Monday, June 30, 2014

Austin Hikes - Twin Falls and Sculpture Falls Swimming Holes

Sculpture Falls

Shallow water, perfect for the littles and the dogs.
Over the past couple of weeks, so many friends have been asking about these two swimming holes, I decided to post a blog complete with maps and tips.  Sculpture Falls is our favorite swimming hole so far, and we've been to many in the area: Jacob's Well, Twin Falls, Barton Springs, Deep Eddy, San Marcos' Rio Vista Dam.
Sculpture Falls is our favorite for several reasons: crystal clear water, a couple of diving spots, wading in the shallow pools, sitting under the falls, and great snorkeling.

The "sculpture" part of Sculpture Falls.
See the ledge downstream to the right? Perfect place
for jumping into deeper waters.
(Always check depth before jumping, as it changes with the rains.)

The first map shows the two possible ways in to Sculpture Falls.  The purple route is what I like to call the Hell Hike.  I'll review that hike first:

I snapped this on the way down to the water. This is near the trailhead.
HELL HIKE - Purple trail
You'll park in a residental area, so be kind and mindful of driveways and parking signs.  The trailhead is Scottish Woods Trail, named for one of the streets leading to the trailhead.
You'll immediately walk in to some beautiful views of the greenbelt, so enjoy and prepare for the wobbly hike down.
If you look below at the second, more detailed map of Hell Hike, take note of the elevation. It's not a big deal going down, other than the noodle legs you'll have at the bottom of the trek. The grade is downhill 1/4 mile all the way from the trailhead to the left turn to the creek bed.  It's hell going back up after a few hours of swimming and in 90-100-degree heat. Still, it's fun, challenging, and a good workout. Just be aware and save some water for the hike back up.
To get more details about parking, trailhead names, and even more photos and map, this is the most thorough link I found from Austin Explorer.

That elevation is killer on the way back up!
Twin Falls Hike:
The second way in, shown in red on the first map, might be a 1/3-mile longer, but it's much easier, especially if you have younger kids or are carrying in some heavy bags.  This trail is more populated, but also much more shaded.  In the summer months, I'd choose this trail any day!
Even on busy days, you can snag a parking spot at the Gaines/Twin Falls Access Trailhead on the southbound side of Mopac 1, just southwest of 360 at the turnaround. If you're an Austinite, you'll be familiar with seeing cars parked alongside the Mopac service road.  The hike is shaded and fairly flat.

About 1/2 mile in, you'll come across Twin Falls.  (On the map, it's up the red trail, just before the jog left.) There is a great place to dive in, lots of families and dogs.  This might be a good place to cool off before continuing on the mile you have left to Sculpture Falls, or you may decide to just stay here for a while.  We like Twin Falls, but Sculpture Falls is certainly our favorite spot.
The hike in is beautiful and shaded.

Cave exploring along the way.

Look for the "tent" in the clearing.

Full of energy and ready to swim!
  • take plenty of water
  • pack easy-to-carry, dense snacks
  • pack light and in comfy packs (coolers will be nearly impossible to carry in)
  • wear shoes suitable for hiking
  • bring water shoes for most comfortable experience
  • don't forget sunscreen
  • pack goggles because there is a lot to see under the water
  • we kept our towels in the car (saves weight and we didn't miss them)
  • ration your water, saving some for the hike back out
  • be ready to hike slowly with little kids - enjoy it!
  • this is a great place for water-loving dogs!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Deaf Bus Drivers

It was not easy for me to send my boys off to school when they were 3 and 4.  It wasn't much easier this year when they were 4 and 5, but what added to my mommy anxiety was having them ride the big, yellow school bus home every day. The boys loved seeing the busses at school and wanted to ride. Having them driven to our front door was a huge benefit to our homeschool schedule as well, so we decided to put them on the bus for the first time this year.

We have been very fortunate to have an amazing bus driver who truly cares for the kids she's transporting.  She's Deaf.  That fact may worry some hearing people.  I forget that it's not common knowledge that Deaf people are perfectly capable (even better) of driving. I'm reminded when hearing people ask me if my husband can drive. (I must add that I haven't heard that question once since we've lived in Austin.)  When I did Deaf culture training with police in Oklahoma, half of the officers weren't sure about the fact that Deaf people could carry a license.  That train of thought seems ridiculous to me, but I have been around Deaf people in some form or fashion for most of my life, so I have to remind myself that not everyone is enlightened in the area of The Deaf.

It's simply not true that hearing level has an effect on driving ability or safety. Period.

I could go on, but I wanted to share this video of the boys from their arrival home last week. I shot the video the day after iDeaf News posted this interview of 3 Deaf bus drivers working in the city of Austin at Texas School for the Deaf.

NAD website with information about earning a Commercial Driver's License.
List of which states allow Deaf to earn a CDL.
Deaf School Bus Driver Facebook Page
If you know of any more good websites, please let me know and I'll add them!