It's not Aquarena but Ringtail Ridge!

Ringtail Ridge (off Ranch Road 12)
Bloodpits Trail  October 24, 2009

A white-tailed buck and doe greeted me as I arrived at the trail head of Ringtail Ridge. Took the Bloodpits trail and immediately noticed the large number of American snout nose butterflies and dragonflies present. Does this mean there's water?

Also saw cloudless sulfurs and numerous hairstreaks. They're excited about a foxwood with white flowers. And some Monarch butterflies and bees attracted to the velvetleaf mallow plant with it's yellow flowers. Lantana are drawing their share of butterflies.

The bloodpits, or ponds, have standing water and are nourishing a yellow sunflower. The water is attracting dragonflies and blue damsels. I watched a dragonfly crush a damsel fly. Mosquitoes are also plentiful with the standing water. It's pretty amazing to see all this standing water after the summer drought. The scenery could almost be mistaken for a corner of Spring Lake with all the activity flying above it.

The downside of all this rain is the erosion that has occurred on the ADA trail (gravel 1/2 mile path). At a couple places the rain washed out the gravel and left the black liner showing. The trail crew has their work cut-out for them as the mountain bike trails are overgrown in a couple areas. Not a bad thing but requiring some maintenance.Wanna help?

A field, where we planted some wildflowers a year-and-a-half ago, is now overgrown with the Bermuda grass that we worked hard to remove. Can't buck nature.

A lot of people were out taking advantage of the weather and beautiful trails. A group of four hikers, a jogger and a mountain biker. If you plan on getting close to nature and taking some of the single-track trails (which are beautiful) don't forget the bug spray as the mosquitoes are hungry.

Now would be a good time to take advantage of the trails whether you're a hiker, jogger or biker. The weather won't get better and the views are simply amazing!


-- Lance Jones

Hays County Strategic Plan Survey

Below is information on the Hays County Strategic Plan. Please go to the website below and attend one of the public meetings to voice your support for parks and natural areas in Hays county.

Hays County residents now have more opportunities to shape the future of their county by offering opinions and insights during the development of the county's Strategic Policy Plan, either through completing an online survey or participating in a public meeting, or both.

Quality of life in Hays County, water quality and quantity, delivery of health care and transportation services, and the need for parks and recreation are some of the key issues that will demand a coordinated, well-thought-out plan as governmental agencies keep up with the rapid growth in Hays County. The plan will help myriad entities in the county work together to find solutions, avoid duplication of effort and provide a seamless delivery of services to residents.

The plan is being developed in conjunction with city leaders as well as with a variety of stakeholder groups, such as
school districts, senior citizens, health care providers, conservationists, developers and business owners and individual
citizens. Planners with Hays County, the Lower Colorado River Authority, Pedernales Electric Co-op and Bluebonnet Electric Co-op are assisting by organizing meetings and compiling results under the direction of a multi-faceted steering committee.

Residents can assist by filling out a survey available on the Hays County Web site at or
directly at

The public is invited to discuss their concerns and ideas from 6:30 to 9 p.m.:
November 10 at the Wimberley Community Center, 14068 RR 12, Wimberley
November 12 at Chapa Middle School, 3311 Dacy Lane, Kyle
November 17 at the San Marcos Police Department, 630 E. Hopkins St., San Marcos
November 19 at Dripping Springs City Hall, 511 Mercer St., Dripping Springs

You're Invited! Discover Texas State Oct. 31

Join Texas State Saturday, October 31 to learn more about the recent successes of Texas State students, faculty and staff during Discover Texas State, the university's premier open house. Enjoy a day on the beautiful campus as they roll out the red carpet for alumni and friends with tours, lectures, hands-on demonstrations, exhibits and other activities – something for everyone.

Discover what makes Texas State "The Rising Star of Texas" with an exclusive peek into world-class academic programs, cultural centers and ever-expanding initiatives that reflect our mission: being a student-centered institution dedicated to excellence in serving the educational needs of Texas and the world beyond.

Below is some information on a few sessions that may be of interest to members of the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance. For more information, or to RSVP online visit All events are open to the public—no charge.

River Systems Institute

Texas State's institute is at the forefront of water research, preservation and interpretation of the remarkable aquatic system that surrounds us from director Andrew Sansom, one of Texas' leading conservationists.

Glass Bottom Boat Ride(s)
For more than 60 years, riding the glass-bottom boats at Aquarena Center has demonstrated the importance of water to more Texans than any other setting.

