A Walk in Bastrop 3-25-2020


The Railroad Trestle Bridge

My walking buddy BJ, resides in the picturesque town of Bastrop which is located along the Colorado River. It has an LCRA Park, McKinney Roughs, that we often walk and a couple of State Parks and as it turns out, there are several other Parks that the city maintains and others that are maintained by volunteers including the one that we eventually followed which was named Dale’s Trail. It is situated right alongside the Colorado River and has at least three different parking areas one of which has a boat ramp.

The first part of the trail that we took is obviously not as well used as the continuation in the other direction of where we parked. It made a loop for about a half mile and we ended up back from where we started. We then pushed off in the other direction heading towards the railroad trestle bridge which was the end of the line as far as this park is concerned. The trail was well maintained and was very easy walking. There was no loop this time so we ended up back tracking to the lot where we had parked our vehicles.

There were a lot of people around mainly of the younger variety. Many were swimming or splashing about in the river in groups of a half dozen or so and quite obviously not a bit concerned with keeping any distance between themselves. Quite the opposite in fact as they romped in the water. A boat came up the river doing a pretty good speed. Either in a hurry or just liked to drive fast. When we met somebody on the trail, we each gave the other a lot of room to pass making sure there was not contact.

Actually, this was true of BJ and myself. She usually lets me walk ahead as I am the slower walker plus I am always stopping to take pictures and so I set the pace. Normally, she will walk alongside when the trail is wide enough for it but this time, throughout the entire time we were out, she tried and very successfully maintained a 6 foot gap between us at all times, not once walking alongside of me. Any other time, my feelings would be hurt but with the risk of getting too close, I made allowances.

At one point along the trail, we came across two trees growing side by side with the trail going between them. I took two pictures one of which has BJ standing in the middle to give a comparison of size. BJ is about five and a half feet tall.

When we reached the second parking lot, the trail became very well maintained and had timber edging. There was a sign stating that it was maintained by volunteers. We passed an interesting couple of rock formations that were thousands of years old and the kids of previous years had, as kids everywhere often do, left their initials carved for posterity.

The railroad trestle is still in use and in good repair. BJ, who lives no more than a mile or so from this park, told me that she hears the trains at night. There was a sign that stated it was Private Property beyond it but the trail continued on and looked well used.

We came across a group of five young people that were barbecuing. They had a couple of friendly dogs with them and we stopped and chatted for a bit before continuing on to our vehicles. BJ left to drive home and I was contemplating on whether I should go and change into drier clothes when a couple of young girls dressed only in their bikinis walked past me. I heard them shout back to a couple of others that they were not going to walk through the woods along the trail and would take the long way. Then I noticed that besides being clad in only the skimpiest of bikinis they also did not have shoes on. It had taken me awhile to get my eyes down to their feet. I watched them walk out of the rough stony parking lot and onto the road to take the long way back to their friends. I winced for them and it sent tingles up my back and feet as they carefully picked their way along. Oh the beauty of youth, able to walk barefoot on the rocks which is much more than I can do. I can barely walk from the bed to the bathroom without stubbing my foot or stepping on a doggie toy.

All in all, we walked a little under 4 miles, enough to work up a sweat and get some exercise. It felt great to be back out again in the fresh air and this time, fresh trails to discover.

Written 3/30/2020

APS February Meeting – 2020


A pano view of some of the Members.

The Austin Pond Society held their Monthly Meeting this past Monday, February 17th at the Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin where most of their meetings are held. The only exceptions is when they go on location to other sites such as Mayfield Park or Austin Aqua-Dome and such.

This meeting was attended by around 35 people, some of whom were there on an exploratory basis to see if they wanted to become members which of course we always encourage visitors to do. All were invited to share in the fabulous pizzas along with salads and deserts brought in by the Members.

Bill Biggadike, Kim Reynolds. Steve Garza

At 7:00 pm, Barb, our President, introduced the Speaker for the evening, Bill Biggadike of Bill Biggadike and Associates whose topic for the evening was going to be on Pond and Garden Lighting. Several of the members had expressed an interest in this topic. After a short video, Bill opened up the floor for questions of which there were many and he and his two associates, Kim Reynolds and Steve Garza spent the next hour answering them. Bill apologised for the quality of the video which presented the age old problem of taking pictures at night in the dark and not being able to use artificial light.

Pond and Garden Lighting

Following the presentation, Barb took over and conducted the small bit of business that she had. Julie, as the AAGC Representative was the first person up and gave a brief outline of the meeting that she had attended. Some time was spent in discussing the upcoming Pond Tour to be held on June 6-7. BJ talked about the number of ponds that she currently has on her list and the need for at least a half dozen more. There was also some discussion on the vacancy for a Pond Tour Chairman, a position which is so important and has yet to be filled. We really need someone to pull the Pond Tour all together combining the work by the various individual members and committees that each have separate rolls in getting this great event ready for the Public.

