Monday, March 27, 2023

I May Not Be Smart But I'm Consistent


OK. After an easy 6 mile day yesterday I decided enough with pandering to a bum foot and knocked off an 8+ mile hike today.

Actually this was the hike where I discovered that I was heel-walking again on that bum foot that suddenly didn't seem quite so bum anymore.

So to celebrate I decided to finish off the hike by climbing the old road up to the overlook.

This little bit of abandoned road is steep enough that they eventually got tired of cleaning up bloody smears along the way and banned bicycles.

And it just keeps going up.

And up.

And when you figure you must be just about there you come around a curve and - - -

Yeah, it just keeps going up.

In fact it goes up for about 140 feet, a 100 story building, without a break.

And if you are a masochistic fool like an adventure, at the base, where you've already hiked almost 7 miles, you challenge yourself to put your head down and make the climb without taking any breaks and even though there's no one there to see you cheat - - you don't.

And on top of that, as far as viewpoints go it's not a particularly spectacular one.

Of course, once you get up there you have to get down again, via the switchback trail this time.

And just to prove - well, I'm not sure what the hell I was proving - I followed that up the next day with another 8 mile hike.

This time tackling the viewpoint first by heading up the switchback trail and back down the road this time - you know - for variety.

Then climbing the west ridge of the West Canyon before heading back down through the canyon itself.

And finishing up with one last pass

by Buck Lake.

I say last pass, because this was my last full day at South Llano.

And I managed to almost miss this sunset on that last day!

I ended my stay the next morning with one final trip up the trail to the viewpoint, and of course back down again, before breaking camp and heading back home on a 4 hour trip through Saturday traffic on a rear tire that had just started to go out-of-round the last 50 miles before I got to the campground at the beginning of the week.

Yep, a white-knuckle drive and though Lincoln still sunk into the tread up to his nose, I replaced both rear tires the following week. Not bad though. I got over 53,000 miles out of  tires with a very aggressive offroad tread and grippy rubber so soft there's only a 40,000 mile rating on them.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Not That I Would Ever Do That!


Technically this cuddly little guy is called Echinocactus Texensis. But since trying to say that is a pain in the ass, most normal people, and some abnormals like maybe me, call it the Horse Crippler.

But this is an equal-opportunity kinda guy, so if you are going to go off-trail, on horse or on foot, here in South Llano, or anywhere else this lovable little gem hangs out, it might be a good idea to watch out!

Not that I would ever do that! Go off trail. Nooo. Not me - - -

Speaking of trails, because I'm such a sensible, intelligent sort of guy, after hobbling around on a bum foot for 6.5 miles the first day here, my second day's hike at South Llano was a masochistic followup of 8 miles, because

 - well you know - 

it seemed like a sensible thing to do at the time.

Right up until those last three miles that is - - -

But by that point my only viable option was to live with my stupidity and finish hiking on out to The Van.

The high point of that hike, in literal terms, as well as pastoral, was the line-shack and windmill on the imaginatively named Windmill Hill.

Here, in addition to the re-tinned line-shack, there's a large concrete tank below the windmill, a piece of which is just barely visible there beyond the shack, and a series of old livestock handling pens behind and to the right, and for some reason I always feel comfortably at home every time I come up here.

I can only peer in through the windows at the now empty space inside the shack, but I can't help but feel that I would find the rustic abode with its old door so dried out with time and weather that you can see light though the gaps, a very accommodating place.

A view across the canyon, a cot. a chair, a rustic table with a lamp on it, some shelves for essentials and a book or two, a couple of hooks for the few necessary bits of clothing, (In my opinion there is nothing more useless and socially harmful as the fashion industry. I'm not talking about the clothing industry. After all, of the three essentials of survival lack of shelter is the one that will kill you fastest and clothing is the first line of shelter. I'm talking about the fashion industry that preys upon and feeds people's insecurities, that fans the flames of "ooh, ooh! look at me! I'm special because some random person with a sewing machine yet no socially redeeming qualities says so".) a stove to stoke for heat and cooking, a fire-ring and a three-legged stool for when it's too hot for the stove, a bucket for filling from the tap at the well-head, and just generally living within the proper circadian ans seasonal rhythm of nature.

What more could a person ask for?!

Here's a place where a person could not only shelter but feel right with the world while doing so. Judiciously using resources while actively managing them rather than reverting to mindless conspicuous consumption and believing that an endless supply of water is only a tap-twist away, that flicking a switch is all it takes to negate the day-night cycle of the natural world, that cooking is done by pushing a button until the beep, that seasonal comfort is all about twisting a dial and sucking enormous amounts of resources, that - - - aaannnnd with that I've stomped my soapbox to the point of breaking once again - - - so let's move on.

