Circle C Trails 9-9-2017


I wanted to take a closer look at the Circle C Trails as the maps showed them to be much more extensive than I originally thought. I had noticed people walking the trails that ran alongside Escarpment Boulevard and for some reason never made the connection. That’s what comes from having an old brain. More than a little slow sometimes…I didn’t realize that there were trails on both sides of the Boulevard albeit many are narrow bike trails which are also used by hikers and runners. I drove over to Slaughter Lane and Escarpment Boulevard and parked in the cinema parking lot and just decided to take my camera and walk a bit down the gravel trail. I went through my usual ritual of changing into my hiking boots and grabbing all of the normal “stuff” I carry with me including both cameras mounted on my double carry harness.

I knew that if I went off to the right, I would come to the soccer fields so I went left, under Escarpment Boulevard and discovered a whole host of different trails in between Escarpment Boulevard and Loop 1. I followed a couple of them and wandered around for a couple of hours taking many pictures of the wildflowers that are currently in bloom.  I walked along and managed to cover around 3.5 miles. The trails are of the usual variety and the main trail follows Slaughter Creek which is dried up this time of the year. This area is also a part of the Edwards Aquifer Discharge Zone so I might well have been drinking some of the water that soaks down through the rocks from the creek.

A view of the dried up creek.

Pictured below are some of the trails. Obviously, the wide granite trails are the main walking ones. The rest are bike trails so are not very wide. They also tend to twist and wind about as the bikers try to add various degrees of difficulty to their rides.

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There are a bunch of wildflowers this time of the year.

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and one Monarch butterfly

I passed a couple of runners and one guy on a bike but as it was a weekday, I didn’t really expect to see many people. I should probably say that the runners and biker passed me as everyone and their brother walks quicker than me nowadays. I had a fine old time and was glad to be back out on the trails again slow pace and all.

Written 9/18/2017

The Trails at Mayfield Park Preserve 8-13-2017


DSC_0727-PanoI had an Austin Pond Society meeting scheduled for 3:00 pm this past Sunday which was going to be held at Mayfield Park. Making the most of the moment, so to speak, I arrived a couple of hours early so that I could walk the trails at Mayfield Park Preserve. In my many visits to this Park generally with something related to fish and ponds, I had seen many people drive in to use the trails and wanted to find out for myself.

I  took the time to change into my boots and strapped  on my single camera harness as I only planned on carrying the one camera with the 16-300 lens which is my go to lens for all occasions. After making  sure that I had my water bottle and walking poles I was ready to move. I stopped at the kiosk to take a look at the map and just like the last place, St Edwards Park, this map was also backwards from how I was viewing it. I quickly worked out where I wanted to go and set off down the trail along with several other people including a family who were carrying swimming stuff, towels and floats and the sort of thing one would associate with going to the beach or around here, one of the lakes. They disappeared down the opposite trail to the one that I took (thank goodness) as I strode away on my chosen path.

I wandered around for about an hour and a half exploring many of the trails. There did not seem to be much organization but without a map, which I was not able to locate either at the site or on the web, it was hard to know where to go. Many of the trails were very steep and/or required climbing up or down rock faces more like a rock climbing exercise than a walk on the trails. I have no idea if I covered all of the trails on my side but I switched and took the trail taken by the swimming family.

This trail eventually brought me down to Town Lake but I never did see a spot that the swimming family could hit the water. Of course, I have no idea if I covered all of the trails on this side either and there may be others that I did not see.

I retraced my steps back to the Parking Lot and sat for a while before changing into dry clothes in readiness for the meeting.  The car parked next to me was driven by a young and pretty lady in the skimpiest of bikinis who was very busy first hoisting her float board onto her car and then taking a very long time to tie it down to the roof rack. Her boyfriend was helping her and I was glad when they finally drove off as I was having the hardest time in not staring at her. Interestingly enough, she was not a bit fazed by her almost nakedness and was in no hurry to complete her tasks. I wanted to take pictures but didn’t have the nerve to ask her to pose for me. Maybe because her boyfriend was a lot bigger and younger than me? I am definitely not a prude but it was a bit unnerving (in a good way). Jeez, I gotta be getting bloody old.

