Monday, February 6, 2023

First Hike - A Sampler


Maybe it's an artifact of my age, but when I think of a "sampler" it's along the lines of the needle-point sampler designed to teach a wide range of stitches, or a wood sampler displaying a variety of different woods from around the world, or maybe an old-fashioned jelly sampler, a quilting sampler demonstrating a diverse selection of traditional patterns, or a chocolate sampler with 4 good and 3 not-so-good-but-I'll-choke-them-down options,

but when I put "sampler" into an images search just now I got none of those. Instead I got thousands and thousands of images of electronic sound samplers instead.

Which is really ironic, in the coincidental definition of the word, because just a few hours ago I watched this video explaining why, in a poll of over 100,000 people, 29% of us turn closed captioning on only when we are watching something in another language, 2% of us keep captioning on all the time because we are deaf,  but an astounding 57% of us keep closed captioning on all the time because we can't understand the damn dialog anymore! 

Spoiler alert. That un-clear, un-hearable dialog, is pretty much on purpose. - - Which, while frustrating, is actually kinda good to know - the part where it's them and not me.

When I first started learning Spanish many years ago I would watch Telanovelas with the (Spanish) captioning turned on because I've always been better at reading than hearing. But then we got tired of the drivel coming out of American TV and movies and started watching a lot of stuff from other countries, naturally with a variety of accents. (Europeans are confused by our American aversion to showing boobs on the screen while at the same time we think nothing of showing salacious violence and gore that they find horrific. I agree with them. What's wrong with us?) Because of sometimes strong accents we often found it easier to watch some of these shows, even the ones in English, with the captioning turned on. And now we never turn the captioning off, for any kind of show, because it's so difficult to understand dialog in even the "unaccented"  American produced shows.

It's nice to find out that's not because we are old (which we are!) but because the industry is using its audio technology to screw with us on purpose by mixing audio for the 1% or 2% of us that watch movies in those really expensive 36 channel, 360-degree-sound theaters. As a result the soundtracks most of us listen to, or try to listen to, are dumbed down by mashing and crunching those 36 channels down to 7, 5, 2, or even one, and presented on more realistic, ie. less clear and more tinny, sound-systems

Yeah - - - Apparently I've once again run off on a tangent.

So back to my original point about samplers.

My first hike of Garner State Park was a sampler of the various terrains the park has to offer.

I started off (1) with a little bushwacking through spiky scrub and scattered groves of mesquite and cedar. Followed that up (2) with some gentle, mostly flat canyon-floor hiking. Spiced that up (3) with a little more challenging trail along the river. Left that behind (4) for some serious hill scrambling. And washed it all down (5) with a little road-hiking as I checked out some of the man-made facilities on my way back to The Van.

This short encounter soon after I hit the Canyon Trail gives an idea of the moisture level I was dealing with that day.

It wasn't any drier when I made a quick side-trip

down to a beachy section of the river.

I soon left the easy walking of the Canyon Trail for the Blinn River Trail

which, because it's squeezed between the river and the limestoney bank, picks its jumbled way along.

Though trail markings throughout the park are a little spotty, some places marked very well, others more of a guessing game, these sporadic yellow footprints are an homage to the yellow horseshoe-carved-in-a-stump markings of the CCC days when most of these trails were established after the two original families that ranched here had to give up during the depression and donated the land to the state.

Oddly enough, unlike the Blinn Trail right beside it, the river along here is actually quite placid compared to where I was a few minutes ago just upstream.

But I'm not sure here on the trail is much drier than down in the river, at least for today.

Which makes this spot, the southern end of Blinn Trail where it climbs up and away from the river, a bit of a challenge since the combination of silt, crumbled limestone, and wet weather made it as slick and sticky as fresh buggers. (I used "snot" in the last post and don't want to get too repetitive here.)

I had the trails all to myself today, probably because no one in their right mind would be slogging around out here in the 40 degree precipitation which was loitering around somewhere between mist and heavy drizzle all day.

Not only are painfully cold hands (the rest of me stays warm when I'm hiking) and questionable footing a challenge in these conditions, but I also have to deal with the hassle of keeping my camera in a drybag between uses.

But I actually find a comforting satisfaction, an affirmation of the gift of life, and a primal sense of fulfillment, in dealing face to face with mildly demanding conditions such as the cold, soggy cocoon wrapped around me out here on the trail today. (It's weeks later as I'm putting this post together and I'm wearing fingerless gloves out here in the unheated barn when outside the door behind me it has been 35 degrees or less and raining off and on for the past 72 hours, so facing the rawness of Mother Nature is not something I only do occasionally. And yes, go ahead and say it. People have considered me weird in one way or another most of my life so I'm used to hearing it.) 


Despite - or maybe because of - the footing challenge ahead, I kept clawing my way up into the hills until I got to Crystal Cave.

And no, I wasn't tempted in the least to climb on down there! I read Tom Sawyer as a kid and decided then and there that getting lost in a cave, pretty girl along or not, was something I would avoid from then on. (All that clacking is my dangling hiking stick, because I'm using my hand for the camera, bouncing off the boulders.)

The Texas hill country is primarily limestone so is full of caves, and I have no problem admitting that I have never, as in ever, been tempted to strap on a headlamp and slither down inside any of them.

So I did the sensible thing and continued on around the bowl, the head of the box canyon where Crystal Cave is, and in case I, or anyone else, wasn't paying attention, the intersection of the Crystal Cave and Bridges Trails has been well marked by generations of hikers.

From here

it's not far to the Painted Rock Overlook

Which has a great view of Old Baldy, the high point in the park and a popular destination.

OK, It's supposed to have a great view of Old Baldy which is right out there somewhere, but somehow that isn't working out so well today.

Since I can just as easily look out at a vista of fog and ghostly hints of ridges from down here as I can up there, I guess I'll try Old Baldy another day and for now just head back down out of the hills and maybe get dried out a little before dinner.


  1. I love it all , even the non existent view of old baldy, i love you going on a tangent, your wanderings in the woods, and i will actually crawl in a bear den, but same here, no interest in going into caves. And about your multiply hits on electronic samplers.. i still call it googling, i have tried duck duck go, but i find it more and more useless to use, i found even when i would for example i put in chocolate sampler ( i did not try this) but i found the search engine will scratch out the word chocolate and still only give me electronic samplers.

    1. I'm glad you like my tangents because I seem to do that a lot. I read this morning that AI may make search engines better soon. We'll see.

  2. That does look wet and soggy. Slithering and caves are two words that I don't like together. I watched the original True Grit as a young kid and when that girl fell into that pile of snakes and got bit....I've never been the same. At least, it doesn't look crowded from the pics.

    1. In the original video of the cave you can see the drizzle falling when I zoom into the opening. And no, no crowds, not even a passing encounter. I guess we've all gotten so conditioned to our comforts that venturing out in anything other than perfect conditions has become rare. Not that I'm complaining!!

  3. Revenge of the enunciators....

    A ploy you might enjoy -- which I picked up from, I think, *Genius,* about Richard Feynman, was how he would pretend to speak a foreign language. The story goes that he was good enough that the "foreigner," hearing his reply, would continue the conversation/dialogue.

    These days, when the receptionist answers the phone with the usual inarticualable speed-slurry, I reply in kind. They're not generally allowed to hang up on you so as long as you avoid profanity & keep your tone civil, it can be fun to see how long it takes them to catch on.

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