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Monday, August 19, 2013

Lots of Change in the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens

Maybe you grew up playing in Fort Worth's Botanic Gardens. Maybe you didn't. It's a magical place where children dream of fairies and knomes, and adults escape the hum drum of the city life roaring just outside the garden's gates. This place means something different to everyone, but either way it is important to the city of Fort Worth, and for this reason people who care deeply for the gardens have come together to return the favor. A lot is about to change for the better. 

As the oldest and largest botanic gardens in the state of Texas, the Fort Worth Botanic Garden is nationally recognized as a historical site and for it's beautiful rose gardens.The garden's history started in 1912 when a small portion of land was roped off for a large city park. In 1933 it was purchased by the Fort Worth Park Commissioners. Originally 38 acres, the gardens now encompass 109 acres in the middle of the city.

This year the Fort Worth Botanical Society just nominated their youngest president ever, 34-year-old Rattana Mao. She's a ball of energy and ready to make this place even more magical then the place where she remembers and grew up playing. She grew up in a poor family that fled Cambodia during one of history's worst cases of genocide under Pol Pot's death grip. She did lose four siblings to starvation and illness while in Cambodia, but when they came to Fort Worth new happy memories were created at all of the free places our city had to offer. Her favorite escape from poverety were these gardens. This became her happy place where imaginary worlds came to life at no cost. She's here to give back. 
Sarah Junek volunteering in the Backyard Vegetable Garden.

In April the gardens opened their Backyard Vegetable Garden. It is a place where anyone in the community can learn how to tend and grow a garden. The garden has harvested so much organic produce that they have had to donate tons to the Tarrant Area Food Bank. Soon they will offer "farm-to-fork" cooking classes using their seasonal vegetables. Children starting at age 18 months can now participate in free classes in the vegetable garden. Adults can learn how to grow potted citrus plants on their own back porch, learn about sparkling wines in the Japanese Gardens, and even take photography classes. 

August 21 the gardens broke ground on the new Victor and Cleyone Tinsley Rock Springs Garden. The Rock Springs were the original 38 acres I previously mentioned. They were never manicured into a rose garden or vegetable garden. Largley unused, the Rock Springs had fallen by the wayside. Now they are putting in four lakes surrounded by walking paths, Texas native plants and covered with bridges. This project should be completed by Spring/Summer 2014.
Plans for the Victor and Cleyone Tinsley Rock Springs Project

And, the Japanese Gardens will celebrate its 40th anniversary this year. Expect a large festival and fun for the whole family coming November 2013!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

What You Need To Know About Mountain Biking

 Biking in Telluride, Colorado
The More Forgiving Path

Mountain biking—the most terrifying and exhilarating thing I’ve done since that crazy horseback ride through the mountains outside of San Miguel, Mexico. At that horseback ride, the guide handed us a beer and a flimsy straw hat when we arrived at 9 a.m. He pointed to the horse we were to mount in a few moments. No waiver was signed, no lessons or tips given. If you had to take a bathroom break there was a small blue bucket in their outhouse. Oh, and my horse’s name was Tornado.

For three hours we galloped through steep canyons and splashed through creeks and river beds. And yes, some members of our group were in tears making their peace with God. I, on the other hand, was in heaven. 

I figured out quickly that mountain biking is a lot like riding a horse in the wild. I’m not talking about group trail rides that move slower than a hoveround. I'm referring to the fox hunting style of riding—fast and furious. Like horseback riding, you have to have confidence, control of the handlebars and the rest will follow. 

The experience of bike riding through Telluride Mountain can never be replaced. It was more than I dreamed of. I thought I might die as I plowed over tree stumps and large rocks and slid across gravel all along a foot-wide path that curved up against a 40-degree angled slope straight down the mountain. At one point I went flying off the side of the mountain within the first half mile.  I ended up hugging a tree.

Here are a few things I learned on my first intense mountain biking experience down Telluride Mountain. Again, no tips from the guide, but at least we got a helmut and signed a waiver. 

  1. It is actually better not to go slow than wobble down the mountain. That’s when you end up hugging a tree…or dying. Speed gives you more control, believe it or not, and an amazing rush.
  2. Riding a bike down a mountain is like loping a horse—loosen up or you’ll get thrown. Hanging on for dear life may cause you to lose that life. like Jello on a board, my horse trainers used to say. 
  3.  Encountering tree roots at full speed is just as terrifying as encountering large rocks. They are everywhere. Think fast. Think fast. Think fast. 
  4. Keep your friends close and your mountain bike closer.  Once we became buds, I was able to more confidently attempt to kill myself on a rock as opposed to being scared when killing myself. 
  5. Learn very quickly how to change your gears at a moment’s notice.
  6. Figure out which is your back break and your front break. If you hit the front-wheel break flying down a bumpy mountain you will launch yourself over your handlebars. Although I didn’t go over, I was halfway there.
  7. Trees are actually your friends—they will catch you when you go flying off your bike. 
  8.  HAVE FUN!

We survived and are blissfully high on adrenaline
Why do we go on an adventure? To see the unknown. To experience something new. To learn something about ourselves in the midst of a challenge. How we deal with these physical challenges tells us something about how we face other challenges in life. Me, I’m a why-not-type-of-girl. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

We Have A Lot To Learn From The Wild

For speed was a profoundly different way of moving through the world than my normal modes of travel. Miles weren't things that blazed dully past. They were long, intimate straggles of weeds and clumps of dirt, blades of grass and flowers that bent in the wind, trees that lumbered and screeched. They were the sound of my breath and my feet hitting the trail one step at a time and the click of my ski pole. The [trail] had taught me what a mile was. I was humbled [by] each and every one...

...It had nothing to do with the gear or footwear or the backpacking fads or philosophies of any particular era or even getting from point A to point B. 

It had only to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles for no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. 

  ~ Cheryl Strayed in Wild

This morning my husband and I hiked the most strenuous and difficult hike on Telluride Mountain. We started at 8:30 a.m. and made it back into town about 1:30 p.m. Climbing 2,500 vertical feet to find ourselves more than 12,000 feet above sea level, we could see everything and hear nothing but the cool wind.

Descending 3,500 through rocky switchbacks against the steep and unforgiving mountainside, we finally found relief in a forrest of aspen trees and evergreens where the trails leveled out and softened under our feet with pine needles. I stopped periodically to admire the aspen trees--when the wind brushed up against the leaves they flutter like green glitter, exposing their paler green underbellies. And then there was the fear of bears. We didn't bring bells or a whistle, and we were not a large group, thus making us a decent target. But then I realized we are in their world, not in our world. This, too, was humbling.

The total hike was 8.3 miles of challenging ups and downs, but being alone in the wild for the better part of a day was profound. We never passed another hiker until the last mile on the trail. At one point we were on top of the world and at another we were gliding alongside waterfalls and creeks. Afterward, we could barely walk and needed calories more than I have ever felt before.
There's always a time where a you have to overcome your mind on a trail. Sometimes you want to give up, quit and cry. But it is in getting through those tough parts that reward comes. In the end, the reward was amazing.