Journal

Texas Hill Country Monsoon Season

Took a road trip across the Texas Hill Country above Uvalde, TX to shoot the rivers after the recent flooding rains we have experienced.

Rain Gauge, Mark Espinoza - HWY 55
Photo by Mark Espinoza

According to the Uvalde Leader News we have received 13.21 inches of rain during the first five months of 2015 (compared to the 8 inches we normally average by this time of year according to US Almanac Data).  No doubt the majority of this accumulation has come down over the course of the past few weeks.  Not just Uvalde, but the entire Texas Hill Country has been hit by one unrelenting storm after another.

Fallen Rock, Tarpley TXOnce the day gave way to some clear skies, I grabbed the camera and took to the Hill Country routes to see first hand what it was looking like and to share with you.  I hope you enjoy the images and make sure to check out the video at the bottom of this post which has more imagery from my trip.
-ck

Uvalde – Leona River
DSC_0Leona River - Nopal St., Uvalde010 Leona River - Nopal St., Uvalde

US HWY 90 – Nueces River
Nueces River, HWY 90 Nueces River, HWY 90

FM 1023 – Frio River
Frio River, Uvalde, TX Frio River, Uvalde, TX

US HWY 83 (Reagan Wells Rd.) – Dry Frio River
Dry Frio Dry Frio

FM 127 (Concan, TX) – Frio River
Frio River, Concan, TX Frio River, Concan, TX

Garner State Park – Frio River
Frio River, Garner SP Frio River, Garner SP

FM 1050 (Utopia, TX) – Sabinal River
Sabinal River, Utopia, TX Sabinal River, Utopia, TX

FM 173 (Bandera, TX) – Medina River
Medina River, Bandera, TX Medina River, Bandera, TX

More images included in the YouTube video slideshow below:

Cook’s Slough ~ Uvalde, TX

Cook’s Slough Nature Park has an interesting history and for my fellow green initiative audience, I think you’ll find it particularly fascinating. The ground on which the park sits is the former site of the city’s landfill!

I recognize that this post might not appeal to a greater more global audience, but I wanted to dedicate a post to this nature park that is in my hometown and has been growing increasingly on me as a favorite destination to walk, enjoy nature and take photographs.  If you aren’t from the area or even ever plan to visit Uvalde, perhaps you’ll still find some interest in the history of how this park came to existence.  If you have a similar park in your local area, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Location:

From the intersection of Hwy. 90 and Hwy. 83, go south on Hwy. 83 for .4 mile to FM117. Follow FM 117 south for .9 mile to CR 106 West (at the flashing yellow light). Turn right and the entrance to the park is .5 mile. Heart of Texas Birding Trail sign HOTW #26. (Texas Hill Country Trail Region ~ web entry)

History:

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Cook’s Slough Nature Park has an interesting history and for my fellow green initiative audience, I think you’ll find it particularly fascinating.  The ground on which the park sits is the former site of the city’s landfill, and is actually a sewage treatment facility!
“Built on the site of a former landfill by the city and the Edwards Aquifer Authority, the park is a man-made wetland that is part of the city’s sewage treatment facilities. Wastewater is cleaned through a natural multistep process of settling ponds and mud flats that break down bacteria and filter the water before it is reintroduced into the Leona River.” (Austin Chronicle;3DEC10)
From my research, it appears that around 1987 the area was converted into it’s initial stage of water treatment facility; primarily designed for ‘zero discharge’ treatment of irrigation water.  With increased demands for water, in 2000 the city was faced with what to do with the facility to meet the needs of the community.  In lieu of taking a more industrial approach to address the treatment of it’s sewage, the city decided to instead create a 25 acre wetland.
“That’s when the city listened to Uvalde resident Ken Cave, owner of the Kenneth M. Cave and Associates environmental consulting firm. Cave’s vision was to develop constructed wetlands to improve water quality in Cook’s Slough and the Leona River, to insure a wetland water supply, and to provide waterfowl and wildlife habitat in an educational setting. “It took a long time to put all the pieces together, but we did it at a fraction of the cost of a new mechanical system that would have done the same job,” says Cave.” (Treatment Plant Operator;JUL13)

The local chapter of Texas Native Plant Society have done numerous projects around the park.  This includes signage of native plants along the trails and guides that are available at the main trail head.  I sincerely appreciate their work and will be watching for upcoming opportunities to join them on work events.


Personal Experience:

Up until a few weeks ago I am embarrassed to admit but I had never visited this park, and I have been a local Uvaldean for many years.  With my rekindled hobby of photography, I was looking for a quick place to go and practice with my new equipment and I remembered the park and thought I’d give it a try.  Was I ever shocked when I entered the park for the first time!  I have met many visitors from close and far at the park and they have all shared with me the same experience of how wonderful it is.
The park has all the elements an outdoors enthusiast looks for in a destination.  It is abundant with trails, wildlife and plants.  I have captured with my camera more birds than I can name (another hobby I am trying to learn), reptiles (especially turtles, and a few snakes – not photographed since I was high stepping to get past) and numerous native wildflowers and cacti.  The designers of the trails are to be commended in their vision.  The trails connect four separate viewing stations, each with their own canopies and sitting areas and with their own unique habitat for observing wildlife.  This place has now become a sanctuary to me and I visit it as often as I can.  If you are unable to visit this place on your own, I hope you enjoy my attempt to capture the beauty of this place in my photographs.
Peace,
Cash

 

28MAR15 – San Antonio Botanical Gardens

Not all exciting treks come from remote places. The sun had peeked this Saturday and with the abundance of recent rains, wildflowers were waking to Spring. So, we decided to take a family trip to the San Antonio Botanical Gardens and it was an amazing adventure.

