More Hikes at Pedernales Falls State Park 2-6-2016

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View of the Gas Pipeline looking southwest.

Hiking the Madrone Trail.

The weather had warmed up a bit and I decided that I needed to get out again. I have nearly covered most of the hikes at Pedernales River State Park, some more than once and have just a couple more to go. One, requires fording the river at Trammell’s Crossing which the Ranger told me is about a foot deep, enough to get wet feet. I have decided to put that one off until the very last and to make sure to bring extra socks with me. Another trail still open to me is the Twin Falls Nature Trail which is pretty short, less than a mile.

This time, I had decided that I would hike the Madrone Trail which is still within the park but is across the other side of the Pedernales Falls Road and has a parking lot of its own. I had to stop at the Park Headquarters to register and pay my $3.00 and while I was there asked the Ranger how I could turn the Madrone Trail into a loop instead of backtracking and covering the same ground twice or without getting onto one of the other trails that would also do the job but would add several miles to the hike. He suggested that I hike along the Utility Right of Way (R.O.W.) which although no short distance was still shorter than hitting the longer trails.

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One of the hills I climbed.

I went through my usual preparations boots, snacks, water and hiking poles and strapping on my camera belt, was ready to go. I decided to head East up the Madrone trail which is a really nice and easy trail to walk mainly through dense coverings of Juniper. A couple on bikes going in my direction stopped and asked where the trail led. They didn’t have a map with them so I was very happy to point out where they were and how they could get to the Wolf Mountain Parking Lot. After having hiked these trails three times in the past week, I knew all about the direction they needed to go. I didn’t tell them of the two times that I managed to get lost or they would not have had much confidence in my ability to give them directions.

They took off and I continued along the Madrone Trail until I reached the R.O.W. of which there are two. One, actually a double one, is the Gas Pipeline and the other carries the LCRA Electric Poles to the substation located on the Pedernales Falls Road. I turned and started walking in a westerly direction along the Gas Pipeline R.O.W. which I knew would eventually bring me out at Windmill Road and from there I had choices. The R.O.W. does not have well used trails but does have a sort of a road which the inspection vehicles use periodically.  From the condition of the track, it had not been used for a while so the going was a bit rough in places. One more person  passed me running in the opposite direction and we exchanged cheerful greeting to each other. I admired him for choosing this as his training ground as the going underfoot is tricky at times.

Walking along the broad swath of open space that was the R.O.W. reminded me of my younger days living in England. I worked for a pipe-line company and worked on such projects as this one. Looking at the vista left by the post pipe line installation brought back many memories of my times working on pipeline construction. I spent several years of my life travelling the country to where the next big project would be, staying until it’s completion or until my company moved me to a different project. They were among the happiest years of my entire working life not only for the type of work and the surreal aspect of heavy machinery, bulldozers, backhoes, cranes all looking like giant Tinker Toys but also working out in the open along with men who also enjoyed the same aspects of Mother Nature and of the hard work that was involved. I was the fittest and most muscular that I ever was for my entire life. The fact that I was only 21 when I started also helped a lot. Those were the days and I remember them like they happened yesterday instead of more than 60 years ago.

I shook myself out of my reverie as I made it safely to Windmill Road which also leads to the Equestrian Camping Area. I could have taken it but it would have brought me short of the far end of the Madrone Trail. I noticed that the horses had made a much better and more defined trail continuing along the R.O.W. I decided that I would follow that as from the map, it looked like it intersected a part of the Juniper Ridge trail which I happened to know also connected back to the Madrone Trail, exactly where I wanted to go. It was nice to get off the R.O.W. and back onto regular trails. For starters, the regular trails are well used and fairly smooth in comparison to the R.O.W. and also the Junipers give some protection from the sun which was beginning to get warm.

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The shade provided by the Junipers.

