Hiking the Appalachian Trail

Joel Barks on the trail

A couple of years ago a friend asked me if I wanted to try backpacking.  Fortunately I ignored all my trepidations and said yes because it has become a joy to be involved with hiking, backpacking and trail work.  I find I meet the greatest folks through these activities and would not be having nearly the joy in my life otherwise.

We took a five night, six day, 70 mile backpacking trip on a portion of the Appalachian Trail in southwestern Virginia.  This had us ending out hike in Damascus “Trail Town USA” when they were having their annual trail days celebration.  Five thousand backpackers in one place is no way to avoid a good time.  

What I took away from the trip is the realization that we don’t need much to really have a good time if we are with good people and most especially if we can see vistas like what is available from the high points on the trail.  

As I write this I am stopped for coffee on my way back to the AT.  Not a long trip at all this time, just trying to encourage a family member to start backpacking by coordinating a three day high for us on the AT near Asheville, N.C.

Hike your own Hike!  --JB

Trail crewmembers have some extraordinary adventures when not using the Pulaski and MacLeod.

“Hiking” the River Trail to the Coast

Feature Story:  Meet the Trail Crew

Mark Taylor at Rio Vista on the paddle to the coast
Some time in the Spring we first hear the song of the returning Summer Tanager, repeating softly in the early morning. For some, this song says warmer weather is ahead. Others pull out their binoculars to get a better view. For me, this call clearly says, “It’s time to start practicing again for the Texas Water Safari”. My Water Safari teammate Pat Stroka and I begin settling into a pattern of activity - monitoring flows up and down the San Marcos and Guadalupe Rivers, watching rain events closely, picking out different sections of river to paddle on the weekends, long practice runs preceded by breakfast tacos and chocolate milk, punctuated by stops on shaded gravel bars for lunch or snacks. Lots of paddling, reading the river, negotiating obstacles, looking back to see if the fork we didn’t take would have been the better choice, learning the river’s lessons, often the hard way.

The route of the Water Safari is a trail - San Marcos, Martindale, Staples, Fentress, Prairie Lea, Luling, Palmetto Park, Gonzales, Hochheim, Cuero, Thomaston, Nursery, Victoria, Tivoli and Seadrift - a river trail of 260 miles that must be completed in under 100 hours. For Pat and me, “hiking” this trail in the Water Safari means lining up shore crew “team captains” (kudos to my brother Jeff, and our friends Dan Duncan and Jon Cradit this year) to meet us at checkpoints, resupply us and encourage us from steep, muddy riverbanks. It means preparing ourselves and our boat to paddle night and day, deal with soreness and pain all over our bodies, and take naps on the ground in odd, often noisy places. It means, at the end of the race, paddling a choppy bay into a stiff headwind for hours before Seadrift is in sight.
Portage over the Staples Dam

“Hiking” this trail also means enjoying a oneness with nature all along the way. The pristine upper San Marcos, the broad (but still tricky) Guadalupe below Gonzales, the marshy delta as we approach the coast. The marvels of birds, fishes, turtles and alligators. The ubiquitous pecan, cottonwood and box elder trees, and every now and then the lines of stately cypress trees along river banks, spared from human harvest and floods.

We’re often asked, “Why do you do the race?” Our best answer is, “We love the river”. Perhaps a more complete answer, given the extent of the efforts we expend along with our team captains, is “Because it’s there”.  We tip our hats to the Victoria Advocate for their opinion column - https://www.victoriaadvocate.com/news/2017/jun/14/n-topic-texas-water-safari-n-our-viewiconic-event-/ 

--Mark Taylor

Stories in this series are from the trail crew on their otherworldly adventures.

SMGA is launching a new website!

Dear SMGA Members,

We are delighted to announce the official launch date of our newly redesigned website is tomorrow, which has been many months in the planning! This endeavor was generously funded by the City of San Marcos Ecotourism Fund.

Our goal with this upgrade is to provide a faster and easier to navigate website for visitors to learn about the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance. The new site features a responsive design across all devices, search engine optimization and a mobile-friendly navigation system that will make maps of hiking trails in the City's natural areas more readily available to visitors.

Needless to say, over the next few weeks there are bound to be lingering problems. We’d ask you to bear with us as we put the final touches to our new site and please email us if you notice any issues.

