It’s no secret that having spent most of my life in Vasai (virtually a suburb of Mumbai), which is the western hub for trekking in Western Ghats and having associated with a seasoned trekking group (VAC) here, trekking has always been close to my heart. A day or couple of days, trek in the scenic, rocky, mountainous terrain of Western Ghats, quite famous for some of the historical forts of Maratha Empire, which wears this emerald greenery in the monsoon and blossoms with exotic flora and fauna, is an extremely refreshing experience.
A couple of treks with YHI in Himachal Pradesh and Darjeeling had added few rich experiences to my mountaineering and trekking endeavors. I still have a long bucket list of treks in some of these most beautiful parts of north and south India. But then it’s also good to know about different countries and understand their culture and my IT profession gave me those experiences.
Austin was a pleasant surprise to me. With the hills and valleys and lakes and winding Colorado River passing through it, it has number of trekking or rather hiking trails. The first few months went busy with settling down in the new project, trying to carry on with public transport for a while and finally getting a license and a car. But then by this time I had become member of couple of trekking meetup groups and I was waiting for my first chance to join one of those.
My first trek here happened to be River Place Nature Trail by Crack of the Dawn trekking group. This group, run by Dave, is a relatively small group with most of the people quite regular and so it’s more like a family. I got absorbed quite easily and could get connected to most of the members. We hiked for around three hours and by noon I was home.
River place trail is one of the most scenic trails here. Few portions of this trail are quite thickly wooded. Most of the hike is a walk by the soothing rhythmic sound of the stream. This group does not take many halts and is generally fast paced, which helps to cover more in less time. Also too many breaks does not keep the tempo and the whole purpose is lost.
We did the panther trail and also took a detour to another scenic trail called as Little Fern Trail. At places there are small ponds formed due to water accumulated in the rocks and are nice spots to take a break and capture their beauty.
Most of the trees are oak and elm, but don’t expect a lot of exotic flora and fauna here. The flowing water of the stream, some of the ups and downs and couple of thickly wooded portions make this trek really enjoyable.
The interesting part was unlike in Mumbai where I had to either travel overnight or really early in the morning to reach the meeting spot, I started around 6:45-7 to be at the meeting spot by 7:30 am by a 30 minute comfortable ride, quite a royal treatment from that angle.
The weather was a bit humid, but since there was no sun, it was pretty pleasant. It is recommended to carry lot of water as there are few steep patches and elevations where if you are not regular then you can start panting and gasping for a while. There are maps at regular intervals. Since it was Sunday, there were many families with kids and other groups that we met on the way.
Considering the treks that I have done in and around Mumbai Pune, this was much easy. But then looking at the time spent and the age group of people this was good enough to keep you fit, connected to the nature and also make few friend who are nature lovers and ready to sacrifice that Sunday morning sleep for some thrill in the woods.
At the start of the trail there is this beautiful park, called Woodland Park along Lake Austin. A lone swan was kind of guarding this lake. It is also a good place for fishing as well. The entire area is quite scenic due to mountainous terrain and the peculiar all year greenery of oak trees very typical to Austin. In fact, the back roads towards 8820 Big View Dr after taking a City Park road from 2222 Highway is quite nice ride with lot of scenic spots and few most beautiful homes.
A bed of wild flowers which is typical to Austin and what I love Austin for, were smiling at us as we reached other end of the trail. There was almost zero sunlight and so the clarity of the pictures that I have got are not that bright, but still I have managed to capture the beauty, the best I can.
It was nice to get some insights on careers, schools and neighborhoods as well as I moved to Austin recently and have been gathering all this information before my family arrives from Mumbai.
It was great to see Greg, who might be in his 60s or 70s, but quite enthusiastic and gregarious fellow. There was that similarity in spirit, while trekking the river place nature trail with Dave, Christine, Greg, Mili, Fran, Chester, Jose, Wendy, quite similar to Yogesh, Harsha, Siddesh, Pranesh, Pooja in India. The place, customs, food, weather do not change few of the basic instincts of us humans.
Meeting Spot: 8820 Big View Dr – at the trail head near the large pond (30.356925,-97.86413)
Directions – Take 2222 (either South from 620, or north from 360) and turn Southwest onto River Place Blvd (right if from 620, left if from 360). Follow River Place Blvd until it ends on Big View Drive. Turn right onto Big View Drive, continue until the lake is on your right and park. The trail head is right at the corner of the lake.