Ignorance is a Selfish Act

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The New York Times printed a feature story the other day about Mexico City’s struggles with water as a result of climate change. Click here for the story.  I have heard frequently from my scientist friends that the last wars will not be fought over oil. They will be fought over water. I have friends in California who can tell you just how awful it is to be without water. For those of us who live in water-abundant places, we can’t imagine having to wash our dishes in the shower or severely limit how much we flush the toilet to conserve the liquid gold that sustains us. We are blissfully ignorant of how blessed we are to run the water while it heats without guilt for wasting it. We have no clue that other people in this world would literally kill to have our waste.

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Meanwhile, other parts of the country like my hometown get buckets and buckets of water dumped on them for days on end. It’s easy to say that droughts aren’t that concerning because there is plenty of water. But, the fact is that those storms are evidence of climate change. Because of the heat, the atmosphere absorbs so much water that eventually it has to dump it in excessive rainfall. California is experiencing it now. Louisiana experienced it last year. And, yet, still many like to think it’s a fluke that it ever happened. Just go to any scientific website, and they’ll tell you what is happening and what is to come. Here’s a simple explanation.

Our denial will be our demise. I am shocked at my generation’s incessant focus on its own immediate needs and consumption to the detriment of the generations that follow. I am saddened that we don’t put a priority on curbing those things that we know are raping our planet and our environment. It was really hard for me in Louisiana to be around the environmental destruction of plants and the oil industry. And I was stunned that these plants would have my friends working for months on end without a day off just to sustain their operations. In all cases, the driver is money. The more we do, the more money we pay you, and the more money the politicians can spend. And, yet, with all of the effort to make money, what I saw was poverty on a grand scale. The state government was poor, struggling to foot the bill for basic services. Where there should be prosperity, there was famine.

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I don’t even begin to know the answer. I know that sustaining meat production in factory farms produces gases that contribute to the damage to our atmosphere. So, I eat grass-fed beef if I eat meat at all. I know that fossil fuels contribute a great deal to the problem, so I drive an energy efficient car and try to make my house as energy-efficient as possible. I wish I could afford solar panels, and maybe one day I can invest. My next car will definitely be even more energy-efficient and take advantage of cleaner fuels. And I vote for people that support the needs of our planet.

I feel physical pain when I hear threats of hobbling the EPA, severely loosening environmental regulations and ignoring our responsibility of climate change. I feel physical pain when I see pictures of polar bears who are losing their habitat while we look the other way. I feel like I’ve been stabbed when yet another blow has been dealt to efforts to sustain our planet. And I feel guilty when I enjoy a sunny, snowless day in February.

I believe that God put us here to be stewards over our environment. And I believe that being a steward means ensuring that the environment continues to prosper for future generations as well as my own. Ignorance is a selfish act. 

Click these links for more information from scientists:

NASA on Climate Change

EPA on Climate Change

 

 

 

 

Sunday Night Check-In: Trails, Dogs and Travel

I went in to the weekend with one lunch planned on Saturday with my friend Autumn. The rest of the weekend would just have to unfold as it should. I got home Friday night, and I wanted to unplug from the internet and fall into an alternate reality. I’d been wanting to see A Dog’s Purpose, so I drove over the theatre and checked out for a couple of hours.

The thing I hate about dog movies is the dog always dies at the end. (BTW, I looked up the controversy about the treatment of that German Shepherd in this movie, and they were cleared of all charges. Apparently that organization was just trying to propagate fake news… and they failed.) In this movie, though, the dog dies about 6 times and lives at the end. The movie is about the many incarnations of one dog soul into this world. I felt so in love with my dog when it was over. I couldn’t wait to get home to hug her neck. But I definitely should have brought Kleenex to the theatre.

I took Ashok for an early walk on Saturday and then I met Autumn at Caffe Tosi for some soup. She told me all about her trip to the Rose Bowl Parade. I was fascinated by her trip. It was an educational tour, and they learned all about the history of the parade and how the floats are made. They got to help build some floats, and then, of course, watch the parade. I’ve never been on an educational vacation, but she made it sound like so much fun that I looked up the travel company that she used, Road Scholar.

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My sister and I texted back and forth the rest of the evening about the options that they offered for educational travel. Trips lasting anywhere from 4 days to 2 weeks feature lessons and experiences on topics like art, writing, hiking, geology, history, crafts and just about anything you’d ever want to learn. I am imagining myself learning to sail down the coast of Maine, writing my memoir on the coast of Oregon and viewing the Northern Lights in Alaska. They have trips all over the world, and they are very reasonably priced. I am definitely going to take some of these tours. I may even go on one of the Michigan hiking trips this year!

