Saturday, September 24, 2016

Waking Up To Shocking Cascade Mall Burlington Washington Shooting Murders

Not long after I was vertical this morning I learned something bad had happened in my old home zone of Washington.

The initial info came from Spencer Jack's dad, my favorite nephew Jason, via a photo sent to my phone.

On the phone the text in the image is small, I could not make out what the text said til I downloaded the image.

By then I had already been going through my usual morning ritual of checking in on news, online.

I always check local news first. The Wichita Falls News Record made no mention of anything bad happening in Washington.

The next news source I check in on is the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, always hoping to read about the current status of that town's three little bridges being built over dry land to connect the Fort Worth mainland to an imaginary island, and other possible news, such as if J.D. Granger has been indicted yet, that type news.

Well, it was via the Star-Telegram I first learned there had been fatal shootings at a Washington mall. At that point in time I opened what Jason had sent me and learned the mall in question is the Cascade Mall, located in my old small hometown of Burlington, population around 9,000, swelling to thousands more, daily, due to the town being a regional shopping mecca.

Below is the blurb regarding the Washington shootings from the Star-Telegram front page.

Next I go to the Seattle Times, where I learn the death toll is now 5, and that the shooter is on the loose.

Next I go to Fox News online, where I see a photo of the alleged shooter, and learn it is 4 women and one man who were murdered.

Foxtards commenting object to the shooter being identified as Hispanic, Because many are sure he looks to be a Radical Islamic Terrorist.

Each of my morning news sources, except the Wichita Falls one and the Star-Telegram, had this news as being the top headline, including CNN, below.

I must say it was a bit unsettling this morning to see my old hometown being the victim of this type modern era nightmare.

And then it was on to Facebook, where the first thing I saw was this from one of my favorite old high school friend's first husband Martin, who lives near the Cascade Mall, with his current wife, Janice.

And finally, also on Facebook, a message from my cousin Scott, currently residing in Cannon Beach, Oregon, who often visited the old home zone in Burlington.

It has turned into a cliche to say this type thing is happening way too often. But, it sure is. Just a couple weeks ago it was helicopters overhead and sirens wailing in my current neighborhood after two girls were shot, one killed, by some fool acting on his demons.

I suspect Burlington and the Skagit Valley will be on edge until this shooting perpetrator is caught.

Spencer Jack is growing up in a totally different Skagit Valley than the one in which I grew up....

Friday, September 23, 2016

Avoiding Getting Goosed At Sikes Lake Thinking Thanksgiving Turkey Substitute

The forecast for this next to last Friday of September, the second day of Fall, was for a sky clear of clouds, with clouds arriving later tonight, possibly bringing thunderstorms tomorrow.

However, by an hour before noon, the blue sky was already obliterated by gray clouds, for the most part.

With the temperature almost chilly, barely in the 80s,

I opted to roll myself to Sikes Lakes to do some goose walking prior to the possible arrival of sky drippage and lightning bolts.

The quacking population of Sikes Lakes seems to have grown of late. I was thinking such critters are supposed to fly south for the winter, but I guess the South is where these birds already are.

The Sikes Lakes geese are extremely territorial. I have been chased a time or two, but never successfully goosed. I was goosed once by a mad goose in a raspberry field in Washington.

Once you have experienced the pain of a goosing you do not want to repeat the experience.

When one of the Sikes Lake flocks decides to move to a new feeding location, such as across the road from the lake, the geese make the trek single file, slowly waddling, impervious to the fact they are blocking the flow of traffic, and paying no attention to horns honking.

Methnks perhaps the Sikes Lake flock could use some thinning. I have known people who have a stuffed goose for Thanksgiving rather than the traditional turkey....

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Linda & Maxwell Throw Me Back To A Last Century Thursday

A few minutes ago Miss Linda and Maxwell texted me with "At Glacier with Maxwell."

Included with the text was the photo you see here of Miss Linda and Maxwell in a Washington Rain Forest near Glacier.

