Monday, December 10, 2018

Cathedral Park Meditation Walk: A Calm Walk in the City

I recently enjoyed an evening walk at Cathedral Park just off busy Broadway Street north of downtown San Antonio. Cathedral Park is home to the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas and they welcome the public to enjoy their serene spaces.  In a town with one of the most famous "Walks" in the world, it's nice to also enjoy some of our less famous and quieter walking trails.  The steep walk up from the parking lot gets you started and your reward is this pretty rose arbor to start the trail.

Trinity Fountain gently bubbles to one side.   Details of the walk, including a plant list, are on their website.

Volunteers maintain the planters and much of the other areas of the park.

At the top of the hill a potted "Hollywood Juniper" is very sculptural against the pretty pink chapel wall.  I was here one day when the tiny chapel was open and it's as pretty inside as out.

Benches for pausing are positioned along the way.

Very San Antonio arch and gate at the side of the chapel.

Circular benches for a circular trail around the lawn in front of the chapel.

Baptismal Fount for outdoor ceremonies.

This enormous Live Oak tree is estimated at 200 years old.  The main tree trunk is on the right and you see and branches hug the ground, supported by rocks.

Walking under the old Live Oak the pink chapel comes into view so we're about to go full circle.

Beautiful to just stand under this giant tree.

The balcony is a "sunrise overlook" which appears to be under repair.

After exploring the more formal parts of the garden there are steps leading downhill to wooded areas and natural trails.

Nice detail on this iron railing.

A "Great Lawn" is just around that bend and several neighbors were ending their evening with a quiet walk.

From the parking lot you can also turn right down the hill to follow a natural trail through the woods.

One of several fountains in the park.

Birdbath cut from a limestone rock is going in my idea file.

Our destination was an event at the pavilion.

The treehouse/screened room is a beautiful space for a small gathering of garden-minded folks.

Views from the bridge show masses of purple heart, a favorite and easily grown plant in San Antonio.

Tiled inset on a nearby wall.

The theme continues with butterflies on this cross inside the treehouse pavilion.

The bird feeder arm swings in for filling.

More details in the copper sconces.

Walking back to the parking lot we encounter a rustic bridge.

It's fun to enjoy different relaxing, yet challenging walking trails in our city.

Find more information Cathedral Park website.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Wildlife Wednesday December 2018

It's the first Wednesday of December and time for a late fall look at wildlife in the garden hosted by Tina at "My Gardener Says..."  This is all about caterpillars (mostly).  When we lived in colder climates it was common to hear predictions for the coming winter based on the width of woolly caterpillar stripes.  Woolly Bear caterpillars are typically black front and back with a belted orange stripe around the middle.  As the folklore goes, the wider the orange stripe the milder the winter and conversely, a narrower stripe means a colder winter.  With that in mind, let us consult our fuzzy friends about the coming winter's forecast.

So what does it mean if the caterpillar is all black with no orange stripe?  Hmmmm, not an auspicious start....

This one?  Black with a touch of orange.  Hedging our bets, are we?

And this one?  Equally ambivalent.

Or one that is almost entirely orange?  I like it a lot, but it seems like the caterpillar equivalent of a member of the Optimist's Society.

What if the orange and black stripes run lengthwise instead of around?  More orange than black?

Or more black than orange?

What about this gray one with black stripe?

Maybe they are trying to cover all the weather bases.  This is Texas after all so we can predict deep freezes with ice and possibly snow followed closely by hot weather before another freeze sets in.  Hot days will give way to 40-50 degree drops and blanket us with three days of below freezing weather before going back up just as fast as it dropped.  We will have an early freeze (check that one off already) and probably a late freeze in early April.  There will be whole weeks where we need no heat or air conditioning.  So the caterpillars are all correct!

Fact is none of those shown above are the famous woolly caterpillar which always has an orange belt stripe of varying dimension.  Another interesting fact is most common caterpillar ID sites don't feature fuzzy caterpillars.  The best I could do is figure out all of the above are moth caterpillars and you should not pick them up unless you are sure which one.  While the Woolly Bear is safe, others may carry venom which would be a nasty surprise.  A friend recently felt a sharp sting while gardening and later determined she had been stung by an Asp caterpillar.  Her description of long-lasting nerve pain was similar to a scorpion sting.  Ouch!

A few more sightings from last month are this White-striped longtail moth.  A fairly descriptive name.