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I’ve been reading Becoming Odyssa, a book about a 20-something woman who hiked the Appalachian Trail. My sister gave me the book for my birthday, and I’ve been going to bed at night reading about sleeping on the trail and fantasizing about finally doing that thru-hike on my bucket list. Today I had planned to hang out at the house and grocery shop, but all of this hiking thinking got me in the mood for the woods. I looked up some hiking trails, packed up Ashok and headed northwest to the Yankee Springs Recreation Area.

We hiked the Chief Noonday Trail and continued on to the Long Lake Trail, too. It was rainy when we started but cleared up rather quickly. As soon as the rain cleared, the wind picked up. It never did get really cold, but I had to put on my hat and coat by the end of the hike. It was a quiet hike with very few people crossing our path, and it was lovely. The temperature stayed above freezing, and the swamps and woodlands were full of melting snow puddles. It didn’t feature the magnificent views of the dunes, but I was really in the mood for the woods. Toward the end, I was treated to a sighting of several white-tailed deer high-tailing it with their patch of white flashing through the forest. It was a great way to end the hike.

I’ve been chatting with Mick who heads up the Chief Noonday Chapter of the North Country Trail Association. The North Country Trail (NCT) is a 4600-mile trail that starts in North Dakota and runs all the way to New York. I had heard about this trail when I was listening to trail shows while living in Louisiana, and, ironically, now I live within an hour and a half from the NCT. Trail “chapters” all along the trail take care of sections, and they educate people about hiking it. The Chief Noonday Chapter has 135 members. I plan on joining them for a hike on March 4. I’m enjoying going to the North Country Trail website and dreaming about backpacking large portions of that trail. I even signed up for 100-mile challenge for this year.

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After we left the Chief Noonday parking lot, I decided to drive the backroads to Grand Rapids to try a new coffee shop that I’d read about called The Sparrows. I was so thrilled when I saw a sign for the North Country Trail trailhead just a few miles down the road. I turned in, snapped a few pictures and just had to hike a few steps on the trail. “We’ll be back,” I told the trail as I hopped back into the car. And I meant it. I can’t wait for the day when I park there, heave ho my backpack and head to the woods for a several day Michigan adventure. I may not get on the Appalachian Trail for awhile, but there’s an even longer one practically in my backyard! BTW.. The Sparrows was great, and I’ll go back for a longer visit in the future!

So, my mind is spinning with the opportunities for travel with Road Scholar and backpacking on the NCT. On the way to the hike and back I listened to more hiking podcasts about the community on those long hiking trails and how life-changing a thru-hike can be. (Click on those links to hear them!) One thing I’d have to change is needing to work for a living. Tomorrow it’s back to reality. But I’m grateful to have a great job which will help me save money for these trips that I may not get to take and that brought me up here to this state full of great hiking. This was a great weekend – dogs, trails and all.

Y’all have a good week. Dream a little this week. One of them might just come true.

Sunday Night Check-In: A Trip Up the Coast

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The fabulous little beach towns up and down the coast of Lake Michigan are one of my favorite things about this area. They aren’t the ultra-classy newly developed beach towns of the Gulf Coast down south. Most have been there for ages, and Victorian homes and quaint downtown streets have been visited by vacationers and locals alike for decades if not centuries. Each little town has its own charm and history, and most have their own unique lighthouse that claims its spot on the shore. And, lucky me, I can go to probably 8 or 10 within a 1-2 hour drive in one direction to another.

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This weekend I wanted to go out of town, so I began to noodle which direction to head. Frankenmuth had its Snowfest complete with snow-carving contests. Chicago, of course, is Chicago, but I’m going there next weekend. I could have gone to Grand Rapids and done some hiking and visited one of the coolest coffee shops in Michigan. I also had options of going Southwest or North on the coast. At the last minute, I decided to head to Grand Haven and Muskegon. I ran into a friend at our downstairs coffee shop Friday, and she said Muskegon was beautiful. That’s all I needed.

Approaching the Grand Haven Lighthouse….

I packed a bag and headed up the coast. I stopped first to get a mocha at The Phoenix Rising in Benton Harbor. I’d heard that they made their own mocha, and it was really good. Grand Haven was about an hour away, and I immediately fell in love with its downtown area. Lots of shops, restaurants, breweries and coffeehouses lined the main street which ran right into the inlet off Lake Michigan. Ashok and I walked the boardwalk until I realized that I didn’t have the right boots on to go all the way to the lighthouse. Ice and sand made the walk slippery, and I needed to put on my hiking boots. We got back in the car and drove down to see this stunning little lighthouse in the Grand Haven State Park.

