A walk with Friends, McKinney Roughs 10-9-2016

dsc_4115My good friends, Gloria  and George called me that they had finally returned after having spent 2 months away in Colorado  and New Mexico. The first thing they wanted to do when they got back was to take a hike at McKinney Roughs. I was all for it so we made arrangements to meet up at the Pope Bend Trailhead.

Bobby and Nina, their two dogs were just as excited to see me as I was to greet my friends. Bobby would not leave me alone until I made a big fuss of him. Our plan was to follow the trails that I had covered the last time I was there a couple of days before. That was, to take Roadrunner to Buckeye, then Pecan Bottom, Deep Sandy, Coyote Road and finally back on Roadrunner. We passed the Giant Pecan Tree and try as I might, I could not find a good location that would allow me to take a picture of the whole tree.


We met up with one family of four adults and two kids. One of the little girls was ahead of the rest of her family and was obviously playing a game with them as when I stood there talking to them, she whooped at them to let them know where she was.


Even though there were several horse trailers at the Trailhead, we only got to meet up with one horse and rider and that was as we were almost back to the Trailhead. Both very willingly posed for the camera.


I am still surprised that there are still flowers out in abundance especially the yellow daises. The trails are lined with them.

As usual, I took pictures of the trails which seems to be one of my favorite subjects. At McKinney, the trails are always in good shape as LCRA take care of their Parks. The little dogs always manage to get into the picture one way or the other.

Altogether we covered about 5.5 miles. The weather is beginning to cool down and the hiking is very enjoyable because of it. My friends left and I sat there for a while just enjoying the peacefulness of the great outdoors and Mother Nature at her very best.

Austin Pond Society September Meeting 2016


Door Prizes

The Austin Pond Society held it’s September meeting at the usual location, Zilker Botanical Garden on Monday, September 19, 2016. This time, the Society was trying something different and instead of opening the meeting with the usual meal, they held a Swap or Sell meeting. Members who had items of Pond or Garden Equipment were encouraged to bring their wares and put them on display. As some of the items were fairly large, it was decided to hold that part of the meeting outdoors on the side of the building which meant that it had to be over by 7:00 pm as it was beginning to get dark. There were some interesting items on display, a push lawn mower, an electric train set, a pond filter and lots of miscellaneous stuff like plant pots, screening material and many different types of plants and many other things too numerous to list.

Following the Swap and Sell meet in which it appears that the plants were the most popular items, the meeting moved back indoors to enjoy Pizza and Salads and deserts brought by the Members before the start of business.

The main order of business for the evening was the participation and voting for the Calendar which is a very popular event for the year. Prior to that was a brief discussion by Jeannie, the President and Nancy Reinert about the invitation to all interested members to participate in converting a Pool to Pond seminar at Nancy’s house on Saturday. It was going to be a working event with the members quite literally getting their hands dirty as they helped to clean out Nancy’s existing Pool/Pond. Hers has been set up for four years and was in need of a plant clean-out and replacement and would show the interested ¬†members just what it takes to make the conversion.¬†You can read about that event at this link.Cleaning the Pool/Pond Conversion

The next order of business was given by Laura who outlined the vacancies on the Board and at the same time went around the room asking for volunteers. As with most small organizations, it is usually the same people that run the show and we are desperately looking for some new blood. The elections will be held at the October meeting. This meeting was looking for nominations. Following this, was the drawing for the door prizes.

The final event of the evening was the announcement of the different winners for the Calendar in which members had voted earlier in the evening. Their were four categories,
1) Ponds and pond features
2) Fish
3) Wildlife (“any insects, amphibians, birds, critters, etc. found around or in our ponds,” except fish)
4) Pond Plants
with a first, second and third place winners and the one with the most votes goes on the front page. This is always a popular event and there were some truly amazing pictures.dsc_3941

This was the final event of the evening and all that remained was for the members who had brought items which had not been sold having to re-load them into their cars to take them home. All in all, another popular meeting with about 45 members enjoying good company and good food.

As with all of these pictures, if you click on one it will enlarge and you can use the side arrows to move along. Use the “Escape” key to get back to normal.
Below is the video of the inside events.

