Too Darn Hot…


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I looked at the weather forecast for my part of Texas in Austin just to see what the weather was going to be like for the following day. There appeared to be a lull in the almost incessant 100 degree temperatures with a  forecast high of only around 95 degrees. Well, I thought to myself, I can handle that and made plans to take a hike the following day.

I got up earlier than I normally do in the hope of getting to the park and enjoying an easy walk on one of the trails but unfortunately, something came up necessitating my attention and I did not arrive at the park until close to 11:30 am. I chose to walk at Reimers Ranch mainly because of the river and the hope for seeing some of the wildlife that abounds the area. On the way in, I noticed that the Park people had been doing some more of their controlled burns and many of the Live Oak tree canopy was brown and charred. I wondered if they will survive as the damage looked pretty extensive.

I parked the truck at the furthermost parking lot with the view of walking the Turkey Trail heading to the end of the Park and then coming back along the river past the rock climbing area. I stepped out of the truck and was hit by a wave of hot air as by now, the temperature was in the low 90’s. I walked around  the Parking Lot for a bit and then decided that it was way too hot to be out in this temperature and maybe I should put this off until tomorrow or another day.

The wuss in me won out and I jumped back into my truck (and the air conditioning) and found a shady spot to park and then proceeded to spend an hour listening to my latest Audiobook, The Outsider by Stephen King which I found much more enjoyable than sweating it out on the trail. I am definitely growing old if I pass the opportunity of a pleasant walk with my two cameras at the ready and choose to listen to an Audiobook instead notwithstanding the quality of the story which, by the way,  is excellent and hard to put down.

I decided to head home but to take an alternate and more scenic route back into Dripping Springs as I need to purchase fish food from the Tractor Supply Store located there. As I rounded one corner I saw what looked like some sort of a problem or maybe an accident up ahead and as I got closer, could see that one of the Telephone poles on the side of the road was broken and that the cable was hanging low across the road. I immediately pulled up, turned on my flashers and acted as a traffic cop as it was impossible to get through for about 30 minutes until the local Fire Department arrived to take over.

With my help no longer needed, I turned around and drove back the way I had come and took a different road into Dripping Springs and the feed store only to discover that they were out of fish food and to “Come back in a couple of days”. I drove the rest of the way home uneventfully.

Tomorrow, I plan on getting up early (for me) so that I can get that walk in.

Written 8/6/2018

A Walk at Reimers 4-4-2018


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My buddy George, who has been staying with me for a couple of days, suggested we should take a walk which I thought was an excellent idea. I chose to go back to Reimers Ranch as I like the long distance and panoramic shots that I can take there plus there is always the possibility of catching site of the Osprey.

Reimers Ranch has many trails including one that encircles the entire park, With the focal point of the Park being the Pedernales River, there are two trails close to the river that entails going down anyone of the four access points. The first one is located on the first parking lot  which is named the Rock Climbing Parking.  This is a favorite parking area for the Rock Climbers as they pursue their hazardous sport. This entrance is not for the faint of heart as it requires scrambling down a rocky trail and a certain amount of actual climbing over and around the rocks. Even when you have traversed the way down, the river trail also requires a certain amount of scrambling over very rocky terrain.

The second parking lot is known as River Bend Parking which is a lot more accessible to the river and the trails. It has a wide concrete road leading down to the swimming and lower trail area. Vehicles can drive down to unload but cannot park anywhere at the bottom and must drive back out to park.

The third parking area is known as River View Parking #1 and further along is the last of the parking areas known as River View Parking #2. Both of these have very tricky entrances to the river trails below as they are both on steep  rocky hillsides that have been crudely shaped with rocky steps. Both require considerable care in negotiating the trails and again, they are designed for the rock climbers who scale the cliff faces at this end of the Park. In the last three cases, once down on the river trail, it is a very nice walk with a little scrambling here and there and it is possible to go all the way to the northernmost end of the Park and complete the loop by taking the Wild Turkey Trail and then the Multi Use Trail back to whatever parking lot originally chosen.

