The alarm went off early this moring which was really surprising since mom was off work because of President's Day. It was kinda drizzly and cold outside, but mom got out our hiking and hunting collars and started loading up her day hiking back pack. We were all pretty excited because mom only gets her hiking back pack out when we are doing a longer day hike outside of our usual hikes around the neighborhood. Halo started her incessant whine that she does when she gets excited. She was getting on my nerves (geez we were all excited, but Halo had to whine about it) when mom told her to hush as we had a long way to go before we got to go hiking.
Marcia showed up shortly after that and mom and Marcia went and ate a big breakfast at IHOP around the corner, and then they came back and loaded us up in the truck. (Mom has a new F150 that has a big back seat just for us kids. We have a dog bed and everything back there. Mom even put a bone back there to keep me busy.) Mom put Marcia's backpack and her backpack in the back with us. I was curious about those packs because they smelled really good. Turns out mom had some biscuits for us, and venison jerky and other snacks for her and Marcia. I kept trying to check out the packs, but mom finally had it and told me to "Leave it," so I went back to chewing on my bone.
We road for what seemed a long time to me. It was only about an hour and a half to Canyon of the Eagles. Canyon of the Eagles is up on the north side of Lake Buchanan which is one of the Highland Lakes in Central Texas. It is a huge lake, but is down allot this year because of the draught. I thought maybe we were going swimming when I saw the lake, but mom just kept driving. We turned off in the park and parked. There are a series of 14 miles of trails in the Canyon of the Eagles park, and most close after March 1 because this park is the home to many birds on the endangered species list (golden cheeked warbler and the black capped vireo are two that nest in this park). This park is also a winter nesting area for eagles. Mom was hoping to see an eagle today, but since is was cold and rainy we figured we were probably out of luck.
We all piled out of the truck. I got out first because I shimmied through the front seat and slipped out the door. I surprised mom that I could get out there, but she should have known I am a great escape artist. I thought it was funny and tried to play a bit of tag with mom. That didn't go over to well and she was getting back in the truck when I thought I better get back over there. I was afraid she would pack up and leave me there alone. Actually she had called me and I am good about coming when called, and I know mom would never leave me. Anyway, Marcia and mom got their packs on and we started out. The hike we were doing was about 3 or 4 miles, but I know Belle, Halo and I would do allot more than that since we were all off leash. This was my first big off leash hike and mom said this would test my recall skills. I knew I would do good.
This hike was going to take us in a loop and we were going to see a real live public observatory (for looking at the stars) at the top of the peak, and another view from the top of the plateau. The elevation gain on this hike is 700 feet and at the highest point is 1324 feet above sea level. That is not much by Colorado standards, but here in Central Texas that is a pretty nice climb. It was ranked a moderate hike in the Texas Hiking book.
So we headed out along a dirt road that leads up to the observatory and we were looking for the trail head. We didn't know it at the time, but we walked right by the trailhead. We had hiked about a half mile when Marcia and mom decided we had missed our turn off. They got out the topo map and studied it and decided to just keep going as everything was a big loop anyway21. So, we kept walking and then we started to climb. Belle and Halo said this climb was like some of the climbs in New Mexico, but without the altitude. In other words it was just as vertical a climb, but not as high up. There wasn't supposed to be water on the trail, but I found an old cistern like tank that was full of water and had water running into and out of it. So, there was also a good mud hole below it. I was ahead of everyone else so I took the time to look at the tank and as I was reaching for a log in the tank I fell in, right into the green moss, but the water was nice and clear underneath. I was climbing out when I heard mom say, "Oh Ringo." I climbed on out when Halo and Belle came over to see what I was into and to join in the fun. At that point mom decided it wasn't so bad as the water was running and not stagnant and was being fed by a spring. So we all played in the mud and water, then it was time to hit the trail again. So, up we climbed over rocks and through the oak forest. It was really a nice climb, but mom said it wouldn't be near as nice when it warmed up and was prime country for rattlesnakes. We didn't have to worry about rattelsnakes this trip though because it was too cold.
