Hiking on a Weekend…


DSC_0314I never really had any intent
to hike today thinking instead
I would stay inside and write in my blog
out of the sun and my thoughts to log
onto the page of the next blog I write
hoping to make it a wonderful sight
so that others can read the words on the page
and hope gain something as they engage
in reading this blog fresh from my mind
stories to share of the Nature kind.

I try not on a weekend to hike
not that it doesn’t give me delight
but I like to stay away from the crowd
as noisy and raucous as I have found
that out on the trails solitude makes
happiness when there are pictures to take
especially of animals and birds that need quiet
so as to not get their picture spoilt
a difficult time that often fails
approaching anything live on the trails
as my walking poles make so much noise
and there is no way to disguise
that something is coming and it’s time to flee
and they are gone before they see me.

As much as I like on the trails to meet
other people who are using their feet
getting around out on the path
walking and talking and so I ask
“Can I take your picture” as they walk by
and most of them give me a short reply
“Certainly” as I explain
that I write a blog but I refrain
from using their names just a picture or two
showing them smiling in my view.
I give them my card and wish them well
as I go forward on up the hill
one foot in front of the other I place
sticking to my usual slow pace
and like the tortoise who beat the hare
I reach the end of the trail that I share
with others like me who really feel
Nature’s serenity and beauty is something real.

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This is Texas and It Is HOT…


DSC_5375Now that Summer is finally here
and temperatures are beginning to sear
and every day is hotter than most
and the sun is making everything toast
rain is just a thing of the past
I can’t remember when it rained last
and when it did it was over quick
nothing that was going to stick
just a shower, a few drops of rain
and then back to 100 degrees again.

We still lead an outside life
as used to the heat with nary a strife
start early before the heat of the day
makes it impossible to go out and play
for no one wants if they have a choice
unless of course if you have no voice
and outside work is what you do
with anything else you haven’t a clue
so you slap on the lotion and fill your jug
drink plenty of water lots more than a mug
and brave the heat a living to make
and everything is for your family’s sake.

Me, I take walks in ninety degrees
hoping like hell to be under the trees
knowing that around the next bend
could well be a field or a hill to ascend
either out in the open the sun blazing down
or climbing steeply to reach up to the crown
hoping that shade is a coming up fast
and maybe this hill will be the last
sweat pouring off me my clothes are all soaked
near the end now and I’m getting stoked
as I finish yet another hike
out on the trails with the end in site.

Why do I do this I have to ask
an answer comes forth from my distant past
when as a kid I spent my time
out in the woods with a friend of mine
and together we covered many a mile
close to Nature’s wonderful smile
and learned about how Nature does show
us the way forward in case we don’t know
we spent hours upon hours in her company
and seventy years later she is what I see
and if I could do it all again
my whole life would not be the same
instead I would be as a young kid
and work close to Nature my life to commit
in preserving everything she unfolds
working for her was one of my goals.

Alas, an old man I have grown
my dreams and my thoughts I have not shown
except in my walks and the stories I tell
and the pictures I take and wishing like hell
that I could do it over again
and work with Nature which sounds rather tame
for what we are doing to this earth
troubles me more than a dearth
as no one is more ignorant than man
who was not here when it all began
but thinks he owns the universe
and can take what he wants with no reimburse.

One day Mother Nature will see
just what in all reality
Man is inflicting in so many ways
and will take time off to reappraise
her goodness will end and she will defend
what little is left to the bitter end
to rise again at a later date
this experiment over for failures sake
as Man is not worthy to make this his home
he came, he wasted and now he is gone.

Be kind to your Mother…

McKinney Falls State Park 7-21-2017


DSC_0291-PanoI called my friend BJ to see if she wanted to take a walk but she had other plans so I decided that I would go out on my own anyway. I figured that as we have not had any rain to talk of these past two months, I might be able to cross over Onion Creek to get to the trails on the other side. I have been to this park many times but have not been able to cross due to high water levels.

