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 Falls State Park 9-30-2017


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A view of the trail

With the recent rains, I knew the trails would be muddy in places and I wanted to walk on something more solid. I opted to walk the Hike and Bike trail at McKinney Falls as it is a 3 mile circular trail that is very nicely blacktopped and made for easy walking. It has one very steep place where there is a sign that bicyclists should get off and walk although I am sure that most  of them view this as a challenge more than a warning. It would get a little hairy if any hikers happened to be on the trail at this exact point as there is a blind corner that you can’t see around until too late…Come to think about it, I have yet to see a biker anywhere in this park probably that except for this one spot, the trail offers no real challenge to them.

Picnic area at the Upper Falls

A five picture panorama of the picnic area

I broke all of my rules today as normally, I very rarely get out to the Parks because of the numbers of people that use them on the weekends. It’s not that I am anti-people but I like to hike for the solitude amongst other things and that can be difficult with crowds of noisy families each with at least a dozen kids per family all talking and running at the same time. Mckinney Falls also has swimming facilities which is another attraction for these families and large groups of people.

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Another 5 picture panorama from the reverse direction

I parked in the lot by the Upper Falls and geared up in my usual fashion. I’m sure that I make quite a comical sight with my two cameras and binos strapped to my chest, my camera bag with a couple of other lenses on my back, my two walking poles in my hands and topped off by my wide brimmed hat complete with added kerchief around my forehead to soak up the sweat. Oh yes, add two water bottles to that strapped to my waist. I probably am carrying at least 20 pounds of gear, great for my muscles and cardio but awful tiring.

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A panoramic view of the Upper Falls

I walked past the Upper Falls and the throngs of people into the park area that is set up with picnic tables and firepits and is very nicely maintained. Onion Creek runs off to my right and I wandered over to take a look. The water was a muddy brown color from the recent rains and not very appealing so I got back onto the trail proper and started to walk. I took several shots of the park area and of a couple of the very large trees on the trail and have turned them into panoramic shots. I met several people on the trail and conversely, several passed me going in the same direction. None were families with kids as they preferred to be at the Falls area. Although I heard birds, I didn’t see any to take any pictures of. I passed an interestingly shaped tree and took a couple of pictures of it besides various flowers. The pictures below also include views of the trails.

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This tree is made up of 5 different pictures in order show the whole thing. I wonder how old it is?

 

Arriving back at the Falls, I chatted to a few people and took several pictures.  There was a photographic class going on the park area which broke up as I was taking pictures of the Falls.  Not sure what the subject matter of the course was about.

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There are 8 pictures in this pano

Altogether with my additional wandering around, I covered a little over 4 miles. I noticed that my old body and legs were nowhere near as tired as when I walk the regular trails. Must be that this much flatter blacktop trail is much easier to walk and for that I was extremely grateful.

Written 10/3/2017

Reamers Ranch 10-29-2017


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I went for another walk at Reamers Ranch this time to get in a good walk and to take a few pictures along the way. I still have hopes of seeing the Osprey again but am no longer just concentrating on it’s location although to be truthful, my walking plan did include the area I had seen the Osprey before. I planned to walk along the Multi Use Trail towards the North end of the Park and to go all the way along Confluence Trail until the trail ends at the boundary of the Park Property. I have walked this several times previously and always have the hope that I might see deer or a turkey as I have before although much too slow with the camera to get the pictures. Along the way, I found some flowers that were absolutely covered with bees and butterflies.

I tried something new by only using one walking stick so that I could carry the camera in the other hand, just in case. Even though I was ready this time, the animals and birds obviously did not get the message as none appeared to have their picture taken on the first part of the walk to the end of the trail.

I cut back through the lower trail which the Parks people have spent some time on and now it is much better walking as you can see from the pictures above and followed right alongside of the Pedernales River with a good view of the water and the opposite bank which is all private property. Some of it is well maintained as the Panorama below shows. I kept my eyes open in the hopes of catching a view of the Osprey but all I saw were buzzards.
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I continued along until I came to the area popular with the rock climbers and took some pictures of them on the wall. Better them than me as it is not my idea of fun.

I carried on walking along the Lower Trail until I reached the exit to get back to the third parking lot. This too is a difficult climb to get out. I met a young lady who was coming down and we chatted for a bit about the trails.

