Hiking the Greenbelt 2-21-2015

Barton Creek

Barton Creek

The weather had warmed up and it had been a while since my last hike so I decided to take a short walk in the Greenbelt in Austin. This time, I entered by the Scottish Woods Road off Loop 360. There are a lot of cars parked on both sides of the road as it is a popular entrance to the trails. It beholds us visitors to be nice and respect the neighborhood and the people who live there.

The entry is across the road at the very top of Scottish Woods Road and is actually off Camp Craft Road and it leads immediately onto the trail known as the Hill of Life. They were not kidding when this trail was named as it is a real killer. The terrain is rocky, with concrete steps here and there and is very rough underfoot. What makes this a real tough trail is the steepness. It seems almost vertical but of course, is not. It is steep though. My guess is that it is probably between a half and three-quarters of a mile long.

Some people use this for their exercise and believe me, it is a work out in both directions. One lady passed me going down and then passed me again on her way back up. As though this was not humiliating enough, she passed me a third time going in the opposite direction. Finally, feeling a bit like the old man that I am, I asked her if she just walked this hill for her exercise. She said that she was aiming for three times up and down and that would be her work out. I congratulated her on her fitness and continued my weary way back to the top. By the time I reached it, my legs were really tired. Below is a picture of this super fit lady on her way up.

Lady Climbing the Hill of Life

Lady Climbing the Hill of Life

I made it to the bottom and headed west off to the right in the direction of the Twin Falls, not too far from the bottom of the Hill of Life. As it was such a beautiful day, there were many hikers, cyclists and of course dogs. Lots of dogs, all enjoying themselves. Below are some pictures of the walk down the Hill of Life.

The Twin Falls are about a quarter of a mile along the trail from the Hill of Life and many people were enjoying its beauty, which can change depending on the amount of water flowing through the Creek and the time of the year. I took a picture of the Falls but the sun was giving me problems as you can see from the picture. It is possible to walk across the Falls and continue the trail on the other side. As I was watching, one avid cyclist was carrying his bike back across and managed to slip on the rocks and took a tumble into the creek. He still hung on to his bike and manfully climbed back out and made it across as nonchalantly as possible as though he had never fallen in.

Twin Falls

Twin Falls

Continuing on the trail, I chatted to some of the hikers as we passed including a group of four young ladies who were obviously enjoying their walk taking pictures on their smart phones. Seeing my camera, they wanted to know what I was taking and why and of course, I was more than happy to tell them. Their eyes opened wide when I said that I would probably take more than a hundred pictures and would only keep 20-30 of them. Below are some of the pictures that made it..

I came to one area that was exceptionally green as a small stream was continuously running. It is amazing what effect water has on plant life. Most of the scenery was more drab and grey waiting for Mother Nature to break out in all of her glory and this particular stream and rocks really stood out.

As is true of much of the Greenbelt, the rocky areas added to the scenery. Some had small caves carved out of the hillside but they all presented a grand display.

As it was getting late and because I knew that I had to climb up the Hill of Life, I turned back about a mile beyond the Falls and passed the same group of young ladies making their way home. I reached the bottom of the climb and made my way upwards into the clouds (well it seemed like that) passing the lady I mentioned previously. Actually, she was passing me, three times in fact. I finally reached the top as one thing I have learned as age has crept up on me and that is how to pace myself. Slow and easy is the word and just keep moving. Below are pictures of the hill looking up. Unfortunately, they are not in 3D so do not really show how difficult it is.

I already talked about the lady working out by climbing the Hill but several athletic people¬†were also using the Hill and were quite literally, running up the Hill albeit at a slow pace. Even so, I take my hat off to them. All in all, I covered nearly 5 miles and enjoyed every minute of it, Hill and all. I plan on going back…

APS February Meeting 2015

Pond at Buescher State Park

Pond at Buescher State Park

The Pond Society held their second meeting of the year on Monday, February 16 at the Zilker Botanical Gardens Meeting Room. There were about 40 members in attendance including a couple of new members. We welcome them.

Our resident chef, Laura Creasley, offered us chicken Tetrazzini¬†with a salad which really hit the spot. Someone else had brought an apple pie. I’m a sucker for any type of pie so of course I grabbed a piece of it and it was delicious. There goes my weight again….

Our speaker for the evening was Steve Kainer, owner of the Hill Country Water Gardens in Cedar Park. If you have not yet visited his place, you are missing out on a real treat. With 5 acres laid out with ponds and plants and everything that a pond and garden enthusiast could want, it is a gardeners paradise.

Steve spoke to us about preparing our ponds for the Spring and elicited a big response from the floor as he answered question after question. There were lively discussions on many of the topics. Thanks Steve for a very interesting presentation.

Following Steve, Jeannie Ferrier, our President took the floor for the business session.  She introduced our new out-of-state sponsor, Empire Aquatics and also mentioned that we still need a Parliamentarian. The meeting adjourned at 8:15 pm.

Our next meeting will be held on Monday, March 15 at the usual time and place. We hope to see you there.

The video below is of Steve Kainer.

APS Steve Kainer Feb 2015 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

This video is of the business section of the meeting.

