Bastrop State Park 12-25-2018

A Panoramic view from the trail

With no special plans for Christmas Day, I decided that I would take a walk at Bastrop State Park, the scene of a horrific wildfire that started September 14, 2011 and was finally controlled on October 10, 2011. Almost 35,000 acres were burned which included a large amount of the Bastrop State Park and the Piney Woods. Today, seven years later, the State Park is slowly coming back to life as Nature readjusts following the blaze. With the help of many volunteers, thousands of Loblolly Pines have been replanted to replace those lost in the fire and are growing very nicely. Many are already well over ten to fifteen feet tall bringing much needed greenery to the burned areas.

Courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife.

This was the first time that I have gone to this park with the intentions of taking a walk. As it was Christmas Day, the Park Office was closed but they have a handy self payment service along with a plentiful supply of maps that mark the trails.

The newly Planted Loblolly Pines

I pulled over on the side of the road to study the map when a young female Park Ranger pulled up alongside of me. Wth her help, I was able to decide which trails I wanted to hike and set off along Park Road 1A to the middle parking lot. All of the trails are designated a color and I was planning on hiking the Post Oak Spur (Gray Trail) then taking the Scenic Overlook (Red Trail). I successfully made it to what I thought I was the scenic overlook but instead, there were a bunch of cabins.

Along the way, I ran into a couple of older people who were out for a stroll. I stopped to chat with them and they introduced themselves as Patricia and Hector and they were from Corpus Christi and up for the weekend. We chatted for a bit before I pushed on.

Hector and Patricia

I backtracked and then turned off on another Red Trail and finally ended up at the top of the hill. This was quite obviously not the Scenic Overlook so somewhere, I had taken a wrong turn. Not to be deterred, I set off back down Park Road 1A or at least what I thought was this road. After travelling about a half mile with a view of the road in front of me, I was getting concerned that I was going in the wrong direction. Rounding the next bend, Park Road 1A was blocked off as the road had completely washed out on the other side of the barricades.

The washed out road.

It also changed into Park Road 1C at this point. Being the stubborn old fool that I am, I climbed down the bank and crossed the stream at the bottom and continued for a bit walking on Park Road 1A enjoying the walk even though it was quite obvious by now that I was totally lost. At that point, I came to the conclusion that I was heading in the wrong direction and there was nothing else for it but to retrace my steps. So, I turned around and headed back climbing back down into the gully to get up to the road on the other side and headed back to the top of the hill where I had originally come out. It was all good exercise and easy walking except for the uphill parts.

There was nothing else but to retrace my steps and backtrack along the trails that I had taken to arrive at this point so without further ado, I started to walk back down the Red Trail. I ran into a young couple with a young daughter and they asked me for directions. I jokingly told them they were asking the wrong person as I was just as confused as they were. They continued on as did I in opposite directions and then the trail I was on turned into something else so I had to backtrack once again. We crossed paths again and they were able to direct me to the Grey Trail which they had just found.

Another pano

Continuing on, I met another young couple with a dog and we exchanged hello’s as we passed. After what seemed like walking forever, I came back out onto Park Road 1A opposite my truck which was a sight for sore eyes and a tired body. Altogether, I covered six and a half miles with probably at least a couple of miles being lost. The walking was easy and the trails were great. After a while, even though I was surrounded by the remnants of the forest fires with the gaunt spectres of burnt trees pointing up to the sky, it became the norm. The newly planted Loblolly Pines were a beautiful green contrast to both the burned trees and Natures own winter colors and it was great to be outside.

Pointing to the sky…

I managed to get a picture of a Chipping Sparrow.

Chipping Sparrow

A black wooly Caterpillar.

Hard to believe that this….

will turn into this.

I couldn’t resist taking this picture as it clearly shows the heart of this tree.

Whereas this one is the future of the forest.

All in all, for me, it was a great way to spend Christmas Day enjoying the gifts of Nature. The video below is made up of the many pictures that I took.

Written 12/27/2018

Truly Lost or Just Brain Dead

lostandfoundI made the mistake of ordering some plants through a garden catalogue the other day. This was not on-line but the old-fashioned way of filling out a form with a pen and other details along with credit card information. I was so happy to be ordering some wonderful looking roses that I did not give too much thought to the methods I was using to make my purchase. I was more worried about how the letter/form was supposed to fold and that if I enclosed a check, it would probably slide out of the sides.

I stuck a stamp on it and put it in my mail box and waited for the roses to be delivered. Three weeks later, I began to get a little worried as I had not heard from the nursery. I decided to call them to see what had happened to my order. First call was a busy signal. You have to remember that I hate using the telephone. I would rather e-mail any day. I called a couple more times that day and still the busy signal and I began to suspect that something was wrong with their phone system.

