South Llano State Park

Austin to Junction map Monday, November 20, 2017 and the 21st
  Ferris & I camped at South Llano River State Park, 3 miles south of Junction, TX (which we never did go into) Monday night and returned to Austin about 6pm Tuesday to eat with Ruta at Mi Madre's. Our 1st choice, Hoovers, was closed. Some ongoing problem with kitchen staff(ing). I ended my consequential fast of 23 hours with their 2 fish tacl plate, 2 poured cans of ginger ale, and shared bits of avacdo and of salsa with the thick corn chips. The tacos were their standard of 2 (according to Ruta) corn tortilla per taco .. I guess because 1 single gives way too easily?

Back to Monday evening
map showing entrance, camp#3, and walk to overlook   Anxious to *do something* after a 4 hour car trip to SLRSP and an amusing use of our time to select campsite #3, and the quick construction of the tent, Ferris & I walked up to the scenic overlook. Joke was on us in a way, because when we got there it was plain from the car park that "who would walk that long steep grade?". There was yet a little more walk from there to the protective, waist high bar fence .. and we had stopped earlier to admire the dusk where Ferris took a SmartPhone picture which will adorn my as a backdrop (suitably whited to still allow navigation) for December. Google & I will see it at least.

  That evening outing's cardiovascular warmth gave quickly away to the falling temperature. That's when we drove off to eat. I had to drive the Corolla at 5mph because the 50 camp sites were littered with multiple children all running around. School *had* to be out.

Cooper's BBQ icon   We ventured toward Junction a bit after dark and got snared (happily) at Cooper's BBQ. I had both a sausage sandwich and a brisket sandwich, which might explain not feeling hungry until presented with food at Mi Madre's.

  By our return the children were all inside (mostly RVs). It was getting cold by 8:30. I tried to look at the canopy of stars that are unviewable in Austin, but my hands shook the binoculars toomuch. Oh, well. November through March has too much dark for tent camping in the cold. Wasn't looking forward to getting up at 4:30 to go pee. Ferris stayed out with his binoculars 'til I don't know when, but I fell asleep pretty quickly, about 9.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017
  Hah. Ferris made (understandable) racket at sometime and left the tent, but I was still fine. No trouble drifting off now that ... I had woken up enough to adjust my position in the confining (but pleasantly warm) bedroll to stop my hips from complaining. I must toss and turn a lot when I sleep since I don't often wake up with some appendage joint complaining. Usually I can blame it on some combination of Diamond & Jet blocking easy move of sheet or cover. Maybe this time some rock or thick vegetation tuft had been jambed into me. I don't know.

  At one readjustment of the pillow (supported by a sweater) I saw that it was light outside. I marveled at that. First light is 6am (CST robs my sunset AND fools my cats, obliging me to get up to deal with them). 9pm - 6am, that's 9 hours of sleep. Hah! Outside, Ferris said it was 7a.m.! Jesus. I can't remember when I had 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep. But I wasted no time getting dressed enough to go to the restroom down the way.

  I accepted Ferris' offer of instant coffee. The best part was that it warmed my hands nicely.

  After another trip to the restroom to brush teeth & wash up, etc. we were ready to hike around. Children were out again in force I noticed. Ferris and I agreed on a trail and headed off. I judged that my effort walking and the projected temperature high were optimistic enough to forego a sweater. Ferris had shirt, vest, and a light coat .. the now! having importance. map of West Canyon Trail The promised "canyon" *was* bigger than a "draw", but wasn't awe inspiring.

Digression to early last century until 2014
  Unlike during many past walk/hikes I felt thoughts of the people who came through here in the middle of last century to form these paths that quickly became 1 lane work vehicle "roads" that are so prevalent throughout Texas (elsewhere for sure, but I speak of what I know). They saw just what I see, but with many more concerns which I, gladly, miss. I'm here to fill a psychic container that is quietly, and easily depleted. I was surprised that the few trail infomatics did remind me of the diversity I have come to take too much for granted as I walk. I take pleasure when I turn from the rising terrain to look at the view behind. It is always uplifting. I feel sure that is because it adds to the hundreds times I have done that very thing over these last 60 years, excepting my college years and the period of time of Carol's life ending troubles.

Back to Tuesday, around 9:30
  Ferris pointed out that for us the fauna foremost in our morning's experience has been "ants". We noted their barely creeping motion in this 40+ degree time of the morning. Reminded me of seeing regular activity in slow motion photography. Birds were utterly silent. Nothing! We talked about what might explain our observation of 3 ant "rangers" (and one lagging about 2 inches). We found them so far from the ant bed. They seemed clearly from the somewhat nearby bed we just passed, but separated by a lot of space, steadily (but slowly) moving away from the bed. I think Ferris shared my feeling that, eventually, they would turn back, to add their findings to their society, minute in quantity though it probably would be.

  After completing the West Canyon Loop Trail, we continued southward, joining the Golden-cheeked Warbler Trail. The name prompted musings by Ferris about Golden-cheeked Warbler habitat concerns nearer to Austin. We (he) had seen nothing about restricted access here. My reading about GCWs (brought a tear to my eyes) has them wintering map of Golden Cheeked Warbler Trail elsewhere than the singular Spring breeding area of Central Texas. November can bring freezing weather here in the Hill Country so, regardless, we would not intrude on GCW anything (as long as we don't destroy habitat). NPR (days later as I write this) was discussing the unclear future that paths "we" choose (or not) to take may (will) have on the world's non-human inhabitants. Well meaning or self serving champions of this or that... all hand waving in their scope of application. "Tests" are all so meager for peering into the future to sway the champions via "science". Who will come forward to invest enough science to instill a high level confidence of what will come? Possible disaster can be cited on so many fronts as to have most everyone throw up their hands, overwhelmed.