Downtown Grand Haven

You can tell Grand Haven is a happening spot in the summertime. Although the hot dog stands and ice cream shops along the water are all shuttered now, I can just imagine throngs of beachgoers hanging out and soaking up the much-awaited sunshine. I know in Saint Joseph the crowds in summer swell way past the crowds that attend the winter festivals. My sister is coming Memorial Day weekend, and I thought this would be the perfect spot for us to visit. But, I’m sure it will be much more crowded then.

Muskegan and the Stormy Kromer shop…

I drove up to Muskegon, and I made reservations at a hotel about 20 minutes out of town. My friend at Whirlpool had told me about the Stormy Kromer shop, and I really wanted to go in. It’s a Michigan company that makes outdoor wear for the cold winters in the Upper Peninsula. They are known for their hats. I stopped at a coffee shop to ask where this place was, and it happened to be right next door. The saleslady was so nice, and she told me how wonderful and warm the Stormy Kromer hats were. I tried on a few, and I also tried on a poncho. Everything was wool, and it was so well-made. I could tell it would last forever. I handled some wool pants that were the thickest wood fabric I have ever seen. I’d love to have a pair of those!

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I ended up buying a hat and then had dinner at Handsome Henry’s, a restaurant the saleslady recommended. Then I went to the hotel and retired for the night. This morning Ashok and I hiked at the Muskegon State Park. It was stunningly beautiful. We hiked the South Camp trail which followed the beach first. I saw four swans and numerous ducks who found some unfrozen water to paddle. At one point, an eagle flew overhead and circled twice before flying away. I felt like it was stopping by to say, “Hi. I’m still here with you.” We finished up by hiking the Dune Ridge trail which followed the tops of the dunes throughout the park. The view was phenomenal, and we could see Lake Michigan and the channel on the other side. It began snowing heavily right before we got back to the car, so we ended our hike covered in snow. It was fun.

 

As we were leaving, I noticed a sign for the Winter Sports Complex, and I decided to drop by there. I had read that they have the only public luge in the United States. Everything was closed today because the temperatures were too warm last week, but they were working furiously trying to water everything down to refreeze for a Tuesday opening. They have a huge outdoor ice rink, an ice skating trail, sledding, cross-country skiing and the Luge. The guys there were really friendly and showed me around. They were shoveling snow into the luge. Later, they will hose it with a fire hose and let nature freeze it to make it solid. When my brother and his family come up at the end of February, I think we are going to check that place out. It was really cool.

I loved Muskegon and Grand Haven, and I look forward to returning. At the furthest point, I was less than two hours from home, so it’s definitely doable – even as a day trip. All of these little towns are having winter festivals now. There is no lack of things to do in the winter. In fact, I was thinking yesterday how lucky I was to live in a place where I have year-round hiking. Yes, it’s cold, but I just dress for it. Truth is, I usually end up sweating rather than getting cold. But it’s nothing like a July in Louisiana sweat!

Pere Marquette Beach in Muskegon

Have a great week, y’all. Try to get out and enjoy something near you. There’s a lot of drama going on right now, but we have to stay positive. That eagle reminded me today that we are not alone, and we need to focus on the big picture…. whatever that is for you.

 

It Ended As It Began – 2016

 

 

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Happy New Years Eve! 2016 has been an up and down year for me for sure. I’m eager to see it end, and excited to see what 2017 might bring. All week, I’ve been seeing memories from Facebook of last year’s holiday hike on the Wild Azalea Trail. It was my first long backpacking trip with three ladies and one girl dog. It’s made me reflect on that hike and remember what it meant to me to be so adventurous and learn all of those new survival skills. It truly was a life-changing experience.

Last year’s hike on the Wild Azalea Trail….

As I was watching those pics pop up, it made me a little sad that I didn’t have hiking buddies this year. I’m ready to get out hiking, but I just don’t have those folks on speed dial that would say Hell, yeah! if I called and asked if they wanted to go on a hike. By some stroke of sheer luck, my friend Karen posted on Facebook that she was in Southwest Michigan this week. Karen is one of the lucky travelers who travels around the country in her RV working at National Parks and other odd jobs. In her spare time she hikes. I went out to dinner with her last night, and at the last moment, I asked her if she wanted to hike this morning. “Hell, yeah!” she said. (Well, maybe that’s not what she said, but that’s what I heard.)

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We met at 9 AM at Warren Dunes State Park. It is about a 25-minute drive from my house. I had driven over there once before but wasn’t interested in just climbing those steep dunes all day. I had done some research and found out that not all of the trails were over the dunes. Some were in the woods, so I was eager to get my feet on the trial to see if I liked it.