The third day I recovered some of my common sense and limited myself to another 6.5 mile hike.

But not wanting to take this common-sense nonsense too far, I immediately jumped off with a climb

up the switch-backing Overlook Trail.

Being pretty crap at this videoing stuff I managed to cut myself off mid-sentence at the end of this one. As I was trying to say before I so rudely interrupted myself - as with most climbs you can't really see the top until you get there, and it's always farther than you expect.

They are doing some serious work here at South Llano.

Used to be, and still is today but not for much longer, just after turning off the highway into the park you cross the South Llano River on a low-water crossing. I guess because more people that don't know about these things are moving into the state, they are building an actual bridge across the river right now.

They also put a swooptydoo in the middle of the entrance road and are building a new park headquarters in the space they created.

There will certainly be plenty of parking, and I suppose it will be more efficient and all,

but it will be kinda sad to see the current headquarters with its space for a half-dozen cars and two RV's abandoned.

Right now headquarters in one of the original ranch-houses.

In fact the check-in area is in the old living-room and entered from the front porch, which has a certain elegant symmetry to it since this is exactly were visitors have been received for close to two hundred years.

But I guess they'd rather spend money on "modernizing" facilities than rehabbing and protecting land.

Just this month the state lost yet another state park. It was on leased land and the new owners wish to turn the lake and shoreline currently occupied by the public park into an exclusive gated community for a few rich asswipes people with more money than sense of social responsibility.

Oh well. one of the purposes of an upcoming project of mine is to keep on hiking, even if I have to go into evermore remote places to do so.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Squeezing the Last Out of My State Park Pass


My Annual Texas State Park pass was set to expire at the end of January.

Yes, it's easy enough to renew the thing on-line, but I have stuff coming up that may limit my camping opportunities for a few months. That would be long enough to get us into summer and I don't usually camp around here during the summer what with the heat and too many free-range rug-rats running around!

Since the pass is an annual thing that expires 13 months after the purchase date (they round the expiration date up to the last day of the following month so plan on buying it early in the month to get the most days out of it. Buy it early in February and it will expire at the end of March next year.) I can't see spending money on it during times I'm not going to be using it. But at the same time I have a few weeks left on my current pass and I can't see wasting that either.

So it was time for a trip and South Llano State Park won the coin-toss.

I've been here before and would have liked to get campsite 21 because it is somewhat off on its own, but it was already booked. In fact I checked out as far as the reservation system would let me, some 9 months or so, and it was booked solid all the way out, which seems a little fishy.

As a fall-back I decided to try site 19 because it is only flanked by another site on the one side, and has quick and easy access out the back of the site to the trail-system.

It worked out pretty well and I'd book it again.

The adjoining site 17 is mostly out of sight behind the tangled vegetation to the left in this photo and the overflow/walk-in camping parking lot to the right was also out of sight yet reachable by slipping out the back corner of my campsite (kinda off there behind my right shoulder) and from there the park's trail system was waiting for me.

While I was sitting there in my chair chilling that first evening I glanced over and for a brief moment thought I was seeing the ribs of a tiny little skeleton laying nearby.

I found it mildly amusing that A) I was fooled by the trickery of my eye and a handful of dead leaves still attached to their stem and B) technically it was a skeleton, just of a plant and not an animal.

Unlike my December trip to Garner State Park, mid January here at South Llano was more sun than wet clouds.

And bum foot or not, in my usual "what the hell was he thinking?" fashion,

my first hike of the trip attacked the climb up into the hills flanking the river head-on.

Despite being winter and chilly enough that I was juggling layers, there was plenty of color and interest for those willing to slow down enough to notice.

Last time I was here the hike-in camping area had been all but abandoned and didn't even show up on the reservation system,

but there has clearly been some refurbishing done since and the four or five backpacking sites have been added back into the reservation system.

Although - the brand new, probably expensive, map-board they put up just outside the hike-in camping area

probably could have used a little proof-reading - - Unless they really do mean for people to shut the hell up during the day!

And yes, being a detail-kinda-person I notice things like this.

By the time I came back down out of the hills it was well into the allowable hours to go into the protected turkey roost area near the river. (open for people access between 1000 and 1500) In fact it was late enough that I kinda had to hustle to get back out before the 1500 deadline.

Back when this was a working ranch the pecans along the river bottom provided a nice additional income. Now they have aged past their prime but still provide plenty of habitat and roosting perches.

But it's the wrong time of day for turkeys which are still out and about on the prowl, but spotting this Osprey was pretty cool.

Monday, March 6, 2023

A Return to Heel Walking !

I haven't said much about it but for the last half-year or so I've been dealing with a case of Plantar 
Fasciitis - which is really inconvenient when you walk as much as I do.

This isn't the first time I've had this issue with my left foot but it is, by far, the most troublesome time.

