Monday, July 26, 2010

Ranger...well, not danger

This past weekend marked my first camping trip of the summer, just a three-dayer to a state park in Texas Hill Country: river, limestone bluffs, trees, a tent, a campstove. Life is good. We took a 2.5-hour nature hike which interwove history, flora, fauna, agriculture, rangeland ecology, and even natural dyes and medicinals. The best interpretative nature walk in memory.

Along the trail on the excellent interpretative nature walk given by the volunteer Friends group. Algae are responsible for the gorgeous aqua color of Hill Country rivers, we learned.

We also took time to splash in a shallow bend in the river, with a beach crowded with all manner of canopies and umbrellas. It was a nest of activity, yet relaxing.

My friend, Karen, is a seasonal worker in the park, and Saturday evening we enjoyed a wonderful visit over salmon fish tacos, with sauteed peppers and onions, and a salad of cucumbers, avocado, and apples, possibly my best outdoor-cooked meal ever. We reminisced and caught up past dark.

The state park was very strict on the rules. Even a law-and-order type like me was a bit surprised, but happy with the calm in the long run.

A respite in the nature hike.

Sunday morning, my camping companion and I took a short hike. On the return trip, we spied a  large, stern ranger walking resolutely down the camping area loop. We bid him a respectful, but brief, good morning and veered off the trail toward our campsite to avoid encountering such a forbidding presence. This park was home to no-nonsense rangers enforcing stout rules, and I did not want to run afoul of them.

Then he called out my name! Oh, no, what have I done? Our tent is within the 16 x 16 tent pad, no alcoholic beverages were consumed (or even possessed), the campsite and entry fees are paid for for both of us (by far the highest campsite fee I've ever paid), we've been quiet as church mice, we left a donation for the Friends group leading the nature hike, and we hung our food bags the raccoon-proof pole overnight.

Meekly we approach. Not to worry, though. The ranger, second-in-command at this state park, and his now-wife were my next-door neighbors during their undergraduate days. True to form, he was a serious young man even as a young student. Now he and his family live in a residence within the park, and he has the tough job of keeping order at a large state park with not only hiking trails, campsites, and interpretive areas, but river frontage for swimming, kayaking, and tubing. He saw my name on the roster, recognized the address, and took time to seek me out at my campsite. That was nice, and unexpected. All in all, a great weekend.

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