APS September Meeting 2016 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

McKinney Roughs 10-1-2016


Nature at her best.

I decided at the last minute to take a walk at my favorite place, McKinney Roughs on Saturday, October 1, 2016. I knew that the weather forecast called for cloudy skies and a little lower temperatures so  even with a late start, I should be OK.

I arrived at the Pope Bend Trailhead and there were already several horse trailers and cars in the lot. As I was getting ready, a group of six horses and riders came out of the trails and finished up their ride, dismounting and leading their horses to the water troughs or to the hose wash downs. They were chatting up a storm and were of mixed ages from adults to kids of about fifteen as best I could guess. Quite obviously, they had a successful ride.dsc_4029

I continued with my own preparations and after a false start with forgetting to change into my boots managed to get on my way. I took Yaupon for about half a mile and then branched off onto Buckeye as my plan was to walk the lower trails. I then moved on to Pecan Bottom and passed the giant Pecan Tree and took its picture and stopped to re-arrange my pack. I looked at the two hundred plus year old tree and wondered what stories it could tell as it sat here for all of those years. It still looks in good shape and could easily last another hundred years. I met a couple of horses and riders and we chatted for a bit and I managed to take their picture.


This is not the 200 year old tree but another just like it and growing about 100 yards apart.

From Pecan Bottom I ¬†got onto Deep Sandy which took me by the river.There I saw a couple of White Egrets.¬†I ran into a younger couple who very excitedly told me they were on their honeymoon and were staying at the Hilton. They were from Houston. I moved on after wishing them all of the joy in the world and to have a wonderful life together and then got back to the more mundane but highly enjoyable at least to me, task of walking and¬†¬†joined up with Coyote Road. As I rounded a curve in the trail, this big deer was standing right in front of me. Of course it was much faster than me in getting my camera up to take it’s picture and was long gone before I had even dropped my hand to the camera belt. As a western gunman, I would be dead as the deer had the drop on me.


The Honeymooners.

As I started away from the river, I could hear what sounded like an Airboat roaring up the river and breaking the wonderful silence. I was too far away to take a picture but I could see as it flashed past, that it contained passengers. It roared up and down for several minutes scaring away more than a half dozen of the White Egrets. I figured it must be from the Hilton as one of their river trip offerings.

I kept walking along Coyote Road which I knew would bring me back to the Trailhead. On the way, I met up with another younger couple and we chatted for a while. They very willingly let me take their picture. Continuing along Coyote Road and heading back to the car, I passed a whole group of men as they were setting out on their hike.

I took a turn off onto the Overlook at Meditation Point and took a couple of pictures of the view looking up the river. I finally made it back to the Trailhead after covering about 5.5 miles. I found several flowers and took pictures and even found a squirrel who was busy collecting nuts on Pecan Bottom. He was a friendly little guy and was not a bit intimidated by my presence as he went about his business.dsc_4072

As usual, a great hike and very enjoyable. I really like hiking at McKinney Roughs. It has lots of shade and real trees with the Oaks, Elms, Firs and Pecans. The trails are always in first class condition and great to walk on.

I made my usual trip to Starbucks in Bastrop to help me on the long drive home.dsc_4088

If you click on any picture it will enlarge to full size and you can use the side arrows to move around. Use the “Escape” button to get back to normal.

I have grouped together the pictures. The first is of all of the flowers I was able find even this late in the season.


The next grouping is of the wonderful trails that can be found at McKinney Roughs.

A wonderful place to hike.


Working on the Bubbling Urn 10-3-2016

dsc_4095I came out to view the ponds on my normal morning walk around, carrying my bucket of fish pellets to throw to the fish. This is usually the first thing I do after waking, showering and starting my day. Things have a habit of happening in the night time hours and I am always curious just what I might find each morning. Most mornings, things are OK but occasionally, I might find a dead fish or a plant that blew over in the night or sometimes, something scary like a snake in the water. Sometimes, a pipe gets blocked and the pumps have lowered the water level which is always a worry but generally speaking, all that is required is for me to change out a couple of filters and hose off the dirty ones.

