Sunday, April 21, 2013

Barton Creek Greenbelt (Austin, TX)

I had to take a trip to Austin for work back in early March. It was SXSW week, and I was needed at the Gibson Showroom. I didn't get to see much of any actual SXSW goings on outside the showroom, but managed to see a few cool bands playing while helping out. I decided to spend the weekend there, since my friend Eddy lives in Austin and I had yet to visit him. Having been to the Dallas/Ft Worth area before, I was incredibly surprised at the nature of Austin. It is very unlike the other parts of Texas I had been in, and I was caught off guard by how hilly the area is.
I hit up a few people for suggestions on things I should see, and since a few mentioned the Barton Creek Greenbelt I decided to check it out. Instead of the usual starting point at Zilker Park, I decided to make for the entrance off the 360 and Mopac. Actually, the way it went was this: my friend suggested that entrance, but not having looked up how to actually find it I continued on to Zilker. Once at Zilker though I wasn't really feeling it, so I looked up how to find the Mopac entrance and made my way over there. It's located right next to a business park, but has it's own parking lot.
One thing I should mention is that the creek that the trail runs alongside of is usually wet...being in the middle of a drought though, it was completely dry. I was a bit surprised though at how much green still existed in Austin, and in the trail. There were some trees that were pretty dry (particularly the ones closest to the creek, but it wasn't as bad as in South Florida when we've had a drought. I guess their green is well equipped for the heat. While some wetness and reflectivity might have come in handy photographically, I found the trail to be pretty beautiful as it was. It was also very cool being able to walk ON the creek bed!
Hiking down from the parking lot to the trail,  I found myself facing the Seismic Wall. This is one of the many rockfaces on the trail that are designated for climbing use. There were a few people climbing it when I got there. From there I went left (south) on the trail. For the most part the trail is easy going. You can certainly climb up the hills at various points (which I did) but there's not much drastic elevation change within the marked trail itself. After a little walking I came up to the 360 bridge that passes overhead. It's pretty impressive, having such a tall man-made structure flying over you. Right before that though were some signs of wetter days: ropes hanging off a tree that are used for swinging into creek when it's there.
Hiking along I came to a part of the trail that was close to mountain bikers. It was flatter than the bike trail, but they were in the process of letting some of the nature grow back. After that I came across some chains on the wall...another reminder of wetter times (they are to help you cross some slippery rocks). The trail then crosses the creek and continues on the right hand side of it. I walked all the way down to Twin Falls which was, of course, dry. This seemed to be a popular gathering spot, as it was the busiest part of the trail.
I turned around at this point, and decided to hike up the hill on the right. This took me to the Gaines Creek entrance. I was pretty tired at this point (it was REALLY hot out!), and was not looking forward to having to hike half a mile back down the hill and then another half mile to get to the point where I was at, lower on the hill. So I decided to go down a really steep path on the north side of the hill. It was fun, and got me down to the creek in no time. I crossed the dry stones under the bridge, avoiding the slightly muddy ones, and hiked back to the start. I passed by the climbing wall and watched them a bit. It was a pretty intense wall, and not one I would want to do until I was much better at rock climbing!
Few notes:
-There was grafitti a plenty on the made made structures (bridge columns, etc). Most of it was artistic in nature though, and even the "tags" had some visual worth.
-This seems to be a pretty popular mountain bike trail. The section I did had no real offroad paths, but there is enough elevation change to warrant riding here.
-I took a detour halfway to Twin Falls, and found and interesting circular depression in the rock, which was obviously used as a "chill spot" for people at night (remnants of fire, some mild littering). I proceeded to climb further and found myself on the top of the rockface that the creek path goes along, with a sheer drop down to the path in some places. Pretty cool!

You can check out some more images from my hike at imgur:

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