Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Since my wife passed away in January, I decided to make three trips this year to help with the grief. I planned to visit friends and do something active on each trip. This was my second trip - a trip to Colorado to visit friends and do some hiking, fishing, and camping. Since I got there early in the day (and my friends were working), I went hiking around the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. That is such a beautiful place. Here are a few pictures from that hike.
I spent the first weekend visiting a friend of ours whom we had previously gone on a trip to Alaska with. His home escaped destruction last year when the deadly fires in the Black Forest area of Colorado Springs destroyed 500 homes. I helped him remove brush all day on a Saturday from an Animal Rescue Center that he volunteers at daily. (It was kind of like working at my ranch...) On Sunday, we visited Cripple Creek and I won $110 within the first 15 minutes of playing the slot machines. Not to say that I'm a conservative gambler, but I quit shortly thereafter when I was still $100 ahead.
That evening we went to the person's house that runs the Animal Rescue and had steak and king crab. My friend contributed over 10 lbs of crab for that dinner! Boy, it was good! Here is a picture of my friend and I clowning around with some king crab legs. The woman to the left is the mother in a family of Blue Grass musicians who won a national contest that we attended in Branson, MO last spring. The other young lady is a volunteer at the Rescue Center. She is also Miss Teen Colorado! She is a very sweet and giving young woman.
From there I went tent camping for a couple of days at Lake Ruedi, near Aspen. I was supposed to go for three days, but I discovered that camping alone just wasn't as much fun as with my wife - it was actually a little depressing as it rained all night each night I was there. During the day, I did catch some trout and go on some hikes, but it just wasn't the same. This is something I am going to have to work on (or find a friend to go with me). Here are a few pictures from those days camping.
On my way back to Colorado Springs, I did a demanding hike near Independence Pass to an overlook above Lake Linkin. It was on this trip that I learned about the sudden afternoon storms that are typical this time of year. When I got to the top (13,000 feet), the storms hit, and I got hailed on, ice'd on, snowed on, and rained on as I headed down. I brought a rain jacket, but I still wasn't prepared for all of that!
After I returned to Colorado Springs, I spent the weekend with a very close friend that I used to work with in my Air Force days in San Antonio. We went on a demanding 4-mile hike on the grounds of the Air Force Academy to a place called Stanley Reservoir - it was on top of the mountains surrounding the Academy. Here are some pictures of that hike.
I also went on an extremely difficult 14-mile hike on the trail towards Pike's Peak. I would have gone a little further, but the forecast was for storms up top and people are killed by lightning every year hiking to the summit. It was still a fantastic hike and good training for an 18-mile hike I plan to do with my son in the Grand Tetons in late September.
All in all, it was a great trip. Visiting with friends was very therapeutic, and I really loved the hiking. I also enjoyed getting away from the 100 degree temperatures in South Texas. This may just have to be an annual trip!
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
I just got home from a great 2 week road trip vacation. I traveled almost 4,000 miles and visited friends in North Carolina, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. It was the perfect vacation to take my mind off the recent passing of my wife. I thought I would share a few pictures from the trip.
I first stopped in North Carolina to visit friends from my Air Force days in Texas. I had a great time visiting and seeing the local sights. The beach was also really nice there.
From there I went to Richmond to visit some very good friends of my wife and I. This visit coincided with what would have been our 15th wedding Anniversary. Although a sad day, my friends were great at lifting my spirits. We relived some great times we had with my wife.
Then I went further north in Virginia to visit a friend whom I worked with at Brooks AFB (also in San Antonio) for 15 years. She and her husband moved to Virginia after the base closed in 2011. We visited numerous local wineries and breweries one day and then watched my friend complete a half-marathon the next day. Here she is at the finish - I wish I could be in that kind of shape!
The next day my friend and I walked nearly 6 miles at Sky Meadows state park. Part of the hike was along the Appalachian Trail - here we had a great visit with a hiker who had been on the trail since March 2nd! Here is a picture of me along the trail.
