Monday, December 31, 2018

The Best Waterfall in Texas is in Fort Worth - Sunday, December 30, 2018

Our drive to Fort Worth this morning had very little traffic and on-again-off-again rain. It was a quick trip. So quick, in fact, we arrived at the downtown Sheraton an hour early for the 11:30 a.m. Volksmarch meeting time. No problem, across the street is the Ft. Worth Water Gardens. 

Because we are so enamored with the Water Gardens, this blog is totally dedicated to this downtown wonder. I will write a separate blog about the rest of downtown Fort Worth next. 

It's hard to believe that what we were about to see was, in the late 1800s, "Hell's Half Acre," an area of dance halls, bordellos, saloons, and gambling parlors. This area finally ceased to exist in the 1960s when the area was cleared to make room for the Tarrant County Convention Center.

Upon entering the water garden, our mouths dropped open and we were in awe. For two people who love waterfalls, the Active Pool made us go, "WOW!" I told Bob it reminded me of an Escher painting.

Active Pool (steps into the depths are
the diagonal line from left down to right).
Bob going down the steps.
Bob at the bottom of the Active Pool.
The totally scary steps (no handrails!).
I made it down (and back up).
Surrounded by 360 degrees of falls.
Each area of the Water Gardens has a sign with the "Philosophy," "CanYou See?," and "Statistics" of that section of the park. For example, the sign for the Active Pool had this to say under "Philosophy:"
"The Active Pool expresses exuberance, exemplifying architect Philip Johnson's sense of play. In an interview about the park, Johnson described how he designed the Active Pool to appear like a canyon lined with rushing water. He arranged descending viewing platforms so that water travels beneath visitors as they walked to the bottom level.
"Unfortunately, on June 16, 2004, four visitors -- three children and one adult -- died when one of the children fell into the central pool and the other three rushed in to rescue the child. Those who died are Myron Dukes, Lauren Dukes, Christopher Dukes and Jauntrice Deadman. The pool was closed immediately and a new design was constructed in 2005-2006 to make it safer.
"Scenes from the 1976 movie 'Logan's Run,' starring Michael York, were filmed at the Fort Worth Water Gardens."
The sign had this to say under "Can You See?"
"The noise level in this part of the garden is intentional. Johnson designed the Active Pool as a mirror of the Quiet Pool -- the all encompassing peace and silence of the Quiet Pool is as absorbing as the noise of rushing water in the Active Pool. The sound of rushing water also wraps itself around the visitor, washing away reminders of the city lying just outside the garden's walls."
  • Pool is 38 feet below ground level.
  • 710 feet of hidden troughs feed 10,500 gallons per minute into the central pool. 
All of this brought about Bob's comment, "This is the best waterfall in Texas!" I must admit it's pretty spectacular. Even though it was 38 degrees at noon, many people were exploring the Active Pool. 

A busy day at the Active Pool.
There are signs posted everywhere no swimming is allowed. It sure seems like it would be easy to fall into that structure of rushing water. I was SUPER careful when I went down to the bottom!

Next, in the Water Gardens, we came to Mountain, a cluster of stacked blocks that are each 20" high. Even though there are signs posted that say "No Climbing," many people were climbing to the top, including Bob. I would have gone up too, but my knee started hurting yesterday and, after I tried one step on this "mountain," I said, "Nope, no way."

The creators of the Fort Worth Water Gardens, Philip Johnson and John Burgee, "designed the gardens as a series of micro-environments, each stimulating to the senses. The mountain was designed to give visitors the sense of the real thing. The 20-inch steps cascade into one another, creating the sensation of mountainous topography." The mountain is 20 feet above ground level.

When Bob climbed to the top of the mountain, he wanted me to go up because he had a view of all the parts of the park from up there. Since I couldn't get up there without seriously hurting my knee, we continued to see the rest of the park on the normal walkways and stairs.

The Quiet Pool was a total surprise. Steps dropped down 16 feet into another awesome space. The 22' high brown walls around the Quiet Pool are topped by a 650'-long trough (like an acequia/aqueduct) that spills 450 gallons of water a minute down the walls into a small moat below. This all gets recirculated by pumps under the Quiet Pool.

Looking down into the Quiet Pool.
Bob descending to
the Quiet Pool.
Bob with bald cypress trees.
The Quiet Pool with 22'-high walls of
cascading water lined with bald cypress trees.
If you make it here, be sure to read all the signs. There's a lot about the inspiration for this place.