 

I reached the intersection where the Juniper Ridge trail met up with the Madrone Trail and at the same time, another pair of cyclists pulled up wondering which way to go. They had a map and we discussed where they were heading and I pointed them in the right direction. It turns out that they too had gotten lost at exactly the same place as I had previously. We both joked about it and blamed the Park for not having better signage on the trails. I didn’t mention that it took me until 9:00 pm to get out of the park and that a part of my trail walking was done using a flashlight as I didn’t want to appear that incompetent.

I took off along Madrone as they headed back along the Juniper Ridge trail. I kept walking and came to where I had to cross the Pedernales Falls Road to finish the last bit of my hike along the Madrone Trail. This trail is a very easy trail to hike and I highly recommend it to those not wanting to walk a great distance or with much difficulty. I would not recommend that the casual hiker follow the R.O.W. trails as I did today and instead, the return loop to the parking lot could be by using the Pedernales Falls Road.

When I walked back into the parking lot to my car, there were 4-5 more vehicles there than when I left. I wanted to see where the Twin Falls Nature Trail was so after changing into my shoes and eating some fruit and relaxing for a bit, I took a drive back inside the park to where the travel campers turn off. There were a lot of them in the spaces plus several tents in others. I found the turn off for  the Twin Falls Nature Trail  and also another one for Warfie’s trail, a short one that connects two of the roads.

I plan on exploring both of these trails next week and maybe at the same time, I’ll brave getting wet feet and hike Trammell’s Crossing Trail. As usual, the camera was busy on this 8.5 mile hike that I covered today although the problem that I have found with taking so many pictures is that the trails all look very much alike at this time of the year as there is not a lot of greenery to add much color.

If you click on any picture, it will make it full size and you can use the side arrows to move through them. Use the “Escape” button to get back.

Get out and hike…

I Finally Got It Right…

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Wolf Mountain

For those of you that have been reading about my exploits at Pedernales Falls State Park in my previous two blogs, know that I have managed to screw up the two times I have hiked there. Both times I missed taking crucial trails to bring me back to my car and on both occasions, ended up getting a ride back to it from kindly strangers who could see I was in trouble or at least lost.

On the drive to the park,  a small brown dog dashed onto the road in front of me and had obviously just managed to escape as it was tearing up the road, running around in circles and was so happy to be loose. I swerved to miss it as did a car coming from the opposite direction. I stopped as I spotted another car coming towards us over the hill. The dog meanwhile, was just racing around delighted to be free. I flashed my lights at the approaching car as the dog was racing towards it and the car stopped. Then the dog’s owner appeared from between some parked cars and coaxed the little dog over to him who, I have to say, was just as happy to see his master. So, from what could have been a disastrous start to the day ended up the way it should have with the little dog safe and sound in his master’s arms. I knew then that the rest of the day was going to be just fine.

I continued on my way to Pedernales Falls Park as I wanted to lay this bugaboo to rest and was determined to find the right trail this time. I stopped at the desk and there was a young Park Ranger on duty who dutifully checked me in and took my $3.00. I inquired if anyone had turned in any sunglasses and he said that no one had recently. I am not too hopeful that I will ever see them again but thought I would ask anyway.

I drove down to the Wolf Mountain parking area and even parked in the same space as a couple of days before. I went through the usual procedure of boots, camera belt, water, fruit and hiking poles and was ready to go.

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The misleading sign. 

My plan was to hike the same trail only going in from the opposite direction than the other two times. When I had messed up before, it was at the tail end of the long Juniper Ridge Trail hike and where I should have taken South Loop Equestrian back to the parking area. This time, I started on the South Loop Equestrian until I hit the spot where the trails intersected and discovered that I had in fact, re-taken Juniper Ridge again when I made my mistakes.

