September 7, 2010


Ichetucknee Adventure

Here’s a formula for you. Ichetucknee River + Crazy lightening storm x 9 Conleys (okay, only 5 of them were Conleys… but the two who aren’t related are pretty much family) = an experience !

Almost every time Sara and I visit Valdosta (which is where we are right now), we take the trip down to Lake City, FL to go tubing down the Ichetucknee River. Ichetuknee is Seminole for “Dang this water’s cold!” Once Sara and I knew we’d be in town this summer, we made plans for a float down the river. This summer, Titus has gone down the San Marcos three times, so we figured that this would be a great opportunity to introduce him to one of our favorites. Unfortunately, Titus was sick and spent 6 hours at the medical clinic with Sara and my mom (that’s another story), so the rest of the family drove down to Lake City.

Before leaving Valdosta, we checked the weather. As expected for Florida in the summer, afternoon storms were likely to move in at 4:00. We left in time to get our tubes, float down the river and be out before the storms moved in. When we got the the tube rental places, we learned that two of the longer drop in points were closed. That means our float would only last 45 minutes. If we didn’t get enough, we were free to do it again.

As we got to the park and walked our tubes to the drop in point, we looked at each other as we heard a distant rumble of thunder. “It’s only a 45 minute float and it’s only 2:30” we reasoned. So, in we went! Ten minutes into the trip, we we laughing, splashing and enjoying ourselves. Then the rain came. When I say rain… I mean torrential downpour. There was little to do but laugh. This was ridiculous. Then the thunder and lightening came. Not really that funny.

I remember learning when I was a kid that the formula for determining how far the lightening was away was to start counting as soon as you saw the flash and continue counting until you heard the thunder. I don’t really remember how many seconds equaled a mile. That didn’t really matter in our case as the thunder came nearly instantaneous with the lightening. That meant the lightening was right on top of us. There wasn’t anything we could do. We were in the middle of a swampy/wetland forest floating down a river. There were lots of places where we could get out, but it was in the middle of a forest and they say one of the worst places to be was near tall trees. The other option was to continue floating down the river. There’s a reason they make you get out of the pool in a storm. Being confronted with two really bad options, we all elected to just continue down the river. With only 30 more minutes until the end, we figured that the sooner we could get down the river, the sooner we’d be out of immediate danger, right?

Well, it was an adventure. Everyone was a little unnerved, but again, there was nothing we could do but just let the current take us downstream. Ultimately, I’m just glad that Sara and Titus missed out on this little adventure. It’s a trip we’ll never forget and we’ve all decided that next time we float the Ichetucknee, we’ll make sure there’s a zero percent chance of storms.

Enjoy the video I made after our safe return!

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June 14, 2010

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Blue Hole: Wimberley, TX

Yesterday we had the opportunity to continue our tour of Texas swimming holes. Last year I posted this list of Texas swimming holes. Last year we only hit two (Hamilton Pool and Barton Springs… but I didn’t blog Barton Springs). This year we hope to hit a lot more. Titus is a little older and maybe a little more brave. We also have some company coming to visit us this summer, so hitting the swimming holes with friends is always a great activity!

With summer camp starting today, the Conley’s took off a day early to spend a night in San Antonio. On our way down, we decided to spend a little time at Blue Hole in Wimberley. The night before I was at a wedding and met a man who lived in New Braunfels, which is home to three of Texas’ top swimming holes. He informed me of some flooding and encouraged us to go somewhere else. He told us that Krause Springs in Spicewood is absolutely enchanting, but Blue Hole is the quintessential Texas swimming hole. So, Blue Hole it was.

Blue Hole is totally different from both Barton Springs and Hamilton Pool. The water is a few degrees warmer than Barton (which makes a huge difference) and there’s a lot more fun to be had here than at Hamilton. There’s a small dock on one end of the hole where you can swing into the water. It’s ideal for kids and those who aren’t looking for too much adventure. At the other end of the hole is a swing that’s a little more challenging. You have to climb 4-5 feet into a huge tree (not really climbing, just walking up into the main branch) where you can grab onto a ring and swing 20-30 feet out before bombing into the water below. Boys who seem to be regulars take the challenge of running out and trying to grab the ring in mid air. I saw a lot more unable to do this than those who were successful. Although there is a sign that says you’re not allowed to jump out of the tree, I did see one guy jump out of the tree as high as you could. He climbed up and up and up until he was standing on a high branch at least 50 feet up. Although it looked pretty amazing, it looked like one of the stupidest things to do as well, the water wasn’t really that deep.

