Sunday, August 31, 2008

Favorite Hikes

I'm catching up on all my favorite hikes. The first morning home was a 45 minute loop around the ranch to check out the seasonal changes since I left in early June. It's so dry, there is literally not a blade of grass on the whole ranch. The cows were moved out weeks ago, just no feed. The old jack rabbit was out and about; I was surprised to see a cotton tail. No birds, no deer. They must all be in the high country!

Saturday morning, Favorite Nephews S. and G. and I took an early morning hike in the Red Hills near Chinese Camp. We hiked out the South Serpentine Road to end of sensitive area and the back to car. Creeks, naturally, were bone dry, but S. noticed a small pool of water hidden in the rocks of the creek bed and surrounded by willows. It must be a spring. We decided it would be the favorite spot for wild life. These trees are locally called "bull pines".

Calaveras Big Trees was next on my list. Sister, Auntie, the boys and I planned for a picnic and walk. S. and G. choose the South loop because the "cave" tree is a super place to explore.

This redwood has a split at the base that creates a walk-through.

This is a big section of roots at the beginning of the cave tree.

A Redwood along the trail.

Today the temps dropped close to 20 degrees, perfect for a day in the mountains. No doubt there is plenty of summer left, but we also saw the very first signs of fall on a dog wood tree.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Home to California

Early Sunday morning I left Austin to drive west across Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and finally California. Highway 290 through Fredricksburg and then 10 all the way to Quartzsite in Arizona. North on 95 through Lake Havasu City and then west again on 40/58 to Bakersfield. Finally north on 99 and home! Driving through the deserts is lovely, not so much traffic.
Tucson and Phoenix areas are always busy and 99 was a zoo. For most of the trip I just relaxed and enjoyed the country side, sky and clouds.

Sunday afternoon I was making good time into Van Horn, Texas when I saw a sign for Balmorhea State Park. Just a few miles off the highway, so I went to explore. It's another one of Texas' famous springs. Again, 20+ million gallons a day. The water is transported through the park in a series of canals, flows through the pool, and then out into the country side for irrigation.

Weir on a canal just in front of the motel.

The entry road bridge.

This is one leg of two that branch off the main big oval pool. Several local families were having picnics, but the campground was empty. Temps were just in the middle 80s due to clouds.

The town of Balmorhea consists of a couple motels, a little store, several churches and this shrine. Just across the road a herd of goats grazed in open pasture. No fences. The highway south goes to Fort Davis and on to Big Bend. Another time I want to visit those mountains.

Monday morning is not so early. I want to avoid El Paso rush hour traffic. About an hour out of town the desert began to bloom! The grass was green and highway crews were mowing the medians.

El Paso Haiku

Wildflowers bloom in the desert, welcome rain.

My half way stop between Van Horn and Tucson is Los Cruces. Old Mesilla is a historical district similar to Columbia. Some residences, many shops, a couple restaurants (always closed when I am there!), a town square and this lovely church.

Private entry.


In Tucson I stayed with Second Sister, R and husband, J. They have a beautiful home in the desert. On Wednesday we went to see San Xavier, The White Dove of the Desert, a mission church from the 1500s. It has recently been completely restored. The interior is amazing. Every single inch is decorated in a mix of Catholic and local art and symbolism. This snake is the handle on the huge wooden door at the main entrance.

A side court yard. Thunder clouds again.

The left side of the church is under restoration. No concrete is used on the building, it's all done with the original recipe for mortar made with local ingredients.

R. is a volunteer at TROT, "Therapeutic Riding of Tucson". She participated in a workshop Wednesday afternoon, while I watched the horses and the sky.

Thursday I headed for Lake Havasu where I stayed over and headed out early early Friday morning for home. Between Tahachapie and Bakersfield this farmers market was over flowing with peaches. I was home!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Barton Springs and the Zilker Zephyr

Lists of swimming holes in Texas always put Barton Springs at the top. The spring that feeds the pool, just under the diving board (lower left), produces 27 million gallons of water a day. It's an average temperature of 68*, 900 feet long and open year round for hardy folks swimming those long laps.

Pai's current goal is learning to jump. Ready, set, go!

We missed the first ride on the Zilker Zephyr, but it was fun to watch all the people go by.

Zephyr passengers were treated to a serenade along the route.

Pai sat in the train seat just like a big girl and didn't start to wiggle until we were almost back to the station.

One last look at Barton Springs pool......

I'm headed for California.

Happy trails......

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Kayak carrier.....

Yay! I finally found a workable solution to carry my boat on top of my car. Von at "Backwoods" in Bee Cave was really helpful, to the point of INSTALLING it on my car!!!! Unfortunately, Backwoods outdoor stores can only be found along the Highway 35 corridor in Texas, none on the West Coast.

A close look at the picture will reveal the telescoping bar on the back of the car, it extends almost
18" and has a padded roller. This is the trick for me to get the boat on top of car, it won't be necessary to lift the whole weight over my head, just one end on the roller and then push it rest of the way.

Happy trails......

Sunday, August 17, 2008

No bikes to borrow today

My plan today was to "borrow" one of the three wheel (!) bikes the Visitor Center has available in Smithville. Sorry to say they were not open on Sunday and so no bike ride.

