The Second Walk of the Year


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As I had promised myself a couple of days ago, I was back out on the trail again and back at Reimers Ranch. This time I planned on a longer walk to get in some exercise as well as take pictures. It took me a while to gear up as I hadn’t used any of the camera carrying equipment for a couple of months. I finally sorted it all out but ran into a problem with one of the camera safety straps as the clip on the end was malfunctioning. I had to cobble together a temporary strap promising myself that I would fix the other one as soon as I got back home.

With everything in place, I set off along the Turkey Trail with the usual high hopes of seeing something worthwhile to photograph. Even if I didn’t see anything dramatic like a Deer or a Turkey I always had the good old standby of the trails themselves. The Parks people had been doing a lot of controlled burns on this end of the trail exposing the very nature of the ground itself. It is so rocky in a lot of places that it is no small wonder that the only thing to grow is scraggly grass, cactus and more rocks.

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As I made my way down the trail, I noticed that I was being followed by a young couple with a two fairly large dogs. I am quite sure that if they had walked at their normal speed, they would easily have gone by me but they chose to hang back. I took the River Trail just before the Park ends and cut back along the river towards the Rock Climbing Area. This is a nice and interesting trail to walk now that the Parks people have cleared it. The river is on one side and the rocky bluffs on the other making for a shady walk for most of its length.

I could hear the rock climbers on my left talking and laughing and generally sounding like they were having fun. Not quite my idea of entertainment even if I was a young man. Definitely not now. I passed a few people walking the trail in the opposite direction, most of whom were younger people although there was one older guy with a dog. When I reached the rock climbing area I managed to get a couple of pictures of three of them on the rock face.

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As I continued along, I saw the most river activity that I have seen since walking these trails. First I passed a motor boat that was anchored in the stream and a bit further up, a family of four who were fishing, standing in the water with waders on. I did not see them catch anything while walked by. A little further, I passed a Father with three kids who had some sort of contraptions that they threw into the air. The things made a loud whirring noise and were a bit like a boomerang as they were supposed to come back to the thrower.

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Next and for the first time ever walking these trails, there was activity on the opposite bank from one of the houses that sits on top of the bluff. The family were involved in several different activities from wading in the water to canoeing to just sitting around.

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As I continued along, I passed other people who were just sitting around on the river bed enjoying the beautiful day. Today was the most activity not counting the swimming area, that I have ever seen that many people actually enjoying the river. Of course the day was a Sunday which tends to bring people out. As I walked along, I noticed a square shaped rock on top of the bluffs that looks like it is just balancing in place and just had to take a picture.

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I kept walking and decided to go up the steep exit to the third parking area. This is quite a feat by itself as I have often mentioned before as making one’s way up the stone steps is quite an effort. All that remained was the walk back along the gravel path that spans the entire length of the park on top of the river bluffs. I passed two different Buzzards and what looks like a Sparrow perched in the trees. They all allowed me to walk right past them and made no attempt to fly off even though I was as close as twenty feet from them. Of course, they were up in a tree and they knew I couldn’t fly.

I arrived back at the Parking Lot and my truck and the lot which had been totally full when I pulled in was now beginning to empty. As usual, I had to change out of my sweat soaked clothes before taking a slow drive home stopping at Starbucks along the way to reward myself with  latte. Altogether, I covered almost five miles enjoying every minute of it. It’s great to be  walking again…

The story would not be complete if I didn’t include pictures of the trails that I walked. It is definitely the winter season here in central Texas. Everything is so brown and lifeless. Any patch of green is a welcome relief.

Plus a few panoramic views.
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Written 2/6/2018

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First Walk of the Year


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As the weather has warmed up a bit and needing to clear my head out in the fresh Texas air, I decided to go for a short walk at Reimer’s Ranch, a place I have hiked many times before.

I don’t know if it is a mandatory question or not but the guy at the gate asked me if I was over sixty two as Seniors get to walk the Travis County Parks for free. That made me feel good about myself and even better when I proudly declared to be eighty two as he waved me through with a big smile.

