Sunday, November 30, 2008

Black Friday. Most people go shopping, I went geocaching, as far away from the maddening din as possible.
We meant it as a family trip. I had been putting a bug in their ear all week, the same bug that had been put in mine. I had a certain destination in mind.
There was a geocache a few weeks ago that came out close to my house, and I saw the notification right away, which meant I had a good chance at the "First to Find", FTF. Our FTF competition is fierce around here. Caches don't usually make it an hour without geocachers descending upon it.
Anyway I was robbed on this FTF. I looked and looked at the place that matched the clue, and had to give up after 30 minutes. As I was getting in the car to leave, a biker came up and hung around suspiciously close to GZ. I kept my eye on him as I began to drove away, and I saw he was hanging out in the general area a bit, an unlikely place to spend time. I circled back around and tried to catch him. I wanted to ask him if he was the cache hider, but when I got near him, he was too far way to stop without screaming at him. What would I even say?
Anyway I left a note on the cache page talking about this, and the next day, after two other cachers stopped and FOUND the cache, I got a message from the hider. That was him, and when I saw him, he was placing the cache. Usually they are supposed to be in place before they are published, but this guy waited for the notice before going out to put it out.
Okay, so I was robbed of my FTF, so this time, he gave me a heads up about a new cache of his. He was going to let me get the FTF before he published it, to make up for my loss. I needed to get out there before the end of the holiday weekend. Plus, I have been dying to go caching, with the weather during the workweek just beautiful, and I feeling stifled locked away.
So I mention, and I hint, and I plan, and I scheme. I want to all four go out on an expedition and have a picnic lunch and spend time together. We agree on a time and a day, and then it is the time to leave, and suddenly my husband backs out. Oh, he doesn't really want to leave the house, he doesn't want to go anywhere. Suddenly then the oldest son would rather go play with friends. Suddenly my plans were all unraveling.
I made adjustments. The little one got strapped in his carseat and the oldest dog got to come instead. We headed off to Tomball.
First stop was a micro hidden in a very tricky location near a bridge in a man-made pond. This fellow local cacher Raven has been placing a series of caches called "Crossing Over" out at interesting and pretty bridges in the area. On the cache page for this one, #15, it says you might have to use acrobatic techniques for retrieval. Let me tell you, doing this while trying to watch the kid and the dog raised the difficulty level to about a four!
Then we went to find a large "park and grab" cache behind a movie theatre. A "PNG", for non-cachers, is a cache that is supposed to be less than 200 feet from the car. This one was trouble. First I thought I could park in the abandoned parking lot behind the theater, but the gates were locked, so I had to double back around on the highway and come back, and then I looked and looked and felt silly for not being able to find something so simple. I was about to leave when I decided to call a friend for a hint, who had found it last month. She told me where it was supposed to be, but I was looking there and it was, most definitely, not there. Rats!
After this, we headed to a nature preserve for a short hike into the forest to find a nice big cache I could leave some travel bugs at. This was the most fun of our day. The dog went swimming in the pond (yuck, I was thrilled about this, since he was riding in my car!) and we checked out the wooden overlook that stood out above the water.
It was time, now, to head into Tomball and go look for this one I had a notice for. It was at the old railroad depot, where now a big red caboose stands on display. Christmas lights wrap around the light poles, and a big Christmas tree surrounded by gifts decorates the lawn. My little one loved this one and looked all around, and so did I. Try finding a little black nano ( a cache the size of a button), when coords have you all over the place, from the base of the train, which is all black, to the black benches and fences. I bumped my head a few times and inspected every nook and cranny to no avail. The dog just laid down near a bench with a look on his face of pure irritation. "Let me watch you try to find a nano, this is great fun", his sarcastic eyes seemed to say.
Well, I had to give up on that elusive sucker. Then, as we drove around the antique stores (as I was trying to figure out where a multi-cache final was), the little one spilled Sprite in his eyes and we had to make a quick stop at the parking lot for the stores. He wanted out, so we all got out and walked around - me, my little one with granola crumbs on his shirt and a snotty nose, and the dog, with his ragged coat that may have seen better days. What a contrast we made to the old, well-to-do ladies with their fancy purses and business casual clothes! We left the dog tied in the shade of the fancy garden area and went into a locally famous restaurant for lunch, but the white tabelcothes and shimmering table service freaked my little one out, so we made an exit quickly after being seated.
Instead we walked across the street to a dive mexican cafe, where we watched Rascal lying in a cool tile terrace as we ate soup and beans. We were the only customers in this dark and cool place, where there are three menu choices that change every three days. The charro beans were more like a soup than anything, and the little one wanted to have it all to himself, but couldn't finish it all. We walked outside with the styrofoam bowl in our hands, and I wanted to give Rascal the rest. Little K insisted he be the one to do the honors, so I let him lower the bowl to Rascal's waiting nose...and then he turned it over and dumped it, instead, on the ground. Rascal's fine aristocratic mouth licked beans off the ground instead of lapping the dark meaty broth from a bowl, and I felt sad for him, one more thing to add to his list of laments about his lot in life. Rascal, so happy and joyous in youth, has made an art form out of pouting in his later years, demonstrating his great sadness with being replaced by two kids, and then supplanted by a younger and stronger dog. I don't need a pet pyschic to tell me how he feels, and yet I am powerless to change it.
