Monday, January 26

When I arose at 5:30 it was still too dark to see the dense fog which had settled on San Antonio. I checked the temp - low 50s. After coffee and work on my journal Aspen and I headed out the door around 8:30. The plan was to drop her at school and the have breakfast at one of the small Mexican restaraunts she had told me about and then head north to Friedrich Wilderness Park. Enroute to school Aspen pointed them out to me so I could easily find my way back to them.

So, after dropping Aspen off I headed NE up Jackson Keller to where it intersects with I-410 and West street. Here Aspen had pointed out La Comarca at 5131 West Ave. I pulled the lot of the small shopping plaza. By now my stomach was rumbling and I was ready to eat.


Click on these photos for a higher resolution.
Will be slow with dial-up connection.




A fuzzy shot of breakfast menu. I saw the photo of the "Chorizo con Huevos" - Mexican sausage and eggs and decided on that. I had enjoyed Chorizo before when in the San Francisco Bay area. It is a bit salty and greasy, but quite tasty.


The pleasant view from my table.

The three waitress who were busy with all the sit down orders were very pleasant and friendly.


Not bad for 3.99! I ended up leaving the potatoes as there were not very hot and paricularly greasy. For those who might know, the brown mush on the right is frijoles refritos - refried beans.
This is far from my usual breakfast of whole grain cereal and fruit with skim milk, but it is one of the reasons I came to San Antonio - to eat like the locals. I finished up around 9:30 and waddled out the door to the car.


The LaComarca is small, but they were doing a brisk sit-down and take out business. Most of their customers appeared to be blue-collar/tradesman.


When I arrived at Friedrich Wilderness Park the fog was still thick and my 2 hour + hike would keep my head in the clouds.

I enjoyed the hike so much I have been back twice during my first week here. I have added a few photos from the two other visits as well.

Friedrich Wilderness Park History
When she died in September 1971, Norma Friedrich Ward bequeathed 180 acres of land on Heuermann Road near Leon Springs to the City of San Antonio for use as a public park. She also gave $100,000 to make improvements to the land. It was Mrs. Ward’s wish that the natural vegetation and native trees and shrubs be protected and that native birds and wildlife be protected and encouraged to use the park as a sanctuary.

The following year, Wilbur Matthews and Glen Martin donated another 52 acres to enlarge the park according to the same guidelines specified by Mrs. Ward.

The park was developed with a grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and was dedicated on August 31, 1978.

Today, Emilie and Albert Friedrich Park consists of 280 acres where the public can enjoy nature trails, including a handicapped accessible trail, and signage and programs that educate visitors about the park’s vegetation and wildlife. The Friends of Friedrich Park provides volunteer support for the park, and the Master Naturalist Program utilizes the park to study soil and water resources, ecology, native Texas Plants, and archaeology.

Source: San Antonio Parks and Recreation


The parking area on a return visit. Note the surface. It is concrete block on edge filled with aggregate. This was done to try to keep the surface permeable so it would not inhibit water penetration into the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. However, because of the dense subsurface material the blocks sit, on the permeability is limited.

Edwards Aquafier
The Edwards Aquifer is the primary water supply for more than 1.7 million people in the greater San Antonio region. It provides water for municipal, industrial and agricultural users. Medina and Uvalde counties, located to the west of San Antonio, are major agricultural region and grow many early season vegetables.

San Antonio, along with New Braunfels, and San Marcos, were located along large springs which drain the Edwards Aquifer. This area is the boundary between the coastal plain to the south and the interior low plateaus to the north. The boundary is formed by the Balcones Fault Zone. A series of faults, some having more than 1,000 feet of displacement, drop the rock strata of the Edwards plateau down toward the coast. The faults appeared as balconies to the early settlers, hence their name. The Texas Hill County is formed by the dissection of the Edwards Plateau by head ward erosion.

Fresh water in the karstified Edwards Aquifer can be found as deep as 3,000 feet below the surface in some areas and more than 2,000 feet below sea level. Water discharging under artesian pressure forms the great springs of the Edwards Aquifer, including Comal Springs, which is currently discharging more than 260 cubic feet per second. This is the largest spring in the southwestern United States and home to a number of endangered species.

Limestone is prone to dissolution from exposure to weak acids such as when rainfall absorbs carbon dioxide from the air and from rotting organic material. This forms carbonic acid which, given sufficient time dissolves limestone as well as gypsum. The rock may be dissolved along fractures, faults, bedding planes or along specific beds or units within the rock. A karst terrain is formed where the dissolution process becomes the dominant geomorphic process and is characterized by land forms such as caves, sinkholes, sinking streams, and springs. The Greenbrier Valley of West Virginia is a notable karst terrain.

When karst aquifers are buried and occur under artesian conditions (where the rock is fully saturated), they can make excellent aquifers. The Biscayne Aquifer in Florida and the Edwards Aquifer in San Antonio are probably two of the best examples in the United States. The Edwards Aquifer is noted for the famous Catfish Farmer well, the largest flowing artesian well ever drilled which reportedly discharged more than 30,000 gallons a minute and shot water 30 feet into the air.

