Monday, February 27, 2023

Success ! - Summiting Old Baldy


OK, last chance this trip to summit Old Baldy.

 Still not stellar weather and  pristine visibility, but pretty much the best I’ve had this week!

 It’s a little over a mile and a half from camp to the joint trailheads for White Rock Cave and Old Baldy.

As you might remember, I’ve already done the White Rock Cave and terrifying mildly scary Bird Trails and am not ready to repeat that experience just yet. Not when I have other things to do, like Baldy.

Not that the initial climb up towards Old Baldy

is all that much easier, or less terrifying, (Yep, it’s still wet and slick out here and to reduce the risk of becoming a statistic, or a line-item in some park report, I’m wearing my spikes.)


but it is new territory, and that’s always good – well, sometimes good – once in a while – maybe.

Are we there yet?

Must be getting close – right?

Ah yes. There it is. Somewhere under there anyway.

Seems like, for some narcissistic reason, generations of people have been willing to cart rocks around up here, intent on making Old Baldy even taller than it really is.


OK, I took a lot of photos from up there, after all it took me long enough to get here! But I don't want to spoil things for the rest of you so I'm only posting three of them here.


This looks like a good spot to sit, dangle feet, and have a snack.

And it was, especially when

the light did something special  for a few brief moments


and temporarily set the Cottonwoods downstream ablaze.

 Where that horizontal line hits the river is Mager’s Crossing. It’s a low-water crossing of, perhaps the appropriately named, Old Leaky Rd. It’s very difficult to see the road right where it crosses the river because it’s covered in a few inches of water.

OK, been there, done that, took the photos, had a snack, and the day is getting on, so now that I’ve made the steep assent to the summit of Old Baldy it's time to head back down.


I’ll spend the rest of the day traipsing across an assortment of ridges and come back down to river level via the Old Horse Trail.

Because of the spotty trail markings I missed the lower end of the Old Horse Trail when I came up the Old Entrance road a few days ago, but I was able to find the upper end of the trail and today I followed it back down - well - at least partway down before it ended, in lieu of the old road.

OK, I don’t know what’s gotten into me but I’ve either got to move over to YouTube or quit with these videos which are more annoying than informative in Blogger

 Anyway, while higher up the slope and mostly out of sight, the Old Horse Trail parallels the Old Entrance Road and not long before they merge together I stopped to take off the spikes I’d been wearing since the Old Baldy trailhead as a defense against steep and water-slicked rock.

When I looked up these two were casually standing there just across the road below me. After a bit they moved farther on down the road then turned up-slope and quickly faded into the terrain.

A nice way to end my hike, and my first trip here to Garner State Park.

Monday, February 20, 2023

A Zero Day

As is the coyote-nature of these things, (The Navajo people consider the coyote a trickster, and usually not nice tricks either.) yesterday when I came down off the White Rock Cave Trail after yet another visibility-related failed attempt at Old Baldy, things had cleared up a bit. (as the following video shows) But unless I was willing to claw my way back up what I had just come down, it is what it is and coyote wins again.

For now the trail threw me out right onto the Pecan Grove camping area.

In the video I speculate that maybe the campground is empty because it's been closed for the season, but that night I checked and the reservation system said I could have any one of those campsites I wanted.

so I don't really know why this camping area, which the park calls one of its most sought after, probably because it's adjacent to this paddle-boating pool (middle distance) on the river as well as several other family-type amenities, was empty.

Maybe it was the weather.

Nope, not me.

At any rate - through-hikers call a day off, a day spent recovering in camp with no miles hiked, a zero day. (Get it? Zero miles?)

While not exactly a zero day in that sense of the word, I'm calling the day after my second attempt at Old Baldy my kind of zero day.

As I looked out at the cloud-heavy sky from under my canopy that morning shivering while cuddling my oatmeal and hot tea close, I made an executive decision to give attempting a view from up on top of Old Baldy a pass for the day and basically just hang out instead. Which for me means a little lounging around but first, maybe a bit of strolling because - well - itchy feet and all.

But in my typical, slow, easily distracted way, I managed to make a 4 mile, pretty much flat-ground stroll around the Frio Canyon Trail last a good portion of the daylight hours.

Of course, in typical coyote-fashion, after a less than promising start the day brightened up and I actually saw shadows for the first time in several days.

Yes, that means I missed out on a good opportunity to look around from up on top of Old Baldy, but no worries. When you live in a place where sun, rather than clouds, is the norm, finally seeing your shadow again after an extended cloudy period is a big deal! And that makes it a day to be glad to be alive.

Just after traversing that dead-straight section of trail that follows the power-line easement I came to this marked nature trail.

In addition to gobbling like a turkey and flapping like a bat, I was also instructed to jump like a rabbit, yip like a coyote, and scamper like a squirrel. It was pretty embarrassing, but, well, I have been taught to follow instructions - - - 

Later I wandered down to the river for sunset and things are looking promising for summiting Old Baldy tomorrow.