Later, I went back out to find that nano again, alone, during a solo caching expedition, only to come up at a loss again. Finally the cache owner sent me a very specific hint, and if I get a chance, I will try one more time before the weekend is over.
I just might want to stick, though, to what I am able to actually find.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A palmist who truly knows how to do a reading will look first at the back of the hands. They will attempt to a get a sense of the person's life by rubbing their palms while inspecting the back of the hands, the nails, the fingers, for signs of who this person really is.
If one did this to my hands, if I sought a palmist who knew their stuff, there would be a pause, and a question, when they got to my thumb.
The thumb, in palm reading, indicates anger. Fierce and terrible anger, if enlarged or disfigured, or other smaller subtler forms of aggression and assertion. Courage and fire, courage and fire.
Across my left thumb, there lies a raised and ugly scar. One almost doesn't want to touch it, and yet the finger falls towards it in the natural slope of the lower knuckle. It lies across the first, bottom half of my finger. What's this from?, one would question.
An image in my mind of the day it happened. I was in the kitchen in our cold and lonesome Northern California ranchhouse. I was looking out the window at the pastures, and thinking hard about my anger. My little baby son was in the playpen in the dining area, and I could hear him playing as I scrubbed and soaked. My hands were pressing hard, too hard, on the fragile glass cups as I raged silently about the fact that my husband was gone. Gone on yet another errand, which was supposed to take a half hour, and now here gone a half day with no phone call, no checking in, no thinking about how I must be wondering what happened to him.
This was before cell phones were common in this rural town where he lived, but he had just gone to pick up a female cousin to bring over to play with me for the weekend. She, too, had a kid, but she, too, liked to get into trouble, like my husband. This naughtiness that ran in the blood, tempting all. The girls loved their cigarettes and booze, and the men favored more reckless pursuits.
And I wondered, fiercely, where he was, and what kind of trouble he might be getting into, and I pressed so hard on the cup that it broke, and yet still I didn't realize it, with my eyes outward on the cold pasture ground in front of me. I just kept washing the broken cup, until I cried out and looked down into the sink and saw blood instead of water in the sink below.
And now no transportation, and no idea where my husband was with our truck. The little one cried and I was trying to comfort him with a towel wrapped around my bloody thumb as I fretted about what to do. I called my husband's uncle, a "first responder" for the local emergency response team. He had an ambulance on stand by as he came out to the house to inspect my wound.
At this time, there was no health insurance. We were barely scraping by in this tiny little town, just inside the county, and the poverty line. There was no extra money for hospital trips and even medicine.
He looked at my hand. "You could just bandage it and let it heal naturally," he said. "Of course, it's gonna leave a scar."
Or, he explained to me, I could ride in the ambulance to the nearest doctor and have them sew it up.
"That'll probably cost you around a thousand dollars, when it is all said and done."
Well, the logical choice in this situation, with no money and no way to get ahead, was to agree to let it heal on its own. And it did scar, a hard and nasty scar, like the one on my heart caused by frequent disappointment in the man I chose to marry.
That one I sought to heal, through counseling and compassion, through exercise and right intent, through eating and reading and all those Lifetime movies of retreat and escape. That one is the scar that never healed properly and so is glaringly visible to those who want to look inside, and so I keep it wrapped up.
Like a present you forgot to give and so keep stashed in a drawer, in a closet, waiting, someday, for the right moment to come again.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Okay, I'll admit that getting me to watch a movie is like pulling teeth. Sitting still for two to three hours is a difficult task for me. I have watched two movies lately, though, that have really entered into my consciousness and have me thinking about the deeper meaning behind the film, and the current of truth behind life, that which binds us together. My favorite kind of movie are the ones that enter your thoughts in this way.
For about two years, I have owned a copy of the movie "Seabiscuit", but I never watched it until a couple of weeks ago, the evening after hiking the Four Cache Loop. It was the story of the jockey, Red Pollard, that I found most intriguing (however, after reading more about his life, I see that the movie was historically inaccurate and simply leads one to believe falsehoods). The idea that this broken down jockey, and trainer down on his luck, also all happen to meet Seabiscuit, a horse ruined by bad training and sold for $8000 to Charles Howard, an automobile enterpreneur with a broken heart, is an amazing example of "kismet" to me. These forces combined in an overwhelming display of mutual healing. The belief and understanding that they all showed in each other combined to make Seabiscuit the greatest racehorse of his era, even beating a much larger and stronger opponent, War Admiral, in the match race Seabiscuit supporters finally obtained.
