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 .
I decided to go for a drive to Bueschers State Park which is located in Smithville mainly because I haven’t been there in a very long time. What I really wanted was to check out if the trails had been reopened after the fires of September and October of 2011. I could have called but it was much more fun to go see for myself. I had left it too late to actually hike as it was after noontime and the temperatures were climbing in the 90 degree plus areas making it a little too warm to start a hike. For me, I need to start at lower temperatures and as the heat increases, my body adjusts accordingly but I am not very good at starting a hike in the direct heat of 90 degrees or more.
I arrived at the Park only to discover that the office was closed for lunch. I was only planning on driving through to the Bastrop State Park on a connecting road that was named Park Road 1C and was not going to make use of any of the Park Facilities including the trails and I figured I could get by without a sticker.
Park Road 1C is a pleasant 12 mile drive that connects the two parks. It actually goes through all of the major burn areas from that previous fire. Everywhere you look are signs of Nature’s recovery from those dreadful fires. Thousands of Loblolly Pines have been replanted, mainly by volunteers to replace those that were lost to the fire assisted by natural reproduction from Nature. They are between 6 and 10 feet tall now and growing strongly and are everywhere which makes it look very good for the future of both Parks.
I arrived at the Trailhead for the Pine Gulch parking area sharing the space with with a UPS truck with the driver enjoying his lunch break. Great spot for a break although he probably follows the same routine when he is in the area. From the signs, it was obvious that the trails had been reopened and I promised myself that I would take full advantage of them in the very near future.
I continued along Park Road 1C taking a few pictures of the beautiful Loblolly Pines that had not been touched by the fire and then arrived at the Scenic Overlook, located in the Bastrop State Park. This is one of the highest point in the Park and has a wonderful view. From there, I headed out of the Park and took Highway 71 back through Bastrop with the inevitable stop at Starbucks along the way. Buescher State Park is on my list of upcoming hikes for the very near future.
I called my friend BJ to see if she might be interested in taking a walk at our favorite place, McKinney Roughs and was pleased that she said she would walk with me. It’s not that I mind walking alone but it is nice to have company occasionally and someone to talk to. She only agreed to walk if we kept it down to a reasonable distance complaining of tiredness from cleaning out her bog on one of her ponds and I told her we could do that.
I arrived first and per my usual routine, changed into my hiking boots and geared up ready to go. We met at the main office and paid our two dollars and with a quick look at the map, set out along the along Woodland which is one of the interior trails. It, in turn, linked up to the Ridge completing a short loop. There was a lot of shade as the pictures show and it was very pleasant walking and of course, having company really helped. We chatted about everything, the world in general, life, the Pond Society and the upcoming seminar that both BJ and Sam will be presenting at the next meeting. We talked about everyday events, our neighbors, bog cleaning and of course Trump. We both have the same opinions of him and common courtesy prevents me from writing what they are for fear of offending the readers.
Along one of the trails, we came across what looked like two trees that had grown together. What made it more interesting was that we could not see that the smaller tree had any foliage but it was definitely very much alive.
After walking the above mentioned trails, we wandered around a bit and found ourselves back at the Recreation Area and I was telling BJ about the kids that were here the previous summer and all of the fun they had. I had fun too just filming them and their antics as they climbed ropes and slid down the zip lines set up for them. Oh, to be young again although I would not want to be a kid in this modern day and age. Too much of a challenge with nothing simple anymore not a bit like when I was growing up, World War 2 notwithstanding. This area was quiet today with no activity going on. The Red Bird of Paradise were putting on quite a show. We passed one group of flowers named Skeletonleaf Goldeneye but most of them are finished for the year
We wanted to get onto Foxtail but for one reason and another, we kept picking the wrong trails so we eventually gave up and headed back to the Parking Lot. We actually did OK as far as the distance that we walked covering 4.3 miles. The trails were easy with not too many hills, the trees shaded us from the sun with the temperatures hovering around the 90 degree mark and the company was good. Who could ask for more?
The weather was beginning to warm up when I started out but being the stubborn idiot that I am, I went anyway for a hike at McKinney Roughs, my favorite park.
