Hiking with Friends at McKinney Roughs

Two of my closest friends, Gloria and George, asked me if I was interested in hiking the trails at McKinney Roughs. “Interested” I said, “Of course, I am  interested. Nothing better than a long hike”. For me, it brings me closer to Nature and is good for the body and soul and of course, the quality time spent with my friends. Besides, it gives me an excuse to take lots of pictures and then spend time working on them before putting them in a slide show or some other form of sharing. Then there is the blog part of the hike. Writing about it is a good way to keep my mind active and allows me to tell the story for others to share.

We met at the agreed time at McKinney Nature Park just outside of Bastrop. As I was a little late, Gloria had already signed us in and they were patiently waiting as I drove up. We discussed which trail to take and settled on the Riverside trail which as the name implies, would take us down to the Colorado River. This trail is wide open and easy hiking until it turns sharply downhill as it heads to the river. The grade is fairly steep but easy walking. Along the way, we came across the strangest cactus, one which none of us had ever seen before. Then we found another and yet another and concluded that it must be a special type relative only to McKinney Park.

As you can see from the picture above, it must have been someone with a sense of humor who had taken the time to carve the cactus just like a pumpkin with eyes and a mouth. They must have been well prepared with heavy gloves as we all know just how painful those cactus spikes can be. This little episode brightened our day and we saw the same carvings on many different cactus over the several miles that we covered. We came across several horses and riders as the park is also designated as a riding area. What a wonderful way to explore with the horses doing all of the work. Not sure how much riding contributes to the riders fitness except for the enjoyment of sharing life with the animal.

I forgot to mention that my friends brought their little dogs with them, a Chihuahua named  Nina and a Rat Terrier named Bobby. They both did extremely well off their respective leashes except when the horses appeared and then Bobby ran off in the other direction and it took a little bit of George’s coaxing to get him back. Other than that, they both stayed on the trail with us. Gloria had come well prepared as she knew that Nina would get tired and she had a sling fashioned around her neck to carry the little dog. This only happened towards the end of the walk which was to be expected. When we hit the river we had a discussion on which trail to take next and opted for Roadrunner and which eventually ran into Yaupon which would bring us back to our starting point and the cars.

These trails are all pretty much wide open with lots of room and easy walking. They are by no means flat and there are several steep climbs but with easy walking, was not difficult. They were also the longest trails in the park in terms of distance. In a couple of places, the trail crosses roads. One is the road that leads to the Hyatt and the other is Pope Bend Road. We also came real close to a water tower which when we started, seemed like miles off. The trails wind around and very rarely stay straight for more than a quarter of a mile or so before changing direction.

We followed Pope Bend Road for quite some distance walking parallel to it with us inside the fence. Between markers eight and nine, there is a rest station with a couple of benches. We stopped there for a while and I packed my cameras as I had not taken that many pictures. The scenery was pretty drab and typical of winter with very little green stuff and lots of browns and greys of dormant vegetation. I did take pictures of a couple of interesting green plants.

Continuing back on the trail it suddenly occurred to me that I was not wearing my sun glasses. I couldn’t remember taking them off and neither did I realize that I did not have them on. Very weird sensation suddenly not having them. We talked about it and as it was getting late, decided that I would come back the next day and walk the trail to look for them. We continued back along Yaupon and eventually back to our cars.

That ended our hike together. We covered about nine and a half miles according to the pedometer that I always carry with me. Tired but happy, we said our farewells and headed home. Actually, George and Gloria headed home and I took a longer route and went into Bastrop to the Starbucks to feed my one really bad habit, coffee. I read somewhere that coffee is actually good for you so I use that as my excuse for drinking the stuff.

The next day, I headed back to McKinney Nature Park and stopped in the office to enquire if anyone had turned the glasses in but to no avail. The person behind the desk was very accommodating and let me search for them without charging me although, with Senior Citizen status, it only costs me $2.00 under normal circumstances.

I backtracked along Yaupon searching as I went. I figured that if they were laying in plain site, they would be easy to spot. I came to the place where I had noticed them missing and really started to concentrate on my search from that point on. I reached the benches which seemed the most logical place to lose them after re-packing my cameras but they were not there. I sat for a while trying to figure out my next move and decided that I would keep back tracking until I came to the river as I knew that the trail was easy walking for those couple of miles. By then, I was caught up in the glory of being out in the fresh air and communing with nature and just wanted to enjoy it.

Upon reaching the river and remembering the reason for this particular hike, I turned around and headed back along Yaupon towards the Office area searching as I went thinking and re-living the hike of the day before and trying in my mind to recall just where I might have lost the stupid glasses. I remembered taking a picture of a particular plant with my cell phone not wanting to unpack my camera and wondered if I might have removed them at that time. As I was retracing my steps, I found the plant but the again, glasses were not there.

I finished the walk managing to go off course at the very end and found myself walking along Bobcat Ridge and realizing my error, back tracked again to get back on course. I passed a very noisy water treatment plant along the way. Even though my walk was unsuccessful in finding my glasses, it was still very enjoyable. My trusty pedometer showed that I had covered a little over twelve miles.

The following Saturday, I decided to go back for another hike just for the fun of it. I parked and headed for the office and in the course of the conversation, casually asked if anyone had turned in a pair of prescription sun glasses.  The gentleman behind the desk asked me to wait a minute as he went in the other room to take a look. He came out stating that “These are the only pair that have been turned in”. I took a look and after I put them on, I was able to identify to him that these were the ones. I thanked him profusely as I went out to start my hike. I backtracked along Yaupon and at one point, took a detour that brought me to the proclaimed, “Best View of the Valley and Colorado River”. It was a breathtaking view and will be even more spectacular in the Spring when the trees are green. I returned to Yaupon and continued on to the river and then took Coyote Road, a trail that I had not covered before.

At one point, I crossed paths with solitary horse and female rider going in the opposite direction but those were the only other trail users that I saw. It was a pretty steep climb but good walking and brought me back to the Office and my car. One thing that I have noticed when out hiking is the absence of birds and animals. I would have expected more. Altogether, I covered another 9 miles.

I had taken my camera with me which I carry in a special camera backpack that with the pack, camera and extra lenses weighs almost another twenty pounds. Wearing it is like hiking in full gear, so to speak although the pack is very comfortable. I did not take any pictures on this hike as I did not see anything new or different from the week before as I was hiking almost identical trails. But, I had my glasses back, I felt tired but happy and the world was a good place.

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