Overall, it is a movie about redemption, and this is why I love it. I love the idea of redemption. It speaks to my heart about fairness. Eventually, the whole world can see the good in someone, something that has been broken down, but never gave up trying to be perfect. Finally the heavens open up and illuminate the golden aspects of the subject in a moment of triumph. In this movie, it is the last Santa Anita Handicap, with Pollard back in the saddle after suffering potentially career-ending injuries and Seabiscuit recovered from a torn ligament the following year. They healed themselves together on Howard's ranch, with Pollard joking that they had "four good legs between them", and Seabiscuit ended his career soon after, with the horse that nobody wanted now, in 1940, horse racing's all time highest money winner.
The second notable movie I watched recently is "Into the Wild", of which is the subject of a video I posted below. Eddie Vedder was nominated for several awards for his musical score for this movie, and I think the song in this video is the best song of the soundtrack, and most concisely sums up the concepts embraced by Chris McCandless, the subject of the movie. This is a movie based on a real life story of an extraordinary man who decides to take on the Alaskan wilderness, after finding little about city life, material wealth, and his screwed up family to keep him interested in staying engaged in that reality. After graduating from Emory University with grades "good enough to get into Harvard Law" and a substantial college fund still intact, he instead walks away from all of that and goes "on the road". In many ways, this movie is a road movie, with part of the fun trying to guess where he is now with geographical clues.
The truth of McCandless is beset with controversy, especially his last days. In the end, what we want is redemption, but it is not granted here. There is no happy ending, no resolution to his quest, no reconciliation with his family, no triumph over wilderness. There is only the stuff of legend - Bus 142, on the edge of the Denali National Park, where Chris spent his last 189 days, and where people come pay their respects to a man who embraced the ecological vision and love of a simple life of the authors he admired - Thoreau, Tolstoy, and London.
The movie is breathtaking and incredible, introducing us to complex characters that he meets during his journey, and showing us his struggle to transcend his demons and survive with little more than a bag of rice and a gun in the Alaskan frontier. We see him reading, writing, struggling, hunting, foraging, and experiencing ups and downs. The part I liked best is his open armed embrace of the wilderness - a moment where he stands, arms outstretched, taking it all into his heart. I have felt like that before, I know that feeling of bliss when surrounded by natural beauty. For me, it is also a moment of wonder, thanks, and closeness with My Creator, a feeling of being One with God, but I don't know if McCandless felt that way.
After reading more about his life later, I find it intriguing that only a quarter of a mile from his "magic bus", where he was finally trapped in a cycle of starvation, was a tram that could have given him safe passage over the river that kept him from heading back to civilization when his luck turned. Safety and survival were only a brief hike further away, a fact that he missed because he apparently had a poor map and was inadequately prepared. Some people condemn him for all he didn't know, and I am not sure what side I agree with the most. I do think that if you are going to take on an experience like that, it is best to be as prepared as possible. He did educate himself beforehand, but then also had too much to learn yet before the true test.
As a parent, I am bothering by his lack of consideration for other people. Characters coming into his life repeatedly ask him to reconcile with his family, or at least let them know he is okay. His parents went through extreme emotional distress when he simply disappeared, without forewarning, explanation, a phone call, nothing. To me, this shows an incomplete transcendence over his past. His healing was not complete, his heart was not love, yet. A letter, a postcard, one simple gesture to acknowledge his family, even though he was still angry at what he considered the falseness of their lives and marriage, would have gone a long way towards easing their deep anguish over losing him. No matter what happens in this life, no matter what roads we take, our parents love us, and the love of family is a truth that supercedes this life.
In the end, perhaps he did overcome this, as suggested in the movie when, in the end, he scrawls out this message in a Tolstoy novel - "Happiness is only real when shared". We find true happiness only in our connection with others, and it is love, only love, that is the true meaning to our existence on earth.
The movie will make you think, and will overwhelm your senses with natural beauty and the desire to seek it, like McCandless did. Live, truly live, by going wild and taking it all the earth has to offer, with the lightest carbon footprint possible. Take it all in, all the natural wonders God has created here on Earth.
But prepare yourself properly first....
And check out the video, listen to the words and see the images. It was an incredible movie.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Book Review
Jack Kerouac
King of the Beats
A Portrait
by Barry Miles
Thank you, Barry Miles. Such a lovely portrait you drew of my Jack.
(intended sarcasm). This book, I believe, was a big reason I became depressed last month. It is a haunting, depressing sort of portrait, the kind that has some redeeming quality but you just don't want to look at.
The label "King of the Beats" had a taunting quality towards the end of Kerouac's life, when he felt misunderstood and miscast by the American public. He spent the last ten years of his life drinking it all away. He basically killed himself with alcohol over a prolonged period of his life, and it is fascinating to wonder why.
