Retired from the University of Texas and too old to play soccer anymore. Now, in the twilight of his years, time is spent writing in this blog, hiking and exploring Texas Parks, photography, working out, gardening and tending to the five ponds he built .
Sitting here with the rain outside limiting my action is that a voice I hear that gives me satisfaction and it’s not from someone else but I hear it from within telling me it is time to write but where do I begin I could write about the New Year but that’s already done with blogs galore in the fore espousing words as one or about the rain that falls harder than before hard enough to stop me from going out my door but the rain is old news and it’s time for something new but so far my brain is dead and doesn’t have a clue I could reminisce of the year gone by but that is somebody’s news or of the things I want to try many of which are new many though are very old and I have tried them all before and all of my good intentions have floated out the door I have some resolutions so I could talk about them one of which is to use the gym which is just around the bend not far at all from my house a short drive it will take the exercise is what I need the pounds I then can slate and to cut back on my eating to help towards that score of one hundred and fifty pounds and not a kilo more that’s only seventeen pounds to lose most of which is fat to replace it with the muscle that is hidden under that but I am a man obsessed with losing as much as I can so hiking the trails as I like to do is all a part of that plan now all I have to do is find the will to move and put the plan in action and get into the groove of exercising three times a week to build the muscles more even though I know that it will make me very sore no pain no gain is how the saying goes so I just need to bite the bullet and get up on my toes work out and sweat and grunt and groan to lose a little weight although of course the bottom line the effort I just hate to eat less and work out more sounds just like a plan all it takes is that first step with everything at hand the gym is there and the larder stocked with foods of the lighter kind so the only thing I have to do is to get myself in line now that I have worked out a plan to take off all of the weight I think tomorrow I will start let’s make it a date the sooner that tomorrow comes you can be sure I will be heading back round the bend to the gymnasium door.
Lets see a quick review of the things that I want to do now that the New Year has already begun and we have started to have some fun no resolutions did I set knowing that I would soon forget at keeping them I am not very good as least not as good as I should and generally it is a waste of time and so I have drawn the line and instead will outline this years plan hiking of course of which I’m a big fan and taking pictures while I am out on the trail with words to fit I shall prevail and post in my blog for all to see how words and pictures make harmony I plan on losing a little more weight for that what I have is extra freight to carry around an unnecessary risk to eat less is the way to the fix along with working out at the gym to try to make the body more trim and regain the muscle that I have lost as old age creeps on and is really the boss so really there is a very short list one that I can easily fix take pictures and hike as far as I can write in my blog for all of my fans cut back on my eating and lose some pounds and work out at the gym myself to confound with just how easy it really can be to make 2019 my legacy.
The sun was shining and the temperature was almost at 70 degrees which made it a perfect day, weatherwise to take a hike. This, in the middle of a Texas winter. I decided that I would take a walk at Reimers Ranch this time taking the Hogge trails that I have walked several times before. The Hogge trails are the latest addition to the Reimers Ranch Park and is made up of donated land that adjoins the original Park.
I pulled into the Mountain Bike Parking Lot with a couple of other cars already parked and went through my usual preparation. Again, I opted for a single camera with the 18-400 lens which gives me tremendous flexibility in both long range and close up shots, besides being light to carry.
I set off taking the trail that leads to Johnny’s Homestead and almost immediately came across a crow that was busy finishing a meal as it was perched in the tree in front of me. I managed to get a decent shot of it but it is almost a black and white shot with no background to provide any contrast. As it turns out, this was the only bird or animal that I saw close enough to photograph. Moving on, a Park Ranger driving a Kubota All Terrain Vehicle stopped to see if everything was OK. I assured him that everything was fine as I was just getting started. We both went our separate ways as I continued my hike.
Reaching Johnny’s Homestead, I took the Multi Use Trail that veered off heading for Hogge Trails, a hike of well over a mile or so to reach them. This particular trail crosses the stream that at this time of the year is free flowing with plenty of water. I was following fresh horse prints of at least three horses but as it happened, I never met any of them. I had noticed on the way in as I passed the Horse Paddock, there were four trailers with horses and riders in different stages of cooling down their horses after their ride.
