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

Land of the Free.


Statue of Liberty seen from the Circle Line ferry, Manhattan, New York
The inscription reads:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me

I had another day today
when I could not think of a thing to say
that others might find interesting to read
and stay awhile their curiosity in need
of something stimulating and bright
or make them laugh with all of their might
alas no humor in me today
as I go about my way
with the world a somber place
and wildfires threatening the human race
animals in need of a helping hand
as the fires spread throughout their land
closer to home we have troubles of our own
as Congress sits the President to de-throne
turning this country to an upside down place
as the Politicians take sides whether to displace
and impeach the President of this land
if there are enough votes at hand
making the people to choose sides
awaiting for the Members to decide
even while waiting for these actions to start
the country is hurting being torn apart
with no hope at all to politely disagree
and friends and neighbors will be enemies
such is the way of the modern world
where news spreads fast the mind in a whirl
I too am an immigrant to this land
from England where it was originally planned
that America as it was known
would always belong to the English throne
but the subjects who were already here
had different ideas and with no fear
sent the English back to their land
causing them to disband
declaring the country the Land of the Free
and giving the Nation its liberty
but Americans being the mix that they are
no longer like strangers from countries afar
they are not welcome to inhabit this space
no more the land of the free a terrible disgrace
the people here have memories so short
that everyone was welcomed through New York’s port.
and erected a statue for everyone to see
that you are welcome here to the Land of the Free.

Written 01/14/2020

What To Do On A Grey Day


The front yard showing the Asiatic Jasmine.

The day was one of those miserable grey days with a very light drizzle, so light that it was hardly visible except that the deck was wet and there was moisture in the air. The temperature was hovering around the fifty eight degree mark but due to the damp air was of the chilly kind. Not the sort of day to want to go outside unless there was a very pressing need like feeding the fish and checking on the ponds to make sure everything was operating OK.

I had nothing planned, no doctors appointments and nothing else that I needed to worry about. Normally, I would have plenty to do outside. Yesterday, I was out in the front of the house where the yard is covered with Asiatic Jasmine which is a pretty good groundcover. Here and there protruded other taller plants and young free growing trees which kind of made for a very raggedy effect. I set about cleaning this up and cut back a lot of the unwanted growth to give the yard a more smoother contour. I do have a lot of Texas Lantana that has self seeded and is growing up through the Jasmine all at one end of the yard and I left that to grow. This is technically still winter, although it has been remarkably mild here in Central Texas and nearly all of the plants have started to grow buds and shoots already. What appears to be dead plants has this young growth making it difficult to know what is alive and what had died off. I will wait to see just how much and if any of this needs to be trimmed especially if we do have a late frost.

Which brings me back to sitting in front of my computer wondering just what to write about. The dogs are very happy and content to be indoors with each of them having there own special place to snooze. Mikey has his own chair right next to mine and often decides that it is time for a cuddle as he steps from his chair onto my lap. He will stay there for a while until it usually ends up with him getting back onto his own chair as I don’t have the most comfortable of laps. Amazing how much of their lives, the dogs spend sleeping. Not a bad way to spend your leisure time.

Sandy likes to alternate between two of the four dog baskets on the floor or on one of the two couches. Any interaction between myself and Mikey is instantly noted and in a flash she is right alongside for her share of attention. Then she goes back to her selected spot of the moment. Sometimes, she will go out through the doggy door and wander around the yard on her own but usually, she waits for Richie and me to lead the way. She has this habit of taking any dog bones that I give her outside and burying them. Yesterday, she came back in with a ratty old bone that had been buried for some time and proceeded to chew on it. I guess it tasted OK to her as she ate the whole thing.

Buddy, the little old man of the group is a definite loner probably because he is 14 years old, very deaf, partially blind, has no sense of smell and more than a little senile. He divides his time between the other two dog baskets and does a lot of sleeping. Quite often, he will go on walkabouts outdoors where he does very well finding his way around. I have gravel walk paths around the ponds which all lead to the grassy area at the bottom of the garden which is the actual creek in my address, Murmuring Creek. This only has water in it if we have a gully washer of several inches of rain as it flows through mine and neighbors yard from the thirty inch culvert just outside of my fence.

Sometimes he gets all turned around and can be seen madly rushing from one place to another at a very healthy trot until he gets himself familiarized once more with his location. He is a funny little guy through no fault of his own and seems to be happy enough. As long as he is healthy and does not have any issues, he will always have a place in both my heart and my home for as long as it takes with no costs spared. Incidentally, the other dogs treat him in totally different ways. Mikey acts like a gentleman around him while Sandy tends to pick on him in a friendly way trying to get a raise out of him. He tends to just ignore her although if she gets too rambunctious, he will try to defend himself. Buddy, on the other hand very rarely interacts with the other two dogs and is definitely a real loner. At this particular moment it is all quiet as they are all asleep in their chosen places. Heck, he doesn’t even interact with me although I do try to make a fuss of him.

