hammock in bag 2016 aug 18When I go up into the mountains I like to hang out for hours.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a chair that is comfortable — except for the vehicle seat.  I’d like to get out of the truck if I could.

So I bought a highly reviewed cheap hammock.  It fits into a tiny bag which is sewn into the edge.  Comes with two substantial pieces of rope which tends to harm trees.  Instead, I put up the hammock using tie-down straps.

It took longer to find two trees the correct distance apart and in the shade than it took to put the hammock up.

hammock first setup 2016 aug 18By gosh-by golly, about 15 minutes after laying down my back started to get cold.  Got out a flannel throw I brought along.  Put it on top.  Back still cold.  I put on long pants and flannel shirt.  Still felt cold.  I put the question to a forum I am a member of.  Their response is to hang a hammock quilt underneath.  I had no idea there were such things.  There is even a hammock forum.  Who knew a piece of cloth, a couple of hooks, and a couple of lengths of cordage could be so complicated.

I found the hammock fairly comfortable.  Wasn’t quite sure what to do with my legs.  Do I leave them straight out or bend em?  SillyDog assures me it is the perfect height.  She can slobber on my head until I agree to take her for a walk.

It’s loud grasshopper season right now, and I was wondering if one was going to join me in my hammock.  No, loud grasshopper is not their official name.  Don’t know what it is.  Just know it’s a big grasshopper that goes airborne and makes a tremendous racket as it flies erratically for about 15-20 seconds.  Bear cubs must love em.

Perhaps next post will be on the compass and map reading part of our trip.

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atlas topo maps LNF cover 2016 aug 12Just because I have a GPS doesn’t mean I can’t get lost.  What if that magnificent GPS breaks?  What will I do then?

I will carry and use a map.  I recently purchased a Lincoln National Forest atlas, 7 1/2′ Quadrangle Topographic Map.  Each map covers an area of approximately 7.5 minutes of latitude and longitude. That’s about 81 square miles per page.

Gotta take a magnifying glass to read all the stuff, but it’s 8-5/8″ x 11″ and compact enough to carry flat against my back in a backpack.  I hate to write all over it.  The best thing to do might be make a 200% copy of a section so I can carry one page and can write all over it.  Save on the squinting too.  I’ve looked all over for a copyright which prevents me from making a copy.  None found.  After all our tax money helped gather the information and print it.

map LNF atlas screenshot 2016 aug 14

A sample of the Pumphouse Ridge Road area. Those two orange dots are my favorite hang out spots.

I will tell you right now I have issues with this map.  This is a photo of the Pumphouse Road section.  See those little vertical and horizontal lines which might or might not line up?  Some are at an angle.  In the center of each of these boxes is a gray number.  Public land survey lines.  Why are they even put on a map?  It means nothing to me struggling with a compass.  I find them aggravating as heck.

Public land survey lines was based on selling land in the old days.  All the deeds are listed in this manner so the government will probably never switch over to GPS coordinates.  Then there are UTM ticks on the sides and top/bottom.  That is the military form of navigating by compass.  But I’ve never had folks leave points of interest in UTM.  Still, I’ll research this further.

I do know I need close together longitude and latitude lines.  This particular page has horrid ones.  Some are based on 30″.  No the ” is not inches.  It’s seconds.  Like 32°52’30”, spoken as 32 degrees, 52 minutes, 30 seconds.  Getting the lines in the right place is important because my GPS is in latitude and longitude.

I will go to google maps to find out where I should draw ‘ (minute) lines.  Here’s a site that will let you pick a spot and it will tell you the lat and long.

There will be more, much more on finding my way in the mountains.  Anybody know of any great map reading sites?

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I’ve taken SillyDog to Pumphouse Road a half dozen times.  For Thursday’s trip I stopped at the covered spring area.  Beautiful day to wander around a bit.  I had never noticed the cattle water trough down the hill.  We had to investigate thoroughly.

Cows were nearby.  So was their squishy, green poop.  Dang that dog!   SillyDog behaved for about a hour then stop-drop-and happily roll.  Green poop from head to foot, side to side.   She was sooooo happy for a split second.  Then the yelling started.

She had to stay a stinky little poopyhead on our walk.  No way was she riding with me in the cab.  I tied her to the truck bed on the short dog chains we have for both dogs.  The chains are long enough so they can stand, sit, lay down.  They can even stick a nose ever so slightly over the edge of the bed.  What they can’t do is jump out or fall out.  Putting her in the back hurt SillyDog’s feelings since she believes herself to be pretty close to human.  The bonus — I didn’t have to listen to her unceasing panting.  The only time she doesn’t pant is when she is sleeping.

