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Rockport Beach, Texas

9/30/11

Tamia Turtle

Adventure Location: LBJ State Park, TX

A ride around in the Hill Country around Johnson City, Texas was the big event today.  Nearly every bit of the vegetation is dehydrated to dirty brown or has vaporized and is totally gone.  It is a very sad sight for my eyes.  Many creeks that have provided beautiful scenes in the last 65 years are now bone dry and the vegetation turning dark brown.

These next two pictures are of the Pedernales River near Johnson City.  There is normally in the summer four to five feet more water depth flowing down the stream bed.




Ranch Road 1 is the loop road that goes near the LBJ Ranch.  Both the Federal and State parks can be accessed from the loop.  It is taken most times the Team goes past here because it is normally a very beautiful few miles along the Pedernales River.  Today the river was way down like never before and the place was still pretty scenic.

But the big story is a turtle.  As the Team was pulling into a rest area, my eyes caught sight of a turtle nest to the curb in the road.  When the Truck got stopped, the turtle was checked out.  She said her name was Tamia.  Apparently a tire had damaged her some.  Part of her shell near her neck was broken off and missing.  The top of her shell had some of the first layer of fiber scraped off. 

The facilities were calling me pretty loudly so Tamia was picked up and put near a tree in the shade at the top of the hill going toward the river.  When things had quieted down, Tamia was checked on and still sitting there.

About then a Wi-Fi antenna was noticed on the rest room.  The computer was brought from the Truck to check email and other stuff while sitting at a nice table where Tamia could be watched.  The temps were low 80s to keep me warm and a nice wind to keep me from sweating.  The computer stuff kept me so engrossed for about twenty minutes that Tamia sneaked over the hill and down toward the river without me seeing her. This was my office view during this time.


 Finally I spotted her down at the fence having trouble.  It was a rail fence that she should have been able to go under easily it seemed.  My feet carried me down the hill to see what the trouble could be.  There was a wire mesh behind the rails that could not be seen from up on the hill that had Tamia stopped.


 After looking the situation over, the decision was to pick up Tamia again and lean over the fence as far as I could and just drop her belly first into the dried grass.  She hissed at me again but behaved well otherwise.  When my fat tummy was bent over the fence as far as I dared and my arms stretched as far as they could there was still about 18 inches to get to the ground.  I hesitated for a few seconds but finally dropped her on the fattest of the spare grass to be found.  THUD she went on the ground. 


 My feet carried me back up the hill to see if she would recover or not.  It took several minutes before she stuck her head out and seemed to sniff the air.  Maybe she was verifying the direction to the water.  Finally when she got ready to move there was not a bit of hesitation.  She covered the distance to the edge of the river embankment in good fashion.  The last that was seen of her was her rump as she went over the edge of the river bank.

As for me, this was a great feel good time in a day of trying to have tooooo much fun. TheOFM.




9/29/11

Getting Hitched Again

Adventure Location: Junction and Comfort, TX

While the Team was getting ready to launch on our move to Comfort Texas, a sendoff committee had formed down the street.  That bunch of turkeys thought we would hold off launch while they gobbled around.


We made the long hour and a half drive with no mishap.  The Castle pulled very well with the modifications made to the hitch.  The Team was assigned site 12 in the new campground.  This is RV Park USA in Comfort Texas.  It is very centrally located to several places we need to be to take care of some tasks that have been on hold for a few weeks.  Our week here should be busy to say the least.

When the Castle was purchased, it replaced a MUCH larger Arctic Fox model 30U that had a rolling weight of around 12,000 pounds.  The weight distribution hitch on that trailer was moved over to the Castle which has a rolling weight of less than 6000 pounds.  This was in July of 2007.  It was known at that time that the hitch was massive overkill for the Castle and Truck.  However it was not yet a guarantee that the OFM would not quickly decide to get a larger trailer for his new lifestyle.  Therefore the overkill hitch was kept and used. This is what the assembly looked like.

