Monday, November 18, 2019

A Fun Week of Making a Kayak Trailer, Fishing, and Coober Pedy Opals

Its been too long since I last updated the blog. The reason I write it is so that Renita and I can keep track of what we have done since retirement, like a journal with pictures. One of my regrets is that I didn’t keep a journal before we headed out on the road.
The past week has been extremely busy. As the title suggests we have kept busy finishing some Coober Pedy Opals, modifying a utility trailer into a kayak carrier, and going fishing using our kayaks.
We purchased quite a bit of Coober Pedy Opals at the Houston Gem and Mineral Show. The pieces were slices that had already been attached to black backings that allowed the opal to show its color/fire. These were ready to finish, and I only had to add the protective cap to finish the triplets.
This saved me an inordinate amount of time as I normally have to prepare the black backing, epoxy the opal slice to the backing, and grind the opal to paper thickness. This takes a lot of time and time is the most valuable thing we all have. Now, all I had to do was to add a protective glass cover. The finished opal triplet not only highlights the colors but also magnifies the color.
Our next project entailed us going to a local store where we purchased a small utility trailer. After some modifications we now were able to easily load/unload our kayaks. You can see in the background, a picture of our Subaru Forester with the trailer attached.
Our first kayaking trip was to a place where we have had luck in previous years. Arriving we saw other kayaks and as we neared our favorite fishing area, we met a fisherman who had caught his limit of speckled trout. He held his stringer up showing his trout and a legal slot redfish, (redfish must be between 20-28 inches to keep).
We started fishing and the fish were not where we had expected. As our friend Dave says, “Fish swim”, meaning you usually have to find where they have moved. We tried another spot and caught trout, a small redfish, and sheepshead but the bite quickly stopped.
The water was calm, an unusual occurrence here on the Texas Coastal Bend, and so we moved and moved again. After lunch I moved back to our starting place and the fish were there! As fast as we threw out, we caught fish! Not all were keepers, but we did have a double of keeper size sheepshead.
Too soon it was time to go and so we paddled back to the car, loaded the kayaks and headed to our rv park where we have a fish cleaning station. As we hauled the bucket to the fish to the cleaning station we were quickly surrounded by white and brown pelicans, gulls flying over our heads, and snowy egrest. They all love fish handouts! All I can say is thank to my electric fillet knife the cleaning went quickly! As usual, Renita had caught her share of the fish and she aided me in the cleaning task.
We love fresh fish and on the rare occasion when we catch quite a few we use our vacuum sealer to keep the fish tasty. Its one of the best inventions!  Now we have several meals in the freezer! Should we fry them, saute them in a white cream and lemon sauce, or perhaps make them in the oven using a parmesan crust? Clear 

Friday, November 8, 2019

Allyns Bight, Rv Repairmen, and a Day of Wade Fishing.

It’s been another crazy week, with two days of fishing, three days of waiting for the rv repairman, and who knows where the rest of the time went.. Our friend Dave arrived from Michigan, and after helping him to unpack we went to his storage and retrieved his boat and our kayaks.
The first day of fishing was wade fishing with our friend Terry. I had purchased new chest waders, and after donning them I waded out into waist high water where I discovered that the boots leaked like sieves. The boots also rubbed on my legs and when I took them off at home, I found I had two sores that have since kept me from going back into the water until they heal.
We did catch a lot of fish and actually ran out of bait, but none were keepers, so it was corn bread for dinner. I caught an alligator gar, my first one ever so that was pretty neat and let me tell you their teeth are really sharp!
We also went out in the boat with John and we crossed the bay and fished at Allyns Bight. There were lots of fish to catch, but our usual spots didn’t have any keepers. Later in the day we did find a new spot to fish and finally after, five small sheepsheads, John caught a legal fish. It really doesn’t matter if we catch keepers as it’s always fun to go fishing with friends and just plan catching fish.
Our water heater quit working, and of course I discovered this when I went to take a shower. At least here in south Texas, the cold water really isn’t cold, more lukewarm that anything else. The next day we called the repairman who said he would try to get to us that afternoon.
He didn’t show up until the next morning and after diagnosing the problem told us he didn’t have the parts with him and that he would be back the next morning. The next day he finally did arrive with the parts and fixed the water heater, so we now have hot water, (I fix a lot of stuff myself, but I do not work on anything that has to do with propane or 110-volt electricity)!
I am anxious to get fishing in the kayaks as we did really well last year. However, we do have to buy a kayak trailer as I am getting tired of lifting the kayaks on top of the car. That will have to wait because we are going to Houston for the Gem and Mineral show and hopefully, I will show some control and not buy too many rocks or fossils. Clear skies