Glacier is a small town one passes through on the way to Mount Baker. Now that you are making me think about it, Glacier is the last town one passes through on the way to Mount Baker.

Seeing this picture of Miss Linda and Maxwell threw me into Throwback Thursday mode.

On a Thursday way back in the last century, on the day of a significant birthday, was it 30, or 40? I don't remember. What I do remember is on that day a brutal hike took place a short distance east of Glacier, to the summit of Church Mountain.

The final ascent of the Church Mountain hike requires use of a thick wire cable, left behind from the long gone fire lookout station. The summit is a flat point, with a panoramic view north into Canada, east into the North Cascades, south to the South Cascades, where Mount Rainier is located and west to Vancouver Island and the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

I have photos of the Church Mountain hike, stored in a box, not scanned. It would require an extensive search party to locate those photos.

If I remember correctly, and I likely do, the last time I passed through Glacier was with my favorite nephews, Christopher and Jeremy, also known as CJ and JR. This would have been a year or two or maybe three before my exile in Texas began.

On that pass through Glacier we were on our way to the Mount Baker ski area, which in late summer becomes a major hiking destination, with trails which usually only get free of snow in August, or later.

Our destination that day was to hike up Tabletop Mountain. I do have photos scanned of that hike and have previously blogged them in a blogging from 2009 titled Going Back To Tabletop Mountain While In Texas.

One of my all time favorite photos was taken that day on Tabletop Mountain. I shall go see if I can find that photo...

That would be JR on the left, which would make that CJ on the right.

Behind JR and CJ is Mount Shuksan. CJ is looking to his left, at the Mount Baker volcano. Behind the nephews, if you look closely, you will see a row of what I have come to call Hoodoos.

Looking at these various mountain photos, I am freshly struck regarding the pitifulness of the fact that currently, in 2016, I am aboding in a flat land where I hike up a big pile of dirt, known locally as The Dirt Hill, which I call Mount Wichita, which really is a real sad excuse for a mountain.

One of my other dear ol' Washington friends, Maxine, recently completed her annual trek over the Cascades to Stehekin, eventually reaching the fabled Courtney Ranch, home to some of the best buffet feedings I have ever had.

This year's Maxine Stehekin Adventure Tale is the best ever. I must get around to blogging it on my Washington blog.

In the meantime I'm thinking it really is time for me to cease living in a vertically challenged location and return to one of the world's scenic wonderlands....

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Escaping Republican Nonsense Walking With Lake Wichita Dam Ants

My head was hurting from an inane Facebook conversation with one of Tarrant County's leading Republican nonsense purveyors, whose last two retorts told me...

The Republican party nominated Trump to be on the ballot, yes. Most, though are only voting for him to stop Hillary, not because they really want him to be president.  I don't find objecting to Hillary to be particularly stupid, however, I agree that offering up Donald Trump as an alternative is.

Republican stupidity entered the conversation when I suggested something like most non-stupid people think Republicans are pretty stupid, most of the  time. These stupid remarks were in regards to Trump.

Anyway, needing a break from nonsense I drove to the Lake Wichita Dam Spillway to have myself a breezy HOT walk with waves.

When I reached the top of the dam, and Mount Wichita came into view, I saw laying on the ground what appeared to be a pile of blankets. And then the blankets moved. Turns out the person you see at the lower right was laying on the blankets.


I have no idea. It's HOT, like I already mentioned. The guy did not appear to be in sunbathing mode, was in long pants, shirt and cap. A recipe for over heating.

And the ground in this area has a lot of ants marching to and fro, up and down, back and forth. Busy little ants scurrying all over. On the paved trail. On the grass. Everywhere.

Including, I would assume, crawling all over the guy laying on the grass....

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Why Not Enter Wichita Bluff Nature Construction Area?

Soon after my move to Wichita Falls, last May, I visited the Texas Travel Information Center to get whatever Wichita Falls info was available.

