Landed in Waco, Texas

Well, I’ve landed. I’ve landed in Waco and I hope I can stay in one place for a little while.

In March I accepted a new position as Collections Assistant at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame & Museum, and moved from Richmond up to Waco. They haven’t gotten rid of me  yet, in fact they even seem to like me! And I like my new job (as my friends and family can tell – I’m always posting pictures of the interesting things I see in the course of my work). From meeting donors, researchers, and real life Texas Rangers, to handling historic firearms and photographs, and learning about things like the role of the Texas Rangers in the killing of Bonnie and Clyde, and more recent events like the 1993 Branch Davidian siege – my work is interesting.

And from my new home base in Waco, I’ve continued to explore more of Texas. I’ve been hitting more of the state parks on the weekends, including Garner State Park and Dinosaur Valley State Park. Garner State Park is the furthest west that I have been in Texas so far – it’s about 100 miles further west from San Antonio! And Dinosaur Valley is so called because of the dinosaur footprints that have been fossilized and preserved in the bed of the Paluxy River. Besides the footprints, lounging in a river is a great activity for hot Texas summer days. And there have plenty of hot days, today’s high is 107F!

And I got to escape home for a weekend, for a friend’s wedding. Unfortunately, its always too brief whenever I go home. But what can you do? Home is the best.

Five reasons to get outside!

Since about this time last year I have been involved (on and off) in a hiking group in the Chicagoland area. This isn’t my first time hiking either; if you look back at earlier posts of mine, I did a lot of hiking in England as well. So, I think I can fairly tell you that you should get outside and do the same! Here are my reasons, along with a brief review of some recent hikes.

Reason #1: Meet new people

Every time I go on a hike I meet new people. Some of them I may see again on another hike, and some of them I may never meet again. I’ve had the good fortune of meeting many friendly people and having quality conversations, whether we discover we have a common interest in history, or travel and photography etc.

What a great group of people on a winter hike!

What a great group of people on a winter hike!

Reason #2: Learn a new skill

Sometimes I get the opportunity to learn a new skill, or practice an old one. I got a nice refresher course this weekend on cross country skiing, which I’m sure I hadn’t done in 10 years. I have yet to go on one of the rock climbing trips, or mountain climbing trips :-s

Friendly faces on a cross country skiing outing.

Friendly faces on a cross country skiing outing.

Reason #3: Find out how interesting your neighborhood is

Hiking around forest preserves or parks with someone who knows it better than you can be an education. A Thanksgiving Day hike was my motivation to visit the local arboretum for the very first time – only a 20 minute drive from my house. And a hike in the near-west suburbs of Chicago revealed the city’s very own ‘Fountain of Youth’ – locals come with their empty jugs to fill up on the good stuff – see the link to the article below!

"The Fountain of Youth", in a neighborhood near you!

A water pump in a forest preserve is locally viewed as a ‘Fountain of Youth’! My photo.

Reason #4: Get in shape

This is an obvious one. Getting outside and hiking, or whatever it is you want to do, is good for your health. My only mistake has been starting with something that was too challenging for me, but I enjoyed the exercise even then. Last year I did a 22 mile hike around Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and although I was sore for several days after, I felt so proud of what I’d accomplished!

How about getting in shape in beautiful surroundings?

How about getting in shape in beautiful surroundings? My photo.

Reason #5: Outside is better than the gym

Honestly, there are things you can see and do outside that you will never experience if you just go to the gym. Wildlife is a big one for me, like deer, beavers, or eagles (on occasion). And as you’ll notice from the pictures, winter weather doesn’t have to keep you from going outside. In fact, its a good reason to go out and get your vitamin D…

Something else you may see if you venture outside.

Something else you may see if you venture outside.

Photos are courtesy of the meetup group contributors, unless otherwise noted.

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: 22 mile hike

So, of course with the new year, there have to be new adventures! I decided that if I were to make any new years resolutions that they would have to be simple: if I can make 2013 even half as exciting as last year, I will have succeeded. And another thing! I have been here before, that is, the place of unemployed or underemployed, and it tends to make me rather tense. I vow not to live like I’m waiting, waiting for life to sort itself out. I don’t know where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing in a few months time, but that’s no reason to live like I’m waiting. Enough said.

This month I decided to join the ‘Chicago Hiking, Outdoor, and Social Group’ on, and sign up for a hike. I’ve done a lot of hiking in the past year, and a walk around Lake Geneva in Wisconsin sounded like just the thing on a bright, cold Saturday in January. I didn’t think much about the 22 miles part of it, but the sign pictured below gives a vague idea of the historic nature of the route. As a group of about 15, we started from the public library, heading counter-clockwise.

The beginning of our epic 22 mile hike around the lake.

The beginning of our epic 22 mile hike around the lake.

Perhaps some of the most impressive houses on the lake were the ones we passed in the first two hours. We had to keep a very brisk pace in order to make it all the way around before dark, but one must always find time to take pictures! I haven’t figured out if the house below belonged to some famous Chicago family, but I would think so. You don’t see these kinds of places everyday.

One of the most impressive houses on the lake.

One of the most impressive houses on the lake.

Take a walk off the end of the pier, why don't ya!

Take a walk off the end of the pier, why don’t ya!

