Doug Goodman

Texas Horror Writer. Cadaver Dog Handler.

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6. Dinosaur Valley State Park Overlook Trail

Posted by douggoodman on July 6, 2016 at 10:20 PM Comments comments (0)

6. Dinosaur Valley State Park Overlook Trail

June 28, 2016

Distance: .47 Miles (1.6 miles extra as part of the loop)

Time to Hike: 40 minutes (2 hours total as part of the loop)

Difficulty: Moderate for the Overlook Trail, easy for the others


 

Today I got to walk where dinosaurs walked. Remember the scene in Jurassic World where the dinosaur stomps a member of Asset Containment into the riverbed? I put my feet down next to those footsteps. What a thrill! You probably don’t know this, but when I was a kid, dinosaurs were probably the biggest part of my life outside of family and schoolwork. Every Christmas, every birthday, I got books and wooden models of dinosaur skeletons, and one year, I was such a nerd for dinosaurs, the teachers invited me to bring my books to school for dinosaur week. So I don’t say it lightly when I say that growing up, I really liked dinosaurs.


I chose the Overlook Trail because it was close to the main site for catching dinosaur tracks. Getting to the trail, we had to pass a large man-made exhibit of dinosaur statues that overlooked the campsites.



The trail starts at the bottom of the Paluxy River, a clear, cool slice of water running over limestone. In that manner, it reminded me of our crossing the Pedernales River, back in April. Because the river is often dry in the summer, you can see the tracks in the dry riverbed. But thanks to winter/spring storms that kept the water flowing, most of the tracks were covered. Most, but not all. I was fond of one very T-rex looking dinosaur print in the limestone. What a find.


We crossed the Paluxy much the same way we crossed the Pedernales for the Trammel Trail, removing our shoes and walking barefoot across the limestone. Since the Paluxy gets a lot less water, it wasn’t as slippery. But since we were crossing where everyone was swimming, it was hard to find our footing through the murky water. On the way back, we crossed upstream, by Blue Hole. This is where I would recommend crossing if water is flowing. The limestone is much higher, and there are less blocks, so you really have two or three giant slabs of limestones to walk across instead of dozens of smaller blocks at the Bird Track site.


After crossing the river, the trail is a sandy path that leads maybe twenty yards along a steep incline to the top of the ridge overlooking the Paluxy. However, once up on the ridge, the trail levels out. This is part of the Paluxy River Trail. The trail moves along a large grass field bordered by barb wire. From the junction at the incline, it is about .3 miles to the junction of the Overlook Trail. The junction is not well distinguished. We had problems syncing up the map with what we were seeing on the trail. Just keep in mind that your two choices are the Overlook Trail or continuing on the Paluxy River Trail.


The Overlook climbs for the next .2 miles to the top of the Overlook Trail. There will be several nice stops along the way to take pictures of the Paluxy RIver, but you will know that you are at the top because there is a small monument marker and stone bench under a giant cottonwood tree. Because of the upward climb, which traverses limestone steps and washes, I gave the trail a moderate difficulty. I think it is listed as easy, but we found that we needed to make several stops on the way up.


From the top of the Overlook, you have a fantastic view of the river below. You also can see the meadow you walked along, the model dinosaurs overlooking the campsites, and even the camp headquarters. But take notice of the powerlines that run along the edge of the state park. They are a good landmark if you decide to take the Cedar Brake Outer Loop Trail back to your car.


From the overlook, you can turn around and walk back to the riverbed. I chose to loop back around, but the reality is that it is mostly Jeep trails through scrub, and while there are plenty of wildflowers to look at, it does not live up to the rest of the trail. The next .3 miles take you to the bottom of the ridge and the junction to the Cedar Brake Outer Loop. From there, it is 1.2 miles back to Blue Hole crossing. If you decide to go this way, you can kind of track your hiking distance by watching the power lines. You will walk right up under them, and at that point, you can look back at the Overlook spots and get a sense of how far you’ve hiked.


But really, it’s all about the dinosaur tracks. If you do a little research, you can find out a lot about the tracks through the Paluxy, and there are even more sites if you take the short Paluxy River Nature Trail or hike south (upstream) past Blue Hole. Being here, sharing this site with my family, it was like not only was I reaching out into the ancient past, but I was reaching out into a little piece of my history, too.