The Multi Use Trail that leads to the Hogge trails is a long uphill climb. On the way in, it is not steep but it seems to go on forever and climbing all of the time. Gave me the chance to take some great panoramic shots from the highest point in the Park. I eventually came to the gate that leads into the Hogge Ranch and trails and chose to take the Outer loop which was the longer of the two trails. In actuality, there is one big loop which is dissected by a single trail giving the option of the Inner or Outer Loop. The Park has its winter coat on with most everything brown except for a few Live Oaks and of course, the inevitable Cedars.
As I trudged along on the way towards the end of the loop, I could hear the Rangers Kubota as it made the loop on the other side and figured that he would eventually catch up to me as I walked back down the hill towards the stream. Sure enough, a few minutes later, he pulled up alongside and enquired if I was OK. I had a choice at that point whether to keep walking or to hitch a ride but as the object was to get some exercise and that I was feeling good, I assured him that I was fine. I thanked him for checking on me. He drove off and I continued on my way.
I reached the stream and after crossing it, I noticed there was a trail that ran parallel to it and I figured that it would dissect with the other main Multi Use Trail that encircles the entire park. I had never walked this trail before so decided to take it. I knew where it would come out which was also close to the Multi Use Shortcut that I wanted to take. Sure enough, things worked out as I had hoped and soon I was walking the Multi Use Shortcut which would link up with the Main Trail and back to the parking lot and my truck.
I was the only vehicle left in the parking lot when I arrived back. I changed out of my sweat soaked clothes into some dry ones so as to be comfortable on the drive home. I had roughly estimated that I had walked around 6 miles but when I checked my phone and a pedometer that I always carry, one said 9.2 miles and the other 9.5. No wonder I was tired. A good way to start the New Year. So, a long drive home with a stop at Starbucks in Dripping Springs as a reward on the way. A perfect end to a perfect day made even nicer in knowing that I could jump into my hot tub to ease the aching muscles.
On the way out of the Park, I was able to capture a glorious sunset.
The Austin Pond Society held their first meeting of the year this past Monday Jan 21, 2019 at the usual place, Zilker Botanical Gardens here in Austin, Texas. This Society has been in existence since 1993 catering to the interests of many of the Pond enthusiasts in the Austin area..
The one position that is still vacant after the recent Board changes is that of Hospitality which is responsible for providing the group with the light meal at the start the meeting. In lieu of this, we settled for pizza from one of our Sponsors, Jet’s Pizza with the membership providing salads and deserts. As usual, the pizza was delicious and although I don’t eat pizza very often, I grabbed two large slices this time around.
I counted 28 members there which included the new Board, a little less than what we hoped for. Some of this was due to our scheduled Speaker, Katie Boyer from the US Fish and Wildlife Services unable to show due to the Government shutdown. In her place, BJ Jenkins, our Programs and Special Events Coordinator put together a contest. This consisted of the logos from the different Pond Tours for the past 16 years each sub titled with the year which in turn had to be linked to specific statements. At the end of the contest, the winners were Glen Hubenthal and Mary Word who had paired up to work together as the contest was designed for pairs.
Thanks to BJ and all of the other people involved for all of their work on gathering together these 16 Logos. Many are from actual tee shirts, 2008 for example.
Having fun at the Logo Contest. The entry screen should read 2019….
Following the contest, there was a short Q&A from members who had a couple of pond questions. Many people had differing views on advice offered to resolve the questions which made for interesting listening. We heard the sad story of a member who left the hose running while topping up his pond resulting in the death of all of his fish due to the chlorine in the water. This sparked off a discussion regarding the varying amounts of chlorine that the City uses especially during times of drought. Unfortunately, almost everyone early in their ponding careers learns this lesson the hard way. I suggested that pond owners should attach a water timer between the faucet and the hose as they are reasonably cheap at Home Depot or Lowes generally costing less than $20.00.
Ted Paone and BJ Jenkins with Andy Filtness
Ted Paone is the Pond Tour Chairman for this years Tour. He graciously offered to perform this duty for a third time having had this role for both the 2016 and 2017 Tours. He outlined the need for additional volunteers on the Pond Tour Committee. The plan is to have 6-7 ponds each day, North and South and he is still looking for ponds to show.
There was no real business other than the urgent need for a Hospitality volunteer. There was a brief discussion of the upcoming meetings and then Madam President, Barb Lenhardt called the meeting to a close.
The Business section of the meeting.