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We hiked through the woods with our dogs – females Ashok and Tippy – on another all-girl adventure. A slight dusting of snow was evident at the start, but gradually the snow disappeared. The leisurely trail through the wooded park sat just on the edge of the sand dunes. We finally reached a juncture where we had to choose if we wanted to get physical and climb some dunes or stay with a more easy pace. We both decided to go for it, and up we went into some of the largest freshwater sand dunes in the world on a beautiful 40-degree day.

The dunes, of course, led us to that gorgeous gem, Lake Michigan. There was no ice today. We walked the beach next to crystal green water boiling with waves just like the ocean. We found a little “tumbleweed” that was formed from the dune grasses that line the shore. The dunes had eroded a great deal, and a massive “wall” of sand marked the edge of the beach. The sand was stacked in layers that looked like some kind of massive sandstone rock formation.

The tumbleweed and sand wall….

We climbed Mount Randal which is a 260-foot dune and the namesake of the trail. Feeling like we were lost in the desert, we kept climbing and walking on the top of the dunes trying to find the trail. It disappeared into the blowing sand, and there was little evidence of a walkway. To our left was a sharp drop-off that went almost straight down to the woods, and on our right was a less steep but still unnavigable drop into the heart of the dunes. Eventually, we saw this really long, steep “trail” that looked like it led back to the wooded area. We decided to slide down as far as we needed and then lope the rest of the way down the dunes. It was like a long sand slide, and I had a ball trying to get down.

We found a lovely little creek at the bottom and followed it and the trail back to the car. It was such a beautiful day, and the dogs had a great time playing with each other and hiking. It was a perfect way to spend the last day of 2016. I’d spent the first day of 2016 on a trail in North Louisiana alongside a beautiful creek. I never would have dreamed that I’d be climbing a massive sand dune in Michigan by the end of the year.

On the way back, Karen and I talked about the Great Lakes and the massive sand dunes. On that trail, we had two very distinct eco-systems. The dunes very quickly fade into a super-dark soil that could support trees and ferns. The Great Lakes were formed when very heavy glaciers pressed down upon the earth and dug out (or pressed down) the soil. So, these dunes and soil rose up in the process. When the glaciers melted, the depressions filled with water, and we now have some of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. I find the history so fascinating.

I hope that you have a Happy New Years’ Eve tonight, and I wish you the very best year for 2017. I hope that you discover and seek out experiences that fill your heart with joy and make your soul’s desires your most important priority. Life is too short to miss the beauty and love all around us. And it won’t come to you. You have to go seek it out. Happy New Year!

See this drone footage I found on YouTube of the park we hiked today….

 

 

I Feel a Chill in the Air

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I was just startled by the raucous calls of an army of Canada Geese rising up from the lake to start their morning journey. Ashok raised her head with perked ears, and both of the cats jumped up onto the windowsills to see what was asunder. The cool breeze flutters the sheers, and I had to put on my cozy sweatshirt and tights. For all practical purposes, this Louisiana gal feels autumn in the air. (Ironically, I’m going to meet my friend Autumn for lunch today.)

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Whirlpool gives two days off for the summer holidays here. I know all too well the gift of summer after the long descent into winter on Lake Michigan. Everyone here is discussing the last days of summer as if somehow the warmth of the sun disappears on Labor Day. It doesn’t really come that fast, but it does start it’s journey. By November, there will be more cold days than warm ones, and by December, we’ll be in it. But for all practical purposes Labor Day signals the end of summer. My friends tell me that Monday night the boat ramps at the lake will be jammed with trucks pulling boats out of the water for the season. They will be brought to storage facilities where they will be shrink-wrapped or stored inside until late spring or early summer. Monday, it seems, is the last hurrah.

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I needed to buy a headlamp, so I went to the local chain sporting goods store last week. The entire front of the store was filled with winter gear. I walked down the aisles looking at the gear that I would eventually need to purchase for running comfortably here. An entire row was dedicated to balaclavas and winter hats. Rack after rack was filled with down coats. And, there was a whole section for Yaktrax – a sort of cage that you put over your shoes to provide traction on the snow and ice. I ran in them when I lived here before. I donated them before leaving for Memphis. But, I suppose I’ll be buying them again.

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At a poolside BBQ Wednesday night, we donned sweaters and were surprised at how cool it was. I came home and turned off the AC. I’ve been having to close the windows at night the last two nights because it was too chilly. My proposed new house will be needing a new furnace – if the deal works out – , and I thought I’d have some time. But that’s my Louisiana experience talking. I’ll need to get that baby right away.