5. Galveston Island State Park Clapper Rail Trail

Posted by douggoodman on July 5, 2016 at 11:40 PM Comments comments (0)

5. Galveston Island State Park Clapper Rail Trail

June 19, 2016

Distance: .53 Miles

Time to Hike: 25 minutes

Difficulty: Easy


 

Less than twenty minutes from the heart of Galveston’s downtown, and I was in beach bliss. I had come with my family to seek out sunset beaches and walk one of the state park’s trails. We decided on the Clapper Rail Trail due to its relative shortness against the closing evening sun. The Clapper Rail Trail, especially in the evening, is a symphony of bird calls. It may have been the approaching storms cooling down the beach and affecting the wildlife, but I discovered a serene walking trail that rejuvenated the spirit.


 

The trail is on the northern side of the state park, which is bifurcated by the steadily streaming traffic of the San Luis Pass. The trail conveniently starts at a parking lot, so we were able to pull up, get out of the car, and start hiking quickly. This accessibility is one of the reasons I would recommend this trail to anyone who is going to Galveston for the day and needs a place to clear the mind. From the parking lot, the large bayou overlook is less than a tenth of a mile. Here, a wooden structure provides great views of the bay, and is also the fork for several other trails as well as wildlife information. Choosing the Clapper Rail Trail this time, we veered east to the Oak Bayou crossings. The trail leads through sloughs of cordgrass. At the half-way point, there is a long wooden crosswalk. The crossing had attracted several families looking to soak up some friendly summer sun while fishing and crabbing.


At this point, the rest of my family turned around, and I finished the short loop myself. The information sheets all say the Clapper Rail Trail is .53 miles, but it felt shorter to me. Maybe .4 miles. On the far end of Oak Bayou’s crossing, the trail splits again. I chose to head south back to the road. Here, this section of the trail is wide enough for ATVs, and unfortunately, an invasive species of ATV riders have bulldozed through the trail, making this part of the trail uneven. Farther down, where the trail ends at the road, a chainlink has been stretched across the trail with a notice for motorized vehicles to keep off. I hope they do, but I would like it even more if our country had more places dedicated to the motorized vehicle enthusiast.


This part of the trail is heavy with cordgrass, Indian Paintbrush, and invasive, woody plants that the park is trying to eradicate. But it also shields the trails from the sounds of civilization. I was amazed at how out in the middle of nowhere I felt. As the sun set, I was rewarded with views of vocal herons, egrets, ibises, spoonbills, willets, and laughing gulls. In the middle of the trail, a gull was attempting to eat a dead crab. A little farther down, I saw skinny swamp rabbits squatting in the middle of the trail. I wonder what they were looking for. Of the trails I have hiked, this is so far the most densely populated by wildlife, which made the whole thing exciting and kind of fun. An evening sun, thunder rolling along the horizon, and spoonbills soaring overhead. Not a bad way to spend an evening.




As I left, much more relaxed than I came, I put the top down on the Jeep. I smiled, and the family drove off. And then we stopped the car because a piper was chasing a little crab across the street in front of us. We disrupted his chase only slightly, and then drove on out into the approaching storm – top up.

 

4. Rustic Oaks Park Trail Loop

Posted by douggoodman on June 19, 2016 at 9:25 AM Comments comments (0)

4. Rustic Oaks Park Loop Trail

June 11, 2016

Distance: 0.25 Miles

Time to Hike: 20 minutes

Difficulty: Easy


 

National Trails Day was postponed to June 11 in the Houston area due to massive flooding. When I finally got to walk this trail, I was walking with cub scouts. They were participating in the city’s National Trail Day celebration. Besides the trail, they had bouncy houses, gift bags, and arts and crafts activities for the kids, all to encourage them to get outdoors. It is a great thing they do, so I would encourage families everywhere to find National Trails Day activities in their section of the forest and participate.


 

The trail itself is short and loops around a lush turtle pond with a dock surrounded by giant lilly pads. The parks department assured me that while fishing is allowed at the pond, the only thing you will catch are turtles.


 

The trail itself starts at a covered pavilion. A wooden bridge crosses the ditch and drops you off at the loop, which is straight ahead. Turn right or left, and the paved path will take you into subdivisions.


 

The Rustic Oaks path is the first trail that could be recommended for the mobility impaired. The concrete is nice and even, which would make for a pretty smooth ride, I think.


