Oswald West State Park

So this is one of the best places ever.

We never would have gone to this place, either, if it hadn’t have been for Facebook. Both of us “like” National Geographic on FB, and they post a Picture of the Day. One day, the photo captivated both of us, and we were like, we should go here! So I looked it up, and figured out how we could make that happen on this trip.
We tried to guess as to where the exact spot was where they took the photo but I am not sure we figured it out. Maybe this was it:

Or slightly south of this along the trail, I dunno. What I do know is that there ARE in fact bald eagles here, I saw one fly over my head while J was taking a photo of what we think was an immature one being harassed by a seagull. I was also watching for whales here, they say this is a good spot for that, although I think it may have been the wrong season.
We couldn’t decide what to do first. We started on one trail, but it seemed to be harder than we anticipated, so we went back to this spot here and tooled around for a while. Then, we drove up the road, and found a place to start on the same trail we originally started on, but from the other direction. This one went up Neahkahnie Mountain, and I was not in the mood for going all the way to the top. I thought we were going to turn around after the first cache in the series on the way up, but J kept pushing me to continue to the next, and then, turns out, I was the one who wanted to make it all the way to the summit (which was just right up there!) and he thought it was too dangerous, making us turn around right before the very last cache, after all that! And, we didn’t bother trying to look for the lost Spanish treasure up there, being too busy finding pieces of paper in decon containers to sign our names to.
Here is the view of the summit, the last 160 ft of it he didn’t think we should go up:

It’s a good thing, though, because what you can’t see from this image is that it was really rocky and kind of rough along the trail near the top, and that it was starting to get dark. It took us like an hour to get to the top, but it only took us thirty minutes to get down, or something like that. The sun was going down and it was getting dark just as we reached our parking spot. Here is the view going down the trail. This also could have been where the NG photo was taken:

And a view from halfway up the trail:

There are a lot of trails here worth hiking. After this, we tooled around as the sun went down, and then headed over to this Great Northern Garlic Company. It is fantastic. If you are ever in the area, you really should go there. It was after closing time, but the owner didn’t mind us huddling up around one of the table fires and ordering her last Dungeness crab, as well as two Crater Lake root beers and a plate of hummus and pita bread. It was so delicious, especially after that hike.
After this, we went back to our tent at the Nehalem Bay State Park (no camping in Oswald West), and went to to sleep with the faint sound of coyotes yipping and surf breaking along the beach that was further away than it sounded, but not too far for us to stroll down there at dawn and watch the Oregon coast greet the day. This whole area was the highlight of the trip, for sure.
Another view from the top of the trail, on the way down:

Tales From The Avenue of the Giants: We Do Not See The Albino Tree

Albino Redwoods are so very rare that only fifty of them are known to be in existence. Six of those are located inside Humboldt Redwoods State Park.  Others have locations kept secret to keep foot traffic down near the trees.

I thought I was going to take everyone to see one.  I had the coordinates for a location for one, and all we had to do was park the car, and hike a little ways into the forest to get there.

Only, the hike got really annoying.  The kids had a lot of energy, being cooped up in a car the past two days, and they wanted to play this game that involving hiding from the photographer.  Their game involved shrieking every time they saw J behind us, and then running off ahead and looking for places to hide.  I was torn between trying to catch up to them, so I would not lose them, and staying close to J so he knew where we were.  Of course, the shrieking was kind of giving away our location, but also was ruining the sanctity of the hike.  I kept trying to explain this to the kids but they were like…on a mission to be bratty and not listening to me.

We finally got to the alleged coordinates.  J found us a few minutes later, but he was completely annoyed with all of us because he felt like we were ruining his enjoyment of the forest.  Also, there were several twists and turns to the trail and he felt like he did not know where we were going, except that he could follow the sounds the kids were making.  He did find us, so it worked, I guess.

Once again, though, I failed to understand something about the GPS.  Plus I was distracted by the actual finding of a geocache, and not a tree.  I asked the others to find the tree, and they kept asking me, is this the tree we are looking for?  Is this one it?

We didn’t see anything that was exactly standing out to us as an albino tree.  Later, I realized that the GPS had two sets of coordinates in it – one I didn’t know about, a “child waypoint” – that had the tree marked at 200 ft away.  SO we could’t see it from where we were.  And, because I did not research this ahead of time, I am not sure I would even have recognized it if  I saw it, because an albino redwood does not even look like a tree to me.

The hike was really nice, though.  This was actually one of the most beautiful places I think we found on our journey – a rare treet even if we did not get to see the rarer one.  So it’s a good thing that we did not miss this forest for a tree.


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.