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

 

McKinney Falls State Park 9-30-2017


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A view of the trail

With the recent rains, I knew the trails would be muddy in places and I wanted to walk on something more solid. I opted to walk the Hike and Bike trail at McKinney Falls as it is a 3 mile circular trail that is very nicely blacktopped and made for easy walking. It has one very steep place where there is a sign that bicyclists should get off and walk although I am sure that most  of them view this as a challenge more than a warning. It would get a little hairy if any hikers happened to be on the trail at this exact point as there is a blind corner that you can’t see around until too late…Come to think about it, I have yet to see a biker anywhere in this park probably that except for this one spot, the trail offers no real challenge to them.

Picnic area at the Upper Falls

A five picture panorama of the picnic area

I broke all of my rules today as normally, I very rarely get out to the Parks because of the numbers of people that use them on the weekends. It’s not that I am anti-people but I like to hike for the solitude amongst other things and that can be difficult with crowds of noisy families each with at least a dozen kids per family all talking and running at the same time. Mckinney Falls also has swimming facilities which is another attraction for these families and large groups of people.

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Another 5 picture panorama from the reverse direction

I parked in the lot by the Upper Falls and geared up in my usual fashion. I’m sure that I make quite a comical sight with my two cameras and binos strapped to my chest, my camera bag with a couple of other lenses on my back, my two walking poles in my hands and topped off by my wide brimmed hat complete with added kerchief around my forehead to soak up the sweat. Oh yes, add two water bottles to that strapped to my waist. I probably am carrying at least 20 pounds of gear, great for my muscles and cardio but awful tiring.

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A panoramic view of the Upper Falls

I walked past the Upper Falls and the throngs of people into the park area that is set up with picnic tables and firepits and is very nicely maintained. Onion Creek runs off to my right and I wandered over to take a look. The water was a muddy brown color from the recent rains and not very appealing so I got back onto the trail proper and started to walk. I took several shots of the park area and of a couple of the very large trees on the trail and have turned them into panoramic shots. I met several people on the trail and conversely, several passed me going in the same direction. None were families with kids as they preferred to be at the Falls area. Although I heard birds, I didn’t see any to take any pictures of. I passed an interestingly shaped tree and took a couple of pictures of it besides various flowers. The pictures below also include views of the trails.

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This tree is made up of 5 different pictures in order show the whole thing. I wonder how old it is?

 

Arriving back at the Falls, I chatted to a few people and took several pictures.  There was a photographic class going on the park area which broke up as I was taking pictures of the Falls.  Not sure what the subject matter of the course was about.

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There are 8 pictures in this pano

Altogether with my additional wandering around, I covered a little over 4 miles. I noticed that my old body and legs were nowhere near as tired as when I walk the regular trails. Must be that this much flatter blacktop trail is much easier to walk and for that I was extremely grateful.

Written 10/3/2017

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

Looking Back.


dsc_4587Looking back over the year
with all of the things that I have seen
in my little world which is very singular to me.

It started great with a birthday cake
and friends who would not let me forget
that I am now eighty.

The summer with it’s one hundred degrees
were not very frequent this time around
and it rained… a lot.

Everything grew tall and even taller
it’s hard to see the ponds amid the plants
through the very lush greenery.

Friends died and new ones were born
such is the nature of life
we live and we are gone.

The country went mad at election time
choosing a man whose main goal in life,
is himself.

One of my long time and faithful doggy friends
died in my arms
and I was sad.

Another walked into my life
helping to fill the void
and I am glad.

I walked a lot and took many pictures
of this beautiful world here in Texas
and posted them for all to see.

The year is coming to a close
when you read this
there are just three more days.

Welcome to 2017.

Plans for today…


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I had plans today to spend my time
working on some things left outside around the ponds
and updating the Pond Society’s website
and then I was going for a hike at McKinney Roughs
my favorite hiking place.

Even the best laid plans can falter
as Mother Nature sometimes has other ideas
like she did today as it came onto rain
putting an end to both the garden work
and the hike.

But wait, the sun is coming out
and is shining brightly
and a quick glance at the weather site
on my computer shows just a shower
which passes quickly.

