Archive for the ‘The Great Outdoors’ Category

Big Basin Redwoods

November 27, 2012

As a celebratory trip for my birthday last month, Mark and I went camping at Big Basin Redwoods State Park which is just north of Santa Cruz and the Monterey Bay. We’d never been there before nor did we know anyone that had, we just researched state parks within a 2 hour driving radius, read reviews online, made our reservation and hoped for the best. The weather that weekend was absolutely perfect for camping; it was cool enough at night to merit sitting around a fire and warm enough during the day for hiking in shorts.

We arrived on a Friday afternoon and set up our tent in a nice, secluded site surrounded by bushes and tall redwoods. There was moss growing on every stationary surface thanks to the cool shade provided by the many trees. Our site had a picnic table, fire ring and bear box for storing food {not actually for bears but rather racoons…no way was I going to camp where there are bears present}.

The forest of redwoods were absolutely incredible, some of them were over 300 feet tall and 70 feet in circumference. It’s hard to imagine something living that is so big until you are standing at the base of it, staring upward.

On Saturday we hiked a 5 mile trail through the park and we had such a great time! We packed lunch and ate on the trail, saw a waterfall, met a scary spider and only saw a handful of other people during the entire hike.

My favorite part about the trip was waking up in the morning and seeing the sun rays filtering beautifully through the trees…so breathtaking.



August 8, 2011

This past week Mark and I took part in a few local events and as such have officially dubbed ourselves true Austinites.

Wednesday we laid out on the grass at Zilker Park, eating Kerbey Lane chips and queso while listening to the Old 97’s play during Blues on the Green. We went with a few good friends and greatly enjoyed the fun, relaxing evening. The next night we went on a double date of sorts with one of my soccer friends and her husband to South Congress for 1st Thursday. After dinner at Guero’s we walked the streets of SoCo laughing at the street performers and checking out the many vendors that were set up selling their jewelry and wares. I bought a great photo print from a local photographer and we finished off the evening with a little dessert at Amy’s Ice Creams.

On Saturday morning Mark and I decided to go on a little hiking excursion and hit up Mount Bonnell and the 360 bridge area. The views of downtown from atop Mount Bonnell were great but the hike was less than exciting {if you could even call it a hike} but the rocky cliffs near the 360 bridge did not disappoint.

On our way up to the top of the lookout on the west side of 360 we stopped to watch a couple of rock climbers repel down the steep cliff on the east side. From above we had an amazing view of the bridge and Lake Austin and we hiked a trail that followed the cliff’s edge for a while before heading back down once the temperatures got too hot for comfort. Woo hoo for free Austin hiking adventures!

Rowing Love

June 24, 2011

I finally did it. I took rowing lessons on Lady Bird Lake! My last class was this past Thursday and I have to say that it was the most fun and challenging sport I’ve ever experienced. When we first moved to Austin I remember seeing the rowers out on the lake during our downtown excursions and I always said to myself that I should try it out. Now {almost two years later} I decided it was time and signed myself up for the intro class at Austin Rowing Club.

Let me first start off by saying that ARC is great; their staff is friendly and helpful, their coaches are very experienced teachers and the environment is just perfect. In ITR {intro to rowing} we learned how to use the ergs for training, how to properly execute a rowing stroke, how to get the boats in and out of the water, tons of rowing terminology, boat safety and most importantly how to row together as a crew.

Our class started out in the 8 person boats where I quickly began to favor the 7 position just behind the stroke seat. One day there was a crew there for practice that was one man short; my coach volunteered me and I got to row with an experienced crew! It was refreshing to be challenged in something new and to struggle to keep up with the rest. I ended up with a few new friends, a few new scars and a growing love for crew rowing.

Eventually we tried sculling as well {two oars per person as opposed to just one}. My first experience with sculling was less than ideal because we went out in a quad and we had a terrible time staying together with our strokes. Luckily we were able to try the single scull during our last two classes and I have to admit, I think it’s my favorite. In the single scull you can go at your own pace, focus more intensely on your stroke and be completely alone on the water. I’m not much of a morning person but I’d be fully willing to wake up at 5am to row alone on the still waters. I can only imagine how relaxing and meditative the rhythmic clacking of oarlocks and the patter of blades skimming across the water must be at that time of day.

Though I most likely won’t be joining a crew or the club any time soon {for proximity to home reasons}, I know that I’ve found another hobby that I can enjoy in the future. Just one more reason to move closer to downtown someday!

Camping: McKinney Falls

May 4, 2011

I love camping. There’s just something about removing myself from the day to day and being outside for hours on end that rejuvinates my spirit. I love breathing the fresh air, hiking in lieu of working out, seeing the stars at night, exploring trails and waking up with the sun. It’s no wonder that as soon as the temperatures become favorable I start planning a trip to a nearby park.

We camped for two days at McKinney Falls State Park and had a great time despite the burn ban which prevented us from partaking in the traditional campfire hot dogs and s’mores. Thankfully, my parents had a camp stove that we borrowed to cook on; throughout the weekend we made grilled cheese sandwiches, fajitas and breakfast burritos…yum.

