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

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

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

Nearly a Mistake


Still running strong from all of the rain.

I got up fairly early (for me) and decided that it was time to take a walk as I haven’t been walking in a couple of weeks. By the time that I got out of the house, it was almost 11:30 am but I headed off towards Bastrop having already decided that McKinney Roughs was probably the best place as it had a lot of shelter from the sun.

I had not been following the forecast for the day knowing that it would be hot anyway I looked at it. It was not until I texted my friend BJ asking her if she wanted to accompany me did I realize just how hot it was going to be. She texted back to say that I really shouldn’t walk today as it was going to be almost a hundred degrees and the temperature could easily top the current record high of 97 degrees with Heat index values of 108 to 114. She couldn’t make it anyway which meant walking alone which is probably not advisable with the temperatures going that high.

That did it for me and as by now, I was already almost in Bastrop, I decided instead to drive around for a bit and as usual, listen to one of the stories from Audiobooks. So, I took off turning onto country roads that I had never driven before with a view to different scenery although to be sure, in Texas the scenery does not change very much over a short distance even if it is several miles. I did discover a lot of different areas around Bastrop that I hadn’t seen before before ending back up at my house. Along the way, I filled my truck at the gas station in Bastrop that is always quite a bit cheaper than anywhere else around and of course, a stop at Starbucks for the inevitable Latte.

In all of that, I only found one place that was putting on a show and worthy of parking. I got out of my truck and took a couple of pictures and then started to walk towards the center of the stream but almost fell ass over tea kettle as my feet slipped out from under me on the slippery surface. Luckily, my athletic reflexes came into play and I was able to stay on my feet but I gave up on walking to the center of the stream preferring instead to get back in my truck to take the pictures.

Written 6/9/2019

A Hike at McKinney Roughs 4-20-2019


The very muddy Colorado River

Tired of sitting around indoors, I made a last minute decision that I wanted to take a hike. The next question was where did I want to go. After considerable thought, I decided that as I hadn’t been to McKinney Roughs in a while, that would be a good place. I texted my friend BJ to see if she was interested but she texted back that she already had plans.

I wasn’t about to let that stop me from enjoying the beautiful Spring day and after a short drive of about thirty miles, found myself in the parking lot at McKinney. I had recently bought a new backpack that I hadn’t yet had time to try out. I had already packed it with all of the relevant gear including the Tamron 160-600 long lens which, if I plan on using , usually carry already attached to a camera and on a waist harness. The carrying system that I have is from Cotton Carrier which enables me to carry two cameras and a pair of binoculars at the same time if I so choose. This lens adds considerably to the weight of the pack as it weighs in around 5.5 pounds when attached to the camera making it a very heavy addition. The new pack also had straps on the bottom allowing me to pack a lightweight tripod just in case I needed it. Altogether, the pack weighs in at around 25 pounds fully loaded so in many ways, this was going to be a test as to whether I could manage such a heavy load.

I stopped in at the office and paid my $5.00 and chatted to the lady behind the window and set off heading for the Riverside trail. Turns out that there was going to be a wedding and preparations were underway with the staff busy setting up tables outside and a band off to one side that was practicing and getting their sound systems just right. Another lady was preparing bouquets for each table and there was a general air of busyness.

Pictures of the trails at McKinney Roughs

I walked on Riverside heading out into the beautiful lush new spring growth that Nature provides us every year taking pictures as I went. I wasn’t really sure which trails I was going to take as I had no plan and was waiting to see what would guide me. On a whim, I turned off onto Valley View and followed it for a while and then took Bluff Trail Loop. This trail has a major overlook of the valley below with glimpses of the Colorado River. The river was extremely muddy colored as there had been a lot of rain very recently and was flowing quite strongly. I did not plan on walking down to the river on this particular walk guessing that the bottom trails would be very muddy and cut up.

Spring Flowers

I completed Bluff Trail Loop then headed back up Ridge to the Main Campus. I passed back alongside the wedding area taking care not to get too close as I didn’t want to interrupt anything. As it happens, the guests were just starting to arrive looking somewhat out of place with the men all dressed up in suits and ties and the women in dresses with summer hats. It would have been more fitting if they had on shorts and tees to go along with the scenery. Oh well…Still a beautiful place for a wedding. Lets hope that the lucky couple can copy nature and make their marriage last forever. Hard to do in these modern times but I wish them the very best. Guess I am a cynic.

Panoramic pictures of McKinney Roughs

Altogether, I covered 4.5 miles and I’m happy to say that the pack rode very well. I only noticed it a couple of times and if it had become too heavy, I could have always pulled out the camera and long lens and attached it to one of the carrying straps on my waist belt. I got some great pictures and everything is so wonderfully green with lots of wildflowers in bloom. Here’s looking forward to the next walk.

Written 4/24/2019

McKinney Roughs 1-30-2017


dsc_4874The weather had warmed up a bit and the sun was shining, way too good an opportunity to not hit the trails. It was kind of a last minute decision to take another walk and I debated on which of the Parks I would go to. In the end, it was McKinney Roughs that won out and after thinking about it for a bit, I decided that I would start at the main entrance and hit Foxtail to Whitetail and then onto Pine Ridge.

I followed my customary preparation that actually had an additional item this time. I had splurged on different hiking socks that are thicker and more absorbing which meant another item to change into (and out of) before putting on my boots, grabbing my backpack, camera belt and camera, water bottle and finally my walking poles and I was ready to go. I stopped at the Office to pay my $2:00 and to chat with the ladies behind the window before heading out.

I hadn’t walked Whitetail for some time and wanted to take a look at the two ponds along the way. Both had water in them and not much else. One had a large turtle that was sunning itself. I was hoping for a heron or two but no such luck. It seems that previous sightings of birds and animals do not necessarily mean any repeats and tend to be a one off. That is, with the exception of a pair of Buzzards that were perched in a tree. I managed to get a picture of them and I believe that I took pictures of Buzzards the last time out. Not necessarily the same pair of course as they all look alike to medsc_4881

I had a couple of ladies on horseback that caught up with me and we stopped and chatted for a bit. I took their pictures and they moved on.
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I crossed from Whitetail over to Pine Ridge and followed it for almost its full length. This trail leads past several of the Zip Line Structures which were closed on this day. I guess they are only open Thursday through Sunday. Pine Ridge has a fairly steep descent into the valley that requires traversing quite a few steps which, needless to say, present their own challenge as they are not in the best of repair.

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At the bottom, there is a small stream that meanders through the valley.

The same is true going back up the other side as it too requires the use of the steps.

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After successfully negotiating this part of the trail I crossed over onto Riverside which is a steep uphill climb out of the valley until it levels out at the top for an easy walk back to the Parking Lot.

Everything with the exception of the Pine trees and of course the Cedars, have on their wintery look. There are no leaves on the Oaks and other trees and even the long  grass is brown. Doesn’t make for very appealing pictures although I suppose, it does have its own beauty. I did find my first Dandelion of the season and also a green butterfly that blended in so well that it looked like a leaf.dsc_4870

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Altogether, I covered about 4.5 miles of very enjoyable walking. McKinney Roughs is truly a great place to walk. The video below is a compilation of some of the pictures I took.

McKinney Roughs 1-30-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.