Ouray Perimeter Trail – Ouray, CO 6/21/21

Monday, June 21, 2021

Ouray Perimeter Trail – Ouray, Colorado

Sunny, clear, mid 80s

Ian and Court

4.05 miles

We took a long weekend and flew to Ouray/Ridgway/Telluride for the third time in the past year. We are really falling in love with this place. Originally, this weekend was meant to look at properties for a vacation home, but we decided the market is just too hot right now, so we used it as just a fun trip to explore more of the area.

The Perimeter Trail is exactly what it sounds like: a trail that goes around the perimeter of Ouray, clinging to cliffs, providing great views of the town and also a few waterfalls and plenty of elevation changes. We did about 80% of the trail, as we had a jeep tour lined up for the afternoon and were on a time schedule, but we probably could have done the entire thing in the end. Oh well, next time.

We started around 8am at the Amphitheater Campground on the south side of town where the box canyon ends (begins?) and went counter-clockwise. The trail on the east side was fully in shade, as the sun was yet to come up over the mountains on that side. We first came to Cascade Falls, which are the most famous and visible of the falls in Ouray.

We met a couple there from Oklahoma who were nice enough to take our picture in front of the falls. They then told us they were going to scramble up the side and go to the top of the falls. This looked fairly dangerous, but we told them good luck and continued on our way. On the other side, I found a ledge that went out to the falls and followed it out a little ways. I didn’t go too far, but I felt like John Muir climbing out behind Yosemite Falls without any gear, though he did it a few thousand feet up and I was only about 30 feet up.

Getting pretty close

I could see across the falls to where the Okies were climbing up and I think they were realizing their plan was a bit ambitious. We didn’t stick around, but I’m betting they turned back.

Yeah, that doesn’t look safe

We continued on the trail and got some great views of the town and the hot springs park below. We found out later that the hot water is actually piped in from springs up in the mountains, which is a little disappointing, but whatever.

Ouray
Hot “springs”

The trail eventually descended to ground level where it crossed the road to the other side. We took a quick restroom, snack, and sunscreen break, as well as a swing set break for Court. She’s a happy kid.

Descending
Swings

The climb back up the other side of the cliffs was fairly intense, especially with the rising sun beating down on us a bit more. Luckily we’ve been rocking the Peloton all during the pandemic, so we are in pretty good shape, though the altitude still took it out of us a bit. Austin is around 400 feet above sea level, so 7000 feet is a bit of a change.

We came to the second waterfall, which has a nice bridge over it and also a troll underneath.

Gotta pay the troll toll

After a short break we continued on and got to a rest spot with great views of town from the west side of the cliffs.

The trail kept climbing and went through a tunnel near Box Canyon falls on the south side. This is the gorge where the ice climbing takes place in the winter and has via ferrata in the summer. I plan to do both of these activities at some point in the future.

Box Canon (Canyon) sign
More stairs
Tunnel
Looking down into the gorge
Via Ferrata in summer – ice climbing in winter

We needed to exit the trail a little early to go meet Court’s parents for lunch before the jeep tour, so we left about a mile or so unfinished. We will certainly be back and will do this trail in its entirety, maybe with the pups next time.

End of trail pic

North Bean Hollow Beach Trail, CA 5/21/21

Friday, May 21, 2021

North Bean Hollow Beach Trail, California

Windy, clear, a little chilly, but nice

Ian, Court, Greg, and the dogs: Marty and Porter

A couple of miles or so

We flew out to the Bay Area to see Greg and Cat again and drove out to the coast one morning for a quick hike. The Pacific was beautiful as always, but the flowers were blooming at this time of year. We usually end up out here later in the year, so the flora on the trail was new for us.

Trail head
Greg
Court

The wind was really blowing hard and cold at the beginning, but we got used to it after a bit. The trail wasn’t long, but was a nice and the dogs seemed to enjoy it. The sand and wind has sculpted the stone along the beach into really cool formations in a process known as Tafoni.

Harbor seals were laying about being their normal cute selves and we had fun watching the waves almost get to them on their chosen perches on the rocks.

Add another beautiful hike on the Pacific Coast to our growing list. We’ll be back for more.

