Monday, November 23, 2015

Lindale, Texas: A hidden treasure in East Texas

Lillie pads Faulkner Park
Faulkner Park Lindale, Texas
Great Blue Heron near pond

I stopped by Lindale on my way to Tyler Texas, I was open to what ever photographic opportunities presented themselves. My original idea was to go to Arkansas but there is a benefit in seeking out the obscure and less known places.

I was surprised to find Faulkner Park, a wonderful little park with large east Texas pines and a pond full of Lillie pads. I watched as families gathered to watch a soccer game, it was a beautiful park hidden off highway 69 that I found just by exploring.

The next place I stopped, also in Lindale, was the Old MillPond Museum. It’s a very interesting place with very friendly people to greet you as you go into the museum.

Inside the museum were treasures from yesteryear, old pots and pans, musical instruments, a model T and a working mill. I was also given a tip on a great blue heron that hides at the edge of the pond. I was able to get close pictures of him and the surrounding scenery was quite beautiful.

Every corner was another place in time to explore with artifacts of days gone by. The whole landscape is a museum of tractors and old time tools that gives you a beautiful glimpse of what it might have been like before our obsession with cellphones, apps and video games-a simpler time.

I am starting to do a series, finding the out of the way places to explore. Museums, zoos and places you wouldn’t go out searching for but are happy you found. Stay tuned, I am on a mission.

Mill outside museum
Music room at Old Mill Pond Museum

Inside the museum
Old pots and pans at the museum

Sunday, November 22, 2015

2 very different trips to the zoo: Part 2

This is the next part of getting out there for the fall foliage. I found myself at the Caldwell Zoo in Tyler. This is the second time I went to the zoo by myself. People wonder where your child is and what is a grown man doing at the zoo, well I say you never outgrow the zoo.

Last time I went to the Fort Worth Zoo. I must have had a different mindset that day because the whole time I was driving it seemed I was fighting myself. I felt almost displaced, going through the motions  but not enjoying the feeling.

This time was different, I found myself feeling that intangible feeling of being free. Another thing I didn't have when I went to the Fort Worth Zoo is a telephoto lens. Now I can take portraits of the animals without getting in the cages with them, the zoo keepers don't appreciate that.

My first subjects were a few egrets that seemed undisturbed by my presence. When you get close with a telephoto lens, you get a whole new view of the animal you've seen a thousand times.

I got to capture some portraits of a couple of bald eagles and a long horn but the animal that really captured my attention was a pack of female lions. I spent much of my time trying to capture the light as it was lighting up the edge of the lions'  faces.

The wonderful thing about the time of day was the light was at a perfect angle and the animals were enjoying a cool late afternoon. It was only an hour I got to spend there before the zoo closed but it lasted longer than any hour I can remember.

So if you want to save time and make an hour last longer....go to the zoo, preferably with family but if not go alone. It's a great way to enjoy the day outside, get exercise and the animals like the company.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Getting out there! Fall foliage 2015

Sometimes the hardest part of getting out there and exploring is taking that first step and actually doing it. This has been increasingly more difficult as my son grows more independent.

I have been planning to go to Arkansas to shoot the fall colors but each weekend it never seems to happen, always an excuse not to make the trip. My car is also on its last leg and I envision getting stranded somewhere far away.

Today, I got on 30 east, my car seemed willing and able and I was in the mood to drive. I soon realized 20 was a better ride, as there is more to see closer to home, the Texas Fisheries, a zoo or two.

I took highway 69 south and I found it, my little bit of autumn to shoot. It’s an amazing feeling to not have anyone pulling in any direction, just me and whatever I feel like doing.

My first stop was Lake Tawakani, I explored a side road and shot some stands of hardwoods, the fall foliage was minimal but still beautiful. The water was very choppy and I could still see the remnants of the recent storms as the water was quite high.

I got back on to 69 heading south and found a small lake off the beaten path, more options to shoot and lots of scenic images that surrounded the body of water.

My next point of interest was Faulkner park. This is a small park with tall stands of pine surrounding a Lilly pond which reminded me a bit of Daingerfield. There were soccer fields and you could tell the community used the park-I was just impressed with the Lilly pond and the tall East Texas pines.

