McKinney Roughs 1-30-2017


dsc_4874The weather had warmed up a bit and the sun was shining, way too good an opportunity to not hit the trails. It was kind of a last minute decision to take another walk and I debated on which of the Parks I would go to. In the end, it was McKinney Roughs that won out and after thinking about it for a bit, I decided that I would start at the main entrance and hit Foxtail to Whitetail and then onto Pine Ridge.

I followed my customary preparation that actually had an additional item this time. I had splurged on different hiking socks that are thicker and more absorbing which meant another item to change into (and out of) before putting on my boots, grabbing my backpack, camera belt and camera, water bottle and finally my walking poles and I was ready to go. I stopped at the Office to pay my $2:00 and to chat with the ladies behind the window before heading out.

I hadn’t walked Whitetail for some time and wanted to take a look at the two ponds along the way. Both had water in them and not much else. One had a large turtle that was sunning itself. I was hoping for a heron or two but no such luck. It seems that previous sightings of birds and animals do not necessarily mean any repeats and tend to be a one off. That is, with the exception of a pair of Buzzards that were perched in a tree. I managed to get a picture of them and I believe that I took pictures of Buzzards the last time out. Not necessarily the same pair of course as they all look alike to medsc_4881

I had a couple of ladies on horseback that caught up with me and we stopped and chatted for a bit. I took their pictures and they moved on.
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I crossed from Whitetail over to Pine Ridge and followed it for almost its full length. This trail leads past several of the Zip Line Structures which were closed on this day. I guess they are only open Thursday through Sunday. Pine Ridge has a fairly steep descent into the valley that requires traversing quite a few steps which, needless to say, present their own challenge as they are not in the best of repair.

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At the bottom, there is a small stream that meanders through the valley.

The same is true going back up the other side as it too requires the use of the steps.

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After successfully negotiating this part of the trail I crossed over onto Riverside which is a steep uphill climb out of the valley until it levels out at the top for an easy walk back to the Parking Lot.

Everything with the exception of the Pine trees and of course the Cedars, have on their wintery look. There are no leaves on the Oaks and other trees and even the long  grass is brown. Doesn’t make for very appealing pictures although I suppose, it does have its own beauty. I did find my first Dandelion of the season and also a green butterfly that blended in so well that it looked like a leaf.dsc_4870

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Altogether, I covered about 4.5 miles of very enjoyable walking. McKinney Roughs is truly a great place to walk. The video below is a compilation of some of the pictures I took.

McKinney Roughs 1-30-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

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McKinney Roughs 1-24-2017


dsc_4832Following my walk at Reimers Ranch and with the weather still in the 70’s and low 80’s I decided to take a walk at McKinney Roughs which is still my most favorite of all of the local parks. I asked my friend BJ if she was interested but she texted me back to tell me that she was already in the middle of a walk, so maybe another day…

I arrived at the Main Office entrance as I had already decided that I was going to walk Ridge to Woodland and then Bluff Trail Loop. I donned my usual attire and just as I had on the last walk, put on a new pair of hiking socks to soften the trails a bit. They had worked well on the previous hike just a couple of days before. Every little thing helps as you grow older. Walking on the same feet for the past 80 years does tend to put a lot of wear and tear on them.

With all of the right gear on, I walked over to the office and paid my 2 dollars.  I spent a little time  chatting to the young lady behind the desk and then set out along the way. Ridge starts just behind the Dorms and is a really easy walking trail. I followed it until it branches to Woodland and then took it to Bluff Walk Loop. I wanted to get onto Riverside and follow it along the river but it was closed due to flooding. So, I completed the Bluff Walk Loop until I met up with Valley View. There are some nice views of part of the river on Valley View.

I ran into two young guys who were followed by a large man with a very small daughter. I asked if I could take their picture and they were very happy to oblige. I gave everyone one of my cards and the little girl handed hers off to her Father as her tiny hands were full of rocks that she had collected. The young guys introduced themselves as Andre and Josh while the father was Ryan and his daughter, Lucy. As we were leaving, Ryan, who had been carrying Lucy’s carry pack on his shoulders, took it down and she immediately went into very adamant protestations that she wanted to walk and not ride. Being the good father that I assume he is or maybe because she has him wrapped around her little finger at such a tender age, Ryan obeyed her wishes and the last I saw them going around the corner, she was busy striding it out with her tiny legs, determined to keep up with the men. Oh to be young again and have your whole life in front of you.dsc_4843

I continued along the trail and got onto Riverside which would bring me back to the car park. I bumped into two more ladies who as it happens, worked at the Roughs and were taking an afternoon walk on their break. I forgot to ask their names but they very happily posed for a picture.