My thoughts have turned to fall, and I’m ready for pumpkins, apples and a colorful turn of leaves. I am ready for my first northern winter in 13 years, at least figuratively. I still need to buy a coat ($$$), snow boots and snow tires. The next few months will be expensive, but there’s no room for compromise on this. I will bite the bullet to stay warm.

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Yesterday afternoon I stopped at several farm markets on the way home to check out the offerings. It’ll be easy to can or freeze here. Most of the farms offer bulk purchasing, so I can prep some foods for the winter if I want. I bought a butterkin squash that is a cross between a pumpkin and a butternut squash. I cut it in half, seeded it, dotted it with butter and cinnamon and baked it this morning. I cooked some apples and mixed them with cottage cheese as a filling for the squash. It was a delicious warm and savory breakfast. It’s a great change from my usual oatmeal and loaded with the vitamins from farm-fresh produce.

Have a great Labor Day weekend – whether it’s the end of summer where you are or just another day in a long string of hot ones. I’m going to check out grocery stores today and hopefully find out about my house deal. (We have appraisal issues.) If it goes through, I’ll be in it by next weekend!

 

 

Lessons From the Trail: Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

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My traveling buddies spent the day at the spa yesterday getting refreshed and enjoying some much needed downtime. As we were debriefing each other on our days, they told me that the lady at the spa said the trails were “much better” up here in Sapphire Valley than they were in Brevard where I’ve been hiking since Sunday.

I had a really strong emotional reaction to this statement. I told JoAnn that I didn’t agree that one area could be “better” than the other. I think they all have their own beauty. It’s like saying one baby is “better” than another. In God’s world, He created each precious piece of creation with its own beauty and specialness. I believe it’s up to us to find a way to appreciate it. One of the reasons I named my blog Midlife Moments is because I believe it’s all of the little moments in life that we remember.

Nevertheless it bothered me last night. All of a sudden I started feeling bad that I had led us astray by hiking in that area. I was mad at myself for not choosing the “best” hikes for our vacation. My vacation started to look a little dull and lackluster compared to what it could have been. I thought of my vacations in Kona and Costa Rica. I thought of my fabulous vacation in Maui and my weeklong stay on Catalina Island. Those places were phenomenal. But, when I think of them with their “in your face” natural beauty, I still don’t think they were “better” than my vacation last summer camping in North Carolina – right here in this area. That’s the reason I returned here.

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When I woke up this morning, I felt a little more grounded. I prayed about it and asked for assistance in protecting my vacation experience from judgments about whether it could have been better. For so much of my life I have ruined what I have by comparing it to what I wish I had. For 54 years I hated my hair. I wanted the straight or wavy hair of my friends that would be smooth and silky. I dreamed of putting my hair up in an “updo” with gentle ringlets falling down the side of my face. I found myself being angry every time I was faced with humidity and the resulting frizzy mess I was “blessed” with. I finally cut it all off so I was less miserable. I wanted to look in the mirror and not be anguished over the fact that I didn’t have “better” hair.

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When I finally took the time and effort to learn how to care for my hair and embrace it instead of trying to beat it into submission, I learned to love my hair. My hair hasn’t changed at all. It is the same hair that I’ve always hated. The eye of the beholder changed. And as I’ve given it love, it has thrived. I still have my days, but I know that its beauty is all in my perception. If I choose to accept the fact that my hair has a life of its own – a much more active and unpredictable one than other kinds of hair – then I sort of enjoy the journey.

Hawk told me to pay attention to the messages I receive on this vacation. I’m listening, my feathered messenger. My dog is down in the Brevard area. I don’t care if the trails are 100 times “better” here, or if the waterfalls are a million times bigger and more beautiful in Sapphire Valley. If I can’t bring my dog so we can enjoy these experiences in her short life, I’d rather stay at home. Today, I’m going to Asheville to one of my favorite cities and to spend time with a new friend and amazing curly hair stylist. She’s going to take care of my hair and then we are going out to dinner at one of the fabulous restaurants in Asheville.

If I were rich, I could be on the island of Hawaii. If I had a more flexible job, I could unplug and hike the Appalachian Trail. If I were skinnier, I could wear sexier clothes. If I were hiking in Sapphire Valley instead of Brevard, I could hike better trails.  Whatever …. I choose to love what I’ve chosen to do. Comparison gives me nothing but kills the joy in everything I have. Thank you, Hawk. You have challenged me to see things from a different perspective. I’m taking the birds’ eye view this morning, and I’m liking what I see.

