Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Enlarging a photograph….

This is a test…..hopefully if you click on the picture it will bring up a larger size in a new window…..

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By the way,  this is yard art on Oltorf near the train tracks.  I often get to see it because the trains that run through the middle of Austin are so long!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wishful Thinking

These folks might want to consider moving to California.  It hasn’t rained here for close to 40 days and the temps hit record highs yesterday!

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Missed the Eclipse

The sky was clear when the moon was rising at dusk, and still at 9:30 pm.  By 1:30 am the fog had moved in over the city.  I kept watch for a couple hours, hoping the wind create a break in the clouds.  Not this time.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mustang Grapes

For a couple of years I have been fascinated by these huge vines that grow all around the Texas Hill country.  They looked somewhat like the wild grapes at home, but gosh, way too big.  Yesterday I stopped by the Entrance Station at McKinney to ask, and sure enough, they are grapes!

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A quick internet search came up the a story from someone’s grandmother that they are called ‘mustang’ grapes because they are so hard to tame.

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Their trunks can grow to 8 – 10 inches in diameter. With the help of an oak tree they reach 30 – 40 feet in height.

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When the leaves are off both the grapes and the helper trees, it’s easy to see interesting shapes against the sky.

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I love the lines they create;  great subjects to sketch too.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Luminations

One week-end every December, the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center hosts an event called Luminations, lining the borders of the pathways in the gardens with 3,000 luminaries.  Last Sunday a certain 4 year old had a long afternoon nap that we took advantage of for an evening outing.  It was one of the few cold nights we’ve had in Austin but we were bundled up for an after dark adventure.

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A better view would be from the top of the tower, but I didn’t think about it until on the way home.

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Some of the luminaries are actually lit with candles; others with a tiny battery operated light.

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Fun old standards and Christmas songs were provided by the Austin Banjo Club.  Pop corn and hot chocolate were available. Frosty was on hand working the crowd and posing for pictures. 

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It was a late night for a little kid, but lots of fun, and maybe the beginning of a new tradition.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Happy 4th Birthday Paidia

Pai had several special requests for her birthday this year.  The first was for Auntie Katie to create a Spiderman Birthday Cake.

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Katie nailed that one!

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Next on her list was inviting her favorite friends….Marta, Crystal, and Sophia.  Yep, another score!

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A birthday party is not complete in Texas without a piƱata.

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Spiderman looks kind of scary but he was all sweetness inside.

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Catching up on fun with Sophia came before presents!

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Can you believe they slowed down long enough for Grandma to get one perfect picture?

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Then it was back outside to scatter the leaves Mom had carefully raked into piles.

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The perfecting ending to a perfect day.

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Time for the Christmas Parade

The weather was pure pleasure.  Is it really Christmas?

Pai is almost 4 (!) and so really loved the parade this year.

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I caught a couple of shots that are quintessential Austin.

A decorated car…….

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and the Shady Grove float….

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Friday, December 3, 2010

Guadalupe River State Park

On my way to Lost Maples, a quick stop at Guadalupe River State Park satisfied my curiosity.  It’s a beautiful stretch of river, but way too close to San Antonio.  A half mile or so of river front is bordered by hundreds (it seemed like) of parking spaces.  I wouldn’t want to be there when they are full of people escaping the city.

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The river is gorgeous and in all fairness, I bet there is much more to see than what I caught in the half hour I was there. 

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Love the Cyprus trees.

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(OK, maybe a mid-week, off season visit?)

Lost Maples State Natural Area

My first week back in Texas I camped at Lost Maples.  The weather was perfect, but sadly, most of the maples had dropped their leaves. This is the classic shot of the park and you can find many beautiful versions on Goggle Images.

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Lost Maples is 2200 acres and was created in the mid 70s.  The trees grow along the river and creeks at the bottoms of  the canyons.  Almost 12 miles of trail traverse this rugged steep country.  And while it seems very remote (and did take me 3 hours from Austin) it’s not that far from San Antonio.

The light was beautiful on the tress when I arrived late in the afternoon.

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This one is at the Entrance Station.

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Since it was so late I went directly to the trail head instead of checking out the campground.  It was maybe 80/20 as to the color left.  Not so much. 

The East Loop follows the Sabinal River.  Low flows made crossings easy,  but Gore-Tex boots would be important at higher flows.  This is a good example of the many, many maples (without their leaves) along the river. 

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Water action on the sandstone creates interesting canyon walls.

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A couple miles along the river, I came across this sign and decided to save that part of the trail for the next day.

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I was really glad I went out Monday afternoon because Tuesday dawned cloudy and drizzly.  What color that was left was very muted.

So, back out the East Loop trail I continued up the ridge past the warning sign.  It began with these lovely rock stairs. 

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Only a 400 foot climb, it felt like more due the rough trail.  It’s the kind of trail that one plays leap frog with other hikers and in the process gets to visit several times along the way.  Across the top of the ridge was really nice with several overlooks of the river far below.  And then the trail dropped down the front side of the ridge.  A young family warned me that it was steep. Oh, gosh, how steep would it be? 

It was so steep that parts looks more like waterfalls than a trail  I have no idea how they maintain these trails.  It must be a nightmare. I was sure missing my hiking poles that are back home in California!

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Finally at the bottom the East Loop hooks up with the West Loop along a series of pools on the river.  It’s very beautiful and there is primitive camping allowed all along this area.

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OK, for future reference,  to see the maples, it’s ok  just to stick to the flat trails along the river.  The maples do not grow on top of the ridges.  Although, IF the leaves are on the trees, it might be pretty to see the hillsides from the upper overlooks.

Not far from the end of the East Loop there is a pipe targeted at a Red Tail Hawk nest across the river.  It’s not a telescope, just a pipe pointed in the right direction.  If you can locate the whitest hollow in the cliff face, go up to the top of the white band, and just to the left you will see the nest.

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An interpretive sign says the hawks are clearly visible during nesting season. That would sure be fun to see!

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It seemed like the most ancient  trees were holding their leaves the longest.  This old timer stands guard at the end of the trail.

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Next year I’ll get my reservations early (for mid week) to be sure to see the peak of the color. It must be amazing!