 

Walking here, it was important to me that I keep in mind its purpose. This is a short community trail. It is built for people. This isn’t a sanctuary or a preserve. One of the houses bordering the trail leading away to a subdivision had kindly erected a garden structure for blackberry vines. Because they were away from the house and close to the trail, I can only imagine that they were put there for anyone walking the trails, and it made me thankful for the community I live in. At the time that I write this, people have been shot and killed at an Orlando night club, and the country is very divided. I feel reassured about the essence of human nature when I see something so giving.


 

I also want to point out, though, that we found blackberry vines growing among the trees around the pond.

 

Not every park needs to be grand or monumental. Some have a smaller presence, but are big-hearted. They deserve to be walked, too, so hit the pavement, and you might learn something new about the people who surround you.

 

 

3. Galveston Island State Park Short Trail

Posted by douggoodman on June 15, 2016 at 1:30 PM Comments comments (0)

3. Galveston Island State Park Short Trail

May 8, 2016

Distance: 0.1 Miles

Time to Hike: 10 minutes or less

Difficulty: Easy

 

 

A trail doesn’t have to be monumentally hard to be memorable. It can be a nice walk with your wife on Mother’s Day. The day we visited the Island was gray and overcast. It was also cool, a mere 76 degrees outside according to my Jeep. Basically, it was a really good day to get a feel for the state park and take a little hike. This park has very few trees, so when it is hot and sunny, the only shade are the buildings and you. S+W=L. Sunscreen + Water = Life.


I found some nice trails on the north side of the park while we were driving around and getting a feel for the place. I cannot believe that I’ve lived in Houston for 15 years and never visited the north side of the state park. I guess 42 Trails is forcing me to explore some areas I’ve never really thought to explore, and I’m happy for that.


On the south side, the park has been renovated. I won’t say recently, but at least in the 5-7 years since I last visited. The daytime use area has been improved, though there are only a few bathrooms in the area, which I know is important to people looking for a beach. They do have showers and tables (not on the beach, btw). They are limited facilities, but they are still a cut above what you would get at a public access beach.

All this and I haven’t gotten to the short trail yet! It is a brief trail by the park’s nature center. The nature center was closed, so I couldn’t explore it, but the trail was open. The trail is a little loop mowed through high grass, with almost no change in elevation except for a low dip about a third of the way through. The grass was covered in lovebugs that flew around us serenely as we walked.


Past the love bugs, we found a cozy bird watching area with a long wooden couch. A blind of low shrubs on the far side of the blind hides bird watchers from the subjects of their study.


Several groupings of cactus would have been hidden in the tall grass if it weren’t for their bright yellow blooms. They reminded me of the song “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” the color was that bright.


The Short Trail is just that: short. I don’t think it is the best introductory/nature trail I have seen at a state park. (The signs were old and faded to unreadable. A good Eagle Scout project would be to update the signs.) But the trail introduced me to the park, and I look forward to hiking those other trails.

 

 

National Parks Maps To Help You Plan Your Hiking Adventure

Posted by douggoodman on June 10, 2016 at 1:25 PM Comments comments (0)

So I found this link on a search and rescue forum: http://npmaps.com/. For anyone considering visiting one of the National Parks, you should check out their maps to help you plan your National Park experience, or if you just want to scope out treks. The site was created by Matt Holly, who works at the National Park Service’s Natural Resource Stewardship and Science Directorate in Colorado. He also is the trail saint who uploaded all the maps.


I took a look at some of the maps. As you probably know, Texas is very limited in the number of National Parks. So what you get are maps for Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains. The maps on the site are of the "free brochure" type, so don't expect to find detailed trail maps like you buy. However, Mr. Holly does have links to amazon to purchase these maps if you feel inclined.


You can have a fun afternoon pouring through this website. For instance, in looking at the Big Bend maps, I found a historical map of Big Bend from 1944, a vegetation map, and a fire history map showing every fire in Big Bend and whether it was natural or man-made. This is cool stuff! I know my family wants to return to the Big Bend area. When we do, I know for sure we will be using Mr. Holly's map collection to help plan the adventure!



Dismemberment at Washington on the Brazos

Posted by douggoodman on December 6, 2012 at 6:05 AM Comments comments (0)

I like taking little regional trips. I feel I am fortunate to live in a part of Texas that is replete with state and local parks, most of them within an hour or two from home. So when an opportunity arises, such as Thanksgiving Break, I am all for forcing my kids to visit places like Washington on the Brazos State Park outside of Navasota, Texas. And to give credit where it is due, this fun idea came from my wife.