Freeman Ranch Tour
Visit Texas State's 4,200-acre working ranch that has served as a unique educational resource since 1985 as an operational platform for teaching, research, and outreach activities associated with the university and other learning partners of the region.

Best Time All Year To Get Out and Hike!

Upper Purgatory Creek (Dante's Trail) October 18, 2009

If you haven't gotten out and hiked a trail this week you're missing some of the best views (and weather) all year. It is so green it's almost overgrown in places. Starting at the trail head at the end of Franklin St. allows you a peek at the progress being made on the Wonderworld Extension. New fencing at the trail head signals future improvements to one of the most dramatic trails in San Marcos.

The 10-minute hike to Grandma's Oak is a bare indicator of the flora and insects thriving along the trail.  Birds are generally early morning or evening but now appear in greater numbers because of the water. There's actually standing water in this oak trunk from rain almost a week earlier and, if you walk the distance, more standing water (and mosquitoes) in Purgatory Creek below the bluffs.

There's an amazing overlook of approximately 80 feet followed by a meadow with all manner of late summer flowers with their attendant bees, butterflies and myriad other flying insects.  Following the trail along the creek provides a view of impressive limestone bluffs with Turk's cap growing along the feeder streams.  The trail opens up again at the dam next to Hernandez Intermediate School. You can hike or bike the trail past the dam, but you'll have to turnaround and re-trace your steps for a hike of approximately five miles.

Get out and enjoy!
-- Lance Jones

Naturescapes: Shy Sunflower #2

Shy Sunflower #2

Hays Co. Parks & Open Space Advisory Board : Funds Available, Shooting Range, Next Meeting

One of the primary ideas behind placing a bond vote before Hays County voters for more parks and open space in 2007 was the idea that we could begin purchasing prime habitat for endangered species. Through a program established by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Hays County, with the commitment of voters, could secure additional resources to create large unfragmented tracts of land suitable for habitat.

In order to create additional incentives the plan will allow developers who are displacing original habitat to "buy" habitat in the designated tract to offset the impact of the development. Below is the article about the call for parcels of land suitable for habitat, along with a couple other updates.

San Marcos Daily Record Hays County Seeks a Few Good Acres

To qualify for consideration, the property must contain at least 250 acres - and preferably 500 acres or more -- of endangered species habitat that will address the goals of the Hays County Regional Habitat Conservation Plan (, which focuses on habitat suitable for support of the Golden-cheeked Warbler and the Black-capped Vireo. Additional acreage for those priorities listed above will also be taken into account in the evaluation. For this solicitation, the county will consider any property that furthers the Regional Habitat Conservation Plan, but the ideal property would provide for multiple uses among those priorities enumerated above.
For further information, visit (click on Quick Links) Request for Proposals/Park Bond Funds. Proposals are due November 16.

Newstreamz Feds Resist Shooting Range on Habitat

The next scheduled meeting of the Hays Co. Parks and Open Space Advisory Board is November 4, 2009 at 7:00 pm at the San Marcos Activity Center.

SMGA is keeping a close eye and ear on the goings-on and as always, will keep everyone up-to-date.

Hays County Greenprint Update

SMGA participated in the Envision Central Texas Natural Infrastructure Committee in early October to hear about the Hays County Greenprint. Lots of finishing work has been going on, and the Hays County Greenprint is almost ready to be rolled out. We're very excited to help put this vision into action. Look for more in upcoming newsletters.

For more information, read our previous articles and visit the ECT website.

New and Rescheduled Hikes

Due to rain and mud, we've had to cancel or postpone quite a few hikes lately. We're in the process of scheduling new hikes. Thankfully we have two great opportunities this week and it looks like the weather will cooperate. Hope to see you on the trail soon.

Kids in Prospect Park - Rescheduled
Friday, October 16, 10:00-11:30 AM

Hike Blanco Shoals

Saturday, October 17, 8:30-11:00 am
Our goal as always will be to enjoy a morning autumn hike along the mighty Blanco River. But in addition we will be looking for ideas on how to better care for this dynamic space.

Workday Upper Purgatory
Saturday, October 24, 8:30-11:00 am
We will finish cleaning up the ranch junk left from the Bobcat Build event this past spring. There isn't too much left but it is one of those niggling details that spoils the otherwise wilderness experience near the overlook of Purgatory. The National Association of Environmental Professionals chapter on the Texas State campus will be joining in. They are an amazing group of motivated individuals who have a variety of professional career paths but who have a clear understanding of the value of our living planet.

