Thursday, November 29, 2012

Texas Hill Country

We are now parked in Georgetown, Texas which is located about 30 miles north of Austin.  We had one very cold and windy day a couple of days ago, but we were assured by a local that Georgetown lies below the snow belt.  When Dallas and Fort Worth get snow this area does not, except very rarely.  We  headed out to the west yesterday in our little car.  The first town we drove through, Jonestown, had a sign proclaiming that it was the "Gateway to the Hill Country".  Our first goal of the day was to hike in Balcones Canyonlands, a national wildlife refuge.  There we took the Cactus Rock Trail which traverses through the habitat for the endangered golden-cheeked warbler.  Unfortunately for us the bird's presence here is noted only March through May.  Immediately upon hiking into the refuge I was struck by the fact that we were in a different type of forest, the likes of which we had not been in for many months.  Here we were seeing cactus, and many small shrubs, not the tall pines of the north country.  Our trail is pictured below.
We had a trail guide which identified some of the trees and other plants of the park, the trees are mainly oaks and junipers.  Fortunately we are still far enough north that we can enjoy some fall colors.
In the above picture John is pointing out a southern red oak, also called a Spanish oak.  His shirt is close to the colors of that tree, I just could not pass up taking that picture.  What an interesting splotch of red in an otherwise gray environment!  Many trees in the refuge have now lost their leaves and the small shrub plants are dried up.  As the oak trees, the green foliage of the junipers and cedar sedge plants also provide a bit of color, as well as the prickly pear cactus.  Our trail led us to the high slopes of the refuge where we received a grand vista of the hill country, a picture of which I have at the beginning of this posting.  Before I close this. I just want to note a few other interesting items which we encountered yesterday.  We passed a street called "No Name".  A section of the highway we were on yesterday had a road sign noting that we were on a "winding road through urban area".  We drove through the town called Marble Falls where we found neither a falls or marble, but the largest granite quarry of its kind in the United States.  The granite dome there stands 866 feet high.  Around the quarry we saw many large slabs of finished granite wrapped in plastic, possibly ready for shipment out.  We saw little activity in the quarry and wondered whether the slow-down in construction of new homes has affected the granite production.   The Colorado River runs through Marble Falls, outside of the town we saw L.B. Johnson Lake, pictured below. Large rocky bluffs surround this side of the lake.  And on our way home we drove through the small town of Bertram.  A sign near the town proudly proclaims that it has an annual Oatmeal Festival.  I do hope that that unusual festival happens during the cool months of winter, not in the dog days of a Texas summer!

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