At home I tied her to the porch railing and gave her a good long soaking followed by lots of scrubbing and a long dry time.  This also hurt her feelings.  So much so that she lagged going to sleep on the rug next to the bed.  I heard her tiptoe in about five minutes after I settled in to sleep.

Will she do it the next time a goopy pile should appear?  Of course.  She’s a dog.

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Let me get this in first.  To all my friends and relatives in Texas.  Please stay safe as you go through another round of tremendous flooding.  Remember, turn around, don’t drown.

Back to my world.

I like the idea of bears in the mountains.  Scared bears that run at the first whiff of me and my dog.  I seriously dislike their presence near our home.  I want to see them — not live with them.  (Unreasonable ain’t I.  After all I did move into their area.) Bear sightings within a half mile from the house happen maybe every three-four years.

There’s lots of fruit for them to eat, especially at the properties of seasonal owners.  A caretaker recently told me she found dig spots at the nearby property she was caring for.  If I was a bear I’d visit that place often.  Apricots, plums, grapes, peaches and figs.  The apple crop will soon be in full swing.

Here’s what I heard…About a week ago, one came up on a porch and ate a bucket of pecans.  Couple of days before there was perhaps an encounter.  Oddly, I don’t remember the stories accurately except for there were two.

The pecan house is located about 200 yards from this place.  I think the bear has been staying in the woods nearby.  For two days, SillyDog stayed riveted to the window looking in that direction.  She even growled once, and that is definitely unusual.

Each night I bring in the feed corn that I set out each morning for the momma mule deer.  Also brought in the 5-gallon cans of bird seed, stored on the screened in back porch.   I check that SillyDog eats her food before dark.  We also walk along the road in front of the house, so SillyDog can do some scent marking.  The six assorted bird feeders will remain out until I can confirm a bear is interested.  No more suet until the winter.  I’m thinking fatty suet would be like catnip to a cat.

SillyDog is doing a really good job of informing me of something in the woods across the road.  I just wish I knew what it was.  Sure would like to get my hands on a night scope for a couple of nights.  Then again…

I could set out my critter cam, but bears are attracted to the plastic smell and will chaw them up.  Besides, tonight the critter cam is out, aimed at the two little dig outs under the chicken house.  Skunk?

Y’all will definitely be informed if I should see a bear or its after effects.

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What Texas doesn't have, but I do.

What Texas doesn’t have, but I do.

sunset 2016 aug 08

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compass silva simple 2016 aug 14I want to start hiking again to appreciate Mother Nature (Okay I won’t lie.  I need to shrink this tubby tummy), but my sense of mountain direction is horrible.  I can get lost in a forest-themed mug.  If there is not an ankle deep trail to follow, I shall need help.  The help will come from my GPS, a paper map and a backup navigation compass.

I bought two compasses several decades ago when Grace and I were into hiking and camping. Never had to use them.  Tossed them in a drawer and there they stayed until the move.  We were moving to a mountain hiking hub, so heck yes I will take them with me.   The book to teach me how to use them, comes along too.

Amid my self-imposed education I learned I should check the accuracy of my compasses with my high end GPS.  *Palm to forehead*  I never thought of that. compass old engineer 2016 aug 14 Do I even need a bigger, better compass?  I head for a metal free clearing about 30 yards from the h0use and power lines and calibrate the GPS by following directions on the screen. Caaaaaaaarefully line up mark to the north and set it on the ground.  Please don’t let someone come down the road and see me on my knees with my nose near the ground.  Don’t have much choice to do otherwise.  My glasses don’t focus until two feet from the ground.

How does one super accurately line up a  compass with a GPS on the ground?  Get too close and the compass goes nuts.  I finally agree that the closest I will get is I-am-going-to-die inaccuracy.  I think one is off by three degrees, the other four.  That’s around 400 feet.  In the forest, 40 feet is a big deal.  I’ve decided the only way to be sure is to stretch sewing thread about two inches off the ground, between two heavy pieces of wood.  Line up the string with the GPS north-south, move it out of the way and slide the compasses underneath.

