Thursday, April 30, 2015

Wild Woman Weekend!

Yep, that's what I said; Wild Woman Weekend.

This is an honest-to-God real and official event that I knew nothing about until I had to go begging for a campsite during a recent excursion to Pedernales Falls SP that was interrupted by no room at the inn over the weekend. And now I know why.

Taken from the web page
It used to be that only a portion of campsites at Texas State Parks were reservable, the rest being first come-first camp. But somewhere along the line that policy changed and now all campsites, every last one of them, are reservable; and apparently I wasn't copied on that memo. . .

On the one hand I think this policy stinks. We're already regimented into marching from one scheduled event to the next by - well, pretty much everything else in our lives, and now we have to book our leisure and recreation months in advance?!

On the other hand; what with the city-living hoards of the over stressed and under medicated, all with too few recreation slots in their schedules, and many of them driving multi-ton weapons of mass destruction masquerading as RV's like they're contestants in a demolition derby, all in a desperate attempt to snag that last campsite, I can see where the potential for ending up a national news story might encourage the parks department to adopt this all-inclusive reservation policy.

 This just in; Riot in the Campground!

Friday evening an estimated two and a half gaggles of overweight men along with their adoring, and surprisingly ferocious, wives, 2.3 screaming children and 1.25 barking dogs descended on the campground with their 40' RV's. The issue quickly got out of hand when they all attempted to fit into a mere gaggle's worth of campsites. It took park rangers, along with law enforcement support from surrounding communities, including one helicopter, two paddy wagons and a partridge in a pear tree, over 6 hours to quell the ensuing altercations and restore order!

At any rate - completely unaware of the new policy, I turned up at the state park on a Sunday afternoon while the recreating hordes were heading in the opposite direction, secure in the belief that I was high on the first come-first camp list and would have no issues staying through the following weekend.

Silly me. . .

I had a site for the week, in fact my favorite one, site 5, but because I wasn't forward-thinking enough, I was going to be kicked out for Friday and Saturday nights. I let the ranger at the desk put me on a wait list but didn't hold out much hope since it was spring in the Hill Country, prime recreating time. I resigned myself to spending those two nights in a largish parking lot some 20 miles away where there's one big store, a gas station, a fast-food establishment with a 24 hour drive-through, and a nearby nightclub. I can usually get away with that because I don't look like an RV, I arrive late (The day-use areas of the park don't close until 10PM) and leave early.

But sometime during the week I decided to try a hail-mary at a private campground I was passing on my way to check out another state park. (Also fully booked for the weekend.) It has been my observation that when many private campgrounds were laid out the architects were a little overly optimistic on just how many sites could be fit into the space and there's often one or two official sites that can only accommodate the smallest of rigs. Since I fall into that category I've sometimes been able to come up with a serviceable spot to park when all hope seems lost. And this case was no different.

It was while I was completing the paperwork for my new weekend refuge that I found out about the Wild Women Weekend coming up. Actually the person in the office was warning me about it since there was a breakfast and a couple receptions scheduled for their reception hall and apparently last year the women lived up to the wild part of the weekend.

Most of the scheduled events were taking place down the road in the town of Blanco and the Blanco State Park, but there was plenty of spill over at the private campground in the form of campers. I"m not sure if it is a direct connection between the Wild Woman Weekend and a group called Sisters on the Fly, but when I got there Friday evening to claim my campsite the campground was full of them; the flying sisters.

Apparently, though it's not a requirement, a large number of the sisters own, renovate and decorate classic travel trailers, and because they're small (The trailers that is.) they were doubled up in many of the full size pull-through sites.

The only time I was in the campground when there was any light at all was early morning before I left for the day, and for some reason the only camera I had with my when I walked around was my phone, so these photos leave a lot to be desired but will give a hint of what I saw at least.

As for the wildness? I can't really say. I avoided Blanco all weekend because crowds are just not my thing (Yeah, that's why! It had nothing to do with being intimidated by all those women gathered together in one spot. . .)

And if there was any rowdiness over at the campground reception hall it must have been contained within the walls because none of it spilled over my way. Just what was going on inside those walls I don't know. You see the Sisters on the Fly basically have one rule, and I quote 'No men, no pets, no kids and be kind'.

Since, by stretching things only slightly, I potentially strike out on all 4 of those points I would have never made it inside even if I tried, which I didn't. . .

