Monday, April 19, 2021

Scratching the Groove a Little Deeper

 I have lived a blessed life.

Born into a great family to grow up and thrive with.

A smart and independent daughter that has been far less troublesome than I deserve.

Career opportunities and choices that, while they may not have always been what I would have chosen for myself given free-range, for the most part kept me interested in what I was doing and allowed me to retire early.

And not least, far more good days than stormy during my numerous camping trips.

But you remember those clouds that blew in late yesterday and kept me from getting some good sunset photos of the Murphy House? Well it started raining last night and this morning (March 22) it's still raining. Not too hard, but steady.

The radio reception here is crap, very sporadic and faint, and I have to be standing in just the right spot at just the right time (go back to the same spot 10 minutes later and nothing) with my little pocket-sized weather-band radio to catch the NOAA forecast, but as best I can hear, it might clear up, or at least stop raining, later today, or maybe not until overnight.

Now I could hunker-down in the cozy, dry warmth of The Van and work on my collection of mini-puzzles while waiting for the perfect hiking weather or

I could swap out my usual straw hat for my Tilley, (She's pretty old - I know for sure I've had her since the 80's because I've got photos, but it could be I got her as far back as the mid to late 70's - and she's rather shapeless, permanently stained around the head-band, and scuffed where she's been mistreated. In other words she's far from pretty anymore - but then again neither am I - but I treat her with a spray water-guard every couple years and she still does the job.)

don my rain-suit, jacket and pants,

slip on my fisherman's gloves, which, though it is hovering in the chilly mid-40's still might still be a little over-kill since they are thinsulate-lined, but these are water resistant, (they claim the shell is water-proof but very few things are actually water-proof, just ask the Appalachians which are the stubby little remains of Himalaya-esk mountains worn down by, you guessed it, water) and my other gloves are more sponge-like - worse than nothing in the cold rain,

stretch the rain-cover over my loaded pack,

and head on out despite the weather.

The rain is falling more sideways than down, especially up on the exposed ridges, and I feel like I'm walking in a small, fuzzy bubble and the world ends in a pillow-like fall off the edge a few dozen feet away in any direction, but many decades ago when I was briefly playing solder it was explained to me this way and it has stuck ever since:

We are all born with a shallow groove which is where the toughness, fortitude, and resolve we need for dealing with physical and mental challenges lives, and every time we face one of these challenges it scratches that groove just a little bit deeper, giving us a little bit more of that toughness, fortitude, and resolve to work with next time. But that groove is just like our muscles. If it isn't challenged on a regular basis then it gradually reverts back to it's original form, it's original shallow depth that can only hold limited reserves of what we might need.

So I try to scratch my groove regularly. Acclimating to seasonal changes rather than retreating into heated or air-conditioned comfort, pushing on up that next hill even though my legs would rather not,  forcing myself into my daily workout even though I don't feel like it, and today, hiking when the conditions aren't the best.

Besides, the worst day hiking is better than a day - well you know, blah - blah - blah

(Most the photos in this post come from my phone because it is "water-proof" and my camera is definitely not! I carried the camera safely tucked away in my pack, but ended up just leaving it there.)

So off I go, frankly feeling pretty smug about myself as I walk by other campers huddling in their sealed RV's. More smug than I'm entitled to. - - - After all, it's just rain - - -

Not quite a mile from The Van the old posts for the gate that once kept goats where they were supposed to be loom up out of the mist one step at a time

marking the official, in my mind anyway, start of the trail,

and the beginning of a glorious, if damp, day.

I've hiked many trails more than once, sometimes a lot more than once, but each time the trail is different. Different light, different season, different attitude; even the trails on the property which I hike several times a week are constantly changing. (With branches and trees falling across and blocking them more often than you'd expect!)

But today, with limited visibility eliminating the familiar ridges and the rain sometimes closing in tight

and other times being torn open by the swirling winds, it is a notably different hike.

