REI gives Austin trails a boost

Hill Country Conservancy Executive Director George Cofer hikes on the Violet Crown Trail near Brodie Lane and 290 West in 2015. The conservancy was one of six Austin organizations to receive a grant from REI. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Austin trails are getting a boost, thanks to grants from REI Co-op.

The outdoor retailer committed $75,000 to six local nonprofit organizations this week as part of its annual grant program.

The money goes to:

• The Austin Ridge Riders Mountain Bike Club gets $8,000 to help build the Country Club Creek Greenbelt Trail.
• The Hill Country Conservancy gets $10,000 to implement a volunteer program to support ongoing maintenance along the Violet Crown Trail.
• The Shoal Creek Conservancy lands $22,000 to extend the Shoal Creek Trail by 7 miles, connecting it to Lady Bird Lake.
• The Trail Foundation gets $10,000 to create a new public access boat ramp to Lady Bird Lake at the Holly Point Water Access Point.

• Keep Austin Beautiful receives $10,000 to support bi-monthly water and shoreline cleanups of Lady Bird Lake.
• American Rivers Inc. gets $15,000 to efforts to protect and restore rivers and conserve clean water in Austin.

“Our goal is to awaken a lifelong love for the outdoors in everyone,” said Marc Berejka, REI community and government affairs director, and REI Foundation president, in a press release. “One of the primary ways we do this is by stewarding and maintaining the outdoor spaces in the communities where our members and employees live, work and play. This year’s investment will help build and maintain trails, protect waterways and create access to outdoor recreation.”

When grackles attack runners …

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Sometimes overly aggressive grackles throw a kink in the best-laid exercise plans.

Zach Thorne and his partner, both runners, live near 13th and Guadalupe streets, and head out frequently on 8- or 9-mile jaunts through downtown and around the University of Texas campus. Sometimes, though, dive-bombing grackles send them off course.

RELATED: Austin’s two types of grackles come with five different looks

Grackles, Thorne says, have swooped on him most frequently at the north end of Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium, and near the intersection of Guadalupe and 12th streets.

A grackle at Cherrywood Coffeehouse on Wednesday May 16, 2018. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“I’m running, in my zen, and all of the sudden I hear this loud flapping, like someone waving a sheet of cardboard,” he says. “Then there’s this screech and a peck on the head.”

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The birds, which he suspects are protecting nests, have, on occasion, drawn blood. (Watch a bird peck a movie star’s head in this trailer from the movie “The Birds,” which Thorne has definitely seen. It creeps him out.)

“We change our running routes ever so slightly to avoid them, but they seem to find us no matter our path,” he says, adding that he’s convinced the birds remember him and seek him out for harassment. “I’ve heard they have excellent facial recognition and can perhaps communicate between themselves to alert their flock about dangerous predators.”

Thorne is hard headed, though. He runs despite the birds, sometimes removing his shirt and twirling it overhead like a helicopter to keep the birds at bay. He’s even considered wielding a badminton racket for his forays, though he hasn’t reached that level of desperation. Yet.

He’s got one bit of advice for other runners: “Be nice to the grackles, cause they remember you.”

An armadillo and a reporter meet in the desert. Here’s what happens next…

A nine-banded armadillo sniffs the air after a rare July rainstorm in West Texas this week. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

This crusty fellow wandered by after a wild rainstorm swept through the desert Monday near Sheffield, Texas.

He was rooting around for bugs. I happened to be walking across Independence Creek Preserve, a Nature Conservancy property near the confluence of Independence Creek and the Pecos River, when our paths crossed.

The nine-banded armadillo appeared completely unfazed. ‘Dillos have terrible eyesight; they rely on their sense of smell to find food. This one didn’t seem to notice – or care about – my natural odor, either.

He strolled closer and closer, and at one point dug his nose in the dirt just a foot from my camera lens. Then he reared up on his back legs, his wriggly, pink-tipped nose wagging. And look at those ears! Nubbly and tough, but at the same time delicate like rose petals.

Our eyes met – his tiny and squinty, mine wide and curious – and then we continued down our respective paths. I think we both appreciated the magic of a rare July rainstorm in West Texas.

