Monday, November 16, 2009

Too many (expensive) hobbies

It seems I have an outdoor hobby for every season. September 1st always brings hunting season, the spring is fishing and gardening, canoeing and trail running can be done any time. My latest obsession is rock climbing. I started getting an interest in climbing at A&M because they have a huge 50 foot indoor wall. I never climbed there because you had to pay to climb and rent equipment and go through a safety course. It was just too much hassle. At Baylor though, they built a 53 foot rock wall, to outdoor A&M of course, and it is free to climb there, so naturally, with the hassle removed I started climbing there. I bought the basic climbing gear, a harness, shoes, belay device, and chalk bag (about $150) and fell in love. As the title implies, all of my hobbies seem to be expensive. I just bought a rope with birthday gift cards ($100) and now I want all the outdoor climbing gear available but that will take several years to buy up that stuff ($1,000 easily). A new indoor gym just opened here in Amarillo and Matthew and I went climbing this weekend. It was a blast and it just added to fuel to my climbing fire. I can't wait to get into outdoor climbing more but until I can I will settle for some indoor training. I am excited because climbing is something the whole family can enjoy and we can do it all together.

This weekend I also got to go goose and duck hunting for the first time. We didnt' get to shoot any geese, but my friend and his cousin (they run a hunting guide service here in the panhandle) and I shot 11 ducks in about 10 minutes and had a blast. They let me take home all the birds so no Marie and I get to try some duck meat for the first time ever. Yet another expensive hobby, but luckily I already had almost everything I needed. I already had a shotgun and hunting license, but to hunt duck and geese you have to have a federal duck stamp ($17) and special shotgun shells ($13) that shoot steel shot instead of lead.

Outdoor adventure can be expensive, but to me it is well worth the time and investment. I just hope I don't take up too many more expensive hobbies as they interfere with each other. If only I could pick one and stick with it, I could focus my extra time and money into one thing. There are just too many things to do outside that I love.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Relationship Advice

This past Sunday, I went for a run in the canyon and discovered I didn’t really feel like running at all. I have hated running most of my life, but in the last few years have found it to be an enjoyable way to stay active and healthy. By combing that joy with running on the trails first at Cameron Park in Waco, and now in Palo Duro Canyon, I found trail-running to be doubly enjoyable. It was always so nice to be outside enjoying everything the outdoors has to offer. Lately, with training for the PDTR 50k, running has started to lose some of its original appeal. I have begun to lose that initial excitement I felt from getting out to the canyon in the coolness of the early morning and running over the trails while looking at animal tracks and rock formations. So on Sunday, I stopped running and just went exploring. I climbed up the side of the canyon to a mesa that provided a wonderful view of the canyon floor below. I felt that sense of excitement and wonderment return with slight fear of losing my footing and slipping down the steep gravel of a gully that let to the canyon rim. When I made it to the top, I heard the silence, if that is possible, took in the view, and enjoyed being in the canyon again. At one spot on the top of the mesa, the canyon dropped away very steeply on either side with the flat area on top being only 3 or 4 feet wide. It was exhilarating knowing that a small stumble or strong breeze could leave me sliding down a 60 degree slope. I doubt it would have been deadly, but it definitely would have hurt. After taking in the view and the silence from the top of the canyon, I made my way down another gully and reluctantly headed back to the car. What I discovered and contemplated on my short jog back to the car was that I had forgotten why I loved the canyon so much. I realized that with most things that we love in life, we can sometimes let the monotony of the day to day events that occur around our love can get in the way of what we fell in love with to begin with. I think this is true not only of places we visit or hobbies we enjoy, but also our family, spouses, and children. Sometimes life gets in the way of the enjoyment we get from the things we love and every once in a while it helps to do something to remind ourselves of the things that made us fall in love in the first place. Take a moment and remember the things you love…go for a hike at your favorite outdoor place, go on a date with your spouse or significant other, give your kids a hug and a kiss, and remember what it is about those things that made you fall in love. My Sunday run in the canyon helped me to remember to enjoy life and to not let the mundane details get in the way.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hello Again

I haven't written anything on here for several months now...I have been pretty busy. In July I finally defended my dissertation and am now officially Dr. Parker!! It was all very anticlimactic though. When you work towards a goal for 11 years, the final step isn't really all that exciting. I have heard a quote, probably more than a few, that say something about the fact that it isn't the destination that matters, it is the getting there. One great thing about finishing this whole thing though is the gigantic salary increase I will get, but most of it will be going directly to student loans, so even that isn't that great. I am still very happy to be finished and look forward to my future as a college professor.

