A Walk at Milton Reimers Ranch 9-28-2016.


dsc_3999-panoWith the temperature dropping to a bearable level, I decided to take a walk at Milton Reimers Ranch. This is  operated by Travis County who have this great rule that people over 65 get to use the Park for free although I don’t mind paying my $3:00 at the State Parks which is almost free.

dsc_4024I wanted to hike the new trails that are on the East side of the existing trails known as the Hogge Trails. I have hiked them once before just after they opened and had an idea of the degree of difficulty the trails presented.

I pulled into the  Mountain Bike Parking Lot as I could get to the trail that lead on the far side of the Multi Use Circuit which goes all around the Main Park. This trail starts off as a bike trail but quickly opens up into a full width trail big enough for the Travis County vehicles. This brought me to the far side of the Multi Use Trail along where Johnny’s Homestead used to stand from where I turned East and headed along the trail that would lead me to the Hogge Trails.

I had asked at the Pay Booth if the stream that I knew I would have to cross had any water in it and the Booth Attendant mentioned that they had over an inch of rain in the last couple of days and was not sure if it had affected the low water crossing. The answer to that when I arrived at the crossing was a definitive “No”. There was no water in the stream at all. It was totally dried up. So much for thinking of wet feet. The part of the trail leading away from the stream is a steady up hill climb with steep grade in a few places. It is almost a mile long and you know you have been walking by the time the top is reached.dsc_4007

The Travis Park property ends and you walk through a five bar gate which is permanently open.  The sign indicates the trails of which there are two. The Inner Loop is 1.3 miles and the Outer Loop is 2 miles. By going in a figure of eight, it is possible to cover all of the trails by double tracking on the center trail twice which is what I planned to do. I took the right hand trail until it came to the spot where if I had taken the left trail, would have considered that the Inner Loop. There are some picnic benches located under a shade tree where I enjoyed a fifteen minute break eating one of my apples.dsc_4019

When I started back walking, I took the center trail, the aforementioned Inner Loop except that when I got to where it merged with the Outer Loop Trail, I turned right and followed it back around to where I had started under the shade trees. I then followed the center trail again except this time, I turned left where the trails merged all of the way back to the five bar gate. This way, I was able to cover both the Inner and Outer Loops.

The trek back down the long hill was no easier than when I came up due to the rough trail and loose stones and having this ongoing balance problem, I had to be really careful not to stumble any more than could be helped. I finally reached the low water crossing and took pictures of it and then made my way around the Multi Use Trail to Johnny’s Homestead. From there, I took the trail that intersects the Multi Use Trail back towards the Mountain Bike Parking Lot.

Just as I had started along this trail, I heard the sound of one of the park vehicles which pulled up alongside of me. We chatted for a bit with the Ranger wanting to know if it was my vehicle in the Mountain Bike Parking Lot. He was out checking the trails to make sure that no one was in trouble. We chatted for a bit and he asked if I was OK. I’m sure he would have given me a ride if I had wanted it but although I was tempted, I told him I was fine and had to finish what I had started.

I turned back up the trail and finished the walk back to my car where I sat for a while eating my last apple and resting my weary bones. Altogether, I walked 9.1 miles and felt re-markedly good. It is amazing what having lower temperatures and a cloudy day can do for the body. I only finished one flask of water and half of the other.

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Altogether, a good day on the trails. I managed to find a few flowers and a couple of other things to take pictures and on the way back, found the Starbucks at Bee Cave to complete my day.

As with all of these pictures, if you click on anyone of them they will enlarge and you can move along by using the side arrows. Use the “Escape” key to get back to normal.

Too Hot to Take a Walk but not Too Hot to Mow the Grass…


DSC_3831Every time I leave the house and drive past the area that the County owns outside of my fence, I think to myself that I really need to get after it and mow it down. I haven’t mowed at all this year mainly due to the fact that just as the grass started to grow this past Spring, Google had a crew come in to install the fiber cable directly in the area outside of my fence. At the time I thought it was great and was looking forward to a very fast internet but sad to say, they are not hooking up in my area yet but that is a whole separate story.

This gave me a much welcomed excuse to not even get close to the grass and totally ignore it even after they had finished, I kept ignoring the fact that the remaining grass that they had not run over with their heavy equipment was now two feet high especially with all of the recent rain we have had. I know just what I was thinking preferring to hike rather than mow the grass and maybe I was just being a little bit lazy. OK, I just hate to mow…

The mower in the garage

The mower in the garage, stupid thing…

In my defense, I have a mower and it sits in my garage most of the time. The reason for this is that when I had it out in one of the sheds with a cover over it, the rats built a nest in the motor and chewed all of the electrical lines which I was able to replace myself.