Equalizer brand hitches are still my choice as the best on the market over all the others.  The Truck does not need a weight distribution hitch to tow the Castle.  So for the last four years coupling up has required assembling all that stuff.  The total hitch assembly must weigh more than a hundred pounds.  The hitch head alone weighs enough that it usually gets left in the receiver rather than risk a back attack to take it out for long stays.

Today we towed without the apparatus except for the hitch head.  The lack of apparatus did not make any noticeable difference in the performance of the Team while on the Interstate or on the roly poly roads in the country side.

A new draw bar and hitch ball of the right strength to match the Castle was purchased today.  About thirty minutes were put into removing and disassembling the old hitch head.  Then the new drawbar and hitch ball were assembled in about fifteen minutes.  The old hitch head was so heavy that it was a serious strain to lift and carry it.  Now the new hitch assembly can be picked up with my left hand with ease.  That is nice.


 The question in my mind is why did I keep using that heavy hitch head for years after it was known that the Castle would not be getting traded on a new larger trailer.

Please keep in mind that the Truck outweighs the Castle by over 1000 pounds and has a towing capacity of 15,700 pounds. This gives the Team a large advantage over the normal rigs you see on the road.  Most of them are nearly maxed out and many are overloaded but they are getting by.

Meanwhile some good rest is needed tonight after all that hard work.  Tomorrow is a trip into San Antonio to hit up an Academy store for some new 10EEEE shoes so my adventures can continue.  Barefooting in the thorns of the desert is flat WRONG.  That would get in the way of trying to have tooooo much fun. The OFM.










9/28/11

New Bridge

Adventure Location: Junction, TX

Boy that was some great rain yesterday evening and last night.  There was not much run off even from the concrete parking lots. What little grass that is left certainly loved the moisture.

About a year ago a flood came through the area and wiped out a low water crossing near town on the road to the golf course.  They hopped to it and got the road repaired.  Man o Man did they do a nice job of it.  Check out this next picture of the fancy bridge, kayak/canoe launching point and parking.  It is really pretty first class.

 The Team walked out and around the area to see what there was to see.  Even though in these next pictures you can see there is water, it is about two feet lower than normal for this time of the year.  Here is a view from the bridge looking down stream toward town.

Then the Team walked across the bridge to check out what is up stream.  We never stopped at this place when it was a low water crossing.  Upstream is pretty nice looking.  It is pretty low water for yakking though.
 
Then we meandered all over the place just messing around.  AH HA maybe everyone would like to see what the inside of the culvert looks like.  So the OFM dug his finger nails into the concrete of the bridge just like Spiderman and stuck the camera out over the water and got a decent picture of the culvert.  Now if you think I got that shot in one try, you give me way toooooooooooo much credit as a photographer.  But I did get it.  Eventually.

 That finished the meandering at the crossing and we went on to other foolishness.

At the State Park is two bird blinds for those so inclined to spend time watching birds and filling out their cards.  It seems to make at least as much sense as golf anyway.  The blinds are nice and the one near the overlook trail has a very neat birdbath built in the viewing yard.  Those birds use it without any bit of modesty at all. If you clik the pic then you can see the naked birds.
 The overlook trail has been covered before in the blog.  This morning it was a great walk in the reasonably cool dry air.  The Team got back just at noon as it was getting warm.  Later this afternoon it hit 99 on our thermometer.  When you visit this park that trail is a recommended walk.

The evening was spent aggravating the small bass down at Lake Junction.  The location chosen was in the shadow of the bridge crossing the lake.  It made a good spot to let the day wind down with a fishing rod in action in your hand. The warm dry air made it a wonderful finish to a great day of trying to have tooooo much fun. TheOFM.




9/27/11

Good Rains

Adventure Location: South Llano River SP, Junction, TX

Today was a major surprise since nothing happened like the Team hoped it to happen.  The most important thing is the small restaurant in town next to the grocery store is a great place to eat.  A picture of their sign was attempted and is barely acceptable. However the rain that has been coming down for over two hours now is very acceptable.


