Bear Creek Park and Some Fun-gis

Monday was a holiday for me, but not for J.  The kids were still gone, and I had no idea what I was going to do with myself.  I considered some more mundane pursuits, but ultimately decided I really wanted to play outside, after spending most of Sunday indoors.

So I posted a thread on the Houston Geocaching Society forum, and next thing you know, I had the company of two fun guys on a Monday morning, and we set off to explore the inner boundaries of Bear Creek Park.

Bear Creek Park is on the west side of town, and boasts 2153 acres of fields and forests.  It is a multi-use park, with soccer fields, equestrian trails, and even a little mini-zoo, with a small collection of exotic animal exhibits.

  We started near this cache I had found years prior, and then walked back into the forest and in a huge circle for about an hour and a half, finding five caches.  We were roughly near the equestrian area.  This park is in a flood plain and with all the recent rain, it was downright swampy back there.  Good thing we all had boots on.  The water was ankle deep in places.

The caches near here named little piggy 1, 2, and 3 were very cute.  There was a lot of bird activity going on, but I forgot the binoculars.  Mossies were terrible.

There was a lot of fungus among us.

After this, we decided we were tired of the sloshing about and headed for what we thought was a drier series of caches: The Elements Series.  This is a series of 100 caches along a reservoir, each highlighting a different periodic element.

We found about 15 of them, and would have found 20 except the water was too high, and the caches were now watercraft-accessible only, unless you wanted to swim with the snakes.  This took us another couple of hours.

I saw many signs of wildlife out this way, but no actual animals except the birds.  The bird activity was gratutious.  I think I even spied a loggerhead shrike from a distance.  At one cache, we spooked a flock of vultures that was about 50 members deep. 

Fresh deer scat:

               The feral hogs have obviously been wallowing out this way, and left deep impressions on the sides of the reservoir.

(and…the rest of the story will have to continue after a game or two of Uno with the boys and bedtimes)…

Simonton After the Storm

I thought we were headed to Lake Jackson today.

But last night, the long rumored storm that was coming finally hit.  Or should I say this morning.  About five am, we were listening to the wind and rain pounding the side of the house and talking half coherently about how bad it was supposed to be, and I was realizing that we were probably not going to the bird sanctuary and hiking today like we planned.

But we can’t stay inside long.  We just aren’t made like that.  So as soon as the rain stopped, around 10 am, we headed out to Simonton to check on some caches we placed out there last week.

This is the path near one of them, the third of three in a short series highlighting different views of the Brazos River.

Simonton is a sleepy little town about 12 miles from us.  The city hall and fires station are about the tiniest ones I have ever seen, and mostly it is a farming community.  There are some unique businesses around the area, and a lot of country roads.  We like to drive around out that way looking for hawks, and lately we’ve gotten into hiding caches out there as well.

Usually the FTF (First to Find) competition is very steep in this area.  When a new cache is published, you can be that within 15 minutes, the FTF hounds will descend upon it like vultures. But for some reason, this one has not been found yet.  Perhaps because people assumed that the guy who went out to find the other two found it as well?  He didn’t, because he slipped in the mud and it was raining and he didn’t look very hard.  But it is there.  Really close to here:

I am trying to figure out what plant that is with the pink buds, but that might take me a while.  I am not very knowledgeable about plants and I don’t have a reference book.

The Brazos looked higher, but not by much, but the gullies and fields were full of water. Retention ponds were doing their jobs well.  We think the sky must have dropped 6″ inches of water between last night and this morning.  We stopped by this place below, were on the way out, we saw a woman and a child standing with umbrellas.  In their place now were water birds, thinking this was a lake shore and not a sidewalk I guess.

The birds flew away as we got closer, so the perception of the water height is not as strong in this next picture, but you can see the egrets here:

This area is actually Fulshear, which lies between Katy and Simonton.  We had breakfast there in the morning, at a place called All Stars, which has become like our favorite mediocre diner.  It’s close and convenient to our country explorations.

Tonight we are headed to a geocaching meetup in the forest at night, in an area that is prone to flooding, so this should be interesting.  We bought big galoshes in anticipation.  Hopefully it will end up being something worth writing about as well.


I woke up thinking about water.  I was remembering two places in Wyoming we had stopped at to watch water thunder down in its rocky prison and shoot out across a edge, making a waterfall.  One was here, this picture above, which is probably a common stop in Yellowstone National Park (the North Rim of the Upper Falls), and the other below was a less common stop, somewhere just outside the Beartooth Mountain range northeast of Yellowstone.

In both places, I was impressed with the amount of force the rivers were generating on their fierce downward path.  I had a passing thought of wondering how that power could be harnessed, as a form of natural energy.  But I didn’t finish the thought in terms of what would happen to the river then, to these awe-inspiring views.


Lately I have been reading this book, Making a Difference, by Amy Irvine.  It is essentially short stories about various environmental projects sponsored by the Outdoor Alliance, and their subsequent outcomes. I think everyone should read this book, because it inspires you to be aware of what is around you, and how one person really can make a difference in this world.  It also is a primer on some of the environmental issues of our times.

Some of the stories center on water, on prevention of dams being built that would allow energy providers to harness the water as a source of energy.  To harness the river would also prevent it from reaching those it actually does give energy to – the animals and plants that depend on it to fill a niche in their habitat.  At the same time, though, we will need to look for cleaner, renewable energy sources.  So is there a way to provide power in which both humanity and nature are the winners?  Or at least where there are no losers?

Underwater wind turbines may be part of that answer.  There are some other new low-impact answers out there as well, such as “power pontoons” and making the turbines in the dam more effective.  From what I can tell from googling answers on the internet, it appears that the Department of Energy and the major players and innovators are trying to come up with solutions that keep in mind the environment while maximizing energy.

I’ve been saying for a while that the next major war will be fought not over land, or oil rights, or weapons of mass destruction, but over water rights.   Only time will tell if my prediction is correct, or if humanity can find our way to balance the demand to sustain human life against the demand to support others in the ecosystem without fighting each other over it in the meantime.

Travelogues: Montana, GCNKHO – Custer’s Back Roads

Back to the story of past travels:

Last year in June (’10), we were making our “maiden voyage” together, driving 5000 miles across America.  I have told the story in past entries of making our way across Texas, spending the night in Palo Duro State Park, checking out the Cadillac Ranch, driving through New Mexico and into Colorado, some of the our favorite caches in Colorado.  After spending a night in Colorado Springs, Rocky Mountain National Park, and then Fort Collins, we were finally able to make our way into Montana. Pics of RMNP forthcoming….

Ah, but first we had to get through Wyoming.  Why, oming?  Why you so boring?  It was a long day of travel before we got near the former Indian lands near and north of Custer’s Last Stand.  We actually STOPPED by the scene of this famous battle, and it was mildly interesting, but our favorite stop was by the cache whose title is that of this entry.

We were not far from the highway, but it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere, and the last people on earth.  As I opened the truck door to find the geocache, I spooked some antelope, which bounded off into the distance.  It was so peaceful here, and no sound except us.  It is a place in my mind I will go to time and again, a little memory treasure.