Thursday, December 31, 2009
McKinney Falls State Park and Happy New Year!
This past weekend after a trip to see family in Houston, we drove to Austin for another quick trip to see friends. The weather was typical Austin winter weather - glorious sun and a nip in the air. Our friend Marcia is a volunteer trail guide at McKinney Falls State Park so we decided to take advantage of her knowledge for a little hike.
The park is on the southeast side of Austin and has some natural limestone rock formations that have sheltered people for 8000 years. The photo above and below reminds me of my Native Plants class that I took at UT in the mid-70's. We went to this park before it was open to the public then and it was the first time I saw a plant, a variety of maidenhair fern (Adiantum sp.), growing in the wild when I had only previously seen it in a pot. This is growing right on/in the limestone ledge.
The photo above is of the base of a giant old Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum), said to be 500 years old. Marcia said the Parks personnel ended up watering it by hand this summer because of the drought. They didn't want the old beauty to die.
In our walk we came across the ubiquitous Juniperus asheii, otherwise known as the bearer of the dreaded "cedar fever". That orangey stuff on the branches is the pollen and it causes many people to suffer cold, allergy, and flu-like systems for as long as the pollen is around (many weeks!).
One of my favorite plants, Prickly Pear cactus (some kind of Opuntia).
At last we came to the Lower Falls. Marcia said this summer it was barely a trickle. Good to see some water back again.
The falls are fed by Onion Creek, a creek that meanders through much of south Travis County (and I think north Hays County).
Because of the creek's proximity to a major urban area and thus urban runoff, the creek has its issues with algae growth, which you can see hanging on to the limestone caves under water. Still, it's a little jewel of a park and well worth seeking out for a nice hike, especially with friends or family.
I hope everyone has perfect weather, a perfect garden, good and healthy friends and family, and a great 2010!
This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2009. Please contact me for permission to copy, etc.