 

Washington on the Brazos is probably the most educational state park I have visited in a long time. Translation: you may enjoy it better without the kiddos. Not that the kids won’t love this place, too (more on that in a minute), but it is the kind of place where you can read exhibits for a few hours and leave happy. And as a parent I want to meander through places like the visitor’s center and museum and take my sweet time, not rush from one exhibit to another.

 

For those who don’t know, the historical significance of Washington on the Brazos is that it is the place where delegates from all over Texas signed the Texas Declaration of Independence, which is really cool and a significant part of Texas history. For the more “celebrity-minded,” many well-known Texas heroes attended the signing like Sam Houston, Samuel Maverick, Jose Navarro, and Chuck Norris.

 

As far as places to go hiking and look at nature, this is not the state park for you. There are better hiking parks. The walking paths at Washington on the Brazos are more like jeep trails through a small woods rather than back country trails, with only a few glimpses of the Brazos river. But to be honest, you visit Washington on the Brazos for the historical vistas, not the natural ones. You learn about the steamboat Yellow Stone and its impact on the revolution. You learn about life in the Republic of Texas and about its statehood. And if you are a child, you learn about dismemberment.

 

Now, in a children’s museum or “discovery” center, what do you expect to find? In a historical one such as Washington on the Brazos, you may expect to do a lot of hands-on stuff, like churning butter, playing with cotton, holding yokes for water, that sort of thing. And you’d be right. But then you find the “medical” section clearly devoted to the older kids with a darker sense of discovery.

 


Study Sheet for This Week’s Biology Test

Yes, those are instructions on how to bandage amputations. The bottom-right pictorial seems to show how to amputate a thumb, I think. I love this place!

 

Now, before you think that somebody is playing a joke, remember that amputations were very common in the 1800s, especially during times of war. So there is historical value here. Oh, and did you know that another common practice was bloodletting? This is my kind of discovery center!

 

 

 

Please excuse my poor photography.

 

As you can see in the photo, back in the 1800s, there was a kind of Swiss Army knife for bloodletting. Cool, huh? I guess the doctor had to keep them handy cause you never knew when you’d need to let some blood. I wonder if this is where the phrase “let it out” comes from? I can see two young pioneer people talking in the middle of the town, and one is stressed about the constant plagues, animals, and people wanting to kill you, and the other says, “man, you gotta stop stressing and let it out.” “Rightey,” says the stressed out pioneer, and he goes to see the doctor for a little blood letting to feel better. It was that or opium, I guess.

 

There were more pictures and photos, but this was all I took. (You will just have to visit the place to see more.) There was also a very informative rack full of 1800s medical cures next to this display. It had all kinds of cures that seem completely insane now but I’m sure seemed rational then. For example, the cure for dysentery was ipecac and laxatives. No wonder people died from it back then.

 

You’re still thinking about Chuck Norris, aren’t you? I understand. Well, Washington on the Brazos covers all things Texan, so it was replete with a display for Chuck Norris. Probably cause he was at the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence. I have proof in this artist’s version of the signing. He didn’t actually sign the declaration, of course, because he wanted Mexico to think they had a chance...

 


"Davy Crockett wears Chuck Norris long johns."

 

Bear Necessities...

Posted by douggoodman on July 17, 2011 at 7:20 PM Comments comments (0)

For the first time, I took my family on an extended camping trip.  We spent three days and nights tenting in Mueller State Park outside of beautiful Colorado Springs.  Camping in Colorado Springs is a little different from camping in East Texas.  For starters, you can camp in Colorado Springs in the summer.  In East Texas you don't camp.  You just kind of sit around and sweat until the sun goes down.  There are a few other differences.  East Texas has most snakes that can kill you with a single bite:  rattlesnakes, water mocassins, copperheads, coral snakes, etc.  Colorado Srings has garden snakes.  To compensate for this lack in reptilian killing machines, Colorado has maintained its lion and bear population. 

