Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Nature of the Beast

There was an article in last fall's edition of National Parks magazine titled Where They Cried, about a  remnant of the the Trail of Tears near Mantle Rock in Kentucky that is now preserved as a National Historical Trail.

Of course that sort of thing, the forced displacement of one people by another, is still going on around the world but at the time I read the article I reflected on the morality of what the Euro-Americans had done to the original inhabitants and was glad that sort of thing doesn't happen here anymore.

But then the other day I came across a photograph that's had me thinking about when we, my wife and I, lived in the Montrose district of Houston; and today I realized, with a bit of a shock, that we, along with a great many others, had been forced out of our home by other people that wanted it for themselves! Though on a much different scale, it was much like Jackson and his cronies kicking the Cherokee out because they wanted the gold in Georgia for themselves. So I was clearly wrong, that sort of thing is still happening here!!!

We had moved into the district in the mid 80's because it was close to work, but we soon came to love the eclectic little community. It was much like living in a free-spirited and tolerant little town-slash-haven smack dab in the middle of the big city.

It probably wasn't for everyone, but at the time it suited us just fine.

All the quirky little craft and resale stores mixed in with tiny restaurants that seemed to come and go by the week, flanked by sometimes flashy, sometimes seedy nightclubs and threaded through with tree lined streets of new and old and small and big houses, all of this dotted here and there by little pocket-parks.

The three generations of a Vietnamese family, where only the kids actually spoke English, that ran a neighborhood convenience store out of the garage behind their house a half block down from us. (If you hadn't been exposed to the culture before, to their normal style of speech, you would swear that they were fighting and yelling at each other every time you walked in the door!)

The two old, run-down single-story brick houses that shared a single yard on the corner across from the Vietnamese place that always had so many Hispanic men living in them it looked like there were renting them out by the square foot. (The men were mostly hard working Latinos that were sending every spare cent home to the families they left behind for anywhere to 9 months to years at a time.)

It wasn't unusual to look out a couple times a year and see the kids in the house next door lined up against the fence while the gang task-force took photos and recorded tattoos, but the neighborhood was also full of friendly, weird, happy, helpful people as well.

When we first moved there every school morning there would be 50 or more kids talking a half dozen different languages, chattering and laughing and waving as they walked past our place on their way to the elementary school a couple blocks away. The day-laborers would be clustered by the sidewalk waiting for the vans and trucks that would take them to where the contractors would be. Nannies and parents and shoppers and dog walkers would be crisscrossing every which way, stopping randomly to socialize and catch up with each other.

But by the time we left it was unusual to see anyone at all on the street as we headed out to work.

In between those two extremes the Yuppies had decided that they were tired of the long commutes and wanted to live closer to downtown. They were ready to give up the malls and mega-stores of the suburbs and head back into the city. They claimed they were attracted to Montrose by it's character, but they started out from day one systematically squashing that character.

The variety of  one and two-story brick houses built by Italian masons in the 20's were torn down one by one, or sometimes block by block, and replaced with homogeneous, angular four and five story town-houses sporting multiple balconies too small to put a chair on and hiding behind locked gates. The quirky little shops were bulldozed and replaced with city versions of their beloved mega-stores. Instead of patronizing the local clubs, which apparently catered to all except Yuppies, they legislated and ordinanced and harassed them into oblivion and put up gentile, pretentious, and highly overpriced, wine bars in their place.

It seemed like overnight the sidewalks, front yards and pocket-parks emptied, the streets filled with beemers and benz and lexuses and the faces you did manage to see were all white.

What put us on notice that the end of our stay had arrived was the morning we walked out and found a cop ticketing the homeless vet in our driveway. This guy looked, and often smelled, pretty rough, but if you took the time to talk to him you would realize he was intelligent and kind and only standoffish because he didn't deal well with conflict. He had been a POW in Vietnam and just couldn't tolerate having walls around him anymore. He supplemented his disability by collecting aluminum cans early on garbage day before the truck showed up. For years we had been setting our cans out in a separate bag to make it easier for him but now this cop was in our faces telling us that,  regardless of our intent, once garbage hit the curb it was the property of the city. (And I'm pretty sure someone, with phone still in hand from calling the police, was peeking out from behind their $150 blinds on the third floor of their $400,000 town-house watching all this with timid satisfaction.)

After the cop left we offered to pay the fine for him but he wouldn't accept. We offered to leave the cans just inside the gate for him from now on too, but he told us not to bother because he was going to have to move on and find somewhere else to live.