The only place I get to use the mower is, you guessed it, the side of the house alongside the road. I bought it several years ago when most of the backyard was a sort of lawn. I jokingly referred to it as a lawn but in truth, the grass didn’t grow very well under the trees, which incidentally, is why I built five ponds. I used the mower as a tractor pulling a cart when I built the ponds. I hauled rocks and gravel and even used it to tow several rail ties that I used at the bottom of the fence. I used the mower  a couple of times to cut the grass last year and that was after spending a couple of hundred dollars on it to get it to run properly. It sat in my garage all winter and I started it up a couple of times and it seemed to be OK. So, when I thought I would bite the bullet and mow the grass, I backed my car out so that I could get the mower out. I couldn’t even get the mower to turn over so I jerked the battery out and took it to the Parts store to get it tested which it did just fine. They put it on a quick charge and I took it home, put it back in and tried it again. Success, it fired up and ran like a charm for all of one minute and then it died. That is how it has been acting every time I have tried it since. There is obviously a blockage in the carburetor  as I have checked the lines and gas flows where it should. I can’t for the life of me figure how to get into the carburetor to clean it out and so now, the mower is just sitting there. I think the manufacturers have built it so that DIY fellows like myself can’t do our own repairs.

The old self driving mower

The old self driving mower

Not to be outdone by one stupid mower, I have two more. One is as old as the hills and is a self driving hand mower. I must have had it 30 years and yet it starts every time and usually on the first pull. I hit a rock with it years ago and bent the crankshaft  causing the mower to vibrate pretty badly but it still runs. I got it out of the shed, gassed it up and sure enough, it fired right up. I took it out to the street and started to mow and it died after about ten minutes. It would not start again so I took it back to the shed and got out my final mower which is actually a string mower on wheels. It too usually starts on the second or third pull and it fired up and continued to run. I changed out the plastic cutting strings which I cut to length off a big roll of the stuff and took it outside and started cutting the grass.

String Mower

String Mower

It worked just fine and I spent a busy two hours chopping down the grass. To say that I was mowing brings visions of the mower putt-putting along in neat straight lines cutting the grass to a couple of inches high and leaving a nice lawn effect. I have to tell you, that is not the case with a string mower. It does a great job of cutting down whatever is in the way including any flowers and small trees that might be foolish enough to wave their pretty heads and leaving everything in one disorganized chaos of cut grass laying in every which direction. I would need a hay baler if I had any thoughts of picking it up or clearing it away. Regular mowers can usually give a much better mulching effect because they will cut the grass several times as they pass over it. Definitely not the case with a string mower.  Cut it down once and push on.

The strings on the drum

The strings on the drum

Not only that, the mower is not self driven. All the motor does is to turn the head that the string is attached to and me and my poor body and arms and legs provided the traction. By now of course, this being Texas, the temperature had now reached the ninety degree mark and the sweat just poured off me. I have to explain that even on the riding mower and wearing shorts, the poison ivy of which there is quite a bit growing in this area tended to float around a bit after it was cut and did a number on me. This time, I dressed for it and had on blue jeans and a long sleeved shirt. No wonder I was hot and sweaty.  The going was not very even and I was fighting the terrain and getting jerked around all over the bloody place. This is why I hate mowing.

And then there is the string itself. The “string” is made of plastic and is probably .155 inch thick. You have to cut it off to length and follow the directions to thread it through the holders a special way. When it breaks, which it invariably does, you have to take out whatever is left and place a new piece in. I bet I replaced at least ten strings today because the grass was so long and  did I mention the rocks that the construction crew had not bothered to clean up? I either ran into them and had to jerk the mower around them or the “string” whacked one of the rocks causing it to break.

I finally got it all done and about the only thing that you can see is that the grass has been cut. It doesn’t look pretty but the weather forecast has some rain in it and knowing Mother Nature, it won’t be long before we have to do it again,  maybe next year I will have the mower repaired…In the meantime, a long soak in the hot tub to relieve my aching muscles.

Now should I bite the bullet and get the damn mower fixed? I swear it is a vicious circle, get it fixed, it stands all winter in the garage, spring comes, try to start it up and back to the repair shop….
Maybe I will wait until next Spring for the mower.