From the Quiet Pool, we came upon the Aerated Water Pool which sits 40' below ground level. Here, 38 special nozzles spray 871 gallons of water per minute.

Aerated water pool.
The space we saw last was Central Square. The sign here relates Johnson and Burgee designed the Gardens as "a playground for the senses." The gardens different areas remove visitors from the harshness of the city. Johnson designed the "processionals," or pathways, to lead visitors from one experience to the other, to have different experiences in each area, but not get lost in the Gardens...all paths pour into the Central Square.

Statistics about the whole park:
"Over 500 species of plants and trees are found in this park. The Fort Worth Water Gardens cover a four-and-a-half block square, or roughly four acres, in downtown Fort Worth. Every minute, 19,000 gallons of water move through the Garden's 10 miles of pipes and flows past seven miles of retaining walls."
In our experience's traveling, this is a highlight...a must see. We spent 45 minutes here. 

Now it's time to meet the Volksmarchers and do our 10k (6.2 mi.) walk. 

Monday, December 17, 2018

San Antonio River Walk is Awesome at Christmas - Sunday, December 16, 2018

At noon today, I went to Susan's house to work on a new 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. There is a new breed of puzzles out there designed to make putting the puzzle together more challenging. This particular puzzle, for example, shows beautiful nature photographs taken in the United States. The box warns, however, that the puzzle will not be exactly like the photo on the box. We worked on the puzzle for 3-1/2 hours, then I had to get home, and Susan and Darren had to get ready for the Volksmarch tonight.

Bob had texted to tell me he had a surprise waiting. When I walked in the door at home, Bob was making his yummy Chicken Enchiladas for dinner. The table was set and he had made a salad as well. We started out with chips and salsa. That was so sweet of him to surprise me with dinner. I love his cooking. Thanks, Bob! After dinner, we hung out for a while because we didn't need to be downtown until 7:00 p.m.

Tonight our Volksmarch started at historic VFW Post 76 on the Museum Reach of the River Walk. There is a new Cigar Deck there and Volksmarchers had the deck reserved to register walkers when they arrived. Eighty-nine people came out to walk with us on this 73-degree evening. The start window was 5:30-7:00 p.m. 

Our friends Susan and Darren Medlin were working at the registration table until 7:00 p.m., so we met them there. We decided on the 10k walk this evening. The 10k walk goes into the downtown portion of the River Walk, past the San Fernando Cathedral and Bexar County Courthouse, then returns to the VFW Post (7k). We added on the Museum Reach of the River Walk to The Pearl for 10k total. It's one of our favorite city walks of the year.

VFW Post 76 in San Antonio.
Heinz registering one of the last people to arrive.
John and Tina Bohnert signing in.
The new Cigar Deck at VFW Post 76.
Our first stop on the walk was at the musical Christmas tree atop the locks. The tree's lights are set to music. The show goes about every 15 minutes and we got there with 50 seconds left to the next show.

Musical Christmas tree.
The Museum Reach of the River Walk is called "The River of Lights" at Christmas time. Colored lights glow from under the water.

The River of Lights.
The top of San Antonio's newest skyscraper,
the Frost Bank Building.
When we got into the downtown core, we came off of the River Walk at Main Plaza where the gorgeous San Fernando Cathedral sits. It's fantastic lit normally, but if you really want to see a show, stay for "The Saga." It is the history of San Antonio in laser lights set to music and projected onto the facade of the cathedral. The show lasts 24 minutes and is shown Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights at 9:00, 9:30, and 10:00 p.m.  
San Fernando Cathedral with fountain.
San Fernando Cathedral.
 Across the street from the cathedral is the Bexar County Courthouse. This year's decorations make it look like a gingerbread house.

Bexar County Courthouse (right).
We went back down onto the River Walk and were thrilled with the fairyland of lights draping the tallest Bald Cypress trees and climbing up the sides of buildings. Photos don't do it have to be there.

A concert in Arneson River Theater at La Villita.
We walked through La Villita (the oldest neighborhood in San Antonio) and made our way to The Alamo, passing Hilton Palacio del Rio. The lights on the hotel reveal a green Christmas tree and the word "Love" in white, all on a red background.

Hilton Palacio del Rio.
Many horse-drawn carriages take tourists throughout the core area. 

Horse-drawn Cinderella carriage at Alamo Plaza.
We walked through Travis Park to see the City's Official Christmas Tree which is decorated with lots of 300s. (It's the city's 300th anniversary).