We did too, move on and find somewhere else to live. Run out of our home by people that wanted our space for their own.

It's the nature of the beast.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Water Management

We've had an unusual dry spell for an El Nino year around here.  Less than an inch last month and, until last night, nothing at all for February. But the blocking high-pressure zone finally broke down, the storm-track buckled, a front swept by and it started raining again.

My rainwater collection system is not elegant or fancy, but it works and virtually everything about it is stuff I already had or salvaged.

When I know rain is coming I set my collection bucket out under the low corner of the 'guesthouse' awning. (Otherwise known as the travel trailer my father-in-law lives in when down on the Texas coast for the winter. When the trailer is not around the bucket goes under a corner of the small barn's roof.)

The bucket periodically gets emptied (Preferably before it's full since it gets heavy!)  into my waterbutt which is nothing more than that 35 gallon repurposed lawn sprayer sitting next to the trailer. We used it for watering plants around the one acre yard we had when we lived in town and it has never had anything other than clean (Well, sort of clean.) water in it.

I also keep a 6.5 gallon jug of raw rainwater handy inside the barn. It's not very clear in this picture but hanging off the side of the jug is a funnel with a cloth pushed into the large end and spring-clipped in place. The cloth provides a first level of filtering. (Told you my system isn't very fancy!)

Because I don't work out with weights at a high-priced gym every day, hoisting the full water jug up to about eye level to pour it into my final filter is really painful, and usually results in a lot of slopping, so I decant the large jug into one gallon bottles

 that I store inside a light-tight storage trunk. I can get eight of those into this trunk and, inexplicably, I can usually fill about 7 and a half of them from a full 6.5 gallon jug; down at floor level of course where it doesn't hurt so bad.

The one gallon jugs are handy, both from a weight and portion standpoint, for recharging my final filter which is a Berkey, the same system relief organizations use around the world to ensure good drinking water when infrastructures either don't exist or have been damaged.

As you can see from the sight-glass the lower, filtered water, tank was a little less than half full this morning which meant it was time to dump another gallon in the upper tank. (Ah ha! Bet you thought you were going to catch me, or at least my reflection, in the side if the filter, but no such luck since I removed my face, distorted as it was!) ((OK, that sounded a little weird. I mean I removed my face from the photo, not from my - well - face.))

With the two filters (The black cylinders, though you can only see the top of the near one in this shot.) and nothing but gravity to power them, it will take about 12 hours to filter a gallon of water. I could add two more filters to this system to speed things up, but the filters are the most expensive part of this setup and, as long as I keep up with it, 12 hours per gallon is fast enough, even in the summer.

The usual process is to fill the large jug from the waterbut, filtering through the funnel once, then decanting from the large jug into the small jugs, filtering a second time through the funnel, but this morning I only had three of the small jugs that were empty so I just filled them straight from the waterbutt. (That way I didn't have to lug the big jug around, which weighs 60 lbs.when full and must be carried one-handed.)

Again, this part of the process is crude but effective. I unscrew the hose connected to the bottom of the tank from a leftover fitting safely above water level and just lower it until water flows.

When it's raining the idea is to have all my inside storage containers full, leaving any left-over room out there in the waterbutt so I have someplace to dump the bucket.

If the filter, all the jugs and waterbutt are full and it's still raining I use the bucket to top up the 250 gallon tank we use to feed the portable fire pump, (Hiding over there, handy and ready to use, under its 'custom' cover in the top left of the photo.) We run the fire pump once a month to make sure it stays operational and the 15 or so gallons that uses would otherwise have to be replaced with well water.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Tales from the Road: Good Times - Bittersweet Memories

Normally I wouldn't post photos where people's faces are featured so prominently, but these guys won't mind for reasons you'll see.

The other day, during a cleanup, we ran across this first photo and it stirred a lot of memories.

It was the late 80's in Houston's Montrose district. My wife and I were renting the upstairs flat of a duplex and for a few short years there we were living the most socially active period of our lives, mostly due to being inexplicably befriended (Adopted?) by a number of guys in the community.

Despite the growing horror sweeping Montrose at the time, Halloween, Mardi Gras and the Garden Party were still an excuse to let your hair down (Or pin it up!), sacrifice any facial hair for the cause, dress in your finest and party 'til the sun came up. (Despite being one of the most anticipated events of the year back then, apparently the Garden Party, basically a district wide free-form celebration, died off with the guys and I can find no mention of it anymore.)

