Pitching a Tent: The Big Thicket National Preserve

I headed out to the Big Thicket for some quiet and alone time.  Although I had invited the kids, wanting to set them up with a used laptop for my computer programs so they could practice (mostly math), they had other plans.  My reception at the Goodwill Computer Store had been less than welcoming.  They were out of laptops.  I had left a cell-phone number, but I did not expect to hear back.  My phone has been hacked for a while now.  Anything that anyone offers to me, goes to someone else.  I suppose that there is a lawsuit somewhere…

It doesn’t interest me.  And the money-grubbing, and “feeling owed”  disgusts me.  If you can’t get by and make a living for yourself without chasing other people, I don’t want to know you.  I accept that there are dependents, people who will never be able to care for themselves.  But there are also people who chase dependency in order to support themselves.  There is generally enough opportunity out there to live a creative, productive life.  I contribute to society.  I don’t fill out paperwork, apply for jobs, or want government or any other kind of monitoring or accountability.  I just want to live simply, and enjoy a thoughtful, exploring life, caring in those situations where I am able to act to alleviate suffering.  I feel like anyone should be able to do this in any country, and if they can’t in the country they are in, I hope that they can carve out a place in some country where they can.

I do want a car, something that some people apparently find incompatible with a simple life.  I’m not anti-technology. I like tinkering with things, trying to figure out how they work.  I know enough about cars, to feel like I’ve earned the right to drive one – I know how to arc or change a starter, change head and taillights, fuses, radiator hoses, check engine compression, change tires, a windshield, swap out brake pads and rotors, minor brake line repairs, change the oil and transmission filters, and a few other things.  I’ve taken all the tests – passing eye, written, and driving tests every time I have gotten a license, in spite of the fact that I could just simply swap out my license.  I am not a danger on the highway.  There is no reason to restrict my driving.

So, back to my tent…  I headed out, finding a tiny little niche in the trees of what is still pretty wild East Texas, with my 2 dogs.  I took the car off-road.   This was admittedly a little uncomfortable because of the car’s proximity to the ground.  I hiked another half a mile in to set up my tent in the forest.  The top tent pole was broken, so I had to use a little vine to pull the pole out.

I had capped another end of a set of poles that I had repaired before, forgetting that in order to insert the key in the bottom of the pole, it has to be open-ended.  So, the tent wasn’t perfect – but good enough.

This one snapped.

As we settled down for the night, listening to the birds, crickets, and frogs, I wrapped the fly around me for a blanket.  It was not supposed to rain, and the temperature was comfortable.  The coyotes started to howl, but they were not that close.  After a few hours, Spin very quickly and abruptly lunged at the corner of the tent with a low bark.  I had not heard anything, and waking up, pulled both dogs back.  Both Petey and Spin were at full alert, their noses held high to smell.  I had not brought a flashlight, so I was left with a decision.  What was it?  Too light to be a wild hog, a deer, or a bear.  This animal was lightfooted and quiet.  It did not growl back.  It was close enough for Spin’s reaction to be very directional.

If I had to guess, I would guess a dog, trained not to bark.  It’s probably not a bad guess.  In the past, I’ve been sought out when I camped in a new area in the middle of the night.  The click of a gun cocking had driven Chandler, one of my rescued police-trained dogs, ballistic with barking.  At the time, I had had 5 dogs, including a pit bull with me.  I had simply told whoever it was to “Go away.  It’s the middle of the night.  I have a deed to the property.”  When they had heard my female voice, they had left, sending the police back during the day.  The lot that had been marked on the map by the person who had sold me the lot had been the wrong lot.

In any event, this time, I pulled together my stuff, and the dogs, and in the night, managed to navigate my way back through the trail-less forest to the clearing, using the highway sound as a guide, and from there to the car.  This gave me an opportunity to see the stars – I think I picked out Castor and Pollux from the Gemini constellation next to the moon.  We slept in the car, and at 65 degrees, the temperature was comfortable with 2 dogs, and one window down 5 inches.  The mosquitoes were out, and the West Nile Virus active although generally further north.  It can be fatal, although most of the time, people don’t even know they have it.  I dug out the bug spray just in case.

The next morning, I took down the tent – filled with ants.  We spent the rest of the morning hiking – doing 3 different trails at various levels of difficulty.  The first (the hike to the tent and back) was really trail-less and dense.  The second trail was along the Menard creek corridor, down to a swimming hole, back up to another creek crossing.  There had been no trail markings, although the map had indicated that this was a trail that led to the Indian reservation.  I was a little uncomfortable with the lack of indication, but just kept the creek to my right at every intersection.  I stopped at the creek crossing, turning back along another path that eventually led me into a poor POA-controlled settlement.  None of the pictures I took from this section of the trip came out.  Deleted.  It’s not the first time pictures have been deleted from my camera.  I lost the last 1/3 of the pictures of my hike across New York State when they were deleted from the camera about 1 month later while it was in my glove compartment.  I tried to recover them professionally, but was told that they could not be recovered.  Someone has the pictures.  Probably in exchange for some money, but it also may be that someone wants to have “my story” with a different actor, someone who isn’t creative enough to write their own life.  Or it could just be bullying…

There was quite a bit of mud on the trail, and tracks were pretty visible.  I picked up the coyote tracks-

down to the marsh,

being careful not to prick my hand on the tree that I was tempted to use to climb out of the creek bed.

I couldn’t find this one in the tree guide.

The third trail was the birdwatcher’s trail.

This one could have been negotiated by someone in a wheelchair.  I recorded many bird calls, but none of the recordings were preserved in the camera.  A few pictures of flowers did come out, but many were blurred.

blazing stars

Including a pink and orange variant of what is usually a yellow and pink flower.

The large black and yellow swallowtail butterflies were quite active, and I got pictures of a brown butterfly, and also a new black butterfly.

I also got 2 different dragonflies.

There was a spot where one could sit and watch the catfish and other fish jumping upstream, with the waterfowl.

The Trinity river ran behind the creek.

On the way back, as I dropped off my recyclables, I picked up some old wood abandoned at the recycling center.  Projects.

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