The trails are tree covered nearly all of the way so there was a lot of shade. Most were easy walking except where they went up and over the rock face and there they suddenly got very difficult.

Below is a link to the slideshow of the trails.

Trails at Mayfield Park 8-12-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

 

Another of some of the views.

Views at Mayfield Park Trails 8-13-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Growing Older by the Minute…


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Damn, how I hate growing old. I am definitely not the very first person to make such a statement as at one time or another, every living human being has probably uttered those words in countless different languages.

Why is growing old such a problem? First of all, I am nowhere near as strong as I used to be. The rocks that I placed around the ponds have grown in weight since I put them there  a few years back and now I really struggle to move them around when I need to. As if that was not enough, the weight of the world has made me round shouldered and now I am shorter by more than an inch. On the other hand, I have had no problem at all in adding to my weight to the extent that I had to go on a diet to drop from 183 pounds to 155. Even now, it is a struggle to maintain it at this level. Then there are the aches and pains. Why do my joints ache and why do the few remaining muscles I have that are still working protest loudly when I try to use them.

There is nothing wrong with my eyesight as I still love to look at pretty girls especially if they are well endowed. Nowadays, I appreciate their beauty and the grace in which they move but unfortunately for me,  the long lasting desires of the flesh are no longer present. In my case beauty is in the eye of the beholder ….me. Of course, I have to be careful not to be caught staring otherwise I am labelled as a dirty old man. Wait a minute, I am a dirty old man.  So sad that this is all that remains…

I watch the professional soccer players on the television and marvel at the way they move and I remember when I played the game, not at their level but enough to make me pretty good. Nowadays, I doubt if I could run away from turtle if one turned rogue and decided to chase me.

One good thing about growing old is all of the accumulated experiences of the previous years along with all of the knowledge gained through a lifetime results in a treasure chest of information on just about every subject under the sun. The trouble is that trying to recall any of that information is iffy at the best as it’s probably long gone, buried deep in the annals of my mind, never to see the light of day when it is needed the most.

So here we have it. Creaky bones and a mind that has difficulty in recalling times of any real importance. I can still tell you the name of the kids I grew up with but I can’t remember what I had for breakfast. I can no longer run and jump and my fastest walking pace is probably less than 1 mile per hour. On the other hand, I can walk forever as long as it is at my slow pace.

So, what good am I you might ask. Good question and one that requires some thought to answer. I can still maintain the ponds and do any work on them that is required including moving the above mentioned rocks as heavy as they are. I can still walk for miles even in the hot sun as I am already wrinkled and shrivelled up even when coated in sun block so the sun is not going to spoil any semblance of looks that I still have. LIke I said before, I don’t need good looks as I am not interested in charming the ladies. I take pretty good pictures  and a lot of them and know how to present them. My mind works just fine in front of a computer and I have no trouble in writing stories about those long walks I take. My two remaining dogs love me…. I think, unless they view me just as a meal ticket and the cat is so old, I am not sure she even knows who I am anymore. My house is paid for and I own a little piece of Texas and I am comfortably enough off to be able to buy groceries and any small stuff when I need it.

So, what the hell is wrong with me worrying about growing old. Everyone and everything grows old as time marches on. There is no stopping its forward march. It has been this way since the beginning and if and when it changes, it will be the end of the World.

Luckily, I will not be around to see it.

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Another Drive 8-19-2017


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With the weather as hot as it is here in Central Texas, I often drive around in my air conditioned car, usually out in the countryside, listening to Audiobooks.  I have probably put half of the 50,000 miles on the car doing just this. I like to explore the back roads and lanes off the beaten track and it is amazing the things I have come across. Mostly, I am out to find great pictures to post in my blog or to find yet another story but a part of me is on the lookout for that perfect 10 acres way out in the back of beyond as I still harbor thoughts of that little cabin in the woods. To be truthful, I am not sure what I would do if on one of these drives, I came across such an area that was cheap enough to be affordable to my limited resources. Would I take the plunge and spend my remaining years building a cabin and all that goes along with it or is that just pie in the sky and the dreams of an old man, not smart enough to realize how old he really is? In my case, the mind and spirit are very willing but sadly, the flesh is weak and I would probably kill myself with all of that work. At least I would die happy and be out in the countryside.