Business Section of the meeting.

The meeting closed with the raffle drawing and the members drifted away after a rapid clean up of the room. The next meeting is scheduled for March 16 and the speaker will be Adam Coffin from The Great Outdoors. His topic will be “Insects and diseases that are new or lesser known” and should be interesting to learn about the creepy crawlies that inhabit our yards and gardens. Hope to see you there.

Written 02/19/2020

Reimers Ranch 01-24-2019


A panoramic view showing the winter brown foliage.

The weather was so nice that I just had to get out and take a walk. I settled on Reimers Ranch as it is not too far from my house and around a thirty minute drive. As the Bluetooth unit in the truck had just quit (see my previous blog) I had to rig up a different system which I did by using my portable Bluetooth speaker so that I could listen to Audiobooks as I drive.

I parked in the Mountain Bike Parking Lot and after donning all of my gear, set out across the trail that divides the main Multi Use Trail that encircles the park. This trail comes out at a place known as Johny’s Homestead where a cabin used to stand. This burnt down several years ago and all that remains is the stone chimney. It probably has a history and a story or two if there was any way of finding them.

I struck out on the Multi Use Trail heading in a Northerly direction. The Multi Use Trail is very wide, enough for the Park’s vehicles as they cover the property and very easy walking. The sun was shining very brightly and it was hard to realize that it was a winter’s day. My part of Texas in the middle of the State does not really get a winter in terms of really bad weather. Just the occasional freeze and uncomfortable drops in temperatures although it was a balmy seventy degrees as I walked enough to work up a sweat. I arrived at a spot where the main trail split, one way was a short cut that, if followed cut off a mile or so of the big loop. I chose to take the other trail which is a continuance of the main trail but is known as the Turkey Loop. It swings around for a mile and then rejoins the main trail by the last parking area. I have yet to see any turkeys but I did come across a whole bunch of their footprints so they do exist. The area had some rain and the ground was moist in places enough that the wildlife had left an assortment of tracks. I am so noisy as I walk due to using two walking poles that I am very lucky if I see anything live other than humans or horses.

Cardinal

I did manage to get a picture of a Cardinal sitting in the tree but was very frustrated by my inability to capture any of the other birds that tormented me by flying ahead and when they settled, it was always within a bush or tree and under cover.

Beautiful dogs

I met a young lady who had a couple of very large chocolate labs with her and we stopped and chatted for a bit and she allowed me to take their pictures.

I followed the main trail until I came to the signpost marking the second to last parking area known as River View Parking No 1 where I crossed the paved road so that I could walk the gravel path that overlooks the river. This pathway has been undergoing some extensive repairs and now in many places, it is a concrete path as well as the original gravel. The old pathway was subject to washing out if we ever had any heavy rains. This pathway runs the full extent of the Park from the first parking lot to the last and makes for a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.

In several places, the trail overlooks the river but in many others, trees and vegetation block the view. The scenery was a typical winter brown and that was pretty much true throughout the park.

When I arrived at the first parking lot, I ran back into the lady with the dogs and we chatted some more before going our separate ways. Mine was to cross the street and climb the hill to where my truck was parked in the Mountain Bike Parking Lot. I was still the only vehicle parked there but it was a Friday after all. As per my usual custom on any walk, I had sweat enough to warrant a change of clothes for the drive home. Unlike hiking at McKinney Roughs, there was no main office selling ice cream so I had to settle for driving home via Dripping Springs just so that I could grab a latte.

Altogether, I hiked 5.5 miles and enjoyed it immensely. It felt good to get back out on the trails again.

Written 01/25/2020.

McKinney Falls 01-15-2020


A view of the swimming hole. In the summertime, this area is packed with people.

My friend BJ called me to set up a hike with the possibility of her going to Reimers Ranch for the first time. However, the best laid plans and all of that were changed at the last minute due to a hairdresser’s appointment that somehow, she had forgotten about. So instead of Reimers, we opted to go to the State Park at McKinney Falls as it was closer and about midway between Bastrop where she lives and South West Austin, where I live.

The only real green thing in the park. Such a beautifully shaped tree.

Instead of walking the long blacktopped trail that goes around the park as we usually do, we decided to explore the trails on the other side of the Upper Falls as the water in the creeks was running low making it easy to get across without getting our feet wet. The Upper Falls are at the confluence of Onion Creek and Williamson Creek and after any heavy rains, the creeks normally run full of water. We haven’t had much rain for the past several months except for the odd shower here and there.