In the middle of the 5000 gallon pond, the first one that I built, stands an Urn. It has stood in the same place for the past 25 years which is as old as when I built that pond way back in 1991 and has gone through different iterations as regards the method of getting water to it the most recent of which was for it to be hooked up to its own 1200 gph pump. Occasionally, the flow is lessened usually by the protective pump bags needing cleaning to increase the flow. I can generally see that coming as the height of the water spout in the Urn gradually drops lower and lower. The problem is quickly fixed with changing the protective bag over the pump.

Over the years sometimes pumps have burned out necessitating in replacing them.  Depending on the hook up at the time, whether the pump was hooked to more than one outlet like a waterfall or a filter as well as the Urn, I would generally run a drain cleaning rod through the pipe before hooking up the new pump. Over a period of time, silt builds up in the pipes and needs to be rodded out in order to maintain maximum flow.

When I came out this morning, the flow out of the Urn was non existent, absolutely nothing so I concluded that in all probability, the pump had burned up. Most of these small pumps generally only last around 2-3 years. They are guaranteed for 2 years so its almost a given they will fail shortly after. The first move was to disconnect everything and rod out the pipe. I thought it was clean so I turned my attention to the pump which was making a lot of noise and was not running very evenly but was still pumping water. I hooked everything back together but still no water coming out of the Urn. I concluded that the pump was not working very well and took time out to go to my favorite store, Home Depot to buy a new 1200 gal gph pump.

After hooking up the new pump, the Urn was still not flowing water so the problem had to be in the pipe. As rodding the pipe out was not fixing the problem, then the only alternative was to get in the pond which I decided to do the next day.

The following morning after breakfast, I contemplated on what to wear in the pond. The water is still comparatively warm so I could wear shorts and go barefoot or I could put on my waders and water shoes and feel a little more protected. Just the day before, I had seen a water snake in the goldfish pond which made sense as those fish are small enough for it to eat. The Koi in the pond I was getting are way to big to be this snakes dinner but even so, I opted for the waders.Turns out to be a good choice as the story will tell.

I climbed into the pond with everything that I thought I might need, stacked within hands reach on the side. The Urn is very heavy even in the water as it is totally filled with silt from the 25 years of water being pumped through it. I managed to turn it on its side and discovered that the 3/4 inch black corrugated pipe had broken in two by the base of the Urn. This can happen to this type of pipe as it gets very stiff and brittle as it ages. I probably broke it as I handled the Urn. I ended up having to replace that piece of pipe as after several attempts of making a repair, the pipe was continually breaking.The pipe itself was completely solid with muck so no wonder the water was not flowing through.

I got a bit clumsy or maybe the Urn was out of control but I managed to knock over the stack of concrete blocks on which the Urn stood resulting in me having to bend low to the water with my arms extended trying to locate the blocks with my face a bare few inches from it as I fumbled around. The water is around 3 feet deep and the blocks were not visible. While in this position, a very large dead fish suddenly appeared not two inches from my face. Not only was it dead it was also in a very advanced stage of decomposition and although still recognizable, pieces were falling off it as it floated on the water. It was another of the large Koi probably around 24 inches long and 10-12 pounds and was one of the originals, making it around 25 years old.

To my credit, I didn’t panic but reached for the cleaning net I had with me and scooped the poor thing up into it and deposited it on the side of the pond. It smelt horrible and looked even worse and I was very glad that I had chosen waders. This is the second fish within a month that had died in that pond and both of them stayed under water for a while. One did surface but obviously, this last one never did. There goes the myth that dead fish float on the surface…

I had no choice but to continue with what I was doing as I got back into the pond to complete finishing the stand and then to place the Urn on it after hooking the pipe together. This time, when I turned the pump on, the water just flowed out of the Urn higher than it had ever been before. I completed the cleaning of the pond as I generally do if I have to get in them and managed to scoop up a lot of leaves and debris. With each scoop, I was waiting all the time just in case their might be more dead fish. There were none.

What should have been a straightforward repair turned out to have a couple of surprises. Who said life was dull.

