Big Bend Part 1

FINALLY!!!!!  It pays to persevere.  The stars were in alignment and I finally got to go!  I rented a jeep and took off for the 9 hour drive to Big Bend National park.  The alone time was very enjoyable and then turned a little scary as I went through the town of Marathon.  From Marathon it was 90 miles until the park and there is absolutely nothing around and no cell service.  No gas stations, hardly any cars, just vast open spaces.  Desert with mountains.  The desert has it’s own beauty.  There is alone and then there is really being alone.  I haven’t quite felt the sense of that until that particular stretch of drive.  It reminded me of how much we really need each other to survive.

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I made it to the park and paid my $25 entry fee at the Panther crossing stop in the park.  I got my map and headed to the group campsite.  The group is Hill Country Outdoors and most people were arriving around the same time to setup camp.  I’m sure everyone had in mind to get their tents setup before dark.   I met up with some ladies who wanted to check out the lodge where there is a store and wifi.  It’s a .6 mile hike, you can drive, but who wants to use any more gas!  Our campsite had a fantastic view of “the Window” which is amazing at sunset and behind my tent was “Casa Grande”.

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We had bathrooms with flushable toilets and actually there was an electric outlet in the restroom.  They even had a spigot for water at the campsite, even though I brought my own water.  There were no showers but we had rented two rooms at the lodge for showers during our stay.  It didn’t get too cold either.  It was in the 50s at the lowest.  Dinner was at 6PM, frito pie.  The moon was full, so the dark skies were well lit and hid the many stars that you would normally see.

On day one the plan was to hike the Lost Mine trail.  We carpooled to the trail head and began our 5 mile hike.  We were given lunches to bring which consisted of protein bars, trail mix, crackers and fruit.  Hiking up the trail we were able to meet and find out more about the people in the group which was really enjoyable to find out a little bit about everyone.  I was so happy to find there are people around my age that enjoy this kind of adventure.  Once we climbed for a ways we had an amazing view of the valley.

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and then we lunched at the top.  Joe had binoculars and shared them so we could try and spot bears, but we didn’t see any.  It was fun looking.

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After heading back to the campsite we decided to rest then hike to the edge of the window to see the sunset.  It is a 2 mile hike.  A small group of us went and it was not a disappointment.   On the hike we saw deer and traversed the pretty trail.  At the end it was challenging to navigate the rocks and the water, lots of climbing.  And then the reward!  There is a pool of water that is low right now and falls off the edge I’m guessing into the abyss because you can’t see where it goes.

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The hike back in the dark was fun.  We got lost and we spotted eyes…everyone believes it was a fox, we made it!

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Big Bend Part 1

Roam if you want to

It’s getting closer!  The culmination of selling a home we have lived in for 17 years, moving into an apartment and going on one of my dream adventures all within a couple of weeks.   I will never understand the timing.  Even though I didn’t get to plan the dream adventure entirely my way (to go with family), I’m happy to be going with other adventure enthusiasts.  My big bend trip moved to the second week because of the closing.  I am now in full on prep mode.  This with a move going on too!

The first thing I decided was that I am going to drive alone for 9 hours to Big Bend in a rented jeep Renegade.   Back in my college days it was not that big of a deal to make the trip from south Florida to Tallahassee which was at least 8 hours, so I figure this will be the same.  I found out that we will be in the Chisos basin group camp sites with no electrical hookup.  Rented rooms at the lodge on day two for showers.  This weekend I plan to get a new tent and a propane heater (Mr. Heater).  I searched all over for a battery powered heater fan and they just don’t exist.  I don’t mind camping, I just don’t like to be cold.  I’m so looking forward to the simplicity…hopefully.  No cell service in big bend so no checking my phone.    My previous plan included a hike to the Window, staying in the town of Terlingua, a trip to Balanced Rock and the Santa Elena Canyon.  Plans are now slightly modified.

Day One: travel

Day Two: I have signed up for the Lost Mine Trail hike.  I would have done this with the family but didn’t plan on it because they aren’t hikers.  It’s 5 miles and 1000 feet climb, considered moderate.

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Day Three: float the Rio Grande.  I don’t know that I have ever navigated class two rapids.  We will be in inflatable kayaks with a guide.  This ought to be interesting.

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Day Four: Hike to South Rim, 12-14.5 miles, strenous.  Pretty much all day.  My kind of activity.

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When I leave, I plan to go visit the town of Terlingua.  I hope the weather will be as beautiful as it looks in these pictures.  I do plan to bring my moutain bike, although I’m not sure how much I will use it.  Somewhere I will fit in the Window which is best viewed around dusk and it is .25 mile from the Chisos basin, I should be able to see it.  And I can’t wait to see the stars at night.  I’m grateful I’m able to do what I love and find people to go with…even if they are complete strangers, we share the same goal.  Adventure awaits!!