Travis Park tree.
Ornaments celebrate San Antonio's 300th year.
Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.
Then we walked back to the VFW Post along the river. 

Musical Christmas Tree at the locks.
The Musical Christmas Tree serenaded us on
our way back to the VFW Post.
At the VFW Post, we made a short stop to throw our jackets into the car. It was still so nice outside we were quite toasty. We had 3k left to do.

"The River of Lights."
Pearl Springs at The Pearl.
Pearl Springs - our turn-around point.
Susan and Darren Medlin.
We were almost done with our walk when we saw Santa fishing. It was a lovely evening walking with our friends!

Tomorrow, Susan and I are going to Simi's India Cuisine for their lunch buffet and then to see "Green Book."

Here's a photo of the last puzzle we finished.'s a photo two photos of Sunnie in his hammock.

Good night all. 

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Two Texas County Volksmarches Today - Saturday, December 15, 2018

Today, we walked in two of our 254 Texas counties. There is a Special Programs Volksmarch book dedicated to walking in all the counties in Texas, but Bob and I are not doing the program. (Susan Medlin is.) Bob and I still did the walks.

I did a 5k walk in each town. Bob Alton and Susan Medlin did one 5k and one 10k walk each. The first town was Jourdanton, Texas in Atascosa County. Fifty miles away was the second town of Pearsall, Texas in Frio County. Today, we drove a total of 125 miles. Thank you to Susan Medlin for chauffeuring us around today!

The weather was in the low 40s this morning when we started with a chilly wind blowing. By the time we finished this afternoon, we were walking comfortably with temps in the low 60s. 

Jourdanton: Our first stop was the La Quinta Inn & Suites in Jourdanton where we signed in for the walk and stamped our books. From there, we drove to Atascosa County Courthouse to start our walk.

A little history: As early as 1772 El Camino Real (the King's Highway) from the Rio Grande to San Antonio was well established in this area. The Spanish word "atascosa," denoting boggy ground that hindered travel, gave the region its name.

Atascosa County was created from Bexar (pronounced "bear") County in 1856. The first county seat was in Navatasco and the first courthouse was a log cabin! The county seat was moved to Pleasanton in 1858 and a frame courthouse was constructed. A second courthouse was built in 1868, followed by a third, a red rock structure, in 1885.

After all that, a special election resulted in the relocation of the county seat to Jourdanton in 1910. In 1911, construction was begun on a new courthouse which was completed in 1912. The building was designed by San Antonio architect Henry T. Phelps who also designed the old Atascosa County Jail in 1915.

Details on the courthouse building: The two-story brick building (pictured below) has identical entries at each side. Mission Revival-style detail includes curvilinear parapets and occasional Renaissance motifs, accomplished with cast-stone highlights, metal balustrades, and tile roofing. The corners of the building are turned with three-story tower bays, each topped by an open belvedere.

Livestock, oil, gas, and strawberries are well-known products of the county. [Information from the Texas Historical Commission's historical marker.]

Atascosa County Courthouse
From the courthouse, it was a block to the old Atascosa County Jail. A brand new jail has just been constructed but is not open yet.

Old Atascosa County Jail
Long, tall Texans!
We walked around Jourdanton City Park.
From the park, the remainder of the 5k walk took us through neighborhoods and past an industrial-type yard where there were approximately 40-50 shorn sheep and some lambs. A number of people who did the walk today thought this arrangement was extremely unusual. We couldn't figure out what all those sheep were eating. As we walked around the block, we went past a feed store which seemed to be behind where we saw the sheep. So maybe their food and water came from the feed store??

Industrial sheep?
We finished this walk passing by the park, going through more neighborhoods, and passing the new jail. 

Pearsall: From Jourdanton, we drove 50 miles to Pearsall, Texas in Frio County and checked in for our walk at Baymont Inn. Pearsall's claim to fame is that George Strait grew up here (although he was born in Poteet, Texas). 

Hunger had set in on our drive over, so we had lunch at Cowpoke's Bar-B-Q. It was good, but not near as good as some of our San Antonio BBQ spots. The portions were very large! It must be deer or hog hunting season as the restaurant was jam-packed with hunters when we arrived. 

From lunch, we drove to the Old Frio County Jail to start the walk. On the way, we saw a sculpture of the "world's largest peanut" because peanut farming is a big crop here. 

The jail is the oldest building in town (1884). It was used as a jail, and the jailer's residence, until 1967. It now houses the Pioneer Jail Museum.