After a while we finally came to a trail marker and Marcia and mom figured out exactly where we were on the trail map. We were right at the observatory. Here is a picture of the observatory.
Those things that look like solar panels are actually tables so people can set up their telescopes and look at the stars. We got to run around and do laps here as this was a big open area. Then we moved on.
The next big land mark was the "View." This was almost a mile and a half into the hike. It was a spectacular view only the cloudy day made it a little disappointing. This is where we were hoping to see some eagles in flight, but no such luck today.
Here is the view from the "View."
That is Lake Buchanan in the background. We looked around here some and then headed on. About 100 yards down the trail I found a great prize. I thought it was a rattlesnake (now I haven't been snake trained, so I wasn't real sure it was a rattlesnake), and Belle and Halo who have been snake trained kept saying no it wasn't a rattlesnake, but I kept up my barking until mom got there. She saw it and said it was a snake, but just a big grass snake. It was several feet long, and dead. Dang, I thought I had found something cool. Mom said it looked like a big bird of prey may have killed it. Oh well, I guess I am glad it wasn't a bad snake.
So we kept hiking and hiking. Here a some pictures along various parts of the trail.
This one is Belle and Halo on the first part of the hike (the road up to the observatory) coming back to check on mom.
This next one is me and Halo after Halo scared up some birds.
So, after hiking on the road and then the trail for about two miles we were back down almost to the truck when Marcia and mom figured out where we missed the original trail head. They looked at the map again and decided that we had done the upper loop of the trail and if we took the trailhead we could do the lower loop and then we would have hiked close to all the hiking trail called the Juniper Trail. We headed up the trail head, and boy were we glad we did because I found out about a new critter called an armadillo.
I picked up the scent of the armadillo about half way around the lower loop. Now I had no clue what it was, but it smelled interesting and it was definitely time for some excitement. So, I started tracking it and mom and Marcia stopped to watch. Of course, they didn't know what I was tracking. Belle and Halo were off exploring so it was just me tracking this critter. Well I finally found it and rustled it up. Boy, armadillos are fast. Well, Halo heard me running after the armadillo and came to help. We went right through the cactus and everything to get that armadillo and actually almost had it when it scooted down a hole. Here is a picture of me and Halo with the armadillo cornered in the hole.
Halo was digging furiously to get it out of the hole and I was watching and waiting to catch it if it tried to escape. Belle had joined us in this next picture, and Halo was in serious did mode.
Mom finally called us off as she was afraid we would be covered in thorns from the cactus. And we were. Mom got most of the thorns out, but she figured she would be picking thorns out of us that evening as this particular hike had allot of cactus and being shorthairs and mostly immune to pain, we were going right through allot of those cactus. Anyway, after the armadillo we figured we were done with excitement for the day, but just towards the end of the trail I finally picked up the scent of something I new, quail.
This was right after I picked up the scent and turned, and the next picture is me pointing.
I held point until mom got up to me (I didn't really want to go into the cactus). She looked to see if she could see the quail, but she didn't want to go into the cactus either, so she told me to come on and we would hunt more quail next weekend at the hunt test I am going to. So, I broke off my point and we headed on down to the truck. Halo and I found one more covey of quail before we were done and we were pointing, but we just couldn't wait for mom (at least I couldn't) so I rushed in and quail went everywhere. Unfortunately, mom wasn't ready with her camera so you will just have to trust me on this one.
After that we walked on to the truck were we ate some snacks and drank lots of water and then piled into the truck to sleep all the way home. Mom said the truck was very quiet.
And that is how we spent our President's Day.
Next weekend is my debut weekend at a Hunt Test. I am going to see if I can get a couple of legs towards my junior hunter. Check back here after next weekend as I am sure I will have another story to tell.