Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Discovering what connects the beaten path


AUSTIN — Discovering the alleys in Austin; some are paved, many are not. Some are clean and well maintained, bordered by manicured and modern houses. Others are grungy, overgrown and punctuated by abandoned furniture. Some alleys have front entrances to university student housing or apartments, while other alleys have back entrances to houses and workshops.


This alley runs behind a post office in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Austin. 


One alley had a house where a man was in a backyard work area working on dirtbikes. The joyful screams of playing children echoed through another alley. I passed a house where some older guys were relaxing in the oddly pleasant early evening. A group of 20-somethings were gathered in another alley.


A church parking lot took over a different alley, with weathered wood utility poles marking a forgotten path. Some of the alleys fade into parking lots -- often with the original utility poles sort of in the middle of the way.

The alleys are a good way to explore a side of Austin not shown in news reports or public relations photos and writing. People ride their bikes or drive on the streets, not the alleys. Many still show a glimpse to older days in the City of the Violet Crown, before Hyde Park was gentrified, maybe to Prohibition or the Depression, maybe someone stood here on new-at-the-time asphalt when they heard about Kennedy’s assassination. Behind some of the fences that line the one-lane paths, sheds have wire-glass windows, gates are sometimes frozen open or blocked with broken furniture.


A birdhouse in the shape of a rabbit's head (with a railroad spike in its mouth?) adorns a recycling bit in one Hyde Park alley. 



I plan to explore the alleys more and ride down all of them, shooting more pictures. 


Its strange for an alley to be open like this on one side, but here it is. This is an empty lot and they want to keep it that way. 




Some of the alleys seem to go on forever, but they're really only 5 or 6 blocks long, maybe more. Whenever I pass through Hyde Park I go out of my way to take the alleys whenever possible.

The point is, small adventures and alternate routes are everywhere. While the big adventures and thousand-mile treks are awesome and make good stories, never discount the unpaved route that lingers forgotten, bearing the burden of untold stories and unseen rabbit head birdhouses or stained glass gates. 

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Discovering what connects the beaten path


AUSTIN — Discovering the alleys in Austin; some are paved, many are not. Some are clean and well maintained, bordered by manicured and modern houses. Others are grungy, overgrown and punctuated by abandoned furniture. Some alleys have front entrances to university student housing or apartments, while other alleys have back entrances to houses and workshops.


This alley runs behind a post office in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Austin. 


One alley had a house where a man was in a backyard work area working on dirtbikes. The joyful screams of playing children echoed through another alley. I passed a house where some older guys were relaxing in the oddly pleasant early evening. A group of 20-somethings were gathered in another alley.


A church parking lot took over a different alley, with weathered wood utility poles marking a forgotten path. Some of the alleys fade into parking lots -- often with the original utility poles sort of in the middle of the way.

The alleys are a good way to explore a side of Austin not shown in news reports or public relations photos and writing. People ride their bikes or drive on the streets, not the alleys. Many still show a glimpse to older days in the City of the Violet Crown, before Hyde Park was gentrified, maybe to Prohibition or the Depression, maybe someone stood here on new-at-the-time asphalt when they heard about Kennedy’s assassination. Behind some of the fences that line the one-lane paths, sheds have wire-glass windows, gates are sometimes frozen open or blocked with broken furniture.


A birdhouse in the shape of a rabbit's head (with a railroad spike in its mouth?) adorns a recycling bit in one Hyde Park alley. 



I plan to explore the alleys more and ride down all of them, shooting more pictures. 


Its strange for an alley to be open like this on one side, but here it is. This is an empty lot and they want to keep it that way. 




Some of the alleys seem to go on forever, but they're really only 5 or 6 blocks long, maybe more. Whenever I pass through Hyde Park I go out of my way to take the alleys whenever possible.

The point is, small adventures and alternate routes are everywhere. While the big adventures and thousand-mile treks are awesome and make good stories, never discount the unpaved route that lingers forgotten, bearing the burden of untold stories and unseen rabbit head birdhouses or stained glass gates. 

-30-

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Something about flood water and Austin

AUSTIN – This past Memorial Day and the weeks leading up to it dumped nearly record rainfall in central Texas; just like last year. Before that was an epic drought. It’s become a thing where the creeks and anything resembling a park near water will be at the bottom of a waterway or lake filling the banks of a swollen, centuries-old creek or a riverbed turned into a stream because of a dam.

I saw a photo of Ladybird Lake with what looked like rapids (!!) in the the middle of what is normally smooth water. I was pretty close by at the Rio Grande campus of Austin Community College, so I had to go check it out after class.

I always have a camera with me (not just an iPhone, but an actual camera: Nikon d750 with a Nikkor 24-70 2.8)

This stump is normally out of the water and surrounded by dirt, next to a concrete step.

Rapids! OK, they're not big rapids, or really rapids at all; but this is still pretty good for a normally calm lake.

Dogs on what is normally a dry concrete step (well, dry until dogs get it all wet, but not this wet) and more of the "rapids of Ladybird Lake."


To clarify, Ladybird Lake – formerly Town Lake – is an artificial lake formed by damming the Colorado River with the Longhorn Dam (Pleasant Valley Road crosses it). No, not that Colorado River, but a different one that is entirely in Texas, and forms a few lakes on its way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Because of flooding from recent rain – and a lot of it – the lake has been closed to recreational uses for a week or so. Looking down from the Pflueger Pedestrian Bridge, one can see wild eddy currents and murky water that is higher than normal. The water level in Ladybird stays fairly level most of the time. 

At least two of the Longhorn Dam floodgates are open (they don’t all work), which means Secret Beach is under 10 feet of water, as well as the normally dry, wide creek beds – the creek beds with the wildly unstable cliffs, the creek beds where the magnificently destroyed Roy Guerrero Park bridge lay in ruin.
Eddy currents behind the Longhorn Dam

Several soccer balls, a floating wood thing and other debris bob in the violent eddy currents behind some of the flood gates of the Longhorn Dam

Fishermen taking advantage of the high water. Shortly after I shot the photo -- I mean, as I was walking down the hill -- a game warden appeared asking about fishing licenses. I didn't stick around. 

Fishermen taking advantage of the high water. Shortly after I shot the photo -- I mean, as I was walking down the hill -- a game warden appeared asking about fishing licenses. I didn't stick around. 



To get to the path to Secret Beach or to parts of Roy Guerrero Park without going all the way around to the Montopolis entrance (or however people who drive there go), one can cut through the disc golf course trails (what the hell is disc golf?) by way of the Country Club Creek Greenbelt.

Or walk around the fence and climb over the bridge pile.

Now all of the various basins and creeks and rivers are at capacity – a big change from their near depletion a year ago – we have to wait for the flood water and overflow to drain away so we can have Secret Beach back. 

Maybe one day the city will fix that bridge, taking into account the volatile nature of the fragile creek banks and bottom, unlike the first time.


The path down to Secret Beach on the right. On the left, is where one can walk out to the wide creek bed. I'm guessing the water is around 7 feet deep here. 

The path to Secret Beach. This is a steep and bumpy hill that crosses a sandy creek bed on the bottom. Who knows what it will look like after all of this flood water eventually drains away. 
The bridge over another creek that's normally dry, or has a small stream in the middle. This is the road (long since closed to motor vehicles) that connects Roy G. Guerrero Park to the Montopolis Bridge.

The view down to the Colorado River from the Montopolis Bridge.

With downtown Austin in the distance, this is a view of the swollen Colorado River from the Montoplis Bridge.


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