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

Buescher State Park 9-29-2019


The Lake at Buescher Park

With the weather finally cooling down albeit, not by a lot as it is still in the mid 90’s in the afternoons, I decided to get up early and drive the hour that it takes to get to Buescher State Park located in Smithville which is 55 miles from my house. I grabbed breakfast to go at the first Starbucks that I came to and listened to Audiobooks for the hour spent in the truck, on the road.

I planned to walk the rest of the trails that BJ and I hadn’t covered a couple of days previously and pulled up into the trail parking area on Park Road 1C which was my starting point. I crossed the road to get onto the Pine Gulch Trail and was immediately inundated with a large number of wildflowers of several different varieties. Absolutely beautiful and so unexpected as we had not seen any on the other side of the road or on the other trail.

A young lady passed me going in the opposite direction only she was running and I could tell it was a part of her workout routine. Hers must have been the other car in the Parking Area when I left. She was the only person that I saw on the trails. This side of the road was just as burned as was the other side although, Nature is pushing hard and there is a lot of new growth. Shade was hard to come by except here and there, where the Oak trees were growing. It looks like they had not been affected by the fire as everything around them had been burned. The Pine trees that had been replanted were growing well and in 10 years time, should become just as tall as the ones that are now just tree skeletons and strong reminders of the past. Hope I am around to see that and still walking.

There is a small pond on this trail but it too is low as it lacks water because of the drought. I remember it from a few years ago before the fire when I walked this trail. At that time I took a picture of the trees reflecting in the water. This time, not only is the water low but the trees are no longer there having burned in the fire.

Following the trail, I had to cross the Old Antioch Road for the last mile or so and then eventually meeting up with Park Road 1C where the trail ended. At one point, I came across a brand new bridge that crosses one of the many streams in the area and the construction person in me could only think of the logistics in getting the material to build this bridge to this particular area, as the trail is not very wide for any sort of vehicle. This last part of the trail is not used much and is heavily overgrown although somebody had been working recently with a weed wacker to trim a lot of the growth. I had the option of turning back and covering my tracks or stay on Park Road 1C back to where the truck was parked. Either way, the distance was the same so I opted to stay on the road for the easier walking. Several vehicles and motorcycles passed me and we exchanged waves as they sped on by.

A video of the trails and the beautiful flowers.

I arrived back in the parking area and sat for a while just relaxing and cooling down. It was a beautiful day and I felt so happy just to be out in it. Altogether, I covered 5 miles of walking. On the way back, I stopped at the lake although it is showing signs of feeling the drought that we have been having this summer as the water level was down a bit. I took pictures of the Oak trees with the Spanish Moss hanging from them, not something you see every day.

Spanish Moss

The drive home was uneventful as I happily drank my Starbucks Latte and listened to Audiobooks to be welcomed at the door by four small and very excited dogs. At least somebody loves and misses me…

Written 9/30/2019

Reimers Ranch 10-26-2019


It was just one of those sort of days.

Reimers Ranch is located a few miles from my house and sometimes I will drive out there just to either take a short walk or even to just drive the roads within the park. It is quiet and peaceful and is never so crowded to be uncomfortable especially on the trails. A lot of people come for the Pedernales River where they can enjoy such things as swimming, fishing, boating and even birdwatching. The Park is also very popular with the crazy daredevils that enjoy rock climbing as a hobby. Rather them than me.

Hopefully not waiting for me to break my neck or die of thirst…

I decided that a short walk was in order and from past experience chose to park in the River Bend parking lot and walk as far as the River View lot and then get back up onto the gravel trail that overlooks the river for the return walk. Sounds pretty simple and for most of the way was very easy walking. A couple passed me and as I approached the River Bend lot, there were several people enjoying a picnic at one of the many tables that are spaced around the river. At this point, I had the difficult, for me, climb up and out of the gorge. These rocky “steps” at this and the next exit are a bit tricky requiring a lot of concentration and attention so as not to miss a footing. Thank goodness they are short in distance with not too many steps.

After safely making the climb up and out, I walked the gravel path which is on top of the river gorge for the entire length of the park. It does not always have views of the river as sometimes it is set too far away but there are enough to make it interesting. This path is very easy walking except in the hot summer as there is no shade for its entire length of about 4 miles.

I made it back to the River View lot and there were still a couple of cars and several people using the facilities. Some were just finishing and others just starting but all with the same purpose, to be out and and about in the fresh air getting some exercise.

The Pedernales River is very low as we have not had any serious rain in nearly 3 months

Altogether, I covered a little over 2.5 miles and as the intent was to just get out and enjoy the day, I succeeded in that.

Written 10/28/2019

McKinney Roughs 9-25-2019


Pecan Bottom

I went walking with my friend BJ at McKinney Roughs which is located very close to Bastrop in Cedar Creek. BJ lives in Bastrop so only had a short drive. I gave her directions to the Pope Bend Parking Area as she had never been to that one. It is located West of the main entrance and is used a lot by the horse trailers.

The hardest part of the walk is at the very beginning for about a half mile or so where the trail is on top of a hill and in fact Yaupon branches off to take the high road. We, on the other hand were going down to the flats on Buckey but as is generally the case, the trail does not go straight down. It winds about with an equal number of climbs before hitting the low ground. This was the only part of the trail that was made up of rocks and loose stones making it hard to walk on. There seemed to be an equal number of climbs in both directions both in and out and like I said, they all appeared to be up.

We were planning on taking Buckeye and then Pecan Bottom trails which brings us past the biggest tree in the park. This is a giant Pecan tree and is more than 12 feet in circumference and over 200 years old. It is beginning to show wear and tear over its long life and has lost a couple of its big branches. It is still pretty impressive though.

The Big Pecan with BJ standing in front of it.
The top of the big Pecan Tree.

We continued along Pecan Bottom and it eventually brought us to Deep Sandy which as the name implies is just that, sand. This also brought us to the river which looked a little low on water. Not surprising as we have not had any real rain in a couple of months with just the odd thundershower here and there.

There were still a few flowering plants showing off their beauty.

From there, we took Coyote Road which brought us back onto the original trail past the Large Pecan Tree and back along Buckeye to the parking lot. We passed three people on their way out and exchanged greetings. As they hadn’t stopped, I had to be content with a rear view picture.

Other hikers

We sat on a bench in the parking lot continuing with our conversation which had pretty much been non stop for the entire walk. We covered a whole realm of items and solved a few of the Worlds problems while we were at it. Interestingly enough, not once did we discuss the Pond Society, which in the past, has been the topic of many conversations.

BJ took her leave and drove off and I sat there for a while thinking about our conversations and the walk we had just completed. I gloried in the beauty of Mother Nature and the pleasure she brings to people like BJ and myself. Even though it was hot with the temperature hovering around 95 degrees, there was so much shade that it was not too uncomfortable. Altogether, we covered almost 5 miles of a very enjoyable few hours spent out in the woods.

Written 9/26/2019