McKinney Roughs 7-24-2019


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.

The base of the tree

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.

The top of the tree(s)

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?

Written 7/25/2019

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

McKinney Roughs 6-22-2019


The wildflowers are still in bloom.

I had the urge to get out and about and as it is now summertime in Texas, hiking in the heat is one of the joys of living here. We don’t get much in the way of a winter in Austin but we make up for it in the summertime as we can guarantee that it is only a matter of time before the temperature hits the one hundred degree mark. From then on, it is anyone’s guess as to how many hundred degree days we will get. The record was set back in 2011 when there were 79 recorded 100 degree days. That was a hot summer.

Believe it or not, life still goes on even with all of that heat. We make adjustments and do things like hiking earlier in the day which is usually several degrees cooler. As the temperature rises, the body adjusts with it making it possible to hike. Most of us though, choose not to hike in the extreme heat of the day. I am one of those fortunate or unfortunate guys, depending on your point of view, that perspires a lot and at the end of any heavy physical exertions, am thoroughly soaked through requiring that I change my clothes before jumping in my truck to drive home. I don’t notice while I am walking as I wrap a bandana around my forehead and wear a wide brimmed hat with a neck cover that captures most of the sweat and stops it from dripping into my eyes. I take heed of my Dermatologist and slap on vast amounts of sunscreen otherwise she lectures me at my next visit. Like everything else, if we want to do stuff, we have to make the necessary adjustments.

Such was the case in my most recent walk at McKinney Roughs. It was already ninety degrees when I started out and I chose to hike a trail that is named Yaupon. One reason that I chose it is because it has a lot of tree cover giving me a plenty of shade which really helps. The guide says that Yaupon is two point seven miles long and I knew that it was an out and back hike as the trail that completes the loop has been washed out in a couple of places and is no longer connected. I don’t normally like to cover the same ground twice but as someone pointed out to me, you get to see the same view from two different directions which is true as several of the pictures show the same view from both directions.

The trail has had a lot of work done to it in several different places due to washouts and there were still a couple of wet areas requiring one to carefully pick the footing. Generally speaking though, it was good walking. I passed one gentleman who was heading back in. We chatted for a bit and he tried to convince me that there was more breeze up ahead but somehow, I doubted him although I just nodded my head and passed some remark. I had been following fresh horse tracks and wondered how soon before I would see the horse and rider as I mentioned before, this trail is an out and back trail. Sure enough as I rounded a bend, there was the horse and rider approaching me. Following the trail etiquette, I stepped off to allow them to pass calling out to the rider and asking her if I could get their photograph. As with most people, she was only too willing to pose and the horse just took it for granted that of course he should be in the picture. The horse’s name was Troy but I didn’t get the riders name.

One beautiful horse.

They moved on and I continued until I reached the water tower which is about a half a mile or so from the trails end in Pope Bend Trailhead. I figured that I had gone far enough and turned back to retrace my steps. As with most hikes, those same hills were much steeper going back and the distance much further but I eventually made it back to the parking lot and my truck. I must have taken longer than I anticipated as when I got back, the Office was closed and the parking lots were pretty empty. That was a shame as on the last trip here, I had discovered that they carried chocolate ice cream on a stick and I had been promising myself I would treat myself to one. Oh well, I am probably better off not eating the stuff but darn, it sure would have gone down very nicely.

All in all, I covered seven and a half miles and was really dragging by the time I got back. I carry both an Iphone and a pedometer and they both said close to the same thing. I wonder how the Map makers measure the trail distances as I always walk more than the map says. Normally, I use the park’s restrooms to change but as they were closed, I had to get out of the soaked clothes so ended up doing a strip tease in the Parking Lot. Luckily for me, it was empty and there was no one around which was probably a good thing as if anyone had caught sight of my eighty three year old body, it would have turned them off the opposite sex for the rest of their life.

I drove back and was warmly welcomed by four anxious and excited little dogs. At least, they love me sexy and sweaty body and all…

Written 6/23/2019

McKinney Roughs 6-15-2019


Trails at McKinney Roughs

Even though the weather is beginning to warm up, I decided that enough was enough and it was time to get out on the trails once more. I debated as to where to walk and settled for my favorite place, McKinney Roughs which has a lot of shade trees on most of the trails. Another reason although it has very little to do with hiking is that there is an Exxon gas station almost across from the park entrance that sells the gas for at least ten cents cheaper than anywhere else and I always make a point of filling up when I am out in that direction.

