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.

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.


Written 9/21/2017

Going for a drive.


If I have been working out in the yard or sitting at my computer writing, I very often take a break late in the afternoon to go get a Starbuck’s Latte. If I don’t have to go grocery shopping, I sometimes take a drive out and about listening to an Audiobook and enjoying my drink. Currently, I am listening to Stephen King and the Dark Tower series and am totally enthralled by his magical writing. Oh, to have his mind and to dream up the scenarios that he does. All I can do is write about what I see or do or what others do. I just don’t have a devious enough mind that it requires to write a novel or a mystery. Too bad as I would really like to.

I never usually have any particular place to drive. I just let the car take me wherever it wants to go. This time, we headed towards Fitzhugh Road in West Austin, crossed Route 12 and continued along until turning off onto Bar Ten Creek Ranch Rd S. At one point, this road crosses Barton Creek which was flowing pretty good at the low water crossing. Not enough to be dangerous but enough to wash the tires. I happened to have a small older model Kodak that I carry with me for just such occasions and just had to stop to take some pictures. It is a good little camera and allows a certain amount of adjustment which is why I still keep it. I parked the car and proceeded to shoot a whole bunch of images of the creek and the road leading to it through the archway of trees which created a wonderful canopy. When I had taken all of the pictures I needed of the creek, I stopped a couple of other times to take more images of the road as it stretched out ahead of me and another of a view of trees and hills off to my right.

The Texas countryside has all kinds of beautiful pictures just waiting to be captured.

Hiking the Greenbelt 2-21-2015

Barton Creek

Barton Creek

The weather had warmed up and it had been a while since my last hike so I decided to take a short walk in the Greenbelt in Austin. This time, I entered by the Scottish Woods Road off Loop 360. There are a lot of cars parked on both sides of the road as it is a popular entrance to the trails. It beholds us visitors to be nice and respect the neighborhood and the people who live there.

The entry is across the road at the very top of Scottish Woods Road and is actually off Camp Craft Road and it leads immediately onto the trail known as the Hill of Life. They were not kidding when this trail was named as it is a real killer. The terrain is rocky, with concrete steps here and there and is very rough underfoot. What makes this a real tough trail is the steepness. It seems almost vertical but of course, is not. It is steep though. My guess is that it is probably between a half and three-quarters of a mile long.

Some people use this for their exercise and believe me, it is a work out in both directions. One lady passed me going down and then passed me again on her way back up. As though this was not humiliating enough, she passed me a third time going in the opposite direction. Finally, feeling a bit like the old man that I am, I asked her if she just walked this hill for her exercise. She said that she was aiming for three times up and down and that would be her work out. I congratulated her on her fitness and continued my weary way back to the top. By the time I reached it, my legs were really tired. Below is a picture of this super fit lady on her way up.

Lady Climbing the Hill of Life

Lady Climbing the Hill of Life

I made it to the bottom and headed west off to the right in the direction of the Twin Falls, not too far from the bottom of the Hill of Life. As it was such a beautiful day, there were many hikers, cyclists and of course dogs. Lots of dogs, all enjoying themselves. Below are some pictures of the walk down the Hill of Life.

The Twin Falls are about a quarter of a mile along the trail from the Hill of Life and many people were enjoying its beauty, which can change depending on the amount of water flowing through the Creek and the time of the year. I took a picture of the Falls but the sun was giving me problems as you can see from the picture. It is possible to walk across the Falls and continue the trail on the other side. As I was watching, one avid cyclist was carrying his bike back across and managed to slip on the rocks and took a tumble into the creek. He still hung on to his bike and manfully climbed back out and made it across as nonchalantly as possible as though he had never fallen in.

Twin Falls

Twin Falls

Continuing on the trail, I chatted to some of the hikers as we passed including a group of four young ladies who were obviously enjoying their walk taking pictures on their smart phones. Seeing my camera, they wanted to know what I was taking and why and of course, I was more than happy to tell them. Their eyes opened wide when I said that I would probably take more than a hundred pictures and would only keep 20-30 of them. Below are some of the pictures that made it..

I came to one area that was exceptionally green as a small stream was continuously running. It is amazing what effect water has on plant life. Most of the scenery was more drab and grey waiting for Mother Nature to break out in all of her glory and this particular stream and rocks really stood out.

As is true of much of the Greenbelt, the rocky areas added to the scenery. Some had small caves carved out of the hillside but they all presented a grand display.

As it was getting late and because I knew that I had to climb up the Hill of Life, I turned back about a mile beyond the Falls and passed the same group of young ladies making their way home. I reached the bottom of the climb and made my way upwards into the clouds (well it seemed like that) passing the lady I mentioned previously. Actually, she was passing me, three times in fact. I finally reached the top as one thing I have learned as age has crept up on me and that is how to pace myself. Slow and easy is the word and just keep moving. Below are pictures of the hill looking up. Unfortunately, they are not in 3D so do not really show how difficult it is.

