The Trails at Mayfield Park Preserve 8-13-2017


DSC_0727-PanoI had an Austin Pond Society meeting scheduled for 3:00 pm this past Sunday which was going to be held at Mayfield Park. Making the most of the moment, so to speak, I arrived a couple of hours early so that I could walk the trails at Mayfield Park Preserve. In my many visits to this Park generally with something related to fish and ponds, I had seen many people drive in to use the trails and wanted to find out for myself.

I  took the time to change into my boots and strapped  on my single camera harness as I only planned on carrying the one camera with the 16-300 lens which is my go to lens for all occasions. After making  sure that I had my water bottle and walking poles I was ready to move. I stopped at the kiosk to take a look at the map and just like the last place, St Edwards Park, this map was also backwards from how I was viewing it. I quickly worked out where I wanted to go and set off down the trail along with several other people including a family who were carrying swimming stuff, towels and floats and the sort of thing one would associate with going to the beach or around here, one of the lakes. They disappeared down the opposite trail to the one that I took (thank goodness) as I strode away on my chosen path.

I wandered around for about an hour and a half exploring many of the trails. There did not seem to be much organization but without a map, which I was not able to locate either at the site or on the web, it was hard to know where to go. Many of the trails were very steep and/or required climbing up or down rock faces more like a rock climbing exercise than a walk on the trails. I have no idea if I covered all of the trails on my side but I switched and took the trail taken by the swimming family.

This trail eventually brought me down to Town Lake but I never did see a spot that the swimming family could hit the water. Of course, I have no idea if I covered all of the trails on this side either and there may be others that I did not see.

I retraced my steps back to the Parking Lot and sat for a while before changing into dry clothes in readiness for the meeting.  The car parked next to me was driven by a young and pretty lady in the skimpiest of bikinis who was very busy first hoisting her float board onto her car and then taking a very long time to tie it down to the roof rack. Her boyfriend was helping her and I was glad when they finally drove off as I was having the hardest time in not staring at her. Interestingly enough, she was not a bit fazed by her almost nakedness and was in no hurry to complete her tasks. I wanted to take pictures but didn’t have the nerve to ask her to pose for me. Maybe because her boyfriend was a lot bigger and younger than me? I am definitely not a prude but it was a bit unnerving (in a good way). Jeez, I gotta be getting bloody old.

The trails are tree covered nearly all of the way so there was a lot of shade. Most were easy walking except where they went up and over the rock face and there they suddenly got very difficult.

Below is a link to the slideshow of the trails.

Trails at Mayfield Park 8-12-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

 

Another of some of the views.

Views at Mayfield Park Trails 8-13-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

St Edwards Park 8-10-2017


DSC_0660LPI was trying to find a different place to hike as I have just about worn out my welcome at my regular hiking places. I located a new park called St Edward’s Park in Northwest Austin. It is not that big in the way of trails but it does follow Bull Creek for most of the way. Bull Creek is spring fed so it has water all year round even with our super hot summers.

The park is located off Spicewood Springs Road in a beautiful area of Northwest Austin that I had never been before. It was a pleasant drive as the road twisted and turned. I almost missed the Trailhead but managed to stop in time to make the left turn without causing an accident. There were several cars in the small lot and others were pulling in or leaving at fairly frequent intervals. I wandered over to the kiosk to take a look at the map as I had not been able to find one on the website and it occurred to me that the map was not oriented to the way I was facing. The complete reversal in fact so I had to re-imagine it in my mind in order to get my bearings. There appears to be a cluster of trails at one end and then a long trail that actually follows Bull Creek for a couple of miles. There is also another Trailhead further up the road a mile or so.

The trails on the Trailhead side of the creek are all well worn mostly dirt tracks with a lot of shade and I followed the Creek all the way to the waterfall where I was able to cross over mostly to take some pictures of the falls. DSC_0622I discovered that on the opposite side there is also a trail that appeared to go in the direction of the furthermost Trailhead so I opted to follow this one to save backtracking which I hate to do. This trail presented much more of a challenge as it climbed upwards sometime by log steps, other time by scrambling up the rocks. It levelled out towards the top of the hill and then ran in a parallel direction to the Creek only way higher above it. I couldn’t even see the Creek from up there. In places, the trail was not very wide as it skirted around the side of the hill with a pretty steep drop off to my right. A woman and her dog passed me as I was taking a shot of the horizon but they were the only ones that I saw except for a couple of guys way down by the Creek just after I started the climb.

