Reimer’s Ranch 10-1-2017


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9 picture pano showing the Turkey Trail

Yesterdays walk was so easy comparatively speaking because of the fairly even surface, I felt good enough to go out again two days in a row. Again, contrary to my usual practise of not walking on weekends due to the crowds, I opted to take a walk at Reimers Ranch County Park to see if I could get some good bird pictures. It helps now that it is cooling down and is in the mid 80’s.

I drove to the very last Parking Area, the one that is also the lot for the Rock Climbers as I wanted to walk the Turkey Trail because it has been the most productive regarding bird and animal pictures so far. Going through my usual ritual, I donned all of my equipment and as suitably attired, headed for the trails.

Just as I was starting out, my path crossed with another hiker coming towards me and we exchanged greetings as we passed. I had already decided that I would sit at the bench at the intersection of the Turkey Trail and the Multi Use Trail not because I was tired but in the hope that sitting peacefully might encourage the birds to fly back into my neighborhood. I used my binos as I scanned the surrounding trees but to no avail. I saw one bird fly and perch and then could not find it in the foliage.

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A 5 picture Panorama of Milton Reimer’s Ranch

I gave up on the sitting idea and headed down the Multi Use Trail towards the westerly end of the park taking pictures along the way of the trail. I experimented carrying my poles in one hand and the camera in the other as this was also the location where I saw the deer last time out. This method worked out OK but there were no deer this time around. The trail got rougher and much steeper so the camera had to go back in its carrying harness.

I got to the bottom of the hill and watched a couple of horses come towards me. We exchanged greetings as they passed and they were quickly out of site. Four legs can cover a lot more ground and much faster than my two old ones. I turned off to take the bottom trail to head back to the parking lot. This is a fun trail to walk now that the Parks people have cleaned it up as it follows the river not more than 50 yards away. I passed a couple that asked about the trail and I was able to direct them to the nearest bench for them to eat lunch. They didn’t invite me, darn it…I passed several groups of flowers along the way and took pictures of the trails and rock formation.

I could hear the rock climbers off to my left as they were enjoying themselves with their very hazardous idea of fun. There are several different rock faces along the way and they all seemed to be occupied. Eventually, the lower trail that I was on merged with the upper trail used by the rock climbers as we neared the exit to the last parking lot. I stopped to let several of them pass me as again, they all walk faster than I do. Everybody does…They opted for the fourth exit but I  continued along the trail and headed for the third exit. I wanted to walk the short distance on the top trail just in case I could see anything worth photographing.

Little did I know that that was the best decision I had made for a long time as I continued along, I spotted a large bird flying over the river. At first, I thought it was just another buzzard except it was not using the air currents and floating as the buzzards do. This one seemed to have much more purpose as it flew. I got the binos out to take a closer look and the first thing that I saw was the white head and thought that it might be a Bald Eagle. It did not have the white tail feathers that the Eagles have but there was no mistaking the white head. Then I recognized it as an Osprey which are well known for their feats of diving into the water to catch fish.

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Totally submerged

I quickly got the camera with the long lens ready and went to work snapping pictures as quickly as I could. I watched it as it dove into the water and managed to get a picture of that but when it went in the second time, it was out of my view but I certainly heard the very loud splash. When it came back into view, it was carrying a large fish as it headed back up the river. I thought at first it might have had a nest close by but the nesting season is over.

I walked up the trail keeping an eye on where I thought it had landed and managed to locate it perched in a dead tree. I took a lot of pictures of it very glad that for the very first time, the expensive piece of glass that I had in my camera was going to pay off. I waited around taking the occasional picture but the bird did not seem to be in any hurry to eat the fish. I figured that it was not going fishing anymore today so I walked the trail to the third trailhead and made the difficult climb to the top.

A couple of older ladies wanted to know if they could get to the river from this parking lot and I directed them to where I had just come up warning them that they had to be very careful as it was a bit of a climb even going down. I started walking the gravel path on the very top of the bluff that connects all four of the parking lots heading back to the last one where I had parked my car. On the way, I heard a bird call and stopped and as I did so, a large bird flew off another dead tree very close to the trail. This one too had the white head and I don’t know if it was the same bird or if there are more than one now living in this area.

