Aaahh yes. Breath deep - let your senses soak it in - rejoice in being alive - because it's another glorious morning and soon the sun will be taking some of the bite out of the air.
I have to vacate my campsite today, but before heading for the house I'm going to sneak in one more hike.
Nothing too ambitious since I've got a solid 4 hour drive ahead and would prefer to be there before the winter sunset. Just once around the Cedar Chopper Loop with a side excursion down to the river and back on the Old Gorman Road.
So what's a cedar chopper?
Well this whole area used to be the Heller Ranch, but raising livestock on this Central Texas ground is tough and the 3200 acre ranch only supported about 200 head of cattle, or about 16 acres per head. (By comparison, a well managed East Texas ranch can support about 1 head of cattle per acre of land.) But one thing the area does have in abundance is Cedar (technically Ash Juniper but same difference.)
Cedar was, and still is, used for fence-posts and furniture, but at the end of the 19th - beginning of the 20th centuries it was in even greater demand as the raw material for charcoal used for heating homes and powering the area's industrial revolution.
Before all this cedar could be shipped out to the charcoal ovens (After 1912 that's what the Cedar Tap Railroad was for. Today there are only a few scattered remnants of the railroad left, and you have to know where to look to find them.) it had to be 'chopped' down by gangs of - you guessed it - cedar choppers.
For a decade or so during the boom-times the cedar choppers and their families formed a community of around 300 in this spot. It had mail delivery, a school, a commissary, and even a cemetery.
Over the years I've wandered around off-trail up here several times and the best I could ever do was find a small concrete slab that most likely once supported a communications tower of some sort and dates from some time after the cedar harvesting days. (That was before GPS and way-points and I've never been able to find it again since.) True, the community was mostly a tent-city but you'd think there would be some remnants of at least the cemetery lurking around out here somewhere.
Maybe one day I'll find something - but not today.
In the meantime - -