Happy for discovering why I had messed up but totally mad at myself for doing so, I continued along South Loop Equestrian only this time, I was planning on heading towards Wolf Mountain. I reached the next intersection of trails at Windmill Road and followed it for a while. I was in the middle of nowhere, or so it seemed when all of a sudden, a young guy on a mountain bike came towards me. It is the oddest thing to be all alone and then all of a sudden, there is someone else on the same trail. I pulled off the trail to let him by and we exchanged pleasantries as he went on his way.  I hiked onwards taking the trail towards Wolf Mountain. I hit the intersection where Wolf Mountain Trail Headed towards Jones Spring and another trail that leads around Wolf Mountain. The third trail would take me back to the parking lot. A group comprising of three young Asian women and one man passed me walking at a much faster clip than anything I could muster. They were quickly out of sight. As I got closer, I also passed another young couple coming towards me who were just  heading out.

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The Wolf Mountain Trail is a wide, almost two lane road that compared to some of the hike and bike trails, is a piece of cake to walk on. This is also the area where the primitive tent camping is allowed although they are on top of the bluffs above the Pedernales River. On the way back, the Wolf Mountain Trail crosses two different creeks, Bee Creek and Regal Creek. Both still had water flowing and afforded some spectacular views from the top of the bluffs. I spent some time scrambling around and getting pictures before returning to the main trail and heading back to my car.

As I took the last little bit of trail to the parking lot, the couple that had passed me going out also walked in behind me. I don’t know how far they had gone up the trail but I heard the woman say they had taken just over an hour. For them, hiking is more of a form of fitness taken in a wonderful surrounding provided by nature. I guess it is for me too but I have time to stop and smell the roses along the way.

I congratulated myself on getting back to my car and that I had managed a hike without getting lost and the best part is also getting back before it got dark. I had started out around 12:30 pm and it was now 5:00 pm and I covered almost 10 miles.

ALong the way, I managed to keep control of my camera without dropping it which was good as replacing the filter and the lens guard had cost me $115.00.  For the very first time on the trails, I saw a huge buck with a big rack but was not quick enough to get the camera up in time. He was accompanied by at least two does. They were in no hurry to leave but were pretty well hidden in the trees. I got some great pictures of some spectacular views and did not get lost. Finally, the little brown dog episode had made a great start to the day. All in all, I would say that life is great…

As with all of these pictures, if you click on the first one, they become full size and you can use the side arrows to negotiate the slide show. Use the “Escape” key to get back to normal.

A Short Walk at McKinney Roughs

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View of River from the top of Pine Ridge.

My friends Gloria and George along with dogs, Bobby and Nina all met at the Hwy 71 Trailway Entrance to take a short walk. There were probably another ten or so cars already in the lot. This is still winter in my part of Texas but the temperature was going up into the low 80’s and we all wanted to be out and making the most of the beautiful weather. For some reason, the park was still not open to horse traffic probably because of some ongoing repairs to the trails so we had to park at the first entrance and walk the extra distance to reach the trails. Not that it made that much difference as we were here to walk anyway.

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New Pine Ridge Entrance

The first thing we noticed was a new trail entrance leading to Pine Ridge including a newly mown trail. Previously, we had always hit Pine Ridge from Riverside or Bobcat Trail  from the reverse direction but for those who have not walked these trails before, the last part of the Pine Ridge Trail culminates in a series of steps going down into the gully, crossing a plank bridge and then climbing up a much longer set of steps to get out of the gully. It’s all perfectly safe as long as you are careful but it is very tiring. We decided that we would change our usual approach and with the new entrance, walk Pine Ridge by going down the steps at the beginning of the walk. We thought it would be less tiring doing it this way.

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These are the newly rebuilt steps.

We started off and safely negotiated the steps meeting other hikers who were on the way up. A couple of them were struggling with the climb and we didn’t help by assuring them that it was going to get worse as they neared the top. On our way up the other side, we could see that a part of the trail and steps had washed out and had been rebuilt by the Park employees. For the first time since we had been walking McKinney Roughs, the creek had a fair amount of water in it. We continued walking the Pine Ridge Trail as we were really playing it by ear so to speak as we had no definite trail planned. We hit the junction of Pine Ridge and Bobcat Ridge and as we also had the alternative trail of Riverside available to us, we had to choose which trail to take. We had already decided that the trails by the river were probably still too wet and muddy.

