Sahalie and Koosah Falls: The One-Hour Five-Minute Hike

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These pictures are from a hike we took more than a month ago, while we were making our way through Oregon to get to my work conference.  I haven’t had time to tell the stories, though, because that baby pretty much demands most of my time at home.  As a matter of example, I have been thinking about posting this for about two weeks, and then had the page up for about four hours before I was able to sit down to actually type these words.

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The trail running parallel to the stream

I still want to chronicle our outdoor adventures, though, and I am not giving up on that idea.  We’ll just have to get used to the idea that every post will be a past-tense situation, and not a regular update.

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Sahalie Falls

On the day I took these pictures, we were making our way from Portland to Eugene, and then from Eugene to Bend.  These waterfalls are a short distance from parking – so the information I read said – off Highway 126 (McKenzie River Highway).  The problem was, I didn’t identify which parking coordinates/spot that was from.  We saw a sign indicating a parking spot for these falls, as well as other points of interest, so we stopped, anticipating a five minute hike.

We ended up spending an hour out here instead.  We could have make the walk shorter, I suppose, by giving up on the idea of finding a second geocache in the vicinity that was beyond the falls (which it turns out we could not find, anyways).  We thought about turning back briefly after the first find (GC3Y0R7) but then made the choice to keep going.  I don’t think any of us regretted it.
_DSC1394 There was a time on the trail that everyone wanted to stop and get their pictures taken at various places along the path.  This is one example here.  We indulged the kids at first, but then it just got to be time consuming, so we told them we were just going to get to the end, then take more pictures on the way back.  However, as per the kids typical MO, they got it into their head to whiz back along the trail at hyper speed and not wait to see if we were keeping up on the way back, without thinking about the pictures they wanted to take.  I was torn between sticking with Jason, who had his camera out and wanted to take pictures, and keeping up with the kids, and then I lost visual sight of the older boys and had to hurry up to catch up with them, being annoyed at every turn that they didn’t stop to wait for us when they noticed we weren’t right behind them (or maybe not even noticing).  I finally caught up to them, but then we were over it and just wanted to get to the car.  It’s a good thing, then, that we at least stopped to take the few we did along the way._DSC1393We took some of the other pictures that we took along this trip and printed them out for a big multi-photo frame that I had recently gotten for a Mother’s Day present from Jason’s sister.  It’s going to be a memory that will be with us for a while as a result.

As we got closer to the top of the second falls, I noticed that we were passing another parking spot, and realized that this was the one we should have parked at for a five minute walk.  My oldest son and I remarked that Jason might be annoyed that I had picked the wrong parking spot, but when AJ went to talk to Jason about it, Jason was like, “why would I be mad?  This was an awesome walk!”  I agree that this walk was one of the best times of our year so far, one we would have missed out on if it wasn’t for that location mistake.
_DSC1380 The only reasons we should have parked closer was that we had other time commitments, and we hadn’t packed any water for the walk.  We were supposed to be meeting up with the kids dad and were now going to be about an hour late, and I was going to be late for the opening ceremonies for my work conference.  We all ended up being a little parched from the walk, as well.

In the end, though, I made it to the work obligations without having missed much, and we still found their dad and made it work, and I am not going to feel regret about making him wait, considering everything I have been put through due to him past and present.

_DSC1377I think that Jason’s response to AJ’s question about the parking is perhaps a response we could apply to life: sometimes we take the long way, but if it wasn’t for the long way, we would have missed all these other beautiful experiences.  I certainly feel like that could apply to my own life.  Sometimes it is the detours that make life worth it, or at the least, things still work out in the end, anyways.

Mother Nature’s Son

ParadiseParadise Campground, Oregon.  Sebastian is hungry, so we stop.  As a mother, there are a lot of uncomfortable places and ways to feed your baby, but there are also some moments where it just feels right.  In this moment, I felt connected to the outside world, a part of the living cycle in which things are born, things live, things grow and things die.  It was a feeling of oneness with nature. We are but animals, although sometimes we forget.