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From Riverside, I got onto Bobcat Ridge which brought me back to the Parking Lot. Altogether, a very enjoyable hike. As per usual, my shirt was soaked which required a change but happily, this time,  I did not have to make any running repairs to my equipment. Just like the other park, Reimers Ranch, everything is brown as we are in the depths of winter and about the only thing green are the cedars and a few of the evergreen type bushes.

Altogether, I covered around  4 1/2 miles of very pleasant walking and burned enough calories for a slice of cheesecake later in the evening.

McKinney Roughs 01-24-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Reimers Ranch 1-21-2017


dsc_4792-panoI hadn’t been walking for a while due to the cold snaps that we had plus the fact that I needed to devote my time to cleaning up the yard after those winter freezes. With that out of the way and a rise in temperatures back to my comfort zone, I decided to take a walk at Reimers Ranch.

I arrived there and chatted briefly with the Ranger at the gate and then made my way to the first main parking area which was pretty full. My intent was to walk the big circular loop around the entire park, a distance of about 5 miles.

Following the usual preparation with the addition of putting on a pair of hiking socks that I was trying out, I added boots, hat, backpack, camera belt and camera and grabbing my trusty walking poles, set of by crossing the road and then following the Multi use trail to the SW. After walking this trail several times before, I already knew which was the easiest way to go so that the big hills were down and not up.

The first thing I noticed was that the the Park Crews had been doing many controlled burns to lower the undergrowth which really consisted of tall grass in most places. We had had some rain showers since the burns so the smell was no longer in the air. Some of the big oaks showed signs of the burns and I hope they will come back in the Spring. Not all of the park had been burned as the area that the Wild Turkeys are supposed to be in was still OK as were some of the main trail further along. Even without the black scar of the burns, the remaining Park had a very brown wintery look to it.

As I walked this trail, the houses on the opposite side of the Pedernales River were visible. Must be a great place to live with a wonderful view and high enough above the river to not be bothered by any flooding.

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I took the Turkey Loop in the very forlorn hope of actually seeing a Turkey but to no avail. I probably would need to sit down for a while in a bird blind in order for the Turkeys to be brave enough to show themselves. Maybe one of these days…

I met several people out on the trail including two ladies on horseback who I stopped and chatted to for a bit. The horse on the left was a very friendly guy and kept nudging me to rub his neck and make a fuss of him.dsc_4813

I also met another couple who were willing for me to take their pictures. A couple of cyclists also passed me and as I don’t ask them  to stop, all I get are pictures from behind as they disappear into the distance.

I took several pictures of the different animal prints that I saw in the dirt with the hope of identifying them but could only positively identify one which is the White Tailed Deer

It looks like there could be several different animals in this group including Bobcat, Racoon, Coyote, Skunk, Deer and Opossum. The tracks were not fresh and had dried out making it not only harder to get a good picture but then to identify them.

When I reached the Kelly Prehn Trails, I decided to forgo that diversion and instead, kept on walking past Johnny’s Homestead taking the multi use long trail. In my view, this is the prettier part of the walk especially when the trail runs close to the stream which actually has water in it. The last time I walked this trail a couple of months ago, it was pretty dry. As  I was walking along, I could hear talking from behind and turned to see another young couple who were making good time as they walked. We stopped and chatted for a bit and I got their picture and found out there names were Moira and Reuben. They walked off and I was amazed that even though they were walking at a normal pace, they literally left me in their dust. I must really walk slow nowadays. Good job I walk alone most of the time as it is probably very frustrating for anyone that might walk with me. Taking pictures is only part of the excuse. I really am slow…

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They disappeared into the distance and I diverted from the main trail enough to get close to the stream and take a couple of pictures and then walked back on along the trail. This part of the trail does have an uphill climb but it is not too bad. I eventually made it back to the parking lot a very happy and tired hiker. I can tell that the weather is warming up as my “T” shirt was soaked requiring a change. If I didn’t wear a backpack, I would probably be OK but I carry extra camera stuff besides a first aid kit, a snakebite kit and additional clothes and wet weather gear not to mention snacks. It’s a good job that I am prepared as I had a problem with one of the additional parts that is attached to the camera and allows me to clip it onto the special belt that I have. Digging into my pack, I found the proper wrench to tighten up the loose part saving me a lot of headaches down the road. Like the Boy Scouts motto, “Be Prepared”.

I knew all of those years I spent in the Boy Scouts would pay off one of these days…

Riemers Ranch 1-20-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

A Walk at Pedernales Falls 12-17-2016


dsc_4740My walks now are governed by the temperature/sun forecast although yesterday was a bit of an exception for this time of the year. The forecast was for temperatures to be in the middle 70’s with a sunny day with a cold front moving in directly behind it very late in the evening.