McKinney Roughs – 4/12/21

Monday, April 12, 2021

McKinney Roughs

Warm, mostly cloudy, low 80s

Ian, Court, Biff, Finn

4.7 miles

McKinney Roughs is one of the last relatively unknown hiking gems in the Austin area. It is part of the LCRA system and there is a $5 entry fee, but it is well maintained, lush, and offers a variety of trails. We both had this Monday off, so we headed out to the park and hit the trail around 9:30am.

We took the trail down to the riverside, where it is lush and shaded. The river was a little murky and flowing slowly this morning, but it was serene nonetheless. This trail reminds me a lot of the scene where the hobbits encounter their first Black Rider. Nerd alert.

Court with distance in her eyes, a la Teddy Roosevelt
Murky Colorado River

We could see some cows at the ranch across the river that were cooling off in the water.

There was a good amount of wildlife on this hike. Aside from cows, we saw several deer on the way in, a hawk (red-tailed?), and a black vulture gave us a nice close up as well.

Scanning the trees for wildlife
Vulture perched on a hollow log

We also came across one of the biggest ant mounds I’ve ever seen. Seriously this thing was huge. At least 10 feet by 10 feet. Quite the colony.

Flower (Virginia Spiderwort) at bottom right for scale

We left the river and continued on to the Deep Sandy and Pecan Bottom trails, which make a nice mile or so loop through some fairly dense forest. We then paused at the large pecan tree to have a snack and rest before continuing back to the Riverside trail and then back up the hill to the Visitor Center where we started.

We both love this park and will be back many times in the future. Don’t tell anyone about it.

Yellow track

South Llano River State Park – 3/27/21- 3/28/21

Saturday, March 27 – Sunday March 28, 2021

South Llano River State Park Overnight

Partly cloudy, WINDY, pleasant

Ian, Court, Biff, Finn

6-7 miles hiked

We headed out to South Llano River State Park to camp, almost 3 years to the day from our last visit. Finn was just a pup last time.

We set up camp and took a couple of hours to just hang out in the hammock and read and enjoy the birds. South Llano River is a big birding destination. The bird songs are continuous and relaxing.

Biff was very helpful in setting up the tent.

We also brought out the spotting scope I bought Court for Christmas last year. This is something that will be a constant companion going forward, especially with our National Park adventures where wildlife is plentiful.

The park is also an International Dark Sky park, though tonight there was a super moon, which unfortunately would dilute some of the stars. We also made the mistake of sleeping with the rainfly off, so we woke up around 2am in a spotlight. Court got out and put the rainfly on to block out the moon, which felt almost as bright as the sun.

Sunset
Supermoon

The next morning we woke up, made coffee, and got packed up to go hike. The clouds were beautiful in the morning.

Sunrise
Boiling water for coffee

We hiked the West Canyon Loop, which gained some decent elevation and had some pretty views. As we hiked, the wind picked up and was blowing very hard on the ridges.

The hike was good and we also went through the wild turkey roost area back down by the river. There were two other hikers that were taking pictures of something in a tree and when we approached they said, “Porcupine!” I couldn’t get much of a picture, but he was curled up in a tree about 20 feet up. Court had seen one on the AT in Massachusetts when we went a few years back, but I had never seen one in the wild.

He’s in there, I promise

South Llano River is a very underrated park and really not that far from Austin. It’s a 2.5 hour drive, but feels much shorter. Also, on highway 290 in between Fredericksburg and Harper, a huge number of oak trees have been absolutely decimated by Oak Wilt. It’s really sad. Miles and miles of dead trees along the highway. I hope it doesn’t continue to spread.

Let’s end this post on a happy end of trail pic.

Steiner Ranch Nature Trail System – Bright Sky Overlook 3/6/21

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Steiner Ranch Nature Trail System – Bright Sky Overlook

Sunny, nice, mid 60s

Ian, Biff, and Finn

5 miles

I have blogged plenty of Steiner Ranch trails before, but I found one I hadn’t fully traversed and it ended up being one of my favorites of the whole system. This trail has great lake views and also dives into a couple of canyons with water crossings. It really encompasses all the different landscapes present in this part of central Texas.

Courtney had gone to Dallas for the weekend to see her friends from grad school, so I took the pups out for a hike. We survived the deep freeze a few weeks ago (let’s not do that again) and it’s starting to feel like spring here in Texas now.

The cacti out here somehow made it through the freeze unscathed. The ones in town did not fare nearly as well.

