Tales From the Avenue of the Giants: Hidden Springs Revealed

Hidden Springs Revealed

The first thing that happened had to do with last night.  Not this current last night, but the last night before this day, this day of odd surprises.  I had made reservations before our trip for last night in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. I had struggled over which of the two main campgrounds to reserve in, until I saw one that was rumored to be more beautiful, but sort of off the beaten path and maybe a little difficult to get there.  We thought that would mean less people, more privacy.  I envisioned it as being in the main park, just kind of…further back and off to the side from the two big campgrounds.  I hadn’t, actually, looked it up on the map.  So it is a good thing that we hadn’t really tried to make it there in the dark the night before.

So here we are, trolling along in the Avenue of the Giants, taking pictures of huge trees and finding geocaches, when we stopped near a sign at a pullout.  The GPS was telling me I was 150 ft away from a cache, but it looked to be straight up along a hill, into the forest.  Usually in caching, if there seems to be a hard way there, there is probably an easier way there that you are missing, so you should look for it – this is what we have learned in the years we’ve been playing.  Probably also in those years, we should have learned to use our GPS properly – like make sure it has settled when you stop, and also make sure it is set back to “find off road” when you have been using it in the on-road navigation function.  So it seemed like the easiest way to approach this was to go up a short ways to the turnout for a campground, and then park in there and go down the hill to find it.

We pulled in and realized there was a day use fee.  As we were asking the ranger about the possibility of accessing the area for free just to see if this was the closest route to the geocache, and her telling us that she was pretty sure there was no geocaching at this particular park, I finally noticed the name of the park on the side of her guard shack.

Hidden Springs Campground.  THIS was the one we had the reservations for.  This one, I never would have found the night before, because I thought we were headed somewhere off 101, not 254 – the Avenue.  Well, once I explained to her that we paid for camping the night before and had not used it, she recognized our name and told us what campsite we were going to be in, and gave us our little day fee pass for the window, saying we should at least get our money’s worth.

Turns out the closest parking to the cache was, in fact, campsite 7, where we had been assigned.  We pulled in and explored, and then I headed downhill.  Way downhill.  All the way to the bottom of the hill.  All the way to the pull out.  All the way to the sign we had been parked right in front of when we decided that in order to find this cache, we would have to look up.

To see the sign that read, “Hidden Springs Campground”.

On the Campsite 7 Picnic Table

Country Drive: Fulshear to Bellville and Back Again

WIldflowers are starting to come out, the weather is fabulous in Texas, and these two things inspire us to get out and explore.  Armed with cameras, binoculars, and the GPS, we set out this Sunday morning to celebrate God’s glory in what J calls his church – Nature.

We are having a coffee issue at the house, so our first stop is at the Essence Cafe in Fulshear.  This is a full service dining cafe, but you can get orders to go, including delicious frothy sweet frappucinos, which we did get, and gourmet lunch boxes, which we didn’t.  The lunch boxes may be an idea for the future, though:  chips, cookie and a drink as well as your pick of gourmet sandwiches such as Country French, Smoked Salmon, and the like.

After this, we headed north up 359 to I-10, then a little west towards Stephen F. Austin State Park.  We didn’t enter the park proper, but we drove right past the historical area commerating this public figure of Texas statehood, which was befitting since this weekend was the 176th Anniversary of Texas statehood.  We should have stopped to pay our respects, like many others – the parking lot was nearly full – but we didn’t, thinking we might come back around.  Instead, we got out nearby in a pull out for the Brazos River to let the dogs out for a romp, and find the Brazos River Run cache.

We were seeking birds, butterflies, and flowers today.  Didn’t get any pictures of the first two but we did see quite a bit.  The birds spotted were the usual suspects:  doves, chickadees, wrens, cardinals, pyrrhuloxia, grackels, sparrows, blackbirds, turkey vultures, and a few gorgeous red tailed hawks that we watched circle about with our binoculars.  I cannot even claim to be able to identify the multiple butterfly species we saw. Here are some of the plants and flowers that caught our eye:

Packera tampicana

Butterweed, surrounded by annual phlox

Phlox drummondii

Some may be interested to learn that phlox engages in an interesting genetic interplay in Texas, by which the plant blooms red in areas near Austin in order to naturally prevent two species from interbreeding.  See more info on that here.

