Fulshear Afternoon

bridgeWe went out west this afternoon.

It’s been a long time coming, this latest trip to Fulshear.  We hid some geocaches out there in 2012, and a few of them haven’t been found in a while.  One of the things on my list that I wanted to do when I recovered from my leg injury was this very trip: cache maintenance, exploration, and a little cache finding.

The kids didn’t want to leave the house but we didn’t care.  I did try to sweeten the trip with a stop at Essence House II for cookies and drinks before we started our journey in earnest, though.  Once they got outside, they had a good time.  The following are their portraits of outdoor play near the Brazos River bank:

AJ at Brazos Kaleb at BrazosThis area is one of TPWD’s canoe launch sites they built in late 2011.  I have yet to see the canoe launches they built out here show up on an actual paddling trail listing on the TPWD website, but this place does seem to be popular with people wanting to fish, play in the river, and shoot guns.  The boys almost always find 12 gauge shotgun shells down here when we go.

In the top picture, the fishermen on top of the bridge support had just walked up there – that was not possible last time we were down here.  The waters have receded a lot.  You can see the pile of branches on the supports showing the level the water had been at before.  We have been to this canoe launch quite a few times, although never to actually launch a canoe.  There are a lot of trails that go on past where we have our cache hidden.  Someday, we might hide more.  I let the boys explore a little within eyesight of me, but the inclines on the trails were too great for me to follow them right now, being just a week and a half post leg surgery.  I still have stitches in my leg and barely can handle any distance or terrain changes for the moment.

After this, we headed to the other canoe launch out here, about 3.4 miles away.  For people who don’t canoe, we sure seem to spend a lot of time at the launches. We were here to check on another cache, named for a Sasquatch story a cop told us out here.  It is also the site where a cross marker lay in remembrance of two people who were murdered near here and whose bodies were found in the river.

Today, there was another body out here, although we are fairly certain from the shape it was animal in origin, and not a human.  We noticed it when we parked, a brown roundish lump laying on the ground in between the parking spot and the cache site, not 20 feet from the cross.  We thought it was a dead deer, but when we got closer, we realized the brown color came from the blanket that was thrown over it.  There were maggots crawling on the blanket, and when my oldest son (foolishly) threw a small rock at the decomposing body, you could see the ripples underneath of what certainly was a huge colony of maggots kids on culvertmaking work of this carcass.  It started to smell and we were disgusted and walked away, none of us having the guts to lift the blanket and see what was underneath.  From the body shape, we suspect it was a large dog, or perhaps a pig or other small livestock. This picture of the kids sitting on the culvert just to the right of this disturbing find.

Ew.  After this, we were going to head for a small series of caches we have hidden on a country road about 6 miles east, but we decided to take a scenic backroad diversion to get there and then ran out of time.  Instead, we found a shady country road that might be ripe for a new cache series (although the nearby residents that we saw outside their homes were causing us to question this choice – it seemed like sort of a rough area – it had a “Deliverance” meets South Africa kind of feel to it, with unfriendly eyes and condemned shacks – which was a surprise because the road backed up to a very nice high end neighborhood).

So we drove back up to the main road (1093) and then entered the neighborhood of Fulbrook and found a couple of caches there.  Here is my log entry for one I particularly enjoyed:

Found it JustKeely found  Rocky Trail

I really enjoyed this cache, it was everything I like about caching. It was a short, scenic walk from parking, and we saw a blue heron and a great white egret in the pond. While signing the cache log, we saw some striking red, purple, and white flowers, as well as an interesting looking beetle. We saw a spider web with a small black spider with a white back on the walk back, and then we heard some bird just going at it, so we looked around to identify them. The smallest of our boys said it was probably a boy and girl boy talking to each other, and even though he got in trouble for talking so loudly and potentially scaring them off, he did appear to be right. Team Four Paw was also right when he speculated about it being woodpeckers. Two red bellied woodpeckers were getting into it, chasing each other around and tweeting. Well, on second thought, maybe it was two males and not a male and female – maybe they were fighting over territory or something. It was neat to see though. Thanks for the fun little outdoors experience for the day.

turks capThese are some of the flowers I saw.  Took me a while to identify these flowers because I am not that good at it, but I finally found it:  Turks cap, or Malvaviscus drummondii.  Here is another shot of them up against a tree.

tree flowersToo bad I didn’t get a picture of the woodpeckers.  I did get one of the beetle we saw, but it is not in focus.  The spider web would have been cool, but was too hard to try to capture with my cell phone camera.

