Monday, May 29, 2017

Cross Timber Hiking Trail

It rained yesterday and foretasted to be Sunny on Memorial day, so Yong and I decided to go to Cross Timber Hiking Trail by Lake Texoma for a long distance hiking on Memorial day, in preparation for climbing Mt Whitney. The trail is mostly shaded by trees but it is a hilly trail - per North Texas standard. We hiked 16 miles with total of 2500 ft elevation gain. The hiking poles are extremely helpful for hiking on this hilly trail - I could not imagine what could happen today without it.

trail head

portion of the trail is densely bushed 
I learnt quit a few things from  hiking of such a long distance in one stretch of time for the first time.

We were incredulous when Yong told me  the day before that the average speed to hike this trail is 2.5 miles/hour. Come on! We can walk 3 miles/hour in casual walking, I thought. But we completed the 16 mile hilly trail in 8 hours including breaks with our best efforts, almost exactly what he told me. The lesson learnt is that we should not extrapolate a conclusion when conditions are different.

Each of us brought 2 bottles of water and 2 bottles of Gatorade for this 8 hour hike. We barely had enough - we both finished our bottles shortly before we got back to the car. We should have brought more water.

Since the trail has dense bushes, we wore long pants, applied plenty of bug spray in addition to Sunscreen. Despite walking into Spider webs twice on the hiking trail, we got no bug bites on the whole trail.

A cove of Lake Texoma 
Cross Timber trail has beautiful scenes along the shoreline of Lake Texoma but it could become boring since it kind of repeats itself many times - same tress, same bugs, similar coves, and similar bird chirping .....after a few turns we felt we just passed a similar place a few minutes ago.

To me there were many variations - I heard the chirping of cardinals, mocking birds and heard the pecking sound from woodpeckers a couple times among other chirping I am not familiar with, I whistled with them!  The changing clouds and rock formation along the shoreline changed the seemingly same shoreline views; paying a little bit attention to the surroundings - I saw a well camouflaged dragon fly on a dead tree branch, tried to got a closer view of a camouflaged lizard on my camera, I saw different colors of flowers and I saw butterflies.

More fundamentally hiking in the wild for me is to exercise for a better body, to breath fresh air, and to forget about daily life and to have a total mental relaxation of mind. It is like a sign along the trail states - A Stairway to heaven  .... for both body and soul.

Our trail

Texas Sky

A well camouflaged dragon fly
A lizard

A stairway to heaven

Sunday, May 28, 2017

A Spring with Many Firsts

It has been a beautiful Spring in North Texas - the trees budded earlier, and landscape is greener than usual due to the alternating rain and shine. It is also a special Spring for me because it is a Spring with many firsts!

In February Lily and I went to our first political rally due to curiosity and I came out moved. We had our first yard sign to support a candidate for an election, and we had our first precinct walk together, and I walked precinct two more times. I  talked  a few voters into having our candidate's sign placed in their yards. Engaging is so much different from mere participating - we learned a lot about political process, appreciate the difficulty of running for an office.

precinct walk
Despite years working in oil/gas industry, an opportunity came for the first time for me to work on a rig this Spring. I was curious and excited at the same time. My team members took quite a few pictures of me working on a task as souvenir. In addition to curiosity and excitement, I appreciated the danger and risk associated with working on a rig.

a test Rig
I reviewed many papers for national/international technical journals, and listened to many PhD thesis seminars, I was invited to server as a member on PhD exam committee for the first time this spring. Though I was not particularly excited because it was no difference from review a peer's paper submitted to journals, I treated just like any other technical seminars, asking questions; what is different this time was that I also probed the candidate's understanding, and contribution.

A university campus
We become a member of Dallas Arboretum for the first time after so many years living in DFW. We used to think that becoming a member or buying a pass was not economical because we typically could not use up the embedded value. We changed our mind set now, we treat it as enjoying the membership while supporting the organization or cause.

Dallas Arboretum
When traveling, we usually eat the food we are familiar with, American, Italian, Mexican or Chinese. When we went to Austin for the Easter weekend, we ate Peruvian food for the first time just for the sake of trying something new and different!

A Peruvian Resturant 

To keep my weekly running routine started last October going, I brought running shoes and sports wears with me on my most recently business trip to Chicago. I jogged twice and ran once  ( a total of ~ 14 miles) - first time I intentionally exercised on a business trip.

Lake Front trail at Chicago Downtown

 A first can come with procession of time, it may come with opportunity, it can come with curiosity, change of mindset ...... there are many many more firsts to come ....

Explore nature, society, human nature  ..... it is exciting, thrilling .... and fun!!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Lake Front at Chicago Downtown

I went to Chicago for a conference this week. The first thing I did after I checked in at Hyatt at McCormick Place on Sunday was to walk to the shoreline of lake Michigan. 

It was a cool Sunny afternoon, and I followed the trail map from the hotel to walk toward the lake front, and was pleasantly surprised to walk by the soldier field stadium (Chicago Bears' home). Despite steady cool breeze, the water in the first marina I passed by was as flat as a mirror - reflecting the blue sky and white yachts. Walking around the Marina I walked toward Adler Planetarium to view the silhouette of the Chicago skyline from this small peninsula.

A Marina
A paved trail
Chicago Skyline in the afternoon
Lake Michigan
The next morning I woke up around 6:30am and decided to run for 5K  and cool down in my usual pace. I brought everything needed for a morning run, running shoes, shorts, T shirt, sunscreen and baseball cap! Getting out of the hotel, I ran north through an area of apartment buildings, turn right through an underpass to cross highways and then an zig-zag overpass to cross rail ways, trying to follow the lake front trail earlier than previous day, I made a wrong turn before reaching 2 km distance, and quickly realized it since the soldier field - my reference point, was in the wrong direction. Corrected course, I turned around when I reach 3km. Instead of a silhouette, the downtown high rises were in the bright morning Sun.

I encountered runners or bikers every 1 ~2  minutes on the  lakefront trail - not too many and not too few. The portion of the trail from hotel to Planetarium is mostly tree lined for a pleasant 5K run and I walked 1 km additional back to hotel. After showering and breakfast, I still had plenty time before the conference kick-off at 9am.

My running trail
Chicago Skyscrapers in the morning Sun
The conference ended at 2:45pm on its last day. I had a short nap and decided to have a 10K walk to the navy pier directly, bypassing the Alder Planetarium.

It was a good extension of my previous trail: different views, close up of high rises, there are steel art work, and concrete art work along the way, and a big fountain in the park surrounded by the high rises. There were a lot more locals and tourists along the lakefront, on the lawn, on the pedestrian walk way, and bike way between the aquarium and navy piers.The long walk produces a new tourist attraction - touring lake front on Segway. In the end I walked 7 miles, i.e. 11+km for the round trip.

The Lake Front at Chicago Downtown is a perfect place for hiking, running or just wandering.