Category Archives: Forest

Pedernales Falls State Park

Just a quick, forty minute trip into the hill country southwest of Austin, is home to one of the areas truly hidden gems.  Pedernales Falls State Park is far enough from town that it doesn’t get much attention from city hipsters or tourists.  But as you spend more time in Austin and the surrounding areas, you eventually either make the trip out here on your own or somebody will be your guide.

 

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Timeless and beautiful Pedernales Falls.

 

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A large cave at Pedernales Falls State Park.

Check out the Free Wallpaper section of this site for some pre-sized images that make great desktops!

Mount Bonnell; A Short Hike To A Big View

If you couldn’t drive nearly all the way to the top, and had to hike it from the Colorado River, do you think it would be so popular to check out the top of Mount Bonnell?  Probably so!  Chances are, the old Tarankawa Tribe did the hike for same reasons as us.  Just to check out the view and get a dose of big sky.  And also probably just like us, on a lazy Saturday morning.  But of course we have the option to drive nearly all the way to the top.

 

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Katya poses along a popular part of Mount Bonnell.

 

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Another great posing spot at Mount Bonnell.

 

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Sitting on the metal cable-barrier along the cliff at Mount Bonnell.

 

Kayaking in Port Isabel

Words and Photos by Chuck Turkington

A late afternoon kayak tour in the “fingers” of Port Isabel, Texas.

 

kayaking in port isabel texas
Katya paddling near Hwy 100 bridge in Port Isabel.

Just a quick spin through town.  We set out around 6 o’clock, from North Shore in Port Isabel.  Made the turn at the McAffee Mansion and took the channel into town.  The tide was moving out, so it was a breeze to go against the SE wind.  Our main goal was to hopefully spot some dolphins, but also to see the small town of Port Isabel from the inside out, so to speak.

Most of the view in the fingers is of people’s backyards…their garages.  It’s the equivalent of cruising an alley-way, except that these garages are housing boats right on the water!  There are also a couple of public boat ramps and the shrimp basin is connected at the end of the line.  It’s an interesting view of the area.  You’ll spot plenty of life along the tidal edges, like birds flying and floating or red crabs hiding in oyster beds.  You’ll also see the industry and recreation side of the people, all from a duck’s-eye-view just above the surface of the water.

Barton Springs Pool

0806I-009Now first off, be careful because”this area is a federally protected natural habitat”! That’s what the lifeguard barked out. No, he didn’t direct that info to me, but might as well have been.  We’ve always known the cold-water springs to be the home of a rare salamander, but I thought that was just along the west wall, which is roped off for the salamanders.  I didn’t think it applied to the whole pool and included picking up rocks while diving around.  And yeah, there’s some cool stuff down there! Continue reading Barton Springs Pool

Dolphins in Port Isabel/South Padre Island

 

dolphins south padre island port isabel texas
A dolphin in the Laguna Madre Bay, with South Padre Island in the background.

Living on the edge of the bay in Port Isabel, I see a pod of dolphins travel by on a regular basis.  I usually spot them around the lunch hour, and then again in late afternoon or evening.  I wanted to get some up-close pics of these dolphins so I readied a kayak for a quick launch.  I would still need time to lug the kayak over 200 yards of rocks and sand but if they showed up on their relatively consistent schedule, then I should be able to get the boat in water as they were passing by.  They almost always take a channel that is only a few yards offshore.  Chances were good I could put myself very close to them as they swam by on their way to deeper water.

Less than a week later and it lined up for me.  I spotted them while I ate lunch during a random summer day.  I dropped my sandwich and burst outside to put my plan into action.  I had my chance to get a head start and sprint for the water with the kayak, but it was still just a hope because they could easily decide to swing wide and take a different channel further offshore.  I had the camera bag on my back and I grabbed the kayak and ran toward the Laguna Madre bay.

They were traveling fast and I was starting to think I might miss them.  If I didn’t put myself in their path, there was no chance I would get the shots I had in mind.  I started to panic a little and hit the water running, splashing loudly as I entered and then paddled frantically.

The pod was about twenty yards away and I saw a baby dolphin raise up, propelled to a stand with it’s tail.  It was looking right at me and did this a couple of times.  I was pushed into even more of a frenzy by the thought of up-close shots of a baby.  But the moment I saw two of the dolphins break off and swim at full speed with dorsal fins rigid and cutting the surface like a knife, I realized I was making a mistake by trying to catch up to them.

Some of the dolphins in the pod were more playful than the males that were circling me.

Two males, I assume, sped along the channel a few yards in front of me in a show of power.  They doubled back and did it again, but I had already stopped splashing and changed to a smooth and calm stroke.  Then the dolphins swam back toward the pod and I entered the channel.  They were still very close, and I tested my luck with another aggressive paddle toward them.  That didn’t fly.  The males broke off again and started circling me.  This time I was in deep water and I already know how powerful and protective a dolphin can be.  I stopped paddling and grabbed the camera.

Normally it’s cool to have a dolphin swim nearby, but this male is giving me the chills by showing me how separated I am from the land and his turf.

I squeezed off a few shots and in a short time I realized I was caught and moving quickly with the tide…further offshore.  I started to get very nervous.  I put the camera down and reached for the paddle that was balanced across and just in front of me.  The dolphins had stopped circling and were out of sight, but I could feel them underneath me.  Right then one surfaced just to my right, about three feet from me and looked right at me.  I felt he was giving me one more chance before he opened a can of whoop ass.  I said hello to him, in a submissive voice.  But my mind screamed that I should scramble for the camera and get the shot!

Then again, If I get whacked by a dolphin that is trying to protect a baby in the pod, I guess I still wouldn’t get the shot.  I decided not to make any sudden moves as this large male eyeballed me, then sank below the surface.  I gently put the paddle in the water and scooped out teaspoons until I felt safe enough to make full strokes toward land.  I stopped and saw the baby raise up again on it’s tail and it occurred to me that I really should have loaded the telephoto lens in the camera bag.