Friday, November 21, 2014

Colorado Bend State Park; An interlude along the river, Part 2

I didn't realize when I set out on the River Trail this chilly morning that I was going real-estate shopping.

but turns out there's a small track along the east bank of the river (I'm over on the west bank.) reachable via a circuitous combination of county and private roads, and jammed into the space between the track on the river side and the bluffs above are some properties.

Clearly the majority of these are weekend places and, given the track's proximity to the river and the fact that the nearest dam is about 100 miles upstream, I would guess that the handful of permanent residences are kept well stocked unless the occupants don't mind running out of beer and toilet paper when the track is impassable.

Since this is not a place you're going to end up passing by on a casual Sunday drive, I can only assume the for sale sign is intended for park visitors that happen to be hiking this section of trail. Though, admittedly, it's a nice place down here along the river so that strategy just might work.

The first section of the River Trail is more track than trail, probably to make maintaining the hike-in campground a little easier for the park personnel.

Since a whole group of bloggers I follow have been recently wandering around the arches of southern Utah I couldn't resist including this photo of my own arch encounter. . .

In the mid to late 1800's, before ranching became the area's main economy, the flats above the river, cedar flats like the ones inside the red polygon above, were logged for - well - cedar, and when the old-growth was depleted and what was left was unsuitable for timbers it was cooked into charcoal in ovens built on site.

In addition to the 'Cedar Wars' fought between the various groups harvesting the limited resource, getting the lumber and charcoal out of this remote area and to the end user was a challenge. The solution in this neck of the woods was to build a narrow gauge railroad that connected with more established transportation systems.

Although there's no plaques or other information, (It's a shame how much history gets lost. . .) I suspect that these 'culverts' (I found two of them.) along the River Trail may once have been boilers from either the small steam engines that ran on those rails or maybe from stationary engines used in the business of logging.


The heads of these rivets are a good inch and a quarter in diameter. Can you imagine being the guy that climbed inside the 3' diameter boiler to buck the hundreds of red hot rivets used to hold it together?!!!!

The geology of this part of Texas consists primarily of limestone laid down some 100 million years ago. Since then water has had plenty of time to do it's thing and there are loads of caves under the surface of the Edwards Plateau. The water that seeps through all that filtering limestone might be very hard and full of dissolved minerals, but it's also very clear.

Sheltered from any wind that might raise ripples, it's difficult at first to see the water in this photo.

Water that was probably a surface stream back up on the plateau somewhere, but which then seeped underground and eventually resurfaced at this opening just a hundred feet or so from the river it soon falls into.

 At one point along the trail bicyclists are warned to get off and walk their bikes across this narrow ledge

and it's not until you get to the other side and turn around that you can see there's another stream-cut cave under there.

From this angle it looks like all this could have been deliberately laid by talented stone masons, but I checked, and it's natural.

And yes, I went a few feet into the cave, but only a few feet. . .

But some streams around here stay above ground, at least for a while. This is Gorman Creek that runs above ground for nearly a mile before spilling into the river at Gorman Falls. There's a trail following the creek up to the point where it emerges from the limestone. I walked this trail partway up, to the second creak crossing, then decided that since I was 5 miles from camp and it was chilly, I didn't feel much like wading, so decided to save the rest of this hike for another day and turned around.

Even though it was chilly enough that the thought of splashing around in the water wasn't too appealing, in the 4 hours or so since I left camp (My average speed when I'm hiking is right around a blistering 1.2 to 1.4 miles per hour! ) it had warmed enough that I took this opportunity to strip down and get rid of the tights I had on under my pants. Power walking, even at my snail pace, is warm work!!

My timing was close because shortly after I got myself all put back together again I encountered my first people of the day, a father/son duo that didn't have the same qualms about getting wet in Gorman Creek as I did and continued on up the trail past me.

What with a couple fronts lurking in the fringes of that polar vortex, it was fairly windy and on my way back down the Gorman Spring trail I found this nest laying at my feet.

It wasn't until I turned it over that I realized much of the underlying structure of the nest was made up of a shed snakeskin. That must have been quite a job for a bird small enough to build this nest to haul up there!!

