Reimers Ranch 01-24-2019


A panoramic view showing the winter brown foliage.

The weather was so nice that I just had to get out and take a walk. I settled on Reimers Ranch as it is not too far from my house and around a thirty minute drive. As the Bluetooth unit in the truck had just quit (see my previous blog) I had to rig up a different system which I did by using my portable Bluetooth speaker so that I could listen to Audiobooks as I drive.

I parked in the Mountain Bike Parking Lot and after donning all of my gear, set out across the trail that divides the main Multi Use Trail that encircles the park. This trail comes out at a place known as Johny’s Homestead where a cabin used to stand. This burnt down several years ago and all that remains is the stone chimney. It probably has a history and a story or two if there was any way of finding them.

I struck out on the Multi Use Trail heading in a Northerly direction. The Multi Use Trail is very wide, enough for the Park’s vehicles as they cover the property and very easy walking. The sun was shining very brightly and it was hard to realize that it was a winter’s day. My part of Texas in the middle of the State does not really get a winter in terms of really bad weather. Just the occasional freeze and uncomfortable drops in temperatures although it was a balmy seventy degrees as I walked enough to work up a sweat. I arrived at a spot where the main trail split, one way was a short cut that, if followed cut off a mile or so of the big loop. I chose to take the other trail which is a continuance of the main trail but is known as the Turkey Loop. It swings around for a mile and then rejoins the main trail by the last parking area. I have yet to see any turkeys but I did come across a whole bunch of their footprints so they do exist. The area had some rain and the ground was moist in places enough that the wildlife had left an assortment of tracks. I am so noisy as I walk due to using two walking poles that I am very lucky if I see anything live other than humans or horses.

Cardinal

I did manage to get a picture of a Cardinal sitting in the tree but was very frustrated by my inability to capture any of the other birds that tormented me by flying ahead and when they settled, it was always within a bush or tree and under cover.

Beautiful dogs

I met a young lady who had a couple of very large chocolate labs with her and we stopped and chatted for a bit and she allowed me to take their pictures.

I followed the main trail until I came to the signpost marking the second to last parking area known as River View Parking No 1 where I crossed the paved road so that I could walk the gravel path that overlooks the river. This pathway has been undergoing some extensive repairs and now in many places, it is a concrete path as well as the original gravel. The old pathway was subject to washing out if we ever had any heavy rains. This pathway runs the full extent of the Park from the first parking lot to the last and makes for a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.

In several places, the trail overlooks the river but in many others, trees and vegetation block the view. The scenery was a typical winter brown and that was pretty much true throughout the park.

When I arrived at the first parking lot, I ran back into the lady with the dogs and we chatted some more before going our separate ways. Mine was to cross the street and climb the hill to where my truck was parked in the Mountain Bike Parking Lot. I was still the only vehicle parked there but it was a Friday after all. As per my usual custom on any walk, I had sweat enough to warrant a change of clothes for the drive home. Unlike hiking at McKinney Roughs, there was no main office selling ice cream so I had to settle for driving home via Dripping Springs just so that I could grab a latte.

Altogether, I hiked 5.5 miles and enjoyed it immensely. It felt good to get back out on the trails again.

Written 01/25/2020.

McKinney Falls 01-15-2020


A view of the swimming hole. In the summertime, this area is packed with people.

My friend BJ called me to set up a hike with the possibility of her going to Reimers Ranch for the first time. However, the best laid plans and all of that were changed at the last minute due to a hairdresser’s appointment that somehow, she had forgotten about. So instead of Reimers, we opted to go to the State Park at McKinney Falls as it was closer and about midway between Bastrop where she lives and South West Austin, where I live.

The only real green thing in the park. Such a beautifully shaped tree.

Instead of walking the long blacktopped trail that goes around the park as we usually do, we decided to explore the trails on the other side of the Upper Falls as the water in the creeks was running low making it easy to get across without getting our feet wet. The Upper Falls are at the confluence of Onion Creek and Williamson Creek and after any heavy rains, the creeks normally run full of water. We haven’t had much rain for the past several months except for the odd shower here and there.

We kinda wandered around following what we thought was a major trail but in the end it petered out forcing us to retrace our steps. We toyed with the idea of jumping across the crevasses in the rock base just as a young guy had done just before us but neither of us had enough confidence in our ability to do that. We even looked to do some rock jumping in the creek as the water was only about 6-8 inches deep but the thought of having wet feet for the rest of the hike kinda put us off.

So we retraced our steps back to the starting point and then chose an alternate trail to hike. This one was blacktopped part of the way and would have led us to the Lower Falls if we had continued but we turned off onto a parallel trail and made our way back this time following Onion creek. We got as far as the giant cypress tree and even though, the bridge across had been rebuilt, the trail was closed on the other side. We had no choice but to backtrack and rejoin our original trail back to the parking lot. There were a lot of people about enjoying the beautiful mild day with the temperature hovering around the 75 degree mark. Not bad for wintertime but not unusual here in Texas. Next time we come here and if the water level is still low, we plan on visiting the Lower Falls and walking the trails on the other side. A lot of today’s hike was walking on the rocky surface which I found to be uncomfortable to walk on. Altogether, we covered almost 3.5 miles.

Written 01/18/2020

Reimers Ranch 12-27-2019


A panoramic view across the river

I decided to go for a short walk at Reimers Ranch, which is the closest of the hiking areas that I tend to visit and only a 20 minute drive from my house. I wanted to see if there was anything to photograph and that would catch my eye this being the Texas wintertime. As I walked along, my mind went back to when I lived in Upper New York State and at this time of the year, there would probably already be a foot or more snow on the ground plus freezing cold temperatures that are definitely not conducive for taking walks outside. Such are the blessings of living in Texas that in the central part of the State where I live, the winters never get very cold and we only occasionally get any snow. For us, putting up with many 100 degree days in the Summer are what test our resolve when it comes to weather.

But I digress from the original intent which was to talk about the latest hike at Reimers Ranch which I have hiked so many times that I am my own map of the Park. I parked in the very last parking area known as River View Parking No 2, the one used by the Rock Climbers, and struck off onto the Main Trail walking back towards the park entrance. The plan was to walk back on this trail for about a mile which would bring me to the third of the parking areas, River View Parking No 1, across the road. From there, I took the gravel path that is located on the top of the bluff above the Pedernales River. This path stretches the full length of this frontage overlooking the river from the very first parking area the entire way and ends in the last parking area. Incidentally, the river which for much of the year has a steady flow and is always bank to bank, is down very low as we have not yet had much in the way of rain to refill it after the long hot summer. That will almost certainly happen in the Spring.

As I walked along, I noticed that the vegetation is wearing its winter brown with the only green being the evergreen oaks and the very occasional cactus. I took several pictures including a couple where I tried to, and not very successfully I might add, take a picture of the sun’s rays as they broke through the clouds. Alas, mine and cameras eyes did not agree on what we both saw and the end result is disappointing. I did not see a single bird although I could hear them somewhere close by. I guess, many of them have migrated to warmer climes.

Altogether, I covered about 2.5 miles of very pleasant walking. I passed a couple of other people going in the opposite direction and we exchanged pleasantries. Nice to see people out enjoying nature. I arrived back at my truck ready to make the drive home with a detour to Dripping Springs for a Starbucks break. One thing about hiking at this time of the year, I am not covered in sweat requiring a change of clothing like what happens in the Spring and Summer. Altogether, a very enjoyable walk in the country and not a bad way to end the hiking for this year.

Written 01/02/2020

McKinney Roughs 1-3-2020


The view from the top of the park
Winter view

The first blog written in 2020 of a short hike that my friend BJ and I took. 2020 sounds like something out of a science fiction movie.

We hadn’t walked in a while and originally, we were going to hike at Reimers Ranch as she has never been there before. But, due to an unplanned delay on her end, we ended up at McKinney Roughs as it was closer to her house in Bastrop. I really like walking at the Roughs as the trails are pretty interesting with a mix of wide and narrow, shaded and unshaded, easy walking to very rough footing and major changes of contours which always seem to be uphill. Not only that, the Check In Office sells ice cream, a tasty reward for the end of the walk.

Riverside Trail

As the pictures show, the Roughs very much have their winter coats on with almost everything a shade of grey and brown and not very much green. Even so, we did find a couple of patches of flowers, namely Copper Canyon Daisy that were still showing their pretty faces.

Copper Canyon Daisy

It was an absolutely gorgeous day. The sun was shining and the temperature was around a mild 72 degrees, just right for walking and very little breeze to talk of. We came across several people, all with dogs and stopped to chat to a couple of them. With such beautiful weather, I am not surprised that other people were out and about.

