Saturday, March 19, 2016
Hike: Bauerle Ranch Park, Austin, TX
Weather: mid 60s, sunny, clear
Hikers: Ian and Biff
Length: 5.77 miles
I found a new hike I wanted to try down in South Austin. I’ve taken to just cruising around google maps and finding spots of green in Austin that I haven’t hiked yet and this one caught my eye. The park completely surrounds a neighborhood, or rather, the neighborhood was built in the middle of the park, which I’m assuming used to be a private ranch back in the day.
Court went up to visit her old classmates in Dallas for the weekend, so Biff and I came out to the trail around 10am and went exploring. We started off on the Slaughter Creek Trail which was actually the worst part of the hike. It was basically rocks the whole way. But when I got to the other end of the park the trail turned into more dirt and cut through large swaths of Bluebonnets and cacti. Nothing says spring in Texas like Bluebonnets and the lime green new leaves sprouting from the trees.
I also came across the burned out remnants of an old structure in the middle of the park. Wondering if it was part of the old ranch.
I cut up toward the neighborhood intending to head back to the trail head, but found an unmarked trail, that was very nice actually, which went under a bridge and followed Bauerle Creek and ended up taking me back to where I had started. I re-traced my steps to the neighborhood again and took the trail in the right direction this time, though I didn’t mind the detour.
The last part of the trail was the best. It went by a nice pond and then wound around through the woods back to the trail head. We got back to the car and Biff decided it was time for a derpy roll in the grass.
This was a good trail that I will definitely repeat when Court is home.
Saturday, March 5, 2016
Onion Creek Greenbelt, Austin, TX
About 5 miles
This was a new hike for us in the Austin area. We’ve hit most trails in and around Travis County at least once, but there are a few down south still waiting to be explored. This park was heavily ravaged by the October floods in 2015 and is still recovering. There is one section of the park where parts of plastic trash bags cling to the trees everywhere and look like huge black crows dotting the canopy. It is somewhat depressing, but there was a volunteer group out this morning picking up trash.
We got to the trail head around 9am with Biff in tow. The trail is pretty flat, but has a lot of different branches so you can loop around in different trail configurations for a variety of options. We got to the Onion Creek crossing and opted to wade directly through the water, as opposed to the makeshift bridge made out of a couple of planks of wood. I wanted to get my shoes completely submerged to test the breathe-ability and see how fast they dry, which was a success. The water was only about 5 inches deep or so, but is running nicely.
At the other side of the creek, the trail climbed out of the creek drainage and became flatter and was a sparse forest with very green grass. Most of the trees don’t have leaves yet, but they are on the verge.
We wound around a few loops and passed by a small pond that was really more of a marsh at this point. This trail also has a lot of cactus. You get used to cactus in Texas, but groves like this make you remember what an interesting plant it can be.
We made our way back down across the creek where Court made an attempt to cross on the 2×4’s that had been used as a footbridge, but quickly abandoned it. We got back to the trail head and headed off to the UT baseball game for the rest of the afternoon. This was a nice trail and good change of pace. I have a couple of more new trails planned for this spring that I found in the area. Looking forward to a good spring of hiking.
Sunday, February 21, 2016
Hiking River Place with Greg and Cat
I’m trying a new format for this post because my normal way feels too structured. So I’m just going to write and see what happens. We got Greg and Cat and Sam (dog) out to hike River Place with us on Sunday and the weather turned out to be perfect. Overcast and drizzly, but in the 70s. We parked at the playground across the street and Court got in some fun prior to the hike.
We met up at the trail head a little before 10am and there were already a ton of cars there. I think the secret of this trail may be out, especially with more and more people moving here and going to the Greenbelt every weekend. But for a trail close to town, this is still hands down the best. We saw quite a few trail runners and hikers at first, but it had cleared out by the time we got to the 2nd half.
The Security Swan was there to meet us and we took off down the trail. It hasn’t rained in a couple of months so this is the lowest we’ve ever seen the water on this trail, but it was still dripping from the fern wall a little bit.
Sam loves the water, as he is a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. He likes to scout ahead on the trail and then double back to make sure we are still coming, so he probably went about twice as far as we did in the end. We did just under 7 miles, so a nice baker’s dozen for Sam. I’m sure he slept well that night.
Near the upper trail head we took a short side trail that we had never ventured up where we found this giant woodpile. Could be art?
We took a short break to catch our breath before heading back the way we came. The stairs on this trail are pretty brutal after a while and we were all pretty tired at the end. I had forgotten to pack any trail snacks, so Court and I hit up a pizza place near campus on the way home and I crushed some pepperoni rolls.