 

It’s Raining at McKinney 9-2-2016


DSC_3780I drove to McKinney Roughs, a distance of about 40 miles from my house under cloudy skies. it didn’t really look like rain but when I arrived at McKinney main entrance, the skies opened up and it rained for a good twenty minutes.  I had my newspaper with me having to forego my usual breakfast routines in order to get to the park earlier as I wanted to hike while it was still somewhat cool, for Texas. In my case this morning, it was breakfast to go as I ate it in the car on my way to the Park and read the paper while I waited for  it to stop raining.

The couple parked in the car next to me, acted brave as they got out of their car when it first started to rain and started walking. Less than three minutes later when the skies opened up, they came running back, hopped into the car and then drove off. So much for their walk this morning.

As soon as it stopped, I got out and strolled over to the Office to pay my $2.00 and chatted to the lady behind the window. As they still haven’t fixed the flood damaged trails down by the river, I had to come up with a different plan. Did I mention that I have bought a new pair of hiking boots? The old ones, which I had already glued together several times,  are just about worn out and are getting uncomfortable on the right foot so I thought it time for a change. I bought a pair of Keen’s Dark Earth that happened to be on sale at $110.00  from Whole Earth Provision Company. I swear my feet are growing as I get older and everything else is shrinking, except my weight that is and it’s a struggle to keep that where I want it. I am already an inch shorter and my muscles, the ones that are still visible that is, are much smaller than when I was younger. In those days playing soccer, I wore a 9 1/2 as I wanted them snug so I could feel the ball. Probably they should have been a size 10. The boots I just bought are size 11 1/2 and have removable inserts. Go figure…In my defense, I do have a wide foot, a whopping 6E almost the widest that is made. Today was going to be the first day that I got to use them on the trail although I have been wearing them out and about just to help break them in.

I set out to walk along Coyote Road and first, I had to get onto Bobcat Ridge. I knew I was in trouble the minute I stepped onto the trails as the rain had turned everything into thick gooey clay which just built up on my new boots in the first ten steps. So much for newness! My feet felt like they had 20 pound weights on each one and as soon as I kicked off the mud, it was right back on there again. I kinda walked in slow motion not making any time at all and felt like I was back in soccer training again, trying to build up my leg muscles with weights attached to my ankles.DSC_3765

A mile or so onto Coyote Road, I contemplated turning back but figured that I might as well press on as going back would be just as miserable. I reached the area where the trails are blocked off and  Coyote Road meets with Riverside and had no choice but to continue along Riverside. Normally, I like hiking close to the river as it gives a nice change of view with the off chance of seeing more wildlife like Blue Herons, Egrets and maybe even ducks. The water was up a bit and flowing fast and was a dirty brown color. I didn’t get to see anything in the way of wildlife and the trails were extremely muddy. I did manage to find several flowers throughout the Park that were not there a little  over a week ago, the last time I was at this Park which included moss in one tree that I had never seen before.

Another young lady hiker caught up with me on this  part of the trail and we chatted a bit before she moved on. I stopped and motioned for her to pass me and mentioned that I was a very slow walker and EVERYONE passes me. She was very diplomatic and said that she had a hard time to catch up with me. She let me take her picture, for which I am grateful as we both continued on our way. Riverside, at this point is a steep uphill climb but the footing had improved and was no longer anywhere near as muddy. In fact, a lot of it is loose pebbles which although sometimes tricky to walk on are a lot better then the goo I had covered earlier. I met another older couple walking down the hill and we stopped and chatted for a bit. I told them they should avoid the Lower Riverside and Coyote Road due to the muddy conditions and to stick with the tight cluster of trails in the center of the Park. We both continued on our separate ways with me going up and them going down. The uphill climb lasts almost a mile and is steep in a couple of places. Eventually, it levels out and is decent walking on the trail back to the Parking Lot.

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On the way back along Riverside, I walked in every puddle I could find and even tried walking in the wet grass in an effort to clean some of the mud off my boots. It helped a bit but they were due for a good cleaning when I got home. I am in the habit of changing into my hiking boots when I arrive at the Park so at least I did not have to drive and put mud all over the car. I met another older couple who were just leaving the office and stopped to chat with them and told them which trails to stay away from.

Altogether I covered about four and a half very long and difficult miles and have to say, that is the most miserable I have ever felt while out hiking due to the muddy conditions. My usually slow pace was reduced to a crawl. This was worse than being lost and in the dark at Pedernales Falls.

