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 .
Life is on hold while the weather is hot as to be outside I do not, wish to be and instead stay indoors where it’s cool and my head can work on things I like to do like reading and writing and listening to Audiobooks with stories so fine written by Authors whose words are divine as the plots unfold one by one leaving me guessing right up to the end who was the bad guy and who the friend and then when I am really bored I jump in my truck and take a drive with no particular place in mind just out in the beautiful countryside the forecast shows we have one more week of one hundred degree weather to bear and then hopefully we will have our share of cooler weather and then life unfolds as back out on the trails will be my goal walking in places so lovely to see taking pictures of things so beautiful to me and then coming home to write some more about what I saw on the trails before along with the pictures I took today to share on my blog in a positive way so that others may view the beautiful scenes while I am happy fulfilling my dreams.
Here in Texas, we expect it to be hot. It is a part of who we are and has a lot to say for how tough Texans are. As with Nature, no two summers are alike and this one, for us so far, has been pretty good. It’s been hot but nothing that that we cannot put up with.
However and finally, the really hot weather is upon us as here in Austin, we have reached the 100 degree mark. It’s been close a few times over the past couple of months but has not quite reached that “magic” number. The day before yesterday was different as we breached that with the temperature at my house at 101 degrees. Add in the humidity and were looking at 104-105 degrees, hot enough to fry the proverbial egg on the sidewalk.
That has continued and is forecast to hang around even longer and to go as high as 104-105 which by anyone’s standards, even ours, is bloody hot. Even though we say we are used to it that is not really true as though the body may tolerate the heat, one is never really comfortable in it.
I had an incident a month or so ago hiking at McKinney Roughs when the heat gave me some pretty serious problems. That is all I can think of as the reason that I came light headed and a bit disoriented on a walk that I had done a couple of times before and had not been affected then.
When I first arrived in Texas in 1977, I came down from New York State where it was hot when it reached 85 degrees, with the explicit purpose of working construction as a Project Manager building new schools in the Round Rock School District in a time of real productivity for the area. The first summer nearly did me in but I stuck it out working alongside the men who had no options other than to brave the heat. We covered our skins, put on suntan lotion, wore hats and sunglasses and drank a lot of water and although I would not like to say we got used to it, we were able to tolerate it. One thing you learn to do in these hot conditions is to keep an eye on your workmates not to see if they were working hard but to see how the heat was affecting them. Those that showed signs of faintness or dizziness were immediately attended to and sent to rest until they could continue.
After nearly four years of that job and three schools later, I was hired on at the University of Texas as a Planner and eventually as the Planning and Scheduling Manager out of the sun for the rest of my working life. I retired from there twenty two years later.
That is not to say that I never went out in the sun again as I can remember playing soccer in Dallas at a Tournament with the temperature at 108 degrees and another time in Houston where it was equally as hot. Normally, players can’t wait to get in the game but in both of those tournaments, when anyone came off needing a sub, the chances were the team would be playing short as no one wanted to take their place. Those were the good old days.
Nowadays, I have the luxury of picking and choosing if and when I go out in the heat other than appointments and such. I try to get any outside work done early and then spend the rest of the time writing stories for my blog. Needless to say, hiking has been put on a back burner until it starts to cool down. I like to listen to Audiobooks and usually spend the afternoon driving around enthralled by some story or another written by Authors that really know how to write and keep me in suspense.
My truck stays very cool and comfortable although the miles are mounting up and I know every square inch of all of the local roads and lanes….
I decided to go for a drive to Bueschers State Park which is located in Smithville mainly because I haven’t been there in a very long time. What I really wanted was to check out if the trails had been reopened after the fires of September and October of 2011. I could have called but it was much more fun to go see for myself. I had left it too late to actually hike as it was after noontime and the temperatures were climbing in the 90 degree plus areas making it a little too warm to start a hike. For me, I need to start at lower temperatures and as the heat increases, my body adjusts accordingly but I am not very good at starting a hike in the direct heat of 90 degrees or more.
I arrived at the Park only to discover that the office was closed for lunch. I was only planning on driving through to the Bastrop State Park on a connecting road that was named Park Road 1C and was not going to make use of any of the Park Facilities including the trails and I figured I could get by without a sticker.
Park Road 1C is a pleasant 12 mile drive that connects the two parks. It actually goes through all of the major burn areas from that previous fire. Everywhere you look are signs of Nature’s recovery from those dreadful fires. Thousands of Loblolly Pines have been replanted, mainly by volunteers to replace those that were lost to the fire assisted by natural reproduction from Nature. They are between 6 and 10 feet tall now and growing strongly and are everywhere which makes it look very good for the future of both Parks.