I arrived back to my parking area and made my way to the car giving yet more advice along the way to another older couple who wanted to get down to the river. I warned them it was not easy but they tried anyway. As I was sitting in my car, they drove off obviously not willing to make the climb down which is pretty difficult.

This has to be my most successful trip yet as far as taking pictures of wildlife, in this case, the Osprey. Obviously, this will not be my last in the never ending search for that perfect picture now that I know where to look. Funny that all of the times I have hiked at Reimer’s Ranch, and even though I have looked, I have not seen an Osprey before. Maybe it is a product of this Springs hatch.

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I took this picture of these flowers using the telephoto lens from way across the river.

Jeff Price

I drove back home very content with the hike. Altogether, I covered 5.8 miles not all on the trail as I also walked around the Supermarket on the way back.

Written 10/3/2017

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Buescher State Park – 9-24-2017


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There are ten individual pictures to make up this Pano

I decided at the last minute that I would drive to Buescher State Park in Smithville to see how the Park was recovering after the devastating fires from a few years ago, 2011 to be exact. The plan was to go in the Park entrance and then take Park Road 1C back through to Bastrop State Park as I hadn’t planned to hike any of the trails. I turned off HWY 71 where the sign pointed to the Park and arrived at the Park gate only to see that it was barricaded off with another sign indicating that I should follow the Detour instead.

I turned around and then followed the Detour which I figured would bring me back into the park from the back end, so to speak. There are several roads that lead into the park that have private residences so not all accesses are controlled. I drove around for a bit just checking things out. The Park was pretty quiet as far as visitors go with a few cars parked at the cabins. I drove to the lake and looked around but it too was very quiet and I couldn’t see any bird life at all.

I decide to take Park Road 1C and head towards Bastrop State Park and then stopped at the two overlooks located along the way.  The picture at the top of the page is a pano of 10 separate pictures joined together. It truly is a wonderful view. The picture below is a single picture taken from the first overlook.

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Continuing along Park Road 1C, I noticed that the flowers were out in abundance and then as I turned another corner, came across a road washout which completely prevented me from continuing towards Bastrop State Park. I am not sure when this washout occurred but it must have been very recently as no attempt had been made to make any repairs. I turned the car around and then walked back to take a few pictures mostly of the wild flowers.

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I had no choice other than to backtrack and head out of the Park off one of the other roads which was no problem. It looks like the Park is coming back to life and there is a lot of new vegetation and young trees growing. Even the Loblolly Pines that were planted just after the burn are beginning to grow back. Nature is a pretty wonderful thing and has remarkable powers of recovery and even takes the opportunity to wield her magic brush and paint a different picture than was there before.

Written 9/26/2017

Violet Crown Trail – 9-20-2017


DSC_1019-PanoAfter having located the 290 entrance to the Violet Crown Trail, I was eager to give it a shot and explore as much of it that I could. I parked in the Spec’s Parking Lot making sure not to park too close to the store so as not to impact the shoppers or the store’s business. After the usual preparation work of boots, harness, backpack and cameras, I was ready to go. A short walk from the parking lot brought me to the very nice entrance to the trail. A couple of bike’s came through and as I always do, I moved to one side to allow them to pass. Heck, I am so slow that I am constantly moving to one side to let others through.
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There are a couple of signs at the very beginning of the trail which warn people that the trail is sometimes very steep and is also very rocky in many places and to, “Take every precaution” whatever that means. True to the signs, especially on the way down the very first hill, the trail is very rocky and uneven coupled with the steepness so one has to be a little careful. In many places,the trail is nice easy walking and much of it is in the shade. The trail follows Gaines Creek pretty much all of the way to where it connects to Barton Creek and there are several low water crossings on the way. This time of the year is not a problem as most of the Creeks have long dried up awaiting the next rainy season but I imagine, during the wet season, the trail is prone to being closed after heavy rains. Not being the case today, I crossed Gaines Creek at least four times.

I headed in about 2 miles to where the cliff face trails are very interesting to walk. The trail is narrow and the cliffs overhang on one side and Barton Creek is on the other. I decided that I would turn around at this point and make my way back. This is just past the turn off for the existing greenbelt Trailhead at 360. I would like to hike all of the way to the Zilker Park Trailhead but would need a friend with a car to meet me there otherwise it would be a 10 mile round trip. Not sure I can do that anymore especially on a rough trail.

