Amazing Nature Walk for 2020 Class

Yesterday was the first field trip for our 2020 class and some tag-along Chapter members. We literally visited a field! What a beautiful field it was, however, and we are grateful to Nancy Webber for inviting us to share the property she has been managing as a wildscape for over a decade.

Heading out for the walk, Nancy explains how she manages her property.

After a bit of gawking at the beautiful off-grid home on the property, complete with huge cistern, solar panels, and blazing wood stove, Nancy led the class through the riparian area and meadows in her property, somewhere between Davilla and Bartlett. She presented so much information about her property, how they manage it, and what they do with it.

We had fun spotting prickly pear that they dug up and hung from trees to propagate no more, and marveled at how few mesquite there were. On the other hand, the possumhaw was glorious, and everywhere!

Not my best possumhaw photo, but you get the idea.

We saw and heard many birds, which was great fun to the birders among us. A ladderback woodpecker and American robins were highlights, though there were many more. We knew there were also plenty of raptors around by the evidence of many former mourning doves.

Former dove.

We had fun finding dens of some of the local mammals (one of which had an interesting musky smell), spider webs in trees and on top of holes, and even a grasshopper and a sulphur butterfly.

The spider just left before I could take the picture!

Another fun activity was spotting the cool things the property owners had done to honor the nature in the area, such as decorated trees, a “portal,” and an entire area featuring various bones hanging from the trees. It’s a great place to play “guess the carcass!”

The two hours flew by, since the weather was pleasantly cool and the mud wasn’t bad at all. A couple of us lagged behind as we got all involved in plant identification and taking photos for iNaturalist. We just can’t help it, plus one was a new one to us (fringed puccoon, pictured below). I think Ann Collins and I may have hooked one of our class members on our hobby!

I wish we could tour more property of our members, to see how they differ. Hope you enjoy my photos. I am sparing you most of my iNaturalist photos!

We all had a great time on our field trip!

Busy Weekend for Us

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.)

Viewing the photos of the land conference attendees got to see in person.

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.

Chapter members tell a visitor about what we do.

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.

Plant samples for use in herbaria.

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 Collins and her “family swale.”

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.

Hiking the El Camino de los Tejas National Historic Trail in Milam County

By Joyce and Mike Conner

Figure 1: Part of the Previously Discovered Trail

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.

Figure 2: Dr. Estell Meets the UT Students

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.)

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