Which is good because that's my last chance for this trip.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Another Day, Another Attempt at Old Baldy

 It's a little dryer today than it was yesterday here at Garner State Park. Although little is relative and I didn't say it was actually dry, because it wasn't. But I'm still going to attempt to make it up to the top of Old Baldy today.

This time I'll get there by taking the old entrance road out to where it hits the highway, then wind across a complex of ridges to reach Old Baldy.

Spoiler alert: I didn't make it today either.

The original entrance road as built by the CCC was abandoned after the park became so popular that traffic was regularly backing up out onto the blind curves of the highway where it descends out of the hills.

The new entrance was moved to the north edge of the park off a less-traveled FM (Farm to Market) road and the old entrance road was repurposed as part of the trail system.

It's still plenty damp and misty out here, but still, it's an improvement.  Yesterday this lay-by on the old road was muffled deep into the clouds.

The white sign is warning people to walk their bikes from here down to the river because the road is steep. Since I've just come up that way I can easily imagine the terror of hurtling down on two wheels with a T-bone intersection coming up fast.

There's an overlook along this old road, oddly enough not back there at the lay-by with all its picnic tables,

that has a pretty good view of the location of the old CCC encampment. 

The rectangular road that passed around the various offices, tool-rooms, mess-halls, and dormitories of the old camp is now maintained as access to over-flow parking where the buildings used to be.

It's interesting - to me anyway - that of the millions of visitors this park has attracted over 9 decades, the majority are Texans from the very, pretty much rabidly, red state of Texas (Today us Texans have agreed that parents of transgendered children should have their right to choose and provide the care and support they believe their child deserves taken away under threat of criminal charges) yet this park we have adopted as our own is the direct result of the socialist New Deal program, (I also despair that we are not being educated in even the most basic things like the very real and fundamental difference between communism - a form of government - and socialism - a philosophy of societal betterment. Even the politicians we elect to guide this country don't seem to know the difference.) but I shouldn't be surprised. Those same conservative, right-wingers that voted to abolish abortion, even for raped 10 year old girls in this state, see no conflict with, at the same time, being very protective of their Social Security and Medicare, two programs distinctly left-leaning, in fact downright socialist in nature.

By the way, those same conservative Texans just re-elected an Attorney General that has been under Federal incitement for corruption for several years of painful legal delaying tactics and who, just today (Feb 10) agreed to apologize to and pay 3.3 million to the former staff members who he fired when they collectively made that accusation. An act that has now been proven to be wrongful terminations. The corruption indictments still stand. Oh, and this wrongful termination settlement will be paid with taxpayer's money.

Good job voters!

Oh! Thank goodness my soap-box just broke and I fell off! Now I can get back to hiking - - -

It's understandable, given the traffic situation, but it's still kind of a shame that the painstakingly hand-crafted rock-work and nearly 100 year old wood rails of the original entrance have now been pretty much abandoned.

There's a tangle of trails near the old entrance (The 9 on the map)

Yeah. OK. What does that mean?

and some of them are not clearly marked,

but others are,

and I have my map, so it's all good

as I make my way towards the landmark of the Shady Oak.

I'm not sure if this is an original or a replica of one of the CCC trail markers. Either way, it's old.

OK, the original plan for today was to work my way across the ridges and tackle Old Baldy.

I'm about 2/3rds of the way there now but, although there were moments when the visibility was better than yesterday, those were not always long-lived. So I decided the effort to get up there to the top would return more rewards if I waited another day for better visibility. (Either that or I was just getting tired. . .)

So I decided instead to work my way back down to the river along the White Rock Cave Trail,

Now they tell me! After I'm already down.

But first that meant confronting the Bird Trail.

I'm not ashamed to admit there was some sidooching involved here (sitting and scooting) as I negotiated the combination wet scree and slick rock-ledge trail. Better the indignity of a wet, muddy ass than risk a fall.

And by the time I got partway down the White Cave Trail my river-level goal was in sight.

From there it's only a mile and a half back to The Van and maybe the weather will be even better tomorrow so I can attempt topping Old Baldy for the third time.

Monday, February 6, 2023

First Hike - A Sampler


Maybe it's an artifact of my age, but when I think of a "sampler" it's along the lines of the needle-point sampler designed to teach a wide range of stitches, or a wood sampler displaying a variety of different woods from around the world, or maybe an old-fashioned jelly sampler, a quilting sampler demonstrating a diverse selection of traditional patterns, or a chocolate sampler with 4 good and 3 not-so-good-but-I'll-choke-them-down options,

but when I put "sampler" into an images search just now I got none of those. Instead I got thousands and thousands of images of electronic sound samplers instead.

Which is really ironic, in the coincidental definition of the word, because just a few hours ago I watched this video explaining why, in a poll of over 100,000 people, 29% of us turn closed captioning on only when we are watching something in another language, 2% of us keep captioning on all the time because we are deaf,  but an astounding 57% of us keep closed captioning on all the time because we can't understand the damn dialog anymore! 