Yesterday was no exception as I chose to drive around in the Dripping Springs area on the west side of town. I found a couple of roads that I had not been on before and it is really surprising how often I come across collections of homesteads seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Some may be a collection of trailers, others are small houses with an acre of land and usually surrounded by broken down old cars denoting the status of the occupants who are probably honest hard working individuals trying to make a living. There are even larger houses of two or three thousand square feet set on several acres of land with manicured front lawns and large wrought iron gateways. the splendour of which is designed to outdo the neighbor the next estate over. There are all types to see when you get off the beaten track.

As I drove around, I found myself suddenly faced with this beautiful panoramic view as the landscape suddenly dropped off in front of me. I stopped quickly just to admire the view and luckily for me, nothing was coming behind me. I noticed an overlook to my left and pulled into it. Apart from the magnificent view, the first thing I noticed was the collection of beer cans and whisky bottles strewn all over the place. Quite obviously, this is a popular place for the local kids to park and drink beer and  probably make out with their girlfriends.  I could not help wondered how many young girls had drunk their first beers as they entered this grown up world then had lost their virginity to the young men’s advances, helped along by the booze. I wonder too, how many future generations have been conceived here.. This is the sort of place that is in all of the horror movies where bad things happen. Luckily for me, it was 4:00 pm in the afternoon and broad daylight so I felt pretty safe. Even so, it did conjure up some memories of some of the movies I had seen as I looked nervously around.

I got the camera out and was blown away with the incredible view in front of me. I could see for miles and miles as the landscape dropped away. Even facing the sun, I was still able to take some good shots. The panorama at the top is made up of four different pictures and pretty much shows the entire vista. The blue skies and scattering of clouds really brought color to the scene. The other pictures below are individual views of what was in front of me although, they don’t really do it justice. I didn’t have my wide angled or telescopic lense with me which would really have enhanced the shots.

Ah, the hidden beauty of Texas…

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St Edwards Park 8-10-2017


DSC_0660LPI was trying to find a different place to hike as I have just about worn out my welcome at my regular hiking places. I located a new park called St Edward’s Park in Northwest Austin. It is not that big in the way of trails but it does follow Bull Creek for most of the way. Bull Creek is spring fed so it has water all year round even with our super hot summers.

The park is located off Spicewood Springs Road in a beautiful area of Northwest Austin that I had never been before. It was a pleasant drive as the road twisted and turned. I almost missed the Trailhead but managed to stop in time to make the left turn without causing an accident. There were several cars in the small lot and others were pulling in or leaving at fairly frequent intervals. I wandered over to the kiosk to take a look at the map as I had not been able to find one on the website and it occurred to me that the map was not oriented to the way I was facing. The complete reversal in fact so I had to re-imagine it in my mind in order to get my bearings. There appears to be a cluster of trails at one end and then a long trail that actually follows Bull Creek for a couple of miles. There is also another Trailhead further up the road a mile or so.

The trails on the Trailhead side of the creek are all well worn mostly dirt tracks with a lot of shade and I followed the Creek all the way to the waterfall where I was able to cross over mostly to take some pictures of the falls. DSC_0622I discovered that on the opposite side there is also a trail that appeared to go in the direction of the furthermost Trailhead so I opted to follow this one to save backtracking which I hate to do. This trail presented much more of a challenge as it climbed upwards sometime by log steps, other time by scrambling up the rocks. It levelled out towards the top of the hill and then ran in a parallel direction to the Creek only way higher above it. I couldn’t even see the Creek from up there. In places, the trail was not very wide as it skirted around the side of the hill with a pretty steep drop off to my right. A woman and her dog passed me as I was taking a shot of the horizon but they were the only ones that I saw except for a couple of guys way down by the Creek just after I started the climb.