I walked the Riding Tour instead. They have mapped out 30 outstanding historical homes between 1st Street on the southwest and the Colorado River on the northeast. Setting a fast pace with few stops took me almost an hour. The "Hope Floats" house is even better in real life. Next time I will take pictures.

The Central School had a sign out front indicating it might be an art/antique center soon. It has
13, 000 square feet with 13 classrooms sitting on a whole block.

The oak trees in Smithville are huge.

A block on Main in the Historical District. By the way, I didn't see any other "district".

A local Grandma I talked to in the park said Brad Pitt has recently been in town filming a new movie, watch for Smithville when it comes out next year.

Happy trails.......

Thursday, August 14, 2008


The Caldwell County courthouse in Lockhart is a marvel. My Canon Elf couldn't do it justice. An online search will bring up many gorgeous images. Some at night. Coming down 183 the clock tower was the first thing I saw coming into town.

At one time, it was not doubt the center of town, now it's the center of the Historical District. Still the best part of town for me. Again, the the majority of antique stores were closed in the middle of the week.
Inside it's much like the Tuolumne County courthouse, beautiful stairways to the third floor. They were able to figure out how to add an elevator without disturbing the integrity of the building.
Parked in front of Smitty's Market (in one parking place!).

Those chains are holding up the porch roof!

Lockhart could NOT let Bastrop outdo them in the jail department. Now it's a museum.

The back door of Smitty's Market reminded me of Barendregts in Jamestown. Much to my surprise Smitty's is a barbecue, NOT a grocery. AND the fire is roaring on the floor inside the back door! Ms. Smooth walked in just like she expected this and ordered brisket. Yikes the meat is served on a big piece of waxed brown paper, with a knife, and two pieces of white (REALLY white) bread, NO FORK! The long tables in the front were filled with locals at lunch time.
I didn't take any pictures inside, it felt disrespectful, kind of like being in a church.

Wendy in a cute shop in the Historical District send me to Raney's Quilt shop just north of town on Highway 183. (You really need to know it's there, no signs on the highway).

Every room in the old ranch house was filled to the rafters with fabric.

Lockhart was fun. Another visit will be planned to have lunch at Black's Barbecue (the oldest in Texas), but I can't imagine it will compare to Smitty's.

Happy trails......

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Another spectacular sunset.......

The only thing better than the gorgeous sunsets of the last few days is the almost full moon.

Happy trails........

Monday, August 11, 2008


Summer time is for cicadas in Austin. They live in the trees and, as per Wikipedia, have "remarkable acoustic talents". Their song, made by "timbels", is amplified by the hollow underside of their bodies. At first I was not liking this insistent buzzing, it's way too much like a rattle snake. Then, the other evening, I was out walking and noticed how beautiful it is as a verse ends gradually fading into silence. A minute later they are back at full tilt.

This dehydrated guy is sitting on my kitchen counter. I found him in M and B's driveway.
He's almost 2" long! There are many thousands of species of cicadas, all with the characteristic big eyes and well loved song.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Bats Over Austin

Every spring Mexican free-tail bats set up housekeeping under the Congress Street bridge.
It's the largest "urban" community in North America and approaches 1.5 million by midsummer after the babies are born. Here the sun is just setting. (Notice the construction cranes in downtown background).

People beginning to congregate on the bridge in anticipation of the show. The bats "drop" out of their summer homes, then fly along the bridge to the south shore of Lady Bird Lake before heading out to the East for a night of hunting insects.

Sun setting, that's the 1st Street bridge in bottom of picture.

Lamppost at south end of bridge and ribbon of bats flying over tree tops.
(July almost full moon).
More ribbons of bats flying east. These continue on and off for a couple hours. Under the bridge the bats can be heard chattering to each other before they take-off.

This is an awesome site. The bats are truly amazing. Probably the most incredible to me is how the moms find their way back to their very own baby bat who has been waiting patiently for dawn.

Several evenings later, we was sitting on my patio (a couple miles east of the bridge) that faces wests when a couple bats flew over, not unusual, then many, many more bats flew by! They probably fly by regularly, I just haven't been lucky enough to be outside at just the right time to see them. My cousins who were visiting got a double show, first at the bridge and then again at the home.

Happy trails.......

Sunday, August 3, 2008

"The Summer Day" by Mary Oliver

"""The Summer Day""""
"Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life? "

"The Summer Day" by Mary Oliver,
from The Truro Bear and Other Adventures: Poems and Essays. © Beacon Press, 2008.

I love Mary Oliver's poetry. Happy Trails........

Friday, August 1, 2008

Smithville was designed for walking.......(and bikes!)

My new favorite walking town in Texas is Smithville. It's not quite an hour east of Austin on Highway 71, just a few miles past Bastrop. Driving through the pines is beautiful between Bastrop and Smithville; closer to town are ranches with green pastures (no irrigation?).

Today I walked from one end of Main Street to the other; it wasn't too busy; about every third building was occupied, mostly antique stores.

This random tile floor is currently in an antique store that was originally a drug store.

The residential streets off Main were perfect for walking (or biking) many miles.

Besides a great fence, these folks had a super garden.

Pretty rocking horse.

The only place I could find for food was a deli in a converted gas station, complete with pump in the dining room.

At the Visitor's Center I noticed a couple three wheel bikes with big baskets on the back. Turns out they aren't for rent, they are for visitors to borrow! That's exactly what I will do the next time I go to Smithville.

Happy Trails.........