Time Marches On


September has come and gone
as the year moves quickly on
where did it go this month just past
just like the others it went by fast.
when I was just a little lad
spending time with my Dad
it never went by as quick its clear
and time with him would last and last
something that I did not know
for me the time was going slow
but his life was speeding by
and in the twinkle of an eye
he was gone and life had changed
and would never be the same again.

Those were many years ago
and time that seemed so very slow
now is trying hard to mislead
zipping by with so much speed
racing towards that finish line
as eventually we run out of time
with nothing left, we used it all
if only time we could reinstall
or rewind that big clock on the wall
and turn back the time to something new
to the beginning when time was slow
that¬†my Dad and I used to know…

And then we die…

Cleaning the Converted Pool to Fish Pond September 2016


I got up early, at least for me, so that I could film the volunteers from¬†the Austin Pond Society as they worked on Nancy and Jake’s pond. This particular pond is actually a converted swimming pool and at least one member had asked the question, “How can I convert my pool” at the last meeting. This blog will show the process in reverse.

This was another example of how the Austin Pond Society by means of a show and tell with members physically joining in with the work, have them  performing  such tasks so that they have the knowledge and ability when the time comes, to perform the work on their own ponds. It was also an opportunity for those members that needed pond plants, to get some for free in return for their help.

When I arrived about 9:30 am, there were several people already hard at work. This included Jeannie and Steve, Jeannie’s son, Cory and of course Nancy and Jake. They had already lowered the water by a couple of feet and both Steve and Cory were in the pond removing the plants. Steven had on waders and Cory was in with just his bathing trunks. The pond/pool is about 30 feet long and 18 feet wide and like most swimming pools had a shallow and deep end. The shallow end is where most of the plants were standing on metal glass topped tables that Jake had especially adapted for this use.

It took a good hour and a half to get all of the plants out of the water and during this time, several other people showed up to help including Alex and David and a little later on, BJ, Ann and Betty. With all of these helpers, the work on the deck was quickly divided into groups as plants were separated and re-potted. Plants that were not going to be re-planted and all of the sundry dirt and roots from the rest was taken to the trash heap some little distance from the deck. Ted, our Pond Tour Chairman showed and he helped Jake get the inlet pipe ready to be reconnected. During this process, Jake’s new electric drill fell into the pond and was eventually fished out by Alex using a long handled net. It remains to be seen if it will dry out enough to work.

While this was going on, the pond boys, Steven and Cory had been replacing the newly re potted plants onto the glass topped tables within the pond locating them in their new homes. For them, this was a much simpler job than their previous one of taking the plants out of the ponds. Even though the plants originally had been planted in pots, Nature being what it is, does not contain itself within these limitations and many of the plants had not only outgrown their pots but had been growing in wild abandon without the pots constrictions. Consequently, when it was time to get them out, they were way too big and too heavy and had to be cut down into smaller chunks. The Umbrella plant in particular, which looked very spectacular, took Steve and Cory probably a good fifteen minutes before they could manhandle it out of the pond and not before they had cut it into several more manageable sized pieces.

While others were working in and around the pond, BJ was working on the bog which is an above deck structure and is probably about fifteen feet by six feet and about 3 feet high. She spent her time pulling plants out of the bog around the edges and thinning out others towards the middle. She looked a fine sight as she was mud spattered from head to toe.dsc_3988

As soon as Jake and Ted had the inlet pipe hooked back together, Jake turned on the water to the bog which in turn, provided some circulation within the pond. They have a 9500 gph pump which is pushing a lot of water which showed with the amount that flowed out of the bog. About this time, hot dogs were served and the pond crew took a hard earned rest. As it happened, they also had to leave and so Alex volunteered to get into the pond to complete the remaining work. Some of the other helpers had left as most of the work was complete.

I said my goodbyes and Nancy walked me back to my car. While we were there talking, two more members showed, Cynthia and Barb both of whom had previous engagements that had kept them away, full of apologies for their lateness. Both were surprised that the work was complete.

It was a very interesting experience and even though I had to put up with a lot of joking remarks about my role as photographer, followed by dire threats of being plastered in mud, I managed to get out of there unscathed. All in all, a very interesting morning.