When I got to the top, I headed north along the gravel walkway towards the last parking lot known as North Bank. Along the way, I met a young gentleman and we exchanged pleasantries as we crossed paths. I noticed three buzzards in the tree in front of me and at first, couldn’t make out what they were up to. Then I figured that they were a female and two males and were going through a mating ritual of a sort I guess for the female to make a choice. I managed to quickly change settings to video and got this very short one. I would have thought that it was too late in the season for mating but maybe these are younger birds finding their first mate. I stood and watched them for a bit until they flew off. You never know what interesting picture is around the next bend.

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I arrived back to my car tired and happy and changed into some dry clothes and sat for a while eating an apple.  It is so quiet and peaceful there and it is very easy to slip into a state of reverie and just letting the world pass on by. Altogether, I covered 6.5 miles, not bad for a day’s stroll in the park with the added bonus of a lot of pictures.

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Written 11-10-2017

Still Looking for the Osprey – 10-21-2017


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I think that from here on out, every time I take a hike at Reamers Ranch County Park, I will be looking for the Osprey that I was so fortunate to see just a couple of weeks ago. This was true of my last hike on Saturday, October 21st when I broke another one of my unwritten rules and went hiking on a Saturday. As it is late in the season, most of the people were families and kids at the swimming end of the park in the Pedernales River.

I parked in the second parking area that has a long concrete road that leads down to the river that can be used to get small boats into the water. There is no parking at the river itself  so those that drive down have to then bring the vehicles back to the lot and walk back down the hill and do it all again to get the boats back. Maybe that accounts for the reason that I don’t think I have ever seen a canoe or kayak or any type of boat on the river from the park side. The lucky landowners on the far side of the river have canoes and kayaks parked close by the water (but above the flood line) and again, I have still yet to see any of those boats actually in the water. DSC_1245-Pano

But I digress. I readied myself to go walking which takes me a good 15 minutes as I change my socks and boots, strap on my waist camera belt for the long lense camera and also the bino’s, put on the Cotton Carrier harness for my second camera and finally, slip on my backpack with essential supplies like tools to tighten the Cotton Carrier locking units, spare camera batteries, flashlight and spare batteries, a small first aid kit and waterproof gear. If I am out for a long hike, I will not only have two water bottles but also fruit for that extra energy when I need it.

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I walked down the concrete road towards the river and got on the river trail heading upriver to the area that I had previously seen the Osprey. Being a weekend, there were several other hikers using the trail and we exchanged cordial “hellos” and “great day for a hike” and such comments as we passed each other. I walked on taking pictures of the trails and the views across the river and always on the lookout for the Osprey. As usual, there were lots of buzzards taking full advantage of the wind currents as they wheeled and plunged across the sky with the occasional flap of the wings to find the next spiral of air but none of them were the bird I was looking for. This is where the bino’s come in so handy as I can see the birds up close and personal to tell the difference.

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I continued along the river trail for a bit before deciding to do an about turn and make my way back the way I had come. I don’t usually do this but I wanted to walk to the “Beach” area to see the people who were making use of it and maybe get a few pictures. It turns out that there were a couple of families in the water enjoying themselves with the kids making lots of noise as they splashed around. I did not turn the bend to see the rest of the beach area content with the view that I had.

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I made my way back up the concrete road to the Parking Lot passing more people on their way down. The lot had filled up quite considerably from when I arrived and was a mix of people on their way down to the river and those that had just came back from it. Families with young kids were mixed with adults of all ages several of whom were beautiful young ladies in bikinis who again, just like the previous time that I wrote about were so full of confidence and seemed totally unconcerned for their almost nakedness in front of a lot of people. With the few sneak peeks that I got in, I could understand their confidence as to how beautiful they looked but at the same time, the prude in me worried about how this behaviour is now the accepted norm. Not for me to worry much about as I should be grateful that these young women provided me a recollection of how life used to be many years ago when the female body was not a stranger. The passing of the years may play havoc with the body and desires but luckily the eyesight is still good.

I jumped into my car after taking off all of my gear and changing my clothes. I always end up totally soaked after any of these exertions and always carry a spare change of clothes knowing that I most certainly will need them. I made the drive back and detoured into Dripping Springs just to stop at Starbucks to enjoy on the way home.

The question arises, “Do the beautiful girls make up for not seeing the Osprey” and the answer is “Unfortunately, no”. Damn it, I must be getting old…

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Ran into this fine looking fellow and he stood still long enough to take his picture.