I opted to park in the  Lot that ramps down to the beach area which is the second lot as you drive in and headed down onto the lower trail. I chose to walk alongside the Pedernales River which doesn’t have a lot of water in it at this time of the year. It won’t be too long before the Spring rains will have it flowing at a goodly pace. Even so, I didn’t see any river activity and as I was in no particular hurry, took several shots of the trail and the surrounding rocks. I ran into a guy and we chatted for a bit. He dragged out his cell phone to show me a picture, of which he was particularly proud of a giant Centipede or maybe it was a Millipede as I don’t know the difference. Anyway it was big and was at least six inches long. We moved on and there was nothing major that caught my eye but I was still glad to be out and about. Needless to say, I didn’t see the Osprey or even any Buzzards. No idea where the Buzzards were hiding as usually there are bunches of them swooping and gliding in the sky above.

One thing is very obvious from the pictures is that the Park definitely has on it’s winter coat. Almost everything was brown and the only occasional green spot was  from one of the deciduous trees. or an occasional shrub. I only walked about a mile before turning around to make tracks back to my car. It felt good to be walking again and I promised myself that I need to get out again and soon.

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The pictures above are all Panoramic made up of several different camera shots

Written 2/6/2018

 

Looking and Hoping. Cheerful pictures for a winters day…


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After my recent encounter at least from the viewing perspective of the Osprey, I made another trip to Reimers Ranch in the hope of spotting it once more. I wanted more pictures and hopefully this time, a video that in my excitement the last time out and not wanting to miss a single moment of the display the beautiful bird was putting on for me, did not try to change my camera’s settings.

I was all prepared this time and even brought a tripod with me ready to go but someone, somewhere forgot to tell the Osprey about our appointment. Consequently, no Osprey shots as it wasn’t there at least at the same time as I was.

I wasn’t about to waste the opportunity for another camera shoot or a hike. I had parked in the next to last parking lot, known as River View Parking Lot that had access to one of the climbing areas and there was only one other vehicle in the lot besides mine. As per my usual routine, I slipped into my gear, grabbed my water bottle and walking poles and set off on the gravel trail that follows the Pedernales River from the very top of the gorge towards parking lot number three known as River bend Parking Lot.  The gravel trail does not necessarily keep close to the river bank and in some places the trail is probably up to several hundred yards inland.  There are a couple of spots where it is close enough to actually see the water and I spent some time taking pictures of the far bank with its cliffs all in the hope of spotting the Osprey.

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When I reached the third parking lot back towards the park entrance, I made my way down towards the river. Both this entrance and the one by the fourth parking lot are difficult climb downs even though they do have semblance of steps. I took pictures of the climb back up at the fourth parking lot where I had parked to give an idea of the difficulties at least to old men like me. Maybe not so much to younger and much fitter people with a far better sense of balance than I currently have.

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After having safely making my way down, I took the lower trail which actually takes you along on the river bed. At this time of the year, the water level is low but it is still a bit muddy in some places. I came to a large rock that did not have a way around without getting wet feet that I could see so I scrambled back up the bank until I hit the middle trail and made my way along it towards the fourth parking lot where I had parked my car all the while looking for the Osprey.

I finally came to the trail leading up to the exit and as I climbed, I took the pictures shown above. As soon as I got back to my car, I changed out of my wet clothes into something more comfortable and was sitting and enjoying a piece of fruit when I heard voices and the clink of metal which I guessed to be from the occupants of the other car in the lot. Sure enough, two guys appeared followed by a young lady bringing up the rear all carrying their climbing gear.  The clink of metal was from the pitons that the guys carried on their climbing belts. We exchanged pleasantries as I continued to pack up my gear.

What to me seemed very odd was that the young lady was dressed only in the skimpiest of bikinis. The rock face is some distance from the river so I did not think she had been swimming and there was not enough sunlight under the trees for her to work on her tan. As usual, it was difficult not look at her as she and the two guys horse played around a bit. I wanted to ask her if she had been climbing wearing only a bikini but didn’t have the nerve and was left wondering. Seems to me that the rock face could be awful painful on her body and although regular clothing is not very protective, it at least help prevent the scrapes and cuts. This turned out to be the mystery of the day that is along with the non appearance of the Osprey.