Roam if you want to

Hamilton Pool Dream Come True

Hamilton Pool is another Texas treasure!!!  This natural wonder is located just outside of Austin to the West.   You have to make reservations to go and there is no guarantee that you will be able to swim because of bacteria levels which are tested daily.  Reservations are from 9-1PM and 2PM-6PM.  This is my own opinion, but I think there are bats in the “grotto” and I would think that the unsafe bacteria specifically ecoli might have something to do with their poop.  That’s just a guess.   It’s worth the risk to make the 3 hour drive because you can still enjoy the view of this beauty which is quite spectacular.   And there are plenty of other things to do in the area. Determined to go, I made the reservations months ago.  Even if I had to go by myself. Fortunately, my mother-in-law, son, daughter and friend went with! Your reservation is by the carload and since we have smaller vehicles, it was worth it to rent a minivan.  I looked at this day trip as a mini vacation and treated it as such!  We were comfortable!

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We began the 1/4 mile rough terrain to the water.  It really is steep in some places and rocky, the rocks aren’t even.  There isn’t anything to hang on to.  People lug their coolers, chairs and floats regardless!  There is no wheelchair access, which makes me sad because for people with disabilities this would be a huge challenge to go see and some would never go.

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The vegetation kept the hot Texas sun away.  There are lots of mesquite trees and cypress as you get towards the water.  I’m standing on the “beach”  here taking my first picture. This is where we laid out some towels and I called it our base camp.  The beach is rocky crushed rock with good size stones.  Outside of the stunning beauty of the cave like curved roof with water gently falling into a clear green massive pool, I noticed these three very large catfish at the water’s edge.  They hung out there the entire time!  First things first, I wanted to explore!  You can walk in the cave all along it to the other side.

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I thought bats were coming out of the swallow nests, but they aren’t.  If you look closely, you can see the muddy nests with a hole in the middle on the ceiling.

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Here is a view of the beach from the other side…

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Sometimes the water that falls is quite massive, on a day like today, it was picture perfect for standing under.

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Under the waterfall is the rock where people jump in.  I swam around the pool.  At first I thought it was going to be freezing because the water temperatures are in the 60s year round.  It was cold at first, you quickly get used to it.  Even though the water looks clear along the edges, it isn’t as it gets deeper.  Still it’s a very pretty green.  Looking up at the water falling is pretty cool as you see the droplets take the plunge.  I could have spent the day here, however my crew is not the chilling type.  At least not here.  I’m guessing it’s because there is no cellular service.

The idea was to eat here, bringing in food.  However, for this group it was a better idea to go out to lunch/dinner.  We ended up going to Canyon Grill which is on lake Travis.  We had another amazing view and great food!  Fantastic day ! ❤

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Hamilton Pool Dream Come True

FINISHER Day Two

Day two of the MS150 starts early!  We get up at 5:00 AM. What-a-Burger delivered at 4:30 am breakfast.  I’m a breakfast person, I don’t think I ate enough the night before and was starving.  So I get up, pack my cot and sleeping bag and go eat.  Our ride marshall said to put your bike at the start so you can be as close to the start as possible.  I did.  Our start was delayed to 8:00am.  After a breakfast taco and some coffee, I put my luggage on the team truck and chatted with the team.  Around 7:30 I went to the start and talked with the people around me.  It was cold and it rained a little, 50 degrees and I had my rash guard on that was keeping me warm.  They finally let us go, I was in the third wave. Leaving LaGrange we began on Hwy 71.  There were two options the challenge route which normally goes through state parks or the express route.  Being that it is my first time, I opted for the express route.

The hills were challenging.  The head wind rough!  It made for a slow ride.  Day two is 66 miles with a lot of hills.  Lunch was in Bastrop where my in-laws live.  I rolled into the stop and enjoyed a turkey tortilla roll up and had lunch with a few team mates.  I took off with one of the guys and stayed with him for a while. The road was familiar because I’ve been on it so many times with my family.  After lunch their were two rest stops that were at least 1/4 mile off the road which was not worth it!  Most rest stops are right off the road. After riding for so long, my thought is that there is no way I’m doing more.  I needed to stop to stretch.   So stretching I did.

