Monday, February 24, 2014

Modern Day Treasure Hunting

RDB and I started a new adventure this past weekend at Goliad State Park: Geocaching.

It's a modern day treasure hunt - using GPS technology we can find little treasure boxes that other geocachers have left behind.  There are more than 2.5 million caches worldwide (we were happy with the 7 we found this weekend). Check out the official Geocaching website for more details - and to start playing!

TPWD sponsors Geocaching in the State Parks, where they have hidden ammo boxes in 90 of our State Parks, and I knew that Goliad was a participating park.  So, after downloading the's app to RDB's phone Sunday morning, we went off on our first geo-caching adventure!

***SPOILER ALERT: If you're a geocacher and don't want the surprise of these finds to be spoiled, stop reading now! I'm posting details and photos of our finds!***

The Geo-caching App is really stellar and super easy to use - simply hit the "Find Caches Near Me" button and it will load 20 of the nearest caches to your location.  Read the description in the cache, determine what size it is (they go from ammo box large to key chain small).  The TPWD caches are all in ammo boxes - which helps us newbies to the sport.

The compass in the App will show you if you're walking in the right direction, and will also tell you how many miles/feet you have left to get to your cache.  Once you're within about 16ft (that's the accuracy of the iPhone) you have to start using your treasure hunting skills. I'll be honest - RDB is *much* better at this than me! 

Even though RDB tends to find them before I do, I still get pretty excited! There's a  sense of accomplishment when you realize you've found it.  The TPWD ammo box was hidden under a number of sticks - I had walked past it about 4 times as I tried to search out in the undergrowth for the cache.  

After this first one (which we walked to while breakfast was cooking - love my rice cooker!) we were hooked!  Goliad SP's check out isn't until 2pm, so we knew we had a bit more time than usual to play around Sunday morning.  A quick check of the Geocaching App showed several more caches in a very near radius.  We jumped in the truck and took off.

The first few were in a series that took us back near Fort Defiance and the outlying cemeteries.  It was amazing to see tombstones as old as 1916!  Discovering the nearby surroundings is one of the main attractions for Geocachers - you can have someone you've never met introduce you to some pretty cool stuff by hiding a cache where they want  you to go.

We were able to get 6 while camping this weekend.  The last one of the day was a bit tricky (Once again it was in a cemetery.  And once again, it was RDB who found it!)  Some of the caches - like the TPWD one - have loot, or swag, inside that you can trade for.  Fun stuff like collectors cards and bracelets, coins and stickers.  We left our blog card in that one.  Other caches are so small they only contain the log paper to sign to show that you've found it (the App also lets you log online that you've found the cache).  The last cache of the day was about the width of a soda bottle cap and about 6 inches long.  It had one of the neatest swag items I think we'll ever see...

"You've found Jack Squat.  Nothing Nada Nil Zip Zero Zilch."  Now that's my kinda humor! ;-)

RDB and I are both very excited about this new aspect to our camping trips - we love the thought of having destinations to explore around the camp grounds we stay at - as well as another reason to get out and walk around when the weather is beautiful (which it certainly was this weekend).

So, if you see a couple crazy people walking around a cemetery or the woods, looking like they're lost with a phone in their hands - know that they're not lost: they're just playing a hi-tech game of hide-and-seek.

Going for Gold at Goliad

The 2014 Winter Olympics are drawing to a close. I can't say that I spent much time watching (it's not really felt all that winter-y here in south Texas) - but I can certainly appreciate all the hard work that goes into being an Olympic competitor and how those who are bringing home medals today will be treated as heros in their own right.

Our camping trip to Goliad State Park this weekend had a few heroes for sure.

In the Event of Hospitality, the Gold Medal goes to Scott, the Park Host! (Insert wild cheering here)  RDB and I made a late start of the trip out Friday evening, and with the three hour drive ahead of us, knew that we'd be cutting it close to the 10 o'clock gate closing.  I hadn't realized this till after 5 pm, of course, so any calls to the park went to voice mail.  We arrived in front of the locked park gate at 10:10, and Scott just happened to have his eyes turned in that direction.  I could not thank him enough for walking down the long driveway int the pitch black night to let us in!! 

In the Category of Music, the Gold Medal is awarded to the chapel bells at Presidio La Bahia.  Not only did they chime the hours through out the weekend, they also played musical selections at noon and five.  The first one we had the chance to heard was noon on Saturday when they chimed out Ava Maria.  RDB and I attended the funeral of my Papa this past week - he was quite the avid camper himself.  One of his great-grand-daughters, Donna, sang Ava Maria in his honor.  It was touching to hear it again this weekend as we enjoyed one of his favorite pastimes.  (On a lighter note, the Silver Medal in this category would have go to the gentlemen playing banjo Sunday morning on the other side of the campground.)

Papa camped in 49 states, we're trying to hit all 109 of the TX State Parks.

Continuing the medal counts, the Ants take home the Gold in Really Amazing Trails - really, these were amazing.  RDB, Diesel and I were out walking the River Trail (which would be disqualified from this event because it was not clearly marked) and on our way back we noticed an ant 'run' in the ground.  They were working their way back and forth across the road as well - and these guys were impressive!

The Gold Medal winner in the Food competition was presented to Rice-cooker Cinnamon Banana Pecan Quinoa. (We're still working with this athlete to see if we can learn it's training secrets - in other words, food post coming soon This Just In! Click here to go to the recipe!)  RDB and I set the rice-cooker up before we went out on our geocaching adventure so that the quinoa would be ready when we got back. I tell you what, not to brag on my own creation, but man, this one is good!!  

