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

Blessed Rain 10/24/2019


The previously blown over Cypress Tree

Well we finally got some very welcome rain last night. Actually a lot of rain, at least two inches at my house accompanied by high winds. Lucky for me, the Spruce tree that is in one of the ponds did not blow over as it has done in previous high winds. We have not had any significant rain in over three months prior to this and on my drives around the countryside, stock ponds, small creeks and such are bone dry. It is going to take significant rain to bring everything back to normal.

It has been so dry that I have recently cut down almost all of the greenery in my garden, something I normally do following any frost that we may get in the winter. This year, it will not matter how hard it freezes as the only thing that will be affected are the plants in and around the ponds, at least from my perspective.

I even had to turn on the heat inside the house as the temperature indoors had dropped to 65 degrees, a little too low for comfort. Obviously, we are through with the air conditioning for this year. This is typical Texas weather where we go from 100 degrees to 90 degrees and then to 65 degrees all in the space of a couple of weeks. At least it is now great trail hiking weather although I don’t like hiking immediately following heavy rains as the trails are usually pretty muddy and tend to build up on the boots. I have enough problems in just carrying my body weight around without the addition of several pounds of wet dirt.

Maybe I’ll take that walk tomorrow or the next day and give the ground time to dry out a bit…

Written 10/25/2019

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

Pedernales Falls 7-3-2019


A Beautiful Cactus

I decided that I wanted to walk at Pedernales Falls State Park as it had been a while since I was there. I wanted a change of scenery from my usual haunts and with its many cedar trees, Pedernales Falls does that as does the hilly and rocky terrain. This park is about 40 or so miles from my house but is a pretty quick and straightforward drive through the back roads of Texas.

Being a Friday, there were not too many people clamouring for the services of the Park Rangers so check in went fast. I had already decided that I would take the Madrone Trail that would bring me back in a big loop from where I had parked the truck. I changed into my hiking gear and then set off heading for the entrance which I notice was already changed from the last time I was here. This trail brought me onto Windmill Road past the Horse Trailer Parking Area where there was one trailer parked and two horses in the paddock. This trailer looked as though it had a living quarters built into it which I thought was pretty neat. It meant you could load the horses and then stay at a park to ride if and when you felt like it and then come back and rest up out of the sun.

Just hanging out…

As I was standing by the picnic tables, I spotted a deer way off in the distance and got a picture of it. Unfortunately, the picnic tables are also in the way. I continued with my hike following Windmill Road and then turned off onto the Madrone Trail. This is mostly through Cedar so the shade was patchy to say the least and the terrain was very rocky in many places but the trail was good without too many hazards. There were a few flowers along the way including a small cactus that was in full bloom and very beautiful.

The picnic tables were in the way

I finally made the turn back onto Windmill Road and back to the Parking Lot. Soaked as I was, I made my usual surreptitious strip tease and changed into dry clothes. Luckily, as it happened, I was the only vehicle in this particular Parking Lot so I didn’t have to be too discreet.

Comfortably clad in dry clothes, I drove back into the Park and to the actual Pedernales Falls which I had visited several times before. I wanted pictures of the Falls themselves and to see how much water was running in the river. I walked down the hill for about a quarter of a mile to the overlook that gives the best view of the falls. There was an lady artist busy working away on a very nice oil painting of the Falls. I stopped and chatted to her and then took all of the pictures that I wanted before heading back to the truck. It wasn’t until I was driving out that I realized I hadn’t taken any pictures of her or her work and mentally kicked myself for my stupidity.

I took a slow drive home which took me through Dripping Springs and the inevitable Starbucks, tired but content. I had walked almost 7 miles which isn’t bad in the Texas heat….

Written 7/10/2019

McKinney Falls 6-28-2019


This is the Falls when it is not flooding.
A Panoramic view of the falls.

I arranged with my friend BJ that we would meet at McKinney Falls which is a State Park and not very far from our other hiking spot, McKinney Roughs which is an LCRA Park. Both are on the Colorado River. She texted me to say she was running late and I used the time to put on my boots and make other preparations.

Inviting on a hot day.

McKinney Falls has several trails some of which are on the other side of the river and with the latest rains, it looked to be a tricky prospect wading across the slippery rocks while fighting the flow of water. Several people were doing just that when we arrived but we had no intentions of taking that particular hike. The big swimming hole below the falls had a mixture of people and turtles some of which were pretty big. The turtles that is.

Looks like fun.

Instead, we opted for the blacktopped trail that encircles the park and is, according to the map, almost 3 miles around. We have hiked that trail several times before but it has been a couple of years since we were here. One of the things that we noticed was that the blacktop is rapidly deteriorating and if they intend it to remain as a hardcover trail, is going to need some major work.