Evernote Camera Roll 20150328 123724
Carriage House Bistro
After a wonderful lunch at the bistro, we began our tour of the gardens.  The Garden was featuring, among it’s regular exhibits, a journey into the rainforest and a bluebonnet exhibit.
The Botanical Gardens is wonderfully laid out and take you along footpaths through different terrains and biomes. These range from Piney Woods to Rainforest, each of course with their own beauty.  The weather was absolutely fantastic. We took slow walks through each of them and of course took tons of pictures as well.   Here are a few of my favorites, I hope you enjoy them.

Great Photography Stories – TED Talks

Photography is a hobby of mine, but the real attraction to photography for me and I would suspect for many of you is it’s ability to capture a moment that tells an entire story. I can remember so vividly turning the pages of National Geographic and becoming enthralled by it’s images long before I could comprehend it’s written stories. Deep down this is what attracts me to this day to take pictures and someday I hope to capture this same feeling in others when they look at my images.

If you are not familiar with TED talks, I encourage you to Google it sometime and I guarantee you will find some inspirational speakers on things that interest you. Below I have grabbed a few for you that talk about the subject of photography and how it inspires us with emotion and purpose. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

David Griffin: How photography connects us

The photo director for National Geographic, David Griffin knows the power of photography to connect us to our world. In a talk filled with glorious images, he talks about how we all use photos to tell our stories.

Sebastião Salgado: The silent drama of photography

Economics PhD Sebastião Salgado only took up photography in his 30s, but the discipline became an obsession. His years-long projects beautifully capture the human side of a global story that all too often involves death, destruction or decay. Here, he tells a deeply personal story of the craft that nearly killed him, and shows breathtaking images from his latest work, Genesis, which documents the world’s forgotten people and places.

20MAR15 : Texas Hill Country State Park Double Header

My original plans for tnis final weekend of Spring Break was to head up to Enchanted Rock SNA. I already had reservations made and actually packed and ready to go. When my daughter and I woke up this morning however, the radar looked horrible and the forecast showed it only to get worse. Determined to not have the weekend a complete waste, we decided to make it into a state park road trip and were able to score a double header – hitting both Garner SP and Lost Maples SNA in the same day.

Garner State Park

Garner is a quick thirty minute trip from Uvalde and is by far the most popular park in the area. Today was no exception with respect to the popularity factor. It was packed with people. This didn’t initially discourage us, so and we got the cameras out to hike down the Frio River and hoped to get some cool shots of wildlife and the many majestic Cypress trees. After a short hike, we just couldn’t seem to get away from running into more people so we decided to pack it in and head on towards Utopia (Texas that is, albeit not far from our true Utopia which is Lost Maples SNA).

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Lost Maples SNA

Upon checking in and scoring the second of our double header, we were greeted by the familiarity of our favorite park. The rain had taken a break and the weather was perfect for hiking. We met a kind young man in the parking lot who noticed our cameras and told us that the birds were really active in the designated bird viewing station, so with gear in hand we headed over to the blind to take a look. It was a bird-a-pooluza! We lit up the little shelter with shutter clicks going off like it was the night at the Oscars!

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After leaving the bird blind we proceeded down the East Trail to ‘The Ponds – Campsite C’. Between the two of us, we have literally walked this trail a hundred times, but with our new toys the trail was fresh and new as we sought out photo opportunities. We made it all the way to the ponds and even went a bit further past them, taking side trips where we felt led by our lenses. It wasn’t until we were back at the trailhead did it start raining again. What timing!

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Lost Maples Cafe – Utopia, TX

It is an unspoken given that when we are in Utopia, usually after coming back from the park, we have to pull in at Lost Maples Cafe. In our own version of Diners, Drive-In’s & Dives, this place is at the top of Texas Hill Country dinning! If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend pulling in (and don’t forget to save room for dessert, their homemade pies are out of this world)!

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Dec14 / Jan15 : Seminole Canyon SNA (Comstock, TX)

One of my favorite nearby Texas State Parks is Seminole Canyon SNA, located near Comstock.  The park is a quick drive from where I live and is where I run to when I want a break from the Hill Country and need to feed my desert cravings.  The park is most noted for it’s Lower Pecos pictographs (more on the parks history page).  I also took the White Shaman tour which isn’t part of the TPWD, but run by Rock Art Foundation and is located across the highway from the park entrance.  This trip predates my getting into digital photography, so all the images I share with you below were taken with my iPhone, but I hope you still enjoy them.  -ck

White Shamen -  (Moon Godess)
White Shamen – (Moon Godess)
Canyon Rim - Visitors Center
Canyon Rim – Visitors Center
White Shaman - Wall
White Shaman – Wall
Red Linear Pictographs
Red Linear Pictographs