I jumped into my car, taking one last look at things I can only dream about and drove off. I pulled into the second parking lot where I had noticed some yellow flowers that were covered with butterflies and bees and took some pictures.

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I made my way home after having covered a couple of miles on this hike. As I was there for the purpose of getting more pictures of the Osprey, I was perfectly content with the small hiking numbers. After all, it doesn’t always have to be about the walking and the fitness. Most of the time it’s about the pictures and the opportunity to take them.

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These are all panoramic shots made up of several pictures.

Written 10/28/2017

Still Looking for the Osprey – 10-21-2017


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I think that from here on out, every time I take a hike at Reamers Ranch County Park, I will be looking for the Osprey that I was so fortunate to see just a couple of weeks ago. This was true of my last hike on Saturday, October 21st when I broke another one of my unwritten rules and went hiking on a Saturday. As it is late in the season, most of the people were families and kids at the swimming end of the park in the Pedernales River.

I parked in the second parking area that has a long concrete road that leads down to the river that can be used to get small boats into the water. There is no parking at the river itself  so those that drive down have to then bring the vehicles back to the lot and walk back down the hill and do it all again to get the boats back. Maybe that accounts for the reason that I don’t think I have ever seen a canoe or kayak or any type of boat on the river from the park side. The lucky landowners on the far side of the river have canoes and kayaks parked close by the water (but above the flood line) and again, I have still yet to see any of those boats actually in the water. DSC_1245-Pano

But I digress. I readied myself to go walking which takes me a good 15 minutes as I change my socks and boots, strap on my waist camera belt for the long lense camera and also the bino’s, put on the Cotton Carrier harness for my second camera and finally, slip on my backpack with essential supplies like tools to tighten the Cotton Carrier locking units, spare camera batteries, flashlight and spare batteries, a small first aid kit and waterproof gear. If I am out for a long hike, I will not only have two water bottles but also fruit for that extra energy when I need it.

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I walked down the concrete road towards the river and got on the river trail heading upriver to the area that I had previously seen the Osprey. Being a weekend, there were several other hikers using the trail and we exchanged cordial “hellos” and “great day for a hike” and such comments as we passed each other. I walked on taking pictures of the trails and the views across the river and always on the lookout for the Osprey. As usual, there were lots of buzzards taking full advantage of the wind currents as they wheeled and plunged across the sky with the occasional flap of the wings to find the next spiral of air but none of them were the bird I was looking for. This is where the bino’s come in so handy as I can see the birds up close and personal to tell the difference.

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I continued along the river trail for a bit before deciding to do an about turn and make my way back the way I had come. I don’t usually do this but I wanted to walk to the “Beach” area to see the people who were making use of it and maybe get a few pictures. It turns out that there were a couple of families in the water enjoying themselves with the kids making lots of noise as they splashed around. I did not turn the bend to see the rest of the beach area content with the view that I had.

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I made my way back up the concrete road to the Parking Lot passing more people on their way down. The lot had filled up quite considerably from when I arrived and was a mix of people on their way down to the river and those that had just came back from it. Families with young kids were mixed with adults of all ages several of whom were beautiful young ladies in bikinis who again, just like the previous time that I wrote about were so full of confidence and seemed totally unconcerned for their almost nakedness in front of a lot of people. With the few sneak peeks that I got in, I could understand their confidence as to how beautiful they looked but at the same time, the prude in me worried about how this behaviour is now the accepted norm. Not for me to worry much about as I should be grateful that these young women provided me a recollection of how life used to be many years ago when the female body was not a stranger. The passing of the years may play havoc with the body and desires but luckily the eyesight is still good.