Per my normal routine, I changed into my hiking gear, grabbed my camera, paid my $2.00 and was off this time taking the Pine Ridge Trail. I have hiked this trail several times before and knew the hazards that were in front of me in the form of steps, many, many steps. I had never had any trouble before and had no reason to think that this hike would be any different.
The trail is good walking and only in a few spots were there loose pebbles as the makeup of the landscape changed underfoot. This trail heads in the area of the Zip Line system that has been built in the park and is operated by a private company. I reached the first of the several towers followed after about a half mile with the second tower which is located at the top of a bluff. The trail leads right past this tower and then descends down into the valley below. While I was in sight of the towers, there was no Zip Line activity although I did hear some on my way out.
I started down the wooden steps which I have walked several times before counting them as I went. There are 81 total steps going down from the end of the trail I was walking and for some reason, I began to feel very tired and weary which has never happened before. As I was already more than a couple of miles from the parking lot and at the midway point of the walk, I opted to keep going even knowing that I immediately had 101 steps going up a rather steep incline. I felt weary enough to stop and rest a couple of times on the way up before finally making it to the top. Using the very English expression, I was totally “knackered” but still about 3 miles from home and had no choice other than to keep plodding on which I did taking various rests along the way. I came to a bench on the trail but it was out in the sun which is not where I wanted to sit. Also it was hotter than blazes and I couldn’t have sat on it anyway. I wonder why the Park people had not put the bench in the shade somewhere. Anywhere but in the hot sun which was probably at 95 degrees. I came to the Bird Blind which has been recently built and seeing that there were no people inside, decided to sit and rest for a while before going on even though I was probably less than a half mile from the parking lot. That helped a lot and I probably dozed off for a bit before making the final effort and to cover the last distance to the truck.
I changed out of my wet clothes and as the office was still open, went back inside to buy a bottle of water. I had exhausted my own. I also bought an ice cream sandwich which really put life back into me. I have no idea why I was affected this way as it has never happened to me before. I refuse to put it down to age or something that I ate so it was probably the heat. Lesson learned is to hike earlier in the day when it is a little cooler. Altogether I covered about 7 miles which is normal for me although these turned out to be very hard and exhausting miles.
The thirty mile drive back with the AC going full blast and I was cooled down very nicely by the time I got home. I didn’t even stop for my usual Latte. Can’t wait to get out on the trails again but got to stay away from those steps…
I decided that I wanted to walk at Pedernales Falls State Park as it had been a while since I was there. I wanted a change of scenery from my usual haunts and with its many cedar trees, Pedernales Falls does that as does the hilly and rocky terrain. This park is about 40 or so miles from my house but is a pretty quick and straightforward drive through the back roads of Texas.
Being a Friday, there were not too many people clamouring for the services of the Park Rangers so check in went fast. I had already decided that I would take the Madrone Trail that would bring me back in a big loop from where I had parked the truck. I changed into my hiking gear and then set off heading for the entrance which I notice was already changed from the last time I was here. This trail brought me onto Windmill Road past the Horse Trailer Parking Area where there was one trailer parked and two horses in the paddock. This trailer looked as though it had a living quarters built into it which I thought was pretty neat. It meant you could load the horses and then stay at a park to ride if and when you felt like it and then come back and rest up out of the sun.
As I was standing by the picnic tables, I spotted a deer way off in the distance and got a picture of it. Unfortunately, the picnic tables are also in the way. I continued with my hike following Windmill Road and then turned off onto the Madrone Trail. This is mostly through Cedar so the shade was patchy to say the least and the terrain was very rocky in many places but the trail was good without too many hazards. There were a few flowers along the way including a small cactus that was in full bloom and very beautiful.
I finally made the turn back onto Windmill Road and back to the Parking Lot. Soaked as I was, I made my usual surreptitious strip tease and changed into dry clothes. Luckily, as it happened, I was the only vehicle in this particular Parking Lot so I didn’t have to be too discreet.
Comfortably clad in dry clothes, I drove back into the Park and to the actual Pedernales Falls which I had visited several times before. I wanted pictures of the Falls themselves and to see how much water was running in the river. I walked down the hill for about a quarter of a mile to the overlook that gives the best view of the falls. There was an lady artist busy working away on a very nice oil painting of the Falls. I stopped and chatted to her and then took all of the pictures that I wanted before heading back to the truck. It wasn’t until I was driving out that I realized I hadn’t taken any pictures of her or her work and mentally kicked myself for my stupidity.
