Sunday, April 1, 2012

Falling in Love with Pedernales Falls

This weekend we joined many members of our Great Escapists Facebook group, mostly friends from our UU church, and we went to Pedernales Falls State Park. For a weekend that was so hot we stayed inside Ursula much of the time, I managed to take a LOT of pictures.

We took a nice scenic route to the park, which is in the Hill Country southwest of Austin. Once we were out of rush hour traffic, it was lovely. This is the height of wildflower season in the Hill Country, and surprisingly enough, the drought didn't ruin the flowers like we thought it would. All that winter rain made things quite happy on the roadsides! The park is way off the main road, and there are lots of windy roads to get to it, but it's worth  it! After a somewhat challenging parking event, we got all settled in and hung out with the friends who were there, playing Scrabble and all those traditional activities.
Ursula's spot, with Mike's car (we shared a HUGE space with Mike and Martha, who were tent camping)
After I woke up and had one cup of coffee, I decided I better so stuff soon, while it was still relatively cool. Audrey and Rod wanted to go to the falls, but didn't have any space in their van (they slept in it). So, Mike and I decided we would walk, since it was "only a mile and a half." It was actually 2.6 miles. It was a beautiful walk, though, and we saw more flowers, listened to birds, and got to see some really interesting spider webs that looked more like pieces of woven cloth than web. Mike kindly took photos of me amid the bluebonnets, since that is a Texas tradition.
You can tell it's spring because I have on my summer hat. Oh and the bluebonnets.

 We really enjoyed wandering around the falls area, which is really well maintained. Mike and I spent a lot of time sort of blankly staring at all the patterns the water made. It was just so pretty. I am doing you a real favor by not posting ALL the pictures I took of water.
There was a nice amount of water in the falls, though you could tell there had been more recently.
Lower falls
We climbed all over the rocks, and found an interesting spring that flowed down into the river in two spots, plus it went UNDER a tree's roots. Really cool.
This is the spring flowing under the roots of the tree.
This is the spring. It flows down both to the right and left. You really can't see it, but the water has little bubbles in it and you can see it moving.
After that we walked all over the river and rocks. We saw a couple of neat cave formations--I wish we could have gotten into them, but the water was going FAST! Here's my favorite cave--a perfect Easter photo, since it looks like the one in the resurrection story where the big rock has moved and nobody's in there anymore!
Is anybody in there?
We also tried to get artsy photos of us wandering around. Here is my most artsy one.
Me, Suna, as if I had long legs.
And just because I think this place is really beautiful, here are a couple of photos with me and Mike in them.
Mike ponders nature's wonders.
I think I missed the "slide" part of this slip-n-slide.And yes, I took coffee with me.
By the time all this rock crawling and photo-taking was over, we were rather warm. We approached Audrey and Rod, who were also rather overly warm, and sheepishly requested a ride back to the camping area. so, we rode in the back of the van, which was way better than trying to walk back. With my heat issues, this probably saved me. Mike didn't complain either.

We all ate lunch together in the shade of Mike and Martha's shelter, then moved over to Ursula's canopy when that shade went away.
Chatting away
We rejoined our respective spouse and partner and told them all we did. It was really, really hot in the middle of the day, and since we only had 30-amp service, we could only run one of Ursula's air conditioners. Still, she made it slightly cooler than the outdoors, so we all hung out in there much of the afternoon. More folks joined us, so by the end of it, we had quite the party going on. The wine flowed, the Scrabble was played, and the stories were told and retold (I knitted, trying to finish a sweater). Man, these people have known each other a LONG time. Stories go back quite far!
Janet, Jennifer and Tina Scrabbled away.
Eventually it got slightly cooler. I am some sort of glutton for punishment, or really, really like scenery. I am not sure which. But, I convinced Tina, who had joined us in the afternoon, to go for a "short" walk with me. We set out to just walk around the camping area, but then I saw a sign pointing to the place where you cross the river to do the big 4-mile hiking trail. I had no intention of going on the big trail, but I did want to see the crossing area. I knew the "swimming" area was really crowded, and hoped this would be less so. What a wonderful surprise, we ended up being the only ones there. It was nice and shady going down to the river, and there was an area just full of lovely flowers.
Coreopsis or something like that
Prickly poppies, one of my favorites
And the river was beautiful at the crossing. There were cypress trees and other lovely plants.
The other side of the crossing. Look how clear the water is.
We made it back from the river with just a few stops for Tina to get her breath. Yep, it was hot all right. And we had to climb. I guess I am better with the heat than I used to be. Of course, I turned quite red and needed a lot of water when we got back!

We had dinner, both the campers and the day visitors who joined us as the day wore on. There was lots of good food, even if we didn't do a potluck this time. I had leftover fish and vegetables from Thursday night, and Lee made mac-n-cheese with Rotel tomatoes in it again.  People liked it! Geri had made strawberry cobbler in their fire. It was delicious. Even two bites told me that. It had rosemary in it--a nice treat.

After dinner and more chatting, I was soooo tired. So we all went to bed. It's getting to where the bedroom in Ursula is as familiar as my own, so I sleep really well, That's only taken a year or so. And Ursula has rather redeemed herself. She did not leak at ALL on this trip! We each took showers, we washed dishes, and we ran the sink in the bathroom! Huh. I guess I now believe that the people in the repair places could not make her leak. I wonder if we did the water connection more tightly or are more level, or what? How weird!

This morning we mostly cleaned up and chatting with our friends. I didn't feel well enough for any more walking marathons. In fact, both Lee and I have been feeling less than perfect. Glad we got to some home. But, we took the long way, via Marble Falls. And we saw some beautiful flowers. Here are a couple of images taken through Ursula's windows.
This entire ranch was covered in flowers.
Typical Hill Country View. Going from Marble Falls to Liberty Hill.
Also, Lee took some nice photos of wildflowers I thought I would share. Here are a couple.
This is what a bluebonnet looks like up close.
Prickly poppy and some bugs.

I forgot to share how we spent Thursday night, after eating the first course of my lovely fish dinner. Ursula needed both additional oil and additional coolant. Both are added in her rear compartment. Neither can actually be reached by just pouring the fluids in. Oh no. To pour the oil, we had to carefully maneuver a large flexible funnel and pour via a very unnatural angle. But what was worse was the coolant. Oh my gosh. The lid to the radiator had two inches of space above it, then metal. How do you pour into that? So, in the dark, we (Lee) had to create a hose/funnel contraption. Knives, cursing, and shoving things around were involved. Also snaking the hose through the louvers of the rear lid. But, after pouring coolant all over Lee's face, we did it! Coolant was added! Ursula did not explode this weekend! Hooray! We are becoming more self reliant I guess.

The Park

I wish I weren't so tired or I'd do a better job of reviewing Pedernales State Park. It's pronounced "perdenales" by the way. And the GPS knew how to pronounce it! If you have only a couple of Texas state parks to choose from this should be one of them. While it is incredibly popular, there aren't too many camping spaces, so it is nowhere near as crowded and loud as Inks Lake. And there is a lot of area to explore. There are many interesting-looking trails, including ones that horses can go on. Plus, there is a bird blind. We forgot the darned fancy binoculars this trip, but next time (I think we come back in the fall), we will be sure to check that out! Jennifer won't let us forget that! The campsites are very large and wooded. What a nice thing. We hardly saw our neighbors. And it was nice and quiet, even though there were a lot of young adults around.

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