I set out early (for me) and arrived at the park around 9:30 am. As to be expected, there were already several cars ahead of me as I waited to pay my $3:00 and sign in. I made my way to the Lower Falls parking area which has a large swimming hole and was where I needed to cross the river.

I changed into my hiking boots and then geared up with my two camera harness and my backpack. I also carry two bottles of water as I had the experience of running out on a hike at Pedernales Falls on a hot day and I vowed not to let that happen again. I use Hydroflask metal bottles that are vacuum sealed to keep the contents cool. One contains 21 oz and the other at 24 oz. They work well and keep the contents very cool but they do add a bit more to the weight I carry on these hikes. Well worth it though.

I grabbed my walking poles without which, nowadays I would not do so well on the hikes and made my way towards Onion Creek. There is a very large expanse of limestone to cover before actually hitting the Creek and it is interesting to see how the water has worn it in different ways over the millions of years of its existence. I stopped to take pictures of the White Egrets including one that was in the shallow waters and was busy chasing something in the water. He put on quite a show. There was also what looked like a Willet doing his thing in another shallow. All this before I hit the river.

As I suspected, the pool was already busy with a lot of kids with their families already set up under the shade or in the water or camped out around the edge of the pool. Also visible were several large turtles although none were actually sunning probably due to the amount of activity going on around them. The kids of course were in the water both to cool down and to have fun. There is a lot for them to explore in the big pool.

DSC_0296The water in the Creek was very low and I had no trouble in crossing to get to the trails on the other side. The first thing I came across was a sign describing the Mill that used to stand on this spot. Remnants of steel rods and cut outs in the rocks are all that are left. I took the Homestead Trail wanting to walk the big loop which I deemed would be enough for one day. The trail was well worn and was shaded most of the way which was just as well as the temperatures were expected to reach 100 degrees later in the afternoon.

I came across the McKinney Homestead which was probably a very imposing structure in its day. It still retains an air of Southern beauty and one wonders what ghosts walk the ruins and what stories they can tell. Interesting that it was built by slaves although I guess I should not be too surprised.

I moved on along the trail until eventually I arrived back at the pool. By now even more families had arrived and there were more of them in the water. I took a couple of pictures and made my way back across the Creek.

Along the way on the trail, I had met several people including one couple that stopped to let me take their picture. There were others including a couple of young female runners using the trail to work out and a Father and Son out for a walk. A couple of bikes passed me as well as it is a multi use trail.

All in all, a very enjoyable hike. I covered 6 miles and by the time I was through around 1:30 pm, it was really warming up. Interestingly enough, even though I could hear them, I never really saw any birds or wildlife enough to take any pictures which is one of the reasons I carry the heavy telescopic lens and camera. There were not very many flowers. I only saw two.

I did hold an interesting conversation with a young man who I believe said his name was Jeng(?) who is a visiting student currently staying in Houston and was in Austin for a couple of days. He was trying to hit as many of the local parks as he could find so I directed him to my favorite Park, McKinney Roughs.

I plan on going back in the next few days to hit the trails that I have not yet hiked now that I can cross the river. This is southern Texas after all and the chances of any amount of rain in the summer that might make the river impassable are extremely remote.

A Hike and Taking Pictures.


DSC_5435I went for a hike the other day
I felt that I needed to get out and play
out in the country and breathe the fresh air
knowing that I hadn’t a care.

Life is good and I’m still alive
and you could say that I even thrive
on walking miles out in the sun
for my race is not yet run.

My pace is slow as I amble along
not in a hurry my pace long gone
just happy to be out in the sun
that Nature provides to give me fun.

It gets a little warm out there
as I walk along without a care
stopping when something catches my eye
to take pictures of the wonderful sky.

Or maybe a bird or a tree or two
whatever it is that is in my view
something that has caught my eye
and I have to know the reason why.

I really like to record the scene
whatever it is that make me serene
as I walk off the miles in my quest
to take a picture of the very best.

At the end of the trip I always feel tired
and hot with clothes soaked as I perspire
and I change before getting in the car
so I drive in comfort even though it’s not far.