We all had a blast. I swung out on both swings several times and Sara finally got up the nerve and swung out on one of the swings two or three times. Titus jumped in from the dock a few times. He wasn’t thrilled with the water temperature, but seemed interested enough to jump into the water a few times and float out in the water with his daddy. He seemed genuinely intrigued with the place and wasn’t very happy about leaving as they were closing down. What I find really interesting is that these swimming holes are totally new to me, like something from old movies and stories I heard from my dad, yet Titus is going to grow up with fond memories of going to local swimming holes. I’m just glad he’s going to grow up with these kinds of memories.

June 1, 2010


Rimrock Loop at Doeskin Ranch

Sounds like the the sequel to the Gunfight at OK Corral, huh? For Christmas I got a book on hikes around Austin and this was the first hike we chose.

Rimrock  Loop is part of the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge northwest of Austin. Technically, it’s a little over 26 miles west of Cedar Park. It’s definitely off the beaten path. When we arrived, there were two other cars in the small parking lot and on the trail we only ran into one other couple. Although we took this hike in late February/early March, it just didn’t seem to be a well known hiking spot. Fortunately for us, it was a great find. It’s a light to moderate hike, only three miles or so. There was a little bit of elevation change as the hike took you up a ridge (maybe 200-300 feet), which will bring any flat-lander to some heavy breathing and pain in the legs (especially if you’ve got a 30 pound kid on your back).

Supposedly, this area is home to the golden cheek warbler, which is one of the reasons this entire area is protected. Either they weren’t around or I didn’t know what I was looking for. Regardless, it was a great hike for this little family of three. Titus did okay, as long as we kept him occupied with munching on peanuts and raisins or gave him a stick to hold (as long as he didn’t hit his dad in the head with it).

I can’t really judge as I haven’t been on too many hikes in the Austin area, but from what I can assume, this is a great little hike. I highly recommend getting out to hit the Rimrock. You’ll have some nice views and the hike feels substantial for what low-landers are used too. 🙂

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May 31, 2010


Texas trails

So for Christmas, I got a book I’d been hoping for. 60 Hikes within 60 Miles of San Antonio and Austin. For a sneak peak, you can read the first 30 or so pages here. If you live around here and love it, you can grab your own copy here.

I really like to hike. I like it a lot. Being that I grew up in the flat swampy region of South Georgia, I didn’t really get a lot of opportunities to really hike. When I was 18, I trained for and climbed to the top of Pikes Peak and I was hooked. Unfortunately, I still live in the flat lands. The good thing though about where I live in Texas is that there are some hills to explore, some beautiful outlooks and great water features. It’s better than nothing, right?

So, I got this book and I’m excited to knock some of these hikes off the list (becasue that’s the way I am). Already, Sara and I (and Titus too) have done two hikes and we’re looking forward to getting more under our belt. Now that it’s summer, we’ll either have to do early morning hikes or pick back up on the hiking in the Fall when the weather is more agreeable. That’s okay though, we still have a couple dozen swimming holes to hit, BBQ joints to taste and burgers to try (did I not tell you about my burger list)?

Maybe one day I’ll live next to a mountain. Until then, these Texas trails will have to do.

May 28, 2010


Dora’s influence

Tonight just after bath time, Titus and I were reading his Bright Baby “Animals” book. He knows all the animals pretty well. He also knows the sounds most of them make. The ones he doesn’t know, he makes up.

Then we came across this picture.

Me: Titus, what animal is this?

Titus: Fox!

Me: That’s right. What does the fox say?

Titus: Swiper no swiping! Awwwww maaaaaaan!

May 23, 2010


A special flower pot

I normally don’t write about flower pots. However, I’m making an exception for this one. There has been an outcry for pictures of the infamous pot from sisters and parents and since I’m the keeper of the family blog, here it is.

This is a special pot. Sara’s family contributed some money to purchase the pot and flowers in remembrance of the little baby we recently lost. We originally wanted to plant a tree, but have you seen our tiny back yard? It’s a beautiful pot. The flowers are from me, a gift for mothers day (kinda). So, thank you to those who gave us this sweet memorial. Now, just make plans to come and see it for yourself. It’s even better looking up close. 🙂