Doeskin Ranch Hike on 12-2-2015

DSC_0094The weather had finally cleared up and it had stopped raining. It was a wonderful Fall day with the temperatures hovering around the 60 degree mark and not a cloud in the sky. I could hardly wait to try out my new camera and wanted a place to hike that I hadn’t been to before.

A couple of days ago, I had just read an article by Pam LeBlanc related to her visiting the Doeskin Ranch that is situated in the Balcones Canyon National Wildlife Refuge and I figured it was worth the drive to check it out. Doeskin Ranch is actually located on FM 1174 N. From my house just outside of the “Y” at Oak Hill, it was quicker to drive HWY 71 West to Marble Falls and then get on to FM 1431 from there. FM 1174 N  branches off FM 1431. The trip was 55 miles and took about 1 hour and 15 minutes. One thing about driving out in the countryside, the traffic is nothing compared to driving in and around Austin plus many of the roads have 70 mph speed limits.

When I arrived, there was one other car in the Parking Lot although I never actually saw the owners anywhere on the trail. I changed into my hiking boots and made adjustments to the new Endeavor camera belt that I had recently acquired that allows me to carry the camera on the belt. When I felt satisfied with how it felt, I grabbed my walking stick and was off.

I wanted to hike Rimrock Trail which was about 2.2 miles long and quite a steep climb but it felt so good to be out, that when I reached the top of the hill, I branched off and took the Indian Grass Trail to complete the entire loop instead of just the shorter loop of Rimrock Trail.
On the way back I explored the Creek Trail and then from there, the  Pond and Prairie Trails.


Cow Creek

The Creek trails is very picturesque and Cow Creek is running a lot of water making for good pictures. The creek is spring fed from many places along the route that it flows. The only trail that I never covered was one called the Shin Oak Trail, a short one of about 0.5 miles. Maybe, I’ll try to cover that one if I go back again.

There are magnificent views of the Texas Hill Country, some of which are quite breathtaking. I got to take pictures of the Oak trees with their change of color as they prepared for the winter and most of the grass was already a beautiful magenta color.


The Pond

The pond was a natural watering hole of days gone by when the Ranch actually grazed cattle. I passed a couple of bat houses put up for the bats to roost in during the summer months. There are informational signs on the lower parts of the trails and all of the trails are signposted so its almost impossible to get lost. Climbing up the Rim Rock Trail was a bit testing as in places it was very narrow and rocky and quite steep and going back down the other side proved to be the same near the top part of the hill. Halfway down, the trail widened out and was very easy going. I didn’t see much in the way of wildlife, not even birds but that is something I have noticed on a lot of these walks. I am always expecting to see and hear more birds but usually with not much luck.

DSC_0159There is an Information Board that gives a brief history of this area which is very interesting. Apparently, there were several houses and even a school house located here with several families living there. This little collection of houses had a name, Doeskin.

Below is what I was able to copy from the Information Board.

Close to these Live Oak’s a simple family home once weathered many scorching summers and brisk winters. Homesteaders likely built it, but little is known about the people who scraped out a living on Doeskin Ranch.

Old Cabin

Old house

Just up the road is the site of Doeskin school, attended by the children and families who farmed cotton and cut cedars in this area in the late 1800’s until the 1940’s. After struggling through the Depression, the tiny community dwindled with the decline of the cotton market. The arrival of paved roads and Colorado River Dam’s ended in era of isolation. Cattle ranches replace small farms.

The people have come and gone, but the land’s beauty remains. Turn off your cell phone and tune out the modern world for a little while we invite you to explore the trails, read the signs and imagine daily life at Doeskin Ranch 100 years ago.

Below is a time-line of the inhabitants as the best I can make out from the Board as many of the words have faded.
In the 1700’s the Tonkawa Indians are the primary resident
In the 1800’s Comanche Indians move into the territory raiding both the Tonkawa and the Austin settlements.
From the 1800’s to 1850, immigrants from Europe, eastern Texas and the southern state established homesteads and farmed for cotton and cut cedar for fence posts. A dozen communities spring up like Travis Peak, Oatmeal and Nameless.
In the early 1900’s during World War 1, cotton farmers around Doeskin and Cow Creek flourish. The cotton gin in the town of Travis Creek is in production.
Late 1930’s to 1940’s, cotton is a crop of the past. The land reverts to pastures. More people leave the countryside, with the advent of World War II, Inks and Buchanan dam’s are complete on the Colorado river as a part of the new deal.
In the 1950’s to 1960’s, paved roads replace dirt roads. Visitors arrive in the search of recreation.
From 1960 to the present day. Ranchers graze cattle, recreation and tourism and urbanization increase in the area

When I arrived back in the Parking Lot and preparing to drive off, another car pulled in and the occupant, a young man, said hello as he strode off onto the trail.

Altogether, I covered a little over 5 miles and felt very happy to get back out on the trails again especially as I had this new camera to try out, which I have to report worked very well and needed less adjustment than my previous one. Below are some of the pictures that I took many of which are of the magnificent views of the Texas Hill Country.

If you click on the first picture, it will make it full size and then you can use the arrows to advance the pictures.