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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Kayaking Lake LBJ - Day 2

Hi Blog!

On Sunday, October 29, 2017, we set out to kayak another part of Lake LBJ. We woke to brilliant blue skies, but slightly chilly temperatures. We didn't launch until 11:00 a.m. in an attempt to avoid frostbite! As we pulled away from the campground, we looked back at it.

What a difference a day makes. While yesterday was a blustery, choppy paddle, this morning was like gliding on silk.

Most of the land surrounding the LBJ Lake is privately owned, but there are a few small pocket parks that dot the shoreline. After a little Google searching, we decided our turnaround would be at Crockett Park.

We meandered along the shore line for almost four miles.

The fall foliage is very sbttle, but you can definitely tell it is fall.

We paddled around the Honeymoon Ranch, a private primitive campground that juts out into the lake.  There were some sections where we saw tent campers --

-- but other sections were empty and open:

This area of the hill country is know for its granite. Granite Mountain is a solid dome of pink granite rising over 860 feet one mile west of Marble Falls. Since quarry operations began in the late 19th century, the distinctive pink-red colored rock has been used in the construction of the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas, and also for the construction of the Galveston Seawall.

We spotted several blue herons along the way, but they tend to spook before we can get close enough for a photo. Here we caught sight of a great white heron perched high a top a tree.

The next great white heron we spotted was fishing along the shoreline.

Who can resist pretty yellow flowers reflected along the shore of the lake?

After four miles of paddling, we made our way to Crockett Park. It felt good to get out and stretch after a couple hours of paddling. We found a nice picnic spot and ate lunch.

After lunch, we began our journey back toward camp.  Across Elm Creek Inlet, we spotted this guy hanging out at Clear Cove Park:

As we left the sheltered cove of Elm Creek, we noticed the wind had picked up. We had about two miles of bumpy, bouncy paddling before we entered another sheltered cove. We finished our paddle with a leisurely tour of our neighbors' boathouses. This poor sailboat had seen better days.

This was a tale of two paddles. The morning was calm and quiet, but the afternoon was windy and choppy. 

Tomorrow, we move on to Houston West RV Park to prepare for our round-the-world trip. Not sure how many more blog entries we will have before we leave. 

Until then, stay thirsty my friends.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Kayaking Lake LBJ - Day 1


It looked like today would be the day we would finally get back out to paddle on a lake.  Our campground, Sunset Point RV Park, in Marble Falls, Texas, is on the shore of Lake LBJ, one of several lakes near Austin formed by the damming of Texas's Colorado River.

We couldn't get out early, however, because it was cold this morning.  Our low was 35F, and it didn't get over 60F until after 1pm.  Further, the winds remained high this morning after yesterday and we wanted to wait until the breezes died down to less than 10 mph.  We occupied ourselves with other things this morning, and even tried lunch and a beer at the local DoubleHorn Brewery in Marble Falls.

Once we returned home, it was about 63F and winds of less than 10 mph, so it was Go! for kayaking.  We could carry our kayaks over to the lakeshore to put in, which was a real treat.  Here, Kathy is putting hers into the lake:

The breeze was heavier than we anticipated, and our kayaks were rocking and rolling as we started out onto the lake.  We got a great view of the granite bedrock outcropping at our campground:

We don't think we've seen as many waterfowl in any one place, as here at Lake LBJ.  We startled three great blue herons, and we saw hundreds of coots.  Here, some of the coots flew away from us as we approached:

We explored the shoreline.  Here, Kathy poses against the granite bedrock outcropping:

Further around the point, we got a view of the campground boat dock --

-- and Kathy loved that little palm tree so much, she insisted we take this palm tree selfy:

We continued around the lake and got a close look at the dam, which provides hydroelectric power to the local area:

After inspecting the dam, we decided to paddle across the lake, into the wind and the choppy waves.  Here's Kathty pausing to rest in her paddling labors:

Having made it over the open water to a nearby peninsula, we rested, and Kathy inspected some tall ornamental grasses growing on the lakeshore:

We discovered an apparent pirates' den:

The sun was starting to fall to the horizon, and it made for a very tropical scene as it posed behind this small island populated only by several picturesque trees, accompanied by a little grass and a few birds:

This portion of the lakeshore is heavily developed with large, expensive houses.  While they have decimated the natural lakeshore, they have a picturesque beauty of their own:

After a two hour paddle, we returned to our campground and its small, grassy beach, where we put in, hauled our kayaks back to our campsite, and settled in with Baxter for another beautiful happy hour.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

Hi Blog!