With state parks still requiring day passes, which are freaking impossible to get, Steiner Ranch is one of the only places near Austin I can get out and hike with some solitude.

This trail is an out and back that more or less follows the river (Lake Austin) on a ridge a few hundred feet up. It delves down into a couple of canyons along the way and then turns back toward the neighborhood, popping you out on the main road of Quinlan Park.

The pups were very excited, as they haven’t been hiking much this winter either. I was glad to get out into nature again, where I belong.

The lake (river) was a gorgeous shade of blue-green on this sunny day.

My in-laws are also building a house out here and I got some good aerial views of how it’s coming along.

Hopefully I can get out to some new trails more often this spring and get the blogging ramped up again. We are headed to Colorado in a couple of weeks to look at some properties, so maybe I’ll be able to have a whole host of new trails to blog in the coming years!

Gnarly wood
Testing out Gaia GPS 3D maps. Trail is the blue one in the foreground.

Comanche Bluff Trail – Granger LAke, TX

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Comanche Bluff Trail, Granger Lake, TX

Chilly, WINDY, mid 40s

Ian, Court, Biff, Finn

4.7 miles

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged so let’s get 2021 kicked off. Surely it has to be better than 2020.

We’ve been hiking, but mostly trails I’ve blogged before, so I haven’t been updating the blog. This was a new one near Taylor, along Granger Lake. Granger Lake is another Army Corps of Engineers project, like Lake Georgetown, and also on the San Gabriel River, downstream a bit.

We left the house early and got to the trail head just after 8am. The night chill was still very present and the wind would howl whenever the trail turned toward the lake.

There were a couple of old iron bridges on the trail from back in the early 20th century. One of which is said to be haunted.

I am a geek for when infrastructure and trail meet. My favorite are railroads, but bridges are good too.

We hiked on for a while, but we were on a time schedule, so had to turn back before the end of the trail. We only saw one other hiker and his dog on this chilly morning. This wasn’t the greatest trail, but it was nice to get back out to nature regardless.

End of Trail pic

Swallow Falls State Park, Maryland 10/08/20

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Swallow Falls State Park near Oakland, MD

Sunny, clear, cool, mid 50s

Ian, Court, Doc, Biff, Finn

1.9 miles

We woke up early and drove about 20 minutes from the Deep Creek house over to Swallow Falls State Park. The main attraction here are the waterfalls and they delivered, especially with the leaves starting to really turn now. I’ll include some photos of the surrounding area as well. Us Texans don’t get leaves changing like this, so it’s a big deal.

I tried to not filter these photos much. The colors were so vibrant. Prepare for the autumn picture onslaught! (FYI, the photo captions show up correctly on the mobile version. Not sure why they suck on the regular site.)

Mist in the valley on the drive to the park

We were one of only 3 cars in the parking lot and hit the short trail to the first set of falls.

Rock Island

The biggest and best was Muddy Creek Falls. Near those falls was a marker commemorating a camping trip taken by Ford, Edison, Firestone, and Burroughs back in the 20s. I had just read about their camping antics in a book on the history of camping, so it was interesting to tramp the same grounds.

Muddy Creek Falls
Admiring the falls with the pups
Exploring the beauty
Another view

We finished the short loop and headed back home, catching a few more color explosions on the way. Western Maryland, you do autumn well.

Good colors on the way back
End of trail pic

Deep Creek Lake State Park, Maryland 10/6/20

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Deep Creek Lake State Park, Maryland

Chilly, clear, crisp, low 40s

Ian, Court, Doc

4.3 miles

Courtney’s brother bought a lake house on Deep Creek Lake in western Maryland and we took a road trip all the way from Texas to go check it out. The expedition consisted of myself, Court, her parents, and the two dogs, Biff and Finn. Overall it was a 3100 mile round trip in about a week. That’s a lot of driving. We did get a couple of good hikes in though and we were there in peak leaf peeping season.

Deep Creek State Park was less than a mile from the house and we got up early one morning and got in a nice hike up to a fire tower and back down. The air was crisp, the trails were well marked, and the woods were beautiful. This is bear country, but we would not see any the entire trip.

Beginning of trail pic

The trees were still pretty green on this hike, though there were some yellows strewn about, and the forest floor was covered in moss and ferns.