I knew what trails I wanted to explore and parked at the Pope Bend Parking Area. I was the only vehicle parked there so had the choice of the shadiest parking spot. I went through my usual routine of boots, backpack, poles and camera belt along with the camera and set off along Roadrunner which would bring me to Buckey which is like a lowlands area with Pecan trees and fairly level walking at least after the first half mile which is either uphill or downhill depending on if you are on the way out or heading back in. Towards the end of any hike, everything seems uphill…I came to the Giant Pecan Tree which is the largest and maybe oldest tree in the Park and is almost twelve feet in circumference. I hadn’t seen the tree in a couple of years and to me, it seemed that it was deteriorating. Maybe that was just my imagination. I sure hope so. Continuing on, I soon was on Pecan Bottom which is a very shady area and great walking and then I hit Deep Sandy which as the name suggests, the trail is of a sandy nature and easy to walk on. Deep Sandy runs right alongside the river which was flowing strong and was very dirty from the recent rains. I had heard the very noisy sounds of a motor boat on the river which I knew to be the Hyatt Regency Hotel’s boat which is next door to the Park. They use it as an attraction to give their guests a trip on the river. I don’t know why the boat is so noisy but maybe that is a part of the fun. I had seen the boat before and was ready for it when it came across my line of vision and was able to get a picture, well actually two pictures of it before it was gone taking with it the sounds of the motor.

I noticed a group of three or four people sitting in the water trying to cool off. A bunch of friends I surmised enjoying the cooling river even if it was dirty. As long as you don’t swim in it, I guess cooling off is OK.

With that excitement out of the way, I got back onto Coyote Road and eventually backtracked onto Buckeye for the walk back. As I mentioned before, it is an uphill slog walking back out of the park and I was glad when I reached the Parking Lot and my truck. I passed one young gentleman on the way into the Park and we chatted for a couple of minutes. As usual, I heard a lot of birds but was not able to capture any of them. I did get a picture of a wooly caterpillar.

I even saw three deer but they caught me by surprise and my camera was in its carrier on my waist. I walk with two walking poles which I find to be of considerable assistance when it comes to the rough ground. As old and wobbly as I am sometimes, I need all of the safeguards I can get which means that unless I am actually taking a picture, the camera is on my belt and not in my hands hence never ready for those surprise shots.

I have learned that In order to be comfortable and not ruin my truck seats, I need to completely change my clothes before driving home as I tend to sweat a lot and am totally soaked by the time I am through. The camera belt and backpack all add to the sweat factor plus add additional weight. I did take the tripod and the really big long lens out of the pack which made is lighter by at least seven ponds but is still weighs in around fifteen pounds.

All in all, I covered around five very enjoyable miles and even decided to rewarded myself with an ice cream, purchased from the LCRA Office on my way out which was thoroughly enjoyable on the drive home.

The pictures are taken in sequence and are mostly all trail pictures. They do give a you an idea of the changing terrain from the first picture all the way through to the last one.

The Beauty of Nature

Written 6/17/2019

McKinney Roughs 6-10-2018


The Trail Home…

I took a walk at McKinney Roughs as I hadn’t been there for a while. It is one of my most favorite parks mainly because it has so much tree cover which here in Texas, is a definite bonus. The temperature wasn’t too bad just in the high 80’s but was beginning to creep up.

The parking lot was full when I pulled in due mostly to an OSHA Seminar going on in one of the many classrooms available for such things. Great place to hold a seminar. I checked in at the office to pay my $2.00 and write down my particulars as requested. I noticed that under the heading of Vehicle Plate Number, nearly everyone with the exception of one person, had written a short description, in my case Green Ford Truck. As vehicle plates are not used much for ID’s, no one remembers them. I have custom plates that I have had for many years always the same one used over and over and I have real difficulty in remembering it. By the way, keeping the same custom plate in Texas does not mean that you don’t have to pay an annual fee. You do and the plates are changed out every 2 years which also costs money.

Colorado River at McKinney after recent rains

I had already decided that I would walk the Coyote Road Trail down to the River and then walk along the River Trail and return back using the Riverside Trail. We have had quite a lot of rain lately and the trails definitely showed it with trail washouts and very uneven surfaces including standing water and mud, lots of mud. The sort that builds up on your boots until you feel that each foot weighs 20 pounds.

Coyote Road is a wide trail and leads down to the River. It is not steep but with the wet surface needed care to negotiate in some spots. It is about a mile long. I didn’t get to see much in the way of wildlife or birds but could hear them in the trees all around me. Probably laughing at my feeble efforts to take pictures of them.

