Monday, September 27, 2021

A Drying Out Kinda Day

 No! Not that kinda drying out!!

No booze or hangovers to be seen here so just move along - - -

After a mildly soggy week it was nice to wake up this morning (May 20) to a decent, rain-free dawn.

Being my last full day here this trip I quickly take advantage.

And I'm not the only one glad to see some rays.

But since I'm pretty crap at perching in the tops of trees, I plot out a hike instead.

I start out by heading up Lemon's Ridge.

Which is not named for the fruit but rather the family that owned this place just before it became a State Park.

This is me comparing a footprint I just made up on the ridge with an old one to see if it was left by me the day before.

Clearly it was, and there obviously hasn't been much foot-traffic around here this week.

But my climb up the ridge this morning is highly rewarding,

in part because of that solitude.

The Cedar Flats used to house a community of workers and their families harvesting the cedar up here back in the day,

but, as usual, my efforts to find definitive evidence of their residence

falls short, with only some - maybe - possibly - but probably not - possibilities.

So it is as a failed archaeologist that I make my way back down off the flats by hiking the Old Gorman Road down to the river, hanging a left,

and making my way up Gorman Creek

to the spring where this old pump used to lift the crystal clear, limestone polished water, which has traveled underground from the area of yesterday's tinaja before surfacing again here, up to the Lemons ranch house.

Actually this is the second pump here, as the Lemons replaced the first, smaller pump at some point.

From the pump it's back down the creek to where the trail is squeezed between the river and the bluffs, and finally back to camp.

I know when I get to this old 'bee' tree

 with a constant stream of workers coming and going that I'm just a few steps from the end of the trail.

And in this case, the end of the trip.

Well - almost the end of the trip.

It was such a nice day this foxy little thing came around and checked out my fire-pit while I was sitting just a few feet away. I guess she was hoping I was one of those sloppy campers that treats my fire-pit like a garbage dump and left (mostly unhealthy) fox-goodies laying around in it. I'm not, so she went away empty pawed.

I did do another circuit of Spice Canyon the next morning before packing up camp and heading out, but y'all don't need to be subjected to that again so soon.

Hopefully, with this May trip under my belt, I have enough blog-post material to carry on through the Central Texas summer lull which is now here and shuts down camping for a few months. I'm waiting to see how the summer's end family reunion trip and this latest Delta variant surge goes before making fall plans. So see-y'all on the other side!

Monday, September 20, 2021

The Tinaja and I Must Be Giving Off a Vibe


So on paper the forecast for my week here at Colorado Bend State Park is not great, but in reality it's not all that bad either.

This morning (May 21) there's even signs of some sun.

Though it's going to take more than that little bit of sun filtering through the trees to dry things out around here.

Today my destination is the Tinaja, (Te-na-ha) but, of course, as Harry Chapin pointed out in his song Greyhound, it's the going not the getting there that's good.

The 'going' today is up Dogleg Canyon, across the Cedar Flats and down to the Tinaja nestled in the Gorman Creek Canyon.

It's a steep climb up Dogleg Canyon from the River.

That bright roof is a cabin on the other side of the river jammed in between the water and the bluff along with a sketchy access road used by the thin, flood-prone string of similar stilted retreats along there.

The hoodoos just below and left of the roof are at the mouth of Dogleg Canyon on this side of the river and we'll briefly visit them again later today.

Just above the dog in the leg of the canyon signs of former ranching operations start to show up.

And just about 4 miles into the hike I switch from the Dogleg Canyon Trail onto a segment of the Cedar Chopper Loop.

Then, a little less than a mile later, I switch over to the Tinaja Trail.

Last time I was here at the tinaja I ate lunch over there under the red arrow. This time - well notice the circled rock in this photo of my previous visit?

Today the water is high enough to partially submerge that rock and make my former lunch-spot just a little soggy,

so I had lunch on the other side of the tinaja while perched high-n-dry there on top of that rock instead.

But that too created a slight issue that's about to appear there in the top of that old dead tree.

Last time I was here I was watched over carefully by a bonded pair of nesting Black Vultures - you know, just in case I keeled over dead and turned myself into a snack.

Well that pair are still here today, and still keeping a pretty damn close eye on me!

I don't know, maybe I'm just giving off a near-death sort of vibe or something - - -

But I disappoint them today and eventually, not buzzard food just yet, leave the tinaja and make my way along the Gorman Creek Canyon back down towards the river.

When the hoodoos loom up above me there along the River Trail I know I'm about to close the 'loop' on this lollypop hike and have just about three miles of 'stick' left to get back to The Van.