The temperature was already in the low nineties so it was warm Luckily, most of the trail we were walking is in the shade which helped a lot but even so, hot is hot. We passed a few people going in the opposite direction and as is usual on the trail, pleasantrees were exchanged. Everything was green and beautiful and there were still a lot of flowers although most were coming to an end.

The pool below the Falls.
We spotted this unusual flower. No idea what it is.

We got back to the parking lot and I decided to go back to the Falls which was only a few steps away from where we were parked and take a couple more pictures. BJ left for home and I stopped at the nearest restroom to change out of my clothes which as usual, were totally soaked. I noticed that I had an eight inch crack in my windshield which was not there before. Probably a rock thrown up by a passing car. It is very low down and does not interfere with my driving so I can probably get by until the next inspection due later this year.

There are still flowers at the Park
This is of the blacktop main trail at this Park

All in all, a great hike. A couple of years does make a difference as it felt like it was a fresh place and of course, having great company helps as well especially to one that normally hikes alone. Now where to next….

Oh yes, both of my pedometers that I carry showed we walked 5.3 miles and as that number looks much grander (and bigger) than what the map says, we will go with that.

Written 6/30/2019

Reimers Ranch 7-13-2019


A view of the Park

After that little episode a couple of days ago at McKinney Roughs when I got so tired I could barely finish the walk, I decided to go back out again to see if it would re-occur or it was just a one off. The only way to do that was to hit the trails and see what the outcome might be so I opted for Reimers Ranch where the trails are pretty flat with not too much in the way of major hills or upward climbs, just in case. The one major problem with the Reimers Trails are that with the exception of the Lower River Trail, they are pretty much out in the sun as there is not much tree shade along the way.

Not much shade.

I thought that I would just go for a short hike and made the effort to get out early, (for me) while it was cool, sort of. The temperature was already around the 85 degree mark at 10:00 am and was destined to get as high as 95 degrees but I wasn’t planning on being out in it. I parked in the Mountain Bike parking lot along with the several cars already there. As I was changing into my boots 3 riders pulled in having completed their ride for the day and two other cars finished loading their bikes and pulled out.

I took the trail to Johnny’s Homestead which is really nothing more than a standing chimney with the cabin having burned down several years ago. Along the way, I managed to capture a couple of bird pictures which is pretty good for me as generally, I am much too slow.

I then took the Multi Use Trail going North. This particular trail is one big loop and surrounds the Park. My intent was to just walk half of it as the Mountain Bike Parking Lot sits midway of the loop on a trail that dissects the loop in half. However, the best laid plans etc are for nothing as I felt really good and so instead of continuing on the main loop to bring me back, I branched off heading towards the northernmost end of the Park so that I could walk the Lower River Trail all the way back to where I was parked.

The Lower River Trail

This trail is a little tougher walking as it tends to wind and contours up and down quite a bit but it is not a difficult trail. This is also the same trail that the mountain climbers use to get to the various cliff faces that they use for their dangerous sport and I was able to take some pictures of them as they crawled their way up the cliff face. One gentleman had just reached the top and let out a loud “whoop” in his excitement. He just sort of hung there for a bit as though to savor the moment.

I passed several people coming towards me and we exchanged pleasantries. One young couple with a beautiful dog stopped to chat and introduced themselves as Kendal and RJ and we exchanged photos as I took theirs on their cell phone in exchange for taking my own picture.

RJ and Kendal

As I walked, I could hear the sounds of a speedboat on the river below and before long, two small boats flashed by me. I managed to get a picture of them and a little while later, one of them returned going in the opposite direction.

I also passed by a guy fishing. He was standing in the water up to his waist. I should mention that the river was running pretty strong as the recent rains have if filled pretty high. He had a companion but I was not able to get her picture.

I don’t know if he caught anything but at least he was cool.

I had several lizards for company at one point. They would keep running up the trail in front of me and only when I got very close, would they dart off to one side.

I walked all the way on the Lower Trail to the River Bend Parking Lot which is the lot for the swimmers and also for canoes and kayaks. It has a long concrete road that leads down to the River which, of course, is also a long climb back up and is a pretty steep hill. I had a choice at that point of either the Multi Use Trail to the Mountain Bike Parking or to walk the gravel path located on top of the bluff that stretches all the way the length of the park. I noticed that it has now been concreted in places instead of gravel which didn’t surprise me as the last time I walked it a few months ago, there were several washouts from the recent heavy rains. It makes more sense to use concrete but it is not so pleasing on the eye.

I finally made it back to my truck and by this time the Parking Lot was empty as all of the vehicles were gone. I changed out of my wet clothes into something dryer which of course, promptly got wet again as I continued to sweat. Oh well, can’t have everything. I covered 6.5 miles altogether and am happy to report none of the tiredness that occurred the last time out.

I have put together a couple of videos of the hike. One is of the flowers that are still blooming in the park and the other is of the different views. Enjoy.

Some of the flowers still blooming at this park.
This is of some of the wonderful views in this Park

Written 7-14-2019