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

Austin Pond Society Christmas Party November 2017


The Members at the Party 2017

The Austin Pond Society held their Annual Christmas Party at the November Meeting which is the last meeting of the year. Around 55 members showed up, many of whom were dressed in their Christmas finery and with several wearing strange looking hats decorated in a Christmas motif. All the members were really getting into the swing of things as on Sunday afternoon, several of them had come in to set up the tables and decorate the room in the Christmas Spirit and the setting was very conducive for a Christmas Party.

Christmas Party 2017 Slide Show from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

The food comprised of Roast Beef and Ham provided by our very popular Steven Monfrini, with all of the fixings many of which were supplied by the members who also supplied the deserts and appetizers. There was a lot of food but by the end of the evening, it was all gone. There were several bowls of punch to drink, some with and some without so the members had a choice.

Christmas Party 2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

The guests of honor were Mr and Mrs Klause from the Austin Police Department who were here to pick up the many gifts that the members had each brought in for the kids in need so they would at least get a gift on that special day.

Among the several things available to the members were a Blackjack Table complete with a professional croupier the proceeds of which went towards the Mayfield Ponds Project. The players each donated $10:00 to the cause and played until they lost all of their money. There was another game in which the members had to do something with Candy Canes but I have no idea what that was.
There was also an area that was in the business of making funny hats complete with flashing lights for anyone brave enough to wear such a contraption and enter into the Funny Hat Contest to be held later in the evening.

Christmas Party 2017 food line from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

The first part of the evening was devoted to the very important business of feeding our faces which we all proceeded to do with much gusto. Following that, Jeannie our President took charge as she went through the very small amount of business that needed to be conducted. The main and very important part was the appeal for someone, anyone to step up to fill the vacancy for the Pond Tour Chairman without whom, we will not have a Pond Tour as we know it, next year. She then introduced the new Board all of whom with the exception of Keith as Secretary, are all returning members. The New Board officially takes over January 1 of next year. Following the announcements, Jeannie called upon Ted Paone as this past two year’s Pond Tour Chairman and presented him with an Honorarium for all of his efforts.

Christmas Party 2017 Business from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

With the business out of the way came the very difficult task of choosing the Tallest Hat Winner along with other members who were sporting all kinds of flashing and blinking contraptions on their heads. Everyone really got into the spirit of things.
The winner of the Tall Hat was Catherine Bilbrey with Nancy Reinert as the runner up.

Christmas Party 2017 Crazy Hats from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Another member, Karl Tinsley brought in his latest work of interest which is a Sand Table that he had constructed along with all of the programing that it takes to make it work. Basically, it is comprised of a flat box about 2 inches high and about 2 feet square with a glass cover sitting on a small table. In this box is a covering of sand on the bottom and a single large ball bearing. Karl has written software that drives the ball bearing into marking grooves in the sand in a designated pattern including his favorite Alpacas, of which he and his wife Linda own several. It is fascinating to watch as the bearing moves up and down creating pictures in the sand.

Quote from Karl
The sand table uses a magnet mounted on a computer-controlled mechanism to move a steel ball through sand, creating stunning designs. The table and the designs it draws were created by Karl Tinsley. You can see some videos of the table on my youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChLaaBO5pY1QpVtX9WOEYiw.

Here are some of the sand pictures that Karl has created


He has also put together a short movie showing the ball in action.

With the food and drink all gone and no more fun and games to play, the evening gradually wound down until the few remaining members stripped off the table cloths, straightened up the room and closed the doors on another fun and successful year for the Austin Pond Society. All that remains is to wish everyone out there, Happy Holidays and we hope to see you next year.

Our first meeting for 2018 will be on January 15 at the Zilker Gardens Botanical Center starting as 6:30 pm. Hope to see you there.

Don’t forget to keep checking the website especially in the MarketPlace section as the availability of used equipment and pond plants is always changing. If you have any of the aforementioned equipment or plants that you want to sell or give away, use this link to fill out the form.

Taking the time…


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Have you ever taken the time
to look around you at the checkout line
and what is it that becomes known
that everyone has their phone
busy scanning just in case
as around the store they did race
they might have missed a call or two
and if they did what would they do
shrivel up and die because of the loss
maybe it was a call from their boss
or better yet one from the kids
telling her they are in a fix
and whatever the trouble may be
its instant contact so Mother can see
that they are OK no harm done
no need to hurry we’re having fun
and out to the car to make the drive home
once more to check on the phone
just in case between here and there
another text comes in wanting to share
did you get the ice cream this one reads
and on it goes until one needs
to turn it off to get some relief
for personal time there is no belief
all the time that you have the phone
you will never be alone.