There is also a gravel path that starts at the very first parking area on the top of the Bluff and leads all of the way following the river as close as possible and ends at the last parking lot.

We opted to park in the second lot, River Bend Parking, the one with the ramp leading down to the river and the swimming area and then took the lower trail heading towards the Northernmost end of the Park. We didn’t plan on walking the entire length of the trail but only as far as the last parking area.

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Both of these shots are panoramas made up of at least 5 separate vertical pictures

We passed several people, some with their dogs and exchanged greetings. Some stopped to chat with us whilst others just had a short hello as they passed. The River activity was really busy with several kayaks going in both directions and other people walking along the river bed. The weather was great and the sun was warm and it was obvious that people were just glad to get out and enjoy it all. Mother Nature was putting on a grand display as things began to burst forth. I really like the “new” green at this time of the year before the leaves and things begin to darken.

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On the opposite bank, I could see several large white shapes but could not identify them. I switched cameras and with the long lens saw they were cactus in flower. The flowers had to be huge as even at a distance, they are big. Below are the pictures I took.

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The spring flowers are beginning to show.

George suffers from vertigo and did not feel confidant enough in his ability to climb either of the two stone staircases to the last two exits to get back to the top so we decided to backtrack along the way we had come, finally making it back to the concrete ramp, which is also quite a steep climb and then back to the truck.

There is an interesting cave in the opposite cliff face and also the owners of the property across on the other side have built a stairway leading down to the river. That must have been a very interesting project.

As usual, Reimers did not disappoint and it was great to be out there walking again even on a weekend with lots of people around. Oh yes, no Osprey…

Written 4/7/2018

 

Reimer’s Ranch 10-1-2017


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9 picture pano showing the Turkey Trail

Yesterdays walk was so easy comparatively speaking because of the fairly even surface, I felt good enough to go out again two days in a row. Again, contrary to my usual practise of not walking on weekends due to the crowds, I opted to take a walk at Reimers Ranch County Park to see if I could get some good bird pictures. It helps now that it is cooling down and is in the mid 80’s.

I drove to the very last Parking Area, the one that is also the lot for the Rock Climbers as I wanted to walk the Turkey Trail because it has been the most productive regarding bird and animal pictures so far. Going through my usual ritual, I donned all of my equipment and as suitably attired, headed for the trails.

Just as I was starting out, my path crossed with another hiker coming towards me and we exchanged greetings as we passed. I had already decided that I would sit at the bench at the intersection of the Turkey Trail and the Multi Use Trail not because I was tired but in the hope that sitting peacefully might encourage the birds to fly back into my neighborhood. I used my binos as I scanned the surrounding trees but to no avail. I saw one bird fly and perch and then could not find it in the foliage.

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A 5 picture Panorama of Milton Reimer’s Ranch

I gave up on the sitting idea and headed down the Multi Use Trail towards the westerly end of the park taking pictures along the way of the trail. I experimented carrying my poles in one hand and the camera in the other as this was also the location where I saw the deer last time out. This method worked out OK but there were no deer this time around. The trail got rougher and much steeper so the camera had to go back in its carrying harness.

I got to the bottom of the hill and watched a couple of horses come towards me. We exchanged greetings as they passed and they were quickly out of site. Four legs can cover a lot more ground and much faster than my two old ones. I turned off to take the bottom trail to head back to the parking lot. This is a fun trail to walk now that the Parks people have cleaned it up as it follows the river not more than 50 yards away. I passed a couple that asked about the trail and I was able to direct them to the nearest bench for them to eat lunch. They didn’t invite me, darn it…I passed several groups of flowers along the way and took pictures of the trails and rock formation.