By the way, as is so often the case, some yahoo got a-hold of this word - the second one - and cocked it up royally. Although there is an SC in the middle of Fasciitis there's no SCHool sound. It is pronounced as shush without the ush. Don't ask me why, talk to the pompous ass that created this word! On top of that very unusual and confusing double II just after the ridiculous SC isn't simply pronounced as eye as in pirate-talk or ee as in eek without the k, but rather as ee-ahh, as in yee-haa without the leading y or the ha in the middle. Yeah, I know. There's no A in there so where the hell did the ahh come from! But wait! The ridiculousness isn't over yet! That TIS ending isn't pronounced tis as in tisk without the k, but as a final linguistic insult is pronounced tus as in tusk without the k. So if you want to take the wind out of the sails of the jackass that came up with this spelling so he could giggle condescendingly at people mispronouncing it, the right way to pronounce the word is Fah-shee-ah-tus 

- - Anyway - -

Apparently it's not clear why, but sometimes the plantar fascia, (Oh hey! there's the A right where it belongs!) that massive ligament that connects toes to heel, gets less elastic and this causes small little tears where it connects to the heel, and sometimes along the arch. The one real treatment, baring surgery, is stretching the plantar fascia so that where it connects to the heel is less stressed and can repair itself, which is exactly what walking on it does.

But when you look up treating Plantar Fasciitis many of the 'solutions' are focused on mitigating the symptoms with things like elevation, ice, stay off the foot, etc., none of which fit into my lifestyle, so I just kept on walking.

Yes it hurt to hike, and frankly, when I was at Garner State Park in December there were times when I would have gladly traded my hiking sticks for crutches as I hobbled along. But sometimes healing hurts! That's why we go to physical therapists. Because, and this is something knee replacement recipients are well aware of, to heal and recover range-of-motion, sometimes we need someone to force us through the necessary pain.  

Based on anecdotal evidence, I have a high tolerance for pain. Things that cripple The Wife I seem to be able to basically shrug off. I buy aspirin, not the ibuprofens or acetaminophens, but just plain old-fashioned aspirin, in the smallest bottles possible because I usually end up throwing much of it away when it has aged to brown years later. But I will admit to taking a half-dozen or so full doses over the past six months.

Anyway - my tolerance for pain and the fact that I tend to avoid people whenever possible resulted in me dealing with my physical therapy on my own. But in the meantime, because banging straight down on my heel HURT, I finally learned to toe-walk. 


I say finally learned to toe-walk because when I was a kid I tried to make that my standard method of locomotion.

Why would I do that?

Well one classroom of our elementary school was set up as the library and every class had an hour or so set aside to visit the "library" once a week where you could check out two books. Some classmates walked out with no books but, as a certified (certifiable?) reading nut I always walked out with my allotted two.

Usually at least one of those would be from the large set of pale-green covered biographies of "American" figures from history.

I put American in quotes because the selection was highly sanitized, selective, and focused on white males. And, being "sanitized for our own protection", none of the books mentioned anything gritty, like Benjamin Franklin's sketchy personal fetishes or Wild Bill Hickok's role in helping to destroy the plain's ecosystem and through that his peripheral participation in genocide.

But even though Native Americans were conspicuously absent from these books unless in a supporting role, being an outdoors person, I ate up stories about frontiersmen, trappers, scouts, and the occasional Native Americans. And one of the things I tried to do was imitate my favorite wild figures by walking toe first so I could slip silently through the woods like they did. Something I was never able to master. 

But now I was finally doing it! I was toe-walking - on my left foot anyway. (By the way, turns out toe-walking is no quieter than heel walking, at least in modern boots. What a disappointment that was!)

In the meantime I had pretty much resigned myself to living with the pain, chalking it up as part of this new experience of getting old-er.

But, as this video from mid-way through my week of hiking at South Llano State Park in January shows, suddenly things were improving.

It kinda snuck up on me when I wasn't paying attention, but all the sudden I realized I was hiking with almost no pain and even heel-walking on my left foot again!

Maybe a silly thing to get all excited about, but as a rabid hiker it was a pretty exhilarating moment. One worthy of a short video.

As I'm standing here proofreading this (Over a hot-spot connection through my phone because our satellite internet modem has been down for a week now waiting on someone to show up. - All that's wrong is there's no output voltage from the power-puck but we have to jump through all the hoops anyway and it will be another week before we get the damn thing back on line. Of course, in addition to the call-out charge, there will be no reduction in this month's bill.) in mid March after doing my workout and laps around the property this morning, there's a dull ache in my left heel. Some days it's not there at all, some days it's more noticeable than others, and I'm under no illusion that the issue won't ever return in full hobble-around-on-one-leg force again, but for now I'll take what I can get!