Among that which I acquired that day was a map of Wichita Falls. That map showed all the Wichita Falls city parks.

Over the following weeks, one by one, I checked out the Wichita Falls city parks.

The last one I checked out was the Wichita Bluff Nature Area. I was more than a little surprised to arrive at the location to find a new parking lot, benches, signage, paved trail and a "DO NOT ENTER CONSTRUCTION AREA" warning blocking the way under the sign you see above.

At that point in time, on that first visit, the fence blocking entry was knocked down, so I walked over it to check out the construction area. Eventually I found a structure and some paved trails. I could see the planned route of the continuation of the Wichita Falls Circle Trail. I was pleased to see this involved some elevation gain, which is a rarity in Wichita Falls, except for Mount Wichita in Lake Wichita Park.

It appeared to me on that first visit to the Wichita Bluff Nature Area that construction was stalled. It did not take much Googling to find out that that was indeed the case. After submitting the lowest bid a Fort Worth contractor was awarded the project. When one accepts a low bid it is always a good idea to carefully check the reputation of the bid winner before awarding the contract.

Evidently the contractor was not checked out before it was too late, and funds had been paid, and work done, with that work having some quality issues. The contractor was fired. The firing happened prior to my move to Wichita Falls.

And now, today, I checked in on the Wichita Bluff Nature Area to find that no construction is taking place in the area one is warned to keep out of due to construction. The only thing I saw that had been constructed since my last visit was an improved keep out barrier.

Way back when I learned about the problems with the Fort Worth contractor that same information source said the city was moving quickly to find a replacement contractor and hoped to have the project completed, if I remember right, by fall of 2016.

Methinks the Wichita Bluff Nature Area will be a great addition to the Circle Trail and will provide a good hiking venue with some actual hill climbing.

I hope whatever is causing the delay gets resolved and that the project does not turn into a Fort Worth style boondoggle that drags one for years.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Litter Free Wichita Falls Walk Around Sikes Lake

Last Friday I blogged a Lady In Turquoise Talks Trash To Me At Sikes Lake after a lady in a turquoise dress asked me about litter floating in and around Sikes Lake.

The lady told me her question was prompted by a photo which showed up on social media with the photo alleging to show a lot of white blobs of litter floating on the area of Sikes Lake you see in this photo I took a few minutes ago.

The social media in question was Facebook, via the Wichita Falls Rants & Raves page.

The poster informed us that the white blobs in the lake were not the Sikes Lakes omnipresent ducks, or geese, that it was floating litter.

As you can see above, some of those aforementioned ducks are busy floating on this same section of the lake which was shown on Facebook.

I told the lady in turquoise I had never seen litter floating in that area of the lake. A barrier across the lake stops any litter floating in from the Sikes Lake creek source from floating to the area of the "lake" you see above.

I also told the lady in turquoise that one of the things I have come to appreciate about Wichita Falls is the fact that I see so little litter, particularly noticeable after having spent way too many years in what may be the Litter Capital of America, Fort Worth.

On the day I talked to the lady in turquoise I eventually did see some litter floating in Sikes Lake, at the far end of the lake, near where the creek flows in, carrying litter with it, after a downpour hours before.

As you can see below, the main body of water which makes up Sikes Lake appears to be litter free today.

A quartet of anglers were fishing at the south end of the lake today, three guys and a girl, all with poles in the water.

I do not know what type fish one might catch in Sikes Lake. I do know that big fish of some variety regularly jump out of the water trying to catch a fly, making a big splash up their return to the lake.

The geese were being particularly aggressive today. But I did not get goosed...

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A Shady Walk To Dry Wichita Falls

Yesterday on the way to the Sheppard Air Force Base Air Show & Open House I glanced to my left at the location where regularly Wichita Falls is flowing over its man made precipice to find myself surprised that Wichita Falls had become a Dry Falls.

