McKinney Falls State Park 9-30-2017


Jeff Price-12

A view of the trail

With the recent rains, I knew the trails would be muddy in places and I wanted to walk on something more solid. I opted to walk the Hike and Bike trail at McKinney Falls as it is a 3 mile circular trail that is very nicely blacktopped and made for easy walking. It has one very steep place where there is a sign that bicyclists should get off and walk although I am sure that most  of them view this as a challenge more than a warning. It would get a little hairy if any hikers happened to be on the trail at this exact point as there is a blind corner that you can’t see around until too late…Come to think about it, I have yet to see a biker anywhere in this park probably that except for this one spot, the trail offers no real challenge to them.

Picnic area at the Upper Falls

A five picture panorama of the picnic area

I broke all of my rules today as normally, I very rarely get out to the Parks because of the numbers of people that use them on the weekends. It’s not that I am anti-people but I like to hike for the solitude amongst other things and that can be difficult with crowds of noisy families each with at least a dozen kids per family all talking and running at the same time. Mckinney Falls also has swimming facilities which is another attraction for these families and large groups of people.

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Another 5 picture panorama from the reverse direction

I parked in the lot by the Upper Falls and geared up in my usual fashion. I’m sure that I make quite a comical sight with my two cameras and binos strapped to my chest, my camera bag with a couple of other lenses on my back, my two walking poles in my hands and topped off by my wide brimmed hat complete with added kerchief around my forehead to soak up the sweat. Oh yes, add two water bottles to that strapped to my waist. I probably am carrying at least 20 pounds of gear, great for my muscles and cardio but awful tiring.

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A panoramic view of the Upper Falls

I walked past the Upper Falls and the throngs of people into the park area that is set up with picnic tables and firepits and is very nicely maintained. Onion Creek runs off to my right and I wandered over to take a look. The water was a muddy brown color from the recent rains and not very appealing so I got back onto the trail proper and started to walk. I took several shots of the park area and of a couple of the very large trees on the trail and have turned them into panoramic shots. I met several people on the trail and conversely, several passed me going in the same direction. None were families with kids as they preferred to be at the Falls area. Although I heard birds, I didn’t see any to take any pictures of. I passed an interestingly shaped tree and took a couple of pictures of it besides various flowers. The pictures below also include views of the trails.

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This tree is made up of 5 different pictures in order show the whole thing. I wonder how old it is?

 

Arriving back at the Falls, I chatted to a few people and took several pictures.  There was a photographic class going on the park area which broke up as I was taking pictures of the Falls.  Not sure what the subject matter of the course was about.

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There are 8 pictures in this pano

Altogether with my additional wandering around, I covered a little over 4 miles. I noticed that my old body and legs were nowhere near as tired as when I walk the regular trails. Must be that this much flatter blacktop trail is much easier to walk and for that I was extremely grateful.

Written 10/3/2017

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Reamers Ranch 10-29-2017


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I went for another walk at Reamers Ranch this time to get in a good walk and to take a few pictures along the way. I still have hopes of seeing the Osprey again but am no longer just concentrating on it’s location although to be truthful, my walking plan did include the area I had seen the Osprey before. I planned to walk along the Multi Use Trail towards the North end of the Park and to go all the way along Confluence Trail until the trail ends at the boundary of the Park Property. I have walked this several times previously and always have the hope that I might see deer or a turkey as I have before although much too slow with the camera to get the pictures. Along the way, I found some flowers that were absolutely covered with bees and butterflies.

I tried something new by only using one walking stick so that I could carry the camera in the other hand, just in case. Even though I was ready this time, the animals and birds obviously did not get the message as none appeared to have their picture taken on the first part of the walk to the end of the trail.

I cut back through the lower trail which the Parks people have spent some time on and now it is much better walking as you can see from the pictures above and followed right alongside of the Pedernales River with a good view of the water and the opposite bank which is all private property. Some of it is well maintained as the Panorama below shows. I kept my eyes open in the hopes of catching a view of the Osprey but all I saw were buzzards.
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I continued along until I came to the area popular with the rock climbers and took some pictures of them on the wall. Better them than me as it is not my idea of fun.

I carried on walking along the Lower Trail until I reached the exit to get back to the third parking lot. This too is a difficult climb to get out. I met a young lady who was coming down and we chatted for a bit about the trails.

When I got to the top, I headed north along the gravel walkway towards the last parking lot known as North Bank. Along the way, I met a young gentleman and we exchanged pleasantries as we crossed paths. I noticed three buzzards in the tree in front of me and at first, couldn’t make out what they were up to. Then I figured that they were a female and two males and were going through a mating ritual of a sort I guess for the female to make a choice. I managed to quickly change settings to video and got this very short one. I would have thought that it was too late in the season for mating but maybe these are younger birds finding their first mate. I stood and watched them for a bit until they flew off. You never know what interesting picture is around the next bend.