Good hike, good times. We’ll be back this spring, hopefully after some nice rain to get the waterfalls flowing really well again.
Saturday, February 6, 2016
Hike: Upper Purgatory Creek Natural Area – San Marcos, TX
Weather: clear, cool, mid-50s
Length: 2.83 miles
After over a month of no hiking due to scheduling conflicts, I was beginning to have withdrawals so I woke up early Saturday and drove down to San Marcos for a trail I had never done before. I knew because of the flooding last October that some of the park was closed, but the upper part was supposed to be open. This was true, but it did end a bit shorter than the website claimed. About a mile was cut off that I was really looking forward to, but it was still good to get outside and hike a bit.
There were several cars in the parking lot, but I only saw two other hikers while I was out there. I started off on Dante’s Trail, which is pretty rocky; the typical fare for Texas Hill Country hiking. No water was running in Pandemonium Creek. The trail was blocked before I could get to Purgatory Creek, but I assume it is dry too.
I hit the end of the trail just after the intersection of the Paraiso Trail with Dante’s Trail, so I headed back via the Paraiso Trail to complete the loop.
There were a couple of notable features, such as Grandma’s Oak with moss strands streaming from the branches. The low winter sun was a bit harsh, but bearable. I won’t be able to come back to this trail until summer, as it is closed from March thru May for Golden-Cheeked Warbler Nesting Season, but maybe by then it will be repaired and the full length will be open.
On one last note, my La Sportiva Ultra Raptors are working out great. The rubber on the soles must have just taken a little time to work in because they grip really well now. They are very light too. I haven’t gotten them wet yet, so not sure on the breatheability, but hopefully I’ll get a chance to test that soon.
Veteran Hiker Missing in New Mexico/Colorado – trying to spread the word.
Yesterday I was made aware that a fellow thru-hiker and dear friend from the Pacific Crest Trail in 2013 is currently missing.
Steven Olshansky, better known as ‘The Otter’, was last seen on November 14, 2015, being dropped off by friends at Cumbres Pass in Colorado (near the border of New Mexico) on the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). He was heading south on the CDT towards Ghost Ranch, expecting to be out of service for 2-2.5 weeks, but never arrived to pick up his resupply and has not been in contact with family or friends since.
It is difficult for search and rescue to access all parts of the trail during winter, though some areas have been searched on foot and by snowmobile. Family and friends have also been following a number of unconfirmed leads of possible sightings in CDT trail towns including Cuba, Grants and Lordsburg, New Mexico, and…
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Sunday, January 3, 2016
Hike: Hamilton Greenbelt – Lakeway, TX
Weather: chilly, clear, mid 40s
Hikers: Ian, Court, Biff
Length: 4.2 miles
For the first hike of the year, we decided to finish the Hamilton Greenbelt trail we had done most of this past summer. This is a nice little trail hidden back in Lakeway, near Lake Travis.
The morning was chilly, probably in the upper 30s, but we quickly warmed up. The waterfalls were pretty and flowing well. Again, this trail starts with a wide, well-groomed, crushed granite trail, but turns into a regular dirt hiking trail twisting through the woods as you get farther in.
We finished up the last part of the loop that we had not gotten to the last time out, adding another couple of miles. The leaves covering the trail and the colder temperatures gave the trail a completely different feel, almost what I would expect the Appalachian Trail to be like in parts.
We got to the end of the trail, nearest the lake, and headed back. It is not a difficult trail by any means, but definitely a pretty hike and one that I don’t think many people in the Austin area are aware exists.
Friday, December 18, 2015
Hike: Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge – Doeskin Ranch, NW of Austin, TX
Weather: clear, cold, low 40s
Length: 4.53 miles
I drove out to Doeskin Ranch on a solo hike in the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. I had done this hike once before in October of 2014. It is a nice hike with some decent elevation changes and a nice change of scenery from some of the other Central Texas hikes. The drive to the trail head is just over an hour.
I hit the trail around 9am and the temperatures were still in the upper 30s. I was the only car in the parking lot, save a US Fish and Wildlife truck. I decided to go the opposite direction from the last time I hiked this route. The water was clear and flowing strong down Cow Creek.
The trail soon took me to the high point of the trail and then wound around the back side of the ridge before looping back. There are some nice views of the Hill Country from the top of the ridge.
Since this used to be a working cattle ranch, there are still some water troughs leftover. I came across one that I’m glad I didn’t have to filter water from.
After connecting the Indiangrass Trail and the Rimrock Trail to get back to the trail head, I checked out a quick quarter mile path around a small pond and then headed back to the car.