This guy, a Black Vulture, was hanging around overhead near where I found the nest, but it clearly wasn't her's! I don't think she could have fit a single foot inside this tiny nest!

I remember a whole tree full of vultures hanging around like this over my Uncle's travel trailer in Big Bend National Park quite a few years ago. They perched and flapped and hopped around like big, black, untidy Christmas ornaments that couldn't quite figure out where they looked best. My Uncle wasn't very happy with the way they were looking at him and I have to admit, this one didn't look all that friendly either as she hopped from branch to branch accompanying me for a little bit of my journey.

I know I'm getting older and I'm way past pretty,  but do I really look like I'm about to collapse into road-kill??

The public show piece of Colorado Bend State Park is Gorman falls.

 Unlike most creeks which cut their way through low ground to the nearest river, Gorman Creek wanders across the flat top of a bluff and then simply spreads out and falls over the edge.

As you can imagine, the trail down to the base of this popular destination is steep. (This is where I saw 4 of the 6 people I encountered all day.) To make it even more fun, all those feet have polished the limestone into something slicker than snot!! I don't care how aggressive or sticky your boot soles are, they are not going to grab onto this stuff and if you aren't careful you're going to be looking up at your skyward-pointing feet as your butt slams on down the rocks! Fortunately the park service has installed steel cables along the drop with which to lower yourself hand over hand. Of course you also have to pull yourself back up out of there too!!

On it's drop to the river below, the water of Gorman Creek sheds some of its high mineral content and creates these amazingly delicate stone curtains

And of course, even in the driest of times around here, the vegetation under the falls is thick and lush.

Having traveled the park from one end to the other I started making my way back towards camp, but instead of just backtracking the River Trail I made a wide loop by detouring up Gorman Road Trail,  eventually traversing a section of Cedar Breaks Trail and picking up Dogleg Canyon Trail which would ultimately take me back down to the river.

The climb up Gorman Road Trail isn't terribly steep but it is relentless and you have to question the sanity of a person that willingly slogs up all that altitude only to turn right around and trudge back downhill to the same level they started at. . . .

Along the way I came across a couple cave openings, one a little larger than a manhole and the other a narrow crack that only a dedicated spelunker could love, and I swear I took photos, but there was nothing in my camera between Gorman Falls and this shot of the abrupt upper end of Dogleg Canyon where the plateau just suddenly drops out from under your feet.

It's hard to judge from a photo, but that's about 40' nearly straight down, maybe one or two bounces along the way if you don't manage to jump out far enough.

Based on my uneducated interpretation, I would guess that I'm standing over a cave right there and the section between me and the river collapsed in a spectacular roar some time in the distant past, creating the canyon.

Whatever the nature of the event that created Dogleg Canyon, it left behind one or two balanced rocks.

Here the telephoto shot has compressed distances and the cabin is actually farther away than it looks and on the other side of the river, which is still about 300 feet below me at this point.

I'd been out there on my feet with a heavy pack on my back all day (My pack, gear and 4 liters of water weigh in at about 25 lbs. And these aren't 25 gym pounds either! These are slogging up and down the trail, scrambling over rock, all day on your back, pounds which are much heavier!!) when I spotted a straight line through the scrub some 150 yards or so off the trail. Straight lines are not natural but given the time of day, the number of miles I'd already covered and my state of tiredness, I was tempted to just ignore it.

But instead I maned up, reminded myself that I may not be by this way again, and left the trail to go find out what was up.

I'm still not any wiser as to just what this thing was sitting out here in this lonely spot.

I don't think it was a windmill base, it's a little too overbuilt for that and there's no sign of a well.

Although pretty massive with it's 12 inch thick wing walls and eight 1 inch bolts that have since been cut off with a torch, it seems too small for a watch tower of some sort.

And all I could find in the surrounding area was a single 15' 12x12 timber laying half buried.

But as least as I trudged my weary way back to the trail I could revel in the fact that I came, I saw, and I tried.

So,  with my most recent sense of accomplishment holding my head just a little higher, I continued to trudge heavily down towards the river.

You know it's been a long hike when two and half miles to go means you're almost there!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment