Thursday, June 27, 2013

Splish, Splash, Splat: The Blue Hole

Neither of us had any idea that people actually traveled across the country to see the very watering holes that have been hiding under our noses our entire lives.
The Blue Hole is only 4 miles from Jacob's Well and has underwent some beautification changes over the last few years to help preserve and protect it's special qualities, just like the passionate advocates of Jacob's Well are in the process of doing now.  
The amount of visitors are limited per day, but once you've paid to get in, you're free to come and go as you please for the duration of the park's hours. 
Fed by it's neighboring artesian spring, even during the drought days when so many lakes and rivers in the Austin area were dry to the bone, The Blue Hole was able to stay open. 
A beautiful grassy courtyard greets your gaze as you fist walk through the gates. 
And then your breath is stolen by the crystal clear beauty of the deep blue/green tinted waters, made possible by the continuation of limestone and shale lining the creek's bed.
I literally stared into Cypress Creek for a solid 5 minutes before I could be a normal person again and look away. Did someone put dye in this water???
Once I snapped out of my hypnotic state, I decided to join in on all the fun the kids were having and swing into the water. Up the gigantic old knobby Cypress I climbed, then I looked to the guy handing me the ring I'd hang onto and said, "I've never done this before. Have any advice?"
"It's easy," he said, "Just hang on tight!"
I did just that, and pushed off the trunk of the tree, hoping for the best. 
I was able to hang on long enough to feel like I was being suspended in the air before I plummeted, my left thigh slapping the surface of the lagoon-like water so hard it left a whopping red whelp, leaving me a rash of petechia from the minor trauma as a souvenir.

"Your turn!" I yelled to Patrick as I swam back to him.
A little timid, I think from just recently breaking free from the swimmers ear that was threatening to huant his day minutes before, he was content with jumping off the bank ledge.
He leisurely swam out under the canopy of Cypress trees that so elegantly draped over the water and waited for me to join him with the floaty.

If you know anything about Texas, you know it's pretty darn hot outside right now, but with this actually being the first real weekend of summer, the heat's full potential hasn't even been touched.  
And given the fact that our entire day was spent protected by the harsh sun in the shade, we actually got a little chilly and had to take a break from the water every now and then. 
Our sitting rock was fantastic evidence to remind us that the ocean once inhabited the area.
After a little R&R, I was ready for some action again. 
You know that feeling when your gut tells you the situation is a little off, your instincts kick in and throw out a warning signal of possible impending doom, but your determination to carry on wins the argument? Yeah.....
I knew the second I wrapped my fingers around the slippery wet metal ring suspended from the branch by a heavy chain that my hand strength probably wouldn't be able to sustain the weight of my body against the pull of gravity this time, but I jumped anyway. 
My fleeting grip was so pitiful, there was nothing to show for the stinging water up my nose and the base of my bathing suit top around my neck but a picture of a splash. It happened that fast.  
At least my first time on the ring was a little more brag worthy.....but aside from the embarrassing fall, it was still fun. 
A small detail no one may mention about the water in this area is it's so hard (I'm guessing it picks up a ton of minerals along it's journey through layers of rock), compared to the slimy soft water we're used to, after you dunk your head and your skin air dries, everything feels tight and dry like your face has just been shrink wrapped. I hated the feeling and craved lotion, but Patrick said he liked it because it made it him feel young.....
We did some exploring on the hiking trails around the park and found the cutest little ampitheater.
After getting our fill of admiring nature, we moved on to the next adventure on our list with crossed fingers that there'd be a spot for us to set up our tent.
Famished from playing in the water, we almost stopped in the charming downtown strip of Wimberly to replenish our stomachs, but out of indecisiveness kept on driving, which is when we found this irresistable BBQ stand.
Amazing. Cheap. Fast. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Taking the Plunge: Jacob's Well