My old home state of Washington has a former waterfall known as Dry Falls. This is not a man made former waterfall. Eons ago during the melting of the last Ice Age massive torrents of water carved out Coulees in Eastern Washington, and at one point the water created a giant waterfall, about 30 times larger than Niagara Falls. In modern times that long ago waterfall location is known as Dry Falls, where the only water one now finds is known as the Sun Lakes, location of one of my favorite Washington state parks, that being Sun Lakes State Park.

Today I drove to Lucy Park and parked in the first parking spot I saw upon entering the park, due to that parking spot being the closest to the currently dry Wichita Falls, which I wanted to walk to and get a close up look at the formerly wet waterfall.

I was barely in Wichita Falls a week, way back in May, when I walked to Wichita Falls the first time. At that point in time I did not know how to get to the falls. A nice Texas Travel Center lady pointed the way. That time I had parked about as far from the falls as one could possible park in Lucy Park, which made for a long walk.

At the top you can see the current dry state of Wichita Falls. You can go to my blog post from the first time I saw Wichita Falls up close by clicking on Hiking To The Top Of Wichita Falls and see what Wichita Falls looks like when it is not dry.

Today's walk to Wichita Falls was much shorter than the first time, and very pleasant, mostly under shady tree cover, as you can see via the photo documentation below.

That is the Wichita River you see to the right of the short bridge, above. The Wichita was flowing a lot of water today.

Below is today's dry view from the top of Wichita Falls, You can go to the blogging of my first time at this location to see what it looks like with water flowing over Wichita Falls.

I have asked a few locals if they know what has dried up Wichita Falls. So far no one knows. It did not appear that any sort of maintenance work was taking place which would explain the water lack.

Was Wichita Falls dry during the long drought? I have never thought to ask that probing question before.

I was not the only person hiking to the dry Wichita Falls today. On the way back from the dry falls I ran into a family of five. The mom of the group asked me how much further it was to the falls. I told her they were almost there and asked if she knew the waterfall was currently turned off. Oh no, said she. She did not know. I told the mom that it was still cool to see and to be sure to find the bricked trail to the top of the dry falls.

I was almost back to my vehicular transport when I saw the scene you see above. A  pair of anglers fishing in the Wichita River. From a distance I saw what looked like fish lines angling into the water, wondering to myself, is someone actually fishing in that reddish brown water. And then I came to the fishing platform that hovers over the river and saw the pair of fishing pole holders.

I did not interrupt the fishing pair ask what they were angling for. Could it be catfish? Would this make for extra muddy tasting catfish? Or are catfish only found in lakes? I have no idea.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

75th Sheppard AFB Open House Air Show With Japanese Sneak Attack

One comes to this point well after passing through security.
I had myself a mighty fine time today at the 75th Annual Sheppard Air Force Base Open House Air Show.

Upon taking the first exit to the air force base I soon found myself in a slow moving traffic jam. By the time I got to where I could see the entry to the base I could see that gaining entry would take a lot of time.

I decided to bail, and headed north.

Soon I found myself at the Missile Avenue entry to the base, with that entry not being too jammed by traffic.

And so I reversed my decision to bail.

Methinks the number of attendees overwhelmed today's expected estimate. I somehow found myself directed to parking just across the street from one of the security entry points. Others, arriving earlier, and later, were directed to distant parking lots and bused to the security entry points. During the halftime half hour intermission I exited security to return to my vehicle to find a line of hundreds of people waiting to get through security. The air force security guys were seeming a bit frantic, opening up extra lines to get people through.

Getting through security was slightly simpler than airport security. One was not required to remove ones shoes.

I have been to several air shows over the years. All in Washington. At the Whidbey Island Naval Base, Paine Field in Everett and Boeing Field in Seattle.

The Sheppard Air Force Base Air Show was unlike any I have been to previous.

As in this was a show. A narrated show. An entertaining narrated show.

A speaker system the likes of which I've never previously heard, was heard, no matter where one was, as one walked among the planes and people. The show started with that which you see above. A parachuter jumped from a plane whilst another plane created a circle of smoke, while the Star Spangled Banner played, with nary a single kneeler to be seen.

