Reimers Ranch 3-13-2020

The rock face on the opposite side of the river.

Not having hiked for a while BJ and I decided that we would walk Reimers Ranch as she had never been there before and knew it was one of my favorite spots to take a quick hike. It had been a while since either of us had walked both individually or together. The weather was a balmy 75 degrees, just right to get back out on the trails.

She opted to meet at my house at 10:00 am as it was on the way and it didn’t make any sense to take two vehicles. We had a surprise when we arrived at the Park as the County had decided to start charging people over 65 which was a brand new thing as we had always got in for free before. It was only $2:00 each so no big deal but was unexpected. Guess they figured that too many older folks were taking advantage of the free entry fees and that they were passing up on a relative money maker.

On the way over, I had given BJ a map and explained all of the different walks available to us giving her the opportunity to decide where we were going. It was not a scorcher of a day so overhead cover was not a factor as it can be in the very hot Texas summers. In the end, we opted to park in the very last lot and make the hike past the climbers and then return on the Turkey walk trail.

For those of you that read my blogs, you have heard me mention that two of the entrances/exits to the lower trail involve negotiating rock staircases which can be more than a little tricky. Since my last climb up this particular way out (or down), the Park people have installed a long chain attached to the rocks that acts as an additional handhold for a part of the descent which was a very welcome addition.

We safely negotiated our way down and followed the trail towards the end of the Park passing by the rock faces that the climbers use. I have noticed in the past and this time was no exception, that the rock climbing community is an awful noisy bunch. Everytime I have passed them, they are hollering and shouting at one another and generally expressing how happy they feel. Whether it is they are all an exuberant group making up the very nature of a rock climber or just happy to have made it up and down without falling and need to express that happiness.

We passed on and walked along the lower trail following the river which was still running pretty low. We have not had a great amount of rain and certainly not enough to have it flowing full bore and it shows. Reaching the end of the trail, we stopped to chat with a Mountain Biker who wanted to know more about the trails. We safely negotiated him away from the trail we had just covered as it is not made for Mountain Bikes. He disappeared over the next hill going back the way he had come.

Pedernales River

That was also the way that we had to go to get back to the Parking Lot but he was quickly out of site as our pace was no match for his. We arrived at the junction where the Main Trail met up with the Turkey Loop and opted to take the long way back. The day was not overly hot and the walking was good. Besides, we had not been out for a while and had energy to burn. When we got back to the truck, we helped another family who were visiting the Park for the first time, with directions and information on which trails to take warning them away from the descent to the Lower Trail.

Signs of Spring were everywhere and there were several wild flowers and lots of green leaves. In places, the new grass was beginning to show making for a bright green cover.

Altogether, we covered almost 3 miles, pretty low by our lofty standards but were both happy and content that we had managed to get back out on the trails again. Hoping to do it again next week.

Written 3/20/2020

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

Strange Times

How strange these current moments are in time as we collectively struggle with the Coronavirus. It’s almost like something out of a science fiction movie and the only thing lacking is for the dead to turn into zombies. Maybe that is still to come. Who knows.

Something to brighten our day.

In Austin, Texas, my home town, even though the virus has not really infected too many people yet, there is a surreal atmosphere about the place as though we are on hold waiting for something to happen. There is hardly any traffic on the road, which by itself is not such a bad thing. Rush hour traffic is temporarily a thing of the past, at least until this is all over. I spend a lot of time at home anyway so this staying in place is not a chore for me. If I choose to go out from my self imposed lock down, it is usually every afternoon for a Latte at Starbucks drive through and I no longer have to wait for a break in traffic in order to turn onto the main highway from my house. That is how slow the traffic is in these troubled times. I have even resorted to using the Starbucks App on my phone as opposed to using my Starbucks card so as to alleviate physical contact.

My local grocery store, known as HEB, has instituted a new procedure as you can no longer just walk into the store. Now, you have to grab a cart and wait in line 6 feet from the person in front of you as the store personnel allow people in 10 at a time. They give you a wipe for the cart as you enter the door which is a little late as you have probably been holding the cart while you are waiting which could be anything up to 20 minutes. I was going to stop in for a couple of things but when I saw the wait, I parked my cart and went home knowing that I can do without whatever I thought was important at the time.