Reading this book was a sharp, hard look at Kerouac as a wandering neurotic. It does not display Kerouac in a redeeming light, especially after the 1940s. It does, however, give great insight into the relationship between Jack and his first wife, Edie Parker. The first one hundred pages out of three hundred total are devoted to Jack's life before he went "on the road", and this is a vital part of history transcribed in a detail not seen in the other two Kerouac biographies I read recently. It was interesting to learn that Jack slept around, and then she did the same to get back to him, which caused a split in the relationship. This pattern he repeated with his second wife, Joan Haverty, who bore him a daughter he never claimed.
Barry Miles is harsh in his commentary about Kerouac's relationship with his daughter. Jack later gave her permission to use his name, and she wrote two of them before dying at an early age, a death that Miles strongly pins on Kerouac's drunken chest. Twice in the book, Miles condemned him for denying his own child, for not being there for her.

"His fans claim that he had a great heart, but he cared more for his cat than for his own daughter and there is all the difference in the world between sentimentality and sensitivity."

Miles demands that Kerouac "be held responsible for his daughter's misery" and suggests his absence caused her family to be so desperate that she sold her body in the streets at a young age, while he drank away his fortune.
In the end, this book left me wondering what kind of man would Jack had been if he had ever gotten past himself and experienced a true deep personal growth, if he had allowed himself to mature. If instead of trotting all over the world looking for kicks, what if he had allowed himself to be a family man, and take care of his responsibilities, transcend his personal issues with women and God? What if Kerouac hadn't become a drunk, but instead a mature person, equipped with the right tools to handle his fame and provide for his family?
I used to hold Jack Kerouac up as this romantic figure. I even fancied I would be in love with him if I had met him in true life. It is easy to think that when reading his incredible prose that sounds like poetry. The man was a genius with words, but he was terrible with people. After reading this, I realized that had I known him, I would not have wanted to be friend or lover to him. He took, he used, he overextended, and he offended.
Once of his friends with his early days, before Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady came in his life, was Henri Cru. Miles shows us Cru ripping up Jack's last letter to him and "flushing them down the toilet with all my other memories of Jack". Even patient Ginsberg had almost had it with him towards the end, although he remained a faithful friend, despite the anti-semitic beliefs Kerouac shared with his mother. Who knew, Kerouac, a big fan of McCarthyism as well?
Basically, Miles gives a portrait of Kerouac that is not a flattering one. He even suggest some sexual trysts that I am not sure I believe. We see Kerouac as manipulative, promiscious, and full of self-aggrandizing dreams about being the best novelist in the world.
He was scornful of others work, incredibly jealous, and not above send scathing letters to his friends, then call them at two in the morning, drunk and wanting to talk. He was the kind of friend you would get rid of fast, the kind of lover who would never last. He wanted to have a spiritual faith, but not abide by its codes of conduct. He is basically someone only a mother could love, and perhaps his did, a little too much.
In the end, I had to drop Kerouac as my romantic fantasy, and that loss was staggering. I think I am going to have to go read one of his best books just to get a fix for my hurting heart.
Thank you, Barry Miles. Such a lovely portrait.
(wiping tarnish off a crown of thorns)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What's Missing?
(Answer: My Shoes)
When I got dressed this day, the black boots seemed like a good idea. I remember wearing them all day and never feeling uncomfortable, even though they have a good heel on them.Combine that with a lot of walking. Combine lots of walking with carrying a thirty pound toddler most of the day. I have never been so tempted to buy $70 leather sandals in all my life. Finally I decided I didn't want to buy shoes, nor did I want to continue feeling such pain. Boots, go in the bag. Lots of walking in bare socks, luckily all in the direction of the gates, and the car, (parked a million miles away). Oh my aching dogs...
Scenes from the Festival
Friends: This is Lara, Kelly and Kathy.
Lara came with me and the children. Kelly used to work here for a long time. She also grew up in my neighborhood and went to high school with us. Kathy also went to high school with us, and her sister was a dear sweet friend of mine who was on the cross country team with Lara and I. Kathy (brown jacket) has been working for RenFests for about a dozen years full time. If you ever attend one, look for Big Time Jewelry, and it'll be her face you see...

Foes: The little one was very scared. He was seeing another reality, and didn't understand that it was all costumes and acting. I can imagine how terrifying some of this would be to someone who couldn't understand it was all in the name of fun.

Fun: We rode an elephant! There were pony rides, new swords and little plastic dragons, and checking out booths selling gems, stones, incense, jewelry, costumes, and custom made sandals and boots.

Food: We shared a muffaletta sandwich, steak on a stick, fried turkey on a stick, a pretzel, and an apple dumpling.



And Fighting! We saw the first part of the joust, in which they engaged in games on horseback.

I have been going to the RenFest at least once every year or two since my teenage years, and of course would recommend it to anyone who visits this time of year (Eight weeks in October and November). I just wish I had umlimited supplies of money to spend...but I would proably come home with all kinds of stuff you can only wear once a year!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sunday, I had an appointment at the vet's.