After sniffing the air for a minute or so, the armadillo went back to rooting through the wet soil for grubs, beetles and worms. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

Ready to race? All-comers track meet will help fund Austin High track improvements

John Conley, former director of the Austin Marathon, walks on the track at Austin High School. An all-comers track meet this weekend will raise money to renovate the track.
RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Thinking of entering an all-comers track meet?

Anyone is invited to participate in this Saturday’s Back the Track Relays at Austin High School, 1715 Cesar Chavez Street. Proceeds will help fund the resurfacing and renovation for the school’s track and field, long a popular place for the local runners to train.

Registration closes at 7 p.m. today. The meet starts at 6 p.m. Saturday. For more information go here.

The USATF-sanctioned event will include 50-meter, 200-meter, 800-meter, 400-meter and 100-meter races, the long jump, and a 1-mile run dubbed the Austin Mile Challenge.

Entry fee is $15, plus an additional $5 for youth and $10 for adults who also enter the Austin Mile Challenge. All proceeds will go to the Back The Track account at the AISD Office of Innovation and Development. For more information go here.

The meet is capped at 175 registrants (no cap for the Austin Mile Challenge). Participants are limited to three events. No refunds or adding events the day of the meet.

Head to Hyatt Regency for free yoga and beer

The Hyatt Regency Austin offers up free yoga and beer at Monday’s Pints & Poses event. Photo courtesy Hyatt Regency Austin

It’s free yoga time again at the Hyatt Regency Austin.

This month’s Pints & Poses class starts at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the Zilker Ballroom near the hotel’s parking garage. Austin yogi Ferny Barcelo will lead the smooth vinyasa flow yoga class, assisted by Zuzu Perkal. DJ MadCoins will play meditative music to accompany the class.

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Hotel guests and local residents are invited to the free class. Afterward, they’ll get a coupon for a free beer at a pop-up bar on the hotel’s Zilker Terrace covered patio. Parking is also free. Bring your own yoga mat.

For more information go here.

Don your tennis whites and head to Spin for Wimbledon-themed ping pong events

Spin Austin general manager Hilary Thompson, left, and Malin Pettersson, ping pong professional in residence, right, demonstrate a game at the new ping pong-themed bar/club on Wednesday, May 9, 2018, in Austin, TX. AMANDA VOISARD / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

Spin, the new ping pong club in the old Antone’s space at 213 West Fifth Street, will serve up a week’s worth of Wimbledon-themed events next week, a nod to the British tennis tournament taking place.

RELATED: Spin offers hip new take on old-school game

Patrons are encouraged to wear tennis white when they visit the club between July 9 and 15, and the venue will be decked out in grass turf.

Hilary Thompson, general manager at Spin Austin, gathers loose ping pong balls at the new ping pong-themed bar/club on Wednesday, May 9, 2018, in Austin, TX. AMANDA VOISARD / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

A special ping pong tournament is set for 8-11 p.m. Monday. Entry is $50 per team. A Wimbledon-themed players night is planned for July 13. Activities start at 10 p.m.

Daily food and drink specials will include the SPiNbledon Cup, SPiNbledon Smash and Berries and Cream dessert, all for $8.

The real Wimbledon tournament continues through July 15 in England.

 

The Trail Foundation plans fall Twilight on the Trail fundraiser

A bicyclist pedals along the Butler Trail as the morning sun rises over Lady Bird Lake in July 2015.
RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Heads up, users of the Butler Hike and Bike Trail around Lady Bird Lake.

The Trail Foundation, the non-profit organization that works to maintain and enhance the 10-mile trail in downtown Austin, will host a special event this fall to close out its 15th anniversary celebration.

Jim Moy runs in the fog on the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail in February 2018. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Twilight on the Trail is set for 5-8 p.m. Oct. 28 at the Four Seasons Hotel, 98 San Jacinto Boulevard. The fund-raiser, which will take place of the usual State of the Trail breakfast, will include cocktails, live music from guitar and harmonica-playing trail stalwart Woode Wood, and staging of some of the trail’s most iconic projects inside the ballroom.

Tables and a limited number of individual tickets are available at https://thetrailfoundation.org/twilight-on-the-trail/.

Exercise, talk go together in free Marathon Kids program

Marathon Kids is offering a free Walk and Talk program this summer. Photo courtesy Marathon Kids

 

Anybody who’s spent time training for a marathon knows that a special bond develops between exercise buddies.

That’s the idