San Marcos: Purgatory Creek Natural Area and Prospect Park

wpid-img_20140524_101409.jpgI think I am turning green after this with envy over this sweet, sweet setup my best friend growing up has got going on over there in the smtx.  Not only does she have this great big yard that is part elevated open green space for the kids to play/part wilderness, but she also has this super awesome natural area walking distance from her house that offers a “greenbelt” with nature trails and the chance to experience an endangered species: the Golden Cheeked Warbler.  This little bird has experienced so much habitat loss of the places it likes to nest in – tall juniper and oak woodlands – because of urban development that it hasn’t got a lot of places left, but this greenbelt is a protected space to hold back just a bit of this prime real estate for this brightly colored little bird to lay its eggs.

We didn’t see any of the warblers out during our two forays into the natural area over the weekend, but perhaps they were busy doing their nesting thing,  which extends until the end of this next week.  We might have heard them; there were unidentified bird sounds going on around us.  Truth be told, we didn’t stop much to lift the binoculars, because we were too busy watching the rocks on the trail and/or our phone/gps to see where the geocaches were in the park.  We were excited about the chance to see them, though, the opportunity that could happen at any time.



We did see a bit of other birds, butterflies and bees on our walks, as well as whole herds of mossies (that we could have done without – but the air was humid after a well-needed rain so that is just as well).

To be fair, I am not really feeling envious as much as I am feeling motivated to find a situation like hers.  We were inspired enough to draw out some plans for our yard to allow more outdoor appreciation time in our own space.  We really liked sitting on my friend’s porch on adirondack chairs watching the numerous birds flitting and flying about the trees and cacti in their yard.  Several common nighthawk (#89) searched the tops of the trees for food in the evening, and in the morning, sparrows and cardinals, as well as other birds sang bright little morning songs.  We saw our first hummingbird of the year flitting around a flower in her neighbor’s yard (I am not sure what species it was; it was too fast to identify).  We want to build on the bird bath/bird feeder concept at our own house to draw them into our yard like that, although it certainly won’t be as spectacular as her yard is.

Of course, they also have the San Marcos River so close to their house – another reason to be jealous.  We all loaded up the tubes and took them down to spend about an hour floating along.  We saw some ducks on the river.  One was a drake who stood up tall and stretched his wings, and I have been trying to figure out what he was.  He looked like a Mallard but he was mostly black, and I am wondering if it is one of the Mallard x Black Duck crosses “they” talk about occasionally.  There was a female with chicks that was possibly a female Wood Duck.

The river was very clear, clean, and cool.  My youngest kept wanting to get off his tube and swim in it near us, and we let him do that sometimes when it was convenient for us.  I felt the urge as well, and at the end, I did get to take a swim, but mostly to try to catch up to my oldest one, who had gotten ahead and needed to be told to stop.

There was so much good outdoor adventure on our trip, and some little places here and there that called to us that we didn’t have time to explore, so we do plan on going back.  We also had a really nice time visiting with my friend Mari and her family, and the kids got along really well.  I have already been looking at our calendar to see when we could fit in a return trip (although it probably won’t be until next year).  If we go there again in March through May, perhaps we can lay our eyes on those Golden Cheeked Warblers after all.



Pundt Park: What I Love About Forests

Therwpid-img_20140510_113206.jpge’s a certain way the light falls in a forest that just makes my heart tremble with excitement.  It’s a spill of sunlight across a swath of leaves gathered at the edge of a fallen tree, or the emerald green of moss creeping up a tree base.  It’s rounding a bend in a trail and seeing a path, bright and warm with sun.  It’s the mix of shadows and light playing across pine needles and forest debris.