Those sort of days are not to be turned down and I made plans to drive to Pedernales Falls and take a short and easy walk. First I called my friend who unfortunately had a prior engagement so I made plans to walk on my own. Nothing unusual about that as most of my walks are alone.

Ever since spotting the Bald Eagle a while back and rescuing a little dog on another occasion, every time that I drive to Pedernales Falls I am very wary of what is going on around me just in case I might get another glance at that eagle. No such luck this time but here’s hoping.

I arrived at Pedernales and this time, there were only a couple of cars in front of me. Not like the last time when there were at least 30 of them. I paid my $3.00 and told them I was taking a short walk. I planned to park in the Horse Corral and then take a walk to the dsc_4733Duck Pond and from there to head to the Fenceline trail, back onto the South Loop and then back to the starting point. I passed one other couple who were on their way back as I walked around the pond. There was very little in the way of wildlife on the pond or anywhere else with the exception of what appeared to be a Greater Yellowlegs that was hunting in the low water, which incidentally has created two separate ponds. As I continued walking around the ponds, a guy on a trail bike caught up with me and inquired if I was lost. I told him my plans to continue to the Fenceline trail which over its full length is almost 4 miles although I was only going to walk a part of that. He took off following the North Trail.

The walk was uneventful as I strode the Fenceline trail which is very easy walking. I turned off onto a very wide trail that was not signposted but I was hoping that it would bring me back to the South Trail which eventually it did. From there, it was a straight shot back to the Horse Corral where I met two ladies who were grooming their horses having completed their ride and they let me take their picture.dsc_4752lp1

I was parked on the opposite side of the Corral from them so I wandered over to my car and changed out of my wet clothes as the temperature had been hot enough for me to sweat. Altogether I covered 4 miles of very easy walking and was extremely glad that I made the effort to get out. The drive home was uneventful as I listened to a Stephen King story on Audiophone. No Bald Eagles and no little lost dogs.

Enjoy the video.

Pedernales Falls Duckpond Walk 12-17-2016 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

McKinney Roughs 12-13-2016


dsc_4694I was reading my e-mails as I usually do first thing in the morning. There are normally anywhere between 100 and 150 every day mostly blog related. It usually takes a good hour to go through them all. I glanced at the weather link on my computer and saw that the day was supposed to get in the 70’s and would be sunny and the hiking itch suddenly was beginning to get to me. I thought about it for about 10 seconds and told myself that a good hike was just what I should do after the inactivity of the past couple of weeks due mainly to the wet weather.

That was all I needed in the way of encouragement so I went through my usual preparations, water, apple’s, camera, sunscreen and a change of clothes and loaded up the car. First though, I emailed my walking buddy to see if she wanted to join me apologizing for the last minute arrangements and received a phone call back from her saying that she had a party she had to go to even though hiking would have been her first choice.

I drove to McKinney Roughs and entered through the main entrance. There were only a couple of cars in the lot and one couple and their dog were just heading out as I went through my usual preparations, boots, suntan lotion, camera belt, backpack, water bottle and hat. Grabbing my walking sticks I headed towards the office to sign in and pay my $2.00. On the way, I walked past the flower garden they have planted that attract so many butterflies and took a couple of pictures of them. Butterflies are frustrating camera subjects as they either fly off just when you are ready to take the picture or have their wings closed and waiting  for the right moment just as they open them can sometimes take a while and they always choose to settle on the flower furthermost away from you.

I decided that I would walk Coyote Road going down and Riverside coming back up. In retrospect, I should have done that in reverse as Riverside is one big uphill climb and would have been much easier going down. I hit Coyote Road and the very first thing I noticed was the myriad of footprints and red flag markers along the trail. The footprints both human and horse were beginning to dry and made for very difficult walking and quite hazardous as it was real easy to turn an ankle on the very rough terrain. I plodded on taking great care where I stepped which slowed me down even slower than I normally walk but as it was turning out to be a hot day and very pleasant to walk in, I was not really complaining. I passed a couple of places where the horse riders can rest their animals and take a rest themselves. It’s great to see how LCRA as the park owners try to cultivate an active interest with the people that use their parks.

I passed a clump of very small flowers and on the way coming back, there were still a lot of the little yellow daisies on the level part of Riverside. The trees are beginning to turn very brown and many have already shed their leaves. Everything has a decidedly winter look to it with more browns than greens as you will see by the video. Still, it was great to get out after the past two weeks of relative inactivity. I had the trails to myself and didn’t see any other hikers. I guess the people in the parking lot ahead of me took different trails than me.

Enjoy the video.

