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

Friday, April 10, 2009

An Enchanted Place

Getting outdoors can be done just about anywhere. It can be as simple as playing catch in the backyard to as complex as a two week hunting and fishing expedition in the Canadian Rockies. Any time spent outside is time well spent, but sometimes it can be so much more. Everybody has a special place that they love above all others. A place that feels like home…that provides a sense of belonging and comfort. These special places make that time spent outdoors rewarding, invigorating, and relaxing. For me, that place has and always will be Enchanted Rock.

E-rock as it is lovingly called by its many fond visitors is truly a special place. It has been so for hundreds of years. E-rock is located just north of the small German town of Fredericksburg, known for its wineries, quaint shops, peaches, and great German food. This particular rock just so happens to be the second largest pluton in the US, after Stone Mountain in Georgia (another really neat place). Plutons are also known as monadnocks, depending on which geologist, or in my case, wanna-be, you talk to. Plutons are composed of what is called intrusive igneous rock that forms from cooled magma and is then exposed as the earth around it erodes and/or it is thrust up through the Earth’s crust. When multiple plutons from near each other, they are known as a batholith as is seen near E-rock. E-rock is a single pluton that rises about 400 feet from its base and covers an area of about 600 acres. It truly is massive! The Tonkawa Indians believed the rock to be inhabited by spirits due to groaning and cracking sounds that can be heard from it at night. These sounds are actually just caused by the expanding and contracting of the rock due to heating and cooling from day to night. Never mind the scientific explanation for the noises, this rock really is something sacred. The plant life around E-rock is similar to other places in the hill country. There are the ever present junipers (or cedars), blackjack oaks, cedar elms with there little leaves that always end up stuck in the tent, and plenty of mesquite and prickly pear cactus. During the summer you can even pick muscadine grapes and slip their gooey white insides out of their thick purplish-black skin. The white-tailed deer are plentiful and so tame that they will wander through the campgrounds looking for handouts or leftovers from careless campers too lazy to clean up after themselves. There are also neat little black squirrels and lizards that hop along the rocks and trails. On one visit, a small fox was exploring the outer edges of our campsite, also likely looking for something to eat. The wildlife at E-rock is just as nice to see as the rocks themselves.

My first trip to E-rock took place when I was 10 or 11. I went on a church camping trip with my good friend Mikol. Upon driving down the farm road that leads to the park from Fredericksburg, I immediately fell under the rock’s spell. Even at that young age, I had a fond appreciation for the uniqueness of this place. As I recall, we spent several hours exploring the boulders and climbing to the top of a smaller dome next to E-rock called Little Dome. As the day was ending, Mikol and I waded barefoot through a small creek that ran through the park and caught a frog and a strange, small fish with bumps on its head. That night, we sat up by the campfire with other boys on the camping trip and joked around and a great time. I was immediately hooked on the beauty of this distinctive part of Texas.
During high school I made several day-trips to E-rock with friends. The most memorable trip I took there during high school was with my brother. I don’t remember all of the details, but I think he was visiting or had just moved back from his two year stint in Canyon. We made the hour and a half drive from San Antonio in his little blue Ford Ranger with the Rebel flag sticker on the backglass listening to Jerry Jeff Walker, Everclear, and Sublime. We spent the entire day hiking, scrambling over some of the thousands of boulders, and exploring little caves formed by the exfoliating chunk of granite. Life’s little quirks are really funny sometimes. I made my first trip to Palo Duro Canyon with my brother when I was a freshman in high school and he was a freshmen at WT. I think he made his first trip to E-rock with me a couple years later. Now he lives close to E-rock and I live close to Palo Duro.

For several years in a row, our family made habit of camping at E-rock with our friends the Millers. It started with Marie’s first camping trip with me. That Thanksgiving weekend, we were probably the most under-prepared backpackers ever. We reserved a site that required a 1.5 mile hike and all we had was car camping gear. So…we made the 1.5 mile trek like pack mules as we carried a large tent, sleeping bags, an inflatable bed, ice chest, and other cumbersome and unnecessary gear. We were happy to set up camp among the oak and mesquite trees and relax with our beer and wine-coolers, which later in the night led us to make a trip to the composting toilet, read outhouse, in the camping area. The 40 degree morning found us shivering and damp as our hand-me-down cheap tent did not breathe too well. We reluctantly broke camp and made the pack mule trek back to the car with a new found hobby that I think I enjoy much more than she does, but she has definitely made a great effort to come along with me on my outings and has begun to love the outdoors as much as I have. Marie enjoys our camping trips much more when friends come along, so the next year and several thereafter we made our annual Thanksgiving Pilgrimage with our friends the Millers. Through those trips we made numerous memories of bouldering with babies, low-crawling through a tent to photograph deer walking just yards away from our tent-site, making the perfect s’mores, a must for Christine, picking cactus thorns from little hands, and otherwise having a great time in the woods.

It has been several years since my last trip to E-rock. In the mean-time we have camped in several other places across Texas and hiked several more across Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado. Each place we go is equally as wonderful as E-rock, but none provide me with that feeling of belongingness, if that is a word. There is truly something enchanting about Enchanted Rock and it will always be my special outdoor place.