Enough so that the mild discomfort of hiking in the rain is often pushed out of mind by the wondrously new - which is a shame really since I'm hiking in the rain dammit and someone should be making note of that! Even if that someone is just me - - -

About two miles from The Van it's time to start the 350 foot climb up out of the canyon towards the ridge.

At the top of the climb, enshrouded firmly in my small, misty world, I deviate from the main trail to wander through Primitive Camping Area B perched high into the thick of things on the un-sheltered top of the ridge. The camping area, understandably, is devoid of campers on this fine morning.

I hike my diversion all the way to the ghostly gate between the park and the back-side of a private ranch to the north.

(This is how the electric-coop service trucks get to the high-voltage transmission lines that cross the ridge-tops here)

Eventually I wander back to the main trail and make my way along the serpentine spine of the ridge.

For the past 100 years film-makers have understood the impact of sound and music on us humans, and that impact is not only felt on film.

When the trail wanders, without advanced warning because of the limited visibility, under power lines that are moaning and howling in the cold, wet, wind, it is suddenly a colder, uneasy, and lonely place to be.

But that is replaced by a different kind of uneasiness as I stand at the top of the descent down off the ridge looking down at 300+ vertical feet of wet, slick rock.

Humm, this reminds me of something - - - Oh Crap! Illinois' Little Grand Canyon where I slipped and busted my ass on wet-slicked rock just like this! I knew that canyon was slick - and I was being extra careful with each step - yet, without warning, I was unceremoniously thrown down on my ass into what could have been a pretty nasty situation - And now I'm standing, frozen here in the rain, looking down at more slick rock!

Dude! Just quit your whining - pull your big-kid underoos  up - and cut the groove a little deeper!

But first I take the rubber tips off my hiking sticks.

Technically I'm just supposed to use those rubber tips for safe transport of the sticks between hikes, but the carbide tips under them clicking on rock as I hike are just too noisy for me.

But those noisy tips also grip rock, especially wet rock, even at ridiculously obtuse angles, a whole lot better than the rubber, so I'll put up with the noise for this treacherous descent.

Unfortunately my hiking boots have seen quite a few miles of trail and the edges of the lugs and sips are well worn and rounded, which means that like the rubber tips on my hiking sticks they too only offer - well let's call it limited - grip, especially on wet rock.

I was recently looking at some mini-spikes, the kind you pull on over your boot a lot like those old-fashioned galoshes.

Rather than the long steel shark-tooth like spikes of crampons used for thick ice and hard snow, which I hardly ever encounter these days, the ones I was looking at have 12 grippy lugs  per foot, each tipped with one of those rock-grabbing little carbide nubs. Now I'm kinda wishing I had clicked that "add to cart" button - - -

OK, quit procrastinating and cut the groove dang-it!


The trip down is slow and sometimes frighting. But at the bottom, with no spills along the way, and only a few minor slips, the trail abruptly flattens out (This is where a surprising number of hikers coming up from the other direction, barely more than a mile from the trailhead, take one look at the climb ahead and turn around) and my reward is the bench in front of The Grotto.

In anticipation of a cold hike I brought my stove with me for an augmented lunch today.

Water keeps dripping off my Tilley into my noodles, and I have to keep my crackers tucked into my jacket so they don't get soggy, but I don't care. It's the best lunch ever!

From here it's a flat, three mile dawdle along the Sabinal River back to The Van.

Along the way there's a little cluster of about a half-dozen of the Texas Madrone trees that were missing from my hike a couple months ago along Pedernales Falls Madrone Trail. That's a fun bonus!

By the time I get back to camp there are hints of clearing weather so maybe I'll be back to using the weather-sensitive camera for tomorrow's hiking.


  1. Agreed that climbing wet rocks always seems a lot easier than the trip down. Im sure that soup must have tasted better than it looks.

    1. Yeah, and don't read the label either! (50% daily sodium allowance!)

  2. A splendid tale of a fine adventure!

    1. Thanks - at least I didn't step on my tale!