Pictures of the meeting to music
The next meeting will be on Monday February 18 at the usual place and time, Zilker Botanical Gardens at 6:30. The scheduled Speaker is Cindy Cassidy from the Texas Night Sky Festival and her subject will be Night Skies and Light Pollution. Hope to see you there.
I have a sister and truth to tell I do not know her very well as she is ten years older than me and growing up was a mystery as I was too young to join in her games and her friends to me were just names she was the youngest of the older three two brothers and her and then came me as we were the family so urbane Barbara Eileen was her given name but we called her Peggy or Peg for short how that name stuck I cannot report she was a soldier during the war in the ATS but who’s keeping score the years pass and time moved on married was she to a Scotsman name Ron both happy to raise a family two kids so proud for all to see Jim and Sheila were their names and babysitting for me was the game as I lived with her for a short while when my own life was in a turmoil my share of life that I could do as anything else I had no clue time passed as it it always does as we lived our lives without any fuss then to America I did go my sister and family also did show along with my brother whose family and wife had followed me there to make a good life and as time passed some of them died until the only ones left alive of the adult members of the original clan were my sister and I in all of the land my sister now is ninety two and until last year had every clue and apart from being hard of hearing was as just as sharp and just as endearing and then this Christmas as we usually do I called my sister which was long overdue as in the space of the past few months she had become confused her brain that once was sharp and quick and was no dunce had slipped into its senior mode and nothing that was said would goad her brain to react in a positive way remaining firmly in the past and conversation would not last at least in anything that we could share and even though I gave it a try my sister did not know why I had called or who I was and conversation was at a loss I spoke with Gary with whom she lives who is married to Sheila one of the kids and he sadly mentioned to me that she needs to be in a Facility that understands her very needs and can give her the help to succeed to live out what remains of her life in comfort and without any strife surrounded by caregivers trained in the ways of those whose brain does not behave in the way it used to do like a poor soul that has no clue I hung up the phone feeling very sad for my sister whose mind has gone bad and wondering if that is in store any reason can I expect more or will life be kind as I end my days with my brain intact in so many ways enough to know when it is time for the life to run out of my body and mind.
With no special plans for Christmas Day, I decided that I would take a walk at Bastrop State Park, the scene of a horrific wildfire that started September 14, 2011 and was finally controlled on October 10, 2011. Almost 35,000 acres were burned which included a large amount of the Bastrop State Park and the Piney Woods. Today, seven years later, the State Park is slowly coming back to life as Nature readjusts following the blaze. With the help of many volunteers, thousands of Loblolly Pines have been replanted to replace those lost in the fire and are growing very nicely. Many are already well over ten to fifteen feet tall bringing much needed greenery to the burned areas.
Courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife.
This was the first time that I have gone to this park with the intentions of taking a walk. As it was Christmas Day, the Park Office was closed but they have a handy self payment service along with a plentiful supply of maps that mark the trails.
I pulled over on the side of the road to study the map when a young female Park Ranger pulled up alongside of me. Wth her help, I was able to decide which trails I wanted to hike and set off along Park Road 1A to the middle parking lot. All of the trails are designated a color and I was planning on hiking the Post Oak Spur (Gray Trail) then taking the Scenic Overlook (Red Trail). I successfully made it to what I thought I was the scenic overlook but instead, there were a bunch of cabins.
Along the way, I ran into a couple of older people who were out for a stroll. I stopped to chat with them and they introduced themselves as Patricia and Hector and they were from Corpus Christi and up for the weekend. We chatted for a bit before I pushed on.
I backtracked and then turned off on another Red Trail and finally ended up at the top of the hill. This was quite obviously not the Scenic Overlook so somewhere, I had taken a wrong turn. Not to be deterred, I set off back down Park Road 1A or at least what I thought was this road. After travelling about a half mile with a view of the road in front of me, I was getting concerned that I was going in the wrong direction. Rounding the next bend, Park Road 1A was blocked off as the road had completely washed out on the other side of the barricades.
It also changed into Park Road 1C at this point. Being the stubborn old fool that I am, I climbed down the bank and crossed the stream at the bottom and continued for a bit walking on Park Road 1A enjoying the walk even though it was quite obvious by now that I was totally lost. At that point, I came to the conclusion that I was heading in the wrong direction and there was nothing else for it but to retrace my steps. So, I turned around and headed back climbing back down into the gully to get up to the road on the other side and headed back to the top of the hill where I had originally come out. It was all good exercise and easy walking except for the uphill parts.
