Friday, May 20, 2011

Lake Georgetown, Texas

I really need to stop being lazy and write the report of our hike from April around Lake Georgetown.  A co-worker and I took a few days after a work meeting in Austin, Texas to hike around the nearby Lake Georgetown.  I didn't really know what to expect about the hike.  It did get selected because it's the only hike that's long enough multiple days.  Most parts of Texas appear not to have much in way of public land.

Taking hiking gear along an airplane flight is actually not to bad, especially since you don't want to take to much along anyway as you'll have carry it otherwise.  The only annoying thing is that the cooking fuel needs to be purchased after arrival.  Which in my case is IsoPro and I never use a full can of it either.

The hiking trail around Lake Georgetown impressed me quite a bit.  I was expecting it to turn boring any moment but instead it proved to be interesting landscape that varied from area to area.

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We started our hike from the Tejas campground at 3pm and hiked to the Cedar Hollow Camp where we stayed overnight. The 7 miles included a short scouting where I initially thought the campground should have been.

Hiking along the North Fork San Gabriel River from Tejas

Hiking trail

Me enjoying the vista

Parts of this trail had very sharp rocks  Not a place to trip

Proof we reach Cedar Hollow Camp

Our camp at sunset

The Ceder Hollow Camp, like all other primitive campsites on this lake had reminisce of vault toilets.  The only things that were still standing is the concrete pad with a pair of toilet stools in the open.  We joked to take pictures while sitting on them but never did it - darned it would have been neat.  The next morning a several people arrived with a gator and started to clean up brush around the campground as an Eagle Scout project.  Apparently they also have plans to rebuild the vault toilets.  A big undertaking but it would be nice to have them again.

The next day we hiked to the Walnut Springs Camp and with 15.5 miles this was our longest part.  The most draining section was the dam as it's a long asphalt street with no shade and that at noon.  After that my co-worker also got a bit exhausted probably from a combination of  not having build up the endurance, not having head protection the day before (there is a reason why I always dress dorky) and a lingering cold.  So while I could have kept on going like an energizer bunny we had to stop a bit and did a "shortcut" by bushwhacking. We avoided the Russell Park peninsula by going strait across it.  It certainly gave my co-worker moral boost since I really hated bushwhacking.  I just prefer to go the longer but easier route.

Of course the highlight of our shortcut was that we were exiting the US Army Corps of Engineer land.  So we stood in the middle of the forest at a fence with the signs "Private Property" and "No Trespassing".  Not very inviting, especially in Texas whose people I don't know but I have the image of not being so friendly to strangers on their land.  We found a creek where we could slip though between the properties, trying to stay unnoticed and so until we got to the road.  The next problem was getting back into the US Army Corps of Engineer land.  Along the road where big acreages with fences that didn't look to welcoming.  We looked for options on the GPS map and the satellite photos of Google maps on the phone.  Our options were to go to Russell Park, which would not only have null and voided our shortcut but also added extra miles to it, or to try the street called "Wilderness Trail".

As it turns out the Wilderness Trail was what looked like an abandoned park where the washed out gravel road was blocked by a big gravel pile at the entrance.  So it was a fairly easy way back to the Corps land and with some more bushwhacking back to the trail.  We missed the Walnut Springs Camp and since it was already late, only 30 minutes before getting dark, we decided to set camp on this field near the reminisce of another pair of vault toilets.

I wasn't to badly worn out until I had to pump water while balancing on a tree log.  The shore was shallow and muddy also the wind drove all dirt to our shore side.  The filter must have gotten clogged or something as I pumped for ever and barely got any clean water.  The night before on the other side the pump worked much easier.  I freaked out somewhat to the lack of available drinking water for us.  I was thirsty, we haven't made dinner yet which needed water, and tomorrow we wouldn't have a chance to get water until we reached the car.

Crockett Garden Knight Spring - what a different landscape

Kids enjoying Crockett Garden Falls

The never ending Lake Georgetown dam

Flowers decorating the trail

Short rest at Jim Hogg park

Where's the trail - Bushwhacking

That evening we saw the ranger stopping his four-wheeler near our tents.  He was probably weighing if he should come over to our tents or let us stay there for the night.  He didn't bother talking to us, most likely because it was getting dark and we didn't build a campfire.  He patrolled the north shore several times that night.  Unlike the south shore, the path on the north shore is wide and flat enough for four-wheelers. 

Next morning we got up early, and hiked the remaining 3.5 miles out to our car.  We drove to the Jim Hoggs park and paid there a few bugs to take showers and clean up for our flight home later that day.

The Good Water loop at Lake Georgetown is quite a nice for a overnight hike.  I certainly recommend it and would do it again.  Although I kind of feel bad for planning such a long hike in one day when taking others along.  Especially since my co-worker purchased a fishing permit to fish at the camp sites which he didn't get a chance to do.  I need to remember to keep a day's worth of hiking down to 10 miles if I go out with others.  On my own I really don't have anything else to do besides hiking so I don't mind the longer distances.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Camping Prohibited

Yesterday I took a stroll with my family through McFarland park here by Ames, Iowa and saw the "no camping" signage.  It really depressed me seeing that a nature conservation discourages people to spend time in nature by the primitive campsites, a rarity in Iowa and in the Midwest as a whole.

Their reasoning were:
  • lack of sanitary facilities
  • underage drinking and illegal drug use
  • difficulty accessing the area with law enforcement vehicles and poor radio and phone reception, affecting law enforcement communications

Well, it's a primitive campsite so of course it doesn't have facilities.  Is that bad?  I don't think so.  The whole point of primitive campsite is to learn how to take care of you and nature with simple means.  Aside the primitive campsites haven't been used that extensively that huge piles of poo is in that area.  If there were then pit toilets might have solved the issue or, even better, open more primitive campsites to dispurse campers and eliminate the issue as it would show that these campsites are sought after.

I haven't seen residue of alcoholic consumption or drug usage.  Never saw needles there nor an amount of alcohol bottles/cans.  Aside I can't see it as a prime spot for either drinking or drug usage since it's a quite a way to hike in and still fairly near to the residence of the park ranger.

I can't argue about the difficulty of accessing the area by law enforcement vehicles.  It's just the nature of hike-in campsites.  Of course law enforcement could access the area by 4 wheeler if they really don't want to walk the half mile.  However, cell phone reception is quite good at the primitive camp sites.

I tried to persuade them not to close the via an email and encouraged the local outdoor sports store and some clubs to do the same.  Unfortunately I wasn't able to attend the public meetings of the conservation board.  Party due to the fact that the meeting time & location of special public meeting on March 3rd was never announced (even though I specifically asked for the time and location in an email) and I was out of town during the regular March 14th board meeting. 

I wonder if Story County Conversation gives out grants or loans to buy a 1/2 truck and fifth wheeler so my kids and I can enjoy nature at an RV park. *sigh*