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I arrived back to my car tired and happy and changed into some dry clothes and sat for a while eating an apple.  It is so quiet and peaceful there and it is very easy to slip into a state of reverie and just letting the world pass on by. Altogether, I covered 6.5 miles, not bad for a day’s stroll in the park with the added bonus of a lot of pictures.

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Written 11-10-2017

Looking and Hoping. Cheerful pictures for a winters day…


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After my recent encounter at least from the viewing perspective of the Osprey, I made another trip to Reimers Ranch in the hope of spotting it once more. I wanted more pictures and hopefully this time, a video that in my excitement the last time out and not wanting to miss a single moment of the display the beautiful bird was putting on for me, did not try to change my camera’s settings.

I was all prepared this time and even brought a tripod with me ready to go but someone, somewhere forgot to tell the Osprey about our appointment. Consequently, no Osprey shots as it wasn’t there at least at the same time as I was.

I wasn’t about to waste the opportunity for another camera shoot or a hike. I had parked in the next to last parking lot, known as River View Parking Lot that had access to one of the climbing areas and there was only one other vehicle in the lot besides mine. As per my usual routine, I slipped into my gear, grabbed my water bottle and walking poles and set off on the gravel trail that follows the Pedernales River from the very top of the gorge towards parking lot number three known as River bend Parking Lot.  The gravel trail does not necessarily keep close to the river bank and in some places the trail is probably up to several hundred yards inland.  There are a couple of spots where it is close enough to actually see the water and I spent some time taking pictures of the far bank with its cliffs all in the hope of spotting the Osprey.

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When I reached the third parking lot back towards the park entrance, I made my way down towards the river. Both this entrance and the one by the fourth parking lot are difficult climb downs even though they do have semblance of steps. I took pictures of the climb back up at the fourth parking lot where I had parked to give an idea of the difficulties at least to old men like me. Maybe not so much to younger and much fitter people with a far better sense of balance than I currently have.

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After having safely making my way down, I took the lower trail which actually takes you along on the river bed. At this time of the year, the water level is low but it is still a bit muddy in some places. I came to a large rock that did not have a way around without getting wet feet that I could see so I scrambled back up the bank until I hit the middle trail and made my way along it towards the fourth parking lot where I had parked my car all the while looking for the Osprey.

I finally came to the trail leading up to the exit and as I climbed, I took the pictures shown above. As soon as I got back to my car, I changed out of my wet clothes into something more comfortable and was sitting and enjoying a piece of fruit when I heard voices and the clink of metal which I guessed to be from the occupants of the other car in the lot. Sure enough, two guys appeared followed by a young lady bringing up the rear all carrying their climbing gear.  The clink of metal was from the pitons that the guys carried on their climbing belts. We exchanged pleasantries as I continued to pack up my gear.

What to me seemed very odd was that the young lady was dressed only in the skimpiest of bikinis. The rock face is some distance from the river so I did not think she had been swimming and there was not enough sunlight under the trees for her to work on her tan. As usual, it was difficult not look at her as she and the two guys horse played around a bit. I wanted to ask her if she had been climbing wearing only a bikini but didn’t have the nerve and was left wondering. Seems to me that the rock face could be awful painful on her body and although regular clothing is not very protective, it at least help prevent the scrapes and cuts. This turned out to be the mystery of the day that is along with the non appearance of the Osprey.

I jumped into my car, taking one last look at things I can only dream about and drove off. I pulled into the second parking lot where I had noticed some yellow flowers that were covered with butterflies and bees and took some pictures.

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I made my way home after having covered a couple of miles on this hike. As I was there for the purpose of getting more pictures of the Osprey, I was perfectly content with the small hiking numbers. After all, it doesn’t always have to be about the walking and the fitness. Most of the time it’s about the pictures and the opportunity to take them.

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These are all panoramic shots made up of several pictures.

Written 10/28/2017

Still Looking for the Osprey – 10-21-2017


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I think that from here on out, every time I take a hike at Reamers Ranch County Park, I will be looking for the Osprey that I was so fortunate to see just a couple of weeks ago. This was true of my last hike on Saturday, October 21st when I broke another one of my unwritten rules and went hiking on a Saturday. As it is late in the season, most of the people were families and kids at the swimming end of the park in the Pedernales River.