For more events, click here or email

The Yard, Yosemite, and Our Connection with Creation

Swan Pond
Swan Pond by Carol Watson
2009 Naturescapes Award of Merit

Susan Smith's piece in the "Answers to Go" section of the San Marcos Daily Record about a quote in the May edition of "Oprah" magazine may have caught your attention.  The quote was from Susan Hanson's book "Icons of Loss and Grace: Moments from the Natural World" and the quote is included at the end of this article with a handful of others.  Susan teaches at Texas State and lives in San Marcos. SMGA has assisted with the honors class she teaches, Nature and the Quest for Meaning, by leading a hike through Purgatory Creek. And, her students later participated in the Bobcat Build clean up near the overlook.

Susan's essays are poetic and read like a combination diary and daily prayer book, like a travelogue through selected hill country sets and a naturalist's notebook.  She can connect you to our earth with a few words of contemplation from her busy backyard or from under water during a near drowning experience while paddling down the San Marcos River.  The readers in our area can savor every vignette, every mood or sensation evoked by our shared landscape. What a great find!

While reading Susan's book, you may recall some of the language in the Ken Burns "docu-story, "National Parks: America's Best Idea."  The series treats us to an engaging hike through the history of the National Parks. Television is a great medium for the telling this story as the imagery of those grand places, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Tetons, Grand Canyon, Great Smokey Mountains (and many others), helps us comprehend the grandeur of these places. The images of painters and early photographers, as was noted in our recent Naturescapes reception, are what helped convince the people in Washington and down home across America that these amazing places were worth keeping and protecting in perpetuity.

Burns' story is replete with the people who experienced the profound joy and wonder of America's unique landscape and the story of those who had to convince presidents, members of congress and cabinet members that conservation was a good idea.  Rockefeller helped a good bit as did many landowners, clubs and Americans of all descriptions from across the land, some of whom would never get to see our amazing places.

The contrast between Susan's personal, intimate scale with a landscape all of us see from our windows and the majesty of our great parks as portrayed in the Ken Burns series may seem disparate.  But there is a strong sentiment in each depiction that binds them in a common understanding: our living earth can give us all the succor we need, from simple sensory pleasure to wisdom for our age. And, we must take the time to live within it and keep it.

From the essay "Homecoming":
More and more, I realize, I turn to this natural world not just for beauty and solace, not just for pleasure and peace, but for the wisdom that I need to live.  It teaches me things in a language I can hear and understand.
In the piece titled "Simple Pleasures" she ends with:
In short, forget to pay attention to the world, and what you end up with is a machine, cutting a swath through what is beautiful, alive, and green.
From "Naming Day" in a place where she reflects on a winter day near the end of the year about her place, her time.
...I am here my weary mind tells me, to be surrounded by things I cannot understand, by creatures I can glimpse but not possess. I am here to watch the leaves decay, to listen to the river utter sounds thta have no meanding for my ears.  I am here to be gawked at by the birds, to be seen as the interloper that I am...
...Sitting under the cypress trees draped with Spanish moss, I will realize at last that it is ritual I've sought, some act to bring this old year, this old life to a close. And so, gathering twigs and leaves from atop the weathered rock, I will send them flying, one by one, into the current, naming them as they go. Deadlines, fears, anxieties of all kinds-taking the shape of cypress leaves, of bits of bark of grass, they will drift on the flowing water, will be weightlessly borne away.
Here to name what I am not, i will sit on this bank and watch as wave after wave spills over the polished rock. Here to forget, to remember that my life is more than any total of it parts, I will let the river wrap around me like the songs of birds. I will feel its sound wash over me like grace.
The Sound of Water
So, you tell yourself without alarm, this is what it's like to drown.
Stunned that everything could come to such a sudden end-no warning, no premonitions, no time to be afraid-you think of your daughter, of what she will do when she hears. And then it stops. Your reverie is broken by a gasp. Pushed to the surface, you take a breath, cough, and fling your body hard against the toppled tree. It is all you can do, but it is not enough.
Some notes from John Muir:
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.

God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.
When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.

Congratulations Dianne!

San Marcos River Foundation's Dianne Wassenich was appointed to the Basin and Bay Area Stakeholders Committee (BBASC) for the Guadalupe, San Antonio, Mission, and Aransas Rivers and Mission, Copano, Aransas and San Antonio Bays. Whew - what a name! She is one of three people representing the public interest.

