I decided that I was going out for a long walk as the weather was so nice. I thought I was going hiking yesterday (Saturday) and pulled into three different places but quickly discovered that the whole world was visiting and even worse, was playing in the stream. So I vowed to make these hikes during the week when I knew it would be much quieter.
Instead, I opted to go to one of my favorite spots, McKinney Roughs on the way to Bastrop. I loaded my gear making sure that I had plenty of water and some fruit, hopped into my car and was off. It takes me about 45 minutes if the traffic is good and today was one of the lucky days as I pulled into the Pope Bend Trailhead just before 1:00 pm. There were a couple of horse trailers already in the lot with the owners getting ready to make the ride. it’s always interesting to watch the various owners as they prepare their horses. They treat them as I would treat my dogs, talking to them and making a big fuss over them. I had horses many years ago at a different time of my life and I know the bond that grows between a horse and its owner. Hard to imagine being affectionate to a 1000 pound (or more) animal. As I looked at their mounts, I realized I had forgotten just how big horses are. They are bloody enormous…
As is usually the case, they were friendly people and we exchanged a few remarks as we made our trail preparations. In my case, I changed into my hiking boots, strapped on my water bottle, took out my camera and made sure it was set up and ready to go, hoisted my backpack over my shoulders, grabbed one of my minipods that I use as a walking stick (the other was strapped to my pack) and after locking my car, was off.
I had already made up my mind that I was going for a long walk and pretty much had the trails mapped out in my head with the help of the handy trail map provided by LCRA. I had alternative trails ready in case I was not hiking well and needed a shorter route. From the Trail Head, I took the Yaupon trail stopping along the way to take pictures. I had not traveled more than a half mile when I was passed by another hiker who was obviously into serious walking. He not only had two water bottles that he was carrying but was also walking at an amazing speed and quickly disappeared out of site.
Everything was so green and lush that I couldn’t help but take many pictures of the different trails that I was walking. What I like about McKinney Roughs is that most of the trails are in some sort of shade and you are never out in the sun for too long at a time. It was not my intent but as I was reviewing the images later, I realized that I had a lot of different trail pictures so I decided to dedicate this posting to them.
In previous blogs that I have written about McKinney Roughs, I mentioned the absence of birds and their songs which was not true on this hike. They were singing the entire time I was out there making a devil of a racket with their glorious sounds. I even came across a small rabbit but it was gone before I could take a picture.
From Yaupon, I took Bobcat Ridge which brought me very close to the main park buildings although, being a Sunday, there was no one around. The summer camps that they hold for the kids do not start for a couple of months and everything was quiet and peaceful as I walked through. It was along this part of the hike that four horses and riders passed me from behind. I had heard them coming as they talked to each other and had pulled off the trail. As usual, greetings were exchanged and I took my usual pictures of the horses as they passed from view. From Bobcat Ridge, I took a short walk on FoxTail and then to Riverside.
Riverside is a very interesting trail. It starts pretty level for probably half a mile or so and is nice and easy walking. Then it descends towards the river and becomes much more difficult to walk with the loose pebbles and stones that cover the path coupled with the incline which is a pretty steep grade. When you finally get to the bottom, the footing changes and the stones are replaced with good old black dirt, sediment from the river floods over the years. The recent rains had left the trails soft especially anywhere there was any form of dirt and the horses using the trail had left a multitude of hoof prints making for difficult walking as the hoof prints began to dry out. This was true over the entire area of trails that I covered as all shared the trail with horses and hikers and the horses had cut up and rutted the trails pretty good.
I got some good shots of the horizon as I was going down Riverside from in between the trees and looking at the pictures, it is possible to get a good indication of how steep the grade really is. That coupled with the loose pebbles made the going a little tricky.
Walking close to the river gave the hike a whole different perspective. The trees were all much taller and closer together making for a heavy canopy of shade. I had to make camera adjustments in order to lighten the pictures under the trees, it was so dark. Only in a couple of places does the trail actually get close enough to the river to walk to the water’s edge. Most of the trail is running parallel and about 50 or more feet from the water. The river is visible through the trees and only in a couple of places was it worth taking pictures.
It must have been my lucky day as I came across a horseshoe thrown by one of the many horses that had passed that way. I checked it out as I walked by and continued walking for a couple of hundred yards, thought about it a bit, and turned back to retrieve it and stuck it in my pack. It was a combination of helpfulness and superstition which made me go back to pick it up and I will leave it up to the reader to decide which one.
I continued along Riverside until it met up with Road Runner which I knew would bring me back to the Trailhead. Road Runner turned out to be the hardest part of the entire hike. It was a long up hill grade composed of the loose pebbles and stones that I had encountered on the downgrade. Whether it was the last lap home and that I was getting tired or it really was a lot rougher to walk on and was on a steep incline, I was very glad when I reached the top and the trail leveled out for a bit. I crossed the road (twice) that leads to the Hyatt Resort Hotel and finally arrived back to the Pope Bend Trailhead.
The original group of horses and riders were already back and were washing their horses down. One had already loaded and was pulling out and I noticed that another trailer was now in the group. As I watched a couple more horses appeared ridden by a woman in the lead and followed by a man who had his very small son on the saddle with him. I inquired around but none of any of the riders horses had thrown a shoe. I guess it will join the others on my shed to hopefully, bring me luck.
Along the way, I had taken many pictures of all of the flowers that I saw and there were a lot of them all showing their pretty faces at the camera. In the end, I had to stop taking pictures as there were so many of the same kinds.
I had taken a lot of pictures which slows me down and my walking speed is never very fast at the best of times but altogether, I had spent over four hours on the trails and covered almost ten miles, at least that is what my trusty pedometer says. It also says that I walked more than 20,000 steps and better yet, burned off over 800 calories. As usual, I was totally soaked and as I try to carry a change of clothing at all times, changed into something drier for the trip home.
This being McKinney Roughs and Bastrop (and Starbucks) only a short drive away, I felt that I had to reward myself for such a long hike and consequently found myself heading in the wrong direction to home just so that I could satisfy my one and only really bad habit. On the way, in the space of a mile, I passed two different car wrecks both covered by State Troopers, Bastrop Sheriff’s Department and Ambulances and all with flashing lights and causing traffic back ups for a couple of miles. The sight of these accidents made me take more care with my own driving and to pay attention to the road as I drove the 30 odd miles back to my house enjoying my Grande Latte.
What a wonderful and enjoyable day…
The pictures are best viewed in full screen.