Friday, November 1, 2019

A Fun Day of Fishing Cedar Bayou, Texas

We have never been to Cedar Bayou, (it’s an opening to the Gulf of Mexico now closed by Hurricane Harvey), so when John asked if we wanted to go fishing there with his wife Nina, we jumped at the chance, ( I said yes without first asking Renita which is always a dangerous move on my part).
The next day found us heading to Cedar Bayou after we launched at Goose Island State Park. It’s a long run, much of it along the Aransas National Wildlife refuge. Normally one would see whooping cranes but they have not yet arrived and so we had to content ourselves with the occasional dolphin.
John expertly navigated the shallow waters and we reached the bay side mouth of the bayou after and eighteen-mile run. As we started up the bayou, we noticed lots of bait fish activity along the shores, marked by an occasional swirl of larger fish.
Setting down his gps guided trolling motor John set it to the anchor position, and we were soon fishing without any cumbersome anchor. Almost immediately Nina hooked and lost a nice fish before she hooked another one. She fought the fish to the boat, and it was a nice red fish! It was undersize red and so it went back into the water.
On the next cast she caught another, and we were all a little jealous even though we had barely started to fish. John’s turn was next, and he also caught an undersized red fish, and then it was Renita's turn when she set the hook on a keeper black drum. She made another cast and caught a larger black drum and the possibility of fresh fish for dinner seemed doable.
Meanwhile I had missed several bites and as the others kept catching fish, I wondered what my problem was. Finally I managed to catch the smallest red of the day and it was a wonder how the fish had managed to get the hook in its mouth, (we all  use circle hooks so the fish are easy to release as the hook is almost always in the corner of the fish’s mouth)
The bite slowed a little, but Renita continued to get bites and she even landed a gulf flounder. It was also undersized, and the picture is of the bottom side of the fish as the top sided is brown and spotted. John decided we should move up the bayou and after fishing an island, (where we caught a piggy perch, a hardhead catfish and a stingray we moved again.
In the new spot Nina lost a nice fish and I caught a keeper speckled trout! It was John’s turn next and his fish jumped out of the water several times before I was able to net it. It was a nice lady fish, also called the poor man’s tarpon, and it was his first lady fish so of course we had to take a picture.
We caught several sand trout and another small speckled trout before John decided to see how close he could get us to the mouth. As we fished we had been hearing the roar of the surf but when we neared the closed mouth we grounded in about a little over a foot of water, (the mouth is closed just past the junction with Vinson channel),. There were other fisherman wade fishing not too far away and so we used the trolling motor to retreat to deeper water.
Not being done fishing yet and we next headed to an area we call the three fingers. The water has been extremely high and so while we couldn’t see them, we did manage to find an edge to fish. All of us caught small reds, (John caught quite a few), before we decided to call it a day and head back to the dock.
It had been a great day of fishing new water and we had caught eight different species of fish, including three keepers. Thanks again John and Nina for taking us out and sharing your day! Clear skies.

Ps apparently the Cedar Bayous mouth will be reopened in 2020, as part of the recovery from Hurricane Harvey.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Settling into Our Winter Home

We left Kansas and headed down to Galveston. Galveston is one of our favorite places and they have one of the best catfish restaurants we have found. After spending a night there, we finished our drive to our winter home in Rockport, Texas.
Arriving in Rockport, we were happy to see that our fifth wheel had been delivered to our rv site. As we started to set everything up our friends John and Nina, (John had sent us a picture of our fifth wheel after it had been delivered), came out to welcome us to our winter home. We have been coming back to the same rv resort for thirteen years, (The reason we keep returning is because of all the friends we have made here).
The setup was pretty smooth, except when we discovered that a fitting had come loose, and water was flooding our bathroom. It turned out to be an easy fix and if you live in a rv fixing stuff yourself is a huge advantage.
At happy hour that evening we learned that speckled trout had been caught along the shoreline and two days later I went down and cast a jig after sunset. I did not catch anything, but another fisherman showed me his sixteen-inch fish.
Strong winds blew for the next two days so we decided to go over to Lamar and spend some time birding. The whooping cranes had not yet arrived but we did see sandhill cranes, tricolor herons, rosette spoonbills, and cattle egrets. Cattle egrets are easy to identify because they walk behind the cattle waiting for the bugs that the cattle’s movement stirs up.
The next day, John knew a place where we would be protected from the wind and so when he invited me to go fishing in his boat, I of course agreed. He decided to head to a place where we had caught keeper trout and black drum but when we neared the bay, we discovered that a barge was docked across the entrance.
We did end up catching five different species of seafood, if you count the shrimp and a blue crab that refused to let go of my cut bait. I did catch a speck, but it was undersized, and I safely released it back into the water. A strong cold front is approaching, with gale force winds and rain and so it looks like the next two days will be a good time to take it easy and make some jewelry.
 Thanks John, for the fishing trip.  Clear skies.