I jumped into my car after taking off all of my gear and changing my clothes. I always end up totally soaked after any of these exertions and always carry a spare change of clothes knowing that I most certainly will need them. I made the drive back and detoured into Dripping Springs just to stop at Starbucks to enjoy on the way home.

The question arises, “Do the beautiful girls make up for not seeing the Osprey” and the answer is “Unfortunately, no”. Damn it, I must be getting old…

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Ran into this fine looking fellow and he stood still long enough to take his picture.

Written 10/27/2017

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.

Reimers Ranch 5-2-2017


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This panorama of several pictures shows the flowers in all of their glory.

Now that I am pretty much caught up with the yardwork, the ponds and cleaning all of the sheds, I have time to get back out on the trails again, just where I love to be.

I decided that I would take a short walk at Reimers Ranch and the trails were flashing through my mind after having hiked there many times before, as I drove to the location. The weather was pretty warm with the forecast to reach 90 degrees and sunny and Reimers only has limited cover on most of the trails. I thought about it and decided that I would take the recently built trail known as the Hogge Trail which as yet, is still not shown on any of the trail maps.

I chatted to the lady at the gate and she remembered me even though it has been a while and I told her of my plans. How does that saying go, “The best laid plans of mice and men…”. Well, after I pulled into the Mountain Bike Parking Lot which I had entirely to myself, and changed into my boots and gear including putting on my backpack and camera, I had a change of heart, jumped back into the car with all of my gear on and very awkwardly drove to the Pavilion Parking Area instead which was just across the road.

At the last minute, I had decided that I would hike the Multi Use trail all the way to where it hits the spot where the Pogue Creek joins the Pedernales River which is the westernmost point of the park but somewhere along the way, for reasons best left alone, I changed my mind yet again and stayed on the Multi Use Trail. I came to the signpost for the Kelly Prehn and Pogue Canyon Trails and opted to walk both of them. There is not much water in the creek at either overlook. The magnificent Cypress trees in the Pogue Canyon look taller and greener than ever. I wonder why the Travis County Parks people have not made an actual trail that connects the Pogue Canyon Trail and then  following the creek all the way to its furthermost end. That would make for a nice loop. Come to that, why not a trail that follows the creek for the entire way.  Oh well. dsc_4562

I walked back and rejoined the Multi Use Trail to where it meets Johnny’s Homestead and made my way back to the Parking Lot from where I started, taking many pictures along the way. The high spot of the day was to get a picture of a Ruby Throated Hummingbird as it drew nectar from a thistle. It was totally unexpected as I was focusing on the flower when the bird suddenly appeared. I never had time for any camera adjustments and kept snapping away in the hope that at least one picture would come out and luckily for me, one did.DSC_5301

Before calling it a day, I wandered over to the Pedernales River Overlook and took a couple of pictures. I met a few people along this part of the trails but none on the other trails I had walked. One couple were obviously rock climbers as they had on all the gear and were very animatedly talking about and working on climbing knots as they walked.

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The wildflowers are outdoing themselves and I took nearly 80 pictures.  I have one interesting shot of the controlled burn as it looked back in January to what it looks like today. Nature is amazing and apart from some Oak tree damage, it would be hard to tell there was ever a burn.

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The regrowth taken May 2017

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Following the burn January 2017

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Showing the burn damage to the lower branches.

Reimers Ranch Trails and Creek 5-2-2017

Reimers Ranch Trails and Creek 5-2-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Postscript:
Following this walk, one thing became very obvious and that is that hiking is not something that you can lay off for a while and then pick back up by just going out and taking a stroll. At least, not when you are in the advanced years that I unfortunately happen to be. It requires much more consistency of walking by going out at least a couple of times a week. My layoff from around the first of February really showed in yesterday’s walk as I found myself tiring towards the end of the 6th mile. Working in the garden is not the same as consistent walking. I no longer walk fast but pride myself on being able to walk for a long time so just like when I was younger and trained very hard for the game I love, (Football to us Brits, soccer to you Yanks), I need to walk more often.  I don’t propose to get into a serious training regime but I do plan on getting out on the trails more frequently. Just gotta work those tired old muscles.