Some other moments where I felt this baby-feeding bliss:  sitting on a bench in Brazos Bend State Park, listening to the frogs and birds peeping a night time chorus as the sun began to set.  Perched on a rock here along the below lakeside, at another campground in Oregon in Mt Hood National Forest.

20150621_092157A bald eagle flew across the lake, and after I fed the baby, we stopped by the shore to look at him perched at the top of a dead tree across the lake.  An osprey hunted for fish above us.

Sit beside a mountain stream, see her waters rise/ Listen to the pretty sound of music as she flies   (Lennon/McCartney, “Mother Nature’s Son”

It’s going to be a sad day when my milk is gone, as it is already threatening to do, because I really do enjoy feeding baby in this way, and especially when we are alone in the outdoors.

 

Big Thicket National Preserve

20150523-_DSC1319Last Saturday found us in the visitor center for the Big Thicket National Forest, north of the town of Kountze.  We had stopped in briefly to get information on trails, and now we were back for a respite from the muggy humidity and the bugs after an hour long hike on the Kirby Nature Trail.  I sat in the darkened theater room to feed the baby, and the friendly park ranger who was working the front desk offered to start the movie for me.  We watched the fifteen minute film that offered some insight on what makes this preserve special.

One of the features of the park that make it unique is its diversity.  The Big Thicket is actually a collection of several tracts of land spread out over several counties and 84,500 acres.  It happens to sit right at the junction of several different ecosystems.  A hiker might be able to cross through nine different ecosystems throughout a visit in the park, from the pineywoods of east Texas to the hardwoods of the Mississippi, from savannah to desert.  Due to this intersection, visitors will be able to find a wider variety of species than in any other area of Texas: over three hundred species of migrating birds, a thousand flowering plants and shrubs (including four carnivorous species), one hundred species of trees, and many species of reptiles and amphibians, including all four venomous snakes of Texas, and this cute little skink here.
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Buck Moth Caterpillar.  Apparently their little barbs are poisonous and leave a vicious little sting if touched.  20150523-_DSC1331

Fungus and flowers along the Pitcher Plant Trail20150523_153955

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This is the Pitcher Plant – one of the four carnivorous plants.  It digests insects that fall into the liquid inside this tube, which contains enzymes that break them down.  These plants are easily viewed in the springtime from a short quarter mile walk along an easy walking path (that can be a little tricky to get to, at least the way we drove to it).

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Given that this area of the world has been designated as the “biological crossroads of North America”, one should not be surprised that of all the strange insects, reptiles and flora and fauna of this preserve, there has been reports also of elusive hairy beasts – wood apes, aka “bigfoot” or “sasquatch”.  There have been at least fifteen reports of sightings in the counties composing the Big Thicket on the North American Wood Ape website, accounts so numerous that Bigfoot researchers have been known to take up residence in the area to keep watch. (This information was not relayed in the film we watched in the visitors center). The area was also home to most species of American mega-fauna before their extinction.

20150523_132526Stories of the people of the area that were included in the official film included that of the “Dog People”, a group of pioneer-types that lived completely off the land in this area in the mid-1900s, using their pack of dogs to assist them in hunting game in the forest to survive off of.  Also, groups of Native Americans, such as the Alabama-Coushatta, have called these woods home at some point.  The Dog People and other residents were slowly kind of forced of the forest, as it started to be exploited for its oil and gas reserves, as well as its lumber.  Eventually, though, there was enough push to get the land declared as one of the nation’s first National Preserves in 1974.  Due to its status as a preserve and not a national park, there is limited allowance for these resources to be utilized, but while retaining the area’s natural resources for the future.

