Monday, February 28, 2011

Backpacking the Lone Star Hiking Trail: Winter's Bayou Section

I went backpacking along a portion of the Lone Star Trail with my outdoor group this weekend.  The trail is marked with rectangular blazes on the trees, as in the above photo.  If it is tilted right or left, that is indicative of a change in direction.  There are many jeep trails, logging roads, etc. that cross the LSHT, so it's important to watch for these blazes.

Yes, I know it's dry under the bridge...but someone spent a lot of time and effort building it...and it was fun... 
 This section of the trail can become very muddy, so there are a lot of small wooden bridges along the way.  Most are constructed over ravines.  Others are placed to assist crossing areas that become boggy after a heavy rain.  The trail was exceptionally dry this weekend, though.  Even the bayou and pond was dry, so we had to carry all of our water.

We stuck pretty close together for the first 6 miles.  After we stopped for lunch and discussed where we thought we would stop for the night, we began each hiking at our own pace.  The two fastest hikers were quickly out of my view.  I passed the third hiker and was within view of her for awhile until she stepped off the trail to find a bush.  I kept going and sort of zoned out, alone and content with my own thoughts...until I looked up and realized there were no blazes on the trees.

What would Bear Grylls do?  But I don't want to take off my pants and bite the head off of a snake.  Guess I'll turn around and go back the way I came.

I think I was off the trail for close to half a mile.  That put me far behind the others.  I was trying to increase my pace to catch up with them, but eventually gave up on that.  I wanted a break.  I wanted to stop and adjust my pack but I was getting tired and was afraid I wouldn't be able to put it back on myself.  Then I came upon a bridge that was high enough off the ground to be a convenient little ledge I could use to make it easier, so I took my break.  I adjusted my pack, had a snack, and pulled out my cell phone to check the time.  4:30.  Sunset was supposed to be around 6:15.  I decided I would keep going until 5:30 and if I still hadn't caught up, I would stop where I was for the night.

I positioned my backpack so the shoulder straps would be directly behind me, sat on the edge of the bridge in front of it, slipped my arms in, then stood up.  Hooray!  I managed to get it back on.  35 pounds is awful heavy when you're getting tired.  Fortunately, once you get your pack adjusted correctly it's not too difficult to carry.

I continued on until I found the mile marker where we had agreed to stop.  I looked around and still didn't see my friends.  It still wasn't 5:30, so I stuck to my plan and kept going.  About 10 minutes later, I heard a very happy voice calling my name.  They had tried to call my cell phone but I didn't have a signal.  They became a little concerned when the woman I passed made it to camp before I did. 

I was never scared because I had food and water, I did have my tent, and there were people who knew I wasn't where I was supposed to be.  They would have walked the trails a little and notified the authorities if they didn't locate me.  I was annoyed, though, because I really didn't want to camp alone that night.  I was very happy when I finally caught up.

Could I have made the news?  Probably not.  What a boring story that would have been.  "We found her in her tent warm, dry, and fed."  Nobody would watch a survival show about that...     


Friday, February 25, 2011

Seminole Canyon State Historical Park

I'm the one in shorts.
I headed to the desert this past weekend.  We camped in Seminole Canyon State Historical Park on Friday night and headed for the park's overnight tour of Pressa Canyon early Saturday morning.  Yes, we were very close to the border, so a police officer accompanied us on our hike.  I think the media greatly exaggerates the risk for ratings, but it probably wasn't a bad idea to have him along.  We only had to carry a daypack with our lunch and water.  Our tents, sleeping bags, stoves, and other gear was transported on a trailor to our campsite.  It's my understanding that firewood would have been provided if there wasn't a burn ban in effect.  They even had a portable toilet set up.  It was a system that utilizes bags which you dispose of after use, so there was not the normal odor associated with port-a-potties. 

We didn't find the chupacabra, but did we find one of his victims?

It was 6 miles each way, scrambling over rocks, walking across the 45-degree slope of the lower canyon wall, and dodging branches full of sharp thorns.  It wasn't an extremely difficult walk, but not for those who only want to walk well-maintained, groomed trails.  You must be reasonably fit.

Click to enlarge for a closer look at the art.
We climbed up to several shelters where the ancients once lived.  There was some amazing art on those canyon walls.  It was difficult to choose which photos to post here.  There are many more pictures on Starting Over's public FB fanpage.  The link is in the sidebar if you'd like to view them.

