Monday, December 2, 2013

My Kind of Walk, Palmetto Is - Sun., Dec. 1 (Part 1)

Last week on my birthday, we did a reconnaissance drive through part of south central Texas and decided we needed to go back and spend more time. Sunday, we did that.

Palmetto State Park was our first stop where we completed a 10K (6.2 mi.) Volksmarch consisting of many of the park trails plus side trips to a BPOE Memorial and an old cemetery on a hill. We signed in at the State Park HQ where the walk box was located and picked up the directions for the walk.

The start point was at The Refectory in the park. The Refectory was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). It's a large, covered pavilion with picnic tables, kitchen and a fireplace. When it was built, the roof was thatched with palmetto fronds.

The Refectory - start and end point of the walk.
From The Refectory, we hiked off into the park. We walked through the RV campground on our way to the first trail. Each site has a fire pit with grate, a smoker, and a picnic table.

RV camping at Palmetto State Park
And here we go, off into the woods...

Info about Dwarf Palmettos
Water tower built by the CCC.
Palmetto Trail.
Palmettos - Dwarf palms.
Ottine Swamp Trail wasn't on our walk but we investigated anyway.
We found a Swamp Monster!

Erosion from recent flooding exposed roots.
Oh, hello deer!

Bridge across San Marcos River - erosion on bank from recent flooding.

Stately trees.
Delicate flowers.
On the trail around Oxbow Lake.
Historic Ottine Cemetery

Oxbow Lake paddleboats
Artesian well/springs.

Artesian well.
Camp host site.
Smokers at each camp site.
When we crossed the San Marcos River, there was a depth marker for the water level. It looked like the San Marcos River Flood from November 2013 crested around 23'. They had to evacuate the campground, but they got everyone out safely. When we hiked, we could see debris up on the trees. The power of water is amazing!

Stay tuned for Sunday, part 2 - exploring historic Gonzales, Texas on foot.

Travel Bug out.

Down in Birdland - Sat., Nov. 30

Saturday Bob and I were up early to go our separate ways: he was off to play basketball and I headed back to Mitchell Lake Wetlands Audubon Center to do a 5K (3.1 mi.) walk. Bob had a great time playing basketball and spent a long time at the gym.

I took 1-1/2 hours to do 3.1 miles, stopping to look at birds and taking my time in nature on a beautiful Saturday morning.

White-crowned sparrow.
Pink skullcap (Scutellaria frutescens)

Bird Pond at Mitchell Lake Wetlands
American kestrel
Western meadowlarks
No more hide and seek looking for Northern cardinals in the underbrush. Naked fall trees make cardinal spotting easy!!

Northern cardinal.
East polder at Mitchell Lake Audubon Wetlands.
Spotted sandpiper.
Eastern meadowlark.
Northern shrike
How many Northern shovelers do you see?
Can you identify this hidden bird? Click to enlarge.
Eastern meadowlark
After I finished walking, I headed home to shower before going to see "The Book Thief" with the San Antonio Movie Lovers meetup club. Bob joined me at the theater after he finished playing basketball. The Palladium theaters at The Rim shopping center are quite luxurious. A cafe is located in the lobby and if you're in need of a bar, you can find that in this theater too.

"The Book Thief" takes place in Nazi Germany during WW II. Narration of the story is provided by Death. When the movie starts it takes a minute to figure out who's telling the story. We follow a young family - mother, son and daughter, Lisle - who are walking across Germany. The son falls ill, dies and is buried along the way.

Lisle is given up for adoption and sent to live in a city where she makes friends with a neighbor boy. When they go to school, it is soon apparent that Lisle cannot read or write. One of the kids bullies her and she beats him up on the playground. This earns her a certain status amongst the other kids, but the boy she beat up never forgets what she did to him.

Her adoptive father (played by Geoffrey Rush) confesses to her that he is not a good reader and suggests they learn to read together. She becomes enthralled by the books she reads.

When the Nazis start persecuting and beating Jews, kicking them out of their businesses and homes, her adoptive parents take in a young Jewish man, Max, and hide him in their basement. Soon the air raid sirens go off and all the townspeople must go into shelters. Max cannot go into the shelter so he is left in the basement. Max becomes quite ill from spending all his time in the cold, wet basement.

Lisle "borrows" books from one of the prominent families in town. She spends her days in the basement reading to Max.  As time goes on Max's health improves and he realizes he is putting the family in danger. He makes the decision to leave their home and take his chances.

You can see the light bulb go off in Lisle's thinking. She's a smart girl who understands what's going on. She knew how it felt to be bullied in school and she saw how the Nazis bullied the Jews in their town. Compassion was in her eyes as she watched her adoptive father get struck down by Nazis when he tried to help Jewish townspeople who were being evicted from their homes. 

The movie was very enjoyable. Even though it is another tale of the hardships of WW II, the personal-ness of the impacts on the two major families in the story is well told. I loved the focus on reading and writing and how people helped each other. 4-1/2 out of 5 stars.

Travel Bug out.