Spring!

I visited Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park today.   There are some short trails that go down by Lake Austin, through a bit of woods, and around a beautiful, recently re-established prairie with native grasses and flowers.  I saw about 10 different species of birds, including my first Eastern Bluebird.  The bluebonnets are everywhere.

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Beer me.

After a very rainy weekend the sun finally came out Sunday afternoon.   We decided to check out a couple breweries nearby.   Austin Beerworks has a new and expanded tasting room and patio area that opened recently — kid and dog friendly.  My Pearl Snap was great!


Just down the road, Circle Brewing Co. was serving up some good brews.   I had the Alibi blond ale.  Monte tried a flight. 


We’re lucky to have so many local breweries nearby.  We’ll hit a few more next time. 

The Blanton museum, revisited.

In a post earlier this year, I shared a visit to the Blanton Museum that we took, to see an Andy Warhol visiting exhibit that ended in January.  When we went, we didn’t know that the museum’s permanent exhibits were temporarily closed, due to a total revamp of the permanent gallery areas upstairs.   Even so, we enjoyed the visiting exhibit.

The museum’s permanent collection galleries are now open again, so I stopped by this week to check it out.  They have an interesting mix of art – Latin American, early American Western, Contemporary, European, Native American, Modern, Spanish American, Ancient Greek and Roman, Film and Paper/Documents.   The gallery remodel was nicely done.

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I recommend a trip to the museum.  I enjoyed it.  Check out their website for days & hours.  And keep in mind that every Thursday admission is free, and every 3rd Thursday the museum is open late – until 9pm.  Parking is easy at the nearby Brazos garage.  If you bring your parking stub into the museum, they can give you a discounted parking rate.

 

Hiking Bull Creek.

Last weekend, I went for a 3-hour group hike with one of the biologists that does research for the City-of-Austin-managed Balcones Canyonlands Preserve.  It was really interesting.   We hiked a short loop along the preserve at Bull Creek.  Along the way, I learned much about the native Ashe junipers throughout the hill country that I had previously come to detest, due to my annual cedar fever allergy symptoms.   But I came away with a new appreciation for the tree and the role it plays in the ecosystem of the Balcones Canyonlands.   I also learned about the other native grasses and shrubs that make up the understory of the woodland.  And about the endangered golden-cheeked warbler that will soon make its annual trek from Central America in early March to nest in the woodlands of the preserve until returning south in July.   I’m looking forward to more hikes out there.  Stay tuned.

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Bull Creek  is flowing nicely since the drought has broken.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And, I caught a tiger swallowtail butterfly taking a break along the creek.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Very nice!

A busy two weeks.

I have been away for a bit.  Since I last posted…

On Valentine’s Day we stopped by Cypress Creek Park while on a winding drive through the hill country.  As we walked down to the water, I spied a male belted kingfisher – the first I had ever seen in person.  I’m kinda getting into this birding thing, so I was very excited.  But, I didn’t have my camera with me.  So, being the budding-but-persistent-bird-photographer, I drove out there again the next day with my camera and spotted him again; holding court in a tree on the bank of the creek.  I couldn’t get very close, but I did come away with a photo of him.  Success!  A tad fuzzy, but my first, for the archive.  🙂

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The next day, I flew to Seattle to meet my sisters.   We went together to eastern Washington to visit our aunt; one of the last living siblings of my parents’ generation.  It was a nice weekend.  We shared laughs and memories and a few tears.   I enjoyed it.  I also snapped way too many pictures.   This one was of the ice crystals on the plane window next to my seat.

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Spokane has gotten much snow this year.  The nearby rivers are flooding and raging.  This is a picture of upper the Spokane River falls on our last night there.

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I’m back in Austin, now, and will try to keep the posts a tad more frequent.  Have a good week!

 

Enchanted hike.

Several girlfriends and I made a roadtrip last week to Enchanted Rock state park, about an hour and 45 minute drive southwest of Austin.  I have been there several times, and have hiked to the summit, but love to go back anytime.   This was the first visit for my friends.  We hiked to the summit and enjoyed the views.  Then we hiked a couple of the other trails, which I had never done before.  I recommend taking the time to do it, if you can.   Remember to bring along drinking water for your hike.  You’ll want it.  🙂

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A survey marker atop the 1823′ summit

Make sure you check out their website before heading out for trail / park closure information and rules about pets, camping, parking, etc.

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Looking SW at neighboring Little Peak from the S side of Enchanted Rock

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Looking NE from the N side of Enchanted Rock

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A little oasis along Turkey Pass Trail

A walk in the woods.

Well, our guests have gone back home.  I had a really wonderful time with them.   I took many photos during our visit, but have not yet sorted through them.

Today, I went to the woods for some photos of birds.  Doray and I headed out at about 7:45am.  It was chilly, for a change.

We stalked them.  Or they stalked us.  Not sure who won.  But we did get a few good bird shots.   I have been playing with longer exposure shots of moving water.  I like this one.  You can see water bending around the leaves and the rocks in the stream, and the flow of the water.

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Remembering the Alamo.

We have out-of-town family visiting us this week, and today we headed to San Antonio.  It has been a long time since my last visit to the Alamo.  So, it was nice to visit again to get a Texas history refresher.

The rain finally let up, the sky cleared and the sun came out, making for a nice afternoon.

The Alamo is hallowed ground, given the loss of life there in 1836 of those trying to defend a foothold in the battle for Texas independence.  A plaque on the door reads:

“BE SILENT, FRIEND.  HERE HEROES DIED TO BLAZE A TRAIL FOR OTHER MEN.”

