Art Interactive: Cadillac Ranch/Blue Lake Experimental

IMG_20140709_132428For forty years, an audience-interactive art project dreamed up by a San Francisco based art group Ant Farm has been on display in a pasture in Amarillo.  This iconic stop off Route 66 invites people to get out of their cars, walk a bit to the row of rusted out Cadillacs half-rising out of the earth, and put their own form of embellishment on them.  That is, as long as they brought their own spray paint (or there was any left in the hundreds of bottles that gather by the end of the day).  Every once in a while, the cars are freshly painted specific colors for various advertisements and special occasions, and yet, within 24 hours, the graffiti returns, each visitor intent on leaving their individual mark.

On this day, the second full day of our summer road trip, we stopped here to let the boys experience this (my only regret is not buying them their own can of spray paint before we got there).  It was hot and windy, as it seems to always be here.  After this, we headed out of Texas and into Colorado, heading first north, then northwest along the Highway of Legends.

Night found us at Blue Lakes Campground, part of the San Isabel National Forest.  This place excited my older son’s senses.  It was his favorite campground ever, he told us.  I asked him if he wanted to join me in writing something about it, and he agreed.  I decided to try an experiment where we co-wrote a free-verse piece together.  This is our little dedication to this favorite campground of ours, with his participation in italics:

Blue Lake: crisp, clear, cold

Sea grass sitting still under silent water

Mysteriously hidden from us on nighttime entrance

To epic campground

Pretty awesome campground

Intoxicating you with the fresh, clean mountain air

Entrancing you in a place so far away

From the industry of the city

Flowers bloom in patches

Dark looming trees

A creek gurgles; a calming, constant sound

Trails beckon you, calling out

To the wild in your soul


Other highlights of this day included:  two extremely creative caches in Dalhart, a picnic lunch watching horses swat flies, a walk in a secluded area of a state park to get an earthcache that taught us about an asteroid impact, chicken pitas cooked over the campstove, and the boys exploring the Blue Lake trail.  I wish we had more daylight or time to explore the trail system, but as always we were trying to do too much and just skimming the surface.

Caprock Canyons State Park: Free Verse Style

_DSC0700Rising from a dream,

Noticing a sky full of stars,

I look over and Jason met my eye

We go outside to look,

my oldest son following silently

We all marveled at the detail

Of the galaxy above us

And go back to sleep in awe


Morning’s first light,

We sneak away for a daybreak drive

Blue Grosbeak male singing a song in a cedar

The female sits close, admiring

A whistle in nearby brush

reveals the Northern Bobwhite

Elusive little quail,

looking right at us just feet away


Trails stretch off invitingly in the distance

Red rock canyons rising up all around us

But we don’t have the time to explore it all

Just these things:

Bison shaking their shaggy heads

Rolling in big patches of warmed dirt

Their calves standing chest high in Lake Theo

Cooling off from a summer sun


We saw a ladybug that morning

On our way back up from swimming in the lake

The youngest wanted to keep it

“Wouldn’t it be great if ladybugs were immortal?”,  he asked

I try to imagine a world

Where ladybugs never die

All good things must come to an end, my son

And likewise, too soon, our time at Caprock Canyons


But this is how it ends:

With me, sitting in the morning sun

Watching prairie dogs cavort

Whistling alerts for kids on bikes

Freshly washed hair blowing in my face

Birds singing, a scissortail flying low

Searching for bugs

Bees, crickets, horseflies all humming a tune


A goodbye lullaby

For a park that won our heart


Setting Forth: Dallas area Grandfather Caches

IMG_20140707_182219We thought we had a good system.  We thought we had figured things out.  J is an expert packer, and he had a four day weekend to think it through.  When we finally got the Subaru loaded up, though, with the kids, dogs, us, our camping gear, and clothes for the next few weeks arranged tetris-style on the luggage rack and cargo basket, it seemed that we were just a little overloaded.

We tried to make it work.  We made it about twenty minutes down the road before J decided he needed to test out some parking lot speed bumps to see if we were so low that we were riding on the bump-stops of the car.  Turns out we were, so while we stopped to feed everyone dinner, he called his parents to help bail us out by passing off what we could most do without…the dogs.

So now we were headed south instead of north, to drop the dogs off in Sugarland.  Then we had to head home to rearrange the entire she-bang.  We got rid of the luggage rack entirely and lightened up the vehicle’s load by about two hundred pounds or more when it was all said and done.  So, my initial plan was for us to leave right around four in the afternoon and find a hotel in Arlington, having put some good hours in between us and Katy.  It was very late by the time we actually left, and we only made it as far as Fairfield.

The next morning, the youngest child lost a tooth over a pastry at the continental breakfast at the Days Inn.  There was some anxiety over the Tooth Fairy, who was actually short on cash at the moment, and we assured him that the Tooth Fairy would eventually find him.  I need to remember to ask when he gets back from visiting his dad, because we thought maybe the Tooth Fairy could find him there.  J struggled with the cargo bag in a hot parking lot, and everyone was a little grumpy and frustrated by the time we set out to make it to Caprock Canyons that night.IMG_20140708_124854

The good thing about being behind schedule was that it meant we were pulling into Arlington in time to have an early lunch at Chophouse Burgers, a place I read about on a Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives information website.   We think it was worth the hype, very good.  J and I both ordered the signature “Chophouse Burger”, while the kids got just regular stuff.

