Category: Outside

Artober 29: A wee bit more adventure and some middle ground

It’s starting to come together! So far, I’m really liking this one. There is, of course, still time to ruin it. Here’s a link to the tutorial in case you want to follow along.

I came home today after a grand (restful) adventure in Hot Springs, Arkansas. I still haven’t thoroughly gone through the photos on my good camera, but I’ll do that soon and post them. I’m sure they’ll be lovely, as it’s sooooo beautiful up there. Fall colors are a wee bit past peak, which is interesting because they don’t seem to be anywhere near peak around here. Or maybe we don’t have a peak.

Anyway, I had a difficult time tearing myself away from the mountains, so I made one more stop on my way home at Lake Degray, which is about 20 miles from Hot Springs and on my way home to Shreveport. I hiked the 1-mile Island Trail, which had a few outlets to the lake itself, which is stunning, especially on a clear day like today.

And the required panorama:

Those good camera photos are going to be amazing. I’ll do my best to deal with them tomorrow. For now, here’s the full view of painting progress:

(It’s so nice to be home and using a real computer so WordPress actually works. Sigh.)

Artober 28: Adventures and progress

Oh so many adventures. I started my day with a tasty breakfast at IHOP, then headed into Hot Springs National Park for some much needed Nature Time. I stopped by the Visitors Center for a trail map, then headed up what I’d read was an easy trail called Dead Chief Trail. Except it turned out that it wasn’t really Dead Chief Trail but a shortcut STRAIGHT UP the mountain to the top. I got almost half a mile up (there was never a break!), and then had to sit down because I felt terrible. I sat there for a few minutes, feeling like I was gonna puke, and then I puked. There: I’ve puked in a national park. That should be on one of those Facebook get-to-know-me questionnaires. Anyway, after that I felt a little better and eventually headed straight back down to the safety of my car. I spent a couple hours recovering around Bathhouse row and then headed in my car back up the mountain to the Mountain Tower, where I took a bunch of what I’m sure are lovely photos but which are currently stowed on my good camera’s SD card. (The only time I wish having a laptop is when I travel, which isn’t often enough to justify getting one. I have my fancy desktop sitting at home, and an iPad will work as long as I don’t do something crazy like try to post to WordPress. Sigh.)

Anyway, I took said pictures up the mountain tower and then had a lovely hike around the Hot Springs Mountain Trail. It turned into a pretty good day.

After all that, I headed back to my hotel room for some surrious relaxation. And eventually a hamburger. And progress on this totally unrelated painting I’m working on:

Now, to sit here and stare at the internet (or to paint something else?) until it’s time for bed. I’ll be headed back to Shreveport tomorrow, but I think I’ll have a drive around Lake DeGray on my way home. I hear it’s lovely over there.

 

Artober 16: There’s hope! (while the puppies sleep)

Soooo this painting is working out better than I thought it would. There is, of course, still time to ruin it, but I certainly have more hope than I did yesterday. Here’s another link to the tutorial. And here’s the whole painting, which gets cut off in the featured photo. I’ll probably finish it tomorrow, for better or for worse.

Fall finally arrived in Louisiana with a cold front yesterday afternoon. Instead of our usual nineties, the high temperature was somewhere in the seventies. Here’s a selfie I took wearing my first sweater of the season:

Fall is my favorite season. I guess that goes for Winter here, too, especially since last winter was essentially a long Fall. I think we got one hard freeze? I hope we have more of a Winter this year. Anyway, it was not only Fall but a super beautiful day, so Penny and I celebrated by going to Red River National Wildlife Refuge in Bossier City. I’m pretty sure it has the closest hiking trails to my house. I’m also a huge fan of Walter B. Jacobs Memorial Nature Park, but it’s a bit of a trek to get there. We only hiked a little over a mile, or so, but it felt so good to be outside now that there’s less crushing heat and humidity.

We even saw an armadillo!

Here’s an even more impressive photo: Lucy is growing so fast! I’m pretty sure she’ll be as big as our house soon!

A note about Badlands National Park

Several national park rangers have made it clear that they disapprove of the current political climate, especially with threats to keep the EPA hushed, sell off public lands, and keep citizens uninformed (misinformed?) about climate change. The park to start it all was Badlands, and it happens to be one of my very favorites. I figured I’d share some photos since lots of you probably haven’t been there.

It’s been several years since I’ve been to the Badlands. According to our friends at Flickr, I took this photo in 2006. I think I’ve only been there once since, in 2010. It’s situated about an hour southwest of Rapid City, SD, which is in the southwestern corner of the state. That’s also the same vicinity as Mount Rushmore, though the landscape looks entirely different. The mountains pretty much start just on the western edge of Rapid City, the very quickly end with some smaller hills extending into the flat prairie you see surrounding the Badlands.

Suddenly, that prairie cuts off, and it almost feels like you’ve teleported to the surface of the moon.