Silver Medal in Food went to the Hanging Tree Restaurant, in downtown Goliad.  RDB had the 50/50 burger (half bacon, half prime rib) and it was outstanding.  I had the chicken dumplings and they were peppery-good.  The yeast dough bread they serve as an appetizer was awesome!  Don't let the name of the place turn you off either, it's named such because it sits across from the courthouse where the actual hanging tree is.

The final and most anticipated Gold medal announcement is in the Race for Adventure. It was a close race with two great contenders - one steeped in rich tradition and firmly planted in history, the other a new-comer to the sport with great future potential.  After much deliberation, the judges have declared.... a TIE!

Just one-quarter mile south of the State Park lies the Presidio La Bahia - known as Fort Defiance during the Texas Revolution. It was in the chapel at this location where the first Texas Declaration of Independence was signed, well before the Battle of the Alamo.  In fact, as the war for independence continued, there would be a greater loss of life at Fort Defiance than there had been at the Alamo.  Thus, the cries "Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!" became the battle cries at San Jacinto where Texas finally won its freedom from the dictatorship of Mexico's Santa Anna.

RDB and I had the chance Saturday afternoon to tour the  museum on site, then spend time walking the ground inside the fort.  Two contingents of re-en-actors were there, practicing for an upcoming event in April.  We had the opportunity to stay and watch the lowering of the flag at the end of the afternoon.

Sunday morning RDB and I started our newest adventure: Geocaching.  You can read more about it in this post.  By the end of the morning, we had six finds there in Goliad, and grabbed another one here in Houston once we got home.  Yep, we're hooked!

We were in Site #10, in the full hook-ups loop.  Again, a really big thanks to Scott for watching out for us Friday night and making sure we didn't spend the evening in the Wal-Mart parking lot.  Goliad SP does have a noticeable amount of road noise as Highway 59 runs directly through it.  Other than that, it is a lovely place to spend the weekend, play around, and garner a new appreciation for the heroes of Texas' past that fought for our freedom from tyranny, for the land we've come to love, and for the ability to enjoy adventures in camping.

For more camping photos, go here.

Monday, February 3, 2014

50 Nights!

RDB and I celebrated 50 nights camping last weekend!!

In honor of it:

A smash-up on S'mores:

I was going to do a post along the lines of 50 Variations of S'mores, but yeah, I don't love marshmallows that much.  If you want some ideas on different ways to go about it, though - check out my Pinterest board.

And a quilted gift from my Mom:

She's recently taken up the hobby of quilting - or more, is finishing quilts she's started along the way -  and made this one for me.  It's all camping themed, and you'll probably see more pictures of it as we continue on our next 50 nights of camping!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Going back for Seconds

Sometimes there's nothing better than getting home from a camping trip and taking a shower.  Long, hot, lots-of-elbow-room, not-in-the-drafty-campground-bathhouse shower.  So, after a long weekend at Brazos Bend I could smell the campfire smoke all over again when RDB and I got back to the house and got cleaned up.

We spent lots of time socializing this weekend.  It was the annual camp out for the camper's club that we've become a part of.  It was great to see old friends and make some new ones.  We're excited about all the camp outs that are scheduled for the remainder of the year and look forward to adding a few into our camping schedule.

I volunteered to administer the SETPUCC's website - in an attempt to make communication about camp outs and who's scouting a bit easier.  The group seemed happy to have some "young blood" willing to help lead it in a new direction.  RDB and I just love camping (and blogging) so much, it seemed a natural fit for us.

We got to camp Friday night - we really like that Brazos Bend is just an hour from the house - in fact, it was close enough that The 5 J's came over just to roast marshmallows and enjoy the campfire!  It was also the first time they got to see our new set-up with the travel trailer - crazy to have 4 adults all standing in the camper at the same time and having plenty of room for it (couldn't do that in the pop-up!!)  Also had plenty of room for CJ who happened to be grounded and had to sit inside and do homework while everyone else was outside.... glad that didn't keep the rest of the family from enjoying the campfire!

We had lots of visitors in the morning before the potluck - I can't help but love our new Vice Big Kahuna, JSP, who is kinda like the club's one-woman marketing team.  She brought several of the other club members by our site to introduce them to us.  We are certainly making some great new friends as a part of this group!  Even Diesel got to make friends with Comedy Central's dog: an Australian shepherd named Max.  The weather was really nice on Saturday, so we spent a bit of time walking around the park as well.

After the potluck, we jumped in the truck with M&D and rode over to their house.  Yes, house - they live only 4 miles from the park! It was really neat to met their animals, see all the gardening they've done, and we even came home with a giant bag of citrus fruits from trees in their back yard! D is actual our new Big Kahuna for the year - which I think is amazing, as both she and JSP really have a passion and love for camping.

Most of the evening was spent cracking jokes and sharing stories by the campfire (The Host tends an awesome fire, by the way.  That man has talent!).  M&D took a small group of us on an "owl prowl' in the dark.  Brazos Bend has a handicap trial (all concrete) which makes for a nice walk in the dark.  Well, nice except for Comedy Central, who was lagging behind the group, throwing sticks into the brush off the side of the trail to scare us.  Or, well, me.  We did see several alligators in the pond, but no owls, along our late-night walk.

We were at Brazos Bend State Park this weekend, site 224.  Nice, big and open, but a pain to back into.  JSP's family had a really great site right down the way (site #221).  We didn't go to the observatory this trip (it was cloudy) but they are currently fundraising to try and repair the 36" scope before the 25th anniversary of the installation in October.  I made a donation in honor of RDB for Valentines.  Ya know, because his love for me is out of this world! :-)

One last note, before I turn this off to watch the Big Game (Go Seahawks, ehn).: today is Diesel-Dog Doberman's 2nd birthday.  Sure do love our 'little' pup!

For a few more camping photos, go here.