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Flint Hills and the Tall Grass Prairie of Kansas

We had planned on staying in Wyoming till the fifteenth, but as usual weather changed our plans and so on Wednesday, October third we winterized the fifth wheel, locked up the place and headed east for Kansas. A large snowstorm and high winds had most of our state in its sights.
Our hope was to make it to Cheyenne on the first day, but we only made it as far as Rawlins. The next day we fought crosswinds and drove over the highest pass on interstate 80, 8600 feet, and spent the next night in Kearney, Nebraska.
From there we turned south and arrived at our friend’s house in Wichita, Kansas. For the next two days, we sat at their home and rested while the wind continued to blast the prairie. On Friday it abated somewhat, and Bob and Nancy suggested we might like to see the Tall Grass Prairie National Preserve.
It was about sixty miles from their house and I was a little skeptical about going there, but once we arrived my doubts vanished and we realized that our friends had found an unexpected gem of a place, (as we have traveled for the past twelve years it is often the unexpected places that make the most lasting impressions).
The park headquarters provided us with a great explanation of exactly what a tall grass prairie is, and you can appreciate how tall the grasses are when you consider our friend Bob is six feet two! Another display showed the root depth and the roots were actually deeper than the top of the grass.
The next display told of how the limestone rocks on the surface had given the area its name, “The Flint Hills”, and how it blocked any plowing of the original prairie. One of the layers was named the Funston Limestone and it also provide the main building material of the settlers.
The largest place built was the Spring Hill farm and Stock Ranch. The ranch area had not only a huge stone barn and house, but also a chicken coop, ice house, smoke house, and a limestone privy!
If that was not enough the fences were all formed by stacked limestone and over thirty miles of rock fence were eventually built, (the land had to be fenced for the homestead to be claimed).
The house even contained a stone spring room where a cold-water spring kept their perishables from spoiling! The roof of the barn required five thousand pounds of tin rooking. Talk about a project! I simply can not comprehend how much work was involved.
Of course, the wind was blowing, and the temperatures had only warmed up to the lower fifties, so we didn’t take a walk down any of the trails. We do hope to visit the prairie again in the spring when we can have the opportunity to study some of the grass species, (there were few trees back then as the prairie fires kept them in check and also kept out any invasive species.
We finished the day by having a great meal of home style fried chicken in the nearby town. It had been an excellent adventure, (I am a little afraid to step on a scale when we get down to Texas). Thanks Bob and Nancy for spotting and sharing their find with us. Clear skies

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Heading South for the Winter, Our last week in Star Valley

The snow finally reached our level but luckily it melted and so its back where it belongs, on the mountain. Most of the people have left and the deer have moved in to browse on all the delectable plants and flowers. Still we took a day to go to the Tetons for one last bear trip, with our friends George and Val.
Just as the temperatures plunged below freezing our furnace decided to quit working. We had a very cold night relying on an electric space heater. Lucky for us our friend the rv repairman hadn’t gone hunting and so he came over to take a look. It turned out to be the motherboard and again we were lucky in that he had one and was able to fix it. Heat is good.
The deer have gotten brazen and we caught a doe and her fawns eyeing our new shrubs, (the elk will move in next and they are destructive). They were feeding on our neighbors, Dick and Roseanna’s, garden and we were told that after we left the tasted our plants. They must not have liked the taste as they went back to the garden.
Our friends arrived from Denver where George had just had surgery and after a couple of days wanted to go on one last trip to the Tetons. The fall colors are at there peak, or just past it a little and it was a cold drive up the Snake River Canyon. At Jackson we turned to Wilson and then entered the park along the Moose-Wilson road.
There were a lot of other people looking for bears, but the bears had all disappeared along with any remaining moose. The only wildlife we saw were chipmunks and squirrels. The sun had come out but it was a nice hike along a plateau of the Snake River.
Heading back to our pace the drive was uneventful and we talked of the bears we had seen this year, along with past years encounters. Another beautiful sunset that evening, and we hurried to finish our packing.
The last day we got up early and closed everything up, before moving in the slide outs on the fifth wheel and winterizing the water lines. Our plan is to head to Wichita, Kansas, spend a few days with our friend Bob and Nancy, and then drive the last seven hundred miles to Rockport, Texas. There our winter place should be set up in our usual spot.  We are tired of the cold. Clear skies