This trail turned out to be a real challenge especially when I got close to the other Trailhead when I was trying to find my way down to Bull Creek which included a lot of scrambling and almost rock climbing in some places. After several false trails which required both carefully picking my way down and then back up again, I eventually made it to the creek where I crossed over at one of the shallow areas and then followed the trail back passing several people on the way. The trail that I had just left, the one that scrambled upwards and then back down to the creek is not marked on the map but it was well walked so many others must know about it. I arrived back to the dam and then back up the trail to my car where I very gratefully sat for a while before changing out of my soaked clothes to something dryer and more comfortable. Cars and people were coming and going all the time I sat there. The Park gets a lot of use.

I took lots of pictures and it was truly great to find a Creek that had water in it. Altogether, I covered around 3.5 miles although the hike on the far side seemed much longer than that as the degree of difficulty was quite high. It was a real workout.

As usual, here is a video of some of the trails that I walked.

St Edwards Park Trails 8-10-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Views of the Creek and the Horizons

Bull Creek at St Edwards Park 8-10-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

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Town Lake in Austin 8-6-2017


DSC_0580I hadn’t been out for either a hike or a photographic trip in over a week and wanted desperately to get back out again. One reason was to fill my mind with other thoughts as I grieved over the loss of my little dog, Richie and I had to get my mind back onto regular things. I didn’t want to take a long hike as the weather is still so hot and very uncomfortable so a short walk on the Town Lake trails seemed like a very good idea.

I opted to park in the lot next to the Zachary Scott Theatre Center off Lamar Boulevard and wander along that part of the trail as far as the bridge over the creek on Barton Springs Road. As it was a weekend, the trail was very busy with runners, cyclists, people with dogs, people without dogs, lovers walking hand in hand and families pushing young kids in strollers, the obvious end result of lovers walking hand in hand.

You name it and every kind was out on the trail.

Turning my attention to the Lake, I saw that it was filled with people in canoes of various types and on surf boards all paddling around in different directions as they enjoyed the Texas summer day on the Lake. Many of the metal canoes had the name of a rental company printed on them. Others were probably owned by the people paddling them. There were dogs everywhere either swimming alongside or actually in the canoes or on the paddleboards. Many of the people, especially those of the female gender were dressed in the barest minimum of skimpy bikinis with lots of flesh showing.  Many of the guys had their shirts off to catch the sun on their bodies and although I didn’t see any ladies in bikinis who shouldn’t have worn them, I did see many of the gentlemen whose portly shapes indicated to much good living and not enough exercise. Paddling a canoe around in circles barely counts as exercise and the amount of visible flab is hardly the way to attract the ladies.

I wandered along taking pictures and wishing that I had brought the camera with the telescopic lens with me as well as the one that I carried to zoom in on some of those long range shots. I reached the bridge where the trail crosses Barton Creek and took several pictures of the view into the city and back up the creek in the reverse direction. This part of the Creek was very popular with lots of people in canoes of all shapes and sizes and the inevitable paddle boards. I even saw a pair of swans who, apart from keeping a wary eye out, totally ignored all of the activity going on around them. The people were good to as most gave the swans a wide berth. Interesting how Nature eventually blends together given the right circumstances.

I passed one very hot looking policeman and chatted to him for a bit. When I said that it was a bit warm, he remarked that it was overtime so was worth getting a little hot. I agreed and moved on. I wandered back along the same trail to where my car was parked taking a few more pictures here and there as I went. All in all, an interesting afternoon.

The total trail length is 10 miles and can be broken into smaller segments by crossing any of the bridges to complete the loop and there are several different places to park to gain access to the trail. On any given day, there are always people out on this trail.

The slideshow is of the different views of the Lake  especially of the people in the watercraft.