The National Park has a windy road that snakes through the canyons and around the higher edges with overlooks and interpretive signs. There’s also a small but impressive visitor center with a museum and a gift shop. Somehow, I’ve only been inside once.

The rest of the photos are ones I took the last time I was there, in 2010. I took these with an iPhone and used a filter in Lightroom. I wish I remembered what it was called because I still like how they turned out.

There’s fungus among us!

Last Sunday, Palmer and I went to Walter B. Jacobs Nature Park, one of my very favorite places in the general vicinity of Shreveport, for a presentation and hike called The Fungus Among Us. Turns out fungi are a lot more complex and diverse than I realized. While I can’t tell you much about the various types of mushrooms, I did learn that, for me, at least, going mushroom hunting for dinner is a very dangerous idea. I also got some reasonably good pictures.

Penny didn’t get to come along this time because it wasn’t exactly a pet-friendly topic and there’s no way she could have sat still for the presentation. That’s for the best, though, because it was a dreary, rainy day (which I guess is good for mushroom-viewing) and she would have tested every

single mud puddle.

Palmer was also taking photos. He got this pretty amusing one of me being all excited toward the end of our hike.

He also made this pretty awesome video and posted it on Youtube:

When we got home, I wasn’t done with Happy Mushroom Time. I went over to Whole Foods and got groceries to make Kale and Mushroom Stroganoff, a recipe I found on Chowhound. It involved dried porcini mushrooms, which I don’t think I’d ever tasted.

There was also the half-pound of fresh baby bellas and a bunch of kale and various other yummy bits.

Excuse me a minute while I drool all over again. This recipe is going on my shortlist.

So is Walter B. Jacobs. Palmer and I are going back tomorrow for a Winter Tree ID Workshop. I’m really looking forward to it! I think the weather is supposed to be nice, so expect some sunny pictures!

Tick City, Louisiana (+ a surprise!)

Palmer and I spent most of Saturday hiking Sugar Cane Trail around Caney Lake near Minden, Louisiana. It was a seven-mile proper Trek that didn’t offer much elevation, though it offered more than enough distance. It almost killed us, in fact.

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Okay, not really. We just weren’t quite prepared for how far that was. I generally don’t do more than three miles, which was the farthest Penny had ever gone. Two days later, we’re still sore. It didn’t help that while, for the most part, the trail is well kept up, there was a sizable section that was totally washed out. We ended up off the trail and had to wade through a bunch of mud once we found the blazes. That’s not surprising, I guess, considering how wet it’s been in this area lately.

One good thing: it was my first good opportunity to use the Sparkly New Camera Palmer got me for my birthday. It’s a Sony a6000, and it takes pretty amazing photos.

And then there were the ticks. DEAR GOD, THE TICKS. They were everywhere. We counted at least ten each slowly making their way up our legs, and we found more once we got home. Penny was – and probably still is – covered in them. She was dirty from the (mildly muddy) hike, so Palmer bathed her when we got home. When we discovered that there was Every Tick Ever, we went to PetSmart and bought a tick shampoo, so she got another bath the next morning. Good thing she doesn’t particularly mind baths. Good thing, also, that the’s the most patient dog and would sit for several minutes at a time while I occupied her and Palmer dug ticks out of her ears and fur. Ugh.

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There was also the matter of the snake, to which she seemed as oblivious as I was – until I got maybe three feet from it and screamed bloody murder. I didn’t even realize that it was in this photo until we got home:

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Surriously. We were so grateful when we saw the car. Seven miles is a lot for people (and dogs) only used to three. It was fun, but I’ll be sticking to shorter trails for the time being. I’ll also be upgrading from Deep Woods OFF to the 100% DEET stuff because geez.

Check out the whole Flickr album.

Here’s a video Palmer made chronicling the whole trip:

Oh! And shortly after we did get home, Palmer shuttled me over to what turned out to be a surprise party! I was about 90% clueless and expected to be sitting on a porch with a couple friends, drinking wine and eating Mexican food. Turned out it was an actual party. Happy 35 to me! I have some pretty great friends and an awesome husband. (Of course, I was to busy to take proper photos. Thanks to Palmer for realizing that I might want at least a couple.)

We climbed a mountain!

Okay, that’s kind of a lie. It’s not technically a lie because “mountain” is actual name of the place. This “mountain,” though, really only qualifies as a largish hill. The actual hiking elevation was less than 200 feet, and the whole hill tops out at a whopping 535. So I jumped onto a bench by the sign and acted like I’d just climbed Katahdin. Palmer chose a more reasonable pose.

26870297121_98b78f190d_kOn Sunday, we “climbed” Driskill Mountain, which is just south of Arcadia, Louisiana. It’s the state’s highest point, and it’s just about as underwhelming as you’d expect for the Bayou State. That said, we had a Most Excellent time. Penny was so excited, she couldn’t stay still for long enough to get a good photo. That, and another family appeared from the trees with their own dog in tow, and Penny wanted to play.