Trails at McKinney after the rains

When I reached the Colorado River, it was obvious that the trail had flooded in places which is not surprising as it is only 20 or so feet from the water which incidentally, was still high and running very fast. It was a real dirty brown color as it carried along dirt and debris from the recent rains. I negotiated the trail along the river sometimes walking through water and always in the mud, lots of mud and then turned up Riverside to head back to the parking lot. Riverside is another main trail and it too is pretty wide and in need of repair due to the recent rains. Lots of washed out areas but not much mud. Riverside is about 1.5 miles long and in my case, at least a mile of it going uphill with only the last half mile anywhere close to being level ground.

Some of the flowers still showing at McKinney Roughs on 6-10-2019

I passed a couple of guys with a big old Ridgeback Dog heading down towards the river and we exchanged greetings. This was followed by a lady and a young boy, Mother and Son I guessed. She asked how far it was to the river and I told her about a mile and half. Her response was that it was all downhill but I gently reminded her that she still had to come back and it was uphill all the way.

I arrived back at the Parking Lot and cleaned off my boots and changed my clothes before heading back home. Altogether, I covered a little over 6 miles and my old aching body was letting me know that we hadn’t been out on a walk in a while and we needed to do something about it.

Written 6/14/2019

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 11-15-2018


I took another walk this time at McKinney Roughs in Bastrop. The weather was nice and balmy at around 65 degrees, just right for walking. When I pulled into the Parking Lot, there were several cars there including a school bus so I assumed that LCRA was holding another of their wildlife sessions. Such is the modern era that kids have to learn about Nature through a classroom instead of just getting out and into the woods to learn for themselves. Times sure have changed…

These are all Panoramic shots that I took. All of the videos view better in a full screen. Use the four outward pointing arrows next to the word Vimeo and Escape to get back to normal size.

I went through my usual routines, changing clothes and this time, putting on my boots, grabbing my camera and gear and finally, paying my $2.00 at the office. I had decide that I was going to walk Yaupon and back as the trail was still out where it connects to Roadrunner and Coyote Road. I set off along Bobcat Ridge until it met with Yaupon to the left and Coyote Road to the right and took the Yaupon trail. I had traveled about a half a mile and the trail was very muddy with standing water in many places. I was having misgivings about this trail when an older lady walking alone came towards me. We exchanged brief greetings and she said that the trail was very wet and was not going to get any better as she had covered it all the way to the Hilton turn off before turning back. She went on her way and after a moments thought, I turned and followed her. She was very soon out of sight and moved pretty quickly for an older person, much quicker than me, which is not saying much as I am definitely not going to break any speed records for walking.

These are the rest of the pictures that I took.

After much consideration, I decided to stay on Bobcat Ridge which I knew was on higher ground all the way. The trail runs real close to the zip line towers and rope climbing areas that LCRA has built as a part of their attraction although I had never before seen anyone using it but I could hear screams and laughter and shouts of encouragement as I approached. I took the trail that leads to this area to see what was going on and there in front of me were probably about 100 or so kids all either climbing ropes or waiting to ride the zip line. They were all screaming at the top of their voices as one of their friends hit the zip line. The girls outnumbered the boys by about 3-1 and they were also the ones making the most noise. Everyone was wearing a  belt type harness that also encircled each leg plus a hard hat. The slideshow below gives you an idea of the different activities that were happening. The video is very brief and was filmed without the use of a tripod hence the very shaky nature of it.

A very shaky video of the kids on the zip line.

I watched the kids for about 15 minutes and then continued on my way wishing that I were young again and had such freedom of spirit plus a lithe and agile body and all of the years ahead of me. Oh well.

I continued along Bobcat Ridge and then continued along Pine Ridge. I knew there was a pond along it as I had watched a pair of herons fly off it on a previous hike. I approached the pond very carefully just in case but there were no herons or any other birds or wildlife that I could see. I headed back and crossed over onto Pine Ridge and finally Riverside and back to the Main Buildings. I passed through the gardens that just a week before were alive with flowers and blooms of many different varieties only to see everything dead and shriveled up with the recent frosts. I am glad that I was able to get so many good pictures the last time. Such are the wonders of nature. On  the way back along Pine Ridge, I passed a full scale film crew who were making some form of documentary.

Showing different pictures of the kids enjoying themselves.

I arrived back at my truck after having covered a little over five miles and changed into dry clothes before making my way back home. As I sat in my truck, two very large tour buses pulled up in front of the Office and at the same time, the kids arrived back from the rope area all running in a single file which was most impressive. There were a few stragglers that dragged in behind the main group as there usually are. In my mind, I wished the kids long and happy lives and the thought that they had all experienced something today.

Written 11/19/2018