Not just any vet office, but the one I worked at for four years.
I was thinking how odd it was that the male veterinary technician who walked in had no idea who I was, and treated me like any other client.
Then the doctor did the same, even though he knew quite well who he was.
I would have been tripping out about that, but instead I was distracted by two things - a conversation I just had in the lobby, and my cell phone with video I wanted to show the doctor.
When I was sitting in the room, trying to calm my two Aussies, I heard someone ask the doctor about me. The doctor asked how he knew me, and and the guy said he used to work with me at Subway.
"She left here, actually," said my old doc. "I think she is working at a research facility."
I worked at about every Subway store in College Station at one point in time, about a dozen years ago. During that time, I was a bit of a "man-eater". Not intentionally, but sort of accidentally. I had a bit of a charm about me, or maybe just a bad reputation.
When the doctor opened "door number two", I was sitting on the bench and looked up.
"Well, here she is now," he exclaims.
And I think he has no idea, really no idea, who this person is standing here.
The guy in the lobby was a man I remember as a manager at a store I briefly moonlighted at who had a crush on me at the time. I know that much, but I can't remember his name, and make small talk with him, updating him on fellow past sandwich artists.
I think he has no idea of the person I was when I worked here, nor would my doc believe the stories I am sure this man could tell, about back in the day when I was "the belle of the ball", a girl who was "never really available", but had several men on a string.
For the rest of the week, it bugs me that I can't remember this guy's name.
I ask my best friend, and her husband, who all worked at Subway during those years. "I don't remember his name," M says, "but I remember that he lo-ved you."
Yes, I remember that, being the victim of many a manager's crush. I know that, like you know facts about history, but really believing it is a different story. It seems like a movie of a story that happened to someone else, the disconnection between my past and my present.
Like standing next to the exam table that I used to be cleaning, with the doctor offering to lift my dog for me (what's this?) and asking his tech to hold them, so I don't get my nice shirt dirty, when I used to live and breath in this room. Like being handed the handouts on pain management that I watched him write and edit during the four years I practically lived at this clinic, four years of being a person this Subway fellow never knew.

My friend, the one who wants me to change my religion, isn't speaking to me.
Or maybe I'm not speaking to him, not really talking, just brief greetings here and there.
Something happened at the Beef and Bun.
It was really nothing, but it changed my opinion of him. I saw something in him that day, last Friday, that made me realize he would never be a true friend. I saw just a touch of the dark side and I am not sure I trust him now.
I was treating my assistant to lunch, because he helped me clean my lab when it really mattered. On the way out of the parking lot, I got nervous. I asked a couple of guys who were standing there if they wanted to join us at the BBQ joint.
One, the man who prays with me, declined, but my other friend, the one who wants me to change my religion, jumps in.
"Let's go."
I tell him the whole time that I am treating my assistant to lunch because of what he did for me. I ask him if he has money, a few times.
When he get to the restaurant, he starts to get nervous about the situation, and mentions he is "stuck". He didn't realize I was meeting my assistant there, which seems really odd since I was telling him that the whole time.
First he says he doesn't want anything, and when I ask if he has money, he just looks at me.
Then he orders a baked potato and a drink. Five dollars, out of the twenty I just spent, on this payday in which I am just about broke already, after bills.
I tell him he will have to help me in the lab for that lunch, and he swears he will, up and down, as he leaves the car when we get back.
Later, a coworker hears him bragging to another guy that I "took him to lunch, too."
Then later, I hear this story. I hear that he was flashing a ten dollar bill in front of my assistant's face that morning, offering to buy him lunch if he will give the food he brought from home up that morning. Apparently he was hungry, and he had money to burn.
I ask him later why, then, if he had money, did he act like he had no way to pay for the baked potato that he wanted to order? He tells me a story about having to give his money to someone else, and his eyes shift down, around. I think he tricked me into paying for his meal as a way to brag about some kind of special relationship that doesn't exist.
As we talk, we walk outside, and a group of guys are walking to the right. Immediately, my friend starts puffing up, like a big ole gorilla, acting completely different walking with me.
"What is that" I ask him. He looks at me blankly, when I know full well he knows that I am talking about.
I see. I knew he was a dog, but now I see his fleas.
I'm not sure I want to give him that impression, nor anyone else. He has taken our friendship and added the hint of sex to it, and it makes me think he doesn't really know what it means to be a friend. I have a reputation to uphold. Not to mention, seven days later, no helping in the lab.
Now, when I see him, I just keep on walking.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Sam Houston National Forest
New Waverly, Texas
It was a brisk fall Saturday. I rose before the sunrise and was on my way shortly after six to meet with some friends from the Houston Geocaching Society (HGCS) Forums. We had planned a group run at a cache called Four Cache Loop, a four part multi in the Sam Houston National Forest that required a ten mile hike through the woods.