I arrived at the Trailhead for the Pine Gulch parking area sharing the space with with a UPS truck with the driver enjoying his lunch break. Great spot for a break although he probably follows the same routine when he is in the area. From the signs, it was obvious that the trails had been reopened and I promised myself that I would take full advantage of them in the very near future.
I continued along Park Road 1C taking a few pictures of the beautiful Loblolly Pines that had not been touched by the fire and then arrived at the Scenic Overlook, located in the Bastrop State Park. This is one of the highest point in the Park and has a wonderful view. From there, I headed out of the Park and took Highway 71 back through Bastrop with the inevitable stop at Starbucks along the way. Buescher State Park is on my list of upcoming hikes for the very near future.
I called my friend BJ to see if she might be interested in taking a walk at our favorite place, McKinney Roughs and was pleased that she said she would walk with me. It’s not that I mind walking alone but it is nice to have company occasionally and someone to talk to. She only agreed to walk if we kept it down to a reasonable distance complaining of tiredness from cleaning out her bog on one of her ponds and I told her we could do that.
I arrived first and per my usual routine, changed into my hiking boots and geared up ready to go. We met at the main office and paid our two dollars and with a quick look at the map, set out along the along Woodland which is one of the interior trails. It, in turn, linked up to the Ridge completing a short loop. There was a lot of shade as the pictures show and it was very pleasant walking and of course, having company really helped. We chatted about everything, the world in general, life, the Pond Society and the upcoming seminar that both BJ and Sam will be presenting at the next meeting. We talked about everyday events, our neighbors, bog cleaning and of course Trump. We both have the same opinions of him and common courtesy prevents me from writing what they are for fear of offending the readers.
Along one of the trails, we came across what looked like two trees that had grown together. What made it more interesting was that we could not see that the smaller tree had any foliage but it was definitely very much alive.
After walking the above mentioned trails, we wandered around a bit and found ourselves back at the Recreation Area and I was telling BJ about the kids that were here the previous summer and all of the fun they had. I had fun too just filming them and their antics as they climbed ropes and slid down the zip lines set up for them. Oh, to be young again although I would not want to be a kid in this modern day and age. Too much of a challenge with nothing simple anymore not a bit like when I was growing up, World War 2 notwithstanding. This area was quiet today with no activity going on. The Red Bird of Paradise were putting on quite a show. We passed one group of flowers named Skeletonleaf Goldeneye but most of them are finished for the year
We wanted to get onto Foxtail but for one reason and another, we kept picking the wrong trails so we eventually gave up and headed back to the Parking Lot. We actually did OK as far as the distance that we walked covering 4.3 miles. The trails were easy with not too many hills, the trees shaded us from the sun with the temperatures hovering around the 90 degree mark and the company was good. Who could ask for more?
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.
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.
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….
I arranged with my friend BJ that we would meet at McKinney Falls which is a State Park and not very far from our other hiking spot, McKinney Roughs which is an LCRA Park. Both are on the Colorado River. She texted me to say she was running late and I used the time to put on my boots and make other preparations.
McKinney Falls has several trails some of which are on the other side of the river and with the latest rains, it looked to be a tricky prospect wading across the slippery rocks while fighting the flow of water. Several people were doing just that when we arrived but we had no intentions of taking that particular hike. The big swimming hole below the falls had a mixture of people and turtles some of which were pretty big. The turtles that is.
Instead, we opted for the blacktopped trail that encircles the park and is, according to the map, almost 3 miles around. We have hiked that trail several times before but it has been a couple of years since we were here. One of the things that we noticed was that the blacktop is rapidly deteriorating and if they intend it to remain as a hardcover trail, is going to need some major work.
The temperature was already in the low nineties so it was warm Luckily, most of the trail we were walking is in the shade which helped a lot but even so, hot is hot. We passed a few people going in the opposite direction and as is usual on the trail, pleasantrees were exchanged. Everything was green and beautiful and there were still a lot of flowers although most were coming to an end.
We got back to the parking lot and I decided to go back to the Falls which was only a few steps away from where we were parked and take a couple more pictures. BJ left for home and I stopped at the nearest restroom to change out of my clothes which as usual, were totally soaked. I noticed that I had an eight inch crack in my windshield which was not there before. Probably a rock thrown up by a passing car. It is very low down and does not interfere with my driving so I can probably get by until the next inspection due later this year.
All in all, a great hike. A couple of years does make a difference as it felt like it was a fresh place and of course, having great company helps as well especially to one that normally hikes alone. Now where to next….
Oh yes, both of my pedometers that I carry showed we walked 5.3 miles and as that number looks much grander (and bigger) than what the map says, we will go with that.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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