Source: Geary Schindel, Cheif Technical Officer: Edwards Aquifer Authority

Introduction to the Edwards Aquifer

Source: © Edwards Aquifer Authority


To the left are the rest rooms and on the right the path to the trail heads. I found the trails and facilities here top notch.


I was curious about the high security fence and the entrance gate so I contacted the San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department for more info. This is what I found out:

Friedrich Wilderness Park (FWP) is a nature preserve containing habitat for two federally-endangered bird species. It also has some very sensitive general habitats. The fence and controlled entry help keep people on designated trails and not entering and exiting wherever they please or whenever they please. The park, including the fence was developed in the mid-1970's.

At that time FWP was quite remote and rural. In the early years we had poachers, archaeological robbers and other problems. Not so much now. The City was also concerned about public safety and did not want anyone on the property after dark, or when closed. FWP was originally open to the public 5 days a week. For all these reasons (and perhaps more that I don't know about) the City decided on the high security fence.

Today with more neighbors and development, the fence helps keep out roaming dogs and people wanting to enter at points other than the official entry.

The fence surrounds the entire park. The street and walk-in gates are locked after sunset and opened every morning.

Feral hogs are a problem, but probably no fence other than high security military with concrete footing could keep them out. We actually try to leave a few gaps in drainages to allow larger wildlife such as deer to come and go. This is to ensure genetic flow and their moves to find new territory.

Source: Eric Lautzenheiser, Nature Preserve Superintendent


This is the beginning of the Main Loop trail which allow access to the entire trail system which is about 4 miles in length. The trail designs will accommodate most users since they are rated from ADA Level One through Four.


The were once vast areas of grassland savannah in Texas. Much of those area are now "Juniper Barrens".


This shows an area where thinning of the Junipers Juniperus ashei has occurred.


There are well placed benches throughout the park. The bridge is easily negotiated by wheeled users.


Many of the Junipers here are quite large and can reach up to 30'. Some specimens are over 200 years old.


As one climbs the Vista Loop you encounter a series of both man made and natural steps. These were made with pinned Juniper logs.


Here, the Balcones were incorporated into the trail as a stairway.

As the softer layers erode, a stair-step topography like balconies (hence Balcones Escarpment) is produced. From various points in Friedrich Wilderness Park and the surrounding Balcones Escarpment, you can look over the autumn hillsides and see alternating layers of vegetation. These layers are easiest to see in the fall when deciduous tree leaves change color and in the spring when the same trees are growing new leaves which are light green compared to the darker greens of the junipers and live oaks.

Source: San Antonio Natural Area


The Fern Dell Trail intersects with the Vista Loop Trail. I decided to take a look and see exactly what ferns might still be present during the areas extreme drought.

Along the trail I saw some badly withered Southern Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris), some shrivelled plants of Purple-stem Cliff Brake Fern (Pellaea atropurpurea) and Mexican Anemia (Anemia mexicana)

When I first saw the Mexican Anemia I mistakenly identified as the Japanese Holly Fern (Crytomium falcatum), an escaped exotic. But after Eric Lautzenheiser, Nature Preserve Superintendent looked over this page he caught the error and made the correction. Thanks, Eric!

Anemia mexicana

The thick leaves are obviously very resistant to moisture loss. And although the fronds are technically dead, they still remain green enough to look alive and growing.

After doing a little web reseach I found Mexican anemia to be of very limited distibution on both the US and Texas. Texas being only state it is known to occur in.

Distribution of Anemia Mexicana in Texas

However, Mexico is well represented by the genus as John T. Mickel, well known authority on Mexican ferns states in his article "The Genus Anemia in Mexico", published in Brittonia in 1982

"The fern genus Anemia is represented in Mexico by 21 species and hybrids, of which five are here described as new:A. familiaris, A. multiplex. A. ×paraphyllitidis. A.×recondita andA. semihirsuta. Hybridization is frequent, resulting in both sterile and fertile hybrids, and has probably led to much recent speciation in the genus, including presumably sexual polyploids up to possibly the tetrakaidecaploid level."

January 2009 drought map for Texas  

Source: © 2009 National Drought Mitigation Center


Some sections of the Vista Trail weave in and out of the Junipers. This would make for some welcome shade on a hot Texas day.


Another example of the limestone Balcones.


A good example of touching vug / spongiforme porosity.

The porosity and permeability in the Biscayne aquifer are related to lithofacies and have a predictable vertical distribution within the upward-shallowing cycles of the Fort Thompson Formation and the aggradational subtidal cycles of the Miami Limestone (Cunningham et al., 2004b, 2006). Each of the 15 lithofacies of the Fort Thompson Formation and Miami Limestone in the study area has been assigned to one of three pore classes (I, II, and III), as shown in Table 3. These lithofacies have rather unique stratigraphic spatial distributions, and porosity and permeability characteristics.