 

 

 

Temptation of a Watery Fantasy: Skinny Dip Falls

Yesterday our little band of travelers bit off a big chunk of hiking. We climbed up a mountain to Looking Glass Rock. In the picture below, Looking Glass Rock is in the center. It’s rock sides plunge almost straight down to the ground, and the name describes its mirror-like appearance when the rock is wet or icy. We sat on the very edge for a good hour having lunch. We were alone on the mountain, and, apparently that’s a rare thing as it’s a very popular trail. But, Rick, Ashok’s petsitter advised us to go early to beat the crowds. We did. And we were very grateful to have our solitude up there in that beautiful spot.

Looking Glass Rock from the Blue Ridge Parkway

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On the way up…

 

No matter how happy we were about being up there, our Louisiana flatlander legs were talking back to us this morning about climbing a mountain for more than 5 hours. Our phones tell us we hiked 19,230 steps, 7.3 miles and climbed 76 floors. We decided to take some easier hikes today for recovery. I asked Rick where we should go, and he immediately said Skinny Dip Falls. The trail guide told us that the hike back to these falls is unmarked, but it gave us directions. At mile marker 17 we took the Mountain to Sea Trail for about a half mile downhill.

Looking Glass Rock Slideshow

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We could hear the falls long before we saw them, but the first thing I saw was a long staircase leading down to a bridge crossing the water. I looked up and saw at least two spectacular cascading waterfalls amidst a boulder field. Deep green sparkling pools at the bottom of each fall invited swimmers into their watery depths. I descended the staircase and saw yet another waterfall below the bridge falling into yet another beautiful pool. The place was magical.

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The trail guide warned us that the falls really weren’t clothing optional, but we were alone in the area. I kept running around on the boulders wondering if I dared strip down and plunge into the icy waters just for a bit. A couple with their dog passed through, and then I spotted the perfect spot. Two large boulders created a little changing space that would be somewhat private. I could dive into the pool, and – even if someone came by – they’d never see a thing under the water. This was exactly what I was looking for!

I started taking off my clothes, and Carryn and Jo Ann yelled and asked me if I was going in. “Yes, I am,” I said. That was the coldest water I’ve ever dared to swim in, and I’m afraid my skinny dipping didn’t last very long. But I felt amazing when I got out. Carryn couldn’t resist, and she jumped into my spot after I was respectfully clothed again. She took her turn in the water, and we laughed at what we’d just done in the middle of the forest.

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“I’m so glad I did that,” I said gleefully as we were walking away. “I’m glad you did it, too,” she said. “I never would have done it if you hadn’t.” My second husband got me skinny-dipping, and now I just can’t pass up an opportunity to do it if one comes along. I’ve skinny-dipped on a trail in Big South Fork, on a lake in the Upper Peninsula in Michigan and in Sylamore Creek in Arkansas several times. Now, I’ve done skinny-dipped at Skinny Dip Falls in North Carolina. I just can’t pass up a temptation like that!

Hey… don’t tell anybody…. this is our little secret!!

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Congratulations!! We Have Twins!!: Whooping Cranes

 

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All photos courtesy of the Whooping Cranes Facebook Page.

Last month my brother Sammy (aka Dr. Sammy King) gave a presentation at the Louisiana Hiking Club meeting about the Whooping Crane restoration project. This happy story is one my brother loves to talk about. There’s just so much devastation to wildlife going on in the world that people love to hear a happy story – especially when it’s in their own back yard.

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The people that interact with the cranes have to be dressed like birds so they won’t be used to humans. 

I had never heard the whole Whooping Crane story, so I was very excited to hear it. One day long ago, I called my brother during the work day, and I asked him what he was doing. “Banding cranes,” he answered. I’m sitting at my 9-to-5 desk breathing office air and watching the clock until quittin’ time. I could see him standing in a swamp banding cranes while he answers his cell phone on what he’d call a regular day at the office. I, of course, could feel the jealousy wash over me and wished I had a job where I could make a difference like that AND be outdoors. That was the first I’d heard of his involvement with the reintroduction of the Whooping Cranes.

He has since rolled off the project but, of course, is still very involved with those who are on it. The reintroduction includes the hopeful reestablishment of a migrating population of Whooping Cranes and the restoration of a Louisiana resident population. Below is a story from 2014 about some of the issues they’ve had with the reintroduction.

Effort to Restore Whooping Cranes in Wisconsin Struggling

At Sammy’s report last month, he said they have a resident population here but for several years the eggs they laid did not hatch. He showed us a pic of this pair of Whooping Cranes that were nesting at a crawfish farm, and they were hopeful they would have chicks this year. Guess what??? We have twins!!! In the last couple of days, two eggs have hatched, and we have two live chicks. I’m so freaking excited about this. You can read more about the chicks here.

