Day 4 – Harvey


Today is Day 4 of the Hurricane Harvey Saga in my part of Texas. The storm as predicted, moved back towards the cost and is still pummelling Houston and the surrounding area as it slowly makes its way down the coast towards Louisiana. Compared to what those guys have had to put up with, Austin has got off very light. All we had was about 7 inches of heavy rain causing low water crossing closures and some minor flooding.

For myself, very little damage from the strong winds. Lots of leaves and small branches down but no major tree limbs on the ground. A lot of the plants are laying a bit sideways and I will have to wait and see how many straighten back up before chopping them down.

The 5000 gallon pond had one pump that quit working and I replaced it this morning. I also cleaned out the other 4 pumps on this pond as the water has turned a real muddy color. There is probably at least one upturned pot that has dumped its clay into the water and it will take a few days for it to settle out.

I already mentioned the cypress tree that has blown over in the 6000 gallon pond in the last blog but as far as I can see that is all of the damage that we sustained. I plan on getting into the ponds tomorrow and cleaning out the leaves and cutting back the damaged vegetation. As I write this, the sun is shining brightly and there is hardly a cloud in the sky. Nature is such an amazing thing how the weather can change in the blink of an eye.

Oh yes, the stained glass window made it through OK and now I will take it down out of its tree and find a more stable place for it so I don’t have to worry when the next storm hits.

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Another Drive 8-19-2017


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With the weather as hot as it is here in Central Texas, I often drive around in my air conditioned car, usually out in the countryside, listening to Audiobooks.  I have probably put half of the 50,000 miles on the car doing just this. I like to explore the back roads and lanes off the beaten track and it is amazing the things I have come across. Mostly, I am out to find great pictures to post in my blog or to find yet another story but a part of me is on the lookout for that perfect 10 acres way out in the back of beyond as I still harbor thoughts of that little cabin in the woods. To be truthful, I am not sure what I would do if on one of these drives, I came across such an area that was cheap enough to be affordable to my limited resources. Would I take the plunge and spend my remaining years building a cabin and all that goes along with it or is that just pie in the sky and the dreams of an old man, not smart enough to realize how old he really is? In my case, the mind and spirit are very willing but sadly, the flesh is weak and I would probably kill myself with all of that work. At least I would die happy and be out in the countryside.

Yesterday was no exception as I chose to drive around in the Dripping Springs area on the west side of town. I found a couple of roads that I had not been on before and it is really surprising how often I come across collections of homesteads seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Some may be a collection of trailers, others are small houses with an acre of land and usually surrounded by broken down old cars denoting the status of the occupants who are probably honest hard working individuals trying to make a living. There are even larger houses of two or three thousand square feet set on several acres of land with manicured front lawns and large wrought iron gateways. the splendour of which is designed to outdo the neighbor the next estate over. There are all types to see when you get off the beaten track.

As I drove around, I found myself suddenly faced with this beautiful panoramic view as the landscape suddenly dropped off in front of me. I stopped quickly just to admire the view and luckily for me, nothing was coming behind me. I noticed an overlook to my left and pulled into it. Apart from the magnificent view, the first thing I noticed was the collection of beer cans and whisky bottles strewn all over the place. Quite obviously, this is a popular place for the local kids to park and drink beer and  probably make out with their girlfriends.  I could not help wondered how many young girls had drunk their first beers as they entered this grown up world then had lost their virginity to the young men’s advances, helped along by the booze. I wonder too, how many future generations have been conceived here.. This is the sort of place that is in all of the horror movies where bad things happen. Luckily for me, it was 4:00 pm in the afternoon and broad daylight so I felt pretty safe. Even so, it did conjure up some memories of some of the movies I had seen as I looked nervously around.

I got the camera out and was blown away with the incredible view in front of me. I could see for miles and miles as the landscape dropped away. Even facing the sun, I was still able to take some good shots. The panorama at the top is made up of four different pictures and pretty much shows the entire vista. The blue skies and scattering of clouds really brought color to the scene. The other pictures below are individual views of what was in front of me although, they don’t really do it justice. I didn’t have my wide angled or telescopic lense with me which would really have enhanced the shots.

Ah, the hidden beauty of Texas…

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Dripping Springs Farmers Market 2-1-2017


dsc_4906I was in Dripping Springs the other day to shop at Tractor Supply where I get my fish food and anything else that appeals to the country boy in me. I swear that I should have been born a farmer as I have such an attraction for the country life. This time around, I bought a couple of heavy duty tee shirts to add to my collection and wandered around looking at all of the neat stuff and wishing I was 50 years younger. Hell, I would settle for just 20 years younger.