I took a lot of film and have turned them into videos.
The first and longest shows the work involved in clearing the pond.
The second shows the plants as they are cut up into smaller and more manageable pieces to be re-potted and then the re-potting itself.
The third is very short and shows the inlet pipe that was already assembled and being put back into the pond.
The next video is of BJ  and others cleaning some of the plants out of the bog.
The last video is of the plants being replaced into the pond.

Cleaning the Pond Pool September 2016 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Re-potting the plants 9-24-2016 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Re-assembling the inlet pipe. from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Cleaning the Bog from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Replacing the plants from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

A Walk at Milton Reimers Ranch 9-28-2016.

dsc_3999-panoWith the temperature dropping to a bearable level, I decided to take a walk at Milton Reimers Ranch. This is ¬†operated by Travis County who have this great rule that people¬†over 65 get to use the Park for free although I don’t mind paying my $3:00 at the State Parks which is almost free.

dsc_4024I wanted to hike the new trails that are on the East side of the existing trails known as the Hogge Trails. I have hiked them once before just after they opened and had an idea of the degree of difficulty the trails presented.

I pulled into the ¬†Mountain Bike Parking Lot as I could get to the trail that lead on the far side of the Multi Use Circuit which goes all around the Main Park. This trail starts off as a bike trail but quickly opens up into a full width trail big enough for the Travis County vehicles. This brought me to the far side of the Multi Use Trail along where Johnny’s Homestead¬†used to stand from where I turned East and headed along the trail that would lead me to the Hogge Trails.

I had asked at the Pay Booth if the stream¬†that I knew I would have to cross had any water in it and the Booth Attendant mentioned that they had over an inch of rain in the last couple of days and was not sure if it had affected the low water crossing. The answer to that when I arrived at the crossing was a definitive “No”. There was no water in the stream at all. It was totally dried up. So much for thinking of wet feet. The part of the trail leading away from the stream is a steady up hill climb with steep grade in a few places. It is almost a mile long and you know you have been walking by the time the top is reached.dsc_4007

The Travis Park property ends and you walk through a five bar gate which is permanently open.  The sign indicates the trails of which there are two. The Inner Loop is 1.3 miles and the Outer Loop is 2 miles. By going in a figure of eight, it is possible to cover all of the trails by double tracking on the center trail twice which is what I planned to do. I took the right hand trail until it came to the spot where if I had taken the left trail, would have considered that the Inner Loop. There are some picnic benches located under a shade tree where I enjoyed a fifteen minute break eating one of my apples.dsc_4019

When I started back walking, I took the center trail, the aforementioned Inner Loop except that when I got to where it merged with the Outer Loop Trail, I turned right and followed it back around to where I had started under the shade trees. I then followed the center trail again except this time, I turned left where the trails merged all of the way back to the five bar gate. This way, I was able to cover both the Inner and Outer Loops.

The trek back down the long hill was no easier than when I came up due to the rough trail and loose stones and having this ongoing balance problem, I had to be really careful not to stumble any more than could be helped. I finally reached the low water crossing and took pictures of it and then made my way around the Multi Use Trail to Johnny’s Homestead. From there, I took the trail that intersects the¬†Multi Use Trail back towards the Mountain Bike Parking Lot.

Just as I had started along this trail, I heard the sound of one of the park vehicles which pulled up alongside of me. We chatted for a bit with the Ranger wanting to know if it was my vehicle in the¬†Mountain Bike Parking Lot. He was out checking the trails to make sure that no one was in trouble. We chatted for a bit and he asked if I was OK. I’m sure he would have given me a ride if I had wanted it but although I was tempted, I told him I was fine and had to finish what I had started.

I turned back up the trail and finished the walk back to my car where I sat for a while eating my last apple and resting my weary bones. Altogether, I walked 9.1 miles and felt re-markedly good. It is amazing what having lower temperatures and a cloudy day can do for the body. I only finished one flask of water and half of the other.


Altogether, a good day on the trails. I managed to find a few flowers and a couple of other things to take pictures and on the way back, found the Starbucks at Bee Cave to complete my day.

As with all of these pictures, if you click on anyone of them they will enlarge and you can move along by using the side arrows. Use the “Escape” key to get back to normal.