Pedernales Falls State Park 12-2-2018


Having an overabundance of energy, I decided to take another walk at Pedernales Falls State Park even breaking my unwritten rule about hiking on weekends due to the number of other people that frequent the Parks. Not that I am a snob or anything like that but I prefer it to have the trails to myself whenever possible.

On the way over just as I reached the Park, a message flashed up on the console telling me that I only had enough gas to drive 50 miles. I thought about it as I arrived at the Park Office and decided that I should head back into Dripping Springs and fill up just in case the truck ran out of gas before making it back home and I did not want to wait around for AAA to come and help me in the dark. Besides, I knew I would be worrying about it and would not enjoy the walk. It took about 30 minutes to Dripping Springs and back this time with a full tank and an easy mind. By the time I reached the Valero station, the message was telling me I had 20 miles left. I wonder how accurate these things are or whether it fudges a bit and really there is 50 or more miles left in the tank. I sure did not want to find out.

I stopped back at the Park Office and paid the $2:00 entry fee and made my way to where I had already decided that I would start, at the Bird Blind Parking Area.  Instead of taking the Duckpond trail as I had a couple of days before, I was planning on taking the Horse trail on about a 4 mile loop. Of course, the horse trail is much longer than that and is one of several in this Park. The horse part of the trail I was on is around 12 miles, much more than I was ready to hike although I did hike 18 miles, some of it in the dark at this same Park a couple of years ago when I managed to get lost.

I parked in the Horse Corral area along with several other horse trailers. These riders had already completed their rides and had loaded their horses and were sitting around enjoying a light lunch and having all kinds of fun judging by their laughter. Ah, the beauty of great times and good companionship. I went through my usual routine of preparing for a hike before setting off following the horse trail. I met one lone horse and rider who did not want me to take her picture as her horse was a bit skittish and acting up. She asked me to talk to the horse to reassure it that I was no threat which of course, I obliged. Amazing isn’t it that this bloody great big animal that towered over me needed me to talk to it to calm it down. I used to ride a lot many years ago and had my own animals but I cannot remember them being as big as they seem to be nowadays.

We both moved on and the rest of the walk was uneventful. I eventually came out on the West side fence line of the Park, on the other end of the Duck Pond walk of a couple of days ago. I made my way following the fence line this time going in the opposite direction until I came to the turn off to the Horse Corral. Just before reaching it, another couple of horse and riders came up behind me and we exchanged greeting as we passed. They were quickly out of sight as everybody and everything walks faster than I do.

On the way back in, I was lucky enough to spot a Cardinal among the shredded Cedar on the ground. It was a case of point and hope as he was never very visible at any time. I got lucky.

I ended back at the truck and sat around for a while just enjoying the beautiful weather. The last two riders who had passed me were in the big field area just trotting and cantering their horses around and did not seem to be in any hurry to call it quits. I wanted to stop at the Bird Blind so that I could get a couple of pictures of the sign and of the snake warning for my earlier blog. All in all, I covered about four and a half miles of very enjoyable walking and taking some great pictures. With the exception of the picture below and the Cardinal, all of the stills are Panoramic’s made up of several pictures 

Peaceful times

The drive home was uneventful now that I had a full tank of gas which is equal to around 725 miles of driving so I am good for a bit. I never normally allow the tank down below 150 miles and you can bet that I won’t in the future. Don’t like or need unnecessary worries. A quick stop at Starbucks in Dripping Springs on the way home and I was good to go…

Written 12/4/2018

A Walk at Pedernales Falls State Park 11-27-2018


This Panorama is made up of 6 separate pictures

I decided it was time for a change from my regular haunts at McKinney Roughs in Bastrop and Reamers Ranch in Dripping Springs so I chose to go back to Pedernales Falls State Park that actually has a Johnson City address. I haven’t been there for a while and wanted a change of scenery. 

