho West, one of the first things we see is this rafter of turkeys.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Weird Texas Weather

Well, my great autumn weather of my previous post has disappeared. On Monday, we reached 81 degrees. It was a beautiful day, though a bit warm for December. On Tuesday, a front moved through and we reached a high only in the 50's. On Wednesday, I awoke to a cold drizzle, which lasted most of the day, resulting in nearly a half-inch of rain. We can use that moisture. The high that day was only in the 40's.

Yesterday, the north wind blew and the cold and overcast skies hung around. I saw only a very brief flurry of snow, so light you could barely see it. After a few minutes, it was gone, so most of my neighbors probably never saw it. But other areas nearby saw snow.

The mountains to the west got a pretty good dusting, and areas to our south (Ozona and Junction, for example) saw about an inch of snow. Even the country around Eagle Pass along the border saw a bit of snow, a rarity for that area. A friend in the Rockport area posted a picture on his blog this morning showing a very light dusting of snow there.

This morning, it is dry but cold, below freezing. What a change from our 81 degrees just a few days ago. But the sun should come out today and reach the mid-50's. Tomorrow will see temps in the 60's, followed by a day or so reaching the 70's.

We normally have a few cold waves like this throughout the winter. They don't last long. One of the nice things of being retired is that we can stay in our warm home and just ride them out.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Great Autumn Weather

This has truly been a great autumn. I can't remember one I've enjoyed more.

The temperature has been just about ideal. Nights often dip down into the 30's, but they usually only get to the upper 40's or lower 50's. The highs each day are usually in the 70's. We've even set several records this fall for high temperatures, and we may do that again today as the high is expected to inch above 80. We've been able to walk at all times of the day, and we've sat outside at all times.

One of the things we've enjoyed most is sitting out just past dark and watching the deer parade. We do this almost every night. You can almost set your watch by the deer. We normally try to get outside about 15 or 30 minutes after dark. The deer slowly start emerging from the brush and high grass to the south and walking north along the street or through our yard, often stopping to graze a bit. They then head off into a draw across the street and disappear.

We've really been surprised at the inability of the deer to detect us. We have sat in our chairs on our patio with the deer not more than 10 or 15 feet from us. They seem to sense we are there. The other night, one doe in particular strained her neck and twisted it about trying to get a better look. She appeared to look straight at us, but we remained motionless. Eventually, she resumed grazing. One night, our 8 point buck stood just out of Donna's reach and never saw her. You would think they could smell us at least, but they don't. If we remain perfectly still, they never know we are there.

My only regret about the weather this fall is that we just haven't had much rain. We are a few inches below our average rainfall amount now, and we will undoubtedly finish the year in a deficit. Perhaps next year will be better, but I'm afraid we are entering another drought cycle. And since we had some pretty good rain in the spring, there was a lot of plant growth in the rural areas. Now, with the lack of rain, that growth has turned into tinder, so we could see some wild fires in the coming spring and summer. Gosh, I hope not.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Recycle Day

Boy, did we have fun today. It was recycling day.

Donna and I have been recycling for years and years. We've always checked out the recycling possibilities where we live and have done our best to recycle everything we could. We are fortunate that San Angelo has a wonderful recycling center called S.A.F.E. (San Angelo Friends of the Environment). We began using S.A.F.E. when we lived in nearby Ozona in the 1990s.

Today, much of the city has curbside service for recycling. In our last home here, we were able to use that service. However, our current home is not served by city trash collection; that service is provided by Rio Concho West, and they do not recycle. So, about once each month, we load up the car and haul a load of recyclable goods to S.A.F.E.

There is no telling how much of our trash has been kept out of landfills over the years as a result of our recycling efforts, but I think it is considerable. We no longer produce much garbage. Our crew picks up garbage on Mondays and Thursdays, and we usually have only a very small bag, and sometimes not even that because of our recycling efforts. Most of our waste goes to our recycling bins.

Right now, most of our recyclable waste is probably newspaper or cardboard. It's really amazing how much cardboard is used in packaging out there. Consider all the things you use in your house that contains cardboard in some way: toothpaste boxes, bath soap boxes, rolls from toilet paper and paper towels, cereal boxes, waffle boxes, cracker boxes, and the list goes on and on.

Below are some pictures from our recycling effort today.

We keep these 4 bins in our garage. From left to right, they contain tin cans, aluminum cans, #1 plastic, and #2 plastic. We use very little aluminum, but the plastic bins fill up usually. We also accumulate quite a bit of tin.

These are the recyclable items we keep inside. They are newspapers, cardboard, glass items and egg cartons in the same bin, and numerous plastic wraps or bags in white bag.

And here are all our recyclable goods for about one month. They fairly fill up the entire back end of our SUV, and the back seat is in down position. So each month, this is how much space we save in our landfill. Now, if everyone did this . . . 

No, these are not all of Donna's wine and beer bottles. Seriously, this is the glass bin at S.A.F.E. Quite a load, isn't it.
This is the part of S.A.F.E. where plastics, tin, and aluminum are collected. The tall blue machines under the cover compress plastic into bales.
These are the bins where newspapers, glass, and similar items are collected. The bin at front left is the glass bin shown two pictures above.

These are some of the old appliances and other items that will be taken away.

Oil and similar items are collected in the dome structures at left center in picture.