At the last rest stop I knew I needed water, but it was only 15 more miles.  I’m like, yeah I can do that.  As I approached the finish, our team ride marshal was with me.  He is an amazing guy, so positive, uplifting.  I’m like please tell me this is the last hill, he says well maybe there is one more, but it’s a baby hill.   Any hill at this point is too big.  I admire his positivity.  As we round a corner I see the city and the capital.  At this point it was a couple of miles and my heart was like, yeah this is it!  We turned many times and finally hit the finish.  There is a bubble bistro at the finish and it horse shoes around to dismount.  The biggest deal is the picture of you and your bike in front of the capital.  I had to work for this picture.  My team tent wasn’t in front of the capital, but I took my bike there anyway and got a pic thanks to a stranger willing to take it with my phone.

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I went to the bubble bistro and met Jeff.  His story was amazing . He was diagnosed in 2008. Wheelchair bound and at the time all of the 4 available medicines didn’t work for him . Now one of the fourteen meds work.
He is not only out of his wheelchair , he did the ms150 full for the first time ! He said he was so inspired by the cyclists ! He told me that they are working on meds to repair nerve damage , this will help others as well. Ms is the number one neurological disease that receives fund raising and that benefit can help other neurological issues ! That is my hope for people like my mom!!!  I encourage you to never give up!

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FINISHER Day Two

FINISHER – Day One

What a weekend!  What an experience!   At sunrise my team began the MS150 start at the Wood Group.  The biggest concern was the weather later in the day.  We had a ride marshall on our team who said we would have a tail wind the entire first day.   The sky was overcast and the temperature comfortable in the 70s.

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I cycled with one of the ladies for most of the approximate 9 miles it takes to get to less traffic congestion.  As we started to get out of town, which was really suburbia and near my house, the scenery around the two lane road is pretty.  It’s lush and green and there are still many beautiful wild flowers out.  The cycle traffic merged in from Rhodes stadium.  We were on the Tully stadium route, and must have been slightly in front of most of that group. Along the side of the road and into the small towns like Fayetteville, people were on the side of the road cheering, ringing cow bells and playing music.  The first rest stop was about 20 miles in and then stops were spaced 8 to 12 miles apart. Lunch was in Bellville at 47 miles, by the time you reach Bellville, it’s more like brunch time.  The wind wasn’t really a tail wind, it was more like a cross wind.  Houston is pretty flat, however as soon as you get outside, there are some rolling hills.  I clinched and held on tightly going down the hills because the cross wind was powerful and it would blow in short swift bursts.  It was nice meeting up with the team and chatting at the lunch stop and with them at rest stops as well as meeting other people.  That coconut water from Goya is the best.  It’s the one in a small can with bits of coconut in it.

After lunch the wind really picked up and the sun came out, temperature and humidity rose and the hills were a little more steep.  The last two rest stops were tough getting out of, my toes were numb.  I’m pretty sure because of the tightening to hold on for the wicked cross wind.  As I rolled into La Grange I couldn’t feel my toes.  As soon as I got off it was better.  I looked at the mileage…94 miles for day one!

I found our tent and they had my bedding setup.  I went to the shower trucks.  The women’s line was much shorter than the men’s.  After a short wait, I went into a steaming hot truck where there are lines of individual showers with curtains.  There is a hook on the outside where I hooked my plastic bag and towel.

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After the shower, I went back to be with the team, eat, drink and rest.  The Wood Group had the best bathrooms ever!  They were portable, flushed, had a sink and were even air conditioned.  We had a band right in front of us that was playing great music.  I would have loved to dance, however I had no more energy.   The storm rolled in around 9-10PM.  We had an emergency plan, but didn’t need it.  The wind really blew in and cooled the temperatures 30 degrees.  The sleeping bag was perfect!  I turned down ear plugs only to regret it later.  I had “the motor” behind me snoring all night!

No neighbors behind us!

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FINISHER – Day One

MS150 RIDE DAY!!!!!!!!

I am so excited!  Tomorrow is the highly anticipated 2-day ride 150 miles bike ride from Houston to Austin with 10,500 people!  Part of the excitement is the weather.  This whole week everyone is watching the weather.  And it looks like we are going to have strong storms come through Saturday night.  Not a big deal unless you are in a TENT!  Some of my team are like well, we might call it a no go for camping over night and you’ll have to figure out what you are going to do. And one guy is like, no problem, it’s gonna rain and we’ll handle it.  After all of this training and fund raising, I’m like, we better freaking do this.  I put the family on standby, in case I have to be picked up.  The MS society says that they have some shelter in a nearby school, I’m guessing we’ll figure it out, so this is it.  I have not a clue how this is going to work out.

Forget about the concern about packing.  A note on that, I am allowed 2 bags.  My cot is one.  The other bag which is like a duffel bag has in it my sleeping bag and a full size pillow.  Squeezed in the pockets are shower shoes (one change of clothes), a towel, shower gel, tooth brush, tooth paste and a brush.  That is it!  I plan to carry on me my water, a rash guard in case it gets cold, sunscreen and lip balm.