If you are patient, you might be able to get a picture of the front of the chapel without people milling about.

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Keeping watch.

We took a roadtrip to Fredericksburg today – one of my favorite Texas Hill Country haunts.  This trip we toured the National Museum of the Pacific War.  And, let me tell you, this is one amazingly detailed set of museum exhibits.  We spent about two and a half hours walking through the museum, and we still didn’t see everything.   You must go.

On the way home there was a rainbow on the horizon, after a few late afternoon rain showers had rolled through.  I was taking some random photos out the window as we drove.  When I got home I scrolled through the photos I captured, and liked this one in particular, which has been significantly cropped.  I liked it because I can see the faint colors of the rainbow through the branches of this tree.   But, it wasn’t until I zoomed in that I noticed the hawk perched at the top of the tree, and the two gravestones underneath its branches.

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One birdie, two birdie, three birdie, four…

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Today took me to Westcave Preserve with my friend, Doray, to participate in the annual Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count.   I’m still learning how to identify the many bird species beyond those that frequent my own backyard.   There’s much to learn, but I am enjoying the time spent out in the beautiful hill country of central Texas immensely.

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We counted birds that we saw or heard.   The counts get rolled up for each locality and are used to monitor bird populations from year to year.   A very nice day spent in a place that I love.

 

Free Thursday at the Blanton.

The Blanton Museum downtown currently has an Andy Warhol exhibit, running through January 29th.   It is called “Warhol by the Book.”   It contains his artwork associated with bookcovers, album covers, playbills, books that he published, and other of his works associated with authors.  I enjoy Andy Warhol’s art, and saw things in this exhibit I’d not seen before.

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Hands-on album cover exhibit.  You can handle the albums and even play the LPs.

There was another visiting exhibit by Xu Bing called “Book from the Sky,” which runs through January 22nd.  I knew nothing about this artist nor the work, but thought it was interesting.  Over 4 years, Xu Bing hand carved thousands of wood blocks with non-sensical chinese characters/words of his own design, and then crafted traditional-format chinese books and scrolls made up with his hand-crafted characters.  So, if you know Chinese, it looks like gibberish.  If you don’t know Chinese, it looks like, well, Chinese.  🙂  I guess it’s supposed to get you thinking about the power of words, and also the beauty of Chinese calligraphy.  It was a beautiful exhibit, nonetheless.

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Their permanent exhibits are currently not open, as the museum is doing construction on the 2nd floor.  But those will reopen mid-February.

I enjoyed learning something new.  After we fed our minds, we had lunch downtown.   A nice day.

Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve.

Today I went birding with my friend, Doray, to Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve.   I’m a novice.  I was able to get a lot of amazing photos of tree branches.  🙂   If I ever get an amazing photo of a bird, I may share here.  But for now, I won’t bore you with it.   We did see several kinds of birdies, so I’m calling it a success.

Here are two non-bird shots from the morning:

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Knocked one off the bucket list.

Over the weekend I took a roadtrip with 4 girlfriends to Big Bend National Park in far southwest Texas.   I’ve lived in Texas over 20 years and have never made it out there.   And it was long overdue.   It is all that they say it is.   Big, beautiful, rugged, inspiring, with mountain, desert and river views to die for.

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We made it!

Six and a half hours by car from Austin, we made it to Ft. Davis by about 7pm Friday night.  We had reservations to attend one of the evening Star Parties held 3 times a week at the University of Texas McDonald Observatory, and made it with a little time to spare.   The skies were dark and the stars were out.   The Milky Way was amazing.   The stars and constellations visible to the naked eye were too many to count.  Through the telescopes they had placed for visitors, I saw Saturn, the Andromeda Galaxy, M11 star cluster, and the 2 star clusters in the Perseus constellation.   If you’re going to make the trip all the way out to Big Bend, you really should combine it with a trip to the observatory.   Get tickets ahead of time online.   They sell out frequently and have to turn people away.

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McDonald Observatory giant telescopes on the hill – viewed from where we stayed outside of Fort Davis

Saturday morning we drove to Big Bend and hiked inside of Big Bend National Park.   Saturday afternoon we did the Window Trail – to experience the Chisos Mountains part of Big Bend.   Four hours round trip, a moderately challenging hike, with breathtaking scenery all along the way.

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The Window in the Chisos Mountains from the beginning of the Window Trail.

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The Window view at the pour-off at the end of the trail. Watch your step!

We started Sunday at Santa Elena Canyon at dawn – to experience the Rio Grand river part of Big Bend.  It was about an easy 2 hour hike roundtrip – though we had to bushwack a bit to get onto the trail.  The Rio Grande has sliced a 1500′ deep canyon through the mountain there.  At sunrise, the face of the sheer mountain walls glow in the brightening sunlight.

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The Santa Elena Canyon trail, looking northeast with the sun rising over the Rio Grande.

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About a mile and a half into the Santa Elena Canyon trail along the Rio Grande.

Sunday afternoon we hiked the Mule Ears Springs trail – to experience the Chihuahuan Desert part of Big Bend.   A 3 hour hike, moderate difficulty, mainly due to the rough terrain and 90+ degree temperatures.  Packing water with you is a must!

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Mule Ears, in the distance on the left, from the Mule Ears Springs trail.

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From the Mule Ears Springs trail, looking back south to Santa Elena Canyon in the distance.

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Chihuahuan Desert scape, looking north to the mountains from the south side of the park.

Another very awesome trip.  We hiked our butts off.