On one of these occasions we managed to corral a few of the guys before they headed out (Believe me, they don't look near this good after some heavy partying!) and snap this photo.

Jim, on the far right was the most gentle, generous man you could ever meet, and he was also the first of this group to succumb to AIDS, not long after this photo in fact.

Next to him is Craig. Craig always saw the good side of things and was a remarkably upbeat person, always the first to laugh, especially if it was at himself. He held on a long time and died a few years ago, worn down by HIV, addictions and cancer.

Showing a lot of leg there, a whole lot of leg! is Norman. Norman lived across the driveway from us in a second floor studio. He liked to stand on the balcony and sing along with his extensive music collection. He kept Lorna, a department store mannequin, in his front window, always well dressed in the latest resale shop finds. (In fact I'm pretty sure he was wearing Lorna's hair this night.) He was also the guy who ran screaming from a construction site, hardhat and all, with arms flailing (He worked at his father's engineering firm.) because there was a bee flying around. Needless to day Norman did very little to dispel the gay cleche. He also had a remarkably long run of it died a few years before Craig.

And on the left is David. David was a good guy and fun to be around for an evening, but he had his dark side, carried a lot of deep-seated anger. Pretty much disowned by his biological family, over a couple decade period there David also lost two different partners to AIDS, one of whom was 2000 miles away when he died one night on a relative's couch while making some final visits. David's career was as a big hotel chain accountant but his vocation was as a dresser for the Houston theater scene, although he didn't like dressing for musical comedies because, according to him, those people are just not serious about their work, ignoring rehearsal schedules and turning up at the last minute for performances expecting everything to be perfect. (Dressers assemble, create and maintain the production costumes and during performances make sure they end up on the right person at the right time.) Inexplicably, even though David staunchly eschewed most HIV drug treatments, he outlived most of the community, though he looked more and more like a Holocaust survivor every time we saw him. He finally completely disappeared on us shortly before Craig died. (His family is from Connecticut and would have no interest in letting any of his friends know what happened there at the end.)

Craig on the balcony

Norman throwing us a pose from the same balcony

We miss you guys.

David with our very young Siberian Husky, Ghost.

(Steve; that hallway through the door behind David's elbow in the first photo is the one where Ghost ate the carpet!)

Monday, February 15, 2016

The (Almost) Forgotten Cemetery

It was the early 1870's and a new wave of settlers plodded and rattled and creaked their way into Blanco County west of Austin on iron-clad wheels turning on greased wooden bearings. The war was over and the Indian troubles were winding down. The barely established but growing Germanic settlement of Cypress Mill, centered along the more pastoral Cypress Creek, was about 4 miles to the north, but this new wave of settlers clustered around the more rugged Pedernales River area.

Unlike the cedar-choked thickets of today, (Technically Ash Juniper but called Cedar locally.) back then the land was more savanna-like with open, native-grass fields veined through with mixed Cypress and Oak forests along the rugged creek-bottoms.

Almost overnight, what is now the isolated northeast corner of Pedernales Falls State Park was divied up into 7 tracts of land, and the settlers built houses, fenced fields (They used predominantly stone fences in those days) and planted crops.

They also built a schoolhouse so they wouldn't have to send their children four miles away over a rugged wagon road to Cypress Mill where the classes were taught in German. Interestingly, though Cypress Mill was large enough to be assigned a post office and the area around the Pedernales never did warrant a town, or even a settlement, name, the schoolhouse they built was about the same size, and had just as many students, as the one in Cypress Mill.

These settler were hearty stock, many whose parents and grandparents had been slowly homesteading their way steadily westward from the east coast generation by generation, but death is inevitable so down the hill from the schoolhouse, which also served as a church, a small cemetery was established.

The settlement didn't last long, 30 or 40 years, before drought forced the survivors to move on. When they did they left at least 19 of their own buried in the ground down the hill from the schoolhouse.

Quite interesting, but I don't feel it's right for me to disturb it for a more thorough examination just to satisfy my own personal curiosity.

Drought. along with farming practices of the day and over-grazing had drastically changed the ecology of the area and the savanna was eventually choked with cedar thickets. Virtually all trace of the wooden cabins is gone, the stone fences are well on their way to melting back into the earth and any remains of the several small lime kilns built in the area are hidden in the unruly tangle.

Though it's known that the early settlers produced their own lime to be used in making mortar, it looks like this was reserved predominantly for foundations and chimneys and the fences were mostly dry-stacked. Some sections are still in remarkable condition, though often well hidden.

