McKinney Roughs 7-8-2019


A panoramic view of the west end of the park taken from the top of the step area.

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.

A gentle trail

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.

Just a few of the dreaded steps

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.

A view of the Pedernales River.

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…

Written 7/10/2019

Pedernales Falls 7-3-2019


A Beautiful Cactus

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.

Just hanging out…

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.

The picnic tables were in the way

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….

Written 7/10/2019

My One Thousandth Blog


Nature’s beauty. The Yaupon trail at McKinney Roughs LCRA Park.

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…

Written 6/26/2019

Reimers Ranch 7-13-2019


A view of the Park

After that little episode a couple of days ago at McKinney Roughs when I got so tired I could barely finish the walk, I decided to go back out again to see if it would re-occur or it was just a one off. The only way to do that was to hit the trails and see what the outcome might be so I opted for Reimers Ranch where the trails are pretty flat with not too much in the way of major hills or upward climbs, just in case. The one major problem with the Reimers Trails are that with the exception of the Lower River Trail, they are pretty much out in the sun as there is not much tree shade along the way.

Not much shade.

I thought that I would just go for a short hike and made the effort to get out early, (for me) while it was cool, sort of. The temperature was already around the 85 degree mark at 10:00 am and was destined to get as high as 95 degrees but I wasn’t planning on being out in it. I parked in the Mountain Bike parking lot along with the several cars already there. As I was changing into my boots 3 riders pulled in having completed their ride for the day and two other cars finished loading their bikes and pulled out.

I took the trail to Johnny’s Homestead which is really nothing more than a standing chimney with the cabin having burned down several years ago. Along the way, I managed to capture a couple of bird pictures which is pretty good for me as generally, I am much too slow.

I then took the Multi Use Trail going North. This particular trail is one big loop and surrounds the Park. My intent was to just walk half of it as the Mountain Bike Parking Lot sits midway of the loop on a trail that dissects the loop in half. However, the best laid plans etc are for nothing as I felt really good and so instead of continuing on the main loop to bring me back, I branched off heading towards the northernmost end of the Park so that I could walk the Lower River Trail all the way back to where I was parked.

The Lower River Trail

This trail is a little tougher walking as it tends to wind and contours up and down quite a bit but it is not a difficult trail. This is also the same trail that the mountain climbers use to get to the various cliff faces that they use for their dangerous sport and I was able to take some pictures of them as they crawled their way up the cliff face. One gentleman had just reached the top and let out a loud “whoop” in his excitement. He just sort of hung there for a bit as though to savor the moment.

I passed several people coming towards me and we exchanged pleasantries. One young couple with a beautiful dog stopped to chat and introduced themselves as Kendal and RJ and we exchanged photos as I took theirs on their cell phone in exchange for taking my own picture.

RJ and Kendal

As I walked, I could hear the sounds of a speedboat on the river below and before long, two small boats flashed by me. I managed to get a picture of them and a little while later, one of them returned going in the opposite direction.

I also passed by a guy fishing. He was standing in the water up to his waist. I should mention that the river was running pretty strong as the recent rains have if filled pretty high. He had a companion but I was not able to get her picture.

I don’t know if he caught anything but at least he was cool.

I had several lizards for company at one point. They would keep running up the trail in front of me and only when I got very close, would they dart off to one side.

I walked all the way on the Lower Trail to the River Bend Parking Lot which is the lot for the swimmers and also for canoes and kayaks. It has a long concrete road that leads down to the River which, of course, is also a long climb back up and is a pretty steep hill. I had a choice at that point of either the Multi Use Trail to the Mountain Bike Parking or to walk the gravel path located on top of the bluff that stretches all the way the length of the park. I noticed that it has now been concreted in places instead of gravel which didn’t surprise me as the last time I walked it a few months ago, there were several washouts from the recent heavy rains. It makes more sense to use concrete but it is not so pleasing on the eye.

I finally made it back to my truck and by this time the Parking Lot was empty as all of the vehicles were gone. I changed out of my wet clothes into something dryer which of course, promptly got wet again as I continued to sweat. Oh well, can’t have everything. I covered 6.5 miles altogether and am happy to report none of the tiredness that occurred the last time out.