We stopped here for lunch on the hike out.
 The Pressa Canyon Camp Overnight is just one of the tours offered at the park.  The Fate Bell Tour (included in the Pressa Canyon trip) has the best pictographs.  If you only have time to see one thing - choose the Fate Bell.  View the list of park events here.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Finally Emerging from Hibernation

I joined a challenge to walk 400 miles this year and did nothing to reach that goal for weeks.  I wonder if they've given up on me.

The weather has improved drastically, and I finally got outside.  I went for a walk along the Woodlands Waterway last night with a local fitness walkers Meetup group.  We saw some art I hadn't noticed before.

There were a bunch of these beautiful tile mosaics under one of the bridges.  


I'll stop and rest on this log with the turtle...he won't mind... (we were trying to make it look like I was hitching a ride)...

"Hey, that's not yours!"
"I was going to turn it into lost and found...I swear..."'s actually art.  Looks very real.  I was so entertained by the purse sculpture that I didn't even notice the cute frog until I uploaded the pics.  Click to enlarge the image so you can see the critters. 

I've volunteered to lead weekday evening walks for the group.  If I'm the event leader, I have to show up.  I'm going to set the meeting place as the park behind my apartment complex so I don't even have to drive - I just have to step outside.  

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Zach Myers of Shinedown Tour Dates 2011

I feel another road trip coming on...

Zach Myers (guitarist for Shinedown) put on a benefit for the fallen police officers of Memphis this summer, and I drove from Colorado to attend.  I was so close that I could be the head that keeps popping up in the lower left corner of this video.  I don't want to claim the voice I keep hearing trying to sing along, so I'm going to say it's not me.  I'm probably standing next to her.  After the show he told everyone to stick around and he'd drink / talk with us.  I tried to stay awake but I was exhausted from being on the road for three weeks.  I stumbled back to my hotel room and went to sleep. 

He's doing it again!  He's doing a “SouLLow Acoustic 2011” Tour with Chris Allen.  I had so much fun last time, I think I'll make another drive.  And if he's taking photos and signing autographs, I'm staying awake for it!  I may have to find someplace to camp so I can keep the expense to a minimum.

I'm not posting exactly which show I'll attend, but the dates are listed on his Tumblr blog:  Zach Myers is not here.  The Shinedown concerts in the big venues are great, but the smaller shows he does at the clubs are even better. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Expand Search to the Big D?

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I blew it.  I should have just said ok, gotten up at 5 a.m., and driven to Dallas.

I've been filling out job applications and posting resumes online.  I got a phone call today!  They wanted to know if I could stop by tomorrow and take a typing test.  Of course!  Then she gave me the address and I discovered the job is in Coppell, TX by DFW airport.  "Oh," I said.  "I'm in Houston." 

It wouldn't be so bad in Dallas.  It's not that far.  Why did I even bring it up?

Monday, February 14, 2011


And if by chance, that special place
That you've been dreaming of
Leads you to a lonely place
Find your strength in love

      - Whitney Houston

Valentine's Day...I have no Valentine.  I haven't even accepted a date since I returned from Hawaii.  I've been asked, but I wasn't able to get excited about starting something new.  Dating for the sake of dating doesn't seem fun right now, either.  I'm just not in the right frame of mind.

Maybe I'll do something special for myself...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Reference Roundup

Calling numbers from your Rolodex to find out who remembers you is mentally exhausting.  A couple of the people I thought I got along with very well and would surely remember me - didn't.  One says he remembers doing an awful lot of business with us and promised to give a good reference since he remembers the company well, but he doesn't specifically remember me.  I really want to use him since I listed as an accomplishment that I grew an account (his) that was originally supposed to have 1 or 2 shipments a month to $6 million annually.  That reminds me...the salesrep for that account is my FB friend.  I need to send her a message. 

Another doesn't remember me at all but also told me to use him as a reference and he'll say something good.  Really?  This guy has a reputation for being difficult to work with, but for some reason he used to like me.  If I could score a good reference from him, that would be fantastic.  I think I need to follow the video's advice and have someone pose as a recruiter to verify what he'll say.