I already talked about the lady working out by climbing the Hill but several athletic people were also using the Hill and were quite literally, running up the Hill albeit at a slow pace. Even so, I take my hat off to them. All in all, I covered nearly 5 miles and enjoyed every minute of it, Hill and all. I plan on going back…

Barton Creek Mystery solved

West end showing the water

West end showing the water

I was still very curious how Barton Creek could just stop its flow between Sculptured Falls and Twin Falls and was determined to try to solve the mystery. So with cameras all ready packed and plenty of water, I once again set out for the Barton Creek Greenbelt. This makes the third trip in 7 days and all to the same area.

This time, I had a much better idea where I was going and parked once more at the Loop 360 entrance and hit the trail that ran alongside of the creek heading West. I had a much better idea of where to locate the “Puddle” that I discussed in the previous blogs and the first small waterfall. I made good time walking in and decided that the best approach would be to get to the falls and try to work my way downstream until I was near a solution to the mystery.

Getting to the falls was easy as there was a trail already there but heading downstream was much more difficult. In some places I could stay in the stream bed but in others, I had to get back up on the bank and literally make my own path to get through. The vegetation was pretty thick and it was slow going. I stopped to take pictures as I went until I finally came to a spot where the rocks had made a natural dam. There was a lot of vegetation in the creek bed with water filling in and around the rocks. At the west end of this area which probably was about a half mile or so, the water was a pretty steady flow but by the time it had reached the East end, it had all but disappeared.

Barton Creek Mystery East end

Barton Creek Mystery East end

I have to say that I was a bit disappointed. I was hoping to see  a hole in the ground with the water very dramatically pouring into it but no such luck. What instead is happening is that the water is making its way down through the fissures and cracks in the rocks as it seeps into the Edwards Aquifer below.  Even so, there must be some fairly extensive openings to lose that much water because no more than half a mile upstream, the creek is full from bank to bank with a steady flow. Given this as a fact, there has to be a tremendous amount of water flowing for it to provide enough water to fill the downstream area.

I walked my way back out of the area and passed a pair of huge rocks. This is the last picture of the video. Incidentally, the first 4 video pictures are of the two massive Live Oaks that I mentioned in the previous blog. I couldn’t resist taking more pictures but I can’t do them credit as I am not portraying the size of the trees very well.

When I return to the green belt, I will try a couple of other entrances to cover new ground.

Barton Creek Greenbelt Mystery video 10-12-2013 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Barton Creek Greenbelt – Part 1

Barton Creek Greenbelt Loop 360 trail

Barton Creek Greenbelt Loop 360 trail

Even though I only live 15 or so miles away from it, I have never hiked the Barton Creek Greenbelt. So, a couple of weeks ago on a Saturday, I decided to change all of that and add this park to my growing collection.

After carefully packing and checking my cameras and making sure that I had plenty of water, I made the short drive to the Loop 360 entrance and parked along with a couple of dozen other cars from the many enthusiasts who hike or mountain bike in this park. Entering where I did, is about halfway along the main trail, the one that follows Barton Creek. I chose to go west (upstream) as I wanted to check out the two falls that are on the map.

I followed the main trail which was on the top of the ridge. There was a steep drop off on the left but the trail was in good shape so there was no real danger unless one got careless. I followed it for a bit but wanted to get closer to the creek so I took the first side path that led downwards which eventually, did bring me to Barton Creek. I was under the assumption that the trail on the top of the ridge, the first one I was on, continued and ran parallel to the lower trail. I stayed with that belief for the entire afternoon and it wasn’t until much later in the day, was I proved wrong and it almost cost me.

However, I get ahead of myself. The first thing that was very apparent is there is no water in this section of Barton Creek which really

Barton Creek bed showing the rocks

Barton Creek bed showing the rocks

came as no surprise considering we are in a major drought and have not had enough rain in so long. The odd shower or two that we have had has sunk into the ground which is so parched and there has not been any run off to fill the creeks. I took some good pictures of the amazing rocks that are in the creek bed. It is not really a creek for swimming as the rocks are a real hazard especially under water and unseen.

As I continued to walk, I met many people, some with their family, some with dogs, young couples getting to know each other, groups sometimes mixed, other times all girls and many that like me, walk alone. There were even some runners who use the trails for their exercise. Almost without any exceptions, they all had a cheerful greeting as we passed each other. Sometimes the trail was narrow enough that one or the other of us had to give way in order to pass and there was always a pleasant thanks exchanged.