Pundt Park offered all this and more last Saturday.  This 380 acre park in Spring is part of the Spring Creek Greenway system, and offers a large system of multi-use and dedicated trails.    That means equestrians, bikers, hikers and geocachers are all out there together on some trails, but not on all of them.  Some of the trails go all the way to Jesse Jones Park from here. There are two pavilions and a playground, and plenty of forest to explore.wpid-img_20140511_110855.jpg

If you like Jesse Jones Park, you’ll like Pundt Park.  The terrain is very similar.  We want to go to Jesse Jones again next, but I want to come back to Pundt and explore.  I spent most of my time talking to others in our group and playing trivia, and only spent about an hour out on the trail. What I saw was just a tease; a tease of what looks like a really great forest.

CRNT #5: Wonders of Nature

wpid-img_20140501_172811.jpgWell, I’ve been back to my favorite spot; by hike and by bike, alone and with family, not with the dogs since the last time I wrote about it but maybe sometime this week.

These are some of the things we’ve seen along the way.  Above, a Loggerhead Shrike looks over his kingdom.  wpid-img_20140501_172942.jpgCottontails show very little fear of humans as they hop around foraging for food.  I’ve seen about a dozen this week, around trees and along the culverts, sitting right along the trail next to fences.

wpid-img_20140501_174443.jpgA pair of Mallards floating side by side on the edge of this pond area.  They were not a breeding pair – actually were two males, interestingly enough.  Haven’t seen mallards all year, then I see them out of town and get all excited, only to come home and find some in my “big backyard”.

Along my walks and rides out in this area, I have contemplated how much this area has changed.  We were out here in September of 2010, before we moved in together.  We had borrowed my parent’s canoe for a paddling event, and took it out to the water here to make a find on the island in the middle of the lake.  At the time, there was nothing out here.  I was having trouble even placing where we parked and entered the water.  I thought it was at a school, but I am guessing now it was actually the Lakehouse, a neighborhood clubhouse nearby where my son is taking art lessons now.

It is funny how things change.  It makes me think about how everything changes like this; if you look back on your first impressions of something, and then compare it to what you know now, you can feel that sense of change.  Like the progression of a relationship with a person, my relationship with this place has changed over time.  I am so much happier with it now than when I first “met” it.  

Michigan moments


I had been in Texas in the morning, Georgia midday, Illinois early afternoon, then driven through Indiana to here, near Kalamazoo, Michigan.

I was on a mission; I have been trying to fill in my calendar on of days I have found a cache, and this was a day I needed.  Finally I had a minute to take  a short walk in the evening and see what I could find.

I came upon a herd of deer, about a dozen altogether.  They were grazing in a field about five hundred feet from the hotel, just across the street from where I needed to look for the cache.  A couple of young ones in the herd were curious about what I was doing, and turned to watch me.  One couldn’t stand it, and finally had to cross the street and make attempts to graze at the grass near me, watching me.  I tried to see if he would let me approach him (foolish girl – but he didn’t have antlers with which to gore me, and I was curious how close he would let me get), but this only resulted in the whole herd taking off for the safety of the woods, as if I meant to hurt them.

I didn’t find that cache, but I did find one on the other side of the hotel.  I saw several Canadian Geese (#86) honking in the grass along the way, and the morning I saw them again in the back of the hotel.

This is the view from the back of the hotel in Portage.  I didn’t get to explore much because I was sort of at the mercy of the sales guys, who had the car.  I spent some time here, though, armed with binoculars to see what I could see.  Most of what I saw were the same birds I had been seeing in Texas, except for a pair or two of Mallards (#87) that flew low near the trees on their way to some other water source.  There were blackbirds, robins, and sparrows out there, others too that I can’t think of right now.

In the drive through Indiana, though, I had looked over and seen a glorious site of several sandhill cranes covering a field of beaten down golden stalks of some crop, probably corn.  I also saw cliff swallows (#88) that had made a mud nest along the front of the building of the client we had come to visit.  I thought I would have a chance for more wildlife observations when we returned to Chicago, but we stayed in an area full of tall buildings, and clubs and restaurants.

As much as it is nice to get away, it was also really nice to come home, return to my boys and my bike and the gorgeous spring we are having this year.