Monday, January 30, 2017

Hike Report: Multi Trails at San Angelo State Park

The high today was expected to climb into the 70s with sunny skies. Donna and I felt it would be a good time to take a short hike at the park.

We're fortunate to have San Angelo State Park so near us. From our garage to the gate is literally only 3.5 miles. It's a great place to hike because there are about 50 miles of trails throughout the park.

We left our house at 10:00 with the temperature about 50 degrees but climbing quickly. We decided to put together a loop hike of several trails, including the following:
  • Chaparral Trail
  • Lankey Lackey Trail
  • Winding Snake Trail
  • Talley Valley Trail
  • Nature Trail
  • Red Dam Loop Trail
You can view all the trails on the San Angelo SP Trails Map, but keep in mind that not all the trails shown on the map are named. Also, we did not hike all the above trails in their entirety.

Almost our entire route today took us through an area of the park that was recently part of a controlled burn. As a result, everything looked much more open. Just over a year ago, I posted some pictures regarding a prescribed burn that had just been performed. You can view those pictures at "Prescribed Burn at San Angelo State Park" from December 12, 2015.

I started out wearing a hooded jacket, but I took it off after the first mile and was then wearing only a short sleeve shirt. It was simply a beautiful day for a hike. By the time we finished, the temp was 72 degrees. Basically, we hiked a loop trail from the parking area next to the Red Arroyo Camping Area near the park entrance to Burkett Trailhead and back. Below are the stats for our hike:
  • Distance: 5.4 miles
  • Duration: 2:13:51
  • Speed: 24:38 per mile
  • Elevation Range: 1808 feet to 1934 feet
I noticed that the Talley Valley trail near the start of the hike had quite a bit of erosion. I'm not sure of the reason. That area is heavily used by bike riders. Their use combined with heavy rains from the past year or so may be part of the problem. Overall, though, this is a good hike with several good ups and downs for exercise.

Also, the area downstream from the fishing pond between Isabell Harte and Burkett Trailhead was dry. The normally wet area along Winding Snake was completely dried up; we could have walked across it. In the past, there has always been water running along here. The fishing pond was considerably lower as well. I can't speculate on the cause, especially considering the good rain we've had the last year or so.

Below are a few pictures I took, but they really don't show the effects of the burn very well.

This area is usually very thick with mesquites. In warm weather, you can not see far at all. Notice the pale color of the prickly pear cacti.

The lake is still holding water well. Normally, it would be difficult to see the lake from this location due to plant growth.
Even though the burn occurred just about 2 weeks ago and it is still only January, we saw much evidence of new life, such as the greenery emerging from the burned clump above.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Old Man Winter Came Back to Life

It's been a pretty good week here at Rio Concho West on the outskirts of San Angelo.

We started the week with some pretty good weather, even reaching the low 80s one day. It began cooling a bit on Thursday, but then Friday really turned cool. Just before retiring Friday night, Donna and I looked out the window and saw a pretty good snow flurry. Fortunately, the ground was a bit too warm for much of the snow to stick, otherwise we would have had some pretty good accumulations. On Saturday, the sun returned and we began warming again. Things should be pretty mild this week, I think. As I write this on Sunday, the sun is shining, and there's nary a cloud in the sky.

After being gone for a week, we did quite a bit of grocery shopping this week. We always stock up when we see good sales. We often see good meat buys at H.E.B., and our local Lowe's grocery store usually has great vegetable and canned good sales. Lowe's -- not to be confused with either the big box home goods chain or the Carolina based grocery chain -- is a chain of grocery stores serving small to medium sized towns primarily in West Texas and New Mexico. There are a few stores scattered across Arizona and Colorado as well. I like Lowe's for several reasons. First, the stores are much smaller than Walmart, H.E.B., and other large chains. It almost feels like a grocery store from the old days. Second, they really have great sales, as noted above. Finally, my first full-time teaching job back in the late 1970s was in Olton, Texas, where the first Lowe's grocery store was located. I like that connection.

During our week trip to the boats and my brother's house, we put on a few pounds, so the Fuhrer put us on diets. Since returning home, we've been eating lots of salads and other low calorie dishes. Donna manages to stay pretty trim, but I could stand to lose several pounds.

During my month-long illness, I was not able to walk much. I tried once or twice, but I just didn't have the energy to walk far. But this past week, we did begin walking a bit and will continue. We hope to get out to the state park this week as well and hike some of the trails. The weather is predicted to reach the 70s and 80s throughout the week, so it looks promising.

Towards the end of each month, our community newsletter -- the Rio Concho West Acorn -- is distributed. We use it to plan all the activities we want to participate in for the coming month. We are eagerly awaiting it so that we can plan some travel. Since our stay at Winstar in our travel trailer a couple of months ago, we have been receiving free room and other offers from that place, and we'd like to venture up there again. We are not that familiar with the country between here and Winstar, so we would use the trip as a way to explore the area, perhaps detouring here and there on our way either to or from the Winstar to visit some new destinations.

