A Drive to Llano


These hills stand out. This is an 8 picture panorama.

I wanted to get out but was not in the mood to take a hike so I decided to go for a drive instead. I decided that I would head towards Llano as I haven’t been in that area for some time and I knew that the wildflowers would be blooming.

As I have reported many times before, I like to listen to Audiobooks as I drive as I find it both relaxing and educating at the same time at least from a writers perspective. I do not consider myself a writer but more of a reporter. I need something to write about as my mind is not sufficiently skilled enough to come up with plots and twists that leave the reader guessing. Currently, I am listening to “The Highlander” by Diana Gabaldan and am as far along as Book 4. When you consider that each book is between 40 and 50 hours or more of listening then you get a general idea of the quality of the story with it’s many twists and turns. On top of that, the Narrator is a lady by the name of Davina Porter who alone makes it so worth listening to. She has a delightful British accent and considering that the basic language and accent in the book is Scottish, she does a really wonderful job.

On the way, I managed to capture some pictures of the flowers along the sides of the road and also one particular striking piece of rocky hills. This is the start of the Hill Country after all. When I reached Llano, which I have written about before. (Use this link to view that blog) I headed towards Georgetown before heading down US 183 and back home. All in all, I covered almost 100 miles of the beautiful Texas countryside in the Spring.

A closer view of the rock face

A Drive in the Country 2018


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I was on my way to my Vets to take in one of my dogs for a check up and to get a Rattlesnake shot and couldn’t help but wonder at the beauty of the wildflowers. There was a lot of yellow and I suppose there is a reason for that although I am not smart enough to even guess what that may be.

I came back with my camera after taking my little dog, Gizzie back home and took as many pictures as I could, marvelling at the beauty all around me. I put together a slideshow to music for your enjoyment. These flowers are all in one area and if I had walked an 100 yards, would have found another such area just like the first. The flowers are in abundance this year.

A Drive in the Country from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Written
5/4/2018

Circle C Trails 9-9-2017


I wanted to take a closer look at the Circle C Trails as the maps showed them to be much more extensive than I originally thought. I had noticed people walking the trails that ran alongside Escarpment Boulevard and for some reason never made the connection. That’s what comes from having an old brain. More than a little slow sometimes…I didn’t realize that there were trails on both sides of the Boulevard albeit many are narrow bike trails which are also used by hikers and runners. I drove over to Slaughter Lane and Escarpment Boulevard and parked in the cinema parking lot and just decided to take my camera and walk a bit down the gravel trail. I went through my usual ritual of changing into my hiking boots and grabbing all of the normal “stuff” I carry with me including both cameras mounted on my double carry harness.

I knew that if I went off to the right, I would come to the soccer fields so I went left, under Escarpment Boulevard and discovered a whole host of different trails in between Escarpment Boulevard and Loop 1. I followed a couple of them and wandered around for a couple of hours taking many pictures of the wildflowers that are currently in bloom.  I walked along and managed to cover around 3.5 miles. The trails are of the usual variety and the main trail follows Slaughter Creek which is dried up this time of the year. This area is also a part of the Edwards Aquifer Discharge Zone so I might well have been drinking some of the water that soaks down through the rocks from the creek.

A view of the dried up creek.

Pictured below are some of the trails. Obviously, the wide granite trails are the main walking ones. The rest are bike trails so are not very wide. They also tend to twist and wind about as the bikers try to add various degrees of difficulty to their rides.

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There are a bunch of wildflowers this time of the year.

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and one Monarch butterfly

I passed a couple of runners and one guy on a bike but as it was a weekday, I didn’t really expect to see many people. I should probably say that the runners and biker passed me as everyone and their brother walks quicker than me nowadays. I had a fine old time and was glad to be back out on the trails again slow pace and all.

Written 9/18/2017

McKinney Roughs 7-27-2017


DSC_6384-PanoEven though the forecast was for the temperatures to get to one hundred degrees, I decided that I wanted to go out again for another walk. I couldn’t make up my mind where to go and finally decided that McKinney Roughs had the most shade cover and was probably the best place.