On the way back out, I pulled into a Farmers market that is held every Wednesday in the middle of the small town. I had noticed it before but had never bothered to stop but this time, as I had my camera with me, pulled into the parking lot.

There were around twenty or so vendors set up each doing their best to sell their wares. I stopped at a tent that sold Empanadas and couldn’t resist the temptation of buying one of them. It was nicely hot and as soon as I got back to the car, I ate it enjoying every bite of the tangy taste of Mexican cooking. I could easily have gobbled down another two or three.

Music was provided by a guitar player who was very good. There were the usual merchants selling fresh garden produce. Another was selling fresh meat and many more specializing in a large variety of goods.

Well worth the stop if you are in Dripping Springs on a Wednesday afternoon.

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.

A Walk at Buescher State Park 11-12-2016


dsc_4389-panoI was out for a drive and found myself heading towards Smithville. I did not want to go into the town as it really does not have too much to offer, so elected to drive Park Road 1C that actually connects Buescher State Park and Bastrop State Park.It doesn’t matter which end you enter, you still have to buy a ticket even though you never get out of your car. I got to chatting to the two Park Rangers that were in the Office at the gate and one of them mentioned that they had added a little more to their one and only trail that was open following the recent fires that burned almost 4000 acres of the Park and surrounding area.

I thought to myself, “What the hell, I have all of my gear so why not take the short walk.” I pulled into the Parking Area designated for the Trailhead and noticed it was pretty full. As I prepared for the hike with the usual boots, backpack, camera belt and camera and my walking poles I passed three Oriental people along with a very young baby, reading the signboard. I said hello as I passed them and for a while, could hear them behind me but for once, I stayed ahead of them. Must have been the baby that slowed them down as normally, I do not outwalk anybody.

The trail is a very pleasant one to walk on as it intertwines between the famous Pines and other tall trees with very little in the way of cedars at least that I could see. There were no signs of the fire desolation in this area and it made for very easy and pleasant walking. Flowers are getting in very short supply as Nature is taking on the Fall look.

I passed several couples on the trail who let me take their pictures. Most people are very willing to oblige and I have not had one tell me no, yet. One couple actually passed me going in both directions but they were runners.They obligingly stopped long enough for me to take their picture.

The trail ends at what is called, the Overlook Point. The last fire reached this area as you can see from the picture at the top that shows many of the charred remains. The top picture is a combination of 5 images sewn together into that panoramic view.

The slideshow below is of this walk.

Buescher State Park 11-12-2016 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Walking McKinney Roughs 10-16-2016


dsc_4226-panoIt was time to walk as I headed for my most favorite of walking places, McKinney Roughs. I arrived at the Park and there were several cars in the parking area so I thought I might run into some people out on the trail.

Following my usual routine of boots, hat, neckerchief around my forehead, water and backpack along with my camera belt and camera and I was ready to go. I decided that I would start off along Riverside and then onto Pine Ridge and hike it for its full distance, steps and all. Actually, I ended up taking Cypress so that I could walk alongside of the river just in case there might be some wildlife around but that  was after I had reconnoitered the many steps both up and down Pine Ridge.

I was in the area where the Zip Lines are being built and it looked like they were real close to be opened for the Public. The lady in the office had told me they would be testing everything “next week” before they could be opened.

From Cypress, where I had met another hiker taking a rest on one of the picnic tables, I headed up Riverside for a short distance before taking the trail to Bobcat Ridge which brought me back to the Parking Area. I met several people along the way and stopped and chatted to most of them before giving them my card and taking their picture.

Altogether, I covered a little over 4.5 miles in much cooler weather ideal for hiking. There are still a few flowers some by the office attracting a large number of butterflies.

Altogether, this is a beautiful place to hike and everything is still so very green. With the weather cooling down, there is not so much urgency to start early and consequently it was closer to 4:00 pm when I got back to the Parking Lot. I never met any horses on my trails but did catch sight of a couple that were on Whitetail.dsc_4206

Hiking at Pedernales Falls 10-23-2016


dsc_4303I decided that I wanted to go walking and this time, I chose to walk at Pedernales Falls State Park as I hadn’t been there in a while. After my usual preparations of packing fruit and water bottles and making sure that the cats are safely in their own room away from Richie, one of my male Dachshunds who, in the past has inflicted damage to both of them., I was ready to go.

