Monday, August 10, 2020

Gone Around the Bend - Colorado Bend that is

I briefly escaped coronatine for two half-days, a full day, and two nights at Colorado Bend State Park last week.

Given that the oppressively hot August climate around here is not that conducive to a whole lot of out-door physicality my pace was glacially slow, but I still managed to get in about 20 miles of foot-stomping, or at least foot-shuffling, but at the price of about 20 gallons of sweat, some seriously sticky clothes, and a little bit of funk.

(I tried reading Patrick Taylor's "Alone on Purpose" during this trip, the third in his trilogy, this one covering the winter, the cold, snowy winter, he spent by himself in the wilds of the Frank Church Wilderness in the mountains of Idaho - Jeremiah Johnson territory - but it didn't do much, as in diddly-squat, to cool me down.)

So why put myself through that?

Well a couple of reasons, but the big one has to do with that number circled there on my phone in the Duolingo Spanish language course.

I'm too cheap to spring for the cost of the off-line, add-free version of their course, so I have to have a data signal to complete a lesson - and see the advertisement at the end of that lesson - (My marketing daughter would be so proud!) and that circled number is my current "streak". Yep, 152 consecutive days since I was last out of cell service for more than 24 hours. And that's just sad! (But on the plus side, now my streak-count is back to zero!)

Nope, not a trail, but in this heat walking up that stream-bed flowing with cold water right from the spring so clear you can't see it sure was an attractive thought!

This park is not what you would call close to the house, so by the time I got there that first day it was well into HOT, but still too early to just head on down to my pre-reserved campsite, (The only kind allowed right now. No drive-ins permitted. Not even for day-use. Instead you have to go on-line, make your reservation, if there's a slot available, and print out your window-pass before heading out.) so I turned into the Gorman Falls trailhead instead.

Not that I had any intention of hiking down to Gorman Falls. That place is way too popular for my taste even in normal times, unless I can get there around dawn, which wasn't happening today.

But I had to share the first leg of the Gorman Falls trail to get to the start of the Gorman Spring trail which is where I was really headed.

I suppose I could have hiked the service road down to the Spring trailhead instead, bypassing whoever was on that first segment of trail, but one of the goals today was to see just what it was like to be hiking around others in these corona-times.

It wasn't horrible, only slightly worse than hiking with others in normal times. I would hike along until I heard people coming, then pull my mask up, get well off the trail, carefully since there's a lot of stickery things out here, and let them pass. (Other than the mask, and how far off the trail I went, this is my normal routine anyways.) Some wore masks in this state where it's finally mandated now that our governor was forced to pull his head out of Trump's ass by the horrendous numbers, (It's an election year after all) some did not. In both cases I just stood back for a while after they passed and let their potentially viral-laden respired droplets and vapor dissipate in the wind before continuing on until the next encounter.

I had the Gorman Spring trail to myself and when I got to the spring itself, where this pump was put into place 100 years ago to service the Lemon's Ranch on the ridge above, I was tempted to plop my ass down right there for a late lunch.

But this is the end of the trail, and its main attraction, and if someone else did come along I'd be right in the way, so I moved back down the trail to a spot where I could climb up and away from the trail on a few limestone ledges and chow-down in peace.

One other (mask wearing) person did eventually come up the trail, but only after I had finished lolly-gagging around and was headed back out anyway.

I didn't take any campground photos, but since I was unable to get my preferred slot in site 45, I had picked site 44 instead since I knew it also wasn't shaded, an important solar consideration when the fridge is running almost constantly in an attempt to stay ahead of the heat.

It's not that site 45 was taken, it's that the park is only allowing camping on even numbered sites to force a little more distancing.

The next morning my target was to make a loop out of the Spicewood Canyon & Springs trails and I was up early enough to disturb the neighbors,

which was too bad, but I was chasing the man in the moon down the river in an attempt to stay ahead

of evil Mr. Sun who was intent on running me down from behind.

Even though I didn't allow myself time to pause and worry about becoming kitty-poop

the inexorable sun caught me anyway and thus began the day-long process of it trying to burn a hole in my hat.

Oh, by the way, until this corona thing settles down I will not be packing out other people's trash, so, to all the slobs out there - CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELVES DAMMIT!

Spicewood creek is mostly a series of pools as it steps down the limestone ledges in it's run towards the Colorado River, and as you might imagine those pools are pretty popular this time of year.

But I foolishly wasn't thinking about that in the people-free early morning when I turned right onto the canyon trail to make my usual counter-clockwise circuit.

This decision had me climbing up along that rim on the left before dropping down into the canyon below where you can just see a couple bright glimpses of the creek as it heads towards the river which is flowing from left to right just below that far ridge in the center.

Maybe that sun burned through my hat a little because choosing to turn right and head up along the ridge first put me down there on the creek later in the day when the hoards had finished their coffee, gotten the kids organized, and headed out to do some soaking in the cold water.

Note to self: Hey dummy! Next time do the loop clockwise and stay away from the herd!

After stopping by camp long enough to restock my water-bladder I slowly wandered north along the river for a few miles peep-toming some of the private residences perched over there along the eastern shore and giving my mobile paint-set a workout, because that seemed a better way to spend the rest of the afternoon than hanging around camp panting like a dog that's been chasing cars all day.


I prepped The Van the night before so that last morning I was able to slip away from camp early and move several miles up to the west end of the park, but that damn sun was relentless and there it was, waiting for me! I'd get a restraining order, but can't seem to find the proper jurisdiction to file in.

The river and bluffs, the creeks and canyons, may be sexier, but the rolling heights up here away from the river (the only place where I never ran into a single person) are the true heart of this land.

This is where the early human inhabitants harvested grains and other staples, along with the occasional  larger animal that provided meat and tools and clothing.

This is where later inhabitants harvested cedar and raised livestock, creating economies and communities where none existed before.

That horizontal mark there is actually a short piece of a trail created by thousands and thousands of ant-feet as they industriously, and constantly, move back and forth from here to there. Here was the nest. I never was able to figure out what there was.

And this was where I slowly circled on my last hike of the trip, attempting to tease the rich history of this place up out of the ground and the abandoned fence-lines.


  1. Nice post.

    I’m on the free duolingo Spanish too—user name Brewed Journey. As a purist, I was somewhat offended to learn that you can buy a one or two day break without losing your streak by using some of your free gems under the shop tab. I gave up the purist label when I found my self hiking or driving to better internet to keep my 400+ day streak going.