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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Planting Seeds

Woke atypically early for a Saturday morning, poured us some Cheerios for breakfast, loaded up the Cruiser with Joel's 'Howdah' and some water, and headed for Achenbach Canyon with the intention of enjoying the company of my son on a hike. A dysfunctional ATM machine failed to produce the $5 cash mandatory for the ridiculous parking fee at Dripping Springs Recreation Area, so the steep and rocky ascent up Achenbach Canyon would become the morning's PLAN B. The highlight of my week has shifted as of late, from the solo requisite long trailrun in the cool hours of the morning, to now accompanying my son on local hikes one day of the week. By the time Joel is my age, his generation will be completely detached and unfamiliar with the natural world they inhabit, traded down for a 'whitewashed' childhood existence experienced through every synthetic medium possible. The ultimate goal of our little hikes is to establish a foundation and simply have fun outside, but I firmly believe that planting the seeds of wild places in Joel early on will benefit him in his life later down the road.

I can make a killer bowl of cereal.


Cheerios...of course.


The pestilent spring winds have somehow managed to extend their stay, and on this particular morning the winds were pouring down off of the Organs Mountains at force from the East, which is fairly abnormal. 102 consecutive day's of no precipitation, wild fires throughout the state, and blowing sand is getting old, but Joel didn't seem to mind on this particular morning.

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Pulling sherpa duty. Carrying a 27lb. boy, a 7lb. child carrier, 2L of water, a juice bottle, snacks, and a newly acquired NikonD7000 made for a healthy workout on the climb up Achenbach- a far cry away from trail running with a handheld bottle, gels, and a dinky point and shoot.

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The drought is immediately obvious in the vegetations, paired with the abnormal cold spell we had in February that just about decimated the non-native species plants in the region. Somehow beauty is always found both in death and in life.



About 1/3 of the way up the canyon, we stopped to look South towards upper Achenbach Canyon and the fringe southern peaks of the Organ Mountains.


Despite the absence of moisture, there is still some evidence of spring and new life in the desert, a testament to the heartiness of nature and the resiliency of native plants in the northern stretches of the Chihuahuan Desert. In a sea of earth tones, it's not difficult to get lost staring into the inner-workings of an Opuntia Robustus bloom trailside.

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I almost ended this dude's life, but caught glimpse of him right before I could plant my footstep- Joel and I watched this winged insect hold out against the winds for a minute or two and moved on.


Dry scrub grass, mesquite, creosote, and both 'spanish broom' and 'mormom broom' plants fill in the ground nicely above the rocky and sparsely vegetated lower stretches of the canyon.

The sun was rising quickly over our heads, but the easing winds cooled things off significantly for the both of us. Our destination was a large cave that I stumbled upon a few months back on a trail run in the area with some friends. The hideout cave is unique, easily could have housed a small group of bandits or native peoples seeking shelter from the elements in a past life. What is most fascinating are the large cutouts used for building fires and retaining heat, as well as the large grain and maize grinding holes in the foot of the cave.

The overhanging mouth of the cave.


Looking North from the interior.


Joel took a while to warm up to his surroundings, but quickly started climbing up cracks in the wall putting me on edge- I'm learning to let him do his thing and explore places without constantly shadowing him, for one it bugs him and he yells at me, but it also makes me tense and not fully enjoy our times together. Learning to strike a balance. He's a stud.




We chilled for about an hour and cooled off in the shade, threw rocks, and explored the nooks and crannies within. Not wanting to leave yet, Joel let me know and appropriately threw his body on the ground and did the limp body trick- after some smooth talking and kind words I reassured him, the best way I know how to a 2yr. old, that we would definitely be going on another hike very soon. We hiked out quickly back to the trailhead where Gatorade and Purple Vines awaited us in the car. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning.

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