Dianne was nominated by GBRA. Stakeholders will start meeting late in October. They will begin by appointing a science team to gather the information necessary to determine exactly what river flow to set as the goal in order for the water to reach the bays and serve the needs of wildlife and people who depend on the river. To lean more about this bay/basin process visit Texas Water Matters, a website run by the National Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club.

We can't think of anyone else better to serve. Congratulations Dianne!

Fall Harvest Plant Sale

Fall Harvest Plant Sale
at the San Marcos Nature Center
430 Riverside Dr.
Saturday, October 17, 9 am-4 pm

Check out the native plant sale, gardening tips, arts and crafts vendors, and activities for the kids. Don't forget that native plants are much more suited to our recent crazy weather.Free of charge (food and plants available for purchase).

For more information, contact the SM Nature Center at 512-393-8448.

Rescheduled - Kids in Prospect Park

Due to possible severe weather and muddy trail conditions, we've rescheduled this hike to Friday, October 16 from 10-11:30 am.

For more information click here or email Maggie at

Spring Lake Hike and Moonlit Social Hour Cancelled

It is not easy making this decision. Two cancellations in one weekend.

It looks like the weather will be cloudy but not rainy judging by weather satellite and radar. The weather service however still believes rain showers are likely through this evening. It seems we will not see much of a moonrise this evening.

But the main problem is that trail conditions are very sloppy and hikers damage tread and risk injury in such conditions. We will have someone posted at the parking lot at 5 pm to let people know the situation. I hope we can work out another hike date for Spring Lake and get it posted soon.

Grateful for Rain, Todd Derkacz

Trail Work cancelled for Saturday, Oct 3

We thought the weather might hold but sprinkles are beginning downtown, radar looks iffy and it just feels like it will pour any minute.
Check our calendar for the next opportunity and thanks for checking in

2009 Naturescapes Winning Photographs

Naturescapes: Success

The Fifth Annual Naturescapes event was better than ever. We had great photographs submitted this year, and you must really be busy if you haven't gone down to the Activity Center to check them out. Before the awards presentation, the Crystal Creek Boys enlivened the atmosphere with acoustic magic, while Linda and helpers Leah and Hayat cranked out mucho munchies. Top all that off with a silent auction and some awesome greeting cards featuring 10 of the photographs from last year, and it's the makings for a good time.

The presentation this year opened with some remarks by SMGA president Todd Derkacz noting how paintings and photographs have played a key role in the conservation of parks and natural areas since the idea first gained public attention early in our nation's history. The winners were then announced and the festivities continued. Some pics from Lance Jones will say more than words:

Awards of Excellence went to Larry Alford, Shannon Brotherton, Winifred Simon and Kenneth Jones.

Awards of Merit went to were given to Winifred Simon, Raena Wharton, Herb Smith, Carol Serur, Jane Guerin, Larry Alford.

Great crowd in attendance applauding our judge Greg Lasley (right photo) and two of our winners Carol Watson and Paul Keese who could not be present.

Thanks to all the volunteer members of SMGA, Hill Country Photography Club, The Arts Council and to the staffers at Parks and Recreation who make it possible.

2009 Naturescapes Winners

Best in Show
Herb Smith
Blue Winter Morning
Blanco River

Best in San Marcos Area
Paul Keese
Roses for Mother
Spring Lake Preserve

Awards of Excellence
Kenneth Jones,We Have Touchdown!, San Marcos - Aquarena Springs
Shannon Brotherton, Messing with My Head, San Marcos River
Larry Alford, Autumn Along the Blanco, Blanco River
Winifred Simon, Infrared Tree with Clouds, Red Hawk Road in Wimberley

Awards of Merit
Carol Serur, The New Bridge, San Marcos
Carol Watson, Zebra Caterpiller, Wimberley
Carol Watson, Swan Pond, Driftwood
Herb Smith, Cypress Creek Below Black Log Crossing, Cypress Creek in Wimberley
Jane Guerin, Green Heron, San Marcos
Jane Guerin, Knees Reflected in the Pedernales, Northwest Hays County
Kenneth Jones, Time to Strut, Wimberley
Raena Wharton, Should I Shave?, Northeast of Wimberley
Raena Wharton, Shy Sunflower #2, Northeast of Wimberley
Winifred Simon, Green & White, Red Hawk Road in Wimberley
Winifred Simon, Face to Face, Red Hawk Road in Wimberley
Winifred Simon, Mushroom, Red Hawk Road in Wimberley

View the slideshow of winners above.