The airfield had plenty of grassy locations upon which to sit. I did not avail myself of that sitting opportunity, due to recent rains having left the ground a bit damp. But many others seemed not to mind the dampness.

The above photo was taken before the Air Show began, sometime past 11am. The crowd steadily grew thicker, til eventually little grass could be seen. I was told the above plane was a bomber of the B1 or B2 variety. Years ago I remember seeing America's new bomber up close at Boeing Field. That bomber did not look like the bomber I saw today. Then again, it's been a few years and my memory fades.

Above I am under the shade of the wing of the aforementioned B1 or B2 Bomber. As you can see the crowd has grown. I do not remember what the narrator was directing us to look at at this point in time.

And then we get to, what for me, was the highlight of what I saw of the show, prior to bailing, due to exhaustion, both from too much time vertical and too much heat.

The highlight was called Tora Tora Tora. A re-enactment of the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Japanese Navy on December 7, 1941.

I was checking out some of the planes on the tarmac when I looked up and remarked that those planes look like World War II type planes, flying in formation. So, we headed back to the main show zone where I soon found myself witnessing the Japanese sneak attack.

The narration of the attack was well done, and ended with Franklin Roosevelt's famous Date with Infamy speech, declaring America's entry into World War II. I did not keep the video running long enough to get to the FDR part, that would have made for a video too long. But the video I did take does give you a good idea of how well done was the Sheppard Air Force Base Open House Air Show.

The Tora Tora Tora attack was so pyrotechnic that when it was over the Sheppard Air For Base Firefighters had to rush out onto the field to put out the various wildfires that had sprouted in the wake of the attack.

And now the aforementioned video....

Friday, September 16, 2016

Text From Linda Leads To Fidalgo Drive-In Root Beer Float

 This afternoon brought about one of those moments of wonder regarding electronic communicating in our modern world.

Thirty years ago that which we take for granted in 2016 would have been seen as science fiction fantasy if depicted in a 1986 movie.

So, this afternoon Linda R., other than my relatives, the person on the planet I have known longer than anyone else, texted me from Anacortes.

Anacortes is a town on Fidalgo Island in my old home state of Washington. Fidalgo Island is a real island, not a fake island like those Fort Worth promotes as such. Fidalgo Island is connected to the mainland by real tall bridges, which were built over actual water, and serve an actual purpose, unlike, well, anyone who has read this blog before can complete that sentence.

There are two impressive bridges, connected to Fidalgo Island, built over water. The Rainbow Bridge in LaConner and the Deception Pass Bridge, built in about a year, high over very fast moving water.

So, Linda R. texted me that she was at my favorite nephew's restaurant. That would be the Fidalgo Drive-In.

I have mentioned the Fidalgo Drive-In multiple times on this blog, and in a more detailed way on my Washington blog, in bloggings such as...

The Fidalgo Drive-In Has The Best Hamburger In Anacortes and Spencer Jack & Your Hometown Fidalgo Drive-In Family Restaurant in Anacortes Washington and Spencer Jack's Fidalgo Drive-In Hamburger Voted Best in Anacortes.

After Linda R. texted me that she was in my favorite nephew Jason's restaurant I texted Jason and asked him to go say hello to Linda. I then texted Linda telling her I had texted Jason telling him to go say hello to her. Linda then texted me that she was outside at a table on the patio. I then texted Jason to tell him Linda's location. Linda then texted me that she was ready to leave. I then texted Jason that Linda was leaving.

Shortly thereafter I texted my sister, Jackie, who I knew had been in Washington for a month or so, taking a break from the Arizona heat. Sister Jackie is the mama of my favorite nephews, Christopher and Jeremy, aka CJ and JR. I asked Jackie if she'd been to Jason's restaurant on this visit north.

I hit the send message button on the text to Jackie when the incoming text message noise came on at the same time. It was a text from Jason saying he was sorry he missed Linda, but that Jackie and Ginger had been in for lunch today.