The route that I take to get to the Park is usually along Fitzhugh Road until it crosses Route 12 and then continues on as West Fitzhugh Road. These are country roads and if I am lucky, I sometimes get to see Mother Nature at her best. Today was one of those days as I drove along and was about a mile from the Route 12 junction when I spotted something in the field off to my right. I am well used to seeing Buzzards collected around a dead animal but this did not look like a buzzard. For one thing, it had an all white head and neck which showed up very well as the bird was taking a long look at the road. I would say that it was about fifty feet inside the field and very visible.

I wanted to stop but there were cars behind me so I had to keep going until I found a place to turn around which I did making my way back to where I had seen the bird. My intentions were to take pictures but just as I was pulling up, the bird, who was still looking at the road, took off. Needless to say, my camera was still on the car seat and the car was still moving with not a hope in hell of taking pictures. The bird, no more than fifty feet from me was very visible and I could clearly see the white tail feathers as it flew off. I could not believe what I was seeing as it had to be a Bald Eagle. I didn’t know there were any around this part of Texas with the nearest ones at Lake Buchanan. I marveled at my good fortune in spotting this beautiful bird as it flew off but cursed under my breath that I had not gotten any pictures.

I continued on my way and hadn’t gone very far when a grey fox ran out in front of me as it bounded over to the other side of the road. It had a tail that was so bushy it was almost as big as its body. Again, no hope of a picture. I finally reached the Park entrance without seeing any more of Natures wonders, paid my money and headed to the Wolf Mountain Parking area.

Being a Sunday with cooler weather, as expected the parking area was pretty full so I knew that I would meet a lot of people on the trail. I first chose to hike the Juniper Ridge Trail and got as far as the turn off before changing my mind and decided to walk the South Loop Equestrian Trail instead. I hoped to see horses and was in luck when a group of them came by. There were eight in all, the most I have ever seen on any trail at one time. Further on down the trail, I met up with two pretty young ladies both on huge horses and looking very comfortable in the saddle. The last two proved to be the only others that I saw on this day.

I met a lot of hikers going in both directions. I should say that anyone going in the same direction as myself would very quickly pass me as I am so slow. Even though in my mind, I am making a good pace, everyone and I mean everyone has no trouble passing me. My only excuse is that I stop to take pictures but the real truth is I just don’t have any speed anymore. Many of the hikers agreed to letting me take their pictures and others I snapped as they walked away from me. One couple went by me early on the South Loop Trail with full backpacks containing a tent and full sleeping equipment. They were training for a long overnight hike . I didn’t envy them as those backpacks were huge and looked very heavy.dsc_4283

I didn’t stay on the South Loop and when it crossed Windmill Road, I took it towards Wolf Mountain. I knew that the Wolf Mountain Trail would be easy walking compared to some I had covered on the South Loop and for the homeward trip, thought it made the most sense. I passed another couple coming up Windmill Road who also had on pretty heavy looking backpacks. We exchanged greetings as we passed and I headed on to my way home. It seemed that I was the Trail Guide for the day as several of the groups and pairs that I met asked me for trail directions. Luckily, I have been there so many times and have learned the trails the hard way by getting lost, that I was pretty much able to put them on the right trail. There were not very many flowers blooming at this park although I did come across a cedar bridge that had been built into the trail and also one of the trees had this huge growth that made it look like something from another world.

On the way back along Wolf Mountain Trail, there were several people just heading out. It was around 4:30 pm and they still had a couple of hours of daylight, enough to walk the Wolf Mountain Trail and back. One man and his daughter let me take their picture as they branched off towards the Camping Area. Later, they caught back up with me and the wife and son came to meet them and we sort of all cruised in together into the Parking Area.

Along the trail, I came across a large pile of stones that some enterprising person(s) had very carefully stacked together.

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Altogether, I covered 9.5 miles and made really good time. I was able to add quite considerably to the Aerobic steps recorded on my pedometer. Makes a huge difference when it is not 100 degrees outside. Today, the temperature was around 82 degrees and much more bearable. Walking Wolf Mountain Trail also made a difference as some of the other trails are not very wide and are rocky and uneven and hard to walk on let alone do it at any speed.

The one thing that is very noticeable now that we are into the Fall season is that this park looks very drab as compared to those on the East side of Austin. Even the greens are not very bright and of course the Cedars always look drab which is what ninety five percent of the vegetation is at this Park. Altogether though, it was a very enjoyable experience and I can’t wait to get back here again.