We reached the Thayerville Fire Tower, which was decommissioned in 1993, about half way through the hike. I wasn’t aware the trail we were on went to the tower, so that was a nice surprise.

We headed back down the back half of the trail and looped back towards the trail head. We passed the camping area, which looked very well maintained, complete with bear boxes. If we make it back this way one day, perhaps we will spend the night.

End of Trail pic

Balconies Cave and Cliffs Trail – Pinnacles NP 8/28/20

Friday, August 28, 2020

Balconies Cave and Cliffs Trail – Pinnacles National Park, California

HOT, sunny, mid 90s

Ian, Court, Greg, Cat

3.1 miles

Warning: the pics on this post kind of suck. It was a bit smoky and I think there was also something off with my camera, so apologies in advance.

The four of us took a drive out to our newest National Park: Pinnacles. It’s about an hour and a half east of Carmel and Monterey and is quite spectacular.

I knew it had a reputation for being hot and it lived up to that reputation, especially when we had just come from 60 degrees in Carmel for 4 days. There are also zero natural water sources in the park during the summer, but we all had a good amount, so no problems there.

Pinnacles is also known for being a breeding ground and home base for endangered California Condors. We scanned the sky for condors as we hiked, but the birds of prey we saw were too far away to positively identify.

There are some long and tough trails that lead up into the High Peaks area, which I would love to do one day, but seeing as how we were limited on time and got there in the heat of the day, we decided to try out the shorter trail to the Balconies Caves and Cliffs. The caves were closed due to Covid (no staff at the park), but it was a nice trail anyway.

The rock formations were spectacular and the trails well marked. We crossed several dry creek beds that I think would be flowing well during the spring.

Looking up
You shall not pass

After we got to the closed cave entrance, we double backed and took the fork for the Cliffs. We switchbacked up above the caves and got some nice views as we battled the sun. One of the main rock formations on this trail is called Elephant Rock, which looms over you for most of the trail and can’t really be seen in full until you get up above on the cliffs. Looks like an elephant laying down and sleeping, in my opinion.

Elephant Rock

Greg also pointed out one that looked like a human skull in profile.

The views back down the valley were great and after we reached what we determined to be the high point of the trail, we turned back to retrace our steps. If the caves were open we could have made this a loop, but twas not to be. I hope to make it back out here one day, probably during the spring, and get deeper into the High Peaks and maybe even make a backpacking trip out of it.

Jack’s Peak Trail – Monterey, CA 8/26/20

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Jack’s Peak Trail – Monterey, CA

Foggy, cool, mid 60s

Ian, Greg

5.9 miles

After braving an airplane during a pandemic (good work all around Southwest Airlines), we got out to California to visit our good friends Greg and Cat in the Bay Area, who moved there just before Covid hit. We hit up the smoky wine country (wildfires) for a few days and then headed down to Carmel and Monterey. Greg and I got out on a hike one morning at Jack’s Peak Park, just east of the two towns.

We parked at a trail head that was actually outside of the park and walked uphill about a mile to the park boundary. The trail was a bit overgrown and I’m glad we both had long pants on. The foggy morning led to some really cool pics. There was moss hanging from the trees and it was very serene.

Looking up into the mossy trees

Once we got to the park boundary, the trails were much wider and in better shape and there was a parking lot and restrooms. There was a sign warning of a black bear in the area, but we never came across any sign of him/her. We combined a couple of trail loops, hit Jack’s Peak, which was a bit underwhelming, and then headed back down the way we came.

You know you’re on the west coast when these guys start showing up
Can’t see the Bay can you Russ?

On the way back down the overgrown section, I looked down at one point and saw a yellow jacket nest in the ground right on the trail. I pointed it out to Greg and we quickly kept moving to avoid upsetting them. Just after that, we ran into a hiker and her three dogs. She was heading back uphill on the trail and we warned her about the nest. She said she had just been stung 3 times and was trying to get back to her car. She described where she had parked and we realized it was probably right next to us and she was heading the wrong direction. She had gotten disoriented trying to get away from the yellow jackets, so she and her dogs followed us back down the car.

We all safely arrived back and neither Greg nor I received any stings. That would have been a bummer of a way to end the hike. All in all it was a very pretty and quiet hike with a lot of solitude on a Wednesday morning.