Pore class I commonly includes the lower part of many of the upward-shallowing cycles within the Fort Thompson Formation and upper aggradational subtidal cycle of the Miami Limestone, where the porosity and permeability are highest (Fig. 3 and Fig. 6; Table 3). Characteristic lithofacies associated with pore class I are (1) touching-vug pelecypod rudstone and floatstone, (2) sandy touching-vug pelecypod rudstone and floatstone, (3) peloidal packstone and grainstone, (4) coral framestone, and (5) laminated peloid packstone and grainstone lithofacies (Table 3). Pore types commonly associated with specific lithofacies include solution-enlarged fossil molds up to pebble size, irregular vugs of uncertain origin, and molds of burrows or roots, or irregular vugs surrounding casts of burrows or roots (Fig. 7). Touching-vugs are the most common type of effective porosity in this class, but conduit porosity also occurs as bedding-plane vugs and uncommon cavernous vugs (Cunningham et al., 2006). Atabular three-dimensional geometry regionally characterizes the touching-vug flow zones, which are constrained between cycle boundaries, based on porous-zone mapping in the Lake Belt area (e.g., Cunningham et al., 2004b, 2004c, 2006). Therefore, accurate cycle correlation can produce a realistic linkage of permeable or preferential groundwater flow zones. Groundwater flow in the touching-vug flow zones should not be conceptually viewed as the movement of groundwater through a system of large-scale pipes or underground stream conduits, but more of a stratiform passage formed by coalescence of vugs into a mostly tortuous path for the movement of groundwater flow from vug to vug (Fig. 3). Figure 6 best exemplifies the stratiform distribution of pore class I, notably in digital optical borehole images where the darkened area at the base of high-frequency cycle HFC2e2 represents touching-vug porosity (Fig. 7). Cunningham et al. (2004b, 2006) showed that pore class I has the highest porosity and permeability of the three pore classes defined herein.

Source: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey


The trail snaked along the base of this balcone.

Geology Overview
Located in northwest Bexar county, Friedrich Wilderness Park History (FWP)is on the edge if the Edwards Plateau in the deeply eroded and dissected region know as the Texas Hill country. the park is situated in the Balcones Escarpment where the land raises abruptly from the Gulf Coastal Plains to the Edwards Plateau in an area of dense faulting called the Balcones Fault Zone.

This is the recharge area for the EA, currently the primary source of drinking water for San Antonio and many other communities in the this region Water enters the aquifer though numerous karst features formed when groundwater dissolves sedimentary rock such as limestone. Karst topography is a terrain charecterised by subsurface features such as springs,caves, sinkholes, and seeps.

Two types of limestone are exposed within FWP Much of the youngest Edwards limestone has eroded away; only small remnant caps may be found on top of the hills The majority of the rock found here is the older Upper Glenn Rose limestone which is composed of alternating harder and softer layers the softer layers erode more rapidly, exposing large bands of the harder limestone. This gives the hills their terraced or balconied appearance. Hence the Spanish name "Balocnes".

Source: FWP Trail Guide


I spotted these feather clumps with tissue still attached. Species?


On Monday the 26th of January, this is the view to the west I saw.


This was the view I saw on Friday, the 30th.


The fog was so heavy it was condensing on all the vegetation forming droplets which then fell and had the effect of rainfall.


Friedrich Wilderness Park is home to two Federally listed endangered species of birds: the Black-capped Vireo (Vireo atricapilla) and the Golden-cheeked Warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia).

Both species area threatened due to loss of habitat. Additionally the Black-capped Vireo nests are parasitized by Cowbirds.


Once the summit (1400'el +-) of the Vista Loop trail this old stone wall/fence can be seen. Can you tell me what type of livestock it might have used to control?


The steeper sections of the trail have water bars (aka thank–you–ma'ams) to help with water diversion during rainy periods.


At the bottom (1200'el +-) of the hill the Juniper Barrens trail intersects and I walked this loop. The trail is flat, wide and well maintained.


I saw a number of these Plateua Live Oaks with these interesting growths at the bottom. A number of species have what I would call " buttressed trunks" but these are usually vertically fluted, not rounded and broad like the one shown here.


There are many interesting plants to look at even though many are dormant and leafless. This shrub is Evergreen Sumac (Rhus virens) and is relatively common throughout the park.


There are 84 for plant markers in the park which are keyed to both common names and Latin binomials. The plant shown here is Mescalbean, also known as Texas Mountain Laurel.


This windmill, used to pump water from a well is on the Water Trail.

The Water Trail intersects the Main Loop trail near the Juniper Barren trail. The water trail follows and crosses a dry creek bed. in some areas of the west these are called arroyos.

An arroyo (literally brook in Spanish), also called a wash or draw, is a usually dry creek bed or gulch that temporarily fills with water after a heavy rain, or seasonally.[1] As such, the term is similar to the word wadi. Arroyos can be natural or man-made. The term usually applies to a mountainous desert environment. In many rural communities, arroyos are the principal roads, and in many urban communities they are important multi-use trails for recreation and pedestrian and equestrian travel.

Source: WikiPedia


A look at the wind mill on a bit sunnier day.


The water in the stock tank is fresh so it is being kept watered. Someone has "free willy-ed" their goldfish in the tank which I am sure the raccoons appreciated.

I have visited Friedrich Wilderness Park three times and will most certainly be back before I depart the area on February the 21st.


Day 3 - FINIS


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