Something came up which delayed me getting out early and it was almost 11:00 am by the time I arrived at the Park. On the way over, I was mulling over in my mind which trails I wanted to hike and had more or less decided that I would take Coyote Road and then hit Riverside. From there, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go and was going to play it by ear.

I paid my $2:00 and chatted to the young lady at the desk for a bit and learned that some of the trail repairs were complete although it is still not possible to complete the big loop that includes Road Runner and Yaupon.

I set off down Coyote Road which is a big wide trail with not too much shade but heads downhill towards the river. Both Coyote Road and Riverside are best hiked going down as both are somewhat hilly especially Roadrunner.

On the way, after seeing a Roadrunner in the Parking Lot, I followed another one that kept making short flights ahead of me until it finally tired of that game and headed into the brush. It was too far off to get any meaningful shots of it. As I crested one of the short hills on the trail, two deer crossed the road in front of me and of course, were gone by the time I got the long lense camera out and ready. I continued stealthily past the spot where they had entered the brush but they were truly gone.

Continuing down Coyote Road towards the end where it had previously washed out, I took a look at the work that LCRA has performed in rebuilding the washout. It looks like the actual rebuilding of the ditch is complete and now all that remains is a bridge to span the gap. Still a few months away, I would guess.

Heading back , I took Riverside which as the name implies, brings you alongside of the river. That is a very nice trail to walk on with the temperatures so hot as it is completely covered with this wonderful canopy of trees. I was looking for anything of interest that might be in or around the river and spotted a whole flock of Vultures. I could not see what type they were whether they were Black or Turkeys and none took off while I watched them for around 10 minutes. I counted forty or more and I have never seen so many in one place. I have no idea what they were congregating for or about as none appeared to be eating on anything. Maybe it was a Vulture Convention to discuss the weather or the shortage of carrion. Who knows…

I finally left that pack of birds and headed along Riverside and then crossed over onto Bobcat Ridge which I knew would bring me back to my car. On the way, I could hear a whole bunch of people coming and as I rounded the corner, met up with a large group of maybe 25-30 young kids accompanied by two Adults. All the kids were carrying water bottles and pulled over to one side to let me by when instructed to by the lead adult. All that is, except one boy who wanted to know why he had to move over. As I got level with him I said, “It’s age before beauty and I am a lot older and much uglier than you”. Everyone laughed at this as he moved out of the way.

It’s great to see the kids out in the woods enjoying and learning about Nature. Nowadays, kids do not spend enough time outdoors and many haven’t a clue how Nature works, or what sort of trees and flowers they are looking at, or what are the names of the different birds and animals they might be lucky enough to see.

After leaving the kids behind, I continued along Bobcat Ridge and crossed back onto Riverside only because I was running low on water and knew I could replenish as soon as I hit the buildings. As I was taking a picture of the horizon, a young couple came down the hill making real easy work of it. They stopped so as not to get in the way of the shot and I got a back view of them as they disappeared.
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I continued climbing up Riverside which, apart from the steps on Pine Ridge, is the steepest trail in the park. I arrived back at the Park Headquarters and spent some time taking pictures of the flowers planted in the gardens. All are Native Plants and last year were inundated with butterflies. Not  sure what has happened but there are not too many flying today.

All in all, a very enjoyable but somewhat hot, hike. I covered 6.5 miles and got a few shots. I was looking for birds and saw very few and even less to take pictures of. I could hear them but that was about it.

Below are two videos. The first is of the trails at McKinney Roughs, mostly of Coyote Road and Riverside with a couple of Bobcat Ridge.

 

Trails at McKinney Roughs 7-17-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

The second is the flowers at McKinney Roughs. Most of them are in the gardens at the Park Headquarters but all are native Plants. There are a couple from out on the trail but they are getting hard to find.

The Flowers at McKinney Roughs 7-27-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Beautiful Flowers at McKinney Spring 2016


I took another walk at McKinney mainly to take better pictures of the wonderful display of flowers that are happening this year. I brought my Macro lens with me this time on my D7200 Nikon and although the 16-300 Tamron lens is a great multi purpose lens and takes really good pictures, it can’t get as close as the Macro. Most of the flowers that I remembered from a couple of days ago are at the Highway 71 Trailhead at the very start of the trails where both Whitetail and Pine Ridge start. This area was subject to a major burn a few years ago and there are no large trees so there is plenty of sun.