I have put together a couple of videos of the hike. One is of the flowers that are still blooming in the park and the other is of the different views. Enjoy.

Some of the flowers still blooming at this park.
This is of some of the wonderful views in this Park

Written 7-14-2019

Austin Pond Society June 2019 Meeting


Some of members that were present

This meeting was dedicated to a review of the recent Pond Tour held on June 1-2, 2019 where some of the owners that came to the meeting were presented with a plaque comprising of a picture of their pond that they had on display. Not all of the owners were available but those that were, graciously discussed their impressions that they had of the Tour with their ideas and recommendations for the future tours.

They and the other Members were treated to a quick meal of Chile and Chips plus the members brought in lots of desserts and salads to complement the meal. Following this brief repast, Barb Lenhardt, our President got the ball rolling as she had the Owners introduce themselves along with a new Member. She was followed by Ted Paone, this years Pond Tour Director who discussed the many aspects that it took to put on a tour of this size. He took the time to thank all of the many Volunteers and Committee Members without whom, none of this would have been possible and the Members gave him a big round of applause for all of his efforts. He did mention that in order to stay a happily married man, this was his very last time as Director and we thanked him for his efforts along with those of the many Committee Members and Volunteers that helped to make this a big success. So, if anyone out there wants to volunteer as next years Pond Tour Director, please contact our President at president@austinpondsociety.org

Barb’s Intro to the Pond Tour Meeting

He then led everyone through the slide show that Glen had put together with each owner that was present taking the opportunity to lead us through the various aspects of their particular set up whether it was a pond or a stream or a combination of both.

I started to film these interactions but quickly realized that I could not film the screen and the person who was talking both at the same time and gave up on the idea. Glen sent me a copy of his slideshow for me to post. I did a little work on editing and added music. Enjoy

The Austin Pond Society annual Pond Tour 2019. Pictures are by Glen Hubenthal with additional video work by Francis

With the end of the discussions, the evening came to a close.

The next meeting will be held on July 15th at the same place, Zilker Botanical Gardens and the subject matter will be “Building Your Own Pond”. Hope to see you there.

Written 6/18/2019

Texas Heat


In need of rain…

I went outside to work today
but it was so darn hot that I could not stay
and had to stop the task in hand
and it messed up all of my plans
of things that I wanted to do
which means that I will have to start anew
but it is not going to cool down
as this is Texas and it is renowned
for the heat of the summers always so hot
making the body perspire a lot
when the temperature reaches a hundred degrees
and too much of it makes you weak at the knees
we know it will happen the same every year
the summers are hot and the skies are all clear
and the ground dries up and the plants need the rain
and then the clouds will form and sometimes sustain
long enough to bring a shower or two
to cool things off just to do it anew
it is no good thinking that the following day
will be any different as this is the way
of the summers in Texas for thousands of years
have always been hot as the sun domineers
so tomorrow instead I will get up at dawn
and get out early to mow the lawn
and do the things that I need to do
and grow with the heat as I start anew
of one thing you can be very sure
the Texas heat is hard to endure
whether you care and like it or not
the Texas summers are bloody hot.

Written 6/27/2019


Another Wet Day


This is where I want to be…

Even though time moves on
and Springtime has come and gone
Summertime is here to stay
along with the sun and heat of the day
when temperatures will rise to one hundred degrees
even under the shade of the trees
the sun is hot and the skies are blue
with nary a cloud to obstruct the view
anything to do outside
needs to be done at first light
when the outside air still feels cool
as the heat of the sun is not yet cruel
today is not one of those days
as the clouds have formed and in so many ways
today we have rain along with a breeze
and the temperature has dropped to sixty eight degrees
cool for us for this time of the year
but not for very long I fear
we can always use the rain
as the heat will always return again
of this we can be very sure
which is what we have to endure
would I have it any other way
maybe a little cooler through the day
when I like to be outdoors
fussing with all of the normal chores
like feeding the fish or cleaning a pond
or cutting back plants that have grown beyond
things that are a part of my normal life
that I do everyday with the minimum of strife
today I sit and look at the rain
wondering when I can again
take a walk and so implied
and be one with Nature in her countryside.

Written 6/24/2019