Shadows on a Gulf Fritillary

A checkered butterfly enjoying the last wildflowers of the season.

Nice pose but I don't remember.....What are you looking at???

White-tailed bucks are feeling frisky and running all over the neighborhood in such a way that we must be careful when driving or walking.  Most of the year the bucks are cautious animals hiding in the woods until the fall season when their hormones go nuts and they take surprising risks of being seen by hunters or hit by a car.  A deer can cause as much damage as another vehicle or worse.

His attention is directed at this lady who will play hard-to-get until she is ready.  He will circle for as long as it takes.

That's the wildlife wrap for 2018.

Check out Tina's post at "My Gardener Says..." for more wildlife in the garden.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Water in threes!

In recent weeks I've attended three events in three locations with three different groups, yet the locations I visited were all tied together by one important element.  Water.  With limited rainfall most years, a reliable supply of clean water is vital to our community and three local parks help tell the story of the San Antonio River where our city was founded 300 years ago.

We'll start at San Antonio Spring where the river begins.

My neighborhood garden club recently enjoyed a guided tour of The Blue Hole.  Blue Hole?  This well-like stone structure houses the San Antonio Spring which is the headwaters of the San Antonio River.  From this small spring the river flows south through the famous River Walk then another 250 miles to the Gulf of Mexico and the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge which is best known as the winter home of the endangered Whooping Crane.

The Blue Hole really does look blue.  The water is very pure.

The property also incorporates a nature sanctuary in the city surrounded by the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) campus.  A non-profit organization called the Headwaters at Incarnate Word has recently incorporated to preserve the site and natural areas.  Our guide Pam Ball (with map) discussed history and future for the site as part of the Sanctuary at Incarnate Word.  The spring is considered sacred by indigenous peoples who still visit annually.

Until the early 20th century a 20 ft. high water spout marked the spring.  As more people settled in San Antonio and drilled wells, the spring eventually lost pressure and became the gentle bubbler we observed on our visit.  The spring is flowing nicely now due to plenty of rain.  If this doesn't look like enough water to float those tourists boats along the River Walk you are correct.  The San Antonio River is primarily fed by reclaimed water which was the subject of a previous post.  Volunteers are helping to remove invasives and restore native plants to the site.

With Pam as our guide we walked past huge legacy oaks.

These trees have been documented for size and age though I don't remember exactly what Pam told us.

The Lourdes Grotto is part of the Sanctuary.  Pam has removed invasive plants and planted drought-tolerant natives in front of the grotto.

Then on to the Brackenridge House.  George Brackenridge was an early investor in San Antonio property and water works.

Pam told us he used to sit on his porch to watch the water spout from San Antonio Spring as a natural water feature for his property.

Now owned by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word the house is used for offices and meetings.

On the walk back to our cars we observed this palm growing out of the creek.  This palm will be a reference point later.

The Headwaters Sanctuary is open to the public, however on weekdays you will need a temporary UIW parking pass (request one here) so it's best to go when classes are not in session or on weekends.

If all that planning is a bit much you can enjoy a walk along this same creek at Cathedral Park just behind the Headwaters Sanctuary and UIW campus.  Cathedral Park is headquarters of The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas, which was a second destination I recently visited.

When the Blue Hole is flowing so is the creek at Cathedral Park.  If you live in a rainy climate this may not seem like a big deal but the creek here is dry most of the time.

Our destination was a serene tree-house structure.  The palm tree in the creek shown above is directly behind the condo building in the background.

Tree top views from the tree house and a built-in bird feeder on the right.

Cathedral Park is open to the public.  I'll share more of my walk there in a future post. 

Finally, we attended a "Partners in Conservation" event sponsored by San Antonio Water System (SAWS) at the Witte Museum just down the street from UIW and Cathedral Park.  Here the San Antonio River flows through Brackenridge Park on its way south to the San Antonio River Walk.

One of the reclaimed water inlets is just north of the museum so there's a good bit more water in the river at this point.

We had a fun evening exploring the museum which was recently renovated.  There's still a glimpse of an early building on the site where my great-grandmother and her sisters partied over 100 years ago.

The building houses an exhibit dedicated to early pioneers of San Antonio which was not open when we were there so I couldn't check to see if the bronze plaque with my great-grandmother's name is still there.  Thank you to SAWS for a beautiful evening, it's nice to know our efforts at conservation are appreciated.

Three events, three different groups, all tied together by the importance of water in San Antonio.