We kinda wandered around following what we thought was a major trail but in the end it petered out forcing us to retrace our steps. We toyed with the idea of jumping across the crevasses in the rock base just as a young guy had done just before us but neither of us had enough confidence in our ability to do that. We even looked to do some rock jumping in the creek as the water was only about 6-8 inches deep but the thought of having wet feet for the rest of the hike kinda put us off.

So we retraced our steps back to the starting point and then chose an alternate trail to hike. This one was blacktopped part of the way and would have led us to the Lower Falls if we had continued but we turned off onto a parallel trail and made our way back this time following Onion creek. We got as far as the giant cypress tree and even though, the bridge across had been rebuilt, the trail was closed on the other side. We had no choice but to backtrack and rejoin our original trail back to the parking lot. There were a lot of people about enjoying the beautiful mild day with the temperature hovering around the 75 degree mark. Not bad for wintertime but not unusual here in Texas. Next time we come here and if the water level is still low, we plan on visiting the Lower Falls and walking the trails on the other side. A lot of today’s hike was walking on the rocky surface which I found to be uncomfortable to walk on. Altogether, we covered almost 3.5 miles.

Written 01/18/2020

Reimers Ranch 12-27-2019


A panoramic view across the river

I decided to go for a short walk at Reimers Ranch, which is the closest of the hiking areas that I tend to visit and only a 20 minute drive from my house. I wanted to see if there was anything to photograph and that would catch my eye this being the Texas wintertime. As I walked along, my mind went back to when I lived in Upper New York State and at this time of the year, there would probably already be a foot or more snow on the ground plus freezing cold temperatures that are definitely not conducive for taking walks outside. Such are the blessings of living in Texas that in the central part of the State where I live, the winters never get very cold and we only occasionally get any snow. For us, putting up with many 100 degree days in the Summer are what test our resolve when it comes to weather.

But I digress from the original intent which was to talk about the latest hike at Reimers Ranch which I have hiked so many times that I am my own map of the Park. I parked in the very last parking area known as River View Parking No 2, the one used by the Rock Climbers, and struck off onto the Main Trail walking back towards the park entrance. The plan was to walk back on this trail for about a mile which would bring me to the third of the parking areas, River View Parking No 1, across the road. From there, I took the gravel path that is located on the top of the bluff above the Pedernales River. This path stretches the full length of this frontage overlooking the river from the very first parking area the entire way and ends in the last parking area. Incidentally, the river which for much of the year has a steady flow and is always bank to bank, is down very low as we have not yet had much in the way of rain to refill it after the long hot summer. That will almost certainly happen in the Spring.

As I walked along, I noticed that the vegetation is wearing its winter brown with the only green being the evergreen oaks and the very occasional cactus. I took several pictures including a couple where I tried to, and not very successfully I might add, take a picture of the sun’s rays as they broke through the clouds. Alas, mine and cameras eyes did not agree on what we both saw and the end result is disappointing. I did not see a single bird although I could hear them somewhere close by. I guess, many of them have migrated to warmer climes.

Altogether, I covered about 2.5 miles of very pleasant walking. I passed a couple of other people going in the opposite direction and we exchanged pleasantries. Nice to see people out enjoying nature. I arrived back at my truck ready to make the drive home with a detour to Dripping Springs for a Starbucks break. One thing about hiking at this time of the year, I am not covered in sweat requiring a change of clothing like what happens in the Spring and Summer. Altogether, a very enjoyable walk in the country and not a bad way to end the hiking for this year.

Written 01/02/2020

Best Laid Plans…


A Rainy Day

The best laid plans of both Mice and Men are sometimes disrupted by simple things. Take today, for example. I had arranged with my friend BJ that we would go walking at Reimers Ranch as she has never been there. We planned on meeting at 10:00 am at my house as this time, she had to come over to me instead of the reverse. We had planned for me to drive us to the Ranch as it lay West of my house and it didn’t make sense to take two cars.

I got to thinking that 10:00 am would mess up my usual routine as the dogs and I are really lazy bums when it comes to getting up in the morning. Anything earlier than 9:00 am is totally unheard of if I have not made plans to go somewhere or do something. Consequently, I had to set my phone alarm for a 7:00 am wake up call which is a couple of hours earlier than when I am normally used to getting up.

At the allotted time, the alarm went off and I dragged my lazy ass out of bed wishing that I could crawl back under the covers and go back to sleep. The dogs looked at me as if to say, “What the hell is going on?” and promptly did go back to sleep. I struggled to get dressed cursing under my breath and noting that it was still dark outside and wandered out into the kitchen.