Friday, October 27, 2017, was our first full day in Marble Falls, Texas. We are camped on the shores of Lake LBJ. We were looking forward to kayaking, but Mother Nature had other plans. While today was a beautiful day, it was too chilly and windy to kayak. After checking on the Top 10 Things to do in Marble Falls, we decided to visit Balcones Canyonland National Wildlife Refuge. The 20 mile drive took us deep in the heart of Texas Hill Country.

After checking in at the Visitor's Center, we did a short nature walk. We started with a stroll though a meadow filled with pollinators.

We were hoping to spot some Monarch Butterflies who stop here on their migration route. However, the windy weather may have kept them hidden. We did spot this beautiful swallowtail.

From a blind looking down on a pond, we spotted this turtle swimming by.

Fall has come to the hill country, but we were still able to find the occasional wildflower.

Balcones Canyonlands is not a continuous piece of land. It is actually fragmented into several sections with only 3,000 of its 27,500 acres open to the public. After the Visitor Center, we drove up to the Warbler Vista to take in the view from the Sunset Deck. From here, we look down on Texas's own Colorado River (not to be confused with the actual Colorado River).

We took a short hike along the Ridgeline Trail.

Kathy stopped to examine some of the Edwards Limestone.

Naturally acidic water dissolved the limestone, creating this unusual honeycombed rock. Over the centuries, this limestone layer was buried. Surface water drains down and pooled in the nooks and crannies, creating an underground aquifer. Edwards Aquifer is the source of many Central Texas springs and beautiful Hill County rivers.  These same rivers eventually flow into the marshes, estuaries and bays along the Texas coast.

After taking in the views from Ridgeline Trail, we drove over to Doeskin Ranch. Along the way we made several stops along Cow Creek to take in the views.

After picknicing in the parking lot, we headed out on the Creek Trail. The ranch still has a few remnants from the homesteading era. This old corn crib is still in pretty good shape, but clearly is very old because lichens have grown on the logs.

We headed out across a small section of prairie grass on our way down to Mountain Creek.

At this time of the year, the creek flows mostly underground, coming up in springs and pool along the stream bed.

There were several nature stops along the trail, posted with numbers keyed to a guide we received at the visitor center.  At the stops, the guide pointed out various aspects of the environment.

This was our favorite stop.  Can you find the prickly pear cactus in the tree? No one knows exactly how it got there, but some suspect that a ringtail or other forest dweller ate a prickly pear fruit and pooped out the seeds on the tree branch, where they took root. We'll never know.

When we looked at this tiny waterfall, it reminded us of the travertine shelves you see at hot springs. However, here the water is wearing down and eroding the limestone, not building it up with travertine by depositing its minerals on the formation when it evaporates.

We did find one little section of the creek that was running strong. Here we leave you with the sounds of burbling Mountain Creek.

Post Script: On our way back into town, as we approached the intersection of Highway 281 and Commercialburbia, we looked over to the side of the road and spotted this Great Blue Heron watching six lanes of traffic go by.

Normally, great blue herons are extremely shy and will rarely let humans approach closer than 100 yards or more.  But this heron must have become habituated to traffic, because our Jeep was only 50 feet from him.

The forecast for tomorrow is warmer and less windy, so we're hopeful we'll get a kayak adventure.  Tune in to the next blog entry to find out.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Darker Side of RV'ing - the Air Compressor Chapter

Dear Diary,

We planned to kayak today.  In fact, when we woke up today, we put on our kayak duds.