Former county jail, now Pioneer Jail Museum.
We followed the walking directions down the street from the jail and passed a Justice of the Peace office which is part of the Frio County Courthouse system. Just around the corner from the Justice of the Peace is the county courthouse entrance. The Frio County Courthouse was built in 1891 by the Berlin Iron Bridge Company from Berlin, Connecticut.  

Justice of the Peace
Frio County Courthouse
Frio County Courthouse Christmas decorations

I should mention the other little thing Frio County is known for: Upper Presidio Road -- a major artery of travel from Saltillo, Mexico to East Texas -- crossed the Frio River and became a King's Highway in 1720. Frio Town, the first county seat, was located on the road over which Santa Anna marched to destroy defenders of the Alamo in 1836.

First United Methodist Church (front)
First United Methodist Church (side)
It looks like this weekend is "A Downtown Texas Christmas" celebration in Pearsall. Everything is being set up today, including kids inflatables. (We saw at least three, including the super-duper inflatable slide pictured below).

Super-duper inflatable slide.
Celebration Christmas tree
First Baptist Church
The sign in front of First Baptist Church says: "The best inheritance a father can leave his son is a good example." Our next turns took us onto Oak Street which is the town's "main street," past McDonald's and Walmart, over railroad tracks, and then past Centennial Park before returning to Oak Street.

Centennial Park -- flags at half-staff for former
President George H. W. Bush.
A Texas Christmas greeting in a bank parking lot.
Banners along Oak Street.
The old Oaks Theatre
More inflatables for the kids. (Road
closed for the celebration.)
Dilapidated car on a stick in front of a
dilapidated, closed, do-it-yourself car wash.
At this point, Susan Medlin and Bob Alton continued on to do the 10k walk. I turned down a neighborhood street to finish my 5k. There have been lots of dogs in these neighborhoods that are off leash which I do not like. 

In Jourdanton, two dogs came barking at us while their owner just watched. The dogs followed us around the house in front of his and kept barking threateningly. The owner did not call them back. 

While I was by myself on this 5k, two rather large dogs that had been sleeping near a driveway on the other side of the house from me, decided I was worth harassing and they shot around the back of the house to where I was continuing my walk. Luckily, they were both very nice dogs and wanted to go for a walk with me and jump up on me for some pets. Coming up in the next block, I could see a pack of five very vicious-looking chihuahuas who were barking and snarling. I told the dogs walking with me to go home because they looked like they didn't want to follow me near the chihuahuas. The two nice dogs turned around and trotted home.

I continued walking on the opposite side of the street from the five loose chihuahuas. I didn't look at them or engage them in any way. Three of them came across the street, snapping and snarling at me very threateningly. I kept walking. Then the most vicious one came at me and grabbed my pant leg. I turned around and yelled at the top of my lungs, "GET THE HELL AWAY FROM ME!" I was hoping the owner or anyone else would hear me. The dogs turned heel and ran.

Kitty corner from the chihuahua property, I saw a neighbor watching (and listening). When I got over by him he said those dogs do that all the time when someone walks by. He said he has told the owners about it but that the owner does nothing. Those dogs were about to get kicked very hard by me if they didn't back off!
Sweetgum tree with fall colors.
As I came around the corner back to the Frio County Jail, I saw the Veterans of Frio County Memorial mentioned in our walk instructions.

155 mm Howitzer (Pioneer Jail Museum
in the background)
155 mm Howitzer from the front.
Veterans of Frio County Memorial.
My 5k walk was done. I knew Bob and Susan Medlin would be about another 45 minutes so I decided to see the inside of the little free Pioneer Jail Museum. There was some interesting history on the outside of the museum.

They're NOT referring to a sasquatch!
Inside the museum were some quilts, antiques from the earlier days of Frio, and upstairs were the jail cells.

Very cute quilt.
Another quilt.
Kitchen tools.
I think this is a Santa Gertrudis cow.
Replica jailer's office.
Hall with jail cells off it.
Inside the cell.
When I finished looking at the museum (it took about 10-15 minutes tops), I went back to Susan's car and read my book until Bob and Susan got back. Bob reported there wasn't anything super interesting on the remainder of their walk. They saw a few chickens in yards, but that's about it.

We then hit up the Dairy Queen for Blizzards and headed back to San Antonio. We had a successful walking day. Thank you Texas Trail Roundup members who marked the route and staffed the check-in tables. We appreciate it.