First things on the agenda was to take a walk outside and feed the fish and check the ponds for any overnight concerns. Both of the younger dogs accompanied me outdoors taking a walk around the garden and exploring the overnight smells from the different animals that had visited. Everything appeared OK so after checking and washing out a couple of filters, we wandered back indoors. I noticed that it was very cloudy and there was moisture in the air.

Next thing was to feed my three furry friends who by this time, had given up any attempts of sleeping in and were now busy getting in the way as I prepared their breakfast bowls. With them all taken care of, I turned my attention to the computer to check on the weather forecast. Sure enough, the forecast was for thunderstorms and rain showers which prompted me to text BJ and ask her what she wanted to do pointing out the weather forecast. Her immediate response was to postpone the walk until next week as neither of us enjoyed hiking in the rain as we had done on a hike at Bastrop State Park a month or so ago. We texted for a bit and then I turned my attention to my breakfast and making a latte for myself, which incidentally, I do every morning.

With the change of plans, I now had the entire day to myself and looked at the choices that I had to fill it. As the weather was unpredictable, they were mostly confined to anything I could do indoors which in my case, usually involves with working on photos or writing a blog. This blog is the end result.

Oh yes, BJ and I will go walking next week if she is available or I will go by myself when hopefully, it will be nice and sunny with balmy seventy degree temperatures. Such is winter in Central Texas although Texans have a saying, “If you don’t like the weather, just hang around for a bit and it will probably change” and we could quickly go from rain to thunderstorms and then back to sunshine almost in the blink of an eye. We may even get a bit of a freeze as it is wintertime, sort of.

Written 01/10/2020

McKinney Roughs 1-3-2020


The view from the top of the park
Winter view

The first blog written in 2020 of a short hike that my friend BJ and I took. 2020 sounds like something out of a science fiction movie.

We hadn’t walked in a while and originally, we were going to hike at Reimers Ranch as she has never been there before. But, due to an unplanned delay on her end, we ended up at McKinney Roughs as it was closer to her house in Bastrop. I really like walking at the Roughs as the trails are pretty interesting with a mix of wide and narrow, shaded and unshaded, easy walking to very rough footing and major changes of contours which always seem to be uphill. Not only that, the Check In Office sells ice cream, a tasty reward for the end of the walk.

Riverside Trail

As the pictures show, the Roughs very much have their winter coats on with almost everything a shade of grey and brown and not very much green. Even so, we did find a couple of patches of flowers, namely Copper Canyon Daisy that were still showing their pretty faces.

Copper Canyon Daisy

It was an absolutely gorgeous day. The sun was shining and the temperature was around a mild 72 degrees, just right for walking and very little breeze to talk of. We came across several people, all with dogs and stopped to chat to a couple of them. With such beautiful weather, I am not surprised that other people were out and about.

We decided to take the Riverside trail with the intention of turning off onto Valley View but decided to stay on Riverside and as the name suggests, it does eventually take us down to the Colorado River. As it happens, this river does have a lot of water in it as compared to the Pedernales at Reimers Ranch which is running very low.

The trail runs parallel to the river although the views are not very clear due to the brush and trees. We came across our early acquaintances and this time, they had ventured out onto the Roughs which are a bunch of rocks that form little islands in the river. Their dogs were thoroughly enjoying the water. We followed the river and at one point spotted cows across on the other side. We had been wondering why the grass on that side was so well trimmed and quickly found out why.

The Park people have done a lot of work on the trails, at least on the major ones like the one we were on and the walking was very easy. It got a little more difficult as we went down the hill towards the river as the ground changed to very loose pebbles making it a little tricky. This happens a lot as with the changing contours of the land, the various and different layers of materials become exposed.

From Riverside, we took Bluff Trail Loop which started us on the way back to the car park. As Riverside had been flat and then downhill, so Bluff Trail Loop is all uphill and much narrower and rockier to walk on. Eventually, this trail turned into Ridge which brought us back to the starting point. We never see much wildlife as we are probably way too noisy but we did get to see the buzzard in flight.

We were exploring the flowers gardens in the main Campus and I heard someone call my name. Looking up, I saw a couple of ladies in front of me and the taller of the two introduced herself and her friend. Turns out that she was an ex soccer player and recognized me from when I was involved in the Women’s Soccer program in Austin. We chatted for a while mainly about the beauties of this specific park. Interesting the people that you run into while out on these hikes. True to form, BJ turned down my offer of buying her an ice cream and left to drive home. Me, I didn’t have her will power and treated myself to a Nutty Bar which disappeared before I even drove out of the parking lot. Altogether, we covered 4.6 miles of very enjoyable walking.

Written 1/7/2020