When I get home and look at my shots
half of them are not so hot
as I toss them away and look at the best
knowing my computer can do the rest.

A tweak here and another there
before the picture I wish to share
is ready for others to review
in the hunt for perfection, if they only knew.

Richie and the Snake


Yesterday, my little Dachshund Richie, the same one that is always sniffing around, was struck by a venomous snake that was under the deck that is in front of the workshop. I was working on something no more than 3 feet from where it happened and counted myself lucky that it was the dog and not me that was struck. I was not able to identify the snake as I didn’t get to see it being more concerned with Richie but there is definitely an uptick in them in my yard this summer. I have lived in this house for 32 years and this is the first time that I have encountered a poisonous snake inside of the yard.

I have several garter snakes that live in and around the ponds and yesterday while I was looking for whatever struck Richie, I found a black Whipsnake about 2 feet long that had just eaten something as its body was pretty distended. You can’t be too careful especially around the ponds or in dark shady places like under sheds. It seems that this hot, dry summer has really got them moving presumably to find water.

I rushed Richie to the vets but he was already in shock and was out of it by the time I got there. My vet is only 10 minutes from my house and when I walked in, they went into action like a well oiled team and had saline and other solutions including anti-venom pumping into his little body in no time flat. I stayed back out of the way and watched and hoped against hope that Richie would make it. They kept him overnight which I always dread as that is when animals seem to die after surgery. At least, that has been my experience. If they get through that first night, they have a chance.

True to his word, my vet called me around 9:00 pm that evening to give me a report. He had come back in especially to check on the dog and told me he would call me in the morning. After a restless night, I was up very early, (for me) waiting for the call back from the Vet. He had promised me that it would 8:00 am when he called but as I waited and waited all the while my thoughts thinking the worst. He finally called about 8:45 am with the good news that Richie was doing as well as could be expected and was alert although his throat and face were very swollen. But he was alive and my Vet thought that barring a sudden relapse, always possible with snake bites, he might pull through.

I told him I would be along to see Richie later in the day and stopped by in the afternoon. I spent some time with Richie but he was pretty drugged up and really didn’t recognize me. I left and it wasn’t 45 minutes later that I got a call from the Vet to say that Richie had passed away. I was in the car at the time and had to pull over as I just couldn’t stop crying. I had been hoping like hell that the little guy would make it but it was not to be. The Vet suggested that maybe Richie had been hanging on in the hope of seeing me before he passed on but that is probably wishful thinking.

I picked Richie up, this time in a box and brought him home. I took him out and let Ginnie and Pete sniff him over and I hope that this will explain to them Richie’s absence from their little pack. After all, he was the pack leader.

I put him back in the box and took him out to where all of the rest of the animals are buried alongside the Big Pond. The ground was hard and the sweat poured off of me but it helped me to work out some of my grief as I really loved that little dog and I’m pretty sure he loved me.

Now we are down to Ginnie the female miniature Dachshund, who does not really get on with Pete the overweight and bossy Chihuahua and Ellie who has her own problems trying to recover from the loss of Brown Cat. The one saving grace out of losing Richie is that I will no longer have to shut the cat up in a separate room every time I go out for fear that Richie would repeat his attack on her as he did many years ago.

Will I try to find another Richie? He was definitely one of a kind so probably not. I will see how it works out with the other two and then go from there.
RiCHie
Rest in Peace Richie. You were my Best Friend and very much loved. You will be missed.
One final note. It is ironic that of all the things that I revere the most, Mother Nature, she is responsible for Richie’s death. It was one of her creations that killed him. Payback for what he had done to other snakes? Only she knows…

Austin Pond Society Swap and Sell Meeting 7-17-2017


DSC_0241The Austin Pond Society held it’s Annual Swap and Sell Meeting on Monday, July 17 at the usual place, the Zilker Botanical Gardens Meeting Room. The meeting was attended by about 40 of it’s members who were treated to the good old American standby, hot dogs with all of the fixin’s. Members supplied the deserts mostly of different types of cookies.