The hitch ball on the receiver part of the hitch moved slightly when the Castle was uncoupled yesterday.  That was odd it seemed to me.  Today it was checked out more carefully. Yep it is loose enough to rotate with a wrench.  The Equalizer brand hitch head requires a special socket to tighten the ball.  The ball is supposed to be tightened to 450 foot pounds of torque.  This is the first time in my life a hitch ball has loosened on me.  It is likely that the dealer in Washington did not actually torque the ball properly.  At least it lasted five years.

So the Truck hauled me around to Kerrville and other little towns nearby looking for a place with the correct tools to tighten the ball properly.  We gave up late in the day and headed back to the Castle in defeat.  However the ball could not safely be left until we trailer to some other location.  So it was get to work and figure out how to tighten it some even if it was not as tight as it is supposed to me.

 My 18” adjustable wrench was put to work on the ball.  The base of the ball has two flats for a wrench to mate to for tightening.  The nut is in a recessed part of the main hitch head and is what normally needs a special socket to get to.  Several items were used to attempt to wedge the nut so the assembly could be tightened.  The item that finally worked is the handle that is furnished for engaging the weight distribution bars if you do not know the right way to do it.  The curvy pointed end was wedged into the recess and braced against the framework.  Then the ball was turned by my foot on the adjustable wrench.  Nearly a half turn was required to get the assembly reasonably tight or at least as tight as two hundred pounds of OFM standing on an 18” long wrench could get it.  It will have to do until we get somewhere with the right tools can do the job right.

 After cleaning the tools and me, the tools were put away and my brain had a thought.  When the smoke cleared enough to see what the thought was, it was a great thought.  Get out the light weight rod and reel and try the pond down by the low water crossing in the park.  So the light weight rod and reel was assembled.  The rod and the freshwater tackle box were put into the Truck and away we went.

When we got to the river where it is backed up by the entrance road to the park, the rain had started to sprinkle.  That was not too bad but there was a heck of a big noisy lightning show going on also.  So a quick waddle down the bank to the creek/pond was made to check it out for future fishing.  A few small bass were seen bassing around.  Here is a shot looking down the pond toward the road.  The water is down a good two feet in this picture.


Notice the red flowers in the picture.  They appeared to be flaming like a wildfire so a better shot of them had to be made.
 

It seems fitting to finish a blog entry with a picture of pretty flowers.  It seems to me to symbolize a reward for getting out and trying to have tooooo much fun. TheOFM.


9/26/11

Clunk In The Dark

Adventure Location: South Llano River SP, Junction, TX

The day started well before sunlight interrupted the night.  We rolled out of the campground by parking lights to save the headlight glare from bothering other folks.  Along the way a loud clunk was heard but the silly driver thought it was a leveling board finding a new position.  Boy was he wrong! Well over an hour on the road and finally the Team found some sunlight just starting up.
 

The trip was a little over three hundred miles and almost uneventful except for the clunk in the dark.  A couple of rest stops were taken and finally it was lunch time.  A rest area showed up at just the right time.  That made a great lunch of green beans and pork chops.  Of course the kitchen had to be cleaned up after lunch.  Traveling with your own house is really very wonderful.

We had to fill with fuel in Ozona but there is a great Stripes there that has plenty of room for our whole team easily.  $60 later we were on the way again.  Arriving in Junction was anticlimactic. The road whisked us on down south the five miles to the South Llano River State Park (slrsp). The prices for camping in many of the Texas state parks have jumped several dollars.  Slrsp is now $20 a night for just electric and water. We settled for three nights.

Our normal site 13 was available and it works really well for us.


The set up went well until the folding steps were supposed to unfold.  They did not want to but were forced into position finally. When you stand back and examine the box the steps fold into, it was now a parallelogram instead.  OH NO now what.  Then the clunk was remembered.  Careful examination revealed a smear on the forward surface of the steps box. It is just a little right of dead center of the picture.