It is already late afternoon, 3:30 or so and because of the overcast skies is a miserable and very drab looking day. I do have to go to the HEB store and replenish our food supply and of course, grab my usual Starbucks Latte. This is my one major vice and as I usually buy one every day and at $4:48 a pop, things mount up. You do the math. What the hell, it’s better that being a drug addict. Wait a minute, maybe I am a caffeine addict although I like to think that my habit is just that I like to get out and about and mix with people and not for a desperate need of the stuff. There are some afternoons when I skip it and I don’t feel any the worse for it. I have my own Latte machine and make one in the mornings to have with my breakfast. I was going to say, to get me started but that kinda points to a desperate need for the Latte and its caffeine. A lot of the time, I like to get out and just drive so that I can listen to my latest Audiobook and this usually includes a Latte.

Well, I managed to find something to write about after all albeit pretty trivial stuff. Nothing earth shattering happens in my life and hopefully, nothing ever will and I like it that way.

Written 01/13/2020

Flowers in January in Texas


I walked around the garden viewing the flowers that are already out and it is not yet Spring. So far, even by our mild standards, we are having a very warm winter. We had two nights of frost back in early November and nothing since. It has not even rained that much as shown by the dried up ponds, streams and stock tanks. I was out walking the other day and the temperature reached eighty two degrees. Go figure…

I have taken pictures of the flowers for you all to enjoy and even posted on a Wednesday, something I rarely ever do. With the exception of the last one, they are all from my garden, several roses, narcissus, daffodil and violets.

I consider myself lucky to not have to put up with a winter after living in Upper New York State for ten years. It does get a bit warm in Texas in the summer but I prefer the heat to the cold and snow. Enjoy.

Written 01/30/2020

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

Pre Season Get Together


This happy group of pond enthusiasts

A small group of the Austin Pond Society Board met for a pre-season get together at the home of President Barbara Reinhardt. There are two new and two returning members to this group including Secretary Gwen Goulet, Treasurer Mike Peppers, Librarian Max Rice and Member At Large, Cat Bilberry of which, only Gwen and her husband Glen were able to attend. The group also included a long time Member, Julienne Smith, who has stepped down as Secretary, a position that she held for nine years. Her experience and expertise are not lost forever as she has volunteered to be the AAGC representative for the upcoming year. She was accompanied by her Husband, Phil.

Also included in the attendees were Nancy Hall who is the current Publicity person and BJ Jenkins in charge of the upcoming programs. BJ dragged her husband, Sam along with her although he is always a willing participant to her many interests. The same may not be said in the opposite direction as BJ has not yet taken up playing golf, Sam’s favorite pastime.

Another welcome attendee was Margaret Boeneke who is our Registrar and has done more to bring the Austin Pond Society into the 21st Century than any other member with her technical knowledge and computer ability. Also present was Glen Hubenthal who has been on the Board since time immemorial. No one except Glen knows how long that is. Glen is currently the Official Photographer and Historian for the Association and also the AKCA representative. His knowledge of things long past is invaluable in the current running of this group. Last but not least of those attending was Ted Paone who has volunteered for the most Popular Person in the Organization position, that of Hospitality. Looking forward to some of his concoctions for us to sample. Ted is better known as a previous Pond Tour Chairman. The final members in attendance were our host Barbara and myself, Frank Allcorn as the APS Webmaster and Blogger.

Barb’s Pond

Barb has a very nice pond, built by one of our Sponsors, Hill Country Water Gardens. It is around 1400 gallons and contains three large and about seven much smaller Koi and four Goldfish. Being the winter season, the fish were pretty dormant and on the bottom of the pond.

I was coerced into the picture and you can see why I don’t have my picture taken.

This was strictly a social gathering and forever changing groups of people could be seen mostly sitting around the pond. Between them, the group provided some interesting food most of which was gone by the end of the get together.

These are brother and sister and only a year and a half old.
The oldest Puppy who is about 12 years old.

The next door neighbor was out playing with her three pugs and being the dog person that I am, I just had to go over to meet them. They were the cutest things and played up a storm, that is after they came over to say hello to me. As I didn’t have any treats, they quickly went back to their fun and games.

After a couple of hours of socializing, the party broke up and we made our way to our respective homes. It was good to get together in a social atmosphere without the pressures of running the Austin Pond Society. Thanks Barb for hosting a great afternoon.

Written 1/9/2020