Just for the heck of it, I drove to Dripping Springs to the HEB there and they had exactly the same thing going on. Needless to say, I just stopped at the Starbucks drive through and ordered my Latte to drink on the way back home. I know that sooner rather than later, I am going to have to bite the bullet and join that darn line. Maybe I can just use up all of the cans in the cupboard and frozen goods in my refrigerator until the milk runs out for my morning lattes. Then it will be an absolute necessity that I go shopping or learn to drink my coffee black. If the coffee beans or the dog food run out, then I really am in trouble.

I had to stop at the Home Depot as I needed to return a package that came via FedEx in a totally smashed up parcel with special order light bulbs inside which, needless to say, were also broken. Home Depot is also incorporating a line by numbers entrance to the store but I was lucky and walked right in. Once in the store, there was tape on the ground mandating where each person had to stand while waiting to be served and the only time you got closer was to sign the register. You have to admire the personnel that are working in the store albeit because they need to in order to survive. These are trying times for any that work in the retail industry as they have to come face to face with those they are trying to help.

In the same Shopping Center where Home Depot is located are several other large retailers all of whom have closed their doors. It is the first time ever that I have seen the particular parking lot completely empty. I wonder if these employees are getting paid or are on their own.

I was talking to my neighbor on this subject as we stood in her yard the mandatory 6 feet away from each other and the conversation turned to the other scares that we have had in the past few years and she mentioned that never before has there been a virus that has caused so much panic and so great a reaction around the world. I did some research and found the following online.

  1. It has a long incubation period, up to 14 days. Why does that matter? Well, take the flu, for instance. If you become infected with the flu virus you will begin to have symptoms within 4–24 hours. Therefore, there is a smaller window of time that you have the virus and do not know it or have symptoms. With the Coronavirus having an incubation period of 14 days, one person can literally spread the virus to thousands of people without even knowing they themselves have it!
  2. It can live on hard surfaces longer. While the flu virus has a very short life span outside the body, the CoVid19 has can live up to 9 days on a hard surface. That means that someone who has the virus can, let’s say for example, rent a car and drive it around town for an hour or a half hour and return it. The car can then sit there on the rental lot for a week or longer, and then someone else can rent that car and contract the virus! But, they may not show signs of having the virus for two weeks, and they too then may spread it to another thousand or more people.
  3. It causes pneumonia and respiratory failure, which is more difficult for people who already have medical conditions that may weaken their respiratory systems: bronchitis, asthma, COPD, overweight, smokers, vapors, etc. People who are already confined to bed, or who spend a lot of time in bed. People already prone to pneumonia.
  4. It stays airborne longer. Someone can sneeze in the grocery store, then minutes later, you might walk through and contract the virus.
  5. It has been found in human feces (poop). It has been theorized that it can live in the sewage systems and travel into your home through your public septic system.

This whole thing is totally depressing and if I was a drinking man, a good excuse to get drunk. As I am not, I will have to make do with the Latte’s at least until the milk runs out.

Written 3/23/2020.

Missing a Mountain Range in Texas.

What Texas is lacking on its Northern Borders, mountains.

Like I said in a previous blog, all you have to do here in Texas is wait for a bit and the weather will change. Yesterday’s high was a nice balmy 70 degrees and I worked out in the yard moving the brush from the bottom of the garden that was the subject of a previous blog. Today, the high was 40 degrees with the forecast to get down to freezing overnight. Realizing this, I went outside and covered all of the outdoor faucets of which there are four dotted around the different ponds. Incidentally, my neighbor across the street is away for this week and I am feeding their kitty so on my trip over to do that, I took the time to cover their outside faucets as well. Hate for them to come home to either a flood or a large water bill or both if their pipes were to freeze.

The problem that geographically Texas has is that there is not a mountain range or even any high ground in its Northern borders with Colorado, Oklahoma and Arkansas and any bad weather that central USA gets invariably blows south and into Texas. Usually, if we are very lucky, the bad weather fizzles out before it reaches my part of the state which is central Texas and only 223 miles from the Mexican border. Tomorrow the temperature is supposed to get back up to 53 degrees and by Friday, back to 72 and either hiking or finish clearing the brush weather .

Our summers are very hot, winters, not so much.

Written 02/05/2020

My Final Words to my Sister

My Sister Peggy

I previously blogged about my Sister who was almost 10 years older than me. You can read those blogs here and here.

There were four of us in the family, my two brothers Norman, the oldest and Peter and then my Sister Peggy as she was known. (Her real name was Barbara Eileen and I have no idea where Peggy came from).They were all grouped closely together and then there was me, who arrived 10 years after them. Later on in life, I learned there was a lot of chatter about my Mum having an affair with a guy named Basil from Punnetts Town and the gossip goes that he was my real Father.