Due to the current lack of rain in the area we didn’t see many wildflowers but the cacti were blooming like crazy.

Mark and I went on an almost 3 hour hike Saturday morning {not entirely intentionally, we forgot the map}; we hiked around the upper and lower falls, stopping off at the old McKinney family residence. The water-worn rock is similar to what I imagine the surface of the moon to look like.

Sights like this amaze me…can you imagine how long it took for the river to carve those curves out of the solid rock? Nature is simply amazing.

Mandy and Jake joined us for the second day and, after a night of card games played by the light of an emergency glow stick, we went out hiking again, this time stopping to wade in the falls and soak up some sun. I could have laid on that rock with my feet in the running water listening to the falls for hours. This is what camping is all about!

Three Day Weekend

December 5, 2010

A couple of weeks ago Mark and I both took an extra day off from work so we could enjoy an extended weekend together. We had plans for camping the whole weekend and though it didn’t turn out quite like we had planned we still had a great time.

First, let me back up a few weeks…about a month ago I tried to make reservations at a state park within 2 hours of Austin and everything was booked, everything. I was so disheartened that I almost gave up on camping but Mark suggested we try a smaller park around Lake Travis. We settled on Sandy Creek which was only about a 30 minute drive; it’s a pretty small park with no electricity and only a few water faucets but we figured it would be better than nothing. Our friends Paulo and Amanda came too and at the last minute Mandy and Jake decided to join us as well, I’m so glad they did!

When we got to the park there wasn’t anyone at the front gate to charge us to get in and with the exception of a couple of run-ins with an over zealous park ranger and a group of boy scouts we never saw anyone else in the park. Woo-hoo for free camping! We spent Friday night huddled around the fire and listening to music; I had forgotten how relaxing that is. Mark and I had only one small flashlight that I kept in my car but we ended up not needing it because there was a full moon shining almost as bright as a street light, there were even shadows from the trees. We all had chili and cornbread for dinner and it was sooooo delicious. I had made the chili in our slow cooker the day before along with the cornbread and some banana bread too. The chili was so easy, I literally threw a bunch of stuff in the pot and let it cook for 8 hours, now that’s my kind of cooking!

Saturday morning we all hiked down to the lake and explored the rocky water line. Since this wasn’t a state park there were no hiking trails and we ran out of interesting things to explore around lunch time so we all piled into one car and took a scenic drive through the hill country around the lake. After 30 minutes of driving we ended up at the Oasis so we decided to stop and have margaritas and some chips and guacamole overlooking the lake.

It was a fun weekend with friends and I can’t wait for the weather to warm up so we can go again. Not to mention I crossed a couple things off of my Autumn bucket list!

Nature: My Other Love

May 1, 2009

Have you ever loved something so much that when you’re finally experiencing it you’re almost too giddy to truly enjoy yourself? This pretty much describes my love affair with the outdoors. Growing up on acreage in a small town has shaped my innermost self more than I could ever know. Only now, living in a city, do I realize how much I miss being outside; maybe it’s because the only time I get some fresh air is during my ten minute walk to and from the parking lot every day. I’ll do anything to have a little more nature in my day; I try not to walk on sidewalks, I would rather walk through the grass and I would rather sit out on my patio than watch tv.

Last semester when I took a sociohorticulture course we talked about the therapeutic benefits of nature. There was a study done on hospital patients recovering from heart surgery; some had rooms looking out onto a hardscape or other buildings and some looked out onto treetops or a garden. The patients that had the green view recovered more quickly, requested less pain medication and were more positive and kind to their nurses.

Just now I was trying to focus on studying but my brain wouldn’t have it, I was fidgety and easily distracted. So I started some laundry and put the clean dishes away {normally this is when I would scrounge the kitchen for a snack too but I’m refusing to buy any more groceries for the rest of the semester and I don’t have anything except for oatmeal and lunchmeat} but nothing was helping me to get out of the study-block that I was in. So I grabbed all of my study material, pen, highlighter and water bottle and went out onto the patio to try a change of environment. The sun had just set behind the trees and I could hear all of the bugs and frogs happily chirping away in the creek just behind my apartment. It was a tad humid but every now and then a slight breeze would flow by making everything absolutely perfect. I will probably remember every single detail of what I studied in that hour before it got dark, it’s so amazing how nature and fresh air can affect our well-being…I love it.

Camping at Lake Tawakoni

March 26, 2009

Last week was spring break and our family went camping at Lake Tawakoni State Park just east of Dallas.  It was a fairly nice week, we arrived just after a good two days of rain so the bike trails were extra muddy, but everything dried out quickly once the sun came out.  The weather was perfect camping weather, cool at night and plenty warm enough for shorts during the day.  The only downer was that the burn ban was still on so we had to cook our meals over charcoal (our s’mores too).

I spent most of my time mountain biking, reading in the hammock, and playing washers; it was a much needed, relaxing break.

I also got to play with my dad’s Canon Rebel that we got him for Christmas….now I want one.

flower lanternlights

Thank goodness we remembered to bring the washers along, otherwise we might have been bored out of our minds.  We brought two coffee cans, buried them in the ground; I think washers is best played this way (not using those wooden boxes).