McKinney Roughs Slideshow 12-13-2016 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Lost Days


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I woke up this morning and have lost a day
somewhere I missed it along the way
I was sure that it was Saturday
with all of the games being played
instead it turned out to be Friday
with nothing new to view today
I wonder where those days go
the ones that get lost along the way
will I ever get them back again
one more day to live and play
or are they lost forever with no say.

At my age I can’t afford to lose
just one day out of my busy life
so few remain and every one
needs to count even with strife
I would rather have another day
to enjoy and have fun as I play
doing things I like to do
writing poetry and stories in my blog
hiking and Nature, tending the ponds
and being outdoors where I truly belong.

Even as I write this poem
the sun has hidden behind the clouds
and the day is growing dark
alas rain will leave its mark
no hiking to day, no outdoor play
instead I must find things to do
Indoors, and what I haven’t a clue
I could fuss with some legal stuff
that needs to be done and I keep putting off
but somehow no interest in it have I
even as a view grey skies.

If I hadn’t lost a day
and it really was a Saturday
then there would be plenty to view
with new games being played
with athletic young men kicking a ball
artists of their own beck and call
each one better than the next
young titans in battle but not vexed
as they fight for the ball and treat each other the same
as sportsmanship is the name of the game.

Now that I haven’t lost a day
instead have gained one along the way
what shall I do to fill the time
now that the skies are cloudy and grey
I could take a nap and the dogs would be pleased
to snuggle together in the middle of the day
but that seems like a precious waste
of valuable time in short supply
instead I think I will write some more
of things more interesting than keeping score.

Fixing the Bubbler…


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Showing the Bubbling Urn. This is the highest the water has ever reached. The wires in the picture are to deter my Heron friend who has a habit of landing on the Bubbler.

After putting it off for a couple of days, I bit the bullet and went about fixing the Bubbling Urn in the big pond. I was reluctant to have to get in the water but I realized that it is only going to get colder so why put it off any longer. I had another job to do in this pond as well as repair the bubbler and that was to cut back the very large Thalia plant that has been there for several years. The worms got at it and stripped it of all of its leaves and as they don’t grow back again, there is nothing for it but to cut the entire plant back.

So, I donned my waders and put on my water shoes after making sure that everything that I might need was close at hand. This included all of the necessary tools for the repair, cutters for the Thalia and finally, the skimming net that I use to clean up the dead leaves that are always dropping into the pond. Actually into all of the ponds.

The water wasn’t too cold and I quickly got used to it as I went about my business. It had been many years since I had actually worked on the Bubbler other than to re-connect it not very long ago and I had forgotten just how I had hooked it up the first time around. I had a length of one inch corrugated rubber pipe to which I connected a reduced piece of the same material all the way down to half inch as the Bubbler has a half inch connection on it. I don’t like re-using this material if it has been in the water for too long as it gets brittle and loses any of its elasticity and in fact will snap completely in half with very little pressure but I opted to use this particular two foot piece as it was already set up on both ends. I had to struggle to get the Bubbler back up on the concrete blocks that it currently stands on and of course, managed to get wet in the process. I forgot to mention that the Urn is almost totally filled up with solid sediment that it has gathered over the years making it very heavy to manipulate. I eventually achieved it and laid it on its side while I reconnected the half inch coupling which I already had connected to the one inch pipe, the end of which was on dry land.

I then had to struggle the urn to an upright position taking great pains not to break the half inch pipe and level it up before turning my attention to the piece of pipe on the side of the pond. This was just  a simple connection to the 1200 gph motor which I then put inside a screen bag and back into the water. I turned it on by plugging it back in and the water jetted up from the Bubbler for about a foot. Very impressive.

With that out of the way, I turned off the pump again as I will not get in any of the ponds with any of the pumps running…just in case and turned my attention to trimming the Thalia. This was a simple enough job as even though the stalks are thick, they are comparatively soft and cut easily. Next job was to dredge as many of the dead leaves off the bottom. I hate doing this as it stirs up the dirt and releases Nitrogen into the water but it is better that leaving them in to really contaminate it. While I was at it, I trimmed the large umbrella plant and the canes that grows on the side.

The fish seem to be used to me as they just move quietly out of the way without any panic except for the one that I inadvertently picked up with the dredge net. Now it did panic and also made me jump with memories of the dead fish I uncovered the last time in the water.

Satisfied with my work, I clambered out of that pond and turned on all of the pumps and everything was working just fine. A couple of hours later, the new Aquadine filtering system was already cleaning up the water which prior to my stirring it up, had been crystal clear to where I could see the bottom of the pond plus everything in it.

I cleaned up my mess dumping the cut Thalia onto the compost, put away my tools, patted Richie on the head for a job well done and drove to Starbucks to claim my reward. Now when I go on the next hike, I won’t feel guilty about taking time off from the ponds.

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Showing the cut back Thalia in the foreground.