Reimers Ranch 1-21-2017


dsc_4792-panoI hadn’t been walking for a while due to the cold snaps that we had plus the fact that I needed to devote my time to cleaning up the yard after those winter freezes. With that out of the way and a rise in temperatures back to my comfort zone, I decided to take a walk at Reimers Ranch.

I arrived there and chatted briefly with the Ranger at the gate and then made my way to the first main parking area which was pretty full. My intent was to walk the big circular loop around the entire park, a distance of about 5 miles.

Following the usual preparation with the addition of putting on a pair of hiking socks that I was trying out, I added boots, hat, backpack, camera belt and camera and grabbing my trusty walking poles, set of by crossing the road and then following the Multi use trail to the SW. After walking this trail several times before, I already knew which was the easiest way to go so that the big hills were down and not up.

The first thing I noticed was that the the Park Crews had been doing many controlled burns to lower the undergrowth which really consisted of tall grass in most places. We had had some rain showers since the burns so the smell was no longer in the air. Some of the big oaks showed signs of the burns and I hope they will come back in the Spring. Not all of the park had been burned as the area that the Wild Turkeys are supposed to be in was still OK as were some of the main trail further along. Even without the black scar of the burns, the remaining Park had a very brown wintery look to it.

As I walked this trail, the houses on the opposite side of the Pedernales River were visible. Must be a great place to live with a wonderful view and high enough above the river to not be bothered by any flooding.

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I took the Turkey Loop in the very forlorn hope of actually seeing a Turkey but to no avail. I probably would need to sit down for a while in a bird blind in order for the Turkeys to be brave enough to show themselves. Maybe one of these days…

I met several people out on the trail including two ladies on horseback who I stopped and chatted to for a bit. The horse on the left was a very friendly guy and kept nudging me to rub his neck and make a fuss of him.dsc_4813

I also met another couple who were willing for me to take their pictures. A couple of cyclists also passed me and as I don’t ask them  to stop, all I get are pictures from behind as they disappear into the distance.

I took several pictures of the different animal prints that I saw in the dirt with the hope of identifying them but could only positively identify one which is the White Tailed Deer

It looks like there could be several different animals in this group including Bobcat, Racoon, Coyote, Skunk, Deer and Opossum. The tracks were not fresh and had dried out making it not only harder to get a good picture but then to identify them.

When I reached the Kelly Prehn Trails, I decided to forgo that diversion and instead, kept on walking past Johnny’s Homestead taking the multi use long trail. In my view, this is the prettier part of the walk especially when the trail runs close to the stream which actually has water in it. The last time I walked this trail a couple of months ago, it was pretty dry. As  I was walking along, I could hear talking from behind and turned to see another young couple who were making good time as they walked. We stopped and chatted for a bit and I got their picture and found out there names were Moira and Reuben. They walked off and I was amazed that even though they were walking at a normal pace, they literally left me in their dust. I must really walk slow nowadays. Good job I walk alone most of the time as it is probably very frustrating for anyone that might walk with me. Taking pictures is only part of the excuse. I really am slow…

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They disappeared into the distance and I diverted from the main trail enough to get close to the stream and take a couple of pictures and then walked back on along the trail. This part of the trail does have an uphill climb but it is not too bad. I eventually made it back to the parking lot a very happy and tired hiker. I can tell that the weather is warming up as my “T” shirt was soaked requiring a change. If I didn’t wear a backpack, I would probably be OK but I carry extra camera stuff besides a first aid kit, a snakebite kit and additional clothes and wet weather gear not to mention snacks. It’s a good job that I am prepared as I had a problem with one of the additional parts that is attached to the camera and allows me to clip it onto the special belt that I have. Digging into my pack, I found the proper wrench to tighten up the loose part saving me a lot of headaches down the road. Like the Boy Scouts motto, “Be Prepared”.

I knew all of those years I spent in the Boy Scouts would pay off one of these days…

Riemers Ranch 1-20-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.