So my compasses have to be twiddled with.  Then I must find then add or subtract magnetic deviation.   It changes minutely every day, although once a year check should be fine.  This site is most accurate.  Here’s the data they give:

Here’s Cloudcroft’s  8° 4′ E  ± 0° 20′  changing by  0° 6′ W per year.  Uh-huh.  Translated, 8 degrees east, forget the rest.

Here’s Sunspot’s.     8° 6′ E  ± 0° 20′  changing by  0° 6′ W per year.  Translated, the same as Cloudcroft’s.

I can’t set declination on either compass so I’d have to do math twice to set a bearing.  Yeah, like that will happen when I’m anxious and alone among tall trees.

I will admit that my past compass purchases were made in this manner… Oh lookie, a cool compass.  Who knew compasses might not work right.  Not me.  I have spent hours and hours researching navigation compasses, and I now know every way a compass can be inaccurate.  Pointers not attached in the center, pointers that point south instead of north (drunk pointer painter?), the housing is glued in several degrees from north.  There’s more, but those were the most ridiculous.

I ended up buying two compasses.  More on that later.

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As is my custom, my first steps out of bed are to made to the nearest window.  I’m hoping to see the single elk which never went to the mountains.  It moves around here like a ghost, leaving nothing but poop and footprints.

I scan the acre sized chicken pen.  Free of chickens it is now given over to whatever non-human form that needs to use it.  There’s nothing of mine down that hill so the movement caught my attention.  I freeze, knowing full well the birds and animals can see inside the house exceptionally well.  To my delight, I see a tiny, spotted fawn running in circles.  It trips.  Catches itself before plowing a furrow with its chin.  Those skinny legs don’t appear to work consistently yet.  I’m guessing it was born in the pen since I doubt it has the coordination to jump the fence.  Momma must be one smart deer.  She steps into the clearing and the baby runs around her.  Cuteness overload.  All that running makes a spotted body thirsty.  It suckles.  More flash.  Oh my gosh, a second fawn.  Twice the cuteness.

I grab my big camera and sneak outdoors.  Why do I sound like I have buckets on my feet?  Daniel Boone I ain’t.  Peeked around the studio.  She’s already moved them into the brush.  I really want to run down the hill and find them, but I restrain myself.  I also tell myself to not go in or let the dog in the pen for the next two weeks at least.

I may as well go back to bed.  I’ve just seen the best part of my day.

AUGUST 16, 2016

It made me bolt upright.  Throw off the covers.  Jump to the window.  What made those loud squeals?  SillyDog wiggles a share of the window.  I see nothing.  “You see anything?”  “Nope.”  “Me neither.”  I’m thinking it was an unfortunate rabbit in jaws or claws.  A nightmare painting vision.  Might as well get up at this crack of dawn.

I let SillyDog out.  She’ll walk the perimeter and tell me what she sees.  She’s not off the steps before she tenses.  A mule deer throws itself out of the trees.  Head up.  Eyes shooting daggers.  She grows like someone injected steel under her skin until she’s twice her size.  Day-um.  SillyDog runs me over getting into the safety of the house.  Two more of the squeals.  She is a jet.  I run four steps to the kitchen window.  In that time she covers 40 yards, turns a 90 degree corner and jumps a fence.  She is a gray blur in the water line easement cut which runs across the chicken pasture.  I’ve never seen any creature move that fast.  Then there was nothing.  No stomping.  No gravel crunching under hooves.  No cries.  No movement.  It’s like the woods swallowed her whole.

Wow.  What drama.  Where’s my decaf tea?  I went about my business.  Round an hour before dark a bird chastised something.  A snake perhaps.  Nothing I could see outside the window. mule deer fawn 2016 aug 16 A flick near the fence a stone’s throw from the house.  It’s a fawn.  Well, at least one is alive.  I watch it from the house until almost dark.  It ain’t exactly the best hider.  It’s head is up and swiveling, ears rotating.  It gets up.  Stretches.  Wanders around a bit.  Lays back down in the same place.  It gets up again.  Goes over to brush.  The second fawn stands up.  Awesome.  They settle together.  I guess Momma is going to feed them after dark.

I read up on mule deer fawns.  They are born without scent and are experts at being still.  Usually momma hides twins in separate places.  Not this one.  It appears the chicken pen makes an excellent deer nursery.  If they get any closer I’ll open the back door and let them in.  I normally don’t interfere with Mother Nature.  Will I be forgiven if I go buy deer corn?

This day ended so much better than it began.

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