The book I'm using, Knock 'Em Dead 2005 (I've ordered the 2011 version from Amazon) says:  "Keep an open mind when developing those lists.  You never know who your friends are.  You will be surprised at how someone you always regarded as a real pal won't give you the time of day, and how someone you never thought of as a friend will go above and beyond the call of duty for you."  That has proved very true.  Someone I thought didn't much care for me sent a whole list of job search sites, and a couple of people I thought would be great references are ignoring me.  Oh, well.  That's life.  I'll keep calling because you never know where the next lead will come from.    

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Silly Cat

Best Friends Again

Faith has stopped hissing at Jay, and Jay is feeling much better.  He is now eating his new prescription diet without my having to mix it in with the old food, and is using the litter box normally.  Hooray!  He did have to go back to the vet when I noticed blood in his urine.  It was diagosed as a UTI and he was sent home with antibiotics.  After all my bragging about how easy it was to medicate him, he suddenly decided to spit his pills back out at me.  No hissing and scratching, just refused to swallow until I dropped it on the floor next to his treat and then he gobbled it up like candy.  Silly cat.  

You can really tell how fat Faith is when she's next to Jay.  She has stopped begging me for food all day since we switched her to canned food, though, so hopefully she will lose some weight.  The vet says they eat less of the good stuff because they're getting what they need and no longer have the cravings caused by poor nutrition.  She's on Fancy Feast, since he told me that was the best of the cheaper brands.             

Friday, February 11, 2011

Gathering Evidence

I had to pull out some of my old performace reviews and letters from customers to help come up with some accomplishments to add to my resume.  It occurred to me that I should be taking these things with me to job interviews.  I've got a copy of an email that one of my supervisors sent to her superiors about how we went to lunch with a client and all the good things they had to say about me.  Into my folder it goes. 

Another is a fax from a customer that says, "Please convey to your upper management at [previous employer] my appreciation for the effort and diligence Jennifer [last name] has given to this account over the past year in consummating our export shipments to Matadi and Lumbumbashi in the Republic du Congo.  She has followed up on every occasion on direct requests from us, and other times on her own initiative on potential problems.  She is a very professional and dedicated employee."  It's handwritten on a fax cover sheet, but I'm using it.  It's going into the folder as well.

The manager's statement on one of my performance reviews:  "Jennifer worked diligently to get a credit issue for one of her top customers resolved to everyone's satisfaction.  This continues to be an issue for this customer, but with her follow-up with the other departments involved, she has it under control. 

Jennifer also maintains an excellent relationship with her accounts and with the sales team that supports these accounts.  This is evidenced by feedback received from customer surveys.

Jennifer also assisted in training co-workers with [company computer software] and continues to be a resource for her teammates."

I don't have any letters of recommendation.  I'm pretty sure my previous employer does not allow them.  These should be almost as good...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sunshine for Sanity

All he knows
If he can't relieve it, it grows...

      - The Used

24 degrees sun...need warmth...

It's supposed to warm up this weekend.  Hooray!

Just out of you open all the blinds and let the sun in, or do you try to make everything as dark as possible?  I need sunlight.  I'll go absolutely insane without it.  I open everything and keep it open.  Two of my worst mistakes wanted it dark.  Maybe I should make that a first date question...  

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Job Interview Questions

Maybe I should shop for a newer version...

It's time to kick my job search into high gear.  I've thought of two accomplishments to add to my resume and I'm writing a first draft of a general cover letter for freight forwarding company's today.  I need to also practice my interview answers.  I learned in school to think of questions you don't want to be asked in a job interview and prepare answers ahead of time. You guys can help me out.  Ask a question you would/have asked a prospective employee.  Ever been asked a really tough question during an interview?  Give it to me. 

1)  Why have you not worked in the last 2 years?  What have you done with the time?
2)  Why should I hire you?
3)  What is your greatest strength?
4)  What is an example of one of your weaknesses?

I'll come up with answers and post them in the comments.  Honest, tactful critiques are welcome.   

Sunday, February 6, 2011

PageRank and SEO

Search Engine Optimization, originally uploaded by KRISHNA SALVI.
Image from Flickr.

Am I the only one who does a happy dance when Google sends traffic my way? I've noticed there are more and more searches that return my posts near the top of the first page. If I Google "Galveston Lost Oaks", "Mokulua Island Seabird Sanctuary", "Lake Livingston State Park Shelter", or "Horatio's Restaurant Hawaii" my blog comes up high in the results, and people do search those keywords. Seeing them in my reports prompted me to check. Google likes my pictures, too! I've been getting a lot of traffic to my Lake Livingston State Park story from people searching images.