We just started classes on Monday and I had to prep three lectures this evening. I didn't end up taking too long on them and had some extra time...that is why I am writing this blog. I have one supplement study currently going. It is a supplement called phosphatidylserine (say that three time fast, if you can even say it once). It is supposed to improve mood, cognitive function, and reduce the cortisol response to stress. I will be testing 15 males for this study. They have to take the supplement and a placebo, each for two weeks, then do a really difficult leg workout and have their blood drawn a total of 13 times. They are also doing a mood state questionnaire and a cognitive function test called a serial subtraction test, where they have to subtract the number 7 from a random 4 digit number over and over again for two minutes. I hope the results show something remotely interesting. I am also planning on handing out a running injury survey to the participants in the Palo Duro Trail Run to see how training on trails vs. roads vs. treadmills might affect the frequency of running injuries.

Speaking of the PDTR, I have been ramping up the training some in the last couple of weeks. I hope to get up to running at least 20 miles prior to the big race on October 17th. I am really looking forward to that race because Marie, my brother, my sister, and my sister-in-law will all be running it with me and my mom and step-dad will come up as well. It will be really nice to have the whole family up hear in the panhandle for a visit.

I have been reading quite a bit this summer. I just finished a couple of books (A Walk Across America and The Abstract Wild) and I am almost finished with a third (Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy). One of McCarthy's best books in my opinion, The Road, has been made into a movie and will be released some time in October. I am really looking forward to that movie. He has already had two other books made into movies, All the Pretty Horses and No Country for Old Men. I read a couple other books earlier in the summer, but I have forgotten which ones now. I am also reading a book about that movie Alive that is a true story about a Uruguayan rugby team that has a plane crash in the Andes. I am actually going to be a "expert" on cold weather and altitude physiology for a question and answer deal that Amarillo College is having with the author. AC is encouraging all of their freshmen to read the book and then listen to the author speak about his experience. That should be a fun experience.

I haven't really gotten too many opportunities to do outside stuff this summer. I have been really itching to go up to the mountains in new mexico for a camping trip, but we just haven't committed to making the trip yet. While we were visiting SA my brother, Matthew, and nephew Tyler did a nice little 5 mile canoe/kayak trip down a portion of the San Marcos. The water was beautiful, but we only caught one fish. It was a whopper of a sunfish weighing in at about 3 ounces. We kept it anyway and Matt and I fried it up in some butter and ate it. I also got to go hunting on my good friend Josh's Dad's ranch in Pleasonton with Matt and my step-dad Marcus. They both missed some long shots at feral hogs, but I was able to get a fallow doe. Josh's dad has high fenced his entire 1600 acre ranch and stocked the place with fallow, axis, white tail, and blackbuck antelope. The ranch is absolutely gorgeous. All three of us split up the meat and we have enjoyed quite a few venison dinners. I am also in the process of tanning the deer's hide. Fallow deer have reddish fur with white spots and look quite amazing. The hide is pretty much done, I just have to rub it down with some oil and work the leather to soften it up, then I will have a nice deer fur rug or wall hanging...Matthew has already laid claim to it. This is my first ever hide to tan, but I dried several snake skins as a kid and have also dried a squirrel skin once. I really enjoy practicing some of the dying arts that our ancestors relied on just 100-150 years ago.

I had a nice summer garden this year. We have had an abundance of cucumbers and I have made 6 quarts of pickles. We are all sick of eating sauteed zucchini and yellow squash and zucchini bread. I also got a decent tomato crop, most of which I ate right of the plant. I had a bumper crop of jalapeno peppers, most of which I have given away or had to throw away because I just can't eat too many of them. This fall I plan on planting some lettuce, beets, carrots, and radishes. Hopefully we will have some nice salads before this fall's first frost.

I am sure that is all much more info that anyone has ever wanted to read about another person's summer, but I had a lot to catch up on. I hope to have some more outdoor essays written in the near future.

Enjoy your fall!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Backroads and Weddings Part II

This past weekend it took me 17 hours to drive from Amarillo to Rockport. I had to stop along the way to pick up my canoe and some flies from my friend Jason. He is a great friend. I mentioned to him that I would be doing some fishing on the coast and he tied me up about 15-20 flies for saltwater fishing. I then traveled on down to Austin to pick up Kevin, stopped in New Braunfels to pick up a few things from my brother's house, dropped off Marie's Grandma in SA, picked up Kevin's brother Brandon on the other side of SA, drove to Pleasonton to pick up Josh, then finally drove down to Rockport. The whole trip was for a suprise bachelor party for Josh who will be getting married to his long-time girlfriend, Valerie this coming Saturday. Marie and I will be making another long road trip to SA on Thursday.

