Friday, August 28, 2009

Desert Sunrise & the Roof of Texas

It turns out Guadalupe Mountains National Park in West Texas is in the Mountain Time Zone. Just two hours east of there, we get back to Central Time. We didn't know this on our first night there, and set our little watch alarm for 6:30am, hoping to hit the trail early.

When the alarm went off (5:30am locally), it was still pitch dark. So we lay partially awake in the tent and waited. It was very pleasant after the rains of the previous night, and so I wasn't in any hurry to get up.

Soon however, it started getting light and I opened the tent flap and peeped out to see this -

I quickly pulled out my camera and scrambled out of the tent. No one else was up in the campsite, and I watched the fiery red sunrise as light slowly spread through the sky.

After taking these pictures, I quickly went in to wash up. In the short time I was in there, the strong desert sun had come out and all the red was gone from the sky. We could feel the heat rapidly taking over. So after a hurried breakfast, we started on an 8.5 mile RT hike to the roof of Texas - Guadalupe Peak.

There was literally no shade on the trail. It was dry and hot, but at 8:30am there still was a soft breeze that made the walk pleasant.

The trail led steadily uphill via switchbacks, and we quickly got higher up in elevation.

The view got better and better with each turn.

Little lizards darted under rocks as we approached, and desert insects kept up a steady chirping as the sun climbed higher into the sky. Bright red flowers peeped out cheerfully at intervals from the rocky landscape, relieving the monotony.

It took us about two hours to get to the top. Guadalupe Peak, at 8751 feet, is the highest point in Texas. The view from the top was lovely, and it was quiet and serene. We were the first people up there on this day, though we saw a dozen more people heading up as we made our way down.
We didn't stay long though, because it was too hot to sit out there under the sun.

The weekend is here again. Aren't the days just flying by?! Have a good one.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Guadalupe Mountains & the Bookmark Draw

Thanks for your comments and positive words on my previous (and 100th) post. I drew three random numbers today and matched them to the comments. The bookmarks will soon be in the mail to:

1. Blu
2. Celeste Maia
3. Raph G. Neckmann

Thanks for participating!

Every summer we try to do a little hiking trip to one of the great National Parks in the US. This year we tried and tried to make plans, but they kept falling through. Finally we decided to just take a few days and drive down to West Texas, to Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

Compared to many other national parks in the US, this one is pretty remote. The only accommodation within the park is in the form of a few campsites, which you cannot reserve in advance. The campgrounds have toilets and potable water, but there are no camp stores where you can buy food or batteries or anything you might have forgotten to bring. No showers, and nothing except the wide skies and open desert with sparsely marked hiking trails.

Rough, stark natural beauty everywhere, and as much solitude as you want.

What I found most fascinating was that this park is an ancient, marine fossilized reef! Apparently, this dry desert was under a vast tropical ocean about 250 million years ago. The tall mountains that jut out into the sky today were part of a reef that stretched over 400 miles of the shoreline! The ocean eventually receded, and slowly the reef emerged, and with erosion over many, many years, the peaks were formed.

Guadalupe Peak within the park is the highest point in Texas, and we hiked to its top one day.

We arrived in the park in the middle of a harsh thunder and lightning storm. We found an open campsite, but sat in our car wondering if the showers would stop at all. The clouds were dark and low, and the lightning was incessant.

After an hour or so, the rain stopped and we could see the clouds slowly moving on. We quickly got out and pitched our tent, so that if it did rain through the night, we'd have a place to stretch out!

So this was home for the next couple days, where we sat every night under the trees, watching the incredibly clear night sky, with billions of stars shimmering like shards of crystal. Guadalupe Mountains National Park is so very far away from any city that it has some of the clearest night skies possible.

Later that evening as we were getting settled in, the rain had almost completely stopped, though bulbous dark clouds still hung from the sky. What made us feel completely welcome though, was this pair of cheerful rainbows that were painted across the sky!

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

One hundred posts and some bookmarks

It has been a year and two months since I started this blog one hot, hot summer day last year. This summer has been just as hot, and as I sit cooped up in my air-conditioned bubble, avoiding the sun at all costs like a mole in a hole, I am amazed that it has been this long.

I wasn't sure then how long this will last, but this here is my 100th post. A milestone!

To mark this occasion, here is a modest little give-away. Having been bitten by the bookmark bug (see my previous post), I have been making some more bookmarks, painting the designs on paper. Since they are a little flimsy, I thought I would get them printed on better paper, and laminated as well.

I know most of you are avid readers. So if you would like to have this set of three bookmarks, leave me a comment. I will pick three names at random about 10 days from now, and mail these out to those three of you.

Before I show you my bookmarks, here are some from my collection, along with some of my favourite books.

Can you read that? This and the next bookmark are Ilan Shamir's words. Check out more about him here. This one says:

Advice from a Bat

Trust in your Senses
Spend Time just Hanging around with Friends
Get a Grip
Enjoy the Nightlife
Sometimes you've just gotta Wing it
Guano Happens!

This one says:

Advice from a Bear

Live Large
Climb beyond your Limitations
When life gets hairy, Grin and Bear it
Eat Well
Live with the Seasons
Take a Good, Long Nap
Look after your Honey!

This third one was a present from a friend who visited South Africa and wanted to get me something small. I thought it was a very thoughtful gift. Such a simple idea, no?

Now, here are my three bookmarks. Remember - if you leave a comment, you are at risk of being picked to get these in the mail. :)

This past year of blogging has been fun. Through this medium I have found some of your incredibly creative blogs that I find so inspiring. Keep creating, and keep posting!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Chaurasia on the Flute: Sublime!

Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia is a genius on the flute. His name is synonymous with the hindustani classical flute in India, and his music is divine, really!

If you haven't yet heard him, you really must. His music literally lifts you up and transports you to a serene, happy place. I tried to download a video of his from youtube and upload it here, but I got errors from blogger. So here's a link, to a beautiful piece by him, recorded in his youth.

(click on his picture for the link to the video).

He also is one of the many artistes in India who are happy to do fund raising concerts for charitable organizations, and as a result has been on tour in the US several times expressly for fund-raising concerts with specific groups.

While I was still a graduate student about 14 years ago, I got to listen to him live for the first time. It was so utterly magical! After that concert, I was one of the students who escorted him to his host's home. During the drive, he asked me simple questions like what I was studying and what I planned to do after graduation. I don't know what I replied - I was so tongue-tied!

He is older now than in the above video. He is 71, but the music still is as sweet as ever. We listened to him live over the weekend. A part of the proceeds were going to AID (Association for India's Development), my volunteer group.

When he came to the US on tour in 2000, I was a volunteer with Child Relief & You, and I had made these little flute-shaped bookmarks to give away at his concert. But since I did it at the last minute and we didn't have the time to print them, they never got used.

This time, I again remembered these bookmarks on Saturday, and quickly re-made them for AID, in powerpoint. A quick dash to Kinkos for copies, and we were able to hand these out to those who showed interest in our AID table.

I haven't ever taught myself to use better software ... so these aren't perfect, but they worked for the tight deadline, and served the purpose.

Hope you like Chaurasia's music as much as I do!