We decided to take the Riverside trail with the intention of turning off onto Valley View but decided to stay on Riverside and as the name suggests, it does eventually take us down to the Colorado River. As it happens, this river does have a lot of water in it as compared to the Pedernales at Reimers Ranch which is running very low.

The trail runs parallel to the river although the views are not very clear due to the brush and trees. We came across our early acquaintances and this time, they had ventured out onto the Roughs which are a bunch of rocks that form little islands in the river. Their dogs were thoroughly enjoying the water. We followed the river and at one point spotted cows across on the other side. We had been wondering why the grass on that side was so well trimmed and quickly found out why.

The Park people have done a lot of work on the trails, at least on the major ones like the one we were on and the walking was very easy. It got a little more difficult as we went down the hill towards the river as the ground changed to very loose pebbles making it a little tricky. This happens a lot as with the changing contours of the land, the various and different layers of materials become exposed.

From Riverside, we took Bluff Trail Loop which started us on the way back to the car park. As Riverside had been flat and then downhill, so Bluff Trail Loop is all uphill and much narrower and rockier to walk on. Eventually, this trail turned into Ridge which brought us back to the starting point. We never see much wildlife as we are probably way too noisy but we did get to see the buzzard in flight.

We were exploring the flowers gardens in the main Campus and I heard someone call my name. Looking up, I saw a couple of ladies in front of me and the taller of the two introduced herself and her friend. Turns out that she was an ex soccer player and recognized me from when I was involved in the Women’s Soccer program in Austin. We chatted for a while mainly about the beauties of this specific park. Interesting the people that you run into while out on these hikes. True to form, BJ turned down my offer of buying her an ice cream and left to drive home. Me, I didn’t have her will power and treated myself to a Nutty Bar which disappeared before I even drove out of the parking lot. Altogether, we covered 4.6 miles of very enjoyable walking.

Written 1/7/2020

Reimers Ranch 11-4-2019


The horse coral is on the right

At the last minute I decided that I would take a short walk at Reimers Ranch mainly because it is close to me at least, compared to the other places that I like to hike. It is about 15 miles from my house and doesn’t take me very long to get there.

It was a beautiful day, clear and sunny with the temperature around 80 degrees, far less that the 100 degrees that we have had just a couple of weeks ago. Texas weather is very strange and is hard to adjust to. The only certain thing is that it will be 100 degrees in the summer and anywhere from 60 degrees to a few degrees below freezing in the winter and not too many of those days, either.

There were several cars in the Parking Lots as other like me have been waiting for it to cool down. This on a weekday. I parked in the Mountain Bike Parking Lot as I had already decided that I would take the trail that divides the big loop and ends at Johnny’s Homestead. The big loop is labeled as the Multi Use Trail and is almost 5 miles around it and makes for a nice and easy walk for anyone interested in getting some exercise. It’s only problem is the lack of shade and probably three quarters of it is out in the sun.

A couple on Mountain Bikes passed me and we exchanged greetings. They were the only people that I saw on this particular walk. The walking was easy and I managed to work up a sweat in no time flat. I opted to take the shortcut that probably lessened the walk by half a mile or so. One thing that I noticed was the complete absence of birds either visibly or audibly. When walking out in the open, it is hard to see them sometimes as they have the annoying habit of flying on just ahead of you and not settling to where I could get pictures but this time around, there were none that I could see.

I made good time and walked past the parking lot where the horse trailers pull in but it too was empty. It was not until I had turned back into the road that leads back to my truck that I saw and heard a flock of birds. They were too far way to get any pictures but at least I got to see them as they landed on the ground to feed. They looked like quail.

There were a couple more trucks in the lot than when I left. There is a wooden veloway built by the County and I had heard these riders as they worked out on it. I could not see them from my location but they came back to their truck and we chatted for a bit.

Altogether, I covered almost 3 miles of very pleasant walking although it turned out to be hot enough that as usual, I had to change my clothes before the drive home. I took a few pictures but there was really nothing much to photograph that I hadn’t already taken pictures of before.

It was great to be back out walking again and oh yes, I voted today…

11/5/2019

Lake Bastrop North 10-11-2019


Storms moving in over the lake

Along with my friend BJ, we decided to walk the other half of the trail between the LCRA parks, Lake Bastrop South and Lake Bastrop North. We had already covered almost half of the trail from the South end and we were left with about 3 miles of the trail to cover from the North end.