I think we are very fortunate to have a facility like S.A.F.E. here in San Angelo.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Come . . . Take a Walk with Me

I love walking. Anyone who has read my blog much knows that. I thought you might like to join me. Here is a photo essay from a recent walk on a mostly overcast fall day. I was able to catch some pictures with trees changing color, and I caught a bit of wildlife. Right now, I can almost guarantee I'll see turkeys on any walk I take in our neighborhood. And I've been fortunate to see quite a few deer lately, even in the middle of the day.

So, sit back and join me for a walk around my neighborhood.

This picture is a bit grainy. I caught this doe just a few houses from home, and I really didn't expect to see her. 
Here's some pretty good color about half a mile down the street from our house.
This is James. He takes care of all our landscaping needs. He's busy trimming and taking care of fallen leaves this time of year.
I love our wide, clean streets. This is the newer section of our community, so the trees are not yet mature.

Here's an older section of Rio Concho. The trees are more mature here and provide greater shade. The street is a bit narrower, and the houses are a bit smaller.
And here are some of those turkeys I guaranteed you. They don't come down in our area; they prefer to stay in the older sections where there are more trees and more acorns.
Here's another flock of turkeys I caught as the sun was trying to break out of the clouds. These guys really make themselves at home, don't they? They're fun to watch.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving 2017

I love Thanksgiving. I love that it comes in autumn, when leaves are falling and the weather is changing. From Halloween to Christmas is really my favorite time of the year.

But most of all -- especially as the years continue to pile on -- I love Thanksgiving for what it is, a time to be thankful. I think we tend to forget that these days.

My father had a simple prayer he would say to bless our meals. I've used it time and time over the years. Sometimes I recite it as Dad said it, and sometimes I incorporate it into longer prayers. But in its simplicity is the beauty of it.

"Father give us thankful hearts for these and all our many blessings."

All of us need to be more thankful, mainly for just the little things in life. And we are blessed in this country, despite the divergent views and political climate that has permeated our land for the past 20 years or more. Yes, we have problems, but we have so much more that is good.

So, I wish all of you a happy Thanksgiving and holiday season.

Image result for cornucopia

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Lost Maples State Natural Area

When we left New Braunfels, we decided to detour through Lost Maples State Natural Area, one of our favorite parks in the Texas state park system. We've hiked all the trails in this park over the years, and we've camped there in our RV. It's a beautiful park. If you time it just right, you can see some wonderful color, a result of the maple trees for which the park is named. Unfortunately, we've never been able to time it just right, and we missed again this year. The color probably peaked about 2 weeks before our trip.

Still, it was a beautiful drive through some wonderful country.

We left New Braunfels early, probably about 6:00 AM. We stopped for a light breakfast on the western edge of town at McDonald's. We then hopped on Texas 46, which I detailed to some degree in my previous post. For the next 65 miles or so -- through Bulverde and Boerne and finally Bandera -- the traffic was heavy on a 2-lane highway. At Bandera, though, we finally lost most of the traffic as we continued west on Texas 16 to Medina before turning west on FM 337. This stretch was probably the most scenic of the day. There are some beautiful ranches along the West Prong of the Medina River. However, the fog was heavy this day, so views from the higher elevations were severely limited.

We stopped at a pull-out near the highest point on Highway 337 for this picture. The fog was pretty heavy, so visibility is very restricted.

The route we took from New Braunfels to San Angelo, with a detour through Lost Maples.
At Vanderpool, we turned north on Highway 187 for the remaining 5 miles to the park entrance. I inquired about color at the ranger station, and was told that most color was gone. Well, we'll just have to try again next year, I suppose.

We did venture down to the picnic area for the following pictures. There were quite a few people in the park on this cool, damp day. Most were setting off for hikes into the back country. Donna and I have done every inch of the trails, so we decided to just forego another hike unless we had a reward of some good color. We made a quick drive through the camping area. It was probably about 75% or so full, but this was early on a Friday morning. I'm sure it would fill up later in the day for the weekend.

Although there is very little color remaining, the parking lot in the day use area was about half full. By noon, it would probably be about maxed out. The fog was still hanging around.

Here's a small tree with some color. Notice the canyon wall in the background.

A little more color set against the backdrop of the limestone canyon wall.

Scattered color, but very little. We'll get the timing down one of these days.

Here are a couple of trees in the campground with a bit of color.

We then left the park and continued north on Highway 187 for 14 miles to Texas 39, which we followed west for 9 miles to US 83. From there, we headed north 46 miles to I-10, which we stayed on for just a mile or so before exiting for Junction. On the east side of Junction, we stopped at a scenic overlook for the pictures below.

Donna overlooking the city of Junction and the Llano River Valley. Junction has long been a favorite place of ours.

Here's a zoomed in shot of Junction. The bridge crosses the South Llano River, which joins -- or junctions (hence the name of the town) -- with the North Llano River just to the right. The tall signs along top of picture are along Interstate 10, which roughly follows the course of the North Llano River west to the area around the small community of Roosevelt and beyond.
From Junction to San Angelo is a fairly short drive. From the southern Concho County line south of Eden to San Angelo is 4-lane highway, so it was a relaxed way to end our trip.

If you are interested in Lost Maples State Natural Area, below are links to other blog entries I've written over the past few years.