Eric Neubauer and I joined forces Wednesday, July 7, to investigate the diversity of wildlife at the Apache Pass Event Center on the San Gabriel River, a unique location on the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail and a stop on the Brazos Loop of the Great Texas Wildlife Trail promoted by Texas Parks and Wildlife.
The mowed, fertilized and herbicided open areas of the privately owned location did not hold a lot of appeal for exploration, especially since the Bermuda grass was dripping wet from morning dew. The peripheral areas along trees and fence lines were the more interesting locations for plants and listening to bird songs.
A gravel bar beside the flowing river was the high point of the visit. It was teeming with spiders, damselflies and small frogs. A naturalist’s paradise!
Eric brought his awesomely simple spider scoop which made the photography and inspection of spiders a snap as well as his advanced (compared to my point-shoot-and hope) camera and his vast knowledge of spider identification. As usual, the adventure was a learning experience for me.
The number of colorful damselflies we observed was incredible, as well as the many tiny frogs and toads Eric was also able to spot and point out. I am certainly looking forward to another visit when the river is flowing at a slower rate. If you decide to drive over that way yourself, be sure to visit the gravel bar along the river. And visit iNaturalist.org for the day’s observations by eanuebauer and connlindajo.
This past weekend our Chapter members were busy learning and sharing what they learned.
The Chapter members who are also members of the El Camino Real de las Tejas National Trail Association attended their conference on Friday and Saturday. They shared our new wildflowers of Milam County brochure with all the attendees. (I was unable to go, so I don’t have any photos.)
Yesterday they did field trips of Milam County sites that were on the trail, including the property of Joyce and Mike Conner, Cedar Hill Ranch, which has some important sites on it. They also went to Sugarloaf Mountain and Rancheria Grande. Many thanks to our chapter members who volunteered to help out with the tour.
Meanwhile, other members put together a lovely exhibit of plant samples for the herbarium that members of our group helped collect. It was located at the at the Milam County Historical Museum.
There was also a display of beautiful photographs Christopher Talbot’s A Photographic Journey of the Trail exhibit. The photos were quite impressive, including a photo of the Graham Swale that Ann Collins and Connie Anderle claimed was theirs, because they are from the Graham family. So yes, fun was had.
Ann, Donna, Linda Jo, and Scott did a great job answering questions and passing out material. After the tour was over, the trail conference attendees came to enjoy the exhibits. Lots of people came in, since the Steak, Stein and Wine Fest was also going on. It was a fine way to do some outreach, and the weather was just perfect.
The committee has been meeting for a few weeks, and I’d been trying to come (but it’s hard to get time off during work hours!). This week I was able to attend their meeting and see what they’ve been up to. I met with John Pruett from the trail association, along with Linda Jo Conn, Joyce Conner, Catherine Johnson, and Ann Collins.
Wow, so much work has been done! Our Master Naturalist group has spent years gathering data on plants found on the El Camino Real route, and they’ve now got it all gathered up, so we can include it in a brochure people can refer to when they are exploring the marked trail areas throughout Milam County.
In addition, Mike Conner has created a map for us to use in the brochure that will help people find their way from Apache Pass to Sugarloaf Mountain, where the trail passed through Milam County.
I am assigned to make the actual brochure. I’ve collected photos of the plants the committee wants to show information about, the introduction they’ve written, and the cover photo of Linda Jo Conn. We’ll see what I come up with.
The committee would be happy to have other members of the El Camino Real Master Naturalists join them as they get ready for our role in the conference. You get volunteer hours for it!
On Saturday, March 9, 2019, thirteen students; their teacher, Dr. Nichole Wiedemann, from the University of Texas School of Architecture; and Steven Gonzales, Director of El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail Association (ELCAT), arrived at Cedar Hill Ranch in Gause to hike a small part of El Camino de los Tejas National Historic Trail.
There they met Dr. Lucile Estell who explained how she and the late historian Joy Graham worked to get the approximately 2580 miles of trail nationally recognized as the 19th National Historic Trail in the United States in 2004 and then subsequently worked to get signage placed throughout most of Milam County. (Dr. Estell has authored/co-authored several books including El Camino Real de lost Tejas (Images of America) and Historic Bridges of Milam County; and served on the board of ELCAT for many years since its beginning, including as president and vice-president.)