I can finish up my outside chores around the ponds
and quickly do the work I need to do on the website
and in a couple of hours be on my way
to McKinney to do the thing I like the best
hiking and taking pictures.

“We were born with two legs. We should use them…”

 

I Finally Crossed the River.


Pedernales Falls State Park 2-11-2016.

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Trammell’s Crossing, Pedernales Falls State Park.

I stopped into the office to pay my $3.00 and as I do nowadays, asked the usual question of, “Has anyone handed in any sun glasses”. The young Ranger behind the desk came back with 8-10 pairs and my heart leaped as I thought I saw mine among them but no, mistaken identity and again, mine were not there.  The only way mine will show up is if the people that gave me a ride that night would bring them back to this park and it doesn’t look like that is going to happen.

I had already made up my mind after the last hike at Pedernales Falls State Park that I was going to wade the river and hike the Trammell’s Crossing Trail. The only way to get to the other side of the river is to get your feet wet or drive and as private vehicles are not allowed to drive across, it looks like it’s the get the feet wet routine. Trammell’s Crossing is a single slab of granite that spans the river in this particular spot. It is wide enough that the Park Personnel use it to ford the river when they need to drive their vehicles to the other side. It is quite possible to walk across and although the water is about mid calf, enough to get wet feet and socks, very easily wadeable. The only concern is the flow of the water which is quite strong. I found the best and easiest way is very slow steps almost like an ice skater sliding the foot across the tops of the rocks. This keeps the water pressure on the leg down to a minimum.

I tried to cross in a couple of other places a little further upstream but could not find enough rocks to step on and had to turn back both times. I noticed another hiker crossing at the real Trammell’s Crossing and made my way down the trail towards her. She was drying off her feet when I got to her and we stopped and chatted for a while. She sounded like she was a very experienced hiker and mentioned a couple of places I should try. She told me that she had come in from Waco and was camping at the park.

Immediately on crossing the river, my first thought was to stop and dry off my feet and change socks. Then I realized that my leather boots which were also soaked would quickly make the fresh pair of socks wet so I opted to keep walking. It actually was not a bit uncomfortable and did help keep my feet cooler.

The first part of the trails is on a badly decomposing asphalt hill which is pretty steep until it begins to level out near the top. From that point on, the trails were a mixture of grass, rocks and plain old dirt and like all trails had both ups and downs. All of the trails on this side of the river are wide enough for the Park vehicles and made for easy walking. I opted to cover the whole set of trails and to do this, I had to hike figure of eights covering the middle trail twice each time. Using this method, I covered all of the marked trails on this hike.

At the northernmost end, there is a short trail that leads to the Scenic Overlook Trail. Although the view was spectacular, it did not show much more than the other side of the valley along with the thousands of Juniper trees. You could not even see the river from there. I rested for a while before heading back. On the way back, I followed a little used trail which opened up to a view of the river. Quite spectacular.

In one place, there is  the remains of an old stone wall and I can’t help thinking of the hours of hard physical labor that went into gathering the rocks and then stacking them into a wall. At another place on the 5.5 Mile Loop Spur Trail, there are remnants of an old corral, I guess used to hold the steers and cows after they were rounded up.

Back on the main trail, I followed down the 5.5 Mile Loop Spur Trail and by hiking the short dividing trail for a second time, I was able to get back to Trammell’s Crossing where I cooled off my feet one more time as I crossed the river. The climb up the wide trail back to the car was again pretty steep or maybe at that point, the old body was getting tired. I made it back and spent some time drying off and this time had a dry pair of socks and shoes to change into. it was already 5:20 pm and I had been out hiking since 12:30 pm, almost 5 hours of walking. I covered about 11.5 miles by my pedometer which got me thinking. According to the map, this trail is 5.5 miles long so somehow, I managed to double its length. I can account for some with covering two trails twice (on purpose this time) which according to the map, adds up to almost 1 additional mile and then walking down to the crossing from where the car was parked has got to be almost 3/4 of a mile so add on another 1 1/2 miles but the sum total is still only 8 miles and somehow, I added an additional 3 miles to that.