The next day I did some hiking on my own while my friends worked. Here is a view along Skyline Drive on my way to the first hike.
On the first hike to "Mary's Rock," most of the hike was on the Appalachian Trail. I met many more people who had been hiking since early March, and they all had interesting stories. This particular hike was very demanding, with 2 miles of steep incline. The walking was also over rocky ground. You even had to duck under one fallen tree.
When I finally got to Mary's Rock, I was able to climb up top and get a full 360 degree view of scenery in Virginia and West Virginia. It was breathtaking. Here are a couple of pictures from Mary's Rock.
I did one more hike that day, for a total of 6.1 miles. It felt good hiking in the mountains!
From there, I went to Pennsylvania and had a great homemade lunch at the home of one our Teddy Bear members on the 5% Challenge. SVELTWARRIOR and I had a great visit, although it was way too short. I'll have to plan better on the next trip - I also need to take a picture!
From there, I went to Canton, Ohio to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It was interesting seeing all of the exhibits of the NFL players I grew up watching.
From there, I visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH. I spent 5 1/2 hours there, and could have easily spent another 2 hours looking around. They had some incredible footage of our musical heritage.
From there, I went to Indianapolis to get some craft beers that we can't get here in Texas. After that, I made the long trip home. It was a great trip that was made extra special by those I visited along the way.
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
A few weeks ago, I joined the San Antonio Adventure Club. It looks like a fun group with numerous activities almost every day. The latest hike a few days ago was definitely the "adventure." We planned to do a 5-mile hike in the Hill Country State Natural Area near Bandera, Texas.
We met the event leader in San Antonio and rode with him for about an hour to the location of the hike. There were only 4 of us on this particular hike. On the drive there, he hit a wild turkey and did damage to his bumper, hood, and roof. It's amazing the window wasn't shattered. This was an omen of things to come...
Here we are at the start of the hike. I'm the one in the back with the big hat.
The event leader wasn't that familiar with the area, so the park staff gave him a map with a 5-mile hike mapped out. The weather was hot (96 degrees by the end of the hike) and the terrain was challenging in places. It was a nice area, though. Here is one picture showing the terrain.
Here I am about a third of the way through the hike.
After 2 hours into the hike, we knew something wasn't right. We still showed a long ways to go on the map, and the woman in the group was starting to suffer from heat exhaustion. We rested her in the shade often, poured water on her head, and I gave her my hat for some extra sun protection. A little further on the hike, another hiker had his hiking boot come completely apart. We had to use tape to keep it in one piece!
After 5.5 miles, the woman was starting to get light-headed. We located a county road about a third of a mile away and sat her under a tree. We left the hiker with the bad shoe with her while the event leader and I walked another 2.6 miles to the car (making it a total of 8.4 miles). When we got back, the woman felt much better and we went into town for a very late lunch (about 3:00 PM).
So this was quite the "adventure," and hopefully everyone learned a lot. I actually felt pretty good in that I was the most fit of those in the group (and the most prepared). The first lesson learned is that you shouldn't "lead" a group unless you've been on the hike yourself. You should also bring twice as much water as you think you'll need. Luckily I had some to spare to help cool down the woman. While everyone had sunscreen, even 50 SPF wasn't enough protection that day. Hats and collared shirts help a lot. We all brought snacks, but luckily I brought a few extra things like tape, ace bandages, a first aid kit, and a few other items. I will probably even expand the things I bring next time.
The main thing is to know your trail and let people know what they should bring before going on the hike. Sunscreen, water, and snacks are not sufficient for a difficult day hike. The good thing about going through something challenging like this is that we got to know each other very well, and I think the hikers gained some valuable experience for their next hike. I know that I was only as prepared as I was because of past mistakes I made myself. All in all, it turned out to be quite the adventure, with lots of stories to look back on.
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