Here is my favorite wildflower:

Castilleja indivisa
Acacia farnesiana

I really enjoyed the sweet acacia (species above)  trees today on the horizon, although this species is apparently considered a trash tree.  The little gold pom poms on the branches are really pretty close up, and the splash of color on the branches broke up the barrenness of the scrubby Texas plains.

Another sight that I found enchanting was the forests covered with a layer of buttercups shining in the sun.  Here is J getting the shot I wanted while I took his picture from in the truck.  J is the photographer, I usually want to just tell him what I think he should photograph.  I’m the “artist”, he’s the “medium”.  He would prefer not to get in and out of the vehicle, though, so lately he has been telling me how to take the picture, mechanically, so I can do it myself. I took all the pictures in this blog myself, mostly with his camera.


We had a great time exploring, and even hid a couple of caches while we were out there, and made plans for where to go next time we went that way.  Next drive, though, I want to go further north, so we can capture some bluebonnets with our lens.

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)…

Travelogues: Amarillo By Morning (Colorado by Night)

On the second day of our epic journey last summer, we spent half the day exploring Palo Duro State Park, in the places and ways I described below.  We left around lunch time, heading first to Rudy’s Barbeque, then to Cadillac Ranch.

Neither of us were too interested in being a typical tourist, but both of us had grown up in Texas and never seen this place, so out of curiosity and some kind of state obligation, we walked the dogs from the parking area up the hot, dusty path to the graffitti-covered cars half buried in the Texas Prairie.  It helped that by going there and answering a question about one of the cars, we fulfilled a requirement for a virtual geocache.

There were one or two other caches over this way, one of them being a “travel bug hotel” that we wasted too much time DNFing (not finding), and we were a little frustrated when we got back on the road.

New Mexico solved that frustration for us, though.  Man, was that a pretty part of the drive.  We took this back road instead of the main highway, which was closer to the Cadillac Ranch exit, and I am so glad we did, because if we hadn’t, we would have missed this cache:

GC1DMZF Valley of Gold

I think this cache was awesome.  I can’t believe it has so few finds (only 16 finds in the past 3 years).  Sure, it is on private property (some people ignore those ones), but it says right there on the cache page they are the owners, and give permission.  This is how this cache went for us:

We were winding around this little dirt road in the middle of nowhere.  He really had to go to the bathroom, and was looking for a “wilderness privy”.  We finally stopped on this little deserted road somewhere, and he took care of his business while I started walking towards the cache site.  Arriving, I took a deep breath and looked around me, seemed like I could see for miles.  The cache was a big ammo can, which I love, and was not hard to find, which are also my favorites.  He came on over, too, took some pictures, and we checked out the natural foliage of the area.  Seemed like we had the place to ourselves this day, and we were rich with experience, closeness, and experience.  Caching gold.

After this, we drove up the road a little ways, heading towards Colorado.  It had been hot and dusty in Texas, but now skies started to darken with distant storms, and the wind began to pick up.  Just before the storm broke, though, we were lucky enough to sneak up to the Capuchin Volcano area just before closing.  The temperature was dropping, it was getting close to the gates being closed, and between those things and the intensity of the wind, there was a strong sense of urgency to our mission.  We really wanted to make it to the top, though, and to be able to log the caches that we needed to get some answers from up there to fulfill the requirements of.  We were rewarded with a great view from the top once we got there, and the finds we were looking for.

After that, it started to drizzle a little.  Clouds begin to make their way across the sky in interesting and unusual shapes.  We stopped for a cache at the Colorado state line, and I took a picture with my hair blowing in the wind that he has been using as his background picture on his phone this whole year since.  We ended up getting to Colorado Springs late at night.

I wasn’t really expecting such an emotional reaction from entering that town.  I thought I was taking him to a place that holds a lot of residual emotion to me, but I forgot how much of that emotion was connected to the courtship and eventual marriage to the man I met here.  Most of my time in this town was spent goofing off with this guy, who my divorce had just become final from just a few days before this trip, after twelve difficult years together.  There was always a lot of regret about leaving this place, but on this trip, I wanted to show my new love the reasons I would have wanted to stay.