The Park is located about 35 miles from my house and is at the beginning of the Texas Hill Country as that area is known. This is a State Park so it cost me $6:00 to get in, always well worth it from my perspective. The line at the counter was short but the guy in the front would not stop talking and asking what I considered to be dumb questions of the lone Park Officer that was manning the desk. She was very patient with him, much more than I would have been. Guess it takes all kinds to make up this world that we live in.

I finally got to pay my $6:00 and hopped back into my truck and drove to the Parking Area for the Duckpond Loop. I have made this walk before and the last time, managed to take pictures of an Egret and a couple of wild boars so I was hopeful that I would get something today. I went through my usual routine but as the weather is now a lot cooler at around 65 degrees, only needed to change into my boots. I elected to carry two cameras, one with the 150-600 long lens and the other has the 18-400 lens on it. Both are telescopic. The 150-600 is very heavy at around 5 pounds and really needs a tripod but I can generally get some decent long distance pictures  without one. 

The Duckpond is about a half mile from where I parked the truck and I took a couple of pictures of the trail in this part of the Park. The Duckpond is really two separate ponds, one of which dries up in the long hot Texas summers. It was the first one I came to walking from my direction and I approached very slowly and as quietly as I could possibly be. I managed get a couple of pictures of the ducks on this pond before they took off and flew around in circles before heading off. Walking to the second pond was much easier as the pond was hidden from view by the trees. Along the way is a Duck blind only this one is for taking pictures and not for shooting the ducks. I hung around inside for 15 minutes but the main body of ducks did not re-appear but I got some pictures of the few that were left on this pond.

I moved on along the trail and opted to follow the Duckpond Loop which I knew would bring me back out onto the opposite side of the field from where I had parked the truck. The trail follows the West side border of the Park and the boundary is a marked by a six strand barbed wire fence. This fence line is remarkably straight and this border stretches for a little over 3 miles.

On the neighbors property, there were two deer feeders set up about a half mile apart with the deer blind set equidistant between them, obviously getting ready for the deer season which is only a few days away. Seems a little unfair to me to treat the deer so nicely by enticing them with food and then only to shoot them. Barbaric is probably a better word and personally, I can’t see the sport in that. When I lived up North in New York State many years ago, I and my friends would hunt deer in the Adirondacks. The difference was that we would follow them to hunt them and might end up walking several miles through rocky terrain, sometimes through the snow in the hope of spotting one. Then, if you were lucky, you had to drag it back out of the woods to wherever you were parked. At least, there was effort put into the hunt. I only ever had one deer in my sights and when it turned and looked at me, deliberately shot wide to frighten it off. I didn’t have the heart to kill such beautiful animal. I think I enjoyed the camaraderie of the guys more than the killing although most of them would shoot at a deer and anything else that moved.

Continuing on the walk, I managed to take some nice pictures of that part of the Park and eventually came out into the field where the truck was parked. The grass in the field was very long as it had not been mowed until I got closer to where all of the buildings are situated and that had been taken care of. 

On the way back out, I stopped at the Bird Blind that is located there. It has an interesting warning notice stating to be very careful to check that there are no snakes in the buildings, under the seats or in any of the storage containers. Such is Nature.

I wanted to get more pictures of the river so I drove off towards that parking lot. I parked the truck and walked down towards the river and met a lot of people along the way, most greeting me as we passed, some with comments. I arrived at the overlook that also has steps leading all the way down to the river itself but I didn’t want to make that trip. Instead, I opted to stay at the Overlook and take more pictures. It sure is a beautiful Park and the Pedernales when it is not in flood, is pretty to look at especially at the Falls. The rocks are very impressive. The pictures in the video are all panoramas and are made up of three or more pictures joined together.

This Park does not have a large variety of trees, mostly it is all Cedar but occasionally you come across something different as with the pictures below. These trees are showing off their Fall colors.

This Spruce is growing in the river bed.

I made a slow drive back and detoured into Dripping Springs for a Starbucks stop before making my way home. Another great hike of a little over 4 miles and it was good to have a change of scenery.