Bobbie, a rat terrier, usually does very well on these walks and is a bundle of energy but he must have been feeling out of sorts as he hung back and in fact lagged behind as we walked. This is so unlike his normal self that we decided to take the shorter of the trails just in case he was not feeling well. It might have been the sudden change of weather to 80 degrees as all of us were feeling the heat.

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Shady trails with Bobby on the left and Nina on the right.

We chose to walk Bobcat Ridge as this was quicker which eventually brought us back to Whitetail. This trail led us back to the parking lot. We passed several other hikers on the trail all out to enjoy the wonderful weather. We also passed other locations where new trail entranceways had been built and other visible signs of trail maintenance and rebuild. McKinney Roughs is so different than some of the other parks on the west side of town. The further west you go, the more prevalent are the Junipers until they become the dominant tree vegetation. When you go on the East side, there are far less Junipers and many more LIve Oaks and other hardwood trees. The change in scenery is very noticeable. As with all parks and trails at this time of the year, everything still has its winters brown with very little green although we did spot a little clump of flowers. I have no idea what it is called but it is really pretty.

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First signs of Spring?

Altogether we covered around 5 miles by my trusty pedometer but to everyone’s dismay, only managed to burn a little over 200 calories, not even enough for a piece of apple pie. It was a lot warmer than any of the recent hikes I have been on and is a sign of things to come. We discussed the fact that we have not yet had a single frost and that temperatures are warming up very quickly and we thought that probably, we are in for a real scorcher of a spring and summer. Global warming?

Gloria kidded me about driving into Bastrop for my usual Starbucks but I went anyway. Another very enjoyable walk with great friends.

As with all of these pictures, if you click on the first one, they become full size and you can use the side arrows to negotiate the slide show. Use the “Escape” key to get back to normal.

Sharing the Joy.

DSC_1165I don’t know what is wrong with me
I seem obsessed with getting out
on the trails.

All I want to do is hike
take pictures and then write
in my blog.

Share the experience with others
that they too can enjoy each trip
as I have done.

Mother Nature is calling
I hear her voice
and I respond.

A Comedy of Errors on the Trail.

DSC_1143I went back to Pedernales Falls State Park yesterday as the weather was again way too nice to stay indoors or even to work out in the garden, I wanted to hike the Juniper Ridge Trail which I had attempted a couple of days ago only to get turned around.

I chatted to the Park Rangers when I checked in about the actual location of the entrance to the Juniper Trail and had their input on where to start hiking. I drove to the Wolf Mountain parking area which is where I planned to start my hike, parked the car and went through my usual pre-hiking routine of changing into boots, strapping on my camera and grabbing my water bottle, fruit and hiking poles and was ready to go.

I set off following the directions given me by the Rangers and safely negotiated onto the proper trail which as the name suggests, follows through mostly Juniper trees with the very occasional live oak tree. I made it safely through the first part of the trail and reached the point where Madrone Trail joins Juniper.

So far, so good. I was making good time up to this point as I headed down to what I thought was the homeward stretch. Then the first of a series of errors occurred. I had just taken a picture and following my usual practise returned my camera to my belt carrier, sliding it into the special holder that I have. There is also a safety clip and strap which goes around my neck as a safety just in case the camera did slip out of its special holder. Well, that is exactly what did happen. I missed the holder and unbeknown to me, the safety strap had also come undone and the camera crashed to the ground.

Fearing the worst, I picked it up and the first thing I noticed was that the Lens Hood had broken. On closer inspection, the protection filter was also broken. I unscrewed it and the main lens appeared to be OK. I took a couple of pictures and everything seemed to be working just fine. I was very lucky. I have no idea how or why the safety strap had come undone.

I continued on my walk and came to the place where I had messed up before and taken the wrong trail. I opened the compass on my smart phone and checked it against the map and then chose what I thought was the correct trail. The signposting for these trails leaves an awful lot to be desired.