The next day, I tried a couple more times but nothing. Just that infernal busy signal. Business must be good, I thought. Either that or they were getting a lot of complaints. So the next thing was an e-mail which they had already stated might take up to 2 days for a response and sure enough, 2 days later, I had an e-mail back that said they had no record of the original order and I should go ahead and order again. I still had the original catalogue and went ahead and re-ordered on-line and this time used a different credit card, you know one of those gift cards that is only good up to a certain amount, in my case $150.

Then another thought struck me. I had been able to re-order the plants that I wanted but where was my original order form along with its credit card information (and my signature). Lost in the mail, never-never land, someone’s pocket? That last one really bothered me as you hear so much about on-line theft and all that sort of stuff.  Lets see now, first thing is check my bank statements (also on-line). check my American Express (on-line). Nothing there yet but keep an eye on it.

Two days later, I received a letter from the Catalogue place and in it was my original order that I had sent, you know, the one they had said they didn’t have. Attached to it was a note stating that the credit card was not honored and if I still wanted the plants to re-order and choose a different method of payment, if you don’t mind. I had already received a response to my on-line order thanking me and giving me some shipping details so I thought that at least, I would get my roses soon. I really had to wonder how they managed to run their business if one hand didn’t know what the other was doing.

I’ll bet that if the original credit/debit card had gone through (which I fail to see why it didn’t considering how much money it is worth) along with my on-line order, I would be getting two of everything.

A couple of days later, I was looking for the returned order form to check out the card number and I couldn’t find it anywhere. I knew that I had it on the table close to my computer or on the island where I spend some time eating and watching TV but it had disappeard……again. I turned the place upside down and couldn’t find it. I had just recently, the night before, paid a visit to the dumpster that HEB has in their parking lot to take re-cycled materials. I am pretty big on re-cycling doing my small bit to save the planet and I collect all of my re-cycleables in the bags that normally contain bird seed.They are a decent size and as I go through about 40 pounds of seed a week, what better use to put the bags to. Anyway, my feeble brain began to think of all kinds of scenarios as to what may have happened to the letter. I remember cleaning up a lot of junk mail deciding who to donate to the night before and so my first instinct was to look in that bag to see if I had accidentally re-cycled it. The problem was, the bags were already in the dumpster. By now it was already dark and I couldn’t put the thought out of my mind as to what to do about it. I did not know what happens in the re-cycling plants and whether things are sorted  and if so, into what or even if they look very closely at what they are sorting. I had visions of my credit card information getting stolen and sold and all I could think of how bloody stupid I had been to even think of doing what I had done. I thought of paying a visit to the dumpster but decided against it in the dark. Needless to say, I barely slept a wink all night, tossing and turning to such an extent that the dogs and cats left the comfort of the bed to find quieter places to sleep. I must have eventually settled down as they were all back on the bed in the morning.

The next morning saw me up early hurrying the animals through their breakfasts and not even stopping for coffee in my urgency to visit the dumpster. I had brought a step-ladder with me to make it easier to get into the dumpster which luckily for me was only half full. I knew exactly where I had put my two bags and headed for that corner falling over beer cans and other bags that hopefully only contained re-cyleable materials and located both my bags. I carefully sorted out my bags going through the thrown away mail not once but twice but could not find what I was looking for. With one last look around, I thought about that guy that lived in a dumpster for a year as a part of some project of another and wished him well. I wasn’t about to do it and clambered over the side to get out.At least, that was my intent but the step ladder was outside and when I tried to build something to stand on, there was nothing solid inside of the dumpster that I could use. I could reach the top of the sides and with a tremendous effort managed to pull myself up half way and got a charley-horse in the back of my thigh which was painful enough that I had to drop back down into the dumpster falling over the stuff that was in my way so that I could stretch it out.

After a few minutes of stretching and massage, I tried again and this time managed to get to where I was able to drag the step ladder close enough for me to climb out. All of the pull ups were like going to the gym only a little bit messier.I still hadn’t located that bloody form and was getting really PO’d at myself for being so stupid in the first place especially after it had been returned with no harm done.

I drove home and searched the place again but with no luck. It’s hard to get mad when there is no one to blame except me. Then, I had a brainstorm. I had stopped from my work out in the yard yesterday and is my won’t had made tea and and taken it and a couple of magazines outside to drink on the patio. I thought that it couldn’t be that simple but I went out and looked on the coffee table outside where the magazines were and lo and behold, there was the precious letter that I had worried and fretted over. it had been there all of the time and obviously, I had accidentally picked it up and carried it outside along with the magazines.

I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad. A part of me was very pleased that the letter had shown up and that the worry of my credit card information floating around for all to see was gone. On the other hand, it brought up the question that has my brain deteriorated so much that I can’t remember my actions in the past 24 hours? It’s a little annoying but also funny when I have to retrace my steps because I can’t remember why I went into the other room or whatever the action is but this whole story is one mistake after another starting with releasing the information in the first place. It’s easy in this modern age when things are always at your fingertips to get complacent and careless.

If nothing else, I learned a valuable lesson with this whole episode. I don’t want to live in a dumpster. I’m not into dumpster diving, and oh yes, I’m still waiting for the roses…