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Just last week our new Governor John Bel Edwards signed an Executive Order that the funds for the Coastal Master Plan be protected so they would not be used to plug holes in our hemorrhaging state budget. It was the happiest day I’d had in a long time. Since I’ve come here I’ve been so saddened by the apathy people have about the destruction of our environment by industry and poor engineering. Katrina was so destructive because the marsh and our protective natural barriers are gone. She hit full force. It will only get worse.

Even worse, in my opinion, is that we are raping this state of its natural resources so fast that the next generation will be left with a stinkhole. Whether you like swamps or not, they are rich natural resources that support an unbelievable amount of wildlife and plants that are valuable for more than just consumption. Even though my job is on the line because of the budget issues we have, I would consider it a meaningful sacrifice to trade it for an investment in the beautiful coast that we could have with a little love and care. And I really mean that. I can move. The wildlife and marsh we have here can’t move an inch. It can only die.

So, right now, I’m feeling a little happier. My step is a little lighter. My hopes for Louisiana are growing a bit brighter. We have two Whooping Crane babies that might stand a chance of surviving, and just maybe their grandchildren will have a lovely coast to fly over and raise their Whooping Crane grandchildren. Call me a tree-hugging liberal if you like… I’m a proud tree-hugging liberal today. Now, excuse me, while I go out and hug a tree.

If you want to follow the progress of the cranes, they have their own Facebook Page.

 

 

Sunday Night Check-In: Strawberries, WildFlowers and Friends

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I feel like I’m in a slow flow energy this weekend. It’s not a bad thing. In fact, I kind of like that type of weekend. I ate pretty healthy Friday and Saturday, had lots of time with friends and even had a few hours out in nature. A late evening phone call with one of my best gal pals in Michigan was the cherry on top. Although I can’t say I’m happy tomorrow is Monday, I’m quite satisfied with the fare from my weekend.

Friday night I cooked loads of veggies for the weekend and the first part of next week. The Farmer’s Market at the main library is now open on Tuesdays again, so I loaded up with some beautiful spinach, strawberries and beets. I stopped by Trader’s Joe’s on the way home Friday and got my dairy products, some snacks and other essentials. I hunkered down for the evening, turned on some yoga music and chopped, roasted and sauteed all kinds of yummy green good-for-me things.

I roasted carrots and onions and made a spinach and sweet potato soup….

A group of us met Saturday morning for the drive over to Kisatchie National Forest to hike the Wild Azalea Trail. The trail barely resembled the trail we hiked between Christmas and New Year’s. While the rains had pretty much destroyed the azalea blooms, the dogwood trees were blooming and the forest was alive with a thousand shades of green. We saw only about a dozen wild azalea blooms, so I guess I’ll have to try again next year for the real show. Wildflowers stole the show and ferns of all types carpeted the forest floor beneath the pines that towered above us this winter. It was just beautiful, and it was a perfect spring day to explore the area.

 

On the way home I bought strawberries from a roadside stand – way more than I can ever eat – but I aim to try to eat them all. I made a smoothie last night for dessert and another one this morning for breakfast. As soon as I’m done here, I’ll be eating another bowl. These strawberries bear no resemblance to the white, pithy things they call strawberries in the major grocery stores.

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My grandfather grew strawberries like these when I was a girl, and we ate them in a million different ways for the month or so that they were available. Mawmaw would bring over strawberry shortcakes; Momma would make strawberrie pie. We’d eat them straight off the stem or chop them, soak them in sugar and eat them for dessert. By the time it was over, I was so sick of strawberries, I thought I’d never want to eat another one. That’s exactly the way I like to eat them now….until I’m completely sick of them. It may cost me a small fortune these days. The Strawberry Festival is next weekend. I’m noodling whether or not I’d like to go. I’ve actually never been.

Wildflowers (and flower look alikes) on the Wild Azalea Trail….

I drove out to my sister Susan’s house today and had a belated bowl of Easter crawfish bisque. It was delicious, and we had a nice visit swinging under the shade tree in their backyard. I came back to Baton Rouge and met Katherine for dinner at a local Mexican restaurant. We caught up on our adventures of the last few weeks and upcoming hiking plans amid chips, salsa and guacamole.

The weekend unfolded seamlessly with one event finishing just in time for another one to start. Some weekends I have to fit everything in or cut things short, but not this weekend. Everything flowed effortlessly into the other. Although I was busy, I didn’t feel hurried, and I feel pretty rested for the week. I have my facial with Lisa this week and a lunch soiree with my Watson childhood girlfriends. It’s shaping up to look like a pretty good week. We’ll have to wait and see how it all unfolds.