The reason we were headed to Arlington was to find this cache: GC62, Tombstone, the 35th oldest active cache in the US and the oldest active cache in Texas.  It’s a short multi-cache located in a park/cemetery area just outside the University of Texas-Arlington campus.  Even though it was 92 degrees outside, it wasn’t too bad going after this one, because we approached it from the campus side, which was quite shady.

After this, there were some hiccups getting out of town (gas, bathroom break, cache stop etc) and then we finally started to head northwest, with our sights on the next “grandfather” cache in Texas on our agenda:  Texas Double.  This cache is the 59th oldest active cache in the world, and the second oldest in Texas.  It is located in the LBJ Grasslands, which I sort of imagined to be some amber-waves-of grain benign meadowlands.  It wasn’t like that at all.  It was hot, rocky, prickly, and full of scrubby trees and chaparral style foliage.  It was quite a bit of a deviation off the main highway, too.  We did enjoy the backroad journey out to the location, and the solitude of the adventure.  We didn’t see any other vehicles out that way.  There was a trail, and it didn’t seem that far to the cache from where we parked, but with the afternoon sun beating down and the bit of a climb up a hill, it was more difficult to get to than we anticipated.

On the way back down the hill, my younger son hit a mental roadblock in figuring out how to deal with the terrain.  There was a long period of time where we were all trying to teach him how to walk sideways and make his way down, and during that time I got bit by some bugs and got an unexpected sunburn.  This was around the time that we first started to realize that the Single Most Valuable Item that we packed was one I incidentally just grabbed on the way out the door – Band-Aid brand Anti-Itch Gel, providing “immediate cooling relief” as the label says, to all our bug bites and plant-induced itches.

Finally we were on our way to get to the state park before nightfall, stopping just one more time to grab a cache and some drinks.  I will post later about what Caprock Canyons State Park is like.  It was such a cool place that it deserves its own post.


Western Wilderness

We are finally home from a wild road trip out West, and still processing it all. I want to share with people some of our experiences, but it is going to take a bit of time to work through the details. Here is a simple summary of the trip details, though:

Miles Covered: 6602
Caches Found: 60
“Grandfather” Caches found: 9 (“100 Oldest Active Geocaches”)
States: Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma
National Parks: Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Arches, Canyonlands (briefly), Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Zion (briefly), Glacier
National Monuments: Florissant Fossil Beds, Grand Staircase-Escalante
numerous National Forest areas, most notably San Isabel, Clearwater
State Parks: Caprock Canyons, Priest Lake (Idaho)

Wildlife highlights:
A badger running across a meadow of wildflowers in Utah
A group of baby skunks in the garden of our Moab motel, and a mother lingering near the trash cans
A herd of 100 buffalo in Caprock Canyons State Park
A prairie-dog town near the bathrooms in the same park
Coyotes (2) in Montana, including one very mangy and starving one who was dashing on to the highway for road kill
Wolf – one or two sightings in Montana, plus the eighteen or so that were at the sanctuary we visited
Moose -a pair in Cut Bank, Montana who were being stared at suspiciously by the local horses
Bears – four of them; a momma grizzly and her two cubs, and a black bear, all along the edge of forests/meadows off the road in the Many Glacier section of Glacier National Park. There are an alleged 750 bears total who call the park their home
Hoary Marmots and Mountain Goats off the Hidden Lake trail
Mule and White tailed deer, pronghorn antelope, possibly some elk

We didn’t see/identify as many birds as I would have liked, but some of the ones we did see were epic, life-listers, or particularly gratifying.   Those stories I will tell later.  Listed here are the species we saw that were new to us for this year:
Northern Bobwhite
Mountain Chicadee
Warbling Vireo
Northern Shrike
Broad Tailed Hummingbird
Black Billed Magpie
White Throated Swift
Mountain Bluebird
Pinyon Jay
Townsends Solitaire
Spotted Towhee
Rufous Hummingbird
American Dipper
California Gull
Ferrunginous Hawk
Barrows Goldeneye
Cooper’s Hawk
House Wren
Greater Roadrunner
Common Raven

These birds, along with the Purple Martins I have seen this year and not yet listed, bring our yearly observed total up to 115.

Some of the best parts of our trip involved rare visits with friends and family, seeing the “Super Moon” peeking out the North Window of Arches National Park, watching AJ be inspired by Utah, wildflowers, driving on remote forest roads, seeing a presentation by the “Buckskin Poet” Jack Gladstone at the Many Glacier Lodge, laughing so hard we nearly passed out, criss-crossing the Lewis and Clark trail, learning more about how these intrepid explorers brought the West to us, and having the stories of the ancient people be brought alive and feeling connected to it.  These are the stories that I hope come out over the following days so you can connect with our experiences.