I think the boys had fun, even though they were quite happy to be headed home after this.  I feel good about finally maintaining my caches, and about getting out of the house.  Hopefully, after I get my stitches out, my leg will actually heal up with no more problems and I can start hiking again.

Puerto Rico Adventures #1: Bio-Bay

We’ve been home for over a week, recovering from our latest adventure.  It took us a while to come back because we were really exhausted from lack of sleep, and then from trying to play catch up with work and the house maintenance.  Part of me feels like the Facebook pictures say it all,  but here are some you haven’t seen.  I call this the “Dorkiest Kayakers Ever” series.

biobay 2 biobay 3 biobay 4 biobay 5This was us on our Bio-Bay excursion in Fajardo.  I would totally do it again, even if we did look like dorks.  I enjoyed the trip through the dark mangroves, up the little channel on the way to Laguna Grande, following a strand of twinkling lights on the other kayaks. Even thought we were using the lights to navigate through the channel, I think it would have been so much better without so many people.  They were disturbing our serenity.  I think I might look for opportunities to go night kayaking with a small group of friends, instead of at a tourist stop like this.

Still, it was great to experience something so rare – the bioluminescent bay.  Our tour guide told us there were only five bioluminescent bays that were still active, three of which were in Puerto Rico.  The best one is in Vieques, but we didn’t want to spend money on another hotel by crossing over to that island, so we did this one in Fajardo.

I was expecting something more dramatic in regards to the water lighting up, but we realized later it was because there was a little false advertising going on.  In the pictures we saw before we went, there was a blue light shining under the kayak, and vibrant lights from the paddle hitting the water.  J pointed out later that under the image, it said “computer enhanced”.  Really, what it looked like, once you reached the Laguna, was silver confetti when you ran your hand or the oar through the water.  Even though it was less spectacular than I thought it would be, it was a neat experience that I might only have once in my lifetime.  If I ever have the opportunity to take the kids on something like this, though,  I am definitely springing for it.

The water lights up because of the action of dinoflagellates (pyrodinium bahamense) that light up when they are agitated.  The motion of your hand or the paddle running through the water gets them all worked up.  The luminescence is a defense mechanism in response to a perceived threat, potentially to attract attention to the predator or to warn them off.  These organisms only exist in rare and fragile ecosystems.  We were lucky to see it.

We would have liked to go snorkeling or on an “aquafari” but food was so expensive there that we tried to save money by not indulging our every whim.  I will post some more pictures and explanations about our excursions to Old San Juan, El Yunque, and the beach areas another day.

Columbus, TX: Texas History and Paddling Trail

This is the view looking out of the entrance to a Texas Parks and Wildlife Canoe Launch area in Columbus, Texas.

During the struggle for Texas Independence, it is said that the army of Santa Anna camped on one side of the Colorado River here, while Sam Houston’s army camped on the other.  They crossed paths nearby in a place now called Beason’s Crossing, and later met up at San Jacinto to end the battle to the benefit of Texans.

The Columbus Paddling Trail starts here, and weaves for 6.5 miles around a bend in the river, ending at Beason’s Park (where the above Crossing was, but which is now a shady place to have a picnic and recreate).  You can rent yaks and canoes from Howell Canoe Livery, located across the Colorado from this TPWD canoe launch, which you will find along 71 Business in Columbus, just across the North Bridge.

Here is more information about the paddling trail:


We had, of course, stopped here for a geocache find.  But now that we know what is here, we might bring the canoe out, or rent some yaks, or hide some caches along this route.  The bonus for us, besides learning some about Texas history and paddling trails, was seeing sensational wildflowers here.

Here are some photos Jason took:

White Prickly Poppy : Argemone albiflora


Violet Wood-Sorrel? Oxalis violacea

Firewheels, or "Indian Bonnets. Gaillardia pulchella

The North Bridge