Town Lake 8-6-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

McKinney Roughs 7-27-2017


DSC_6384-PanoEven though the forecast was for the temperatures to get to one hundred degrees, I decided that I wanted to go out again for another walk. I couldn’t make up my mind where to go and finally decided that McKinney Roughs had the most shade cover and was probably the best place.

Something came up which delayed me getting out early and it was almost 11:00 am by the time I arrived at the Park. On the way over, I was mulling over in my mind which trails I wanted to hike and had more or less decided that I would take Coyote Road and then hit Riverside. From there, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go and was going to play it by ear.

I paid my $2:00 and chatted to the young lady at the desk for a bit and learned that some of the trail repairs were complete although it is still not possible to complete the big loop that includes Road Runner and Yaupon.

I set off down Coyote Road which is a big wide trail with not too much shade but heads downhill towards the river. Both Coyote Road and Riverside are best hiked going down as both are somewhat hilly especially Roadrunner.

On the way, after seeing a Roadrunner in the Parking Lot, I followed another one that kept making short flights ahead of me until it finally tired of that game and headed into the brush. It was too far off to get any meaningful shots of it. As I crested one of the short hills on the trail, two deer crossed the road in front of me and of course, were gone by the time I got the long lense camera out and ready. I continued stealthily past the spot where they had entered the brush but they were truly gone.

Continuing down Coyote Road towards the end where it had previously washed out, I took a look at the work that LCRA has performed in rebuilding the washout. It looks like the actual rebuilding of the ditch is complete and now all that remains is a bridge to span the gap. Still a few months away, I would guess.

Heading back , I took Riverside which as the name implies, brings you alongside of the river. That is a very nice trail to walk on with the temperatures so hot as it is completely covered with this wonderful canopy of trees. I was looking for anything of interest that might be in or around the river and spotted a whole flock of Vultures. I could not see what type they were whether they were Black or Turkeys and none took off while I watched them for around 10 minutes. I counted forty or more and I have never seen so many in one place. I have no idea what they were congregating for or about as none appeared to be eating on anything. Maybe it was a Vulture Convention to discuss the weather or the shortage of carrion. Who knows…

I finally left that pack of birds and headed along Riverside and then crossed over onto Bobcat Ridge which I knew would bring me back to my car. On the way, I could hear a whole bunch of people coming and as I rounded the corner, met up with a large group of maybe 25-30 young kids accompanied by two Adults. All the kids were carrying water bottles and pulled over to one side to let me by when instructed to by the lead adult. All that is, except one boy who wanted to know why he had to move over. As I got level with him I said, “It’s age before beauty and I am a lot older and much uglier than you”. Everyone laughed at this as he moved out of the way.

It’s great to see the kids out in the woods enjoying and learning about Nature. Nowadays, kids do not spend enough time outdoors and many haven’t a clue how Nature works, or what sort of trees and flowers they are looking at, or what are the names of the different birds and animals they might be lucky enough to see.

After leaving the kids behind, I continued along Bobcat Ridge and crossed back onto Riverside only because I was running low on water and knew I could replenish as soon as I hit the buildings. As I was taking a picture of the horizon, a young couple came down the hill making real easy work of it. They stopped so as not to get in the way of the shot and I got a back view of them as they disappeared.
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I continued climbing up Riverside which, apart from the steps on Pine Ridge, is the steepest trail in the park. I arrived back at the Park Headquarters and spent some time taking pictures of the flowers planted in the gardens. All are Native Plants and last year were inundated with butterflies. Not  sure what has happened but there are not too many flying today.

All in all, a very enjoyable but somewhat hot, hike. I covered 6.5 miles and got a few shots. I was looking for birds and saw very few and even less to take pictures of. I could hear them but that was about it.

Below are two videos. The first is of the trails at McKinney Roughs, mostly of Coyote Road and Riverside with a couple of Bobcat Ridge.

Trails at McKinney Roughs 7-17-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

The second is the flowers at McKinney Roughs. Most of them are in the gardens at the Park Headquarters but all are native Plants. There are a couple from out on the trail but they are getting hard to find.

The Flowers at McKinney Roughs 7-27-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.