Dinosaur Valley State Park

Obviously I did not write a post last week. I had really important things to do instead like watching season 3 of Dexter, making my way through a 1,000+ page book, and eating pizza before I give up grains (and wine and sugar – yikes!!) for three weeks. Well, to be honest I will still be drinking sugary flavored creamer in my morning coffee, which I should technically not be drinking. But I have my limits – foregoing my morning coffee with creamer is where I draw the line. So, other than that I will not be eating/drinking sugar. Anyway, all of these things were vitally important activities that improved my life immensely and completely explain why I was too busy to blog last week.

This week, I feel the need to be moderately more productive, so I thought I would share what has thus far been my favorite place to hike near Dallas: Dinosaur Valley State Park. I use the term “near” Dallas quite loosely given that the park is located in Glen Rose, which is about 1 1/2 hour drive from Dallas.

The day I went, I did what any reasonable person would do. I woke up one rainy morning and thought, “Today is the perfect day to go hiking. And, even better, I should drive somewhere that is not even close to home so that I feel like I have to keep hiking even if the weather becomes more miserable.” Makes perfect sense, right?

So that’s how I found myself walking for miles in the rain. Again. Fortunately, for most of the morning the rain could be described as a light drizzle.

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Despite the rain, the park was beautiful. A nice bonus of the rainy weather was that the park was practically deserted. There were trees and a river and quiet. I was happy.

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Dinosaur Valley State Park

The park has about 20 miles of trails, but I estimate that I probably hiked 9 – 10 miles. There are many activities other than hiking available in the park, including horseback riding, mountain biking, camping, fishing, and, most importantly, finding the fossilized dinosaur tracks that are the namesake of the park.

Dinosaur Valley State Park
Yep – I crossed this river more than once…without losing my balance, slipping on a rock, and falling in. It is practically a miracle.

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Dinosaur Valley State Park

And of course I had to take obligatory bluebonnet pictures.

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Dinosaur Valley State Park

As the day wore on, I finally found some blue sky. How could I not feel happy and thankful when I got to spend the afternoon here?

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Also, I found $20. That could have impacted my happiness level.

Ice cream also positively effects my mood. 9-plus mile hike + finding $20 = a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard from Dairy Queen. Don't judge.
Ice cream also positively effects my mood. A 9-plus mile hike + finding $20 = a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard from Dairy Queen. Don’t judge. Also, this was not in the park, in case you were wondering.

As my time in Dallas is (most likely) winding down, I am glad that I impulsively decided to spend a rainy day hiking in Dinosaur Valley State Park. Hopefully, I will have a chance to go back again. Regardless, I am trying to make the most of my remaining time in Dallas. Any suggestions for things I must see or do are appreciated!

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Packing Post: Family Reunion

It has been a while since I have written a post on packing, so I thought I would share my most recent feat of packing, all the more impressive given that I used to be the person who would sometimes take two giant suitcases for a one week trip. I am actually a bit embarrassed just thinking of it.

Thus, I have worked to steadily improve my packing prowess. On a recent, long-weekend trip to Tennessee for a family reunion, I was determined to take nothing but a small Columbia bag and a purse. I carefully chose my outfits, which really means I carefully chose my shoes and then picked out clothing to match. I have priorities. I have yet to perfect a magic formula; I just sort of mix and match until I find a combination that works. This time, the end result was this:

Packing for a family reunion

The final list, including what I wore on the plane, was two pairs of pants, four tops (including a cardigan), pajamas, camisoles, two pairs of shoes, and a few accessories.

Packing for a family reunion

One of my favorite packing items, which I first used when packing for Europe last summer, is packing cubes. For this trip, I used two of the smallest sized cubes, which fit together easily in the bottom of my bag. Everything on the above list (except what I wore on the plane) easily fit into the cubes.

Packing for a family reunion

Once these were in my bag, I had plenty of room to add my cosmetics, including a bag containing liquids that could quickly be pulled out when going through security at the airport. There was even room to slip in a Mother’s Day present for my mom.

Packing for a family reunion

So there you have it – an entire weekend’s worth of stuff in one relatively small bag that can fit under an airplane seat if overhead space is full. Or if, like me, you just want to avoid putting stuff in the overhead bin because you are short and doing so is next to impossible without looking ridiculous and desperately in need of help.

Change

I suppose it is natural that as my 30th birthday, and consequently a new decade of my life, quickly and inevitably approaches I become somewhat pensive about where I have been and where I am going.

One thing is certain – if you had asked me a year ago what my life would be like at this moment, my answer would have in no way reflected my current reality. And the thing that I could never have imagined is that I would be okay with that. I am a planner who has historically resisted change with every fiber of my being. I had a plan and it was perfect and nothing else was acceptable and that was that.

And yet, here I am having been forced to painfully confront my “perfect” plan falling to pieces around me. What is amazing to me is that I have come to accept that and, even more incredibly, to feel excitement and anticipation about a future outside of that plan. I have learned to more often live in the moment with a willingness to embrace the ultimate uncertainty of the future without anxiety (well, at least not my former level of anxiety). The cost of that lesson has been undoubtedly high, but I believe I will live my life better because of it.

As I pondered all of this, I was reminded of a recent hike at Cedar Ridge Preserve, which I first visited during the winter. This time, signs of spring were everywhere in evidence, especially the iconic Texas bluebonnets.

Cedar Ridge Preserve

Cedar Ridge Preserve

The change from one season to the next is not a change that is often resisted. For the most part, people eagerly anticipate the alterations that come as winter changes to spring or spring changes to summer. On this particular day, I reveled in the warmth of an early spring day, appreciating the beauty and color that were all around me. Sure, I could have focused on the bugs or worried about how hot it was going to be in a few weeks. But instead I chose to appreciate the beauty knowing that every wonderful, worthwhile thing has an inextricable element of discomfort or even pain.

Cedar Ridge Preserve

Cedar Ridge Preserve

Cedar Ridge Preserve

Cedar Ridge Preserve

Cedar Ridge Preserve

Just like my birthday and just like spring, change is inevitable. Each season in life brings an unpredictable combination of pain and blessings. I can choose to embrace change with an attitude of wonder and expectation, with an awareness of the blessings, or I can be miserable as I ineffectively resist and focus on what has been lost. As I begin a new decade and a new phase of my life, I want to let go of my plans while I work toward my goals. I want to embrace change while also holding on to the people I love. I want to see the adventure and opportunity of this time in my life, not the loss and the fear. Someone whom I love dearly recently told me to “see the gift that life has given you in spite of the sorrows.” So that is what I am going to do – find the joy and the blessings and make the most of every day, even the difficult ones. I do not know what this next year will bring, but I am looking forward to finding out.

Cedar Ridge Preserve