There were a few flowers but so much of the trail is in the shade, not too many are growing.

The return trip was uneventful as I made my way back to the 290 Trailhead. Several cyclists passed me in both directions and there were even a couple of runners and hikers who were also using the trail. It is probably a lot busier on the weekends. I found the trails to be a little tiring. It was probably a combination of the rocks underfoot and the changes and steepness of the terrain but I was glad to get back to my car. Altogether I covered 4.5 miles.

The first slideshow is of the trails which are pretty varied.

Violet Crown Trail from 290 9-20-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

This slideshow shows the rock face on one side of the trail and the creek on the other. In many places, the rocks overhang the trails. I wonder what the chances are of any of them coming down….

Violet Crown Trail Overhanging Rocks 9-20-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

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Written 9/21/2017

Circle C 9-15-2017


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With the Circle C trails being as close to me as they are and now that I have discovered the full extent of them, I took another hike basically in the same area as the last one only covering them much more extensively. I still wanted to see if in fact, the second portion of the Violet Crown Trail was open yet as according to the maps, the Circle C trails will connect to it. The printed Circle C maps are not very good and do not show the full extent of the many bike trails that intersect the area so essentially, I was hiking in the dark and having to rely on my sense of direction which has been known to let me down before, once at Pedernales State Park when I took a wrong turn and got back to my car at 9.00 o’clock at night and covered 18 miles in the process.

The trails at Circle C.

Of course, I had a general idea of where I was trying to go and thought that if I kept going in a SouthEast direction, I just might get lucky and hit the Veloway. Well, it wasn’t long before that idea went out of the window as the bike trails wandered and meandered in every direction sometimes turning back onto themselves as the the bikers sought to get as much distance in as short an area as possible. I had a couple of them pass me flying along at a great rate of speed which made my walking speed look very slow indeed. There were also a couple of other walkers who passed me one of whom stopped to chat for a bit. He didn’t have any information regarding the Violet Crown Trail but he did sort of point me in the right direction by telling me that the road above us was Escarpment Boulevard.

I wandered around a bit more and then headed back crossing under Escarpment Boulevard and taking the main trail that leads around the park and the soccer fields.  Several people passed me on this trail which has a great display of the wild flowers that are in bloom. From there, I followed the dried up creek all the way back crossing under Escarpment Boulevard and walking west towards Mopac (Loop 1). I was surprised just how far it is between the two highways on foot as it takes no  time at all in a car…

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Some of the many beautiful flowers along the way.

I eventually made it back to my car in the cinema parking lot which, by now, was very full and sat for a while watching the birds in the trees. That was after changing out of my sweat soaked clothes into something drier. Altogether, I covered around 6.5 miles of pretty easy walking but still have not located the Violet Crown Trail. Maybe next time.

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Written 9/18/2017

Violet Crown Trail Research – 9-9-2017


In my search for information about the Violet Crown Trail, I printed out the maps of the proposed route of the entire trail and noticed that it ran very close to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center with either a proposed Trail Head by the Veloway on La Crosse Ave or maybe one that was already in place. I decided to take a drive to the Veloway as it is only a few miles from my house and see if in fact, there was a Trailhead or whether it was still in the future. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate the aforementioned Trailhead and decided that it has not yet been built.

Not to be deterred, I drove to where the map said there was a Trailhead by Spec’s on 290 West. As it is a one way frontage road, I drove down it three different times having to make the complete loop each time in an effort to see the Trailhead from the car but to no avail. On the last run, I noticed a couple of people that looked like they were trail enthusiasts walking back towards the Spec’s parking lot and decided to pull in, park and take a walk back to where the people had come from which I proceeded to do. Lo and behold, I came across the Trailhead hidden between the trees with a small sign out front that said, “No Parking for the entrance to the Violet Crown Trail.” I had noticed the sign from the car but had not been able to read the small print that contained the magic words, Violet Crown Trail.

I had not planned to take a walk because the trail, a walk all the way to Zilker Park will be a ten mile round trip, something that I need to be ready for. There are a couple of Trailheads in between but that wouldn’t help me with my car parked here. I could always just turn around at anytime on the hike but I really want to hike the entire length so need an earlier start than I had daylight left and decided to walk it another day. More to come…

Written 9/17/2017

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.