The style of fencing is, in modern terms, timeless, so might have been placed there 100 years ago or as recently at the 1970's, a mere decade before I discovered this place myself.

The cemetery they left behind isn't particularly difficult to find, but it doesn't necessarily jump out and grab you either. I have watched people walk by on a well-marked trail within a hundred feet of it, apparently totally oblivious to it's existence.

As I sit quietly and just absorb the experience, I imagine that 130 years ago this place was well tended ground shaded by massive Live-Oaks.

The first time I discovered it, totally by chance, was in the early 80's and at that time even the permanent park staff didn't seem to know anything about it, not even that it existed. Clearly though, there were some people somewhere that knew it was there. Several of the graves, both individual and joint, presumably family plots, have been enclosed in wire fencing supported by T-posts. T-posts first turned up in the very early 1900's so it could well be that this was done nearly 100 years ago, but there also exists a photo of Annie Raines' (1887-1892) toppled tombstone taken in 1944, and someone had to be there to take it.

Not part of Annie Raines tombstone, (I don't think.) but clearly carved by the hand of man.

In the mid 90's John Leffler put together a history of the Pedernales Falls area and around that time the park service installed a low wooden post and carved-plank sign along the nearby trail's edge pointing out the cemetery.

Today the sign is gone and the post is laying mostly hidden in the weeds, so once again, this reminder of those that ventured beyond the post-civil-war city streets, this little bit of their story, is something that you have to be looking for to find. But it's a place I like to come and sit. A place where, if I'm quiet enough, I can hear the echos of the past.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Protein Restock!

A common meal for us is a good sized bowl of fruit and vegetable salad and a slice or two of a hearty bread, (Real bread, not the tasteless fluffy bleached glue that must be so popular given how much shelf space it gets in the store.) and, almost as a side dish, we often split a 4 - 6 oz boneless/skinless chicken breast, or for a special treat, the same sized steak.

Finding good quality meats packaged for our type of consumption in the grocery has become - well let's say difficult. So instead of paying average market price for - at best - marginally average quality meat, for many years now we've been paying a premium for what we feel has been high quality goods individually packaged in meal-sized portions from Omaha Steaks.

This time of year, while it's supposed to be cool, (Didn't work out that way this year as we have hit 80 for the past couple days.) we place a three-cooler order which will carry us through to fall, when we place a 1.5 or 2 cooler order.

This order is the only thing we ever have shipped right to our door (Gate actually.) because the post office (Located in one county and run by one of those stick-up-the-ass postmasters.) refuses to recognize our physical address because after three tries the county (A different county where nepotism trumps ability to actually do the job.) has never managed to assign us an address in sequence with those around us.

The coolers after stripping off the shrink-wrap and checking the contents against our list
With only one exception that I'm aware of, the many online mapping programs tend to place us a mile or so north of where we actually are, which makes no sense since if you were to go by numbering sequence we should show up in a pasture about that far south instead. But UPS, and for a while there the one Schwans driver, (After he left the replacement drivers couldn't seem to find us anymore so we gave up.) seems to be able to get the big shrink-wrapped coolers to our gate. But it's always a bit of a crap-shoot as you never know when a new driver might be stumbling around the area.

Enough steaks
and chicken to last us until September

Plugging our handy tracking number into the UPS tracker we can see our delivery leave the city, a hundred miles away, around 4 in the morning on delivery day, but after that all we get is 'out for delivery' and it's usually around 9 that night before the driver (Presumably a different driver than the one that left the city.) gets to us.

The coolers after using a hot-wire to cut them into a manageable stack

But 9 came and went last night with no delivery.

At 10, and again at 11, just in case I had gone deaf and missed hearing the truck work it's way up the hill on the county road and clatter to a stop at our gate and, simultaneously, the driver's on-board tracking system failed and couldn't update the status, I made the winding quarter mile trek through the woods and up the hill, but there were no coolers waiting at the gate either time.

Around midnight when I checked before making one more last ditch trek up to the gate, the tracking status had changed to 'Rescheduled' and when the sun came up it still said Rescheduled but around 2AM Omaha Steaks had sent me an email saying our order had been delivered and we should get it into the freezer soon.

Happiness is a freezer full of protein and other goodies!!!

