San Gabriel River Ride and Balcones NWR Hike

It’s been a  busy couple of days. First though; Connie wants to plug the beauty salon she went to Wednesday…Beauty Escape Salon in Georgetown and Lisa did her hair; quite a nice job. Yesterday Connie worked some in the morning then we drove up to Fort Hood to visit the commissary…we were going to check out some neighborhoods since we may live in this area eventually but time ran out and it got to be rush hour in Killeen outside of the Fort so we left that to another day. While she was working in the morning Neil went on a bike ride. After heading through Southwestern University he ended up on some back roads, then ducked into a park named San Gabriel Park, ended up down by the South San Gabriel River and rode up a pretty nice river side park. Here’s a shot of one of the lagoon areas in the river; it mostly doesn’t flow continuously in the dry season and has a lot of dikes and small dams in the riverbed to hold the water.

EastViewSanGabrielRiver

He also took a panoramic picture with his iPhone; 

EastViewSanGabrielRiverPano

it looks a little lopsided due to the wide angle but this is a view of 180 degrees of the river. Downtown Georgetown is immediately past the bridge you can see on the far right.

After our shopping trip it was home for dinner which was Chili Rellenos for dinner…he made them out of some Pablano Peppers they got the other day. After putting them over the gas burner on a cake rack to char the outside for about 15 minutes total so they’re all black you put them in a paper bag for 20 minutes or so and then the charred outer skin (which is normally tough on a pepper) slides right off and you just pull the top and seeds off. Stuffed them with a combo of cheddar and smoked Gouda cheeses and some roast beef lunchmeat. Dip them in a beaten egg, roll in yellow corn meal, and fry in a bit of oil until golden brown and delicious as Alton Brown would say. We had them with some rice and black beans. All was good except we forgot to put the onions and chopped green chiles in the rice mixture so they were a bit bland.

Today we got up early and had coffee and breakfast then headed off on our second hike at Balcones NWR. Our destination for the day was the Doeskin Ranch area where we combined 4 trails (Rim Rock, Shin Oak, Indian Grass, andCreek Trails) into a total hike of about 4.5 miles.

EastViewBalconesHikeSign1

EastViewBalconesHikeSign2

We patched the four trails above together into a single hike.  Here’s a picture of our route. Starting in the upper left at the green arrow we went straight down to the left hand large loop on the Rim Rock Trail (this part was steeply uphill on some switchbacks) and then right counterclockwise around the left of the two big loops on the Shin Oak Trail. We were headed for the Indian Grass Trail which is the right loop. Unfortunately we missed the first runoff and ended up going ahead to the split then continuing around this trail clockwise until it hit the Shin Oak again then retracing part of our path turning left back onto the Rim Rock Trail, counterclockwise around the left large loop then counterclockwise around the small Creek Trail at the upper left back to our starting point. As it turned out…our error was fortuitous as the initial part of the Indian Grass Trail through the wooded area was steeply downhill into the ravine and the climb back up to the Shin Oak was much more gradual through the bottom half of that loop in the non wooded area. If we had gone as originally planned we would have had to go up the steep switchback section so it all worked for the best. We stopped for lunch at a bench about halfway through the wooded section on the Indian Grass Trail and again on the section of Rim Rock as it goes through the wooded area; we had a nice view from there and needed a rest anyway.

EastViewBalconesHikeRoute1

While we were stopped for lunch Kara snuck out of Connie’s waist pack and tried to get into her Doritos she was having for lunch.

EastViewBalconesKaraDoritos

The wooded section on the Indian Grass Trail is supposed to be full of Golden Cheeked Warblers; and endangered species that lives there. Unfortunately we didn’t see them although we could hear them…here’s what the photo would have looked like if we had seen one.

GoldenCheeked Warbler

What we did see was a White Throated Sparrow in a tree overhead; we originally thought he was a Golden Cheeked but it wasn’t.

EastViewBalconesWhtThrtSparrow

Once we got out into the grassland area on Indian Grass we spotted another White Throated Sparrow

EastViewBalconesWhtThrtSparrow2

as well as some nice views of the trail

EastViewBalconesHikeTrail1

Neil spotted this and took what our friend Howard from RV-Dreams would call a dead tree photo; it’s actually a cairn to mark the trail constructed of juniper or mesquite branches…we couldn’t decide which it was.

EastViewBalconesDeadTree

Connie also was intrigued by this depression in the valley floor.

EastViewBalconesHikeVista1

After climbing back up the ridge you can see in the distance (we eventually hiked up the spine of that ridge into the trees where we rejoined the Shin Oak), continuing down the Shin Oak and then turning left onto the Rim Rock Trail we stopped for a water and afternoon snack break and got a couple of photos. Here is a panorama of the view from our bench; this is about a 150 degree or so view.

EastViewBalconesPano1

The parking area is just to the right of the open area in the center of the photo and behind the greenery from this viewpoint…it was about another mile or so down to the parking area from here. After our rest we trekked down another steeply switchbacked section, around the Creek Trail and back to the car. We originally were going to do this entire hike in the reverse order but again got a little off reading the map and shortly after starting turned right when we should have continued another 100 yards and turn left so we ended up going the way we did. Again, fortuitously we lucked out and the steepest section we ended up going down instead of up. We still did all the elevation climbing, about 400 feet or so of vertical climb but we got to do it in a more gradual manner which we were thankful for.

After rehydrating at the car we stopped by the Shin Oak Observation Deck to see (hopefully) some Black Capped Vireos, another endangered species. Didn’t see them either though so we headed home.

After showers and beer o’clock Neil cooked up some sautéed chicken breasts with Mexican seasoning on them to go with our leftover rice and beans. We were startled halfway through dinner by a Great Tailed Grackel when it crashed into our window. He got up and flew off so we guess he was OK…although it did scare Connie since she didn’t see it coming.

Another great day…it was about time we had some sunshine and warm weather. Tomorrow I have no idea what Connie has planned.

Cyas.

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About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
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