 The whole lower part of the step box had been moved backward about three quarters of an inch. This ought to be a challenge was my thought. And it was.  But after careful application of one of the tire chocks, a large adjustable wrench and a very heavy bar from the weight distribution hitch the steps work better than ever before.  It is amazing how insistent a solid bar of steel can be. Here is the repair team after the successful manipulations.

 Into every life some roses must appear at times. Here are the ones that were blooming in front of La Familia restaurant that sold me a wonderful meal after the step fights.


Don’t they make you feel like it is a good idea to be out trying to have tooooo much fun? TheOFM.





9/25/11

Morning Walk

Adventure Location: Davis Mountains SP, Ft. Davis, TX

It was needed to take an early walk to the park office to register for the site that is being occupied by the Castle and Truck.  The morning was cool and the skies very blue as you will see.  To my good fortune there were no vicious critters out to get me. The trail is a nice well done trail.


 Along the way is typical desert vegetation for your amusement. The agave has a very pointed outlook on things that must be respected.

The hook you plant is most aggressive toward old thin skin.  It seems like it does not even have to touch you to cause long nasty cuts on your legs and forearms.  The tentacle like arms full of hooks wave every which way in attempts to grab some human skin.  Yes one did manage to grab and tear my arm.

 Along the trail are some cliffs with sentinel trees to watch over you and track your movements for the hookyou plants.  There is that beautiful sky that was promised.

 Toward the end of the day the Truck took me to the lookout to check out the valley.  It was still there waiting for us and the Truck was happy.

We hope to be rolling early tomorrow.  Enough of this hiking, aching joints, spine infested skin, altitude sickness and trails steeply uphill both ways.  Effective tomorrow morning it is fishing rod time and we are on the prowl for fishing spots for the purpose of trying to have tooooo much fun. TheOFM



9/24/11

Slaughter Canyon

Adventure Location: Slaughter Canyon Road, south of Carlsbad, NM

Now that our nice interlude at Cottonwood picnic area is finished, the Truck hit the road on out to Slaughter Canyon section of Gumo.  Other than what the Hiking New Mexico book mentions, there was not any idea of what to expect.  That is what makes it an adventure.  And it was definitely and adventure especially at the second canyon, Yucca.

The road was paved for several miles on out to the National Park gate.


When you finally get to the gate, the road surface turns to varying degrees of gravel surface.  The posted speed limit is 15 and about the time you get up to 20 the road will have a spot to make your vehicle wish you had not done that. The gate tells a lot of the story of this part of the park.  Part of it is not quite right.  You can camp in this part of the park as long as you are backpacking and obtain the free permits required.
 Straight ahead is Slaughter Canyon.  Immediately after going through the gate a left is required to go to Yucca Canyon.  The Team had to come back for that adventure after going to Slaughter Canyon. By now the trails in the gravel road tell you that you are in a place that has visitations counted by the month not the day.  It is a very lonesome place especially in the week.  So BE PREPARED WITH EVERYTHING. There is a nice large parking lot with a vault toilet that was clean. My memory does not tell me there was drinking water available.  The Team starts every adventure with too much water anyway, if there is such a thing as too much drinking water on a hike.

My concept was to walk a little down both trails to check them out.  Scratch that, these are hiking trails.  By the time my feet had made a hundred meters on the main trail into the Canyon it was obvious that GOOD trail shoes are needed.  We turned back.
 
The trail to the left is the one that goes up to Slaughter Cave.  It starts steep and gets worse.  The Team did not even begin to go see since the heat was getting warmer.  Here is the little sign that had what little information there was to be found. Notice the critter (bear) proof trash cans.

  

At this time the Team meeting decided to go back and check out Yucca Canyon.  After all it was only two miles from the gate to the canyon.  Sure thing, two miles and thirty minutes at the speed the Truck could stand the road.

 
This is the super highway section.  About three quarters of a mile into the distance the road turned right and started up the mountain.  It was rough and nowhere to turn around or pass another vehicle if any other fools ever come up there. HIGH CLEARANCE IS REQUIRED.