I could hear the rock climbers off to my left as they were enjoying themselves with their very hazardous idea of fun. There are several different rock faces along the way and they all seemed to be occupied. Eventually, the lower trail that I was on merged with the upper trail used by the rock climbers as we neared the exit to the last parking lot. I stopped to let several of them pass me as again, they all walk faster than I do. Everybody does…They opted for the fourth exit but I  continued along the trail and headed for the third exit. I wanted to walk the short distance on the top trail just in case I could see anything worth photographing.

Little did I know that that was the best decision I had made for a long time as I continued along, I spotted a large bird flying over the river. At first, I thought it was just another buzzard except it was not using the air currents and floating as the buzzards do. This one seemed to have much more purpose as it flew. I got the binos out to take a closer look and the first thing that I saw was the white head and thought that it might be a Bald Eagle. It did not have the white tail feathers that the Eagles have but there was no mistaking the white head. Then I recognized it as an Osprey which are well known for their feats of diving into the water to catch fish.

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Totally submerged

I quickly got the camera with the long lens ready and went to work snapping pictures as quickly as I could. I watched it as it dove into the water and managed to get a picture of that but when it went in the second time, it was out of my view but I certainly heard the very loud splash. When it came back into view, it was carrying a large fish as it headed back up the river. I thought at first it might have had a nest close by but the nesting season is over.

I walked up the trail keeping an eye on where I thought it had landed and managed to locate it perched in a dead tree. I took a lot of pictures of it very glad that for the very first time, the expensive piece of glass that I had in my camera was going to pay off. I waited around taking the occasional picture but the bird did not seem to be in any hurry to eat the fish. I figured that it was not going fishing anymore today so I walked the trail to the third trailhead and made the difficult climb to the top.

A couple of older ladies wanted to know if they could get to the river from this parking lot and I directed them to where I had just come up warning them that they had to be very careful as it was a bit of a climb even going down. I started walking the gravel path on the very top of the bluff that connects all four of the parking lots heading back to the last one where I had parked my car. On the way, I heard a bird call and stopped and as I did so, a large bird flew off another dead tree very close to the trail. This one too had the white head and I don’t know if it was the same bird or if there are more than one now living in this area.

I arrived back to my parking area and made my way to the car giving yet more advice along the way to another older couple who wanted to get down to the river. I warned them it was not easy but they tried anyway. As I was sitting in my car, they drove off obviously not willing to make the climb down which is pretty difficult.

This has to be my most successful trip yet as far as taking pictures of wildlife, in this case, the Osprey. Obviously, this will not be my last in the never ending search for that perfect picture now that I know where to look. Funny that all of the times I have hiked at Reimer’s Ranch, and even though I have looked, I have not seen an Osprey before. Maybe it is a product of this Springs hatch.

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I took this picture of these flowers using the telephoto lens from way across the river.

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I drove back home very content with the hike. Altogether, I covered 5.8 miles not all on the trail as I also walked around the Supermarket on the way back.

Written 10/3/2017

Reimer’s Ranch Hogge Trails 5-12-2017


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This pano is of  made up of 10 separate pictures

After changing my mind so many times on the last hike here a few days ago, I finally did hike the Hogge Trails. These are the new trails at this park and as yet, do not show up on any of the maps. This can be a bit intimidating when there is no visual of what lies ahead but the Hogge Trails are essentially a figure eight with the choice of the short trail at around 2 miles and the longer trail which is closer to 3 miles. The Park signs tend to err on the short side and both of my pedometers show longer distances than those marked on the sign posts.  In order to cover the entire set of trails, one has to hike the middle trail twice to complete the figure eight. There is also the trail that leads to the Hogge trails and it adds another 2 miles if you park in the Mountain Bike Parking Lot. By the time I arrived back in the parking lot, I had covered almost 8 miles.

The pictures below are of the Hogge Trails.

Along the way, Mother Nature is celebrating the birth of another Spring with a grand display of flowers. Everywhere you looked, it seemed that it was the habitat for some flower or another. This truly is a wonderful time of the year to be out on the trails.