Then there are the trail bikers. Most of the time, you can hear coming and make way for them to fly on through. Sometimes, they are on you before you realize they are there and then it takes a shout from the biker to warn they are on the left or the right, whichever the case may be. I am not sure what the rules of etiquette are in these circumstances but generally speaking, the pedestrian gives way to the bikes. It makes the most sense just from a safety point of view for all concerned. My fear is that they will come flying around one of the blind sharp turns when they have no sight of what lies ahead for both the biker and the hiker and someone may get hurt.

I hiked past Twin Falls and except for some pretty dramatic rocks, there was still no water in this part of the creek. I headed on towards Sculptured Falls stopping to take pictures as I went. There are some pretty spectacular rock faces on this part of the trail with many caves and other inviting places to explore. I came across a pair of very big and probably very old live oak trees and took pictures. I wonder what these trees have “seen” in their lifetime. The trail pretty much follows the creek and usually is no more that a hundred feet or so away from it and glimpses of the creek are always in view.  Occasionally, the distance increases or the trees grow thicker and although you know that the creek is still there, it is out of sight.  Then, at one of the times when the creek did come back into view, lo and behold it had water in it.

The "Puddle"

The “Puddle”

That was enough for me so I cut off the main trail and made my way to the creek itself only to discover that what I was looking at was no more than a very large puddle. Well OK, maybe a bit bigger than a puddle measuring some hundred or so yards long and about thirty yards wide but it had no end and no beginning and no water flow. Just a body of water more like a pond than a creek. Puzzled by what I was looking at, I took pictures and went back on the trail keeping the creek in view as I fully expected to see more water after the next tall outcrop of rocks. My theory was that this “puddle” was caused by seepage from the water further up the stream and I would discover water over the next rock dam.

The trail again veered away from the creek but before it came back into view, I could hear the sound of water dropping over rocks. I need to mention that the little side trails that lead off the main trail are usually overgrown as they do not get the traffic flow of the main trails, especially now that the creek is dry and to use them does require extra effort. I forced my way back to the creek and discovered the water as it tumbled over the rocks making its own joyous sound. At this point, the water below the very small falls was flowing fairly strongly and was the width of the creek and when I looked downstream, couldn’t see the end due to a slight bend so I had no idea what was happening between the “puddle” that I first located and this fairly strong flow of water. After taking more pictures, I pushed ahead promising myself that I would investigate more on my way back. I was not to know that I would have many more “adventures” and that I was not going to investigate this mystery anymore today.

I hiked all the way to Sculptured Falls following the creek which now had water and a steady flow to it. It was remarkably clear and the algae on the rocks gave the water a greenish tint as though someone had poured green dye into it. People were actually swimming below the Sculptured Falls as it cascaded over the rocks. I watched for a while but not wanting to interfere with their privacy, did not take any pictures.

There is another entrance to the Greenbelt named the Scottish Woods Trail. To get to it from where I was at Sculptured Falls, meant a pretty steep climb of about a half a mile almost straight up over very rocky terrain. This was the most difficult part of the entire trail but I pushed on as I was still convinced that there was an upper and lower trail that ran parallel and I was hoping that it would meet up with on the steep climb. I passed several people walking or on trail bikes coming down the hill and many passed me going up. I was probably the slowest walker for miles around especially on that uphill climb. It appeared that the trail was following a pretty wide dry creek bed hence all of the rocks underfoot. People on this part of the hike, not only exchanged greetings but words of encouragement to the ones going up.

Climb to the Scottish Woods entrance

Climb to the Scottish Woods entrance

Near the top of the climb, a couple of bikers came out of a side trail and we had a short conversation about where it led. One biker was full of wonder and probably very grateful at the same time, that he had safely managed to ride the trail as he gave harrowing descriptions of the drop off on the side of the very narrow trail and how concerned he had been. They walked their bikes the rest of the way up the very steep trail and I continued at my more leisurely pace. As I walked, the belief that there was an upper trail grew stronger and in my mind, the bikers had described it perfectly. I should have asked them where they actually got on to this trail but it never occurred to me as in my mind, I was so hoping that it led to the “upper” trail.

So, I made up my mind that the trail they had just come from was also the one I needed to traverse on my way back. I headed back down the hill to where that trail was located and proceeded to follow it and even though there were a couple of downward turn offs, preferred to stay high following my very misguided beliefs. I turned a corner and hit a fence that surrounded some sort of structure with no way through or around. No big deal as I turned around and headed back to the first downward trail I could find.  I came into a clear part of the trail with a very extensive view of the valley below and the other side heading up to the sky. Down in the valley, in the distance, I could see Barton Creek and could see that indeed, it

Barton Creek in the distance

Barton Creek in the distance

contained water. I took some pictures of the view and at that point, decided that it was more important on concentrating on getting out safely and put the cameras away and continued on the walk back which in turn, followed the rim of the valley around for a couple of miles or so. I could understand why the biker was so relieved that he had made it safely as indeed, the trail was not very wide, no more than a couple of feet and it did drop off on the one side very dramatically.I passed a couple of people who gave me hope that I was going in the right direction and plodded on. Then, as I got to the end,instead of the trail leading to the Loop 360 entrance, I came out into some real fancy housing estate with big expensive homes and down the hill, a closed iron gate at the entrance.