Written 11-28-2018

My New Camera and Gear.


I went a little crazy just recently and Christmas and my Birthday came early this year, at least from the perspective of buying stuff for myself.

Nikon sent me information on a new camera, a D7500, the next step up from the one that I have, a D7200, which set the wheels in motion thinking about carrying two cameras instead of just the one. This would expedite in changing out lenses for the shots that I wanted to take especially the long distance ones. The camera was not yet available so I added my name to the list at Precision Camera and within a month, they notified me that the camera was in ready for me to pick up “if I still wanted it”. Who were they kidding. I had the bug and just had to have it.

For those of you who follow my blog know that I take a lot of videos of the Austin Pond Society meetings for which I used a Canon Video camera. This camera only got used once a month at these Meetings for about two hours so I figured that I could use one of the Nikon’s to video the meetings instead. I thought about it knowing that I would take a beating on the trade in but accepted that would happen and went ahead with the deal.

I actually used the D7200 at the last meeting for taking the videos which is entitled “Austin Pond Society Post Pond Tour Meeting, June 19, 2017“. You can view the videos by clicking on the link. The only problem is the sound content is not too good and I need to purchase a mic that sits on top of the camera to clear that up and of course I have to remember that it will only run in twenty minute segments. It does take a lot more concentration and attention using this as a video camera in order to stay focused or to zoom in and such. Still, it was a good trade for me.

My goto lens is a Tamron 16-300 which enables me to take close up Macro shots as well as the medium long distance ones but it still lacks the real distance that can be achieved by a true long distance zoom lens. I knew that Tamron also made a 150-600 telescopic lens which would give me that extra length of distance that I wanted and so I really got the bug to add this lens to my collection. As I had nothing left to trade, I had to bite the bullet and pay full price or at least the price after shopping around on the many Photographic Gear websites that are out there. I ended up getting it from Beach Camera with an almost $300 discount. True to their word, the lens arrived within 5 days with the shipping paid for which I deemed to be pretty good service. The lens is heavy at 5 lbs and will take a bit of getting used to plus it is 17 inches long with the hood. Balance and shake will be the problem.

So now I have a two camera setup which I tested by going on a short hike at Pedernales Falls. More on that in a separate blog yet to be written. The D7200 is attached to the new lens and the new D7500 camera is on the shorter and lighter one as I figured I would be taking more shots with the smaller lens and camera. On the “test”hike, I used a separate over the shoulder bag to carry the D7200 camera and lens which was very inconvenient when I wanted to take shots. It meant stopping, taking the camera out of the bag before even thinking about the shots and as we all know most shots are almost instant in their opportunity and I sure wasn’t going to get any in the time it was taking me. I had the D7500 on my single camera belt as per usual.

It was quite obvious that I needed a double camera carrying set up and I again went on line and purchased one from Cotton Carrier which is also the company from which I got the single carrier belt. There were cheaper ones out there but I wanted the same continuity that I had with the single belt in terms of interchangeability so that I could switch carrying positions if I felt the need.

Obviously this is not me and I used a picture from the Cotton Carrier website just to illustrate the double carrier. In my case, the new long lens and camera are in the same place where he has his camera and my smaller lens and camera are on the bottom where the bino’s are. Mine is black and not camo.

With the little use that I have had with the lens so far, it has produced some spectacular results. At the above mentioned hike at the Duckpond, I did not see with my naked eye the two wild pigs that were on the far side of the pond until I focused in with the new lens and there they were. I was actually focusing on the White Egrets. Notice there also appears to be a Black Vulture sitting with the Egrets.

Then, at home in my own ponds, I was able to take a close up of the Water Hibiscus which was facing the wrong way to take with the shorter lens but came out great from across the pond with the new lens. The wonderful thing about this lens is that it can also bring close ups of things like flowers and birds that are 20 or more feet away.