This trail turned out to be a real challenge especially when I got close to the other Trailhead when I was trying to find my way down to Bull Creek which included a lot of scrambling and almost rock climbing in some places. After several false trails which required both carefully picking my way down and then back up again, I eventually made it to the creek where I crossed over at one of the shallow areas and then followed the trail back passing several people on the way. The trail that I had just left, the one that scrambled upwards and then back down to the creek is not marked on the map but it was well walked so many others must know about it. I arrived back to the dam and then back up the trail to my car where I very gratefully sat for a while before changing out of my soaked clothes to something dryer and more comfortable. Cars and people were coming and going all the time I sat there. The Park gets a lot of use.

I took lots of pictures and it was truly great to find a Creek that had water in it. Altogether, I covered around 3.5 miles although the hike on the far side seemed much longer than that as the degree of difficulty was quite high. It was a real workout.

As usual, here is a video of some of the trails that I walked.

St Edwards Park Trails 8-10-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Views of the Creek and the Horizons

Bull Creek at St Edwards Park 8-10-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

DSC_0642-Pano

DSC_0648-Pano

McKinney Roughs 7-27-2017


DSC_6384-PanoEven though the forecast was for the temperatures to get to one hundred degrees, I decided that I wanted to go out again for another walk. I couldn’t make up my mind where to go and finally decided that McKinney Roughs had the most shade cover and was probably the best place.

Something came up which delayed me getting out early and it was almost 11:00 am by the time I arrived at the Park. On the way over, I was mulling over in my mind which trails I wanted to hike and had more or less decided that I would take Coyote Road and then hit Riverside. From there, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go and was going to play it by ear.

I paid my $2:00 and chatted to the young lady at the desk for a bit and learned that some of the trail repairs were complete although it is still not possible to complete the big loop that includes Road Runner and Yaupon.

I set off down Coyote Road which is a big wide trail with not too much shade but heads downhill towards the river. Both Coyote Road and Riverside are best hiked going down as both are somewhat hilly especially Roadrunner.

On the way, after seeing a Roadrunner in the Parking Lot, I followed another one that kept making short flights ahead of me until it finally tired of that game and headed into the brush. It was too far off to get any meaningful shots of it. As I crested one of the short hills on the trail, two deer crossed the road in front of me and of course, were gone by the time I got the long lense camera out and ready. I continued stealthily past the spot where they had entered the brush but they were truly gone.

Continuing down Coyote Road towards the end where it had previously washed out, I took a look at the work that LCRA has performed in rebuilding the washout. It looks like the actual rebuilding of the ditch is complete and now all that remains is a bridge to span the gap. Still a few months away, I would guess.

Heading back , I took Riverside which as the name implies, brings you alongside of the river. That is a very nice trail to walk on with the temperatures so hot as it is completely covered with this wonderful canopy of trees. I was looking for anything of interest that might be in or around the river and spotted a whole flock of Vultures. I could not see what type they were whether they were Black or Turkeys and none took off while I watched them for around 10 minutes. I counted forty or more and I have never seen so many in one place. I have no idea what they were congregating for or about as none appeared to be eating on anything. Maybe it was a Vulture Convention to discuss the weather or the shortage of carrion. Who knows…

I finally left that pack of birds and headed along Riverside and then crossed over onto Bobcat Ridge which I knew would bring me back to my car. On the way, I could hear a whole bunch of people coming and as I rounded the corner, met up with a large group of maybe 25-30 young kids accompanied by two Adults. All the kids were carrying water bottles and pulled over to one side to let me by when instructed to by the lead adult. All that is, except one boy who wanted to know why he had to move over. As I got level with him I said, “It’s age before beauty and I am a lot older and much uglier than you”. Everyone laughed at this as he moved out of the way.

It’s great to see the kids out in the woods enjoying and learning about Nature. Nowadays, kids do not spend enough time outdoors and many haven’t a clue how Nature works, or what sort of trees and flowers they are looking at, or what are the names of the different birds and animals they might be lucky enough to see.

After leaving the kids behind, I continued along Bobcat Ridge and crossed back onto Riverside only because I was running low on water and knew I could replenish as soon as I hit the buildings. As I was taking a picture of the horizon, a young couple came down the hill making real easy work of it. They stopped so as not to get in the way of the shot and I got a back view of them as they disappeared.
DSC_0421

I continued climbing up Riverside which, apart from the steps on Pine Ridge, is the steepest trail in the park. I arrived back at the Park Headquarters and spent some time taking pictures of the flowers planted in the gardens. All are Native Plants and last year were inundated with butterflies. Not  sure what has happened but there are not too many flying today.

All in all, a very enjoyable but somewhat hot, hike. I covered 6.5 miles and got a few shots. I was looking for birds and saw very few and even less to take pictures of. I could hear them but that was about it.

Below are two videos. The first is of the trails at McKinney Roughs, mostly of Coyote Road and Riverside with a couple of Bobcat Ridge.