I spent 30 or so minutes happily clicking away and in truth, just when I thought I had a great picture of a flower or group of flowers, not more than a few steps away were even more and better picture opportunities. I went a little nuts with the amount of images but I can’t remember such a wonderful display ever before.

If you click on any image, it will enlarge it to full size and then you can use the side arrows to move from image to image.

More McKinney, 5-7-2016


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It was such a beautiful day and I had caught up with the repairs and changes to the ponds so I decided that it would be really nice to take a short walk at McKinney, my favorite place to hike. Checking to see that I had all of the necessary equipment including water and fruit, I pointed the car towards Bastrop and enjoyed a pleasant 45 minute drive to the Highway 71 Trailhead. There were a lot of horse trailers in the lot with several people riding their horses around the Trailhead which is pretty big. LCRA has really gone out of it’s way to accommodate horses and riders at this Trailhead with several paddocks, with running water and hoses to wash horses down. There were several riders sitting around and talking at the many tables dotted around this very large Trailhead which I thought was a little unusual.

DSC_1972I drove up to the gate that leads to the trails and found out why the horses were not on the trail. Apparently, some of the trails were closed to horses due to recent weather and the gate was locked. It was still open to hikers as we have a small side gate. I changed into my boots, strapped on my camera belt, grabbed my hiking poles and was off.

As I entered, a lady and her dog were coming towards me having finished their hike. We exchanged greeting as we passed which is the way of most hikers. I chose to hike the Pine Ridge trail which would keep me on high ground as even there, parts of the trail were still muddy from recent rains. I imagined that the lower trails by the river would probably still be really wet. The first part of Pine Ridge is in a burned area which according to a sign, burned for 3 days taking down all of the large trees so the area is pretty open. It is a wonderful mix of grass and shrubs and is the perfect place for masses of wildflowers. I spent 15 or minutes just taking pictures before heading off along the trail. There were many flowers along the trail especially the cactus which was in bloom everywhere I looked.

The Pine Ridge trail is made up of loose cobblestones and not the easiest to walk on. Parts of the trail were quite muddy and there were a lot of signs of wind damage with broken limbs and even uprooted trees. They must have had quite a storm. The pine trees were looking magnificent with lots of fresh pine needles and under them, many pine cones. Spring was everywhere with new growth and everything green. Even the birds were singing like crazy and I was able to spot a few which by itself is unusual as normally, I hear them but don’t see them. I walked past one of the ponds and was hoping to see a Heron but no luck. Even if they were fishing, it’s hard to walk quietly on the cobblestones and they would have been long gone by the time I reached them.

From Pine Ridge, I took the Foxtail and then WhiteTail trails back towards the parking lot. I never passed anyone on the trails and had the whole world to myself to enjoy. The sun was out and was gaining heat as we move towards the summer. As it was, I managed to work up a sweat even at my slow pace. When I arrived back at my car, there were two other cars parked alongside of me. All of the horse trailers had gone. I changed out of my boots and stowed all of my gear and sat down for a while just enjoying the day before heading back to Austin. I hiked about 4 1/2 miles which was a good distance for this day. I talked my car out of heading towards Bastrop for the customary Latte as it is programmed to do that,  as I knew that I had to go grocery shopping and would buy the Latte later in the day.

Incidentally, there is a large building being constructed by the gate into the trails. I also noticed 4 different pole type structures getting erected just inside the park so I called back today to find out just what they were for. My own guess was that they were installing a Zip Line as another attraction to get more people interested in the Park. The lady that answered the phone introduced herself as Nicole and told me that it was exactly as I had surmised and that they were going to have a Zip Line that was open to the public. Interesting…

Don’t forget that if you click on any picture, it will give you a full sized slide show. Use the side arrows to move the pictures. Hit the “Escape” to get back to the blog.