And that is about all the news from my neck of the woods.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Matter of Perspective

While watching the news the other night, a San Angelo resident who was being interviewed referred to San Angelo as "a small town." Now, before continuing, consider that San Angelo is roughly 100,000 folks.

I've heard folks from towns this size over the years refer to their cities as "small towns," and I've always found this amusing. Now, granted, towns the size of San Angelo are a great deal smaller than Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and other much larger cities, but to call a city of 100,000 folks a small town seems a bit of a stretch to me.

Although we moved around some when I was a lad, I consider Fairfield, Texas, my hometown. It is where we lived when I was born, and it is where I spent most of my school years. At my graduation, the town consisted of roughly 1,500 folks, and there were 49 students in my class. If you look Fairfield up, you will find it is about triple in size today compared to the time when I prowled its streets. To me, towns like Waco, San Angelo, and even nearby Corsicana (roughly 20,000 souls at that time) seemed large to me. I attended university in Huntsville, Texas (Sam Houston State University), and at 20,000 folks in the town and 10,000 at the university, I thought I was in a metropolis.

While growing up, I literally knew the name of everyone in my high school, and most folks in my hometown. You can't say that about a town the size of San Angelo. Most folks can shop at one of our 3 Walmarts, eat at a local restaurant, and go to a movie without ever bumping into anyone they know.

To be honest, I always considered myself a "city kid" when I was growing up. My maternal grandmother lived in the small community of Kirvin about 10 miles west of Fairfield. That small town had fewer than 100 folks when I was growing up. And my paternal grandparents lived in the country along the Freestone/Limestone county lines. Both sets of grandparents relied on outhouses during my formative years. When I visited them, I felt pretty sophisticated since my home had indoor plumbing and other modern conveniences.

So, I wonder what folks who consider San Angelo a small town think about places like Fairfield and Kirvin.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Visiting the Boats

Sunday a week ago, we enjoyed an all day rain, which is quite unusual for our part of the world. The morning was misty and drizzly, but during the afternoon, we had some nice down pours. All told, we received almost an inch of rain, our first real rain of 2017.

Donna and I rose early Monday. We had reservations at the Eldorado in Shreveport, where we planned to stay through Thursday night. We arrived about middle of the afternoon. The Eldorado has been our favorite casino in the Shreveport/Bossier City (SBC) area for the past several years. However, their video poker inventory has been on the decline in recent years. In addition, service in the casino has also declined. We figure our playing days there are numbered.

So on this trip, we began scouting the games at the other casinos in the SBC area. We finally decided that the best offerings in the area for our level of play are the Horseshoe and Boomtown. We have played at both of these casinos extensively over the years, and like them both. In the early days of playing in the SBC area, the Horseshoe was my favorite. We decided to concentrate our play there. So, on our recent trip, we divided our time between the Eldorado and the Horseshoe, hoping that we would play enough at the latter to get some room offers from the Shoe for future trips. We'll wait and see what comes in the mail.

While in the area, we enjoyed some good food at Athena Greek and Lebanese Grill. We've eaten at the Line Avenue location for years, but on our last trip to the area we discovered a new location on Barksdale. Since that location is closer to the casinos, we visited it this time and were excited to see that they had a noon buffet. We really enjoyed ourselves and will go back next time we are in the area.

After several days of gambling and eating, we left Shreveport before rush hour Friday morning and headed west to visit my brother and his wife for a couple of days. So, we then spent 2 more days of eating. I did put on a couple of pounds during this trip.

We arrived home this past Sunday. We had a good trip, but as always, it was good to be back home in San Angelo, Texas.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Trailer and Other Things

Inspection time for the travel trailer rolled around, so I hooked that baby up to the truck and pulled it down to my nearby Avis Lube, where I have the truck serviced and inspected. 20 minutes and $7 later, the inspection was done and I was on my way back home.

Not all places that inspect cars and trucks will provide trailer inspections. The best thing to do is go to the Texas Department of Public Safety site and look for vehicle inspection locations. Here is a shortcut: Just search by zip,  city, or county, and you'll be given a list of inspection stations. Be sure to use the endorsements table to search by the appropriate code. For travel trailers, the code is "TL".

The day we had the trailer inspected was a beautiful day. The sun was out, the wind was pretty calm for West Texas, and the temperature was in the mid 70s or so. I decided to just drag the trailer to the house and give it a good washing while it was hooked up. I even crawled on top with a brush and extended handle to scrub the top. Now we have a clean trailer.