A short time later Jackie texted me, with the photo attached you see at the top, of Jackie and one of Spencer Jack's Fidalgo Drive-In root beer floats.

See what I mean about the futuristic nature of our modern communication world?

Shortly after I heard from Jason, Linda texted me again with the photo you see below.

With the message in the text telling me Maxwell is enjoying leaning out the window on the way to Washington Park.

Washington Park was one of my favorite hiking locations whilst I lived in the area.

And now, another text message, this one from Jackie. I'd asked both Linda and Jackie how the food was at Jason's restaurant. Linda told me she had the fish and chips and it was excellent.

Jackie's latest message told me she and Ginger had dungeness crab sandwiches with root beer floats. I had already deduced the root beers floats from the photo at the top. Jackie says there is a cute picture of Spencer on the menu.

So, there you go, this is how electronic communicating in 2016 has me feeling totally connected to my old home zone two thousand miles distant, whilst I am at an isolated location, pretty much out in the middle of nowhere.....

Lady In Turquoise Talks Trash To Me At Sikes Lake

I was only a few steps into today's walk around Sikes Lake when the lady you see here in the turquoise dress smiled sweetly at me and asked if she could ask me a question.

Sure, said I, what do you want to know.

Do you walk here often, she asked.

Uh, thought I, is this sweet young thing using some sorta cliche pickup line on me?

No, I was not so lucky.

She asked me if I ever help pick up litter at Sikes Lake. I told her I never see litter at Sikes Lake, and that this past weekend there was a Sikes Lake litter cleanup which made no sense to me, because when I learned of the pickup I thought to myself it would take one person twenty minutes to walk around the lake and realize there was no litter to pick up.

She then told me people on local social media were complaining about litter floating on Sikes Lake. I asked if she was talking about the Wichita Falls Rants & Raves Facebook page where I'd seen a post which made no sense, with a photo of litter alleged to be floating at the north end of the lake.

The lady in turquoise confirmed the Facebook page was the source of the litter complaint. She and her team of photographers had been assigned the task of looking into this. I assume for the MSU school paper, or the Wichita Falls News Record.

She asked if it is true a creek runs into the lake. I pointed towards the southwest end of the lake and confirmed that is where a creek enters the lake. Apparently it had been speculated that litter was flowing into the lake after getting flushed into the creek by the storms of the past 24  hours, such as what happens to an astonishing level to the Trinity River anytime copious amounts of rain falls.

So, imagine my surprise when a few minutes later I was at the aforementioned southwest end of the lake and saw that which you see below.

Litter in floating flotsam mode. I saw multiple instances of litter in the lake, at the southwest end, something I had not seen during any previous walk around Sikes Lake.

Litter floating from the creek into Sikes Lake could not make it to the area pictured littered in the Wichita Falls Rants & Raves Facebook page. Litter would flow towards the dam spillway, not to the north end of the lake, where there is a barrier clear across the lake, impeding the flow into the area that sparked the concern on social media.

Above is the aforementioned dam spillway, today spilling a lot of overflow, due to the multiple inches of rain of the past 24 hours.

I saw no litter spilling over the spillway during the short time I enjoyed the roar of the falling water.

Changing the subject to something else.

A few days ago I mentioned that tomorrow, Saturday, I was going to the Texoma Fair at the MPEC. At the time I thought that I did not realize that tomorrow is the Sheppard Air Force Base 75th annual open house and air show.

Unless bad weather intervenes I will be going to the air show tomorrow. Sheppard AFB is the training air base for America's NATO partners and other allies.

This is why I can be in the local ALDI and hear German women speaking German.

Such as what happened yesterday. I overheard a pair of women conversing in what sounded to me to be German. I politely interrupted and asked if they were speaking German. Ya was the reply. Cool, said I, just like being in an ALDI in Germany. The pair gave me a courtesy laugh and continued with their German gibberish.

Wichita Falls is a very cosmopolitan sort of town....