Monday, June 22, 2009

Lost Maples Sweatfest

My bicycle problems on Monday got even worse. When I went to change the inner tube, I realized the only replacements I had were actually a size smaller than the tire, so it looked under inflated even with it blown up as much as my miniature pump could manage. After a couple of miles, the little plastic tab holding my lock on sheared almost completely off, so it was flopping back in forth and getting in the way of my legs. When I stopped to take it off of the bike and put it in my backpack, I found a cut in the sidewall of my back tire. Either it happened during the short distance I rode on the rim in the morning, or it was from some other incident I hadn't even noticed. Fortunately the tire held together long enough to get home, but I had to replace it.

At lunch on Tuesday I went to the bicycle shop and tried to replace that one tire, but they didn't stock that type any more, so I wound up getting two new tires of the same size but different tread pattern. As I went to leave, I discovered my car's battery was dead all of a sudden. I figured that rather than try to get a jump, I would replace the battery, figuring it was probably time anyway. The good thing is that I was on Lamar, where there are lots of car repair shops and at least one auto parts store. The problem was that the store was on the other side of the busy street. I ran across, bought the battery, and ran back. Then I realized I didn't have any tools in the car, so I went to the bicycle shop to borrow an adjustable wrench. It was really dirty, but I replaced the battery pretty quickly, and the car started right up. I returned the wrench, drove across to the auto parts store to get my core charge back, and went back to work. My stereo has a security feature where it requires a code to reactivate after power is lost, so I had to go digging in my glove compartment to find the code.

On Wednesday after work I went up and down the "hill of life" two-plus times with my big backpack weighing about 32 pounds. I rode the bicycle in to work again on Thursday, this time without incident. On Friday I did the stairs with the big backpack.

Saturday morning I repacked the big backpack and amazingly had enough gear that it was full to overflowing, leaving my small stool to be strapped on the outside. Including 5 liters of water the pack weighed about 40 pounds. It was about 9 by the time I got out of Austin. I skirted San Antonio, then to Bandera where I stopped at a gas station for a drink and something resembling a lunch. I probably shouldn't have been trying to eat it while driving 60 miles an hour on a narrow winding road, but it worked out okay and I got to the park around 11:30. I checked in and drove to the parking area. I ate the rest of my "lunch," changed my shorts and traded my sandals for hiking boots, then started down the trail. The trail to the ponds is pretty flat and despite the heavy pack I made good time. After 15 minutes, I was thinking I must have covered at least half the one mile distance, when I realized I was almost there. I set up camp along the water at the far end of the camping area, trying to be as far away from traffic as possible. When I left to do some more hiking with about half my gear, there was one tent and a few people along the shore. When I got back around 2, there was nobody- even the tent was down and gone. That afternoon made me want to start some sort of "quiet in the backcountry" campaign- while I was at camp I could hear people yakking on the trail above me, and on a ridge overlooking the ponds I could hear people practically yelling to each other, even though they were right next to each other. I was a little sweaty when I got back to camp, but it wasn't really that hot out and there was a nice breeze, so I cooled off pretty quickly. I decided to go for a swim anyway, at least to rinse myself and my clothes off a little bit. I swam across to the limestone cliffs, undercut by the water, and chilled out on a big rock that was at the perfect depth to stand on. The water was really nice and refreshing, but I didn't stay in for too long. I got out and dried off sitting on a bench reading, then went back to my tent and continued reading. After a while I actually started feeling bored and I thought about going in to Utopia for dinner and (even though it's against park rules) getting a six-pack to bring back. Kind of hoping it was after 5, I checked my watch thinking that if it was after 5 I would just stay. Since it was only 4:45, I put my boots on and hiked out to my car. The irony was that people were just starting to show up again, so maybe it wouldn't have been boring. I had a burger at the Lost Maples Cafe and then, since Utopia is apparently dry, I drove 15 miles west to Leakey. I got gas and some beer and drove back to the park. I sat at camp reading and drinking the beer (in a water bottle to be less conspicuous) until the bugs started eating me up. It was kind of hot in my tent, but my little battery operated fan helped a lot. By the time I went to sleep it seemed like everybody else had already turned in- the couple with their two children and I'm guessing the grandfather; and the group of boyscouts I'd seen a couple of times during the day.

I didn't sleep well, I woke up a few times and eventually it was cool enough that I got into my sleeping bag. I did ultimately sleep until 7, however. It was an overcast and muggy morning. After breakfast and packing up I was already starting to sweat it was so humid. I started along the West Trail at 8:30, and after about a mile and a half I decided to take the West Loop Trail, a two and a half spur off of the main trail. There weren't many people in the park in the first place, but that corner is certainly the least visited, so it was particularly quiet. I was sweating so much at that point that when I started going up a hill, my hat started sweating- it had gotten so saturated that the bill was dripping. Just as the trail started back downhill, I stopped for a snack and to rest. When I got up to leave I noticed that the rock I had been sitting on was wet from my sweat. When I got back to the main trail a a boy and girl, roughly in their early teens, went by in the direction I was headed. I was starting to feel tired already at that point, and to my disappointment, I never quite caught up with either of them. After a while, their father caught up with me, and passed me when we got to the uphill portion. I fell further behind them when I had to stop a couple of times to catch my breath. I saw them again sitting on the bench I had been fantasizing about resting on. They got up and continued on their hike as I approached and I had the whole plateau to myself. I had a real proper rest- I took my boots off, had a snack, and laid back to read a chapter of my book. As is usually the case, however, I was feeling stiff and sore when I had to get up, put my boots back on, and reshoulder my pack. When I finally got back to the car around noon, I changed out of my sweat-soaked, gamey synthetic clothes into my much less so cotton clothes and sandals, and started home with the A/C blasting. It was a good ways down the road, in Kerrville, before I was feeling cooled off and stopped to get a Dr Pepper. I got home at 3, took a shower, and laid down to take a nap. I didn't fall asleep, just read a magazine, then played on the computer before deciding to go out for dinner. Having just read an article on steak, I headed to the roadhouse, but just as I was pulling in to the parking lot, Jimmy called and said they were heading to the Texican, so I went there instead. After eating too much at dinner, I went over to his place and drank beer on the deck until too late, then went home and straight to bed.

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