The higher your PR (page rank), the more likely your website will show up near the top of a search engine keyword search and/or your pictures in an image search. I'm learning as much as I can and trying to see how high I can get my PR. Right now it's a three. If you've installed the Google Toolbar, click on the blue wrench icon, click the general tab, and check the PageRank box to see how Google "views the importance of" any page you visit.

Why do I care? Besides the fact that I'm competitive that way, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a marketable skill.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Amended Posting Goal

I'm amending my goal from 365 to 300 posts.  It's much more reasonable.  There will be times, like last night, when I won't feel well.  I've also got some overnight trips planned.  I may or may not have internet access at my campsites and am not going to ditch my real world friends to write something that could just as well wait until I get home, anyway.  I will buy a journal so I can take notes the old-fashioned way.

Plus, I like the number 300.  

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

We heard a rumor there were beautiful flower gardens and ponds on top... we hiked the summit trail, gaining 425 feet in elevation in just over half a was one steep trail...

...and we were not disappointed.

Click to enlarge the photos. 

Enchanted rock is a batholith, a mass of molten material that rose to the surface and solidified.  The pools of water and mini gardens are vernal ponds.  There are tadpoles swimming around in them that we saw, and tiny shrimp that are said to be in them that we didn't see.  It is a very strenuous hike, but well worth the effort.  There is not much shade on the summit trail so wear a hat and carry plenty of water.  Pack a lunch to eat at the top while enjoying the view.

There is an easier, 4-mile loop trail which circles the rock.  We hiked 2 miles of it, and I even found a geocache while most of the others were taking a break.   

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It's been a long time since I did a Travel Tip Thursday.  I still have lots of travel stories from this summer and I thought I'd link up.  I looked, and Pseudo hasn't posted since 2010?  Has she left the blogosphere?

I'm posting more pics to the Starting Over Facebook page.  The link is in the sidebar.  You should not have to "like" the page to view them.  Feel free, if you are so inclined, as it is not a profile page so liking it does not give me access to any of your profile information that is not public.  It simply prompts FB to post updates to your home page and allows you to comment.    

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hush Hush

He wants me
But only part of the time
He wants me
If he can keep me in line

    - 'Til Tuesday

I love the end, when she stands on her chair and humiliates him...

My blog is no longer a secret.  Wyoming's contempt when he saw that I had brought my netbook to Hawaii ticked me off.  "I see you brought your life," he commented.   (As if the hour or two a day I spend on my blog are more wasted time than the texting he does all day on his phone, or the hours he spends playing his guitar.)  Men are going to know right from the start I'm a blogger and if they have a problem with that they can date someone else!  

I posted a few links on Facebook, and more people visited than I expected.  Now my blog even has it's own Facebook page.  I had thought about setting up a second profile for my blog friends, but decided this way was better.  I can post updates and pics without giving access to all the more personal information.  If you are so inclined, you can "like" it from the link in the sidebar, without even leaving this site.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

You Are What You Eat

Jay is getting healthier and feistier by the day.  I tried again to give him his subQ fluids and he would have none of it.  My daughter was upset that I attempted it alone this time.  "You wasted a needle."  I was instructed to return them to the vet's office (I'm pretty sure it's illegal to throw them in the trash) and they can give me more if they want me to keep trying.  They've been calling daily for progress reports and seem more concerned with his diet than my success with giving him fluids.  

They sent him home with a prescription food, but warned me that you can't starve a cat into eating.  They'll go into liver failure and die.  He gave the reasons why but the only part I remember is "liver failure and die".  I tried to add water like the vet wanted.  Jay took a look, turned up his nose, and walked away.  I gave it to him without additional water and he took two bites then looked at me as if to say, "You must be joking."  If I mix it with some Friskie's canned cat food he'll eat some of it, but not happily.  The goal is to add more and more of the new food until he's only eating his new diet.

Ironically Faith, who is usually the picky one, is happy to gobble down whatever Jay doesn't eat.  I let her since I was also told that if I try to make her lose weight too fast, that will also cause liver problems and she'll die.  We're hoping that switching her to wet food instead of dry will help her reach a healthier weight.  According to the good doctor, dry food makes cats fat.