20150523_131501 Another story that I came across later, not included in the film, was that of the Texas “Jayhawks”, a group of local men drafted to fight in the Civil War for the side of the Confederacy, who opposed that side’s viewpoint and hid out in the forest to avoid the war.  They were arrested at one point and held in nearby Woodville, but escaped in a scheme involving whiskey, fiddling, a loose board, and the dancing of a jig by one of the Jayhawks, which allowed the guards to be distracted long enough for all the prisoners to escape through the loose board one by one.  In the chaos that ensued after, the one who had been dancing the jig just walked away, free at last.  Later, a Confederate Captain named Kaiser decided to light a fire to the Jayhawk camp at Honey Island, trying to flush out the traitors.  It is believed that all the Jayhawks escaped, but the canebrake they lived in was permanently destroyed, and 3000 acres of forest burned up in what is now referred to as the “Kaiser Burnout”.  This is one of the ghost stories that is attributed to the mysterious “Light of Saratoga”, a ghostly light that appears and disappears at random times on Bragg Road in the town of Saratoga, sixteen miles west of Kountze.   Other explanations include ghost conquistadors looking for buried treasure, a decapitated railroad worker from a nearby accident, or an eternally lost hunter looking for a way out.  Or, perhaps, swamp gas or light reflection from cars on the nearby highway.

We had decided to take the scenic route from the visitors center to the Pitcher Plant Trail, and then may or may not have lost our way.  As we worked our way through a series of back roads, the roads eventually turned to dirt.  Occasional small houses were found along this road, or sometimes just signs with a person’s name marked on it indicating a lot or way to another property.  However, most of our drive we spent in complete wilderness, with no signs of human presence.  The preserve was on our left, and private property to our right.  I felt the presence of other life out there, though, and was half-expecting to see one of the “Dog People” in the silent woods around us, perhaps sight some unusual movement in the forest.  I didn’t see anything, though, besides a few birds not already on our list for the year.

It was a place that was enlightening and intriguing, though, and we did decide it was worth coming back to another time – just not often, as it is some two hours and change drive from our house.  There is much to explore out here.

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Kaleb: Destroyer of Peace and Serenity

My second child is sometimes a bit of a mess.  He doesn’t really know how to be quiet.  Given that, we should have known better when we decided to bring him into the forest with us when we stopped in Bear Creek Park to look for the rare and elusive Greater PeeWee.

However, what are we going to do with him while we look.  Besides, he is very interested in “legendary” birds, and I am trying to keep him interested in looking for birds so it will be easier to drag him along with us.

Only, he did kind of ruin the experience for us.  We were trying to walk softly through the woods as not to scare the birds away, and he was clomping behind us.  No matter how I tried to quietly explain how to roll from heel to toe to make as little noise as possible, he insists on shuffling loudly and then lifting his feet heavily.  His brother says he is about as quiet as an elephant in the forest.  He’ll never sneak up on anything.

It is frustrating though, when you are trying to listen for little noises, like cheeps and peeps.  Some of the bird noises are at such a frequency that Jason can’t hear them.  In a way, you would think Jason and I would make a great birding team, because I can hear the birds better, yet he is better at making them out visually.  However, I don’t know how to identify them on sounds alone yet, and he is no good at identifying at sight.  So it is kind of like the blind leading the blind out in the forest, followed by the loud, when the three of us are out together, and we get little accomplished.

Jason was trying to show me the place in the park that he has discovered as a peaceful escape during his lunch break.  He wanted me to understand the tranquility he finds there, and let me see and hear all the birds that surround him in his lunch walks, but mostly we just heard kids in the park nearby screeching, Kaleb clomping, and the thumps he was making with a stick he picked up along the way.  He is forever picking up sticks and wacking the trees and bushes with them, playing at swordmanship.

We didn’t see the Greater PeeWee today (although I almost had a zzGreaterPewee1visual on a bird that MIGHT have been it). We did hear a Barred Owl out there, and saw a handful of robins, warblers, and kinglets, but it was nothing compared to the experience Jason usually has out there.  I’ve decided we should go back in the early morning or late afternoon sometime and just sit for a while…without my noisy second child…in order to see this ordinary-looking bird that happens to be living way outside its normal range.