Flowers at Reimers Ranch 5-12-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Coming out of the Mountain Bike Parking Lot, I took the trail that would lead me to Johnny’s Homestead, named for a structure that once stood on this spot before it burned down. All that remains is the stone chimney and the electric power poles with the power lines still in place.  Then followed a short walk along the Multi Purpose Trail until it branches off to the Hogge Trails, the first part of which crosses the creek that may be called Pogue Creek. Not sure about that. Early in the year around Jan-Feb, this creek is flowing at a good pace but it is now completely dried up at least where the trail crosses it. We could sure use some rain…

DSC_5433From the creek, the trail is a steady uphill climb for over a mile which sure gets the heart pumping and the blood flowing. It levels off where the Hogge Trails begin on the other side of the original boundary fence on the recently donated land. The Hogge Trails are fairly level with just the occasional short hill. Like all hills, they always seem to go up. The pictures below are of the long upward climb to get to  the start of the Hogge Trails.

The last time I was here, a grey fox ran across the road in front of me. This time, a large deer broke cover and scampered off as I approached. As is usual in such circumstances, there is never time to get the camera off the belt and into shooting position. Because I like to use hiking poles to aid with balance and to help propel me along the way, I carry my camera on a Cotton Carrier single camera waist belt with a quick release. It works very well for me but I am never going to get it up in time to take those sort of shots.

I had the trails all to myself not passing or even seeing any other hikers or bikers. I really like the feeling of solitude that one gets from hiking these trails. It was not until I arrived back at the Trailhead did I see other people and most of them were mountain bikers. Another very enjoyable walk before the Texas Heat starts in earnest.

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The Wildflowers at Reimers Ranch 5-2-2017


Spring, the most wonderful time of the year when Mother Nature decorates the land with her beautiful paintings as she wields her brush. Enjoy the video taken of the flowers at Milton Reimers Ranch in Travis County.

Reimers Ranch Flowers 5-2-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Fixing the Bubbler…


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Showing the Bubbling Urn. This is the highest the water has ever reached. The wires in the picture are to deter my Heron friend who has a habit of landing on the Bubbler.

After putting it off for a couple of days, I bit the bullet and went about fixing the Bubbling Urn in the big pond. I was reluctant to have to get in the water but I realized that it is only going to get colder so why put it off any longer. I had another job to do in this pond as well as repair the bubbler and that was to cut back the very large Thalia plant that has been there for several years. The worms got at it and stripped it of all of its leaves and as they don’t grow back again, there is nothing for it but to cut the entire plant back.

So, I donned my waders and put on my water shoes after making sure that everything that I might need was close at hand. This included all of the necessary tools for the repair, cutters for the Thalia and finally, the skimming net that I use to clean up the dead leaves that are always dropping into the pond. Actually into all of the ponds.

The water wasn’t too cold and I quickly got used to it as I went about my business. It had been many years since I had actually worked on the Bubbler other than to re-connect it not very long ago and I had forgotten just how I had hooked it up the first time around. I had a length of one inch corrugated rubber pipe to which I connected a reduced piece of the same material all the way down to half inch as the Bubbler has a half inch connection on it. I don’t like re-using this material if it has been in the water for too long as it gets brittle and loses any of its elasticity and in fact will snap completely in half with very little pressure but I opted to use this particular two foot piece as it was already set up on both ends. I had to struggle to get the Bubbler back up on the concrete blocks that it currently stands on and of course, managed to get wet in the process. I forgot to mention that the Urn is almost totally filled up with solid sediment that it has gathered over the years making it very heavy to manipulate. I eventually achieved it and laid it on its side while I reconnected the half inch coupling which I already had connected to the one inch pipe, the end of which was on dry land.

I then had to struggle the urn to an upright position taking great pains not to break the half inch pipe and level it up before turning my attention to the piece of pipe on the side of the pond. This was just  a simple connection to the 1200 gph motor which I then put inside a screen bag and back into the water. I turned it on by plugging it back in and the water jetted up from the Bubbler for about a foot. Very impressive.