Written 10/27/2017

Circle C 9-15-2017


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With the Circle C trails being as close to me as they are and now that I have discovered the full extent of them, I took another hike basically in the same area as the last one only covering them much more extensively. I still wanted to see if in fact, the second portion of the Violet Crown Trail was open yet as according to the maps, the Circle C trails will connect to it. The printed Circle C maps are not very good and do not show the full extent of the many bike trails that intersect the area so essentially, I was hiking in the dark and having to rely on my sense of direction which has been known to let me down before, once at Pedernales State Park when I took a wrong turn and got back to my car at 9.00 o’clock at night and covered 18 miles in the process.

The trails at Circle C.

Of course, I had a general idea of where I was trying to go and thought that if I kept going in a SouthEast direction, I just might get lucky and hit the Veloway. Well, it wasn’t long before that idea went out of the window as the bike trails wandered and meandered in every direction sometimes turning back onto themselves as the the bikers sought to get as much distance in as short an area as possible. I had a couple of them pass me flying along at a great rate of speed which made my walking speed look very slow indeed. There were also a couple of other walkers who passed me one of whom stopped to chat for a bit. He didn’t have any information regarding the Violet Crown Trail but he did sort of point me in the right direction by telling me that the road above us was Escarpment Boulevard.

I wandered around a bit more and then headed back crossing under Escarpment Boulevard and taking the main trail that leads around the park and the soccer fields.  Several people passed me on this trail which has a great display of the wild flowers that are in bloom. From there, I followed the dried up creek all the way back crossing under Escarpment Boulevard and walking west towards Mopac (Loop 1). I was surprised just how far it is between the two highways on foot as it takes no  time at all in a car…

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Some of the many beautiful flowers along the way.

I eventually made it back to my car in the cinema parking lot which, by now, was very full and sat for a while watching the birds in the trees. That was after changing out of my sweat soaked clothes into something drier. Altogether, I covered around 6.5 miles of pretty easy walking but still have not located the Violet Crown Trail. Maybe next time.

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Written 9/18/2017

The Trails at Mayfield Park Preserve 8-13-2017


DSC_0727-PanoI had an Austin Pond Society meeting scheduled for 3:00 pm this past Sunday which was going to be held at Mayfield Park. Making the most of the moment, so to speak, I arrived a couple of hours early so that I could walk the trails at Mayfield Park Preserve. In my many visits to this Park generally with something related to fish and ponds, I had seen many people drive in to use the trails and wanted to find out for myself.

I  took the time to change into my boots and strapped  on my single camera harness as I only planned on carrying the one camera with the 16-300 lens which is my go to lens for all occasions. After making  sure that I had my water bottle and walking poles I was ready to move. I stopped at the kiosk to take a look at the map and just like the last place, St Edwards Park, this map was also backwards from how I was viewing it. I quickly worked out where I wanted to go and set off down the trail along with several other people including a family who were carrying swimming stuff, towels and floats and the sort of thing one would associate with going to the beach or around here, one of the lakes. They disappeared down the opposite trail to the one that I took (thank goodness) as I strode away on my chosen path.

I wandered around for about an hour and a half exploring many of the trails. There did not seem to be much organization but without a map, which I was not able to locate either at the site or on the web, it was hard to know where to go. Many of the trails were very steep and/or required climbing up or down rock faces more like a rock climbing exercise than a walk on the trails. I have no idea if I covered all of the trails on my side but I switched and took the trail taken by the swimming family.

This trail eventually brought me down to Town Lake but I never did see a spot that the swimming family could hit the water. Of course, I have no idea if I covered all of the trails on this side either and there may be others that I did not see.

I retraced my steps back to the Parking Lot and sat for a while before changing into dry clothes in readiness for the meeting.  The car parked next to me was driven by a young and pretty lady in the skimpiest of bikinis who was very busy first hoisting her float board onto her car and then taking a very long time to tie it down to the roof rack. Her boyfriend was helping her and I was glad when they finally drove off as I was having the hardest time in not staring at her. Interestingly enough, she was not a bit fazed by her almost nakedness and was in no hurry to complete her tasks. I wanted to take pictures but didn’t have the nerve to ask her to pose for me. Maybe because her boyfriend was a lot bigger and younger than me? I am definitely not a prude but it was a bit unnerving (in a good way). Jeez, I gotta be getting bloody old.

The trails are tree covered nearly all of the way so there was a lot of shade. Most were easy walking except where they went up and over the rock face and there they suddenly got very difficult.

Below is a link to the slideshow of the trails.

Trails at Mayfield Park 8-12-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

 

Another of some of the views.

Views at Mayfield Park Trails 8-13-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.