I’m hoping for great things with this set up with longer shots and much more detail. I can extend the reach of the lens by adding in a 1.4 Teleconverter which will add an additional 200mm to the setup bringing it up to 800mm or even a 2.0 Teleconverter which will double it to 1200. Maybe next week…

Hiking at Pedernales Falls 10-23-2016


dsc_4303I decided that I wanted to go walking and this time, I chose to walk at Pedernales Falls State Park as I hadn’t been there in a while. After my usual preparations of packing fruit and water bottles and making sure that the cats are safely in their own room away from Richie, one of my male Dachshunds who, in the past has inflicted damage to both of them., I was ready to go.

The route that I take to get to the Park is usually along Fitzhugh Road until it crosses Route 12 and then continues on as West Fitzhugh Road. These are country roads and if I am lucky, I sometimes get to see Mother Nature at her best. Today was one of those days as I drove along and was about a mile from the Route 12 junction when I spotted something in the field off to my right. I am well used to seeing Buzzards collected around a dead animal but this did not look like a buzzard. For one thing, it had an all white head and neck which showed up very well as the bird was taking a long look at the road. I would say that it was about fifty feet inside the field and very visible.

I wanted to stop but there were cars behind me so I had to keep going until I found a place to turn around which I did making my way back to where I had seen the bird. My intentions were to take pictures but just as I was pulling up, the bird, who was still looking at the road, took off. Needless to say, my camera was still on the car seat and the car was still moving with not a hope in hell of taking pictures. The bird, no more than fifty feet from me was very visible and I could clearly see the white tail feathers as it flew off. I could not believe what I was seeing as it had to be a Bald Eagle. I didn’t know there were any around this part of Texas with the nearest ones at Lake Buchanan. I marveled at my good fortune in spotting this beautiful bird as it flew off but cursed under my breath that I had not gotten any pictures.

I continued on my way and hadn’t gone very far when a grey fox ran out in front of me as it bounded over to the other side of the road. It had a tail that was so bushy it was almost as big as its body. Again, no hope of a picture. I finally reached the Park entrance without seeing any more of Natures wonders, paid my money and headed to the Wolf Mountain Parking area.

Being a Sunday with cooler weather, as expected the parking area was pretty full so I knew that I would meet a lot of people on the trail. I first chose to hike the Juniper Ridge Trail and got as far as the turn off before changing my mind and decided to walk the South Loop Equestrian Trail instead. I hoped to see horses and was in luck when a group of them came by. There were eight in all, the most I have ever seen on any trail at one time. Further on down the trail, I met up with two pretty young ladies both on huge horses and looking very comfortable in the saddle. The last two proved to be the only others that I saw on this day.

I met a lot of hikers going in both directions. I should say that anyone going in the same direction as myself would very quickly pass me as I am so slow. Even though in my mind, I am making a good pace, everyone and I mean everyone has no trouble passing me. My only excuse is that I stop to take pictures but the real truth is I just don’t have any speed anymore. Many of the hikers agreed to letting me take their pictures and others I snapped as they walked away from me. One couple went by me early on the South Loop Trail with full backpacks containing a tent and full sleeping equipment. They were training for a long overnight hike . I didn’t envy them as those backpacks were huge and looked very heavy.dsc_4283

I didn’t stay on the South Loop and when it crossed Windmill Road, I took it towards Wolf Mountain. I knew that the Wolf Mountain Trail would be easy walking compared to some I had covered on the South Loop and for the homeward trip, thought it made the most sense. I passed another couple coming up Windmill Road who also had on pretty heavy looking backpacks. We exchanged greetings as we passed and I headed on to my way home. It seemed that I was the Trail Guide for the day as several of the groups and pairs that I met asked me for trail directions. Luckily, I have been there so many times and have learned the trails the hard way by getting lost, that I was pretty much able to put them on the right trail. There were not very many flowers blooming at this park although I did come across a cedar bridge that had been built into the trail and also one of the trees had this huge growth that made it look like something from another world.