 

Camping in Mueller, you are warned half a dozen times about the bears.  When to look for them, what to do if you see one, how not to startle one.  Sounds very quaint, like if you meet a bear it is likely to be sticking its paw in a tree while it digs for honey.  If you are lucky, it might even offer you some.  Then again, there are all the warnings:  Don't keep food in your tent.  Don't keep trash laying around the campsite.  If you cook in one pair of clothes, sleep in a different pair.  These warnings come on a sheet decorated with a bear who has sharp claws.  So gone is Mr. Honeybear.  Now we have Mr. I'm Gonna Eat Ya In Your Sleep Bear, who probably has anger management issues.

 

I don't worry about bears in Colorado any more than I worry about sharks in the Gulf.  Sure, they are out there, but that doesn't mean you're going to be some animal's dinner.  Still, there is a reason those instructions exist.  I figure it is mostly to keep bears from ever coming into Mueller.  I have watched television shows about bear relocations and things.  Somebody sees a bear somewhere, calls a bear expert (possibly with bear dogs) who tranqulize the bear and relocate it to another part of the Rockies.  Just to feel safe - kind of like keeping a lucky rabbit's foot with me - I kept a little 1-inch knife with me at all times.

 

You see where this is going, right?

 

We survived the first night without any bear encounters.  After cooking, cleaning, getting dressed, and dumping our trash in the bear-proof dumpster, we drove out to Pike's Peak.  My wife and children spent most of the drive up and down Pike's Peak clinging to the seats and praying that I did not send the van careening off the edge of the mountain with a bellow and a holler a la Goofy.  I returned them safely to a lower altitude, for which they bought me an "I Drove Up Pike's Peak" patch.  We returned to camp, ate, and went to sleep.  I was not as diligent the second night as I was the first.  I slept in the same clothes I was wearing when I cooked dinner. 

 

I slept very well that night, which we survived by not being mauled by a bear.  So the next day we went on a train ride (my son LOVES trains).  On the way to the train, my daughter informs me that she saw an elk on the side of the road about a mile back.  I got frustrated with her.  I had hoped to see an elk on our vacation, so I told her (probably too angrily) that she should tell us when she sees something, not a mile farther down the road.  We drive on.

 

Suddenly from the back of the van, my daughter shouts one word:  "BEAR!!!!"  But it is too late.  We rounded a bend and didn't see it.  What?  Are you kidding me?  I came all the way to Colorado, and I want to see the honey bear!  So I said "to hell with this," and I turned the car around.

 

And we saw the bear, right where my daughter said it would be:  on the farside of the rocks, ambling down the mountain side.  I didn't pull over and get a picture, and I didn't have time to study the animal.  But my first reaction was akin to most father's, I think.  There was no way that litle 1-inch blade of mine was going to do ANYTHING to protect me and my family from that bear.  I might as well be bringing a pop-gun to a pistol fight.  And "that bear," Mr. Honey Bear, had paws like a left tackle.  And as he moved down the mountain, giant muscles rippled in his shoulders.  This thing wasn't like the sun bears in the Houston Zoo.  This black bear looked like it could take care of a lot of business if it wanted to.

 

So guess what?  That final night, I took a few extra precautions.  Made a trip to the bear-proof dumpster before I went to bed (and wondered if my next tent should be made of the same stuff bear-proof dumpsters are made of).  Wore clean clothes to bed that night.  I remember I didn't get much sleep, either.  But I did keep that little useless knife with me.  It is amazing the things we do to feel better.  I guess what is important is not whether they can stop a black bear in its tracks (which in my mind had grown to the size of Kodiak), but rather whether or not it makes us feel safer. 

 

I can't wait to do some more camping in Colorado.

My Name Is Mud

Posted by douggoodman on March 12, 2011 at 8:35 PM Comments comments (0)

I have been training for the SARTech II field exam.  The SAR team has graciously been working with me so that I have some practice on some of the field tests before the exam.  Last week one member gave a great ropes course presentation.  (I hope I can remember the difference between bights and bends.)  Up today - Land Nav.

 

It was swampy and muddy, and my boots were completely submerged in water up over the Gore-Tex.  At one point, I was crawling through the underbrush.  Along with several cuts and scrapes, I now have an abrasion on my left cheek (not that cheek) that makes me look kind of like Tommy Flanagan.  Soon after finding the first post, one of the field advisors warned everyone that there were feral hogs roaming the training grounds.  And somewhere along the way I lost the walking stick SARTechs are required to carry in their packs.  So all in all, it was a great morning!