Obviously, I was not where I wanted to be and my only choice was to turn around and follow the trail back to the Scottish Woods Entrance,  a mere couple of miles hike on a very difficult trail. The sun was sinking ever lower as time was doing its usual thing of marching on and I was miles from the Loop 360 entrance and getting more than a little concerned. I walked on and quickened my pace whenever I could which for me was no mean feat as the old legs are used to a leisurely and much slower walk. Luckily, I am pretty fit so was not in any sort of physical trouble.

I reached the point where the trail intersected with one leading downwards, and recognizing it as one I had traversed earlier, and headed back towards the creek trail which I knew would bring me back to where I needed to be. I again quickened the pace on the flat parts of the trail and was making pretty good time. I came across a wide trail leading upwards and figured, still with the mistaken beliefs of the “upper” trail, that I was on the right track. I walked for ten minutes and slowly realized that this trail was petering out. Again, I had made a mistake and had no choice but to turn back to the main creek trail and follow it. I resolved to not take anymore side trails but to stay with the main trail. By now it was about 7:20 pm or so and the light under the trees was fading fast. I made a mental note to myself that I needed to include a flashlight in my hiking kit for occasions such as this.

I reached the main trail but was still a couple of miles from the Loop 360 entrance and it was getting darker by the minute. I don’t know how it happened but one minute, I was striding along and the next I was flat-out on the ground. I figured that one boot caught a rock and the other boot caught my heel and I was down on the ground. I am no stranger to falling having spent many years playing in-goal for the various soccer teams in the not so distant past so I didn’t stick out a hand but braced and rolled as I hit the dirt. Actually, I should say, hit the rock as that is exactly what I landed on. Luckily for me, apart from a few scrapes and cuts on my forearm and a bruise to my thigh, I was unhurt. I took the opportunity to take a quick drink and at that moment, even though I was kneeling on the ground, another late comer passed me by. I called after him and asked him how much further to the Loop 360 entrance and he replied that is was about a half a mile. He never slowed down and was quickly out of sight.  By now it was almost dark and it was a real problem to see the trail forcing me to slow down even more. As I continued on, I thought about the fall and the young hiker and I was surprised that this young gentleman had not been more concerned about the welfare of a fellow hiker especially one who was getting on in years. He had not slowed down or inquired if everything was OK or even offered to accompany me out to safety. I know that if it had been me and the roles were reversed, I would have at least offered.

I plodded on thinking deeply about the frailties of human nature. The trail at this point was a steady uphill climb and although littered with hazardous rocks and spurred on by the sound of traffic speeding over the Mopac bridge, made it safely out of the park. Mine was the only car still parked on the side of the road. I put my pack in the back along with my walking staff, changed out of my boots and into more comfortable shoes and sat in the car for a few moments trying to unwind from my excursions. I sat for a while thinking about the things I had seen on this hike and the mystery of the disappearing water from one part of the creek to the other and resolved to come back to solve this conundrum. I thought about the fall and the fact that the forced and continued walk had not allowed my old muscles to stiffen up and that apart from losing a bit of blood, I was unhurt and very grateful.

Altogether I walked 26000 steps according to my pedometer that I always carry with me and with my small step of 29 inches, it works out to almost 12 miles. I took over a hundred pictures. Luckily for me, I was not hurt from the fall other than scrapes and bruises and my pride but I did learn a couple of invaluable lessons that day. One was that I should plan better and never push time as I did. The other, there is no upper trail…

Barton Creek Greenbelt 10-5-2013 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Strange Growth of Nature

While I was hiking the Barton Creek Wilderness Trail yesterday, I came across a very interesting tree growing alongside the path. The tree in question is an Evergreen Oak or Live Oak.  The Southern live oak or simply “Live Oak” (Quercus virginiana) is an evergreen (or nearly so) oak tree native to the southeastern United States.

I must have passed this tree several times in my hikes and it wasn’t until yesterday that I noticed how strangely it had grown. The original branches had not grown straight but had intertwined with the other branches and as the tree grew, the branches quite literally have grown into each other giving the tree this very unusual effect. It could be one tree or two or even three different trees that have grown together

Front view of Cedar tree

Front view of the Live Oak tree

Back view of Cedar tree

Back view of the Live Oak tree


I thought it interesting enough to share with my readers.
The tree is located about a mile in along the trail going West from the Loop 360 entrance. Look for it the next time you are on the trail.