Turns out, I had made the same mistake as I previously had made in choosing the wrong trail. I was really stepping it out as it was growing dark but luckily, I am prepared and had a flashlight which enabled me to see the trail. I even followed the trail marked as “Car Park” but it proved to not get me where I wanted to go. I eventually ended up by the Entrance Building right at the top end of the park.

By now, it was completely dark but I was able to follow the road back towards the Wolf Mountain Parking Lot and somehow, I managed to walk right past it and ended up by the Wildlife Viewing Area. I knew I had gone too far so I retraced my steps but before I got back to the Parking Lot I needed, a car pulled up and asked if I wanted a ride. By now, I was very cold. My internal body temperature was just fine as I was moving at a very fast walk (for me) but my skin was getting colder by the minute. I readily agreed to jump in the car but it was a two door small sedan and I had to take my camera belt off to get in. At the same time, the wife who was driving, told me to wait a minute as she cleared the back seat for me and then handed me my walking poles.

We found the Lot I needed which was only a couple of hundred yards up the road. I had almost reached it but I was still grateful for the ride as it was nice and warm in the car. I was driven right to my car and the wife insisted that I start my car before she would leave just to make sure everything was OK which I proceeded to do. Satisfied, they bid their farewells and drove off on their way home to Bulverde as they had been visiting friends who were staying at the Camper Park.

I changed out of my boots and put on my shirt to try to get warm. It was then that I realized that my sunglasses were not tucked into my shirt as they had been before I got into the other car to accept their help. They must have fallen out when I took off the camera belt with the safety strap that was around my neck. I retraced my steps only this time in the car to where they had picked me up but there was nothing laying on the road. Disheartened, I made my way back to where I had been parked and checked around but to no avail. I came to the conclusion that the glasses are probably still in the other person’s car having fallen there when I took the camera off. As I have no clue what there names are and the only thing I know is that they live in Bulverde, I guess I am out one pair of expensive prescription sunglasses. Altogether, I hiked 18 miles, the furthest I have ever walked and this is the first time that I have hiked in the dark and I don’t recommend it.

By then, it was almost 9:00 pm so I made my way home with the seat heaters up high and the dashboard heater also turned as high as it would go. The heat felt great and when I reached home and had taken care of the animals, I jumped into the hot tub to complete the thawing out process.

This morning, I called the Pedernale Falls Park Office and left my particulars just in case the glasses do magically re-appear. I am not too hopeful. I have managed to lose them twice before on the trails and both times they were found and turned into the office for me to reclaim. Who knows, I might get lucky again.

As for the hike, I am very disappointed that I have managed to get lost twice on the same trail and in the same spot. I am going to go back and will walk it again until I get it right…

If you click on any picture, it will enlarge and you can view the pictures by using the side arrows. Hit the “Escape” key to get back to the blog.

Pedernales Falls State Park 1-25-2016.

DSC_1061I was sitting indoors finishing up the blog from the walks over the weekend and looking out of the window at a beautifully sunny day. The temperature was already 60 degrees and was forecast to reach almost 68 for the day. Way too nice a day to be sitting indoors.

I finished the blog and walked the garden looking at the ponds just to make sure that everything came through the night OK. I changed out a couple of filters and looked at the pathways that needed raking again. I had this inward struggle going on, rake the leaves or hit the trails  and of course the trails won without too much argument on my part.

I have just about exhausted Reimers Ranch for a while at least until the springtime when things start to green up and I had just finished walking at McKinney so I decided to go back to Pedernales Falls State Park as there are still a lot of trails that I have not covered. Packing the usual water and fruit, I said goodbye to the dogs and gave them a treat and had to tear myself away from their pleading brown eyes as I walked out of the door. Somehow, I don’t think dachshunds with their little legs are made for trail walking over any distance or tough terrain.

DSC_1081Pedernales Falls is about 27 miles from my house and a very pleasant drive. It took me about 30 minutes or so and I arrived at the Park around 1:00 pm. I chatted to the Guard about which trails to take and he pointed out a couple he thought I would enjoy. I thanked him for his help and drove to the Wolf Mountain Parking area where I would start my hike. The usual preparations followed putting on my boots, strapping on my camera belt and grabbing my walking poles and I was ready to go.