 

Seriously, it felt great to be out on the land nav course.  Land Navigation is one of the hardest challenges I think any search and rescue technician faces.  The goal is to navigate through a wilderness area using only a compass to guide you.  I remember the first time I tried this - I had no problems getting through the course.  Of course, I was minus a 50-lb backpack and I was trying to keep my paces.  There was also this thing called "no pressure."  Once you add the gear, the pressure, and the pace-keeping, it becomes much more difficult.

 

However, to me what land nav really tests is bushwhacking skills.  Can you crawl through underbrush while keeping paces?  Can you push through briars and thorn bushes thicker than walls?  (A good whacking stick can help.)  Can you get a reading off your compass while surrounded by a swarm of mosquitoes and while standing in a foot of water?  I have found some techniques that help.

 

1.  Know your eye dominance.  Most people are eye-dominant on the same side as their handedness.  Not me.  I may be a righty, but I see with my left eye.  It helps to know this because otherwise I would look out my right eye, then start walking towards the left.  So I swerve away from the path.

 

2. Keep it simple.  The less objects in hands and pockets, the better.  I have foregone gloves, which would reduce the cuts and scrapes on my hands, but I am a complete butterfingers when I am wearing my gloves.  What I find works is to clear everything from my pockets except what is essential for the test - a small pad of paper, a pace counter, a compass, and a pen.  The pad, compass, and pen are in one pocket; the counter in the other.  This never changes so I know where to look for my equipment.

 

3.  Keep the compass out!.  I have a tendency to put the compass away.  I think this makes me swerve off the path.  It also means I add steps to my procedure.  I have to put up one thing, pull out the compass, take the reading, then put the compass up.  It's much easier to just leave it out so that it is ready for a reading at any time.  By keeping the compass out, I also can see direction changes much better.

 

Now, will any of this experience serve me at the SARTech II exam?  I have no idea.  I guess I will know in a few weeks time.  Until then, it is just fun to be in the outdoors in Houston while the weather is nice.  In a month or two, the heat will be intolerable and land nav will be next to impossible.

Camping Trip February 2010

Posted by douggoodman on March 21, 2010 at 10:05 PM Comments comments (0)

We returned from camping a day early.   A cold front came through on Saturday that was a bit more than we could handle.  It meant we couldn't make campfire steaks, but it was worth coming home early.

 

Day One:

 

11:30 am

Packed up and ready to go.  Out the door and on the road.

 

11:35 am

Realized I left my allopurinol at home.  I won't eat much red meat if I don't have some.  Heading back home.

 

12:30 pm

Guy in truck on I-45 honks at us to let us know that our kayak is dangerously close to falling off.  At the next exit, we pulled over and adjusted it.  I think it would have made the trip, but the cords were really letting the sit-on-top shift.  I added two more lines (one up front and one in the back) for just-in-case.

 

2:30 pm

Yeah!  Lake Somerville!  The ranger reminds me that it will get really cold and rainy on our last night.

 

3:00 pm

While setting up the tent, I notice that the rain run-off would go straight through the tent.  We move the tent a few feet to the side.

 

 

6:00 pm

Chili.  Yum!!!  I use one pound of chorizo for every pound of turkey meat.  The chorizo makes for great flavoring.  I wished I had made some cornbread too, though.  (This is a meal you cook before you go camping, so all you do is heat it up.)

 

Day Two:

 

10:00 am

 Kids go on a hiking trip.  My wife and I take our youngest kayaking.

 

10:30 am

We get the kayaks unloaded and down to the lake, only to discover that the waves are really choppy.  Despite the non-existant weather conditions back at camp (not 100 yards away), the lake is a completely different story.  We make a few attempts, but eventually have to give it up.  Next time, we need to run a more complete weather forecast.

 

6:00 pm

Quesadillas.  Yum!!!  I bring a griddle which I used to cook the tortillas.  For cheese, chicken, green peppers and onions, this is a great meal.  It is also relatively painless to make, so I recommend it for family camping trips. 

 

7:00pm

Somebody at the campfire asks me about "that thing you do with the dogs."  That leads into some really interesting conversation.  One thing about being a cadaver dog handler, you never lack for a conversation piece...

 

9:00 pm

Guys love to sit around the campfire and throw things in it to watch it melt.  Especially bottles.  Earlier in the day, I went to the store and bought back bass bait, popcorn, and vaseline.  That night, I learned that vaseline is a fire retardent and not an accelerant.  The bass bait nearly exploded.  Also, I learned that popcorn does not pop well in extreme heat.