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Polly's Horse Camp

Down in the southern end of Pedernales Falls SP, on the western flank of Butler mountain, is Polly's Horse Camp. Given the location of the camp and history of this land, I would bet this used to be at least a semi permanently occupied camp, part of the ranch that this place used to be, during the 1800's and into the first half of the 1900's. Perhaps Polly used to have a small cabin tucked into the trees there with a well stocked, if basic, kitchen and a bottomless coffeepot.

Now days the camp is located near the end of the southeast leg of the 12+ mile Southern Loop Horse Trail (In my experience very few riders and virtually no hikers use the equestrian trails so they make for very good hiking when the more popular trails are seeing heavier usage.) and is only a quarter mile or so from the county road which gives easy access to stock trailers, assuming you've got a key to open the gate with.

Originally there was a wind-powered pump used to lift water up out of the well and into a concrete tank.

But now, when you're laying there in your bedroll at night, you have to imagine listening to the slow clackity creaking of water being lifted up out of the earth one or two cups at a time, because a new well has since been drilled and a silent solar powered pump and some electronics keeps the original concrete storage tank filled instead.

Adjacent to the tank is a water-trough for wildlife and livestock, though the park system absolves itself of all humanoid responsibility by posting a big 'Non-Potable Water Only' sign above the hydrant at the side of the tank.

The camp, conveniently located at roughly the halfway point of the loop trail, is in a nice open meadow with an inviting grove of oak and cedar in the center.

A rather new looking set of portable stalls stands ready for the next group of equine explorers,

and it's location on the flank of the "mountain" ensures a decent breeze moving up out of the Butler Creek watershed with distant views to the northwest (When it's not raining that is!) while the Twin Buttes loom across the valley to the west.

My pack looks pretty lonely parked over there on the table to the left, but I can just imagine people gathered in the evening around the fire, laughing and bullshitting telling stories, while dinner sizzles up on the grills; roast potatoes and corn on the cob on one, hamburgers and chicken on the other, with a pot of beans staying hot beside the fire.

Makes me want to go out and buy a horse just so I can join them! (I wonder if a plastic head with a yellow and purple yarn mane stuck on the end of a broomstick would count. . .)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Images from Pedernales (Part 3)

OK, final installment of the random images from a recent stay at Pedernales Falls SP, though this is not the last post to come from that trip. I've still got the horse camp, a couple off-the-map trails, a surprisingly good municipal nature trail, Blanco and the 2015 Wild Women of the West gathering to cover.

But for now:

Hey! Is that dude eying me for my snack-worthiness?!!!

No, this is not man-made. That's a natural stack topped by a nice big slab of limestone.

The spectacular but somewhat rare Texas Madrone tree. Yes, that's its natural color and it is alive and well.

We all got damped down a bit as showers periodically passed by.

I'm not a 'shroomer so I don't know if this is good to eat or not but that's OK because it's plenty luscious right were it's at!
As I was running through this series of photos one last time before posting them I realized that if you pay attention to my general composition of images you can tell I'm seriously left handed. . .

Monday, April 20, 2015

Images from Pedernales (Part 2)

Though it's difficult to tell from the photo above, for most of the week I recently spent in Pedernales Falls SP it was cloudy and the air was thick, often thick enough to leak on me,

which makes for challenging light and pretty much shuts down the long-range vistas, but on the up side, it's the perfect opportunity to slow down and notice the details, the little stuff, or park yourself under a tree as the shower goes by and wait for the birds to get used to you.

These things were so fragrant it was like trying to get past the lady at the perfume counter!

This guy was no bigger around than a quarter but I don't think he's as cuddly as he looks!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Images from Pedernales (Part 1)

You know how some days, no matter how hard you try, how much you want it, you just can't get a decent photo??

Well this was not one of those days.

It should have been. A few times there the clouds thinned out for a moment, but not for long, and once in a while a passing shower wet things down and made me tuck the camera inside my pack, but despite that it seemed like every time I turned around there was a photo worthy image just waiting to be digitally captured. (Of course that's pretty subjective, but at least in my own mind's eye they were worthy!)

Though spring is the theme, there's no particular narrative here so I will mostly just let the images stand on their own.

Because I ended up with quite a few of them, and you can have too much of a good thing, I decided to split them up over a couple posts.

I get the feeling this Roadrunner thinks I'm standing right were the good bugs are.

I don't remember what it was but there must have been something over there that interested the two of us

OK, head count! Do we have a quorum yet?

One reason I don't wear shorts when hiking around here!