 I don't know what happened that would cause a driver to make a residential delivery at 1 or 2 AM and I just now checked (At 4 PM) and the status on our delivery still says Rescheduled, (I hope the driver doesn't show up tonight only to discover there's nothing on the truck to leave us!) but at any rate we have about 7 months worth of protein, and a few extra goodies that were on special such as a chocolate/chocolate cake, a couple individual sized cheese cakes and a few packages of chipotle sweet-potato fries, in the freezer now and all is well. . .

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Triumph over Common Sense

 Oh, wait. That title doesn't put me in a very good light does it?!!

But it's not as bad as it sounds. Promise!

You see, back in December I posted an entry called Foiled by Common Sense where I bravely tried to justify not fording the river at Trammell Crossing to get to one of my favorite spots in Pedernales State Park. A section of the park isolated from the rest by the river.

Back then, in mid December, the crossing looked like this and I decided that there was just a little too much water flowing over the crossing to risk it, you know, being on my own and all. (The 'and all' means there was no one there to critique the size of my cojones when I turned back.)

Next time I showed up, towards the end of January, it looked like this. Not a lot different, and the water might still have been higher than normal, but it was definitely down by four to six inches. So I tucked Common Sense away in that little pocket any self-respecting man keeps ready for it and pulled the zipper shut tight to make sure it stayed there.

With my socks tucked tight into the toes of my hiking boots and the boots hung from a handy strap on my pack I was ready to tackle the crossing.

Normally my camera rides on a quick-release fitting on the pack's waist belt, but once I took this photo I tucked it into into the top of the pack for a little extra protection in case things went wrong, and that zipper, the one open in the photo, was pulled shut just as tight as the one corralling my Common Sense. (I feel like it's a character in its own right, an amalgamation of Mom's dire warning, Dad's admonishments and hard-won experience, hence the capitalization.)

With pack on my back, waist and sternum straps hanging loose in case I ended up in the water and needed to shed it in a hurry, and walking stick firmly in hand, both hands. for additional bracing, I edged my way out into the river.

Did I mention that the thermometer up at The Van was reading 31 degrees when I got up this morning??

In his 1983 book Tom Brown's Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking, the author recounts a lesson he learned as a boy from his wilderness mentor Stalking Wolf. Stalking Wolf taught him to not fight the cold, but rather to just accept it as part of the natural world. That's a lesson I readily adopted and still practice today. It probably doesn't slow the onset of hypothermia or anything like that, but it puts the cold into its place and I find I can function better and it hurts less.

But this time I didn't have to think about accepting the cold because within a few shuffling steps I was completely focused on making the crossing and didn't give a rat's ass what the temperature was! At it's deepest, and incidentally fastest, the river came nearly up to my knees and the power of the current was doing it's damndest to sweep my feet downriver.

The crossing goes like this:

Face downriver. That way if my feet do get swept out from under me I'm going to land on my pack and not my face. As a bonus, I'll already be facing downstream with my legs out in front of me, the way you're supposed to ride the current in a situation like that.

Plant my walking stick, held with a two-handed grip, firmly on the bottom 18 inches or so in front of me.

Test to make sure my right foot and walking stick are well planted.

Slide my left foot 6 to 8 inches to the left, towards the other bank, and get it firmly planted. Don't try to rush the crossing by taking big steps because that's a quick way to a swim. Also never lift a foot or the walking stick up out of the water because the force of the current hitting it all over again when I put it down could knock me off balance.

Shift the walking stick the same 6 to 8 inches to the left and get it firmly planted.

Shift my right foot 6 to 8 inches to the left and get it firmly planted.

Rinse and repeat. No wait!! Don't rinse! That would be bad. Just repeat, and repeat and repeat. And repeat. If I'm successful eventually the water level will drop as I make it up the other bank.

Now that's an ugly pair of legs!

Here I am on the other side of the crossing. I personally would not attempt something like that in bare feet. My water-shoes provide significantly more protection, and actually give me better traction, than bare feet. They are also light, which is good since I always carry them in my pack because you never know when you might have to take to the water to get where you're going and dry socks and boots are worth a lot more than the discomfort of an extra pound or so on my back.

From this vantage point, looking back from the other side of the river, you can make out the crude 'road' of hydraulic cement that was laid across the ford some time back (It was there when I first came to this park 35 years ago.) It might seem like it's a good idea, but after so many years under water the smooth surface is really slick with algae growth and, unless the water is really low, I make the crossing on the natural bottom upstream (In this case to the right.) of the 'road'.

After getting myself dried off, my socks and boots back on and my pack sorted out again, the first thing I have to face is a steep climb of about 200 vertical feet to get up to the top of the bluff.

This is the only time of the year when the land here seems devoid of any splashes of color (There are tiny little blue flowers to be found hugging the ground but you have to look close to find them.)  but that's just the natural cycle of things and doesn't mean this place is devoid of its own unique beauty. It just means I might have to look a little harder for it, which means I'll appreciate it all the more.

And there is history to be found in this part of the park for those willing to get off the trails and look for it. History from the mid 1800's to the mid 1900's. Like this gate which I suspect once serviced the road that ran north to the community of Cypress Mills from the old G.C. Wilson's holdings. (If you find stuff like this fascinating here is a link to a 73 page (PDF) history compiled for the area.)


This version of the gate wasn't fancy, using hinges fashioned of steel cables and clamps.

 and the hefty Cypress head-post has since rotted at the base and toppled, but traces of the old road can still be found nearby in the form of wagon ruts (Don't expect ruts like you find on a muddy road, after 100 years of weathering and growing over these are much more subtle than that.)

In addition to the old cemetery where some 19 people were buried by about 1900 (I'll have a separate post coming up about the cemetery.) there were several lime kilns in this area. I haven't yet gone looking for them but I'm betting there are some sort of visible remains of these kilns out there somewhere.

Some history is not so difficult to spot. The old road looped through the Wilson property and exited at what is now the boundary between the eastern edge of the park and private land.

It's certainly no thoroughfare, but the gate is obviously still maintained. I would guess that the park service keeps it, and an agreement with the landowner, for emergencies, such as for getting to people stuck on the wrong side of the river during extended floods.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Pedernales Falls

I don't often actually go the the Pedernales Falls State Park namesake, the Pedernales Falls themselves, but this was a grey day with spitting rain periodically blowing through and I figured that would help keep the crowds down. Remember, in my case a crowd is anything more than 3 or 4 people, so there was technically still a crowd down there, but it could have been worse.

Don't let the sky fool you, I actually took this 'overview' photo on a previous visit nearly two years ago.

Depending on how you count, the falls actually consist of 5 or 6 steps formed when the underlying limestone buckled and tilted leaving the exposed edges facing upstream. In the photos above and below you can clearly see the tilt in the layering on the far bank.

The exposed edges act as dams, creating pools that then flow down the tilted surface to the next pool.

As you can imagine, the flow and undertows and undercuts and chutes between the pools create a dangerous environment for air-breathers.


So, inviting as some of the pools are, after dragging one too many bodies out of the river in the few short years it had been open, in 1977 the park service banned swimming and tubing on the river from its western boundary to about a mile below the falls area.

Flash flooding can also raise the water level on the Pedernales River as much as 30 feet in less than an hour, but that doesn't keep some of these sturdy old Cypress trees from hanging on anyway.

But eventually the water is going to prevail and tear the jagged old stumps right out of the rock.

In fact, the water is going to eventually wear down even the rock.

Here and there you can see the water digging divots out of the otherwise smooth limestone inclines.

Leaving behind potholes. (Unless that's an Abominable Deer print!)

This might look like your run-of-the-mill clump of grass growing along the fringes of the river,

but now I'm standing next to it and those seed-stalks are soaring 10' over my head.

While out in the river bed I spotted something up in the rocks above that just didn't look right. At maximum zoom, using the tiny LED screen of my camera, I could see what looked like a shattered bike helmet.

At about the same time I noticed this pair of Black Vultures lurking nearby. (My Birds of Texas guide says 'If startled the Black Vulture regurgitates with power and accuracy. Oh yuk!!)

As I worked my way closer to verify that I was in fact seeing a bike helmet up there in the rocks I discovered the helmet was hanging on the handlebars of a bike that appeared to have caught at the edge of a small cliff with its front wheel hanging over in space.

Thwarted as I got closer the vultures gave up (Without any accurate regurgitation thank you very much!)  and flew off to find other fine dining opportunities. By now I was half expecting to find a body laying in the rocks below the bike.

Turns out the bike had been 'parked' there and all I accomplished, besides chasing off the innocent vultures and adding a few bangs and scrapes to my person and gear while climbing the rocks, was freaking out the owner of the bike when he saw me (From where he was sitting in the rocks about a quarter mile up the river.) scrambling up towards it. . .

I can understand why since, between the high-end bike and the full body-armor gear he was wearing there must have been a good $2000s worth of investment sitting there.

I'm just glad I didn't have to deal with anything squishy and busted and leaking nasty stuff down there in the rocks below. . .