But we needed to check our tire pressure before we move tomorrow, so we went outside to do that.  Yup, low.  So we brought out the portable air compressor to top up the tires before kayaking.

The air compressor wouldn't put pressure in the tires.  What's up with THAT???

Eventually, we decided that the pressure gauge, which was in the air compressor hose line, may have gotten fouled and was keeping the air from passing through it to the tires.

Off to O'Reilly's Auto Parts.  No replacement hose.  Then NAPA Auto Parts.  "Well, we don't have a replacement hose, but we have these parts you can use to fix it."  Okay.  $18 later, we're home trying to fix the hose.

Doesn't work.

Guess we'll try to get a new air compressor.  $90 at O'Reilly's Auto Parts.  Back to O'Reilly's we go.  Got the new air compressor.

Start filling a tire.  BOOM!  A hole blows in the new air compressor's hose.  Cheap Chinese air hose.  Cut the hose and splice it with the parts we originally got from NAPA to fix the first air compressor hose.

Success.  We finish topping off the tires.

Now it's 3pm.  I guess we're not going kayaking.

Oh, well, only an hour until Happy Hour.

At least THIS didn't happen...


Monday, October 23, 2017

Abilene and the Texas Frontier

Here we are in Abilene, Texas. 

Established by cattlemen as a stock shipping point on the Texas and Pacific Railway in 1881, the city was named after Abilene, Kansas, the original endpoint for the Chisholm Trail.  The town sits near the center of Texas, not far from Clovis, New Mexico, where bones of the earliest verified American peoples, named after that town, were discovered.  Abilene and the great plains around and north of Abilene, were the land of the Apache (related to the Navajo because both tribes descended from the Athabascan peoples), and then the Comanche Nation (now consigned to a reservation in Oklahoma).

We heard that "Frontier Texas" is a museum not to be missed.  It is a western heritage museum that allows visitors to relive the Old West through the magic of state-of-the-art technology. Frontier Texas brings the frontier to life and lets visitors meet people who played out their lives on the Texas frontier. Frontier Texas also serves as the official visitor center for Abilene and the Texas Forts Trail Region.

So we decided to bike the 6.5 miles in to tour the museum.  Kathy led the way:

On the bike ride, we encountered some unique scenes of modern Abilene that attracted our interest - such as this Christian Missile --

-- and this Route 66 era gas station --

-- a modern portable oil derrick --

-- and genuine military surplus vehicles:

Frontier Texas is housed in a modern, attractive building that draws the visitor in with its open ambience:

The story of Texas's history is told in the museum by orienting it around the true stories of nine individuals who represented the vast number of people that lived, survived and died in this frontier, making it what it is today.  There are two Native Americans, a Comanche chief and a Kiowa chief, the famous lawman Pat Garrett who killed Billy the Kid, Cynthia Ann Parker who was kidnapped by Comanches, married a chief, and became the mother of Quanah Parker, one of the great chiefs of the Comanche people, and Britt Johnson, an African-American slave whose owner freed him to let him track down his wife and children who had been kidnapped by the Comanches, and who later established a major freight hauling company in Texas.

These nine historical figures became our Spirit Guides as they led us through the history of the Texas frontier.  Each of them had his or her own station, where, in holographic form the Spirit Guide told us his/her story:

We spent a couple hours at the museum, and then bicycled back toward our campground, stopping at Sharon's Barbeque, a local award-winning restaurant, whose BBQ was just as delicious as we imagined it should be!

Pedaling further along we saw more quaint local examples of Americana, such as Elmdale Flea Market --

-- and -- not to be missed! -- Nana's Bootique:

Oh, yes, and, by the way, "Frontier Texas!" also serves as the visitor center for Abilene, so, while we were there, we got some good tips on other places to visit in the next couple of days.  It looks like there will be another interesting adventure before Thursday, which we think will be "A Fine Time to Leave Abilene."