There was nothing else but to retrace my steps and backtrack along the trails that I had taken to arrive at this point so without further ado, I started to walk back down the Red Trail. I ran into a young couple with a young daughter and they asked me for directions. I jokingly told them they were asking the wrong person as I was just as confused as they were. They continued on as did I in opposite directions and then the trail I was on turned into something else so I had to backtrack once again. We crossed paths again and they were able to direct me to the Grey Trail which they had just found.
Continuing on, I met another young couple with a dog and we exchanged hello’s as we passed. After what seemed like walking forever, I came back out onto Park Road 1A opposite my truck which was a sight for sore eyes and a tired body. Altogether, I covered six and a half miles with probably at least a couple of miles being lost. The walking was easy and the trails were great. After a while, even though I was surrounded by the remnants of the forest fires with the gaunt spectres of burnt trees pointing up to the sky, it became the norm. The newly planted Loblolly Pines were a beautiful green contrast to both the burned trees and Natures own winter colors and it was great to be outside.
I managed to get a picture of a Chipping Sparrow.
A black wooly Caterpillar.
Hard to believe that this….
will turn into this.
I couldn’t resist taking this picture as it clearly shows the heart of this tree.
Whereas this one is the future of the forest.
All in all, for me, it was a great way to spend Christmas Day enjoying the gifts of Nature. The video below is made up of the many pictures that I took.
I took another walk at Reimers Ranch just to get out and about in the fresh air and the beautiful sunny weather. Hard to believe that it is winter time with the temperatures hovering around 70 degrees. Even so, Mother Nature, in all of her glory, has on her winter coat at least in my part of Texas. Everything is a drab brown color except for the Evergreen Oaks and of course, the Cedars with the occasional Possumhaw Holly showing its red berries.
I decided that I would walk the other half of the Multi Use Trail that I didn’t complete on one of my earlier walks on the Northern end of the Park. I parked in the Mountain Bike Parking Lot which had several cars in it. I noticed as I drove past that the Horse Trailer Parking also had several trailers in it so there was some activity and on a Friday to boot. A couple of bikers came in as I was getting ready after having completed their runs chattering away and quite obviously having enjoyed it very much.
I changed into my hiking boots and decided on just one camera as I set out taking the trail that leads to Johnny’s Homestead which, by the way, is nothing but a standing chimney as the rest of the building disappeared in a fire several years ago. It still serves as a map marker. I passed a young couple going in the opposite direction and we exchanged pleasantries. As I hit the Multi Use Trail, I turned south. This trail is very easy walking and only at the very end, does it get rougher going. I managed to get a picture of a Pine Warbler which for me, is quite an achievement as I don’t see many birds. Probably because I am too noisy as I walk along and also because I don’t have the patience to sit and watch. When I do get to see one, I have to rely on the zoom lens to bring them in close and then hope I can crop the pictures to get them even closer and with color.
This end of the Multi Use Trail also brings me close to the stream that marks the boundary on this end of the park. It runs roughly north/south and tends to dry up in the very hot weather. This time of the year, it has a nice steady flow and as with a lot of the streams and waterways around here, has dug itself quite a deep ditch/canyon to flow through. I walked over to the closest spot and took a couple of pictures but was not able to convey the depth of the canyon very well which is about 50 feet at this point.
The trail eventually veers away from the stream as it makes the turn to bring me back to where I started. The posted markers indicate that the complete loop is 4.7 miles. I am not sure how they measure it as both of my pedometers always show more distance. At this point, the walking gets a little harder as the terrain turns rocky and also with a grade increase both up and down. I met a horse and rider who were just starting out from the Horse Trailer Parking Area and we exchanged pleasantries and joking about her six legs of transport compared to my two. I finally made the turn back up the road and into the Mountain Bike Parking Lot and to my truck. The lot was quite a bit emptier as many of the bikers had already left as had most of the Horse Trailers when I walked by their parking lot.
Altogether, I covered a little over four miles of pleasant and easy walking on a beautiful sunny day in Texas in the winter. The slideshow below is made up of the still pictures that I took.
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