The Artist Couple
On the evening of December 12 and early morning of December 13, the Texas sky lit up with a spectacular Gemini meteor shower. This is said to be one of the best meteor showers of the year. Because of this, and the fact that we spend way too much time in our (somewhat) boring apartment, we decided to go camping at Pedernales Falls State Park.
This was Topher and my first time really sitting down and watching a meteor shower, and it was magical. This was also our first time camping in Texas (definitely beats winter camping in Wisconsin.) We didn't see any crazy colored meteors, just the usual whites and yellows, but you can't complain about the hundreds of shooting stars we did see in only a few hours. Sadly, we only had my camera (Nikon D5100), which to our surprise wouldn't take any photographs of the night sky. We had planned to shoot some long exposures but even on manual mode, with the correct setting it wouldn't allow us to take any photographs and insisted it was "too dark." The latest of only a few letdowns about this camera (I think it's time for an upgrade.)
We set up camp in one of the 4 primitive campsites in the park. These are about a 3-3.5 mile hike into the park and if you're starting your hike out in the dark like we did, make sure you know your way around ahead of time. The maps at the park head quarters aren't the most accurate, and it took us about 45 minutes just to find the right trail. We were lucky it hadn't rained more the day before because there are 3 river crossings (without bridges) you must hike through before the campsites.
We camped underneath juniper trees (the perfect climbing trees) and set up our hammocks right on the bluff overlooking the Pedernales River.
It was a little cold that night (low 40's- is this even considered winter?!) and the Park doesn't allow ground fires, so all we had for warmth was a little hobo stove that lasted us about 3 minutes before we got tired of stoking the fire every 30 seconds. We ended up just using hand-warmers and drinking a lot of vodka and Bloody Marry Mix to warm us up during the magnificent meteor shower.
Just like every camping trip we take, I wish we could have stayed longer to further explore the many miles of trails the Pedernales Falls State Park has to offer. Even with no fire and the chilly breeze this trip was worth every second. Spending a romantic evening side-by-side in hammocks, sipping bloodys and stargazing with your best friend, is a day worth living over and over.
The Artist Couple
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Back in July, Topher and I road-tripped around the midwest. From Milwaukee, Wisconsin to St. Louis, Kansas City, and Eagle Rock, Missouri. Our little car even made it to the tiny town of Mt. Ida, Arkansas. In just two short weeks we visited art museums, family, friends, and of course, hiked a few trails!
Not only is Mt. Ida home to my lovely Grandparents, it's also the quartz crystal capital of the world. Located in the middle of the Oachita National Forrest, this teeny town is surrounded by remarkable mountain ranges, parks, and trails. As an Arkansas native, I've lived and traveled around the state for many years, consistently finding hidden gems throughout its landscapes. I have seen more vibrant colors, felt extremes in all four season and experienced the most genuinely kind people that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, all in Arkansas. For these reasons, as well as many others, this state is by far my favorite.
In Arkansas, green doesn't even begin to describe the magnificence of the foliage. The waterfalls are plentiful and pour into pools as clear as the crystals that hide beneath the mossy forrest floors. The trees seem to reach higher than the clouds themselves and when a cool summer breeze blows by, you can hear their gentle whispers.
During Thanksgiving this year, Topher and I made the eight hour trip to Mt. Ida once again to visit family and spend some much needed time outdoors.
As we loaded our packs and geared up for the November rain, we could see surprised expressions peering through the windows of the nearby lodge. Huddled up by the warm fire, the vacationers were probably thinking we were crazy for wanting to camp in such weather. To us, they're the ones missing out on all the fun. Rainy or not, here we come.
We trekked down Mount Mena and set up camp in Queen Wilhelmina State Park, one of West Arkansas' best kept secrets. The four days leading up to our camping trip were filled with inches of rain, flooded rivers and overflowing creeks, but that didn't stop us from enjoying the trails!
Mother Nature must have been looking out for us that day because as soon as we walked into our camping spot, the rain eased up to a light sprinkle as the fog cleared just enough to tease us with a view of the world below. Slippery rock fields, waterfall stairs, and soggy moss patches mingled together to make-up our slender hiking trail that twisted through the dense forrest and up the mountians.
Slow and steady, we explored the landscapes, trying to stay focused on our footing to prevent any spills down into the valley. Frequently we stopped to look, smell, feel and take in the breathtaking scenes surrounding us. The views were so enchanting that we both slipped on the rocks, just once, before we agreed that gazing into the mountains and hiking on a wet trail was just not possible if we wanted to keep un-sprained ankles.
The Oachita Mountain range runs east to west, rather than north to south, like most mountain ranges. Because of its unique orientation, the mountain slopes have a distinct striping pattern. The northern facing slopes are covered in a thick hardwood forrest and stay moist, while the southern facing slopes are filled with drier Pines and woodlands. The photo below shows a hazy representation of the unique green and brown stripping you will see when hiking through the Oachita Mountains.
Back home in Texas, Topher and I have been working hard to get our Artist Couple business up off the ground and it has not been easy... or speedy. We are learning that it's a slow and painstaking process that takes a lot of patience and hard work. We've had so much to do, we almost forgot just how mentally and physically important our time outside is. To avoid any future forgetfulness, we plan to schedule hikes at least once every two weeks, (hopefully every week), along with many more camping trips! Arkansas has a way of reminding me what is important in life and the quiet country provides the perfect space to relax and enjoy the simple things, like being surrounded by the beauty of nature.
Spending time adventuring and letting our minds unwind and wander makes the hardships in life a little more tolerable. Traveling to Arkansas is a nice little reminder to never let work get in the way of what keeps you sane.
Sara & Topher
We are a working artist couple based out of Austin, TX. This blog chronicles our life and artistic ventures, as we work to make the world and environment a little better every day.