 

Next time, I need to further my experiments by throwing in raw popcorn, and I also need to try pork rinds.  Maybe beef jerky, too...

 

Day Three

 

1:00 am

What I should have done is before I went to bed, I should have put up the tarps and checked the rain fly. 

 

4:00 am

I get up to go to the bathroom.  It is sprinkling.

 

8:00 am

It is raining hard.  I am using twine and my scissors multi-tool from the SAR pack to tie tarps to our shade stand.  What I create can only be called Tarp-Mahal.

 

 

9:00 am

My wife points out the water run-off.  As predicted, where we originally were placing the tent would have put it right in the middle of the run-off.  Kudos to us, we will be much drier now.

 

10:00 am

My cameras are delivered.  They had been sitting out in the rain all night and all morning.  Fortunately, they were in a weather-resistant case, so even though the case is wet as a monsoon, the cameras are dry.  Good product...

 

12:00 pm

We get the news that a windstorm is also coming through, so everybody else is leaving early.  My youngest is shivering, so despite the coziness and warmth of Tarp-Mahal, we are leaving, too.  No reward is worth this. 

 

2:00 pm

We load up the kayaks last.  The cords work much better this time.  I think I was putting a loop in them when I loaded the kayaks for the trip up.  This allowed for more shifting room.  This time, the kayaks don't budge.

 

4:00 pm

We arrive back home.  Tired, wet, and weary, but we had an adventure, and we expanded our comfort zones.  We did a lot of things right, and we took extra precautions (extra tarps, twine, etc.) that really paid off, but we also paid dearly for not having gotten the right clothes.  It all goes back to the ten essentials.  We were prepared on nine of them, but not ten.  None of us had proper footgear, my wife had a rain jacket only because of my SAR pack, and my children had nothing. 

 

8:00 pm

I go to feed the dogs.  It is freezing outside, and the wind is knocking things over.  I'm glad we decided to come home.

Cellphones and Kids

Posted by douggoodman on March 4, 2010 at 12:53 PM Comments comments (0)

Count me as one of the parents who wants their children to have a cellphone on them, even at school.  We have strict guidelines on cellphone usage when it comes to school, though.  The phone is to be turned off while in school.  The last thing we want is for a phone to go off in the middle of the classroom, but it can come in very handy outside of school hours.

 

Case in point, yesterday I got a call from my daughter.  She had missed the bus and wanted to walk home with her friends (who had also missed the bus) 4 miles down a busy road.  This is the sort of thing that I would have done when I was her age and phones were not so easily accessible.  Instead, she called me and I got to say "Heck, no.  Stay where you are and I will come get you."  Ten/fifteen minutes later, I pulled up in the parking lot.  Crisis averted.

 

However, and this is the sticky point for me when it comes to cellphones, camping, and search work:  she had three other friends with her.  All of them had their cellphones, but none of them had called home because the phones were all dead.  My daughter had the only working phone, and even it was on its last bar.  Murphy's Law strikes again.

 

When it comes to camping, you should have your cellphone with you.  That does not mean you don't have to be alert of your surroundings, know where you are, or have a backup plan.  The time to pay attention and figure out the backup plan is not while in "panic" mode.  Case in point, none of the girls thought to call home from the school's phone.  They were happy to be out, a little scared and nervous, and it just didn't occur to them to walk back to the building and ask to use the phone to call their parents.  The same thing happens when out in the woods.  It is easy to play armchair quarterback to a situation once the outdoor crisis is over, but when you are in the middle of it, issues get clouded, solutions become less obvious.  Sometimes you forgot to charge the battery, or you left it on all night.  Or a cellphone tower is out of range.  Or the phone breaks.  What happens then?

 

That is why I recommend at least having a whistle.  With a whistle, you can be heard from much farther out than you yelling.  You will also not tire out as easily, and you will not lose your voice.  It would suck to shout for help til you are hoarse, and then when the help finally arrives, you not have the ability to call out "over here!" 

 

I applaud my daughter, who knew to call home before moving forward with the "newly revised backup plan."  That has always been our direction:  call us on your cell before you commit to something, and especially in the case of missing the bus, we can come get you.  Just keep it turned off during classroom hours, okay?