Getting to Jacob's Well probably would have been near impossible for us if not for GPS, but even then,  the system does have it's faults. We got nervous when the navigation told us we'd reached our destination when we were directly in the middle of a residential area with no inkling of a park to be found.
We got even more  nervous when we rolled our window down to ask a resident taking a walk, and she had no idea where it was. 
Keep calm. Call the office.
After surviving my clumsy ankle roll on a smooth narrow walkway down the side of a cliff, where I think I may have almost broke my foot (which would make the unlucky third time, but very lucky considering a broken foot is better than not surviving the fall down a cliff), during the short hike to Jacob's Well, we let our tour guide abandon us so we could stick around to experience the mysterious ancient water cave. 
We learned a lot about Hill Country geology, how the newly formed park is working hard to protect the native plants and spread awareness about water conservation, and a little about the water cave's history, including the controversy on how the it was named.  
This primitive artesian spring used to have so much water flowing through it (thousands of gallons per minute to be exact) so recently that local resident's grandfathers tell stories about how they couldn't sink into the cave if they wanted to because the pressure of the water would push them up to the surface. Unfortunately, with recent year's droughts and booming economic growth, Jacob's well stopped flowing for the very first time in 2000. 
The water source to the springs in Hill Country is provided by The Trinity Aquifer, in which only a small percentage of rainfall actually travels to, and since the surrounding ground is mostly made up of impermeable material like shale, limestone, and fossil-ferrous, fault lines allow the water to slowly move through the top layers of ground. 
Looking into the dark abyss from above left me both a little scared and extremely intrigued. Just to be safe, I ventured into the water by foot first, to make sure the center of the hole wasn't going to swallow me up. 
It was time to enjoy this endangered landmark; I HAD to take the plunge.
I figured the water would be cold (60-70F degrees is the usual), but had no idea my heart would be racing into my throat once I was swimming over a tunnel that's claimed the lives of 8 people in the not so distant past. 
Sure, those people were actually cave diving, but that minuet fact doesn't erase the power of the hole's capability. 
Looking down into the darkness, you can imagine the 4 chambers that have summoned to the subconscious mind of under-trained divers in the past, but what's impossible to imagine is the amount of underground miles this water-cave covers, ranking it as the longest in Texas. 
The stone floored creek is so unique and solid, the water crystal clear.
I carefully walked my way down the slick moss covered floor, barfoot, which was actually more like ice skating with way less grace and balance than the type of ice-skater you probably have pictured in your mind right now. 
Then I proceeded to peer pressure Patrick into being more explorative. 
His ridiculously long arms and legs allow him to go places most people can't or wont, but he didn't want to get wet just yet because he'd have to hike back to the car in soggy sneakers. 
And just went I wasn't expecting it, I heard a big splash. He'd decided to jump after all, to prove he wasn't scared. His last minute decision to have some fun almost ruined the day, though, because all he could think about after that moment was getting the water out of his ears. 
He faked a smile and kept walking, but never gave up on banging his hands into the side of his tilted head. A happy happy sad time, indeed. But with a little persistence and experimentation, he was able to free his canals of that pesky uninvited H20 just in time for our next adventure.

Have you ever jumped off a cliff?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Free Fallin'

We free fell right into an adventure with little expectations and crossed fingers. ROAD TRIP!!!! The places we were headed to limited visitors on a first come first serve basis; we couldn't even make reservations for camping! Luckily, everything turned out as perfect as life gets.
My grand plan to start our exploration off by stopping to take pictures with the blooming sunflowers I fell in love with a couple of weeks ago under the setting summer solace sun was trumped when we realized they had been replaced by wilted drooping fields instead of the vibrant perky yellow that once was, so I propped my feet on the dash, and buried my nose in a book.
We were prepared for Friday evening traffic to delay our way out of the metroplex, but somehow we managed to slide by it all unaffected. The drive actually couldn't have been smoother, me not caring about the usually annoying buzz of A.M. radio since I had a good book to read, and Patrick not caring that I was far far away in a fairy tale land because he was so interested in listening to the baseball game.
We dropped the puppies off to stay with Granny and Grandaddy for the weekend and quickly got back on the road again to stay in Austin for the night. When we got to Karen and Tim's house, our names were thoughtfully written on the chalkboard for a warm welcome and we stayed up past our "bedtimes" to catch up on life over wine. 
Just before bed, Patrick broke the news to me that we'd have to wake up even more extra early than we'd already planned, since he forgot to bring his bathing suit on a trip that would predominantly include swimming and we'd need to go scout one out at the store. I guess making a list can only go so far if you forget it at work! 
I guess a picture with a not so prime sunflower is better than no picture with a sunflower, but mainly I just wanted to showcase how massively tall these flowers are!!! 