On the way back along Wolf Mountain Trail, there were several people just heading out. It was around 4:30 pm and they still had a couple of hours of daylight, enough to walk the Wolf Mountain Trail and back. One man and his daughter let me take their picture as they branched off towards the Camping Area. Later, they caught back up with me and the wife and son came to meet them and we sort of all cruised in together into the Parking Area.

Along the trail, I came across a large pile of stones that some enterprising person(s) had very carefully stacked together.

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Altogether, I covered 9.5 miles and made really good time. I was able to add quite considerably to the Aerobic steps recorded on my pedometer. Makes a huge difference when it is not 100 degrees outside. Today, the temperature was around 82 degrees and much more bearable. Walking Wolf Mountain Trail also made a difference as some of the other trails are not very wide and are rocky and uneven and hard to walk on let alone do it at any speed.

The one thing that is very noticeable now that we are into the Fall season is that this park looks very drab as compared to those on the East side of Austin. Even the greens are not very bright and of course the Cedars always look drab which is what ninety five percent of the vegetation is at this Park. Altogether though, it was a very enjoyable experience and I can’t wait to get back here again.

Pedernales Falls State Park 8-2-2016


DSC_3570-PanoI got up early so that I could beat the Texas summer heat but even so, it was still 10:00 am by the time I arrived at Pedernales Falls State Park. I already had an idea of where I wanted to hike this time and after buying my ticket and chatting to the friendly Park Rangers for a bit, drove back out onto  Pedernales Falls Road to park in the area across from Windmill Road.

DSC_3528My plan was to walk down Windmill Road past the Equestrian Camping Area, cross the pipeline and head towards Jones Spring. Walking on Windmill Road was easy as it was a park road although I am not sure how much traffic it gets. I branched off onto the Jones Spring trail and followed it for about a mile and a half. Some of the trail was easy walking but in many spots, it was really rocky which made walking  difficult.

I arrived at the old building first where I took a few pictures and then wandering over to the Spring which was bubbling away and releasing a lot of water.

As to be expected, the area surrounding the spring was lush and green and it really is a pretty little site. Amazing to think how long people have been using this Spring as their source of water and what stories it could tell if only it was able.

I had just bought a new vacuum bottle to keep my personal water cool as it had been heating up in my aluminum bottles as I walked and was nearly undrinkable. The vacuum bottle was so efficient that I had consumed more water than I normally drink and it was half empty. I should have re-filled it at the Spring but like I said, my brain had stopped working… It could have been a costly mistake as I ran out before I got back to my car and if it hadn’t been for the two apples that I had brought with me, I would have been in serious trouble as hot as it was.

But, I get ahead of myself. I wanted to hike back by taking the East Boundary Trail but was unable to locate where it started from Jones Spring. The map shows that it is close to the Spring but I could not find it. I backtracked to Windmill Road and then branched off onto Juniper Ridge Trail going East and followed it until I came to the pipeline. I could have continued on the Madrone Trail but it was beginning to warm up and I knew my water situation might become critical.

Below are pictures of the Pipeline and of Windmill Road. See how open they both are. No shade anywhere…

I only had one other choice at that time and it was to walk the pipeline back to Windmill Road, a distance of about a mile and a half. I dislike walking on the pipeline as there are no real trails as it is not included in the trail system. The walking can be tricky and the hills are really pronounced probably because you can see straight up and down them with no trees to block the view. There are no meandering trails that wind back and forth to take the edge off the direct ups and downs. And there is no cover at all. It is direct sunlight all the way and yesterday, it was bloody hot.

By now, all of the water was gone as was one of the apples. I walked up Windmill Road after getting off the pipeline and came to the Equestrian Camping area that I thought might have water. They did but I could not figure out how to turn it on. I could not find the shut off valve even though I knew it had to be very close. There was a trough full of the cool clear stuff and for a moment, I was sorely tempted to take a drink out of it but instead, sat under a tree and ate my remaining apple which I knew would sustain me as I was now less than half a mile from my car. Physically I felt fine except for dry lips and Vaseline Lip Balm took care of that but I certainly did not want to push my luck.