I was planning on walking the Juniper Ridge Trail which would have been about 9 miles but almost immediately after starting, I took the wrong trail and found myself following the North Loop Equestrian Trail. Looking at the map, I could see that it would take me a different route and as it was still a new trail to me, decided to keep on going. This trail follows the West boundary fence of the park property and it was on my right side for a great deal of the walk until the trail veered off way up by the Park entrance. I took the Madrone Trail at that point figuring that it would lead me back to either Juniper Ridge or the South Loop Equestrian Trail. I met a group of 5 older people like me, coming in the opposite direction all looking like they were very comfortable on the trail. These were the only people I saw the entire afternoon.

When we reached that branch in the trail where Madrone met South Loop Equestrian and Juniper Ridge, I opted to take South Loop Equestrian Trail as IDSC_1088 thought it would be shorter than Juniper Ridge. It probably is shorter but I never got to find out as at the point that two trails came together, I managed to go in the completely opposite direction and instead of travelling North, headed towards the East. I followed the trails for what seemed like hours and found myself back on the trail leading to the road. The trouble was the road was the one outside of the park, Pedernales Falls Road. I didn’t realize my mistake and started walking what I hoped was the right direction towards the Wolf Mountain car park. I walked about a mile all the while growing a little more concerned that I was going in the wrong direction. I turned back and started to retrace my steps.

A car passed me going in the same direction and then it turned and came back towards me. A very nice lady said that she noticed me walking and figured I had gotten lost and asked me if I wanted a ride. I very gratefully got in although rather awkwardly with my camera belt and walking poles getting in the way for comfort. She told me that her husband had been the Park Superintendent before he retired last year. He was conducting a seminar and she was stopping in to visit him is why she was even on the road. Imagine my surprise when she turned right into the Park Entrance to take me to the Wolf Mountain car park, I was that far off with my bearings. Kinda worrisome in a way that I could get that much turned around.  I thanked her profusely for stopping to give me a ride as she went on her way. Lucky for me that she came along as it was already getting dark and even more luck that she was aware of the park and the hikers and figured out I was lost. By my reckoning, I was probably still 2 miles from my car if I kept following the road.

DSC_1124I changed into my shoes and stowed my camera and gear and sat there for a while thinking about my error. It really bothered me that I had got so turned around just by making a wrong choice of trail and vowed to be more careful in the future. Again, the lack of trail signs did not help the situation. For instance, there is one for the Short Loop which I can’t even find on the map which is one that I ended up taking. I had crossed it earlier in the hike but it lead me to the Pedernales Falls Road (the wrong road). One thing is for certain, I will make better use of the compass on my smart phone in the future instead of relying on my instinct.

I drove home in the dark and made my usual stop at Starbucks in Bee Cave before heading the last 5 miles to my house. Altogether, I walked 12 miles and burned over 750 calories which gave me the excuse to finish up the remains of the chocolate cake from the party. After spending time in the hot tub easing the aches out of my muscles, I relaxed for the evening with my dogs sitting on the couch by my side, pleased to see me and having forgiven me for not taking them with me. Oh, the undying love of a dog. There is nothing to equal it.

Pedernales Falls State Park 1-25-2016 (Enhanced) from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

 

Hiking is good for the soul…

DSC_1062I love to hike this much is true
one of my most favorite things to do
to get outside and walk a trail
communing with Nature and all the while
exercising in the best possible way
breathing fresh air and striding along
wearing my boots and using my poles
taking pictures is one of my goals
to record the sights and portray in words
sights that I view completely free
to share the walks along with me
next to walking the thing I like most
is to write in my blog my words to post
along with the pictures that others may see
and enjoy the views along with me
as out on the trails as things unfold
the pictures show as the words told
of wondrous views, nature at her best
showing off her beauty while in my small way
I write the words and pictures display
for others to see on any day.