I took a slow drive home which took me through Dripping Springs and the inevitable Starbucks, tired but content. I had walked almost 7 miles which isn’t bad in the Texas heat….
This is my one thousandth blog that I have written and posted on this site. I never thought when I started blogging all of those years ago and posted my first blog on July 12, 2011 that I would maintain the interest and continue on. But I have done and am still excited even today when I finish a particularly good piece or poem and have good quality pictures to go along with it.
Things are a little different now than it was eight years ago. Then, I thought that I would write short stories and post them for all to see until I figured out just how much work that was. I soon found out that I was not a writer as I don’t have a devious enough mind to come up with all of those plots and situations. Instead, I let Nature be the plot as she provides me with countless means of expression through her beauty. I added photography to my repertoire and have got to be pretty good at it. So, nowadays, I take pictures as I go on long hikes and then I write about what I have seen and show the photos that I took. Incidentally, I always do post camera work on all of my pictures to bring out the colors and shades that I did not capture with the original picture and in the last couple of years have got a lot of pleasure out of putting together videos of the pictures by turning them into slideshows, usually to music.
I discovered early on that I can write verse albeit a bit corny sometimes. If the words rhyme then that is good enough for me even if the words don’t make too much sense. I love writing poetry and I really feel my creative side coming out when I put down the words.
I write for myself and publish it for others to share if they are so inclined to read it. Early on, I wanted everyone to “like” what I wrote until I discovered that I had to “like” them back. I soon tired of that game and nowadays only add a “like” if in fact I really do. Otherwise, a quick glance to see if the other blog is interesting and then move on although I do have a few fellow bloggers that I follow and “like” on a consistent basis and it still takes me an hour or more going through the blogs every morning.
I did manage to write an entire autobiography about my life growing up in England all the way from being a little kid during the second World War to the trip from England to America and it sits on a thumbdrive gathering dust. There is a second part waiting to be written, My Life in America, but if I ever will actually write it, remains to be seen. Maybe when I can’t hike anymore. It’s a sure thing that I am not going to get rich from writing or photography.
So why do we do it? What compels us to spend time and effort writing about our interests and then publishing it so that others may read about it? Why are we so arrogant to believe that others may be in the slightest bit interested in any of our work. I have no answer for that and can only put it down to the folly of human nature which is why some people are writers and authors and other are carpenters and bricklayers, which incidentally I was for many years of my life.
When I can no longer hike or when the ponds get to be too much work, what will I write about then? If I don’t live it, I do not have a story. Like I said at the beginning, I am a reporter not a writer and probably by then, my brain will be defunct of any creative virtues.
Here’s hoping for another thousand blogs and all the years that go along with it…
I arranged with my friend BJ that we would meet at McKinney Falls which is a State Park and not very far from our other hiking spot, McKinney Roughs which is an LCRA Park. Both are on the Colorado River. She texted me to say she was running late and I used the time to put on my boots and make other preparations.
McKinney Falls has several trails some of which are on the other side of the river and with the latest rains, it looked to be a tricky prospect wading across the slippery rocks while fighting the flow of water. Several people were doing just that when we arrived but we had no intentions of taking that particular hike. The big swimming hole below the falls had a mixture of people and turtles some of which were pretty big. The turtles that is.
Instead, we opted for the blacktopped trail that encircles the park and is, according to the map, almost 3 miles around. We have hiked that trail several times before but it has been a couple of years since we were here. One of the things that we noticed was that the blacktop is rapidly deteriorating and if they intend it to remain as a hardcover trail, is going to need some major work.
The temperature was already in the low nineties so it was warm Luckily, most of the trail we were walking is in the shade which helped a lot but even so, hot is hot. We passed a few people going in the opposite direction and as is usual on the trail, pleasantrees were exchanged. Everything was green and beautiful and there were still a lot of flowers although most were coming to an end.
We got back to the parking lot and I decided to go back to the Falls which was only a few steps away from where we were parked and take a couple more pictures. BJ left for home and I stopped at the nearest restroom to change out of my clothes which as usual, were totally soaked. I noticed that I had an eight inch crack in my windshield which was not there before. Probably a rock thrown up by a passing car. It is very low down and does not interfere with my driving so I can probably get by until the next inspection due later this year.