We kind of ruined the surprise when Brandon and Kevin where with me. It was just supposed to be me and one other friend of Josh's going to the coast, but about 15 of his close friends and relatives were able to make it down there. We had a great time fishing...even though we didn't catch a damn thing worth mentioning. I will mention the fish I caught anyway. On Friday night we were catching little croaker off of the Vestal's private 600 foot pier that juts out from their 6000 square foot beach house...lucky, rich punks.

After my 17 hour drive, I stayed up until 4:30 drinking and catching up with friends. We woke up at 6:30 Saturday and fished for 7-8 hours. While fishing on Saturday I caught one hard head catfish and one ladyfish, both of which aren't worth eating and went right back in the water. One thing that happens when you hang out with Josh and his dad is that drinking beer begins with breakfast. Running on two hours sleep and a days worth of beer, I was out by 10 pm on Saturday trying to sleep through 5 or 6 more hours of bachelor party shenanigans. There was only one toe injury so the party didn't get too crazy. Apparently Josh was dared to jump into the water and he cut his big toe on a barnacle or oyster shell. During the following drunken first aid attempts, Brandon kept pouring vodka on his toe, which apparently Josh did not appreciate. While trying to sleep I also overheard an unsuccessful attempt to get strippers to come over...apparently there were none to be had. I was sad to have slept through the party, but glad the next day when I woke up refreshed and everyone else was hungover.

On Sunday we slept in until 8:30, a very late morning for a fishing trip, and didn't make it out on the water until noon. We fished all over the place and again only caught little dinks. I caught two more ladyfish, but not a single game fish. I also was unable to catch a thing on my flies that Jason tied for me. I was really looking forward to catching some new species on my fly rod, but that will have to wait until another time.

Kevin, Brandon, and I left Rockport Sunday night around 9:30. We dropped Brandon off in SA by 1 and got to Kevin's house in Austin at 3. I woke up at 8:30 and was back on the road again by 9. It took me 8 1/2 more hours to get home from Austin, but arrived safely yesterday at 5:30. There weren't as many backroads on this bachelor party trip, but I certainly had a lot of fun. I am completely exhausted and have spent the afternoon napping. I feel sorry for my friends who are working today after that long weekend and I am looking forward to seeing them all again in a few days. We will also get to spend some time with my Mom and her husband Marcus, my sister, and My brother and his family. I love road trips!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

An Update

I have a few outdoor topics to talk about and another as well. First of all, the other kids are beautiful! They are currently running around the house...all playing together (which is very rare) and showing the largest, most perfect smiles I have ever seen! I went to The Canyon yesterday for a short run. I didn't run a whole lot, but just enjoyed being alone in the wilderness. I love hearing the breeze flow through the trees and cacti. I love seeing the clouds pass overhead. I love not hearing another human being. I love being outside. I picked up a small lizard that thought its camaflouge was enough to keep it safe, saw at least 8 different species of wildflower that I had never seen before (spring time has come to the Canyon), picked up a four inch grasshopper that pierced my fingers with it's leg spikes while spewing forth vile, brown liquid from it's mouth, and found two very interesting rocks that I brought home to add to my windowsill collection. The cottonwoods have all leafed out along the Prarie Dog Town Fork of the Red River and the mesquites are now beginning to leaf out while the prickly pear are beginning to develop thier flowers. I can't wait to both see and smell their beautiful flowers. If you have never smelled a cactus flower, you are truly missing the meaning of life. My latest outdoor focus has been on gardening. Over the last two weeks I have gotten a small garden growing. I have planted two tomato plants in pots, a jalepeno plant, a serrano pepper plant, cucumbers (pickling and slicing), radishes, carrots,and lettuce. I am eagerly awaiting my first crop of radishes (two more weeks) and eating home grown salad with lettuce, carrots, and tomatoes. I am not sure if they will all be ready at the same time, but I am excited either way. I will officially be teaching Outdoor Living this first summer session. I had to have 10 students sign up for the class and I have 13 currently enrolled. I cannot wait to teach this class! I cannot believe I am going to get paid to make people read Ed Abbey and talk abuot hiking, backpacking, and fishing. I love my job! I will soon be making a trip to Rockport for my best friend's bachelor party. We will be fishing and hopefully camping on a barrier island. I am eagerly awaiting my trip to the coast! I will provide a full update of the multiple species of fish I hope to catch and eat (if all goes according to plan). I wish you all a happy spring and a fruitful summer!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Inscription for the Entrance to a Wood

I know I am getting lazy and just posting other people's writing, but my friend Jason told me about this poem and I understand why he likes it so much. Enjoy...