 After forever creeping along the Team did arrive at the end where there was room to turn around.  There is actually plenty of room for five or six truck to park.  From the evidence or rather lack of evidence on the ground we are the first to be here in quite a long time. The Truck is not a small vehicle as you know but in this picture it looks very small.


 Some wandering around on the knoll where the parking is done yielded that this is very remote.  It was ruggedly beautiful and the wind was making great music with the rocks and vegetation. However the trail is very rugged.  This is definitely another place like Slaughter Canyon where hikers by themselves are in the wrong.  There are way too many spots to get badly hurt without any effort at all.


 For instance the first thing the trail does is go down a loose rock steep slope to the bottom of a rugged ravine then head back up the other side.  You could be carrying four days of water and food.  Then have a small slip and lay there and die with no hope of help.  This is no longer for me.  I want to live long enough to hold a grandkid someday not lay in some gully thinking that was a wild ride.

After the meandering was finished and my snacks eaten, the Team started the slow process of getting back out of this area.  Breaking down is not a major concern in areas like this since Sightseer is in the back of the Truck ready to roll into action.  With the minimum of two days of water and food we carry, it would be reasonable to ride/walk out of the area to get help. 

Recently there has again been a few folks telling me I am nuts to run around like that.  My head is very careful to keep in consideration at all times having to get out for help if something mechanical goes wrong.  Considerations are given and precautions are taken but quitting out of fear of maybes will not happen.  Worthless fears can get in the way of trying to have tooooo much fun. TheOFM.








9/23/11

Cottonwood Picnic Area

Adventure Location: Slaughter Canyon Road, south of Carlsbad, NM

 Leaving Carlsbad heading toward Gumo you can easily pass a road sign that does not look interesting at all. It would be a significant mistake. Naturally the Team did not know what was down the road but we certainly found out.  It will take this blog entry and up to two more to cover what we found for folks pleasure.



The road sign only talks about Slaughter Cave but there are two canyons with serious hikes available.  But well before you get to the main attraction you encounter a wonderful picnic area with a great mile and a half walk to a small lake.


The Cottonwood picnic area has a vault toilet and water available.  The trail to the dam starts next to the restroom.  It would be handled by someone with crutches or a cane.  It would be a challenge due to the length of the trail

 The trail was in good shape and a very pleasant walk to make in the late morning coolness.  There was no hurry so meandering made the walk longer than is actually needed for a speedy walker.  When you get toward the end, there is a glimpse of the small concrete dam that forms the irrigation lake.  By stepping up onto the dam you can get a good view of the lake.






The walk back was just a nice and gives you a chance to notice the other smaller ponds down in the grasses.  Apparently from all the trails in the grass, a lot of critters use these ponds for their drinking water.

When the Team arrived back at the parking lot, another trail was noticed.  It heads down to a pier to
help do some bird watching.



 This next picture was taken by the hand rail on the pier and the camera did not break yet.


And this was just the start of a very long day of adventures for the Team.  By now it had already been a very successful day of trying to have tooooo much fun.  The OFM.






9/22/11

My Limit Reached

Adventure Location: Dog Canyon Campground, Gumo, Texas

 The drive is long and on highway 137.  You drive through about 50 miles of NM to get there.  As you start down into Dog Canyon this is the view from the road.  As you can see the road disappears up into the mountains.

 From that view point it is about twelve miles to the entrance to the campground in Texas.  And Texas starts at the fence line.  New Mexico is nice to furnish a road to get to Gumo from this side.

 The goal today was to test my abilities at handling the altitude after a few weeks at higher altitudes than Rockport’s 7 feet while hiking. I failed.  On arriving at the campground a stop was made to visit with the Ranger and super friendly dog named Casper.  Casper is a large Weimaraner and just about the most pleasant pup you could hope to pet.

The Ranger explained about the difference in the two trails leading up the mountains.  The trail chosen was the Bush Mountain trail.  Supposedly it started to gain altitude faster than the Tejas trail.  This next picture was taken about fifteen minutes into the hike.