Trails at McKinney Roughs 7-17-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

The second is the flowers at McKinney Roughs. Most of them are in the gardens at the Park Headquarters but all are native Plants. There are a couple from out on the trail but they are getting hard to find.

The Flowers at McKinney Roughs 7-27-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Reimers Ranch 7-24-2017


DSC_6368I went to Reimers Ranch with the intent purpose of taking bird pictures or if I was lucky, maybe even get to see a Wild Turkey, as I had this new long distance lens that I have been working with these last couple of hikes.

Consequently, I parked in the very last lot and after gearing up in my usual fashion set off along the Turkey Trail at a slow pace looking not only for the Turkeys but also for any birds that may be around. Birds tend to fly out in front of you as you walk and are always a distance away. I was using the long distance lens as a bino but it is way too heavy to just hold up and look through for any length of time so I guess I need to invest in a good pair of binoculars. I managed to get a few bird pictures including a couple as I was sitting on the bench at the end of the Turkey Trail.

I wandered down the Multi Purpose Trail towards the very end of the Park where the creek intersects with the river. Along the way, two White Tailed deer ran past me and disappeared into the brush. As usual, I was not prepared for anything that quick and missed the shots. Using two walking poles as I do, restricts carrying a camera in my hands or around my neck and although the harness I wear is pretty slick, it is not built for a quick draw McGraw and would be no good in a gunfight.

It is really pretty on that part of the multi use trail with some nice Oak trees on the one side and Spruce trees close to the creek. As I approached the end of the trail, I spooked a blue heron who took off and landed a couple of hundred yards further away downstream.DSC_6360

The trails at this end of the Park.

I sat for a while contemplating on my next move whether to backtrack or to go along the bottom trail which is much easier now that the Parks people have mowed and cleaned it up. As I dislike back tracking if I can avoid it, I decided to take the lower trail which leads me past the rock climbing areas. I was on the lookout for more birds as I walked and spotted a couple of warblers . There were some people climbing as I heard them talking but they were not on any of the faces that I could see.

There are still a few wildflowers out making a nice break and adding to the color.

I stayed on this trail for a bit before taking one of the trails leading up to the middle Parking Area. From there, a nice slow walk back to the lot where my car was parked along the main gravel trail that is on top of the bluff overlooking the river. This is an easy walking trail and fairly level.

Some of the views of the interesting rock structure and the lower trails.

Arriving back at my car, I was the only car left on the lot which is another reason I like hiking through the week. It was extremely hot with the temperatures creeping up towards the one hundred degree mark. I had drank almost two bottles of water and covered a little over 5 miles and as usual, was totally soaked with sweat. Good job I always bring a change of clothes or my car would be a worse mess than it already is.

Altogether, another nice hike but I do need to brush up on my camera preparedness somehow…I should mention that the original intent was to locate and take pictures of as many birds as possible but sitting around is boring and I ended up walking, as usual.

On the way back home, I decided to take another drive and turned West to follow RR 3238. Follow this link for this story.

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.

My New Camera and Gear.


I went a little crazy just recently and Christmas and my Birthday came early this year, at least from the perspective of buying stuff for myself.

Nikon sent me information on a new camera, a D7500, the next step up from the one that I have, a D7200, which set the wheels in motion thinking about carrying two cameras instead of just the one. This would expedite in changing out lenses for the shots that I wanted to take especially the long distance ones. The camera was not yet available so I added my name to the list at Precision Camera and within a month, they notified me that the camera was in ready for me to pick up “if I still wanted it”. Who were they kidding. I had the bug and just had to have it.

For those of you who follow my blog know that I take a lot of videos of the Austin Pond Society meetings for which I used a Canon Video camera. This camera only got used once a month at these Meetings for about two hours so I figured that I could use one of the Nikon’s to video the meetings instead. I thought about it knowing that I would take a beating on the trade in but accepted that would happen and went ahead with the deal.

I actually used the D7200 at the last meeting for taking the videos which is entitled “Austin Pond Society Post Pond Tour Meeting, June 19, 2017“. You can view the videos by clicking on the link. The only problem is the sound content is not too good and I need to purchase a mic that sits on top of the camera to clear that up and of course I have to remember that it will only run in twenty minute segments. It does take a lot more concentration and attention using this as a video camera in order to stay focused or to zoom in and such. Still, it was a good trade for me.

My goto lens is a Tamron 16-300 which enables me to take close up Macro shots as well as the medium long distance ones but it still lacks the real distance that can be achieved by a true long distance zoom lens. I knew that Tamron also made a 150-600 telescopic lens which would give me that extra length of distance that I wanted and so I really got the bug to add this lens to my collection. As I had nothing left to trade, I had to bite the bullet and pay full price or at least the price after shopping around on the many Photographic Gear websites that are out there. I ended up getting it from Beach Camera with an almost $300 discount. True to their word, the lens arrived within 5 days with the shipping paid for which I deemed to be pretty good service. The lens is heavy at 5 lbs and will take a bit of getting used to plus it is 17 inches long with the hood. Balance and shake will be the problem.