Being close to Bastrop, I drove in for my usual Latte and at the same time, stopped by the Tractor Supply Store and picked up their last two bags of Koi food. Nothing like taking advantage of the location.

Below are pictures of the trails and the river. It is easy to tell the upper section of Riverside as it is so much dryer and a different color.

As with all of these picture displays, if you click on anyone of them it will enlarge and you can use the side arrows to move along. Use the “Escape” key to get back to normal.

Walking Pedernales Falls 8-25-2016


DSC_3703-PanoI got up early with the intentions of going to Pedernales Falls State Park which is about an hour away from my house. I packed breakfast and coffee to consume on the way which got me out at least twenty minutes sooner. After checking the ponds and feeding the animals, I was on my way.

I listened to NPR on the way and then switched over to the latest Audiobook that I have been listening to. It gets very  addictive listening to these stories although I generally restrict them to use in the car. My current story is Dead Level by Damien Boyd which is very British and the narrators have the accents down to a tee. Almost makes me homesick until they talk about the rain and the wet weather in the book. Brings back too many memories of cold and wet days.

I came over the top of the hill and immediately had to come to almost a screeching stop as there was this little brown and white Terrier struggling up the hill and walking on the center line in the middle of the road. He must have a sore paw as he was definitely limping badly. I pulled up alongside of him and got out of the car. You never know with dogs how they will react and whether he would just run away or come to me. Luckily for both of us, he chose to trot over with his tail wagging looking up at me as though to say, “What took you so long”? He jumped in the car just as another car stopped and asked if everything was OK. I explained about the dog and he drove on his way probably figuring that I had the dog so he didn’t need to do anything.

The dog had on a collar that had two phone number printed several times around it. I have never seen a collar like that before and I was impressed.  I tried to call but could not get any cell service from where I was and chose to drive on to the top of the next hill. On the way, I drove down a couple of driveways to other peoples houses but in both cases, no one was home. I could hear dogs barking from within the houses which pretty much told me that the one in my car was not lost from either of these places.

When I reached the top of the hill, I pulled over and tried the phone numbers again. This time, I was able to make contact with a woman who said that “Yes, this was one of her dogs and that he was fifteen and a bit senile and was prone to wandering off”. She told me she lived on a ranch named “The Fiddlers Rest” and the name was on the gate and “Could I just leave the dog, whose name was Bo, at the gate and he would find his own way down to the Ranch House”. She was very thankful and appreciative that I was so concerned. I rang off, turned around and headed back over the low water crossing the way I had come. I remembered passing the ranch entrance as with a name like that, who wouldn’t.

All this time, Bo had been sitting on the consul between the seats very interested in my actions. He was a very nice little dog with a pleasant personality. He was obviously old at least in his demeanor as he just sat there quietly watching out the window as we drove.

I arrived back at The Fiddlers Rest and helped Bo get out of the car and carried him over to the gate. He slipped between the bars, triumphantly marked his property although a bit unsteady as he balanced on three legs, turned around and gave me a final look and trotted down the road to the Ranch House which I couldn’t see. He certainly knew where he was going. I called the lady back and told her that I had just dropped him off and that he was trotting down the driveway. She thanked me again and rang off. After he was gone, it occurred to me that I should have taken a picture of him. Oh well, too late now.

This whole incident had taken thirty minutes or more but I decided to continue with my plans and go walking. It took me about thirty more minutes to reach the Park and I was the only car in the lot although a couple of cyclists who I had passed earlier, pulled in at the lot while I was there. I spent time chatting to the young lady behind the desk as I asked questions about a trail named, “The East Boundary Trail”. It was one of those trails that dead ends and the only way back was to walk Pedernales Falls Road or backtrack. I dislike backtracking and will only do that if there is no other option so I chose not to walk it. Instead, I chose to walk the Madrone Trail going East from the Parking Lot on Pedernales Falls Road. I came to a spot where a couple of trees had come down blocking the trail although it was possible to walk around that spot and made a mental note to report it when I got back.

I crossed the road and continued on the Madrone Trail until it turned into the Juniper Ridge Trail. I don’t know why this trail was named that as the entire park is nothing but Juniper with a few Oak Trees thrown in here and there. The hiking on this part of the trail was not easy as most of the time, it was either very rocky with big slabs of limestone or just plain difficult with lots of loose limestone. In fact, it was tiring walking this path.