Do you ever make a packing list, or just wing it every time and hope you don't forget anything too important?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Don't Act Like You're Not Impressed

Throw back.
A few of weekends ago we made it to Waco for an early Father's Day get together. While we were there, I realized I've somehow morphed into one of those cliche adult figures when Emily looked at me like I was a complete stranger after I told her, "Your mom doesn't owe you any money. She's paid for your entire life." She'll understand one day, but until then she's still the little girl who loves butterflies so much she told her Granny about how she wants to go to a monarch sanctuary soon, but screamed and yelled, "Bug!!" every time one landed near her while we were in the swimming pool, ironically while she was wearing her new bathing suit decorated with bright colored monarchs.
We spent some time trying to teach the puppies how to swim to the stairs as an escape route in case they ever fall in the pool, instead of their current reaction, which would eventually result in drowning. Now they're about as competent as a blind bat with no sense of smell trying to fly it's way out of a bank volt with the door locked shut.
I give up.  
But they did have a lot of fun biting at the water stream spraying from the noodle gun. 
After the Rangers lost in the 18th inning, *cough* disgrace *cough*, Patrick and I got cleaned up and went out for our 15% cheat meal at Ninfas, where he totally butchered my dare. He was suppose to take our young green waiter off guard by saying, "I'd like a doggie bag (because it sounds funny when a grown man asks for a "doggie bag"), half a sopapia (because I really just wanted a bite), and a quarter of the check (because that's all we wanted to pay for)," but instead, completely stumbled over his words and giggled out, "I need the check, a doggie bag, and a quarter of the check."
We both looked at each other and started laughing so hard we could barely speak in comprehensible gibberish to tell the waiter what we really needed, and everything was awkward after that, especially since the waiter had no idea why we were laughing so hard.
I tried to tell our Ninfa's story the next day after lunch to our families and my dad responded with, "Humph, I guess you'd just have to be there....."
That's cool, Dad, act like you're not impressed. But it really was funny. 

Do you ever try to tell a story that you thought was really funny, but no one laughs after the delivery?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My Best, My Worst, and a Lesson

I've always been adventurous. I like to keep an open mind and try new things. You may not know this about me, but when I was a freshman in high school I tried to play Volleyball. Coming from a small school that only had basketball and track, this was a stretch.
A week or two later, the coach pulled me to the side and told me it'd probably be a good idea if I tried a different kind of sport. I was asked to resign from the team!! They didn't even want me as a bench warmer!!! Same story with softball. 
Sure, I moved on and participated in things I didn't suck so badly at like basketball, track, cross country, and power lifting, but I've never been more than mediocre in any kind of sport. 
Luckily as a grownup, I've found friends who are more worried about having fun together than winning a game. 
We played some beach volleyball and literally laughed at each other the entire time, with a side of healthy encouragement to do better.
I'm even getting way more consistent at hitting the ball in the right direction and learning to serve like the pro-hot-girl-athletes do. 
My favorite picture of the day??? This great, "Duh......Which way did he go, George? Which way did he go?", moment of us three all doing sometime ridiculous at the same time. 
Speaking of ridiculous, how many awful tan lines can one girl have so early in the sun season?? Sunscreen lesson #101: Don't get fried to a lobster crisp in a tank top and sports bra by the early spring sun. It will take forever to get rid of your phantom bra lines.
Sunscreen lesson #102: Don't use 100 SPF everywhere except your legs and then unconsciously wipe the residue off on your thighs. You will end up with permanent pale hand prints leading spectator's line of vision to inappropriate places.
While we played in the sand, our boys cooked us some amazing food on the grill. 
And then we took a little walk down to the Lake Lewisville beach to relax and cool off in the water, which happens to be the sport I'm best at. 

Which sports are you "best" and "worst" at? Do you have any tan line horror stories?


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