It only took us a few minutes to get to the top. There are two trail choices: the main one, which we took, is about 1.9 miles up and back. There’s a second one that weaves through the trees, which are marked with blue blazes. I want to go back to try that trail.

There weren’t many signs along the main trail, but, for the most part, it was crystal clear. Driskill Mountain is private land, but the owners do a great job of keeping it up. There was a tiny bit of mud in a couple of places, but it was easy to get around, and our feet stayed dry. Penny, of course, bounded through every little puddle. There were only to slightly steep places, and Penny was more than willing to pull me right up. The only problem was that she was just as willing to help me get back down, especially since she was following the other dog’s tracks. We really need to work on excitement-pulling.

Almost everything I’ve heard about Driskill Mountain is about its being underwhelming. It’s a “mountain” in Louisiana: how can it be that spectacular? Louisiana makes bayous, not mountains. Maybe I enjoyed it so much because I knew exactly what to expect. Will I go back? Definitely! I want to try that secondary trail. I’ll also probably have a look for other trails in the vicinity, though, as it’s kind of a long drive for such a short hike. Here’s the gpx I recorded (thanks, Alltrails!), a file format I just learned about:

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In other news, Shakespeare also had an excellent day on Sunday:

Betty Virginia Park is STILL my favorite in Shreveport

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Photo from Shreveport News. It’s not the rocket itself, but one just like it.

When I was a kid, I lived for Betty Virginia Park. Okay, that and Hamel’s, but we’ll talk about that another time. Betty Virginia was the queen of parks. It had the Biggest and the Best playground equipment, which, as we know, was all that really mattered. Remember the rocketship? GAH! The rocketship! (Luckily, Shreveport-based Sweet Tee has a tshirt to commemorate it. Which I proudly own.) I still remember the rusty smell on my hands when I climbed to the top. I remember the textured spiral staircase. I really don’t remember the slide, but that’s unimportant. Betty Virginia was the best.

YEARS later, I don’t have any kids, but I have a dog. The rocketship has been removed (it was a massive legal hazard) and the Biggest and Best main playground equipment has been replaced with short, liberally padded, lawsuit-friendly legal equipment. Really, I don’t blame the city. It’s not like kids don’t visit all the time. Today, especially, the playground was crowded with kids.

Penny and I went this afternoon because today is beautiful and because, frankly, all the nearby hiking trails are full of mud, and I didn’t want to deal with it. We’ve been there several times. That’s where Penny (pretty much) mastered the “come” command. As usual, we had a most excellent time walking along the trail. We traversed it three times, for a half-mile, before I figured we should get home so I could finish my (last-for-the-semester!) schoolwork. We always have a good time there. It’s clean and usually relatively quiet, and there are always dogs and people for Penny to meet. Today was particularly lovely because the whole park is a vibrant spring green, and the ground is coated with tiny yellow wildflowers, so you can’t help but enjoy the beauty.

Even without the Most Excellent Playground Equipment Ever, it’s still the best park in Shreveport.

At the end of this week, I’m getting a sparkly new camera! I can’t wait! Expect even more photos soon.

More about fungi than I ever wanted to know

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Several months ago, I happened to look out my bedroom window during a rainstorm to see a tree bubbling. Really bubbling. I spent a few minutes wondering what in the world it could be, but I didn’t pursue it and eventually forgot about it – until I realized the tree had died.

Really, these trees should have been cut down a while ago. They’re right next to our house, and an electric wire goes through their branches. I’m surprised SWEPCO hasn’t either cut them down or at least trimmed them during their annual pre-ice storm mass prunings. I certainly wouldn’t complain if they did.

img_0618Turns out that bubbling was a bacterial disease called slime flux. When it rains, the bacteria release carbon dioxide, creating those bubbles. Evidently, it stinks, too. I’m glad I didn’t go outside to discover that. Yuck! It dried into this white business. I figured it killed the tree, but the Internets say that the disease itself usually doesn’t kill them. It probably had to do with the removal of chain link fence the tree had grown around when we had our relatively new privacy fence installed.

Anyway, I was outside with Penny this afternoon, minding my own business, when I saw this, which seems infinitely more gross than the white gunk:

GAH! That is so not okay with me. It even moves like Jello.

GROSSSSS! I had no idea what it was (except that it was probably a fungus), so I called Palmer, and I guess my Jello description helped him find it on Wikipedia. It’s called jelly fungus, it appears when it rains, which it did alllll last night, and it evidently tastes good? I’ll give that one a big, immediate NOPE. It also probably won’t kill the tree, which makes me feel little better about it.

I’m trying really hard to appreciate rather than run away from nature, but stuff like this makes it hard. I’m still recovering from the ridiculous number of surprise spider webs I walked through on my hike with Penny the other day.

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