Saturday, September 28, 2019

A Hike Along Taggert Trail, Fall 2019

Last year we took a hike around the Taggert Lake trail and this year we invited our neighbors to join us. We told them of the beauty of the trail, and also told them of the elk bugling and the possibility of seeing bears as we drove the Moose-Wilson road.
They offered to drive as they needed to drop their dog off at the doggy day care center, (dogs are not allowed to hike the trails due to the danger of them attracting a bear). It’s a good rule!  Arriving early, the parking lot was barely half full as we donned our day packs, binoculars and cameras.
The first part of the hike is the steepest part. We both had our Fitbits on, and we were pleased to see that we did not exceed our maximum heart rate goal. However, we did stop for images and took rest breaks as we climbed the steep trail. Our friends kindly waited for us even though we told them they could go ahead.
Cresting the old terminal moraine, formed by the glacier that once filled the valley, we passed through a field of boulders including one glacial erratic that was a perfect example of gneiss, (pronounced “nice”). Our friends had taken a raft float on the Snake River and their boat guide had told them the story of gneiss. Becky actually correctly identified it and brought it to our attention.
Passing thought a forest of lodgepoles pines and a few aspens we reached Taggert Lake. There were some people that had beat us to the lake, but we took turns with them poising on rocks with the Grand Teton in the background. A sign that Becky spotted told us that the lakes elevation was six thousand nine hundred feet.
Renita spotted a moose across the lake, perhaps it was Becky and while it was a long way, we could see it easily with the binoculars, (do you notice a pattern as Becky and Renita are the nature interpreters on this trip).  A reddish hooded merganser splashed across the lake, they are great fish birds, oblivious to the people lining the shores.
We crossed the bridge at the mouth of Taggert Lake and sat down for a bit before deciding we would hike a little further before eating lunch. A few switchbacks remained before we crested the trail and Fred took a great picture of us surrounded by the fall foliage.
As we started down the trail a couple passed us going the opposite way. They said there was a bear ahead and that the bear was eating berries, (not that it mattered they were choke cherries). Renita followed me as I hurried to a hill while our friends continued down the trail. We should have followed them.
Renita heard them say, “Bear”, and she went back seeing the black bear as it went up and over the hill. I only caught a glimpse of the rear end of the bear.
The bear had been eating choke cherries and upon being interrupted it decided to leave by the easiest way. Fred meanwhile had been crouched on the trail taking pictures until Becky told him the bear was getting to close.
Looking up from his camera, he realized the bear was only ten feet away. Fred stood up, he is a tall man, and the bear swerved off the trail. It was a two-year old black bear and heading for Taggert Lake, it crossed the wooden bridge. Another couple came down and showed us the video she had taken of the crossing.
We ate lunch in the berry patch and were treated to hearing the elk bugling. I was happy now with my hearing aids as I could clearly hear them. Becky pointed out the high grassy park where they seemed to be, but we couldn’t spot them, (a grassy mountain area surrounded by forest is called a park).
The rest of the hike was uneventful, and we talked about how lucky we were to see a bear on a trail. I congratulated Fred on his close encounter with the bear, it was not planned, and told him he now had another story to share for the rest of his life. Reaching the truck, we loaded up and headed for the Moose-Wilson Road.
The road was open and after walking along the Moose Pond, no moose or bears, we were told that a bear was just around a bend in the road. The rangers were directing traffic and there was no place to stop as a black bear cub climbed high up in a tree while its mom was eating berries in the brush below. I gawked took long and all I got was an image of the cub I the dense trees.
Driving further we saw cars backed up, it was another bear jam. This jam was caused by a cinnamon black bear, (a black bear with a light brown coat), unloading away from the bear we walked along the roadbed and reached several people who told us that the bear was behind a small copse of trees.
It was a little while before the bear became visible and I took a poor image of the bear as it was partially hidden. The bear suddenly charged toward us, it moved really fast and I froze too long before taking a picture. It was a bluff charge and the bear stopped as the ranger prepared his bear spray. Luckily the bear retreated into the trees and decided to go another way.
Fred went and got the truck but we never did get a good image of the bear. It didn’t matter as it had been a great day of wildlife watching! Anytime you see four bears and a moose you know the day was really special. Maybe next time I will get a good image of a bear. Clear skies