Y’all have a good week now … and if you have any ideas for strawberries, let me know! I have a bunch to eat… and, NO, I’m not giving you any. 🙂

Taking the Long Way Home

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My friend Kristi had an adventure planned for me Sunday when I left Galveston. She’s been reading my blog long enough to know that I love an adventure – especially in the form of a road trip. I could have driven up the Texas Coast and headed back to Louisiana on I-10 the way I came over, but that’s no fun! She told me to take the Galveston Island Ferry and the back roads. I had no idea there was a ferry, but I was game as soon as the words slipped out of her mouth.

I tried to grab a Starbucks before I got on the road, but two cruise ships were docked downtown, and the line was out the door. Even I have limits on how long I’ll wait in line for a coffee. Besides, Avenue O had provided a pretty good start, caffeine-wise. I took off to wait in line for the ferry. When I lived in Seattle I took the ferries all the time. They were much bigger than this ferry, but, while I was waiting I shuffled through memories of crossing Puget Sound with Mount Rainier shining in the background. My best days at work were the days that were broken up by a nice 45 minute ferry ride where I could sit back, enjoy the scenery and meet some new people.

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Washington State Ferry

This ferry was smaller, but I did get a chance to get out and look for dolphins. I had been told that they sometimes follow the boat, but I didn’t see any on Sunday. It was a pretty morning, though, and the breeze was nice for the short ride. After docking, I got back on the road which was a straight shot up the Texas coast. I passed tiny little towns with houses built up on stilts. I was stunned at how high some of those homes were. I would have been afraid they would sway in the wind if I was upstairs. The stilts were 3 times as high as the house was tall. It was amazing.

The coast was not built up like the Florida coast. It’s more of a fishing area. The water is brown because of the outflow of rivers into the Gulf of Mexico in the area, and even though the Mississippi River is hundreds of miles away its silt and mud make it over to the Texas Coast. I guess the blessing is that wealthy people who want to own all of the beautiful spots in this country haven’t built up that coast. It sort of reminds me of what Destin looked like when I was a little girl. Now, I can’t even see the beach in most places there.

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I called my brother Sammy who is a wetlands biologist and does a lot of work in the Louisiana and Texas marshes and asked him if there was anything I should see. He recommended the Sabine Wildlife Refuge because it had a nice boardwalk where I could walk out into the marsh. He advised me not to take Ashok, though. Apparently, dogs are pretty good gator bait. I debated the trip because it was too hot to leave her in the car, but he said even if I didn’t get out, the drive would be nice. He gave me directions because GPS apparently thought that a road was out somewhere and was sending me 4 hours out of the way.

The road turned away from the beachfront and headed into the marsh which stretched forever and a day. Camps appeared every now and again but mostly it was open country. I ran across a sign for Peveto Woods – a bird sanctuary managed by the Baton Rouge Audubon Society. This was a popular birding spot for many years until landowners started building property. Thankfully, about 40 acres was purchased and/or donated to create this sanctuary. Peveto Woods is critical habitat for migrating birds, and I found the spot very lovely. No doggies were allowed on the trails, so Ashok and I just walked around the main area and looked at the beautiful wildflowers that were in bloom.

 

I arrived at the Sabine Wildlife Refuge about 2 o’clock, and I consulted the map to see what the boardwalk was all about. They did allow pets, and although I was worried a bit about the alligator issue, I figured if it was too dangerous they wouldn’t have allowed them on the trail. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, and Ashok and I walked on the shadeless path deep in the Louisiana marsh. It’s hard to get in to see the marsh. You have to build boardwalks because it’s so muddy, and it’s so shallow you can’t really go in a boat. It was a rare treat to see the reeds and grasses that rose up out of the mud up close.

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I saw several groups of people out walking, and all of them had dogs. I definitely didn’t let Ashok near the water or off leash as I saw several alligators. Most were on the other side of the bayou from the path, but I have no idea if there were some I didn’t see with their eyes on a little black dog that is the perfect size for an alligator meal. I wasn’t about to take a chance.

That alligator on the right is right above Ashok’s head in the picture on the left. See if you can spot it!

It took me a lot longer to get home than normal, but I thoroughly enjoyed my day. It would have been a bit more enjoyable if I had been able to get food. All of the small local restaurants were closed for Easter, so I had to settle for some deviled eggs from a truck stop. I know the food down there is good, and I’m sure I could have snagged some great seafood on a regular day. I got home around 6 PM, and I was rushed getting ready for the week, but I love nothing more than taking the long way home and discovering a few paths and roads less traveled.