The weather had taken a decided change as it was no longer sunshine and a 100 degrees but rolling storm clouds with rain in the air and a temperature of around 75 degrees. We pulled up in front of the trailhead and sat in the truck debating as to whether it was going to rain and if so, should we continue with our plans to walk.

In the end, we both decided that as we were already there, it did not make sense to not walk and if we got wet, so be it. I hustled into my backpack and camera belt and checked to make sure that I had a poncho with me to cover the camera if it came on to rain and we set out along the trail. It was very overcast with the dark clouds piling up and as the lake water was warmer than the air temperature, there was a fog rising from the water giving the lake a very eerie effect. We were about halfway through the walk when it came on to rain, well a slight drizzle which continued pretty much through our entire walk.

The mist rising from the lake.

It is really a great trail to walk on with only the occasional stoney conditions underfoot. Most of the way it is sand or dirt making for very pleasant walking and it was not raining hard enough to turn things muddy.

We crossed a couple of small bridges that spanned ditches that in rainy times would hold water and then we came to the Floating Bridge. This is a bit of a novelty as it moved up and down as we walked across. It really is a floating bridge and is built to rise and fall with the level of the water in the lake. It even has small, for want of a better word, alcoves with benches installed for people to sit and admire the view.

We continued walking and came to yet another bridge with signs that indicated we were 1.5 miles from our starting point or 3.0 miles from the South Shore entrance. We were still about 1.5 miles from where we hiked the other time out and as the weather was getting quite miserable with the rain and wind, we decided that we had walked far enough for one day and did a smart about face walking back the way we had come.

We ended up in the parking lot with the truck immediately in front of us and we were still the only people in view with the exception of one of the park employees who was busy emptying the trash bins. The season must really be over but in all fairness, it was a weekday… Altogether, we covered 4.5 miles of very enjoyable hiking rain and all. I plan on going back to hike the bit we missed to complete the entire trail.

Written 10/19/2019

Lake Bastrop South 10-3-2019


The beauty of nature

My very good friend BJ came up with a new place for us to walk within her hometown of Bastrop. This time, it was another LCRA Park and is named Lake Bastrop South as there is also a Lake Bastrop North which, depending on what we thought of this hike, will be our next one.

In actuality, there is just one long trail of about 4.5 miles that connects the North and South locations of this lake and as we parked in the closest one, decided the we would walk about halfway leaving the other half for another time and from the opposite end, the North location.

There was no one else around that we could see as the parking areas were empty of any cars and people. We parked right next to the trailhead and after our usual preparations started along the trail. Turns out that this is a great trail to walk with only a few hills and very easy going with mostly sand underfoot. It has a lot of shade of Oak trees intermixed with the Pines. In some places, we walked on a carpet of pine needles making for a very pleasant odor as we moved them around.

There are several bridges along this trail all having there own names. The ones that we crossed were named Twin Bridges and yes, there are two bridges side by side, Big Oak Bridge although we could not decide which was the Big Oak and Thrill Creek Bridge which was as far as we went for this hike. None of them had any water flowing in the gullies beneath the bridges as we have not had any real rain in almost 3 months. This started a conversation about the Grand Canyon and how deep it was so out came BJ’s cell phone and she discovered that it was almost 6000 feet deep at its deepest point. That is a little over a mile. Absolutely amazing when you stop to consider that most of that depth is caused by the erosion of the soil by the Colorado River over millions of years. Nature sure is a wonderful thing. Pity that mankind is doing its very best to make sure there is no tomorrow for this wonderful and amazing planet.

We turned back and retraced out footsteps for the return journey having solved most of the worlds problems in about a two hour time span. We got back to the parking lot and this time, there were three Bluebonnet Electric trucks parked in the lot. Whether they were on lunch break or official business, it was completed when we walked up as they all drove off. I didn’t realize it until I went in the Men’s room to change but they are set up for the campers to shower which I could have done had I been so inclined. Maybe next time now that I know.

Easy walking and lots of shade.

All in all, we covered 5 miles of very easy hiking with the added bonus of it being shady for most of the way. Next time, we will park in the North Lot and walk the trail from the opposite end to where we ended this time around.

Written 10/4/2019