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.
DSC_0989

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.

DSC_1025

Written 9/21/2017

Circle C 9-15-2017


DSC_0954

With the Circle C trails being as close to me as they are and now that I have discovered the full extent of them, I took another hike basically in the same area as the last one only covering them much more extensively. I still wanted to see if in fact, the second portion of the Violet Crown Trail was open yet as according to the maps, the Circle C trails will connect to it. The printed Circle C maps are not very good and do not show the full extent of the many bike trails that intersect the area so essentially, I was hiking in the dark and having to rely on my sense of direction which has been known to let me down before, once at Pedernales State Park when I took a wrong turn and got back to my car at 9.00 o’clock at night and covered 18 miles in the process.

The trails at Circle C.

Of course, I had a general idea of where I was trying to go and thought that if I kept going in a SouthEast direction, I just might get lucky and hit the Veloway. Well, it wasn’t long before that idea went out of the window as the bike trails wandered and meandered in every direction sometimes turning back onto themselves as the the bikers sought to get as much distance in as short an area as possible. I had a couple of them pass me flying along at a great rate of speed which made my walking speed look very slow indeed. There were also a couple of other walkers who passed me one of whom stopped to chat for a bit. He didn’t have any information regarding the Violet Crown Trail but he did sort of point me in the right direction by telling me that the road above us was Escarpment Boulevard.

I wandered around a bit more and then headed back crossing under Escarpment Boulevard and taking the main trail that leads around the park and the soccer fields.  Several people passed me on this trail which has a great display of the wild flowers that are in bloom. From there, I followed the dried up creek all the way back crossing under Escarpment Boulevard and walking west towards Mopac (Loop 1). I was surprised just how far it is between the two highways on foot as it takes no  time at all in a car…

DSC_0963DSC_0962DSC_0961DSC_0953DSC_0952DSC_0951DSC_0950DSC_0948DSC_0947DSC_0946DSC_0945DSC_0943DSC_0942DSC_0941DSC_0938DSC_0935DSC_0934DSC_0932DSC_0931DSC_0930DSC_0929DSC_0928DSC_0927DSC_0925

Some of the many beautiful flowers along the way.

I eventually made it back to my car in the cinema parking lot which, by now, was very full and sat for a while watching the birds in the trees. That was after changing out of my sweat soaked clothes into something drier. Altogether, I covered around 6.5 miles of pretty easy walking but still have not located the Violet Crown Trail. Maybe next time.

DSC_0964

Written 9/18/2017

Violet Crown Trail Research – 9-9-2017


In my search for information about the Violet Crown Trail, I printed out the maps of the proposed route of the entire trail and noticed that it ran very close to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center with either a proposed Trail Head by the Veloway on La Crosse Ave or maybe one that was already in place. I decided to take a drive to the Veloway as it is only a few miles from my house and see if in fact, there was a Trailhead or whether it was still in the future. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate the aforementioned Trailhead and decided that it has not yet been built.

Not to be deterred, I drove to where the map said there was a Trailhead by Spec’s on 290 West. As it is a one way frontage road, I drove down it three different times having to make the complete loop each time in an effort to see the Trailhead from the car but to no avail. On the last run, I noticed a couple of people that looked like they were trail enthusiasts walking back towards the Spec’s parking lot and decided to pull in, park and take a walk back to where the people had come from which I proceeded to do. Lo and behold, I came across the Trailhead hidden between the trees with a small sign out front that said, “No Parking for the entrance to the Violet Crown Trail.” I had noticed the sign from the car but had not been able to read the small print that contained the magic words, Violet Crown Trail.

I had not planned to take a walk because the trail, a walk all the way to Zilker Park will be a ten mile round trip, something that I need to be ready for. There are a couple of Trailheads in between but that wouldn’t help me with my car parked here. I could always just turn around at anytime on the hike but I really want to hike the entire length so need an earlier start than I had daylight left and decided to walk it another day. More to come…

Written 9/17/2017

Circle C Trails 9-9-2017


I wanted to take a closer look at the Circle C Trails as the maps showed them to be much more extensive than I originally thought. I had noticed people walking the trails that ran alongside Escarpment Boulevard and for some reason never made the connection. That’s what comes from having an old brain. More than a little slow sometimes…I didn’t realize that there were trails on both sides of the Boulevard albeit many are narrow bike trails which are also used by hikers and runners. I drove over to Slaughter Lane and Escarpment Boulevard and parked in the cinema parking lot and just decided to take my camera and walk a bit down the gravel trail. I went through my usual ritual of changing into my hiking boots and grabbing all of the normal “stuff” I carry with me including both cameras mounted on my double carry harness.

I knew that if I went off to the right, I would come to the soccer fields so I went left, under Escarpment Boulevard and discovered a whole host of different trails in between Escarpment Boulevard and Loop 1. I followed a couple of them and wandered around for a couple of hours taking many pictures of the wildflowers that are currently in bloom.  I walked along and managed to cover around 3.5 miles. The trails are of the usual variety and the main trail follows Slaughter Creek which is dried up this time of the year. This area is also a part of the Edwards Aquifer Discharge Zone so I might well have been drinking some of the water that soaks down through the rocks from the creek.

A view of the dried up creek.

Pictured below are some of the trails. Obviously, the wide granite trails are the main walking ones. The rest are bike trails so are not very wide. They also tend to twist and wind about as the bikers try to add various degrees of difficulty to their rides.

DSC_0870DSC_0871DSC_0875DSC_0877DSC_0878DSC_0879DSC_0884DSC_0898DSC_0903DSC_0879

There are a bunch of wildflowers this time of the year.

DSC_0896

and one Monarch butterfly

I passed a couple of runners and one guy on a bike but as it was a weekday, I didn’t really expect to see many people. I should probably say that the runners and biker passed me as everyone and their brother walks quicker than me nowadays. I had a fine old time and was glad to be back out on the trails again slow pace and all.

Written 9/18/2017

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.