Stranger, if thou hast learned a truth which needs
No school of long experience, that the world
Is full of guilt and misery, and hast seen
Enough of all its sorrows, crimes, and cares,
To tire thee of it, enter this wild wood
And view the haunts of nature. The calm shade
Shall bring a kindred calm, and the sweet breeze
That makes the green leaves dance, shall waft a balm
To thy sick heart. Thou wilt find nothing here
Of all that pained thee in the haunts of men,
And made thee loathe thy life. The primal curse
Fell, it is true, upon the unsinning earth,
But not in vengance. God hath yoked to guilt
Her pale tormentor, Misery. Hence these shades
Are still the abode of gladness; the thick roof
Of green and stirring branches is alive
And musical with birds, that sing and sport
In wantonness of spirit; while below
The squirrel, with raised paws and form erect,
Chirps merrily. Throngs of insects in the shade
Try their thin wings and dance in the warm beam.
That waked them into life. Even the green trees
Partake the deep contentment; as they bend
To the soft winds, the sun from the blue sky
Looks in and sheds a blessing on the scene.
Scarce less the cleft-born wildflower seems to enjoy
Existence, than the winged plunderer
That sucks its sweets. The mossy rocks themselves,
And the old and ponderous trunks of prostrate trees
That lead from knoll to knoll a causeway rude,
Or bridge the sunken brook, and their dark roots,
With all their roots upon them, twisting high,
Breathe fixed tranquility. The rivulet
Sends forth glad sounds, and tripping o'er its bed
Of pebbly sands, or leaping down the rocks
Seems, with continuous laughter, to rejoice
In its own being. Softly tread the marge,
Lest from her midway perch thou scare the wren
That dips her bill in water. The cool wind,
That stirs the stream in play, shall come to thee,
Like one that loves thee nor will let thee pass
Ungreeted, and shall give its light embrace.

by William Cullen Bryant

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Some Wise Words From TR

The following is the foreword to a book I am currently reading by Teddy Roosevelt (one of 35 he authored) called, A Book Lovers Holidays in the Open. I felt he described my feeling about the outdoors quite well. TR was perhaps one of the greatest outdoorsman ever to walk the face of the earth, in my opinion. He travelled the world hunting, camping, fishing, and most importantly of all helped to establish five of our National Parks while serving as President, in part due to his friendship with John Muir and other conservationists and naturalists of their time.

"The man should have youth and strength who seeks adventure in the wide, waste spaces on the earth, in the marshes, and among the vast mountain masses, in the northern forests, amid the steaming jungles of the tropics, or on the deserts of sand or of snow. He must long greatly for the lonely winds that blow across the wilderness, and for sunrise and sunset over the rim of the empty world. His heart must thrill for the saddle and not for the hearthstone. he must be helmsman and chief, the cragsman, the rifleman, the boat steerer. He must be the wielder of axe and of paddle, the rider of fiery horses, the master of the craft that leaps through white water. His eye must be true and quick, his hand steady and strong. His heart must never fail nor his head grow bewildered, whether he face brute and human foes, or the frowning strength of hostile nature, or the awful fear that grips those who are lost in trackless lands. Wearing toil and hardship shall be his; thirst and famine he shall face, and burning fever. Death shall come to greet him with poison-fang or poison arrow, in shape of charging beast or of scaly things that lurk in lake and river; it shall lie in wait for him among untrodden forests, in the swirl of wild waters, and in the blast of snow blizzard or thunder-shattered hurricane.

Not many men can with wisdom make such a life their permanent and serious occupation. Those whose tasks lie along other lines can lead it but a few years. For them it must normally come in the hardy vigor of their youth, before the beat of the blood has grown sluggish in their veins.

Nevertheless, older men also can find joy in such a life, although in their case it must be led only on the outskirts of adventure, and although the part they play therein must be that of onlooker rather than that of the doer. The feats of prowess are for others. It is for other men to face the peril of unknown lands, to master unbroken horses, and to hold their own among their fellows with bodies of supple strength.

The grandest scenery of the world is his to look at if he chooses...the beauty and charm of the wilderness are his for the asking, for the edges of the wilderness lie close beside the beaten roads of present travel. He can see the red splendor of the desert sunsets, and the unearthly glory of the after-glow on the battlements of desolate mountains. In sapphire gulfs of ocean he can visit islets, above which the wings of myriads of sea-fowl make a kind of shifting cuneiform script in the air. He can ride along the brink of the stupendous cliff-walled canyon, where eagles soar below him, and cougars make their lairs on the ledges and harry the big-horned sheep. He can journey through the northern forests, the home of the giant moose, the forests of fragrant and murmuring life in summer, the iron-bound and melancholy forest of winter.

The joy of living is his who has the heart to demand it."

-Theodore Roosevelt