With that out of the way, I turned off the pump again as I will not get in any of the ponds with any of the pumps running…just in case and turned my attention to trimming the Thalia. This was a simple enough job as even though the stalks are thick, they are comparatively soft and cut easily. Next job was to dredge as many of the dead leaves off the bottom. I hate doing this as it stirs up the dirt and releases Nitrogen into the water but it is better that leaving them in to really contaminate it. While I was at it, I trimmed the large umbrella plant and the canes that grows on the side.

The fish seem to be used to me as they just move quietly out of the way without any panic except for the one that I inadvertently picked up with the dredge net. Now it did panic and also made me jump with memories of the dead fish I uncovered the last time in the water.

Satisfied with my work, I clambered out of that pond and turned on all of the pumps and everything was working just fine. A couple of hours later, the new Aquadine filtering system was already cleaning up the water which prior to my stirring it up, had been crystal clear to where I could see the bottom of the pond plus everything in it.

I cleaned up my mess dumping the cut Thalia onto the compost, put away my tools, patted Richie on the head for a job well done and drove to Starbucks to claim my reward. Now when I go on the next hike, I won’t feel guilty about taking time off from the ponds.

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Showing the cut back Thalia in the foreground.

A walk at Reimers Ranch 11-27-2016


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A panorama of four pictures of the view at Lookout Point.

The day was cloudy but rain was not in the forecast so I decided to take a walk back at Milton Reimers Ranch. This will be my third time back here in a week or so and will probably be my last for a while as I do like variety even if I do keep going to the same half dozen Parks. I try to rotate them in order to keep them somewhat fresh.

I had already decided that I was going to walk the Gravel Path which is what the upper trail is called that stretches from the first parking area to the last. This is a  man made trail and apart from a couple of areas that need some maintenance work is very easy walking. It follows the river but at time, veers inland away from it and at others, is almost on top of the bluff.

As I walked along happily snapping pictures of anything that looked interesting, I contemplated on the differences in the actual countryside to this Park and say McKinney Roughs. This, with its wide open spaces and long grass and a limited number of trees has a much more of a Fall/Winter look to it and is more brown than green. This is obvious from the pictures although it does have its own beauty in the coloring of the leaves as the trees change. Not exactly the Lost Maples but close enough. There were several butterflies still active and I got one picture. I had to wait my moment as this one after settling on the ground, kept getting blown sideways although not leaving the ground, in the strong wind.dsc_4625

I didn’t get to see very many people and only passed a couple of elderly ladies going in the opposite direction. When I reached the last parking lot, I contemplated going down and taking the lower trail next to the river to walk back but as I had walked that a few days prior, decided against it and backtracked along the Gravel Path. The Park has a series of signs that show the different animals, birds and plants that go to make up the Park and are very educational to the many people that were not raised in the country.

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One of the information boards that are all along the trails.

As late in the year as it was, I only got to take pictures of three flowers.

It was a beautiful day for walking, not too hot with intermittent sun shining through the clouds. It was not long before I had to stop and take off my overshirt which I then tucked into my belt. Needless to say, at one point in the walk, I managed to drop it and had to backtrack  for half a mile or so before I found it. Luckily for me, there was no one else on the trail although I am not sure that anyone would want my ratty old shirt.

Along with the intermittent sun, the wind was blowing  pretty hard at times and serenading me with its sounds as it swirled around me. It blew through the trees and grasses and whistled and moaned in a delightful way. It took me back to when I was a very young kid of about five or six, sitting under a door that leaned against the shed just listening to the wind. I have never forgotten that moment and I am as impressed now as I was back then. I love the sound and the feel of the wind.

Riemers Ranch 11-27-2016 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Altogether, I covered a little over 6.4 miles of really easy walking. I drove home a very contented and mildly tired old man to sit in the hot tub and get the aches out of the old bones and muscles.

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A panoramic view of the rock walls on the other side of the river