I parked in the second parking area that has a long concrete road that leads down to the river that can be used to get small boats into the water. There is no parking at the river itself  so those that drive down have to then bring the vehicles back to the lot and walk back down the hill and do it all again to get the boats back. Maybe that accounts for the reason that I don’t think I have ever seen a canoe or kayak or any type of boat on the river from the park side. The lucky landowners on the far side of the river have canoes and kayaks parked close by the water (but above the flood line) and again, I have still yet to see any of those boats actually in the water. DSC_1245-Pano

But I digress. I readied myself to go walking which takes me a good 15 minutes as I change my socks and boots, strap on my waist camera belt for the long lense camera and also the bino’s, put on the Cotton Carrier harness for my second camera and finally, slip on my backpack with essential supplies like tools to tighten the Cotton Carrier locking units, spare camera batteries, flashlight and spare batteries, a small first aid kit and waterproof gear. If I am out for a long hike, I will not only have two water bottles but also fruit for that extra energy when I need it.

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I walked down the concrete road towards the river and got on the river trail heading upriver to the area that I had previously seen the Osprey. Being a weekend, there were several other hikers using the trail and we exchanged cordial “hellos” and “great day for a hike” and such comments as we passed each other. I walked on taking pictures of the trails and the views across the river and always on the lookout for the Osprey. As usual, there were lots of buzzards taking full advantage of the wind currents as they wheeled and plunged across the sky with the occasional flap of the wings to find the next spiral of air but none of them were the bird I was looking for. This is where the bino’s come in so handy as I can see the birds up close and personal to tell the difference.

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I continued along the river trail for a bit before deciding to do an about turn and make my way back the way I had come. I don’t usually do this but I wanted to walk to the “Beach” area to see the people who were making use of it and maybe get a few pictures. It turns out that there were a couple of families in the water enjoying themselves with the kids making lots of noise as they splashed around. I did not turn the bend to see the rest of the beach area content with the view that I had.

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I made my way back up the concrete road to the Parking Lot passing more people on their way down. The lot had filled up quite considerably from when I arrived and was a mix of people on their way down to the river and those that had just came back from it. Families with young kids were mixed with adults of all ages several of whom were beautiful young ladies in bikinis who again, just like the previous time that I wrote about were so full of confidence and seemed totally unconcerned for their almost nakedness in front of a lot of people. With the few sneak peeks that I got in, I could understand their confidence as to how beautiful they looked but at the same time, the prude in me worried about how this behaviour is now the accepted norm. Not for me to worry much about as I should be grateful that these young women provided me a recollection of how life used to be many years ago when the female body was not a stranger. The passing of the years may play havoc with the body and desires but luckily the eyesight is still good.

I jumped into my car after taking off all of my gear and changing my clothes. I always end up totally soaked after any of these exertions and always carry a spare change of clothes knowing that I most certainly will need them. I made the drive back and detoured into Dripping Springs just to stop at Starbucks to enjoy on the way home.

The question arises, “Do the beautiful girls make up for not seeing the Osprey” and the answer is “Unfortunately, no”. Damn it, I must be getting old…

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Ran into this fine looking fellow and he stood still long enough to take his picture.

Written 10/27/2017

Looking for the Osprey.


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After seeing the Osprey the last time I was at Reimers Ranch, I went back again on October 13 just in case it may still be around. I didn’t intend to hike or travel very far in my search as I knew that I could see the river at about the same spot as I saw the bird before from the Upper Trail that extends the full length of the Park on the bank overlooking the Pedernales.

Unfortunately, there was no sign of anything that even closely resembled that beautiful bird as long as you don’t count the Buzzards and there were plenty of them floating around in the skies above the river. I hung around for a while but the eagle never showed up. I took the panoramic picture above from six individual shots and then worked on them in Lightroom.

So, even though the Osprey never showed, the day was not entirely wasted.

Written 10/25/2017

Reimer’s Ranch 10-1-2017


Jeff Price-18

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.

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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

What to do on a Rainy Day


Today it is raining, the first wet day since Hurricane Harvey. This rain is of the normal kind and maybe signals the start of our Texas Fall. It is dark outside of my window as the clouds have socked in and the rain falls.

I welcome the rain as does my garden. The plants open their leaves to gather in the precious moisture to give them life and the roots drink as the water seeps into the ground.

I sit indoors and write away on my computer trying to express my thoughts and feelings into words that other may share. Rainy days are so few and far between here in my part of Texas that I welcome them.

I have a couple of projects outside that I need to finish but they will keep until the rain has moved on as I am only too glad to see it fall. So different than when I lived in England and it seemed like it rained every day, enough to drive me to this country after I was given the opportunity.

Tomorrow, the sun will shine and the clouds will blow away and we will be through with the rain for a couple of days but this is Fall in Texas and it will rain again. Between now and the Spring, the creeks will fill and the rivers will flow stronger. Until the Summer and they will be dry.

Written 9/26/2017