I was headed toward Tyler and at that point decided I would go to the zoo. I had only been to the Caldwell zoo once and it was before I was collecting magnets, now I had  a quest, something to look forward to.

I enjoyed the feeling of freedom, the fact that I was finding the photographs I had sought. I believe just as my son and I started small and expanded our trips, this is the beginning of me being able to go out and explore alone….I had taken the first step and I was happy I did.

Stay tuned for the next attraction on the trip. An Old Mill Pond Museum and the Caldwell zoo was my next target, stay tuned.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Secondary Driver: The perks of having a teenager.

It’s odd to be a passenger, a privilege I rarely get to enjoy. Having my son as an additional driver has allowed a different experience in the road trip. It’s much like driving as you tend to go on autopilot but instead you get to get lost in the scenery. I remember that’s what I loved most about riding in the back seat of a car; I would stare at the trees and scenery and never get bored.

I remember back when I was young riding on the Garden State Parkway looking for the illusive great egret, which now would be a regular sighting but than it was a treat. There were the long green belts along the highway, which I never grew tired of.

In stark contrast were my grandmother’s apartment buildings in the city. It was grey, the buildings were grey, even the English sparrows and pigeons were drab and grey-we always got there too quickly in my opinion.

Now I get to enjoy twice the stamina having a backup driver. So I figure the road trip has taken on a new and more expanded appeal-maybe the cross country trip isn’t so far out of our reach, just as long as I don’t cramp his teenage style-we better get road tripping quickly. 

Navarre Beach, Florida

The vacation was a success. I must admit this year has been busy and the idea of not having any expectations seemed to work for this vacation. We go to Florida every year for our family vacation and the last few years we have gone new places such as Cape San Blas and Indian Shores with at least one night spent in Navarre every time. It is one of my sons' favorite places.

This year we just went to Navarre. It's like coming home I guess. I got to take the kids, okay teens, to the Gulf Breeze Zoo. Even though it was unbearably hot it was just amazing, we even rode on the train, fed the birds and had lunch together. I took it as a great complement that I could spend the afternoon with four teens and they weren't anxious to go home, it was a privilege I don't take lightly.
There's no better place to be a kid again than going to the zoo.

I learned how powerful the surf is and how much more awkward it is with a kayak that doesn't seem to bend and flow with the waves. My son said he felt like he has gotten to the point that he can put the kayak anywhere he wants-I watched him navigate the same waves I just got clobbered by and he proved his point. I was quite impressed and a bit jealous of his paddling prowess. I lost a rod, a reel and a bit of my dignity in the surf.

My son got to see a dolphin, a bit closer than he probably would have liked. I got to see a full breach of the same dolphin as my son paddled quicker than I had ever seen him paddle. We got to get up close and personal, 100 foot away is close enough, to a large shark cruising the surf. Again I watched two teens practically walk across the water with their kayaks.

We got to rise and fall on five foot waves, it was an amazing and yet a bit unnerving at the same time. I felt like we were skiing as we rose up high and fell beneath each crest, it was quite a ride. I got to catch a really nice redfish and enjoyed catching the largest ladyfish I have ever seen, I saw the resemblance to the tarpon they are kin to.

We all learned that access points to the surf look the same from a distance. We also learned how much exercise it is dragging a kayak across a beach when you didn't choose the correct access point. Let's just say we all got our exercise that evening.

One of the best experiences of this vacation was just forty minutes out on the back deck. I mentioned how hot it was, even the locals were complaining about how unseasonably hot and humid it was. I watched the stragglers on the beach scrambling for shelter. I listened to the sound on the rail and over the roof, I listened to  the gulls and watched as inanimate objects flew through the air across the pool. It was one of those moments where it doesn't get much better-peace, calm and the sound of the rain, I had forgotten how much I had missed it. What a wonderful end to a relaxing vacation.

Recent relevant posts-

Cape San Blas, Florida

Indian Shores, Florida

Gulf Breeze Zoo

Kayaking in the surf:a seasoned kayak is bested


Going back to Navarre: Reigniting the passion in an old vacation.