Anyway, the point is that I really didn’t know any of them very well until much later in life when we were all adults (sort of adult in my case). Back then, there was a war going on and all three of them enlisted. When they returned, they were all grown up and I was still just a kid and I never got to know them at all. Peter died of the after effects of rheumatic fever that he had contracted during his time in service and which left him with a very weak heart. That left Norman and Peggy who were busy getting on with their own lives. My Mother had met a GI and left us to come to the USA and my Father remarried which was followed by my stint at living with my Step Mother, whom I disliked intensely. I moved again to live first with my Aunt Elsie in Sandy Cross until she became too sick and then moved in with Peggy and Ron and her family in Hailsham for a couple of years as I moved around in my earlier troubled life. I remember that I was often called upon to be the babysitter for their two kids Jim and Sheila, a job that I thought of as unfair to keep me from being with my friends and kicking a football (soccer) ball around.

Both Norman and his second family, having divorced his Egyptian wife that he met during the war, and my Sister and her family followed me over here to America and we all settled in at Fort Plain, New York where our Mother lived with her husband Hermie. That was the closest that we had ever been as a collective family and it only lasted a few years as I moved out to Texas following my marital break up. I barely saw them much after that and then only on the very few trips that I made back to Fort Plain. I came back for Normans funeral when he died of Alzheimer’s and for my one last visit to my Step Father, Hermie prior to his death of lung cancer. Then our Mother died at the ripe old age of 94 and after that, I didn’t see Peggy again. She was the only one of the original family left. She lost her husband Ron and then moved to Florida to live with her Daughter and their family. I kept saying I would go visit but much to my regret, I never made that trip. That was all probably 15-20 years ago and although we stayed in touch we never physically made any more contact. We kept in touch either by letter or by the occasional phone call. One day, a couple of years ago, when I called to speak with her, Gary, Sheila’s husband and with whom Peggy was living, told me to say that she wasn’t mentally doing well and was in the first stages of Alzheimer’s and was very confused. This got progressively worse and when I called a couple of times after that and I tried to talk to her she just ranted on about where she used to live in Hailsham and had no clue to whom she was speaking. That was my last verbal contact with her. A couple of months ago, Gary and Sheila moved her into a special old folks home where she was living out her life and seemingly doing very well. On Friday last, I got a call from Gary telling me that my Sister was gone. She had died in her sleep at the age of 93.

All in all not a very good day all around. The truth is that we never grew up together and I was just a teenager when I lived with them and not really knowing which end was up. Now, as an old man I lack the compassion to feel much of a loss as time and lack of contact has eroded much of the sisterly or brotherly feelings between us. All I can say is that she was my Sister and in my own distant way, I loved her. Because of the Alzheimer’s we had stopped communicating a long time ago. Such a shame but that is the way of the world.

Now, I am the only original member left of this family…

Written 3/9/2020

Musings about life

The Beauty of Life

What is life you might well ask
as it assumes it’s normal task
of keeping each one of us alive
although we know not the reason why
what is that spark that makes us live
and just as quickly can see us die
with a body adapted well as we grow
and returns to the earth when our last breath shows

What is it that the Maker creates
that spark of life to set us free
with only a few short years to our name
instead of living for eternity
and while alive we are at risk
of anyone of a number of things
sickness being the most common of all
many of the sort that our lives will fall.

We each have a limited amount of time
as the body grows old and gives up that spark
hoping to die a natural death
right up to our final breath
while we are alive and in our prime
there is an awful lot of living to do
as we progress our lives through the years
with laughter and happiness sorrow and tears.

Most of us as we go through life
are only concerned to lessen the strife
that impacts our lives and the ones that are dear
not giving a thought to those others out there
who each have their lives doing exactly the same
trying to live to the best of the game
and keep their families safe and sound
as time marches on and consequences abound.

In the end we will all die
no matter how hard we try
keeping fit and eating the right things
not taking risks as if we had wings
keeping our feet firmly on the ground
facing life whose troubles abound
and finally coming to the end
to return to the earth which is now our friend.

I am not afraid to die
yet I want to know the reason why
I did not last a few more years
going through life which I hold dear
leaving friends and pets behind
saying goodbye for that one last time
to return to the earth from where life began
gone forever from this land.

Written 2/12/2020

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