Forward to Friday, November 24, 2017: thoughts recorded
  Last night over the Thanksgiving table a conversation by 4 of us maybe more exposed to advances in virtual reality (surely already considered myopic to those actively involved) than many, Scott Fleming responded to my questioning about basic information of "Fantasy Football" when he made an offhand comment about the Dallas Cowboys vs. the Los Angeles Chargers showing over a corner of the house. Scott said that this "FF" entertainment is gambling for many and drives software advances. Geoffrey Wyche chimed in that the same was true of companies competing for the "massively on-line gaming" crowd. Before the conversation got into the place of Artificial Intelligence + high cost competition for geographic placement of state of the art hardware for high $ stock market advantages, (a mouth full!), I voiced my guessing that the forefront of enticement via software was no longer the purview of the pornography industry. That brought some scoffs, with musings about what virtual reality was already providing the "sex with no strings attached" idea. I said, "Ah! The answer to the world population explosion". After laughs, then on to the A.I. connection to all things "tech".

  I feel sure that my jump to the "over population" comment is directly attributable to our talk/walk along the GCW trail.

Back to Tuesday afternoon, November 21, 2017
  The number 2 fauna occupying our notice were butterflies. It was approaching noon and the warmth had prompted Ferris to tie the "coat" around his middle. Butterflies of a half to a full dozen varities were all about us. I wondered out loud if we were attracting them? Were they following us? Was the "thickness" of these really all over the park? The map said the land around here is about 2000 feet above sea level. There were no Monarchs to be seen, those would have high tailed it (mixing metaphors, but deer season has started) to toward wintering grounds in Mexico. How could the rather unusually warm November account for these butterfiles. My recollection is that along the southern extreme of this trail we would encounter about 10 - 15 butterfiles per minute. One in particular wandered up from behind and came between us leisurely. It was about the size of a Susan B. Anthony dollar, a deep butter yellow with a vertical, lavendar stripe. You'd think it was late March!

  Eventually, we'd walked from one side to the park to the other, then took the left fork of the Fawn Trail heading back toward the parking lot. We might have continued on the southern extreme of the park, but we wanted to get in some time in the "Turkey Roost" preserve by the 3pm deadline and we needed to break camp by 3pm or pony up for another day we that we had decided to not use. By mutually unspoken decision, 5 hours of walking had been enough for this post 66 age pair when contemplating some similar number on Wednesday. We'd have to be manufacturing a walk/hiking path that didn't include duplicates of today. [Hey .. that was the only reason we didn't stay another night.]

  So, that's what we did. Breaking camp was unusual. All packed, I went around to pick up campsite litter, as Carol and I did since our honeymoon in August of 1972. .. nothing was to be found. Nothing! In all 45 years (less 2015-2016) of de-littering in this way, there has /never/ been *nothing*. South Llano River State Park was more than 90% occupied. This is an active park. How could this campsite be spotless. I went around again and still had *nothing* in my hands after having gone through it in a "yard mowing" fashion. Nothing. I exclaimed to Ferris. He, the Sherlock Holmes among my friends, figured the best explanation was our "Park Host" in campsite #2. Ferris had noticed that she taken a park go-cart sized vehicle into a nearby campsite when an RVed family decamped earlier in our visit. This had us thinking of adjectives to describe her. Possible "confimation bias" had us recalling her attention to us when we had arrived after 4:30pm, yesterday. After our trip around the 1 way road to choose among the few remaining campsites, I had dismissed her noticeably affable, but formal, interaction with us as being connected to the fullness of the park and the high number (to me at least) of grade school children all around. I have reached the notion that she is .. what?. Ferris first entertained "obsessed" and I countered with "driven". We settled on "responsible" as a compromise. I vowed to email SLRSP to commend her.

  We bade goodbye to our camp host (without reference to our evaluation) and drove along to the parking lot in the very middle of the Turkey Roost Preserve.

map of Turkey Roost Trail   We chose to spend our shortish time remaining by walking along the River Trail. With the exception of a single mocking bird (who I implored to mimic a young turkey calling for its mother) we saw no winged creature. A mother with two teenaged daughters that we hailed along that trail allowed as how the children had seen "some" earlier in the morning, but none after that. picture of busy armadillo Seemingly, a consolation prize, armadillo stayed put just off the path (that we fruitlessly continued along), rooting around for lunch allowed Ferris to take the all pictures he wanted .. unlike the one we'd similarly tried to photograph a bit earlier in a field across the road where we were parking. Ferris suggested we hoof it back to the car and try setting out from the parking lot further west in this roost area. OK, sure. No go. We didn't want to get locked in this area, and did have to retrace our drive so .. the only turkeys were us. We decided, "Sure, disturb the turkeys .. we give you 10am - 3pm .. they'll be foraging then (ha, ha)." We have no idea how many turkeys might be around .. we didn't ask .. One? a dozen? Bah!

  The last thing of the park I will remember is our passing by that earlier parking lot and seeing, again, that "not to be photographed" armadillo rooting around in that same field. I can just image him (her?) behind a few bushes that offered relief from voyeurs, waiting for us to "go .. a .. way" so rooting activity could resume.

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