So now I have a two camera setup which I tested by going on a short hike at Pedernales Falls. More on that in a separate blog yet to be written. The D7200 is attached to the new lens and the new D7500 camera is on the shorter and lighter one as I figured I would be taking more shots with the smaller lens and camera. On the “test”hike, I used a separate over the shoulder bag to carry the D7200 camera and lens which was very inconvenient when I wanted to take shots. It meant stopping, taking the camera out of the bag before even thinking about the shots and as we all know most shots are almost instant in their opportunity and I sure wasn’t going to get any in the time it was taking me. I had the D7500 on my single camera belt as per usual.

It was quite obvious that I needed a double camera carrying set up and I again went on line and purchased one from Cotton Carrier which is also the company from which I got the single carrier belt. There were cheaper ones out there but I wanted the same continuity that I had with the single belt in terms of interchangeability so that I could switch carrying positions if I felt the need.

Obviously this is not me and I used a picture from the Cotton Carrier website just to illustrate the double carrier. In my case, the new long lens and camera are in the same place where he has his camera and my smaller lens and camera are on the bottom where the bino’s are. Mine is black and not camo.

With the little use that I have had with the lens so far, it has produced some spectacular results. At the above mentioned hike at the Duckpond, I did not see with my naked eye the two wild pigs that were on the far side of the pond until I focused in with the new lens and there they were. I was actually focusing on the White Egrets. Notice there also appears to be a Black Vulture sitting with the Egrets.

Then, at home in my own ponds, I was able to take a close up of the Water Hibiscus which was facing the wrong way to take with the shorter lens but came out great from across the pond with the new lens. The wonderful thing about this lens is that it can also bring close ups of things like flowers and birds that are 20 or more feet away.

I’m hoping for great things with this set up with longer shots and much more detail. I can extend the reach of the lens by adding in a 1.4 Teleconverter which will add an additional 200mm to the setup bringing it up to 800mm or even a 2.0 Teleconverter which will double it to 1200. Maybe next week…

A Walk At McKinney Roughs on 6-11-2017


DSC_6176

A peaceful place….


I found time to take another short walk and decided to head for my most favorite of places to hike and that is McKinney Roughs. Another reason that I wanted to get out was to try out a new camera carrying harness that allows me to carry two cameras at a time and to be able to choose which one based on the shot.

I have just bought a Nikon D7500 which along with my D7200, complement each other. I had a Tamron wide angled lens on one and my 18-300 Tamron telescopic lens on the other. I was able to change cameras depending on the view and the shot I was wanting to take. Another reason that I purchased the second camera was so that I could also use one of them, probably the D7200, to take the place of the video camera that I had that only got used 2 hours per month at the Austin Pond Society Meeting. So, I traded the video camera in taking a huge loss of course, partially to pay for the D7500 as I plan on using the D7200 to take the video of the meeting and the other camera for the still shots.

With all of that said, the D7500 has a few more bells and whistles which I haven’t a clue how to use although I was nicely surprised to find some of the day’s shots already on my cell phone with the Wi-Fi already set up. That’s both good and bad as I will quickly fill up my space allowance on the phone if I don’t control that. “Nuff said about the photography equipment.

I have walked McKinney so many times I rarely need the map but I carry it with me just in case. This time, I decided to walk down Bobcat Ridge to Pine Ridge and then onto Cypress which brought me down close to the river. Cypress and Riverside are beautifully shaded with intermittent views of the river. They are great trails when the weather is dry but get very muddy after any amount of rain. This is also a horse trail and the horses tend to cut up the softer trails after any rain to talk of.

From there, I took Bluff Trail Loop onto Ridge which brought me back to the parking lot. I never saw another hiker out on the trails and the only other people I saw were in the parking lot either getting ready to walk or had just completed their walks. Altogether, I covered 6 miles which is about my normal hiking length nowadays. I took a lot of pictures which I have turned into a slideshow. Most of the pics are of the trails as nearly all of the flowers are over for this season except in the parking lot where the gardens are in full bloom. Still not too many butterflies around yet. Maybe later in the year. I have yet to take any pictures of birds except for the White Egret down by the river. I hear the birds but can never see them. Same is true of any wildlife. I probably make so much noise with my walking poles that any animal type is long gone by the time I get there.

If you are looking for a place to take a hike, McKinney Roughs is the place to go. Most of the trails are shaded and only a couple have steep climbs and the scenery is very beautiful. I highly recommend it.

Below is the slideshow. Enjoy.

A Walk at McKinney Roughs 6-11-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.