My walking distance is based on a 29 inch step so if another taller person took say a 33 inch step, based on the pedometers readings, would cover more distance than me over the same number of steps. No wonder I am always bringing up the rear on every hike I take with my friends. I could take this a bit further and say that because I take more steps, I walk further than my friends do. Probably though,  if we all had our own pedometers as I do, then the end mileage should be the same although the number of steps would be different.

There are not many trails left for me to cover at Pedernales Falls. I can take a look at the Twin Falls Nature trail and Warfie’s Trail and that just about wraps it up.

If you click on any picture, it will make each one full size. Use the side arrows to move them. Hit the “Escape” key to get back.

A Short Walk at McKinney Roughs


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View of River from the top of Pine Ridge.

My friends Gloria and George along with dogs, Bobby and Nina all met at the Hwy 71 Trailway Entrance to take a short walk. There were probably another ten or so cars already in the lot. This is still winter in my part of Texas but the temperature was going up into the low 80’s and we all wanted to be out and making the most of the beautiful weather. For some reason, the park was still not open to horse traffic probably because of some ongoing repairs to the trails so we had to park at the first entrance and walk the extra distance to reach the trails. Not that it made that much difference as we were here to walk anyway.

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New Pine Ridge Entrance

The first thing we noticed was a new trail entrance leading to Pine Ridge including a newly mown trail. Previously, we had always hit Pine Ridge from Riverside or Bobcat Trail  from the reverse direction but for those who have not walked these trails before, the last part of the Pine Ridge Trail culminates in a series of steps going down into the gully, crossing a plank bridge and then climbing up a much longer set of steps to get out of the gully. It’s all perfectly safe as long as you are careful but it is very tiring. We decided that we would change our usual approach and with the new entrance, walk Pine Ridge by going down the steps at the beginning of the walk. We thought it would be less tiring doing it this way.

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These are the newly rebuilt steps.

We started off and safely negotiated the steps meeting other hikers who were on the way up. A couple of them were struggling with the climb and we didn’t help by assuring them that it was going to get worse as they neared the top. On our way up the other side, we could see that a part of the trail and steps had washed out and had been rebuilt by the Park employees. For the first time since we had been walking McKinney Roughs, the creek had a fair amount of water in it. We continued walking the Pine Ridge Trail as we were really playing it by ear so to speak as we had no definite trail planned. We hit the junction of Pine Ridge and Bobcat Ridge and as we also had the alternative trail of Riverside available to us, we had to choose which trail to take. We had already decided that the trails by the river were probably still too wet and muddy.

Bobbie, a rat terrier, usually does very well on these walks and is a bundle of energy but he must have been feeling out of sorts as he hung back and in fact lagged behind as we walked. This is so unlike his normal self that we decided to take the shorter of the trails just in case he was not feeling well. It might have been the sudden change of weather to 80 degrees as all of us were feeling the heat.

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Shady trails with Bobby on the left and Nina on the right.

We chose to walk Bobcat Ridge as this was quicker which eventually brought us back to Whitetail. This trail led us back to the parking lot. We passed several other hikers on the trail all out to enjoy the wonderful weather. We also passed other locations where new trail entranceways had been built and other visible signs of trail maintenance and rebuild. McKinney Roughs is so different than some of the other parks on the west side of town. The further west you go, the more prevalent are the Junipers until they become the dominant tree vegetation. When you go on the East side, there are far less Junipers and many more LIve Oaks and other hardwood trees. The change in scenery is very noticeable. As with all parks and trails at this time of the year, everything still has its winters brown with very little green although we did spot a little clump of flowers. I have no idea what it is called but it is really pretty.

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First signs of Spring?

Altogether we covered around 5 miles by my trusty pedometer but to everyone’s dismay, only managed to burn a little over 200 calories, not even enough for a piece of apple pie. It was a lot warmer than any of the recent hikes I have been on and is a sign of things to come. We discussed the fact that we have not yet had a single frost and that temperatures are warming up very quickly and we thought that probably, we are in for a real scorcher of a spring and summer. Global warming?

Gloria kidded me about driving into Bastrop for my usual Starbucks but I went anyway. Another very enjoyable walk with great friends.

As with all of these pictures, if you click on the first one, they become full size and you can use the side arrows to negotiate the slide show. Use the “Escape” key to get back to normal.