All in all, a great hike. A couple of years does make a difference as it felt like it was a fresh place and of course, having great company helps as well especially to one that normally hikes alone. Now where to next….
Oh yes, both of my pedometers that I carry showed we walked 5.3 miles and as that number looks much grander (and bigger) than what the map says, we will go with that.
I had the urge to get out and about and as it is now summertime in Texas, hiking in the heat is one of the joys of living here. We don’t get much in the way of a winter in Austin but we make up for it in the summertime as we can guarantee that it is only a matter of time before the temperature hits the one hundred degree mark. From then on, it is anyone’s guess as to how many hundred degree days we will get. The record was set back in 2011 when there were 79 recorded 100 degree days. That was a hot summer.
Believe it or not, life still goes on even with all of that heat. We make adjustments and do things like hiking earlier in the day which is usually several degrees cooler. As the temperature rises, the body adjusts with it making it possible to hike. Most of us though, choose not to hike in the extreme heat of the day. I am one of those fortunate or unfortunate guys, depending on your point of view, that perspires a lot and at the end of any heavy physical exertions, am thoroughly soaked through requiring that I change my clothes before jumping in my truck to drive home. I don’t notice while I am walking as I wrap a bandana around my forehead and wear a wide brimmed hat with a neck cover that captures most of the sweat and stops it from dripping into my eyes. I take heed of my Dermatologist and slap on vast amounts of sunscreen otherwise she lectures me at my next visit. Like everything else, if we want to do stuff, we have to make the necessary adjustments.
Such was the case in my most recent walk at McKinney Roughs. It was already ninety degrees when I started out and I chose to hike a trail that is named Yaupon. One reason that I chose it is because it has a lot of tree cover giving me a plenty of shade which really helps. The guide says that Yaupon is two point seven miles long and I knew that it was an out and back hike as the trail that completes the loop has been washed out in a couple of places and is no longer connected. I don’t normally like to cover the same ground twice but as someone pointed out to me, you get to see the same view from two different directions which is true as several of the pictures show the same view from both directions.
The trail has had a lot of work done to it in several different places due to washouts and there were still a couple of wet areas requiring one to carefully pick the footing. Generally speaking though, it was good walking. I passed one gentleman who was heading back in. We chatted for a bit and he tried to convince me that there was more breeze up ahead but somehow, I doubted him although I just nodded my head and passed some remark. I had been following fresh horse tracks and wondered how soon before I would see the horse and rider as I mentioned before, this trail is an out and back trail. Sure enough as I rounded a bend, there was the horse and rider approaching me. Following the trail etiquette, I stepped off to allow them to pass calling out to the rider and asking her if I could get their photograph. As with most people, she was only too willing to pose and the horse just took it for granted that of course he should be in the picture. The horse’s name was Troy but I didn’t get the riders name.
They moved on and I continued until I reached the water tower which is about a half a mile or so from the trails end in Pope Bend Trailhead. I figured that I had gone far enough and turned back to retrace my steps. As with most hikes, those same hills were much steeper going back and the distance much further but I eventually made it back to the parking lot and my truck. I must have taken longer than I anticipated as when I got back, the Office was closed and the parking lots were pretty empty. That was a shame as on the last trip here, I had discovered that they carried chocolate ice cream on a stick and I had been promising myself I would treat myself to one. Oh well, I am probably better off not eating the stuff but darn, it sure would have gone down very nicely.
All in all, I covered seven and a half miles and was really dragging by the time I got back. I carry both an Iphone and a pedometer and they both said close to the same thing. I wonder how the Map makers measure the trail distances as I always walk more than the map says. Normally, I use the park’s restrooms to change but as they were closed, I had to get out of the soaked clothes so ended up doing a strip tease in the Parking Lot. Luckily for me, it was empty and there was no one around which was probably a good thing as if anyone had caught sight of my eighty three year old body, it would have turned them off the opposite sex for the rest of their life.
I drove back and was warmly welcomed by four anxious and excited little dogs. At least, they love me sexy and sweaty body and all…
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