In geocacing speak, we would say, "and all that for one smiley!" When we log our finds online, there is a smiley next to our "found it" logs. Some smileys are easier to obtain that others. This one was reputed to be the most difficult smiley to obtain in the greater Houston area (albeit pretty far from Houston itself). Last year, it was voted "Most Physically Challenging" and "Best Multi-Cache" in the Cacher's Choice aspect of HGCS's first Annual Geocaching Awards. It is a rite of passage for cachers in this area, an epic find that is best done with a group. Upon completing the journey, the final waypoint includes patches that say "I Conquered Four Cache Loop".
Once I left the house, I had a "duh" moment when I realized I was leaving two hours before the meeting time, to get to a place that was an hour away. I decided I would just get there early and sleep until the rest of the group got there, but as it turns out, I needed that extra time because I got lost. I took a very odd way there, basically chucking out the directions I had in order to go "the scenic route", which ended with me getting lost on the backroads of New Waverly. I was fine with it, really, because it gave me time to drive around the farmlands of this tiny town and try to imagine where William Burroughs lived during his time here. Burroughs was a "Beat", a friend of Jack Kerouac's, and his family had purchased a farm out here to keep him out of trouble. As it turns out, he turned it into a marijuana farm and his wife was addicted to Benzedrine during this time, so I am not sure it turned out the way his family wanted. I try to imagine Burroughs, always dressed finely in his nice suit, out here tilling the earth and blending in with the farmers at the feed store.
Finally I ended up at the dirt road that lead to the Hunter's Camp parking area, and got there at the exact time we were due to meet, meeting one carload of three by about fifteen minutes.
Our group this morning consisted of seven people, five men and two women. One was a cacher, HoustonControl, who had done this cache before, three times. He acted as our guide, and kept us on the trail, marked by little tags on the trees.
Originally, we had wanted to do this hike during October, before hunting season started, but the forest was closed due to damage by Hurricane Ike. As we hiked, we saw evidence of Ike's damage in uprooted trees and fallen logs that had been cut and moved off the trail. The trail itself was not that easily visible, and a few times we found ourselves looking for markers because the trail itself was unclear.
One of the hazards of the trail were the many water crossings. We probably crossed creeks about thirty times during the course of our hike, and joked about what number we were probably on in the later ones. I didn't get my shoes wet, nor did I fall down during any of this, and I am pretty proud about that because there were times I thought I might do either.
I did trip a lot, and stumble over sticks and roots in the path. I have about three scratches on my legs now, midway up, from branches that broke under my feet and came back up and grabbed my legs. My long pants seemed to be catching on everything.
It was about 45 degrees when we started, and as the sun rose, it might have gotten into the seventies. It was a nice cool day, which helped about halfway through when our sweat just lifted off of us. The first waypoint wasn't too hard to get to, even though it is off the trail aways. It would have been hard to find this one on my own. I got to open it because I was on the right side of the creek. I read the next set of coordinates off the laminated card for the others to input into their GPS unit.
I was really impressed with the unit Freysman carried. It was a Garmin Nuvi, a driving unit to mount on your console, but also portable and accurate on the trail He said that the only drawback he found was that the battery has to recharged, not replaced, and the life seems to be only about five and a half hours. That is how long our hike took, and he mentioned that he was wondering if it would make it the whole way, so he was turning it off when he could. I forgot to ask him when we finished if it was still running or not.
The pace early on was medium to fast, with Sky Rookie primarily leading the group. We were all able to talk with a minimal amount of exertion on this part of the journey. Midway through the trip to the second waypoint, I was begining to feel how long this journey would be. HoustonControl (Larry) said something like "It's only two miles," and I felt relieved actually we had gone that far, only then to feel disheartened by him finish with, "to the next waypoint."
The second waypoint was a quick dash and grab, with SkyRookie doing the honors this time. A hunter was walking down our trail, and had stopped to talk to Larry, who was standing at the edge of the trail waiting for us to come back. I walked over and was intrigued by the man's compound bow. He was telling Larry to make sure we were wearing lots of "hunter orange", because he didn't trust "those yo-hos from Houston". We chuckled about this later.
We had our GPS units re-set for the third waypoint now, 1.92 miles away. There was little talking and a fast pace now. I starting stumbling more than usual now, and reached into my pack as we walked for a snack and some water. Once my blood sugar started coming back up, I was able to be less clumsy.
We stopped about 0.40 from the third waypoint for lunch. Before we ate, though the six of us that had not been on this journey before had to walk 0.30 mile down the trail to find the final waypoint of a puzzle cache called D.B. Cooper Jr. The cache itself was great. If you know the story of D.B. Cooper, just think about how it probably ended....and you get the picture.
We sat down in the middle of the old dirt road and ate our lunch. Freysman had an MRE he was excited about, which got us on the subject of Hurricane Ike. HoustonControl talked about a WhereIGo cache he was working on developing.