I feel like I am returning to an old friend that I’ve been badmouthing as of recent. I expect to arrive in Navarre and be turned away because I’ve been complaining about going back to the same place that just happens to be Navarre, Florida.

It’s almost taboo to be honest with my family you would have thought I was insulting a beloved family member. It’s not that don’t love Navarre, it’s just that I have been back so many times it has become old news to me. It’s hard to find a restaurant where I haven’t memorized the menu, we fish the same places and I am eager for something new.

Once the mystery is out of a place I would prefer to go somewhere else although that’s not the way it had always been, when I was young I used to ask when we would return before I was even leaving the place. I think it has to do with the road trips my son and I have taken, I am more excited about finding new places and exploring new things.

I haven’t even bought a new magnet in a long time. It’s sad how we grow jaded with habit, how the palm trees that once excited me have become just palm trees lining the road. I often wonder if Lake Ray Hubbard would look different if I haven’t lived by it for the last few years, although the fact that it has water again is something I still appreciate with the recent drought.

I am trying to see the familiar for the first time, a great gift if one can achieve it. It’s the child that grows bored with the family vacation, how quickly we take our lives for granted. What an amazing treat it will be to see Navarre for the first time again.

That’s what this vacation is about, no expectations, no preconceived notions just the intention to relax and take in a renewed view of Navarre Beach Florida. Who knows what other mysteries I will discover that I have until now overlooked due to my own complacency.

Next post-new places discovered out of the familiarity of Navarre, Florida. It was a wonderful trip for all.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Ham’s Orchard: More of a time than just a place

I have been craving fresh fruit, specifically tree-ripened  peaches and there is  a place we love to go in the summer. Just a twenty minute drive east to Terrill Texas is a fresh produce oasis where time magically slows even if for just long enough to eat their homemade ice cream.

You drive through the town of Terrill and the old fashioned storefront is reminiscent of another time and just as you drive where the trees replace the quaint stores and gas stations, over the train tracks is Ham’s Orchard.

There seems to be a ritual to eating ice cream. You see old and young alike, from the elderly couples to the road tripping family slowing down to eat the peach, strawberry and swirl ice cream. We all sit on the porch, people talk, there is less cell phone chatter and texting, people laugh, dads poll their kids on their favorite flavors.

Inside it’s another story, crowded lines eager for farm-fresh delights. The colors lend themselves so well to photography, bright plump tomatoes and deep green seedless watermelon line the wall.

There are all kinds of jellies, honeys, syrups and veggie preserves. I must admit I want to try everything and every time it seems a few peaches turns into a full basket of a little bit of everything. This time we got blueberries, strawberries, peaches, tomatoes and plums.

Did I mention they have ice cream to go? All kinds of wonderful home made pies and frozen cobblers tempt the patrons as they wait in line for home made fudge and ice cream. I noticed the customers are patient, it seems everyone has stepped out of the hustle of the nearby cities. Older gentlemen hold their wives hands, young dads carry their children on their shoulders, there is the feeling of tradition of an idyllic summer day in the country, a sense of family.

There were young children dripping with ice cream as we all sit on benches outside. We don’t even notice or pay attention to the heat, that’s what the drowse of ice cream on a hot summer day is all about. There is silence, as even the crankiest child sits quietly licking the sweet cold treat.

All around the area there are things to see, there’s a petting zoo down the road a stretch-just couldn’t resist. You are emersed in the sound of cicadas buzzing and the shadows of pecan trees. In the back there is an orchard full of peach trees, along the side there are blackberry bushes where my son and I have picked our own on another trip.

There is barbecue, which I would assume must be wonderful by the line waiting to get it and the crowd that fills the pavilion to eat it. It’s a family place, you can feel it, even the workers, all young kids, seem to be content spending time there.

After a wonderful bit of ice cream and full bags of produce it was time to drive home. I am so happy that on any given day between mid May and mid August I can go back to a time, a place where I can imagine sipping iced tea and lemonade on front porches, families stopping for a moment to enjoy that elusive summer day and did I mention ice cream-it’s hard not to feel peace and calm even for just a little while. 

You're in the country. Cicadas buzzing, birds chirping, a perfect summer day in Texas.

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