Written 9/22/2017

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Decisions, Decisions…


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Old age crisis…

I can’t remember that I ever had a mid life crisis. Come to that, I can’t even remember that I ever had a mid life. I suppose that technically that should make it around my 40th birthday as I am currently, 81 years young. From what I can remember of my life back then, everything was as good as I could have expected it to be.

Seeing as how I missed out that time around, I am working towards an end of life crisis instead. I suppose “end of life” is a little strong as I don’t know when that will be, hopefully in the very distant future. As the exact date is unknown to any of us earthly beings, I can only push on with a full life expectancy of one hundred and twenty five. Anyway, it does tie into my current thought processes for to put it bluntly, I am restless and am choosing my right to have that crisis that I missed out on before.

To some, it is a no brainer. I own my home, am comfortably off and do not have a wife to nag and berate me into doing things that I don’t want to do or spending money on things I don’t want to buy. On the other hand, I do not have a readymade caregiver and so need to plan for the future. Instead, I live alone with two dogs, Ginny, a mini Dachshund and Pete, a fat little Chihuahua and Ellie, the one remaining very old cat. I do have about 250 or so fish friends out in the five ponds but “friends” is probably not the right word. I feed them and clean the water and generally get a lot of pleasure from just watching them swim around.

But, I am restless. I am having recurring thoughts of selling this place and either buying 5 acres out in the country and building a mini home on it so that I can disappear off the face of the earth, buying a travel trailer and spending the rest of my days driving around these United States and eventually parking it when I can no longer drive at wherever I end up. Or finally, even returning to my native England to live out what remains of my life and to become a burden on whatever family remains over there.

My Realtor friends tell me that a house with 5 ponds would probably be hard to sell unless I was extremely lucky and the right pond enthusiast happened to come along or if I was willing to take a price cut. So now, if I choose any of the three options that are nagging at me, I would need to close down at least 3 of the ponds which by itself, is not a small project.

So, as you can see, my mind is in a quandary. The easy thing to do is to work on this over a period of time like the next 6 months, closing down those three ponds and leave the two remaining 5000 gallon and 6000 gallon ponds and just landscape around them. I would probably need to do that anyway if I want to get top dollar for the property whenever I choose to sell although all that “Top Dollar” will do is leave more inheritance for any remaining kids.

Looking at the three options that are nagging at me and in no particular order, the following thoughts cross my mind. Why go back to England? It is always raining over there and much colder which was the prime reason for coming here in the first place. People have already got their winter coats on. So, put the England idea on a back burner but don’t discard it just in case this country goes down the toilet with Trump in the White House.

How about the travel trailer idea. I suppose the big question is, “I wonder how much longer I can drive without being a hazard to myself and anyone else out there on the roads”. I would need to buy a bigger vehicle to comfortably tow a trailer of any size and both of them would depreciate over the years. I suppose that as long as the trailer was in decent enough shape at its and mine final resting place, wherever that may be, that is all that is important so that I could park it and live in it for whatever years remain.

Finally, 5 acres in the woods with a mini home on it would require work at the beginning in putting it all together but I am not averse to hard work and as long as I am physically capable, it would help to keep me in shape. Not that I am planning on running a marathon or returning to the soccer fields anywhere in the near or distant future. It would probably cost me $100,000.00 to buy land, buy a mini home, put in a septic system, run water or drill a well and get electricity to the property which is a lot of money but unlike the trailer idea, would appreciate and be worth more when eventually it gets sold. It would also take time, at least 3-6 months to build.

Thinking about it, there is one more way to go and that is to do the travel trailer routine and then when I can no longer safely drive or get tired of it, to buy that 5 acres in the woods and park the trailer on it to live out my remaining days. That way, I could save the cost of the mini house. Damn, all of these ideas and no still no solution.

So, I have laid out my thoughts and am no closer to solving the dilemma that I am in. About the only positive out of it all is the obvious need to close down a couple of ponds regardless of what other choices that I make even if I don’t make a choice at all and stay here until I get shipped out, feet first.

Mid life crisis, what mid life crisis, how about the workings of an old man’s mind instead, making a crisis where there is no crisis. I have either got to live with it the way things are or make a decision about my future.

Written 9/22/2017

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