Spoiler alert. That un-clear, un-hearable dialog, is pretty much on purpose. - - Which, while frustrating, is actually kinda good to know - the part where it's them and not me.

When I first started learning Spanish many years ago I would watch Telanovelas with the (Spanish) captioning turned on because I've always been better at reading than hearing. But then we got tired of the drivel coming out of American TV and movies and started watching a lot of stuff from other countries, naturally with a variety of accents. (Europeans are confused by our American aversion to showing boobs on the screen while at the same time we think nothing of showing salacious violence and gore that they find horrific. I agree with them. What's wrong with us?) Because of sometimes strong accents we often found it easier to watch some of these shows, even the ones in English, with the captioning turned on. And now we never turn the captioning off, for any kind of show, because it's so difficult to understand dialog in even the "unaccented"  American produced shows.

It's nice to find out that's not because we are old (which we are!) but because the industry is using its audio technology to screw with us on purpose by mixing audio for the 1% or 2% of us that watch movies in those really expensive 36 channel, 360-degree-sound theaters. As a result the soundtracks most of us listen to, or try to listen to, are dumbed down by mashing and crunching those 36 channels down to 7, 5, 2, or even one, and presented on more realistic, ie. less clear and more tinny, sound-systems

Yeah - - - Apparently I've once again run off on a tangent.

So back to my original point about samplers.

My first hike of Garner State Park was a sampler of the various terrains the park has to offer.

I started off (1) with a little bushwacking through spiky scrub and scattered groves of mesquite and cedar. Followed that up (2) with some gentle, mostly flat canyon-floor hiking. Spiced that up (3) with a little more challenging trail along the river. Left that behind (4) for some serious hill scrambling. And washed it all down (5) with a little road-hiking as I checked out some of the man-made facilities on my way back to The Van.

This short encounter soon after I hit the Canyon Trail gives an idea of the moisture level I was dealing with that day.

It wasn't any drier when I made a quick side-trip

down to a beachy section of the river.

I soon left the easy walking of the Canyon Trail for the Blinn River Trail

which, because it's squeezed between the river and the limestoney bank, picks its jumbled way along.

Though trail markings throughout the park are a little spotty, some places marked very well, others more of a guessing game, these sporadic yellow footprints are an homage to the yellow horseshoe-carved-in-a-stump markings of the CCC days when most of these trails were established after the two original families that ranched here had to give up during the depression and donated the land to the state.

Oddly enough, unlike the Blinn Trail right beside it, the river along here is actually quite placid compared to where I was a few minutes ago just upstream.

But I'm not sure here on the trail is much drier than down in the river, at least for today.

Which makes this spot, the southern end of Blinn Trail where it climbs up and away from the river, a bit of a challenge since the combination of silt, crumbled limestone, and wet weather made it as slick and sticky as fresh buggers. (I used "snot" in the last post and don't want to get too repetitive here.)

I had the trails all to myself today, probably because no one in their right mind would be slogging around out here in the 40 degree precipitation which was loitering around somewhere between mist and heavy drizzle all day.

Not only are painfully cold hands (the rest of me stays warm when I'm hiking) and questionable footing a challenge in these conditions, but I also have to deal with the hassle of keeping my camera in a drybag between uses.

But I actually find a comforting satisfaction, an affirmation of the gift of life, and a primal sense of fulfillment, in dealing face to face with mildly demanding conditions such as the cold, soggy cocoon wrapped around me out here on the trail today. (It's weeks later as I'm putting this post together and I'm wearing fingerless gloves out here in the unheated barn when outside the door behind me it has been 35 degrees or less and raining off and on for the past 72 hours, so facing the rawness of Mother Nature is not something I only do occasionally. And yes, go ahead and say it. People have considered me weird in one way or another most of my life so I'm used to hearing it.) 


Despite - or maybe because of - the footing challenge ahead, I kept clawing my way up into the hills until I got to Crystal Cave.

And no, I wasn't tempted in the least to climb on down there! I read Tom Sawyer as a kid and decided then and there that getting lost in a cave, pretty girl along or not, was something I would avoid from then on. (All that clacking is my dangling hiking stick, because I'm using my hand for the camera, bouncing off the boulders.)

The Texas hill country is primarily limestone so is full of caves, and I have no problem admitting that I have never, as in ever, been tempted to strap on a headlamp and slither down inside any of them.

So I did the sensible thing and continued on around the bowl, the head of the box canyon where Crystal Cave is, and in case I, or anyone else, wasn't paying attention, the intersection of the Crystal Cave and Bridges Trails has been well marked by generations of hikers.

From here

it's not far to the Painted Rock Overlook

Which has a great view of Old Baldy, the high point in the park and a popular destination.

OK, It's supposed to have a great view of Old Baldy which is right out there somewhere, but somehow that isn't working out so well today.

Since I can just as easily look out at a vista of fog and ghostly hints of ridges from down here as I can up there, I guess I'll try Old Baldy another day and for now just head back down out of the hills and maybe get dried out a little before dinner.