Today I had a tennis match, I thought it best to sit myself out, but instead played for someone who couldn’t make it.  I’m thinking, no problem no one is going to get injured, and then my opponent had to retire because of some kind of calf muscle pull/sprain.  She had to be wheel chaired off the court.  I am so lucky this didn’t happen to me.

I’m ready, I don’t know anyone on my team.  I’ve tried three times, still no real connection.  It’s ok, I would have done this by myself.  Instead, there are a bunch of strangers to me in the same suit.  I will eat with them and sleep with them and endure whatever night adventure comes my way.

When I was twenty I talked about doing my own adventures.  Now twice that age, I’m doing it.  I’m pretty sure I was capable back then, and am thrilled that at an older age not only am I physically able, the mental part is 100% there.   The mental component is the one part that I was missing in my youth that is so strong now.   It’s funny because, mentally we might be there and then are body gives out!  Hopefully not this time.

I’m going to bed.  I will be up at 5AM and start my bike journey at 6:55AM.  Whoo Hoo!!!!luggage2.jpg

MS150 RIDE DAY!!!!!!!!

Texas Adventure Awaits

I want to go to Big Bend so bad!  This is my west Texas dream, to explore the Chisos mountains and the Rio Grande. My problem, I can’t find anyone who will go!  Why?  It’s such an amazing place!   Last Sunday it was cold, in an effort to pass the time I decided to plan an adventure.   It would be great if the family would go, and just the mention of this trip doesn’t spark interest to any of them.  To sell the idea, I thought I would put together a Power Point presentation complete with pictures of where we would stay, what we would do, eating options and a sample itinerary.  Considering my company, I picked easy options at the park.  You can hike, swim, ride horses, raft, etc.  Big Bend is 9 hours from Houston (640 miles), this is my first hurdle.  No one wants to be in the car for that long.  To me driving is a mind vacation in itself.  You can listen to music and not have to do any critical thinking.  You can fly 1/2 way there, but you still need to drive 4 more hours.  (and the plane ride is 1 and 1/2 hours).  Adding in driving and waiting at the airport, you might as well drive. Never mind the expense of flying!!bigbend

My plan is to go for 4 days.  In spending the time to actually plan this out, I learned a lot! First, where to stay.  If you are a real adventurist, camping is ideal.  When the kids were young, I could get a way with camping and they would think that is fun!  Now not so much. Terlingua is a ghost town that is 8 miles from the park entrance.

It’s noterlinguat like you are going to find your chain hotels there, so I would call places to stay there boutique hotels.  On our California adventure, I learned that unique hotel options can be a hit or miss.  Fortunately with the internet, you can read the reviews, good and bad and at least have some decision making criteria.  There is a lodge inside the park, but I really wasn’t interested in staying there.  The ghost town has some restaurants and shops.  And I mean, it’s ghost town…how cool is that?!

 

Next, what to do.  Big Bend is 1,252 square miles.  The Rio Grande is in the park and separates Texas from Mexico.   I actually found more information about distances on Google maps than the park website so that I can plan a day.  I read that there is a waterfall in the park, hot springs and found some information on trails, their distances and degree of difficulty.

Noting the options, their locations and the distance between them, I think the Window is a must see.  It’s located near the lodge which is a great starting point.  They also have a trail to the balanced rock that looked pretty cool too.  It does say it’s a 6 mile rough road driving to get to the trail head.the window

To get to the waterfall and the spring is a little more time consuming, something I would definitely do if my party was up for it.  I picked trails that were easy to do and less than 1 mile round trip!  They say to go when the weather is cool, in Texas ? Really?  That can be hard to hit, because it can be hot and cold in one day!  Summers are very hot, so I understand that planning a trip in the desert during the hottest months is probably not a good idea.  You really have to be acclimated and be diligent about hydration and if you are not used to that you can get really sick.  Another must see is the Rio Grande.  Santa Elena Canyon is the trail for that.riogrande

I think two days at the park would be good.  Then we could make our way back to a couple of towns that I’ve heard are interesting.  We could stay in Alpine and then go to Marfa. These towns are really in the middle of no where.  I love the history of these little towns, established by railroad workers, cattle drivers and past home to some miners.  It is a cool reminder of different times with different challenges.  Love the history!    Being that these places are in the middle of nowhere, the skies are really dark!  And there are these Marfa ghost lights that I want to check out.  So my goal is to make this happen!

 

 

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Texas Adventure Awaits