The trail was in decent shape and not at all that steep.  My feet plodded on up the trail for a good while.  The water in my bottle was being carefully monitored to prevent running out.  It turns out there was no need to worry.  My altitude sickness kicked in way before the water ran out.  Only a half mile or so was hiked.  From the map at hand the elevation at the turnaround point (TAR) was only 6500 feet.  But my body was spent and acting up so it was back down to the parking lot. Here was the TAR point.  This was a sad performance on my part.

When the Team headed back this was our view.  My hopes were to get to the top of the mesa.  It is at the 7000 feet plus elevation.  It will not happen without a helicopter to carry me up there.

All was not lost though.  There was a greeting committee of one waiting for me at the culvert that crosses back to the parking lot.


My walking stick was used to tumble it tail over teakettle into the ditch and off the path.  That snake did not like getting flipped like that.

Sitting around in the parking lot for a good bit was needed before the long drive back to the Castle started.  The parking lot is at 6290 feet elevation.  After an hour or so my body seemed ok to head back and we did.  This elevation mess certainly makes a WORLD CLASS WIMP out of me in a hurry.  But it did not stop me from trying to have tooooo much fun. TheOFM.





9/21/11

FR540 Vistas

Adventure Location: Guadalupe Ridge Road, NM

 The Team is now back to the intersection where we turned left and headed down Klondike Gap Road.


 FR540 is also apparently known as Guadalupe Ridge Road in these parts.  From this intersection you have about eleven miles of vistas and beautiful scenes for your pleasure.  If you are looking for places to get off the gravel to camp, there are lots of them.  Some could handle a large motorhome or fifth wheel with a little care.  Hundreds of places more can handle smaller rigs like the Castle or small motor homes.  Even MORE can handle car camping, tent trailers, truck bed mounted campers.  This is a very large area up here.

 The Truck meandered on and on slowly as we did not want to miss any sights.  It seems to me that the entire section of FR540 could be ridden easily on a bicycle set up for climbing hills. Medium width tires would be ok but definitely not narrow high speed road tires.  The road surface is to too loose for them.  The elevations are from 5800 to nearing 7000 feet.

After you stop at one viewpoint pull off after another on both sides of the road, you finally make it to the premier vista point on the road.
  
There was even bushes of flowers celebrating that the Team made it this far.

The land way down below you is at 6000 feet of elevation.  It is named Dog Canyon.  It runs all the way back into Texas at the Dog Canyon Campground of Gumo. It should get another visit soon by the Team. We were there a couple of years ago and had no idea there was a road above us for folks to view us.

There are some signs for interpreting what is before you.  To me this is one of the prettiest vistas of my life.  Maybe some snow would really make it sparkle.





But wait a minute we are not to the end of the road yet.  The Truck was insistent that my feet bring me back to the Truck seat and let us get to the end of the road since it was getting late. OK and we moved on.  The road onward is not remembered well because my head was swiveling back and forth looking at all the wonderful camping sites in the trees. The Team came upon the parking lot at the more or less end of the road.  The gravel stopped here but two “roads” went on through the woods to unknown destinations.

One of the roads is described in the Laurence Parent book as one for torturing you vehicle.  Here is a picture of the start of that road/hiking trail 201.


You can barely see the first big rock in the center of the road.  It is flat on this side with about an 18” drop on the far side.  From there the “road” gets serious.  You would need a very agile vehicle and a couple of spotters to get you down the mountain to where it hits the Klondike Gap Road.


In the area around this parking lot is a nice area of about two acres that has been being used for camping.  In fact a young couple with a Honda minivan was setting up a tent when the Team was there.  A camper does have to bring everything required with his equipment.  There is not any water supply anywhere closer than Queen.  It is remote, very remote but still easily accessible even by a class A motorhome.


The Team headed back down the road after doing a small amount of checking things out.  It is about an hour and a half back down to the Castle at Brantley Lake State Park. There was great wishing that more daylight was available to see more on the way back.

Blogger is doing some odd stuff to my blog tonight.  I apologise if it comes out looking wierd.

Overall this is a very good trip for trying to have tooooo much fun.