But before I make it there I come across one more interesting phenomenon.

I'm not sure just what is living down there in that pencil-sized hole, though there are some pretty big ants that call this place home, but whatever it is, rather than the usual crater-shaped structure,

this looks more like a wind-break instead.

But it doesn't really matter just what is making it, it's still a pretty cool way to end this hike.

Monday, September 13, 2021

High Water and a Certain Kinda Buzzing !


This morning (May 18) it is raining lightly here at Colorado Bend State Park.

Nothing like the torrential downpour with lashing winds of yesterday, at least not now just after dawn - maybe later when the sun has had time to stir things up, but still raining enough that I set out with my poncho draped over shoulders and pack.

The combination of light, diffused by the clouds and muted by the early hour, along with the gently dampened rock is certainly bringing out the colors over there on the other side of the river this morning.

Obviously it has been higher at times, but this is still pretty high for the Colorado River down through here, due in part to yesterday's storm.

Yeah, OK, So I exaggerated a little.

If I wanted an exact copy I'd just stick with a photo - - -

About a mile from The Van I reach the trailhead.

That white sign over there on the post is warning of cougars in the area and what to do and not do when you run into one, and we're not talking the two-legged kind-a cougar either, although I suppose there may be a few of those around too, but they don't bother listing the does and don'ts for that sort of cougar-encounter.

I don't have a lot of photos for today's hikes.

For one thing I was keeping the camera sheltered from the rain, and for another, Been here, Done that, Taken y'all along before, so in the interest of not boring myself with - well - myself, today's post is a highly abbreviated version of the day.

Yes, even though Spicewood creek is short and not as affected as the big river by recent rainfall, the water was still a little bit higher than usual, so the eight crossings of trail and creek ensured my boots, carefully dried out in the sun yesterday afternoon, were soon soaked again since several of the crossing were deeper than the boots are tall.

(That's a trail marker over there and I need to get from here to there, and do it all over again seven more times.) 

This morning's hike is up the bottom of the canyon on the Springs Trail and then right back down along the eastern rim on the Canyon Trail.

Probably due to the early hour and weather, I had the trail to myself today, which is not the norm, especially for this highly popular Spicewood Creek portion.

From the rim of the canyon it is obvious that the private land-owner over there on the west is either harvesting cedar, the economics of which are pretty iffy, or clearing some land. And the economics of that are even iffy-er since recovering the cost of clearing land by running livestock on the newly created open-land is nearly impossible around here today.

Maybe the land is being cleared for yet another McMansion! Let's hope not since that cleared land runs right up to the park border.

Even though I take my time, the modest morning hike has me back in camp before lunch.

Since it is beginning to look like the day is going to shape up to be drier than yesterday, and eating lunch out on the trail is always better than eating it back in camp, it wasn't long before I set off again.

This time I back-track myself up the Spicewood Canyon Trail, cross over to the Lemon's Ridge Pass Trail, and work my way down to the River Trail and eventually back to camp.

In case anyone thinks it sounds pretty boring to hike a segment of the same trail twice in the same day, even if it's in the opposite direction, this time I come across teeny-tiny little tracks that weren't there this morning.

And though it's not full-on sun, the day has certainly gotten a little brighter.

Just look at that sparkle on the top-left of this Prickly Pear blossom!

A sparkle I was not very successful in capturing in this painting.

In my defense, the Arches paper I used is more of a cream than a brilliant white.

OK, OK, So I'm not exactly an accomplished painter either - but I was trying to ignore that little fact.

- - - So moving on - - -

A rattlesnake, a Diamond Back, is featured prominently on the park's trail map.

When seen - or rather heard - on TV or in the movies the sound is always a distinctive rattle, but that's pretty much always the work of a Foley artist crisping up the sound in post production. If you listen close, all those rattlers in all those westerns are actually the same two or three snakes that have been previously recorded under just the right conditions.

In my experience, in real life, a lot of the time a rattler creates more of  a buzz than a rattle. So much so that my first thought is usually of a nearby cicada rather than a rattler.

 In fact I was a step and a half beyond this guy tucked in there just beside the trail before it got through my thick head that maybe I wasn't hearing a large and noisy insect at all!

And don't worry Mom! I wasn't as close as it seems. Instead I used a little zoom then cropped the image even more. These guys can strike out over a third of their body-length. So this 5 footer can reach out nearly 2 feet, and do it faster than I can blink my eye, so that means I must keep - Oh, about a bazillion feet away!

And I'll finish up today's hikes with this artistic shot of a crane taking flight down along the river.

Or is it just crappy photography?

Nope - sticking with artistic shot - - -