June Bird Walk along the San Marcos River

   Colton Robbins led the June 3rd bird walk along the river.  Water always draws the most birds and the turn-put of birders at an even dozen was respectable also. With more than six years of birding
At City Park on the San Marcos River
walks we've accumulated quite the history of birds seen in the San Marcos area. We visit all five of the natural areas, Spring Lake and the San Marcos River are popular, and a few hidden gems with access only to guided groups.
   All experience levels are welcomed on the walks that are sponsored by the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance and conducted by Stephen Ramirez and Colton Robbins with an occasional guest birder adding their expertise.
  The monthly walks are announced a couple days prior to the first Saturday of each month depending on probability of best sightings.  Contact Stephen@birdsIview.org to be included in the eMail notification or check the Facebook page; San Marcos Bird Walk, for location and time (usually day break).  Bird lists are found on the LOOP and at eBird for past walks.  --LJ

San Marcos River Walk, Hays, Texas, US
Jun 3, 2017 7:04 AM - 8:09 AM
Protocol: Traveling
0.25 mile(s)
Comments:     San Marcos monthly bird walk. 75 degrees, mostly cloudy, little to no wind.
27 species

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  1
Neotropic Cormorant  2
Green Heron  2
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  1
Black Vulture  1
Inca Dove  2
White-winged Dove  45
Mourning Dove  4
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  2
Black-chinned Hummingbird  1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Downy Woodpecker  1

Olive-sided Flycatcher  1
So much too see in one place; woodpeckers, herons, flycatchers

Eastern Phoebe  2
Great Crested Flycatcher  1
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher  1
Blue Jay  3
Barn Swallow  1
Cliff Swallow  4
Carolina Wren  3
Northern Mockingbird  4
European Starling  2
Northern Cardinal  3
Common Grackle  1
Great-tailed Grackle  20
House Sparrow  4

View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S37354950

Plenty of bugs at the Discovery Center in June

  Bugs don't just walk.  They fly. They crawl. They bite. They do all kinds of interesting things like spin webs. And they morph. Humans don't morph. Bugs morph. Butterflies didn't start out as butterflies. We learn so much from observation and someone willing to share their knowledge.
Gabby identifies a captive before release
   The San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance is honored to share the knowledge of individuals who have attended, or are attending, Texas State University in pursuit of higher learning. Leading our monthly bug walks is Gabby Cole, a master's program candidate in Biology.
  We should probably call it an arthopod walk as there is much more than insects. For the second time, an even dozen joined our expert for an exploration walk.  We found so many different creatures under leaves, on cactus pads and, of course, in the nectar of numerous flowering plants.
Visit San Marcos Bug Walk on Facebook for the location of the next hike, generally two days before the event. -- LJ

(all photos courtesy Stephen Ramirez)

Trail crew tackles Schulle Canyon June 15th

Downed Chinaberry tree tackled by SMGA trail crew.
   Trail crew Thursday, the third week in June, saw (pun intended) the crew address limbs and logs and snags and trees that needed some attention in Schulle Canyon. Nestled between Holland Street and Sierra Circle the pocket natural area has Ashe juniper, Cedar Elm, Live Oaks, Mesquite and a half-a-dozen Bois d'Arc trees.  Invasive Chinaberry and ligustrum continue to out-compete the more desirable native trees.
   Wind, drought and flood have taken their toll and pulled trees out of the sloping landscape, blown-down tall chinaberry trees and generally impacted the four trails that total less than a mile. The City of San Marcos Urban Forester, Kelly Eby, joined the crew and provided guidance for the morning's efforts. The SMGA trail crew also discussed future improvement plans with her.
The fruit from a Bois d'Arc
  The 21 acres at 100 Ridgewood at the end of Alamo Street is popular with neighbors ready for a nature fix. Moms with babies in strollers and dog walkers are familiar sights.
  Last week we cleaned up the western section of Spring Lake natural area now open after the Golden Cheek Warbler nesting season closure with weed whacking, lopping, and other maintenance chores. If you haven't experienced Roadrunner, Porcupine, Blue Stem and Centipede trails in Spring Lake the access at N. LBJ is now open although street access is limited due to construction.  --LJ