Monday, December 14, 2020

Some Serious Potholes on the Old Gorman Road

 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 - -

I meandered on around the established loop-trail. And it's not all cedar out here. Once in a while the landscape is interrupted by a hardwood grove.

I'm pretty sure these are one of the many different oaks, but I'm not sure which one.

About halfway around the loop I hit the Old Gorman Road and head down it towards the river.

As you would expect from a former road, the hiking is pretty easy along here, but there are some pretty serious looking potholes you have to be careful not to fall into.

This whole area is riddled with caves, and the openings to them have to be somewhere, but come on! Does it have to be right there in the road waiting to swallow dogs, small children, and the occasional oblivious adult?!

The park service and a couple spelunking groups run tours around here, (Or at least will once again when we get past this Covid era.) but I myself never saw the attraction in jamming and squeezing and oozing myself down wet, black holes

and cracks

barely big enough to fit my boot, let alone my fat head, so I carefully steered clear.

Down near the lower end of the Old Gorman Road is something a little more my speed.

Not so much the building itself,

which is some sort of meeting hall though I have never seen it actually in use,

but rather my interest is in the back patio which edges right up to the bank of Gorman Creek a few hundred yards above where it eventually falls over the edge of the bluff and forms Gorman Falls prior to making it all the way to the Colorado River,

and makes a perfect spot for an early lunch.

Just a few feet from where I'm enjoying my tuna and crackers there's a steel bridge connecting the meeting hall to the service road.

It's a heavily built bridge that can support small vehicles, and that's good because this rather large Live Oak branch has fallen right in the middle of it, as Live Oak branches, especially those of the older trees, tend to do.

I wonder how long before this branch from the same tree comes down and crushes the roof of the meeting hall into kindling.

Oh well. I never have been, and likely never will be, invited inside, so what do I care - - - Now, if I hear cracking from above during lunch do I grab for my pack or just run like hell?

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