After lunch, we shortly reached the third waypoint. During our half day journey, we all discussed various geocaches, found and unfound, puzzles we were having a hard time with, waypoints to multis that had stumped us. We picked each other's brains about equipment and hints to solving projections and puzzles. Voodoo Chicken and I talked about the strugggle for women to keep their identity when they become mothers. Larry told us stories of entertaining himself while growing up in an isolated rural area. We got to know each other's history, little bits like where people went to school and what they studied, heard their lost dreams. Freysman, I'll always think of you as the monk on the mountain ;)
After the third waypoint was found, read, and the final coords loaded into our units, we were off again for this last 1.26 miles (I think) stretch. We were hoofing it pretty fast and finally HoustonControl asked SkyRookie to stop for a few and let us take a break. I was walking in the rear of the line now, with (Mr) MTCachers and freysman, whose leg was giving him some trouble. VoodooChicken walked with us until we reached the waypoints, when she gleefully ran ahead to try to beat Sky Rookie to the find. HoustonControl rotated between bringing up the rear, riding it out on the middle, or loping along in front with Sky Rookie, with JimJoCourt on his heels. It was a good group to be with.
Finally we found the fourth and final waypoint, at which lay an ammo can with some Jeep travel bugs, another regular travel bug, the patches, and some swag and pins. We all signed the logbook and took this group photo. Great fun!
In the end, it turns out the whole loop plus the side journey to DB Cooper brings it to an 11.5 mile hike through varied terrain. The parking lot was only about 0.30 miles from the final, which was about the worse part of the journey for me. I had a blister on my toe and the back of my heel, and was bringing up the rear by that point.
I actually managed to do another geocache on the way home that was about 500 painful feet from the car, and then meet some old friends for a late lunch. But boy was I sore that night!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Spring Texas
My friends were interested in haunted places, and asked if I would plan something that involved a little supernatural. They knew that I, (as a geocacher), know where all the haunted graveyards are.
One of the girls had gone with me before to find "Ectoman" off FM 1960, but we weren't too successful. This time we headed out to Tomball, Texas, and Salem Lutheran Cemetary. We were headed to try to make contact with "Mike". For good footage of Mike, go here:
Walking in to the graveyard, I got chills. I am usually not scared of graveyards but I had a little of the spook in me here. I was headed straight for the back of the cemetary, where the geocache hidden there was supposed to be hidden. Becky was walking near me, and Lara and Jinny were scouting good recording sites. We started moving past a tree and I was suddenly very cold, then I heard a squeak. Becky says, "Be careful around that tree, those are bats".
She didn't even need to tell me because I really didn't want to get close to there. It was creeping me out.
We established that the tree the geocache was in was cut down recently, probably a victim of Ike. It made a good place to rest Lara's laptop and recording equipment for a while. Jinny and Becky went close to the bat tree, recordng, and then got really freaked out about something and came swiftly back. Lara recorded them talking about their experience, which I will post when she sends it to me.
In all the pictures I took, there is this "orb" right behind Lara. We had an period of recording near a "hot spot" that Becky found, and her cell phone had gone off strangely when she walked into it. There wasn't a ton of supernatural activity, though. After about an hour of recording audio, video, and digital camera footage, we had a spotlight on us. The cops had shown up, which probably should have been anticipated with the dog barking at us the whole time. He didn't seem too concerned with us, but also did need us to wrap it up and leave.
After this, we had to formulate the rest of our plan. We were still into what we were doing, but didn't want to attract any more police attention.
We headed to Bonin Cemetary in Spring, near The Woodlands, off Gosling Road. Now, there was no reported ghost activity, that we were aware of here, and truly nobody seemed to have much of a feeling here. However, the recording activity was higher on some equipment. Jinny told a ghost story for the camcorder again.
I was quietly freaking out about the neighbors. That was the scariest part of this cemetary to me. Their house was right next to the cemetary and the TV was playing. Lara and Becky went up to ask them permission to record, and no one answered the door. The door, however, was cracked open. Jinny and Lara then went to ask another neighbor, whom they kind of knew, while I recorded with the camcorder. During this time, the cracked door opened almost all the way. Door wide open, TV on, and no one seen. I kept imagining them coming out with a gun, or sneaking up on us. The weirdness in people is scarier to me than ghosts or vampires are.
After this, we met up with some of the spouses of the girls in our group at a restaurant for a late dinner and coffee, then went back out to explore Old Town Spring. This area is supposed to be haunted in several locations. There is even a "Ghost Tour" that takes you on an hour and a half stroll through these areas. We did our own mini-tour, the six of us, with Jinny as the leader. She took us to Doering Court, where a ghost named Sarah inhabits this window and plays with Beanie Babies at night. We walked over to the Wunsche Bros. Cafe, where we saw only a person moving around in the second floor. We decided it was a real person, and it seemed like a couple of places around had real people in them. We stopped at Puffabelly’s Depot, where we recorded a bunch of these orbs dancing with Becky. This was the spot with the most action this night.