APS February meeting 2015 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

APS January 2015 Meeting

Splash Party leadin (1 of 1)

The Austin Pond Society held its first meeting of the year on January 18 at the Zilker Botanical Gardens Meeting Room attended by about 40 members. There were several new members who introduced themselves. As usual, Laura, our Hospitality Guru fed us with another delicious meal of Chile¬†with a salad. I really need to get there earlier so I have more time to enjoy the meal. As it is, I spend a lot of the time just setting up the camera and then almost immediately, taking still pictures and in between, wolfing down the food. The good thing about that schedule is that I do NOT have time to eat any desert…

At 7:00 pm following the meal, Barb introduced the speaker whose interests seem far from what most female interest are as she talked to us about bugs. Her name is Wizzie Brown which by itself, is a very interesting name. When I asked her, she said that  it goes back to her childhood and has stuck ever since. Wizzie is an Entomologist with the A&M Extention Program.

In spite of her topic, which most people, except Pond People, would not find very interesting, we got to learn about the life styles, uses and habits of the bugs that are in and around our ponds. Which ones are good and which are bad. Probably, only an entomologist would think there is such a thing as a good bug with pond people a close second.

Her talk was very interesting and we could all recognize most of the bugs she was talking about as we see them on a daily basis busy at work in and around the ponds.

Following Wizzie Brown’s presentation, we had some business but nothing of major importance. We are still looking to fill the Parliamentarian’s position and again, there were no takers. ¬†Sure miss John and his humor.

The next meeting will be on Monday, February 16 at Zilker Botanical Gardens at 6:30 pm. Our speaker for the evening will be Steve Kainer from Hill Country Water Gardens and his topic will be, “Preparing our ponds for the Spring”. Hope to see you there.

Wizzie Brown video.

Wizzie Brown Bugs from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Pond Society Business video.

APS January Meeting 2015 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.


Pond at McKinney

Pond at McKinney

The lights reflect off the surface
and dance sparkling in the trees
I hear the sounds of running water
and I am at peace..


Buescher State Park – First Trip Jan 23, 2015

Pine Tree at Buescher State ParkI originally meant to hike the Bastrop State Park but arrived late in the afternoon and opted to just drive around the park to see what wonders it might hold. It is a very sad sight to see the beautiful pines mostly gone in the wildfire of 2011 and it made me feel very depressed as the view didn’t change. Miles and miles of charred trees standing like ghost statues as mementos to the fire.

I was able to drive around the loop for free as long as I didn’t get out of my car and I was under a time limit given me by the Park Ranger. I had no intention of doing anything except to view the damage but I did discover that I could drive on to Buescher State Park on Park Road 1-c. I¬†completed the loop and then took the road to Buescher Park, a distance of 11 miles. On the way, I ran out of the fire desolation and the trees and greenery were again abundant with a lot of the Pine trees mixed in with the others. I noticed a couple of trail heads among all of this greenery marking the trails that ran through the area.True to its word, the road ran right into the Buescher Park and on the way out, I stopped at the Guard Station and picked up a couple of maps and then drove home and made plans to visit the Buescher Park instead on a different day.

Two days later found me driving towards Smithville and back to the Park the entrance of which is off Highway 153 just outside of Smithville. For a nominal fee of 4 dollars and after a couple of questions to the Park Ranger, I hopped back into my car and headed back up Park Road 1-c to the first trail head marked on the map. Pulling into the parking area, the first thing I noticed was the marvellous view from the overlook that was the parking area. In the far distance, I could see the burned trees standing like statues on top of the hill, several miles away.

I opted to walk a 5 mile loop that led me up one side of Park Road 1-c and the after crossing the road, back  down to my starting point coming out at the Virginia Harris Cockrell Cancer Research Center at Science Park, just across the road from the parking lot.

It was a great day to be walking and I passed a few others who obviously had drawn the same conclusion. The hike was a mix of scenery but was nearly always under the shade of trees of different varieties. The trail was not a bit difficult and the surface changed from red rock, to pebble stones and then to plain old dirt as I changed elevations. There were a couple of new bridges and at one point a sign warning of a dangerous curve ahead. The trail is open to bikers but it did not appear that it was used by too many. I didn’t see a single one and there were no signs underfoot that any had passed recently. The recent rains had filled the very small stream in one of the gullies but it was really not much more than a ditch and presented no difficulties.

From a photographic point of view, there is a lot of monotony in the scenery and it was difficult to get much variety in the pictures. I spent a couple of hours and took well over 100 pictures some of which are shown below. There is one whimsical picture of little stacks of rocks that some enterprising, and probably young person, had taken the time to build.The class I recently attended at Precision Camera has helped me tremendously in getting things in focus and making better choices of subjects. On the way home, I was drawn by a beautiful sunset and just had to stop the car to take a couple of pictures.

I plan on going back to Buescher State Park in a couple of days to hike the long trail.

How I Love the Sun

A view at McKinney Roughs

A view at McKinney Roughs

At last, when I awoke this morning, the sun is shining
after several days of cold, dark, rainy weather
seeing the sun is like having renewed life
and as warm-blooded as we are, a necessity.

I do not do well when the weather is overcast
it is as though the dark grey clouds and the rain
are like a heavy weight upon my shoulders
and it makes me feel very low.

But, I see the sun and my spirits have lifted
I can feel the heat on my back
and my heart sings with joy
for the beauty and warmth that it brings.

The Sun and the Rain

Sun and clouds

Sun and clouds

I got to see the sun today
it shone for a while as though to say
fear not, I have not deserted you
just hiding away from your view
as in the natural scheme of things
in this part of the country where I live
the sun shines nearly everyday
while occasional clouds get in the way
which has happened for the last few days
as cold and miserable with a little rain
has dampened our spirits enough to say
you can’t have sunshine every day
this is just to let you know
we need the rain for things to grow
as the sun for all of its warmth
dries things out leaving to chance
whether enough rain is falling to help Nature’s dance.