This is a picture of Wolf Mountain taken from Windmill Road

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I finished the walk and broke out onto Pedernales Falls Road which I only had to cross to get back to the car. I used my new found remote starter trick that BJ had shown me to get the car running so that it would cool a bit as I walked towards it. I was sitting on the tailgate and two more cars pulled in. I try to always bring a change of clothing as I sweat a lot and am usually totally soaked by the time I finish a hike. Even my leather belt changes color with the moisture it picks up from my shorts. Sorta has that wet look.

I toweled off and changed into drier clothes and headed back inside the Park to the Headquarters to buy a bottle of Gatorade to replace the electrolytes I had burned up. I have absolutely no idea if the stuff does any good  but it was really cold and went down very smoothly.

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I really enjoyed the walk and covered almost 9 miles, 8.6 to be exact. There is something about being out alone with Nature on the trails surrounded by the greens and browns of the Texas countryside. Back in civilization, I stopped at Whole Earth Provision Company and purchased another vacuum bottle, this one a little bigger than the first. Now I have two which should carry me over for future walks and I can even bring hot coffee in the winter time.

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As with all of these pictures, you can click on them to make them bigger and then use the side arrows to move them along. Use the “Escape” key to get back to normal.

A Really Long Walk at Pedernales Falls 6-25-2016


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Wolf Mountain Trail showing Wolf Mountain.

I drove to Pedernales Falls which is about an hour from my house thinking as I drove about what trails I wanted to hike. It was about 1:00 pm when I arrived and was already hot so I opted to walk on one of the easier trails which is actually more like a road than a trail in the accepted sense of the word.

Wolf Mountain Trail is probably 25 feet wide in most of it’s length and it is the trail that leads to the primitive camping sites. Along the way, it crosses three different creeks, Regal, Bee and Mescal and it you walk far enough around the back of Wolf Mountain, it also crosses Tobacco Creek. At first, I had planned to just walk as far as the primitive camp sites and then double back and walk home to the car park but I felt good and once I got off the main trail, the trails were pretty shaded so I continued on around the back of Wolf Mountain. Incidentally, I didn’t see a single camper in the primitive sites, no tents or other signs that anyone was there.

I passed several hikers and bikers all going in the opposite direction of course and took a few pictures of them. There were others who I did not capture on camera as I circled the mountain. I came across an old stone house and a long length of stone walls. I wonder what stories they can tell and how long it took to build them by hand. Even just collecting the rocks must have been quite a process.

On the trail back, I kept a good steady pace (for me) even though it was hot and as usual, I was totally soaked in sweat. I made it safely back to the car after having covered ten and a half miles.

As with all of these pictures, if you click on any one of them, it will enlarge and you can use the side arrows to move along. Use the “Escape” key to get back to normal.

Pedernales on June 22, 2016


DSC_3119Another hike at Pedernales brought on by my desire to get out and about.  This time, I drove into the Wolf Mountain Trail Parking Lot and then opted to take the North Loop Equestrian Trail for a bit before branching off to the East Boundary Trail travelling South. I followed this for about a mile and then took the trail that I thought would lead me back to the parking lot. However, I managed to take the wrong trail and cut back too soon meaning that I backtracked over the same trail more than I had originally anticipated.

I still ended up back at the parking lot but cut a little of my planned hike. I walked a total of 4 miles on another hot day with some shade provided by the cedars so it was not all bad. Interestingly enough, the trail was still quite wet in places as the water continued to drain down from the higher areas. At one point, I came across a solitary egg, deposited on the ground. There was no nest and no sign of any bird watching over it. A bit of a mystery.

I got some great pictures of the wonderful views and many of the various types of trail that I walked. An enjoyable couple of hours out walking.

As with all of these pictures, if you click on any one of them, it will enlarge and you can use the side arrows to move along. Use the “Escape” key to get back to normal.