We had several days of beautiful weather this past week, even climbing into the low 80s one day. Then Friday rolled around, and the sun disappeared and  temperatures fell. Yesterday, fog hung around the entire day, and so far today, the fog is still here. It is cold and wet, with temps in the low 40s or so. Surprisingly, about 60 or more miles south along the I-10 corridor, temps are about 20 degrees higher. But we expect today to warm some, and tomorrow should be even better.

On Wednesday, we boarded our community bus along with some other inmates and headed over to Rio Concho Manor -- our sister property located downtown along the Concho River -- for lunch there. The bus actually makes the rounds in Rio Concho West (RCW) and collects anyone wishing to go. There is a usual crowd, but sometimes 1 or 2 different faces appear. We enjoy the ride over, visiting with our neighbors, then we all sit together while we enjoy lunch. All in all, it is a good time, and a very social one at that.

On Thursday night, residents gathered at the club house for our monthly birthday dinner. Each table seats 6 people, and we usually sit with different people each month. It gives us a good opportunity to meet new people.

I'm just about recovered now, and I'm hoping I can get back to some serious walking and other outings. I'm really ready to go for some hikes in the state park that is only 2 or 3 miles down the road.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Winter is Here

After several days of nice weather earlier in the week, Old Man Winter pushed into the area Thursday night. When I woke Friday morning, it was 20 degrees outside, and the high for Friday stayed below the freezing mark. Saturday morning, it was 12 when I dragged out of bed, but it reached the low 40s later in the day. Last night, we dipped to about 25, but the high today should be about 50. By Monday, things should return to normal, and highs on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday should be in the 70s.

I'm still fighting some kind of bug. Donna is a lot smarter than I am. When she started coming down with something, she went in to see the doctor and got some antibiotics. It seemed like in no time at all she was back to her normal mean old self. I hate going to see doctors, but I guess if I'm still dragging around tomorrow, I'll see if I can get some medical help. I hate taking medicine. In fact, I blame some of my medication for damaging my immune system, which makes it difficult for me to get over bugs when I do become ill.

I got the truck serviced last week. While there, I asked if they inspect travel trailers, and they do. I'll take the trailer in when the weather improves next week and get it inspected.

Other than taking care of ourselves and trying to get well, we've not done much recently. We do have some trips planned. In fact, we are scheduled to go to the boats (casinos in Shreveport/Bossier City) next week if I can get over this bug. If not, I guess we'll have to cancel. And we have a couple of bigger trips we are considering, but they are only in the early planning stages for now.

We are also considering selling the trailer. I've just not enjoyed any of our recent trips. I guess I'm just getting set in my ways. I think I prefer to just book a room in a hotel somewhere and enjoy the creature comforts they provide. I have never enjoyed towing, and setting up a trailer and breaking camp gets old, especially when the weather is bad. I've also been notified that the rates on my trailer insurance are about to increase dramatically, and I don't like that. So, for these and other reasons, we are going to give some serious thought to selling the trailer in the near future.

But that doesn't mean we will stop traveling. In fact, all the trips I'm currently planning are without our trailer.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Getting Back to Normal

Happy New Year to all!

Well, the holiday season is essentially over. I enjoy the holidays, but I'm always glad when things return to normal. It's time to get those children back in school and off the streets, and time for folks to get back to work. This gives Donna and me more room in stores and restaurants and tourist areas.

I'm still recovering from my heavy cold. It takes me a long time these days to get over illness. It's been going on for almost 2 weeks now, but I'm in pretty good shape. I even got out yesterday in our 70+ degree weather and took down our Christmas lights. Donna came down with something earlier this week, but she's pretty mean so it seemed to only bother her a day or two. She seems to be back to normal. She took down the tree and other interior decorations earlier this week.

We did our first meal on our new grill yesterday. We picked up some T-Bone steaks for $3.99 a pound at H.E.B. the other day, so we threw these on that new grill. I really enjoyed mine, but I don't think Donna's was done to her liking, which is essentially raw and dripping blood. I like mine cooked for a while; Donna doesn't really need a grill, just a match or two. The old woman will be cooking the traditional black eye peas today, along with her delicious corn bread. I look forward to that. She'll cut up some jalapeno cheese sausage to go into the peas as well. Along with some pico de gallo to top it off, that's some good eating to start off the new year.

The weather is supposed to be nice this week, so I hope to get back to walking soon. I just feel better anytime that I can get out and walk regularly. I miss going out today on a "First Day Hike." The Texas Parks and Wildlife system has been sponsoring these hikes for the past few years, and Donna and I normally try to go. But I'm still not up to speed, so I'll have to delay my hike at least a few days. Maybe by the end of the week . . .

We hope to resume traveling this month. We have some free nights and meals at the Shreveport/Bossier City casinos, so we'll probably head that with an overnight stay at brother's house in Ft. Worth. This may be our last visit to his house before he and his wife retire to Florida later this year.

And that is just about all that is happening with us as the new year begins. I wish all of you a prosperous and Happy New Year.