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.
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.
I had the hikers itch and so grabbing all of my gear, I headed to McKinney Roughs just to get back out in the fresh air and spend some time with Nature. The weather was gorgeous with the temperature around 65 degrees and just a few light clouds in the sky, perfect weather for being outdoors.
I pulled into the parking lot and there were a few other cars, hopefully all making the most of the sunshine and getting their exercise. I went through my usual procedures of boots and gear and decided to take only one camera with me. I must not have been paying much attention as when I got out on the trail, I noticed that I had brought the one with the smaller lens. The two cameras that I have are the Nikon D 7200 and the Nikon D 7500 with the latter a little more advanced with stuff that I haven’t figured out how to use. I wasn’t about to go back as I knew that I could still get good pictures with the 7200. It was equipped with a telescopic 16-300 lens.
All of the trails were open with the exception of the short piece on Road Runner that has been closed for quite a while. I planned on walking down Ridge and then complete the circuit on Bluff Trail Loop and finally ending up on Woodland and home. I met several people out on the trail and stopped to talk to a couple of young men, named Seth and Parker. They were very interested in the lichen growing on the trees and rocks and I never thought to ask them why. They are both holding a twig with lichen on it in the picture.
I met another older gentleman who told me that he was “turned around” and wanted to get on the Coyote Road trail. We were on Bluff Trail Loop at the time and I showed him where he would have to go if he stayed on the trails. His comment was that he was going to “bushwhack” it as he could hear his friends off to one side. I heard them too as without another word, he struck off in a direct line from where the sound was coming from sort of forging his own trail. Luckily for him, he was walking downhill making the going a little easier. “Good Luck” I called out to him as he disappeared among the brush. Hopefully, he made it to where he was going.
I continued on as I had before following the trails and taking a lot of pictures. Most of the greenery is gone with the occasional cedar tree still green and breaking the monotony. The panoramic picture below shows of just how barren everything is looking. It is winter here in my part of central Texas although by comparison to a lot of the USA, hard to tell it.
It was quite obvious from the condition of some of the trails that there had been a lot of rain fallen in the past week or so as the trails were deeply rutted with many footprints. They were at the stage where the footprints from the walkers and had dried in that condition and it was going to take a lot of hikers feet to make the trails level and more comfortable to walk on especially as no horses were allowed on this particular trail.
I made my way back up Woodland heading back to the parking lot and passed an older couple sitting on one of the many benches placed on that trail. This trail leads directly back to the office and is designed for anyone to take a leisurely walk. It is fairly level with no hills to climb.
I arrived back at my truck just as a young lady was saying goodbye to someone who had dropped her off. She told him that she loved him and as we passed, I said “I like what you just said, There is not enough of it in the world today”. She replied that it was her uncle and I thought how sweet it was to belong to a tight knit family such as that. I thought about it as I sat in my truck relaxing after the walk and wished for a moment that I had a different life. Luckily for me, the feeling soon passed as we are talking of a life gone by and we can’t turn back the clock no matter how hard we try.
I headed home stopping at the HEB that I usually stop at and the Starbucks right next door before arriving home. Altogether, I covered a little over five miles including the HEB shopping. It all counts as exercise…
Below is a video of the nine panoramic views of the park. Both videos are best viewed in full screen.
The video below is a slideshow of the many other pictures that I took. Both videos are best viewed in full screen.
I happened to have my camera with me so I decided to take a short walk at the Circle C soccer fields. There is a small stream that flows in the park known as Slaughter Creek and it has substantial water in it at this time of the year. Not so much in the summer time when a lot of these streams tend to dry out.
I figured that I might be able to get some decent pictures of the stream so I parked my truck and wandered over to the closest point which happened to be right by the entrance to the Park and started clicking away. I noticed an odd looking tree that appeared to be half dead but a lot of that is the time of the year as all of the leaves had already dropped. This tree has a series of raised growths on it giving it this very odd appearance. I have no idea what caused this dis-figuration unless it was a climbing vine that managed to get incorporated into the trees bark but it makes for an interesting picture.
I discovered there was a well trodden footpath that followed the stream so I decided to take it. I have walked this Park many times but this was the first time I have walked this particular trail. I knew that if I continued in the direction I was going, I would eventually run into Escarpment Blvd and from there, I could veer left and eventually connect up to the Main trail. This trail is very wide as the pictures show. There is also Frisbee Golf course that sort of runs parallel to both Slaughter Creek and the Main trail with the two intermingling as they crisscross the park.
This is a very popular Park for the local residents and is well used. The Soccer Fields are populated with kids training in the evenings and playing their matches on the weekends. All in all, a nice place for a short walk and with a Starbucks just across the street, who could go wrong. Altogether, I covered a little over 2 miles.
I need just one more blog to fill out the rest of the year I try to blog twice a week so as not to appear too boring for those that have and take the time to read as I scribble away thoughts from my brain hoping they will heed the words I write are from the heart as twisted as that may be as I have opinions of which all do not agree it matters not what others think as this is my special place where I can write down the words that my thoughts do grace and so dear reader for those of you who have taken the time I thank you from my very heart as I scribble out each line.
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