At about two thirds of the way through our hike, we stopped for a water break outside the lovely house pictured below. Just when you think you’ve seen all the pretty houses, there are more. It is a strange sensation to be walking through so many people’s backyards, especially when some were out in their yards or on their decks. All the wooden posts for the piers were strewn on the lawns, and across the path, and I wonder what the hike would be like in warmer weather. By this time I was also beginning to be in quite a bit of pain… 22 miles is no easy thing. And it would be getting dark soon!

We had lunch sitting in their "backyard".

We had lunch sitting in their “backyard”.

Already dark as we finished up our hike in downtown Lake Geneva.

Already dark as we finished up our hike in downtown Lake Geneva.

In the end, we did not make it back into town before it turned dark, and quite windy. Some of the last houses we passed would have been astounding if we had seen them in the light. But the hike ended up taking us about seven hours to complete. And as a reward for finishing, we had dinner at a Lake Geneva favorite, Popeye’s, pictured below. I imagine Popeye’s would be a heaving place in summer-time, but for us it was the perfect end to a long day. And for what it’s worth, I was sore for two days after.

And the end of our story, at Popeye's Restaurant!

And the end of our story, at Popeye’s Restaurant!

South West England: Hope Cove and East Prawle

I realized that I had intended to post these beautiful pictures quite a while back, and it appears that it’s been a good long time since I posted anything at all. I don’t miss the rainy weather, but I do miss the scenery. There are plans in the works to head back to the UK for graduation in January. Fingers crossed for everything to work out according to plan!

Enjoy the photos!

The view from our campsite over Hope Cove!

The view from our campsite over Hope Cove!

Danielle and Aneta at the campsite

Max getting ready for sunset

Sunset over Hope Cove

Hope Cove seen from the cliff path

The real way to cook out camping!

Grazing sheep on Gammon Head

Near Prawle Point along the South West Coast Path

Dartmoor National Park

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A selection of my pictures from a very rainy Sunday morning on Dartmoor National Park, Devon county, UK. The pictures can hardly capture all the beauty, but we saw moorland, stony Tors, forests, wild ponies and old bridges in just a few hours.

I would never have ventured out onto Dartmoor on my own as it’s so incredibly vast. So, thanks to the ‘Devon Bootlegs’ Ramblers group for letting me tag along and being very welcoming.

CS Hike The Peak District

I went on another hike last weekend with a few British couchsurfers. The destination this time was the Peak District National Park, and we were fewer in number because it was going to be a more intense hike… I thought I’d have no problem. I got picked up at 8:30am on a Sunday morning and we were on our way by 9am. The Peak District is north of Leicester by about 60 miles (near Sheffield), and when we arrived I checked my watch as we started off about 11am.

We began hiking along a ridge, walking through the clouds, which was rather atmospheric. I was doing ok so far, and keeping up. As we descended down a ways, my friends were having trouble deciding where we were, as we were still wrapped in so much fog. We began making our way across a bog, and I came to the realization that the boots I got for Christmas are definitely not waterproof. My spirits definitely began to sink into the mud…

We took our first break about 1pm, which is when the skies began to clear, and I discovered we were on the opposite side of the valley from our starting point. Somewhere off to our left was our goal of a pub lunch, and more than halfway to go on our route back to the car. Keep going! The scenery got prettier but short legs make for twice as many steps. Around 3pm we were making our descent into the village (pub lunch!), and I discovered it was just as painful as the ascent: I felt like a mountain goat, and didn’t have much energy left.

Finally made it to the pub! The ‘Old Nag’s Head’ has supposedly been in the town of Edale since 1577, and the sign on the door said ‘Families, dogs and muddy boots all welcome here!’ I learned that the Peak District was only the beginning point of a trail leading all the way up to Scotland called the ‘Pennine Way’. I contemplated my aching body over a beer and lamb burger before my friends told me the bad news: we had to climb back up to get to the car! In reality it was only an hours walk, and we made it back by 5pm, with a definite feeling of accomplishment. We drove back to Leicester in relative silence.

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CS Hike Bosworth Battlefield

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Did another hike a few weekends ago, with a few couchsurfers. The weather was a bit colder, but we took the bus from Leicester to a tiny town called Market Bosworth, about an hour by bus. From there we hiked through fields to reach the site of the battle of Bosworth, and the visitor center there, plus a falconry demonstration! We hiked back by a different way, along the canal, the old National Railway, and ended at the pub, of course. All in a day’s work. The pictures are courtesy of Aneta.

And here is a brief description about the battle, taken from the Bosworth website (

Bosworth is a site of national historic significance, being the location of one of the three most important battles fought on British soil. It is the site where the Battle of Bosworth took place in 1485, and infamous as the place where King Richard III lost his life and crown to Henry Tudor and thus where the Tudor dynasty was born. Shakespeare immortalised Richard III, a King betrayed, unhorsed, surrounded by his enemies and finally calling out “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse.”

The Wars of The Roses consisted of a series of battles fought between 1454 and 1485 by two rival branches of the same royal family for the control of the English throne. A contemporary name for the conflict was ‘The Cousins’ War’.Although some members of the houses of York and Lancaster did have white and red roses on their heraldry, the term Wars of the Roses was not used untill much later.

Between 1454 and 1471 the houses of Lancaster and York fought thirteen battles with the Yorkist Edward IV winning the eventual victory. Richard III was Edward’s youngest brother and succeeded him to the throne in 1483. Fourteen years after the last battle of the Wars of the Roses, Richard III rode into battle once more, losing his life and his throne to Henry Tudor on the 22nd August 1485.