We had Old Town Spring all to ourselves this night, just the six of us strolling down the darkened lanes,by cute little shops, looking into the windows. We ended our tour at Whitehall, which is a now a bridal shoppe and hosts weddings. There was something spooky and yet charming about this house, which has gone through several stages in the past. In the sign in the picture, it states that in the sixties, it was even a hippie commune!
It was a great night, with no amazing pyrotechnics or ghosts frights, but a good time with girlfriends having fun. Who knows what the recordings might reveal?
Oh, and by the way, the picture at the top - lights inside a wedding dress at Whitehall gives an ethereal touch.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Here is our log from today's find:
November 1 by hardings (1202 found)
What a great cache! We had a really good time with this one. It was a great day outside and I took the littlest one to the park here. We played on the slides, then walked around the softball tournament going on, watched part of a game on a shady bench, then walked along looking at tractors and surreptiously snuck in to find the cache. I was worried about the bushwacking mentioned on previous logs but it is only the last ten feet or so, just enough to see the little one on the trail while I grabbed it and brought it out for us. Make sure to check out all areas of this cache - there was great surpises everywhere. We didn't trade swag, but there is lots to choose from. We left three TBs in exchange for two TBs and a coin. Awesome cache, everyone should check this one out!
Lunch at Anthonie's Deli,
which is apparently so far under the radar that it has no internet presence, which surprises me, since it boosts a hookah bar, which is unique. They say on their food wrappers they are the "world's greatest po'boys" but, let's be realistic here, they are just the best in Spring, TX. There aren't even any reviews of their food online, but it is a great mom and pop greek deli. They sell foreign canned/pickled foods on shelves lining one wall, and have a cold display of cold po'boy sandwiches, with a wide variety of warm possibilities - a meatball, a fried catfish, crab, etc - but also have falafel and shawarma on the menu. Signs outside boast of their gyros. They sell single orders of tabouli and pasta salad, and I can never pass up stuffed grape leaves, two per sandwich bag, out with the olives and hummus.
Shopping at HEB,
which is our favorite store in Spring. There is always an employee giving out balloons at the door, with little plastic weights on them so they won't blow away. There are free samples at every turn, and I have learned to look for that week's buy this-get that free at the cheese and meat intersection. The produce is the freshest and we love the bulk foods section. Today I bought some HEB Cafe Ole coffee, in a "Houston Blend" and "Snickernut Cookie" flavor.
We had such a good time! Now on to ghost hunting this evening...
Today was a great day outside, and so the littlest one and I went to the park. We played on a wooden playground set a few feet from a hill at the park.
This hill, when I ran for the cross country team, signified the terrible end to the race, when we had to run up the hill, then down it into "the chute". This chute was the mandatory cool-down area at the end of the race, roped off with flags and well-intended people.
We wandered past a party with hot dogs on the BBQ, volleyball games in session in soft suburban grass, and into a softball tournament. I used to play here myself, back in my youth. I saw a catcher wearing a gadget called a "knee saver", which were pads to rest on attached to her back calf muscles. If I had used something like that, I might have kept playing, because my knees were the reason I quit. I was the only catcher on a team for an entire season and my knees protested every time I thought of softball after that.
I also had to quit cross country because of my knees. I was one of two girls who signed up for cross country when they started it at my junior high. There were three, originally, but one dropped out. In the one mile and two mile races on the track tea, and during cross country season, it was always just I and Sunny Mitchell.
Now, I drop that name around here, and people who know us laugh, especially on the cross country team in high school, for sure. Sunny was a superstar. I was only slightly better than average. I could come in front of the middle of the pack on the junior varsity team, and Sunny was in the top five cross country runners in the state. Our varsity team in high school won everything, and five of the top ten runners in the state were on our team. Everyone knew Sunny as a runner, and me as an "also-ran", which was fine with me. She was darn good at it, and there was always this fear driving me when I ran against her in junior high track - "Don't get lapped by Sunny." She was always on my heels coming back around the track.
But I loved running. My dad was a marathoner and my "trainer". He would ride his bike alongside me, or run with me, and think of speed drills. Mostly, he talked about my brother, though. I mainly listened.
We would sometimes run from our house to this park, when the road was just being built through, when I was in junior high, a distance of probably 1.5 miles. We would race the cross country course, two miles, then jog home. I remember the way he looked at me one day when a horse in a neighboring field whinnied, and I whinnied right back.
I was kind of horse crazy growing up, but it stood me in good stead during my running years. I would imagine I was a pony express horse, or a trotter, or a racehorse. Lately I feel like a draft horse trying to get back in shape to pull the wagon. My imagination could keep me running for hours, but at one point my knees started giving out. There is an odd reoccuring pain under my left kneecap that has kept me from pushing it too hard over the years since.
These are the things I think about when I go to Cypresswood Park, memories that make my knees ache.