While the members were enjoying the meal, the four members who had brought items to swap or sell were setting up outside in the patio area. I would like to say that they were doing a roaring trade but alas, that was just not the case. A few people wandered out to see what was available  but it appeared that the majority stayed inside where it was cooler. There was some very interesting and useful stuff available. Everything from a push lawn mower, to pond decorations of various types, all kinds of garden tools, a birdhouse on a pole just to name a few. There were a few plants, mostly lilies which were a popular item probably because they were free which always helps. All four of the item donors made some sales but it was a little disappointing to say the least. BJ especially was pleased that she will not have to bring the lawnmower back next year. She had to give a demonstration and mowed half of the lawn out the front in doing so. Must have worked as someone bought it.

There were several of the Board that were missing including Jeannie, our President,  Nancy our Parliamentarian and Julienne our Secretary, all away on vacation.  There wasn’t anything in the way of urgent business that needed our attention and Barb Lenhardt  filled in for Jeannie  and took over the role at President complete with mic to go around the membership to get any questions, introduce any new members and generally try to convince people that there was probably something outside on one of the tables that they really needed and to go out and get it. Alas, not too many people got the message and we were all through by 8:10pm wrapped up and cleaned up.

Personally, I thought there was some pretty neat stuff out there and I am really surprised that more people didn’t take advantage of some of the deals. For myself, the only thing I can say is that the 5 gallon bucket of trimmed waterlilies that I brought in that were ready for planting, were all taken but then again, they too were free…

APS Swap Meeting 2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Again, apologies for the quality of the video as I am still working out the kinks of using my DSLR camera as a movie camera. One thing for sure that if I have to film for any length of time, I need to use a tripod to stop the camera from losing focus. Below is the video of the Business Section of the meeting.

APS Business July 2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

The next meeting will be held on August 14, same place, same time. The Speaker will be Steve Lash from the Honeycomb Fish Farm. Steve is one of the new sponsors for this year and is located in Cedar Park.Come and learn about what to look for when you are choosing Koi & Goldfish.

Reimers Ranch 7-19-2017


DSC_0275-PanoAs you may have read in a previous blog, I have bought new camera gear and wanted to try it out some more. The weather here in Texas is very hot with the afternoon temperatures reaching into the high 90’s and sometimes the low 100’s so any hiking needs to be done early in the day. This goes against my built in adversity to early mornings and I consider that if I am out on the trails by 10:00 am, I’m doing pretty good for me.

I reached Reimers by 10:30 am and spent 20 minutes assembling my new camera carrying system, first hooking it up this way and then that in an effort to balance the heavy new telescopic lens to make it comfortable to carry. It turns out that what I had settled on was very uncomfortable for the rest of the hike and I spent considerable time on the trail re-adjusting first this and then that to no real avail. I have to come up with a better system.

After leaving the Mountain Bike Trailhead, where I managed to find a tree that gave off some shade to park the car, I took the trail that leads to Johnny’s Homestead with the intention of following the Multi Use trail in a southerly direction back around and back to the Parking Lot. I knew from previous hikes that there is much more tree cover going in this direction. Not true of the other half of the Multi Use trail which is pretty much out in the hot sun for most of its length.

Just after setting out, I had the opportunity to use the new telescopic lens on a pair of Warblers and also a Brown Thrasher that had landed in the trees ahead of me. Normally, I can’t see these birds with the 300 zoom lens but the 600 zoom picked them out and gave me a couple of decent pictures.

The hike itself was uneventful with the exception of having to stop repeatedly to adjust the waist carry belt which kept sliding down.  As I keep repeating  to myself, I definitely will need to make some adjustments before the next hike. The top picture is a panorama of 4 pictures showing just how well Mother Nature recovers after the controlled burn in this area back in January. Other burns have been performed in other areas of the park much more recently as shown by the pictures below.

There are a very few wildflowers to be seen as the flower season is pretty much over.

As I always do, I have included pictures of the trails that I walked.

Finally, some views of the park.

All in all, it was an enjoyable hike and it felt good to be out communing with Nature. I really do feel that another part of me comes alive when I get out and about in the countryside.