I eventually came out on Windmill Road which I knew from a week or so ago was  just a plain long uphill walk back to the Equestrian Camping Area. I stopped here to eat one of my apples and sat in the shade of a big old live oak whose branches swept down to the ground to make a perfect hideaway. The two water bottles that I had brought with me worked out just fine even accounting for the water I had shared with Bo. Luckily, it was not as hot with the temperatures hovering around 91-92 degrees.

I got back to the car and went through my usual routine for this time of the year by stripping off, toweling down and changing into dry clothes. I called the office to let them know of the fallen trees and the same young lady answered the phone. She recognized my voice and wisecracked about not getting lost this time. Seems I have a reputation at this park. Altogether, I covered 8.5 miles and had to admit that the rocky trail had really taken it out of me. I made the long drive back relishing in the feeling of tired and sore muscles.

There was not a lot to take pictures off. I missed my chance with Bo and there were no wildflowers on this trail. I have had to make do with views of the different trails. There are three pictures showing that someone had taken to time to protect plants close or on the trail by surrounding them with rocks. The pictures below are panorama’s made up of two or more pictures joined together.

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As with all of the pictures, if you click on one of them, it will enlarge and then you can use the side arrows to move along. Hit the “Escape” key to get back to normal

McKinney Roughs with BJ, 8-12-2016


DSC_3634-PanoBJ and I went for another walk at McKinney Roughs. This time we got there at 8:00 am in an attempt to beat the heat as today was forecast to be 103 degrees, feeling like 108. We were walking the toughest trail in the park, namely Pine Ridge. It’s not that Pine Ridge is long and arduous but it is strenuous due to the steep climbs on both sides of the valley and the many steps carved out of the hillside which are not in the best of repair and make for difficult climbing. We were both breathing heavy by the time we had reconnoitered both sets of steps. Except for the very stony and pebbly walking, the rest of the trail was relatively normal. By the amount of grass growing on and around the steps, it looks like the Pine Ridge Trails have not been used that much lately.

We passed the construction that is going on with the zip lines, walking by a couple of the towers. The workers were busy doing their thing as we passed. It looks like they are still several weeks away from opening. BJ says that she is definitely going to try it. I have some reservations and will have to see what inherent dangers it might present to my 80 year old body.

Pine Ridge turns into Bobcat Ridge which in turn, changes to Riverside which is the really wide trail in the picture below. Great walking. It finally turns back into Pine Ridge which brought us back to where we started. Altogether, we covered almost 5 miles. Even though we started early, it was already in the high 80’s and as usual, I was totally soaked by the time we were through.

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As we walked, we were looking for any sort of flowers or unusual cactus that I could take pictures of and we managed to find a few. We have walked these trails so often that it is getting difficult to find something new to photograph.

The pine trees are looking very green and spectacular.

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The trails look cool and inviting.

Another great view from the top of Bobcat Ridge.

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I also took several pictures of the wonderful skyline and views from the trails and put them into two panoramic pictures. The one at the top of the page is of three combined pictures and the one below is of four.

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As with all of these grouped pictures, if you click on anyone of them, it will enlarge and you can use the side arrows to move them along.. Use the “Escape” key to get back to normal.

Texas Heat


sunny-day-in-cheshire

Another 100 degree day
no wonder I don’t want to play
outside or work on the ponds
or hike the trails where it is hot
too hot for comfort.

I get out early but by eleven o’clock
it is already 90 degrees
and I am soaked with sweat
and my body is telling me
to quit.

I have two choices that I can see,
the first is to drive around in my air conditioned car
listening to stories written
by authors much more skilled
than me.

The second is to stay indoors
trying to write
bad poetry about the Texas heat.

Passing in the Street.


Neighbors Talking

How sweet it is this life we live
with things that happen from day to day
how many friends could we make
as we pass each other along the way
what tales we can tell as we pass the time
we are blessed with riches so sublime
the ability to think and reason too
and figure out what we need to do
to make our lives a better place
as we interact with the human race
love for each other as we share the wealth
of passions and feelings, sickness and health
to look out for your neighbor, the guy next door
that is what being a neighbor is for
if times are hard we should share the love
not trying to keep it all to ourselves
a pleasant smile a quick hello
“How are things today” you want to know
and even though it doesn’t seem much
what you have done adds the personal touch
as people who normally pass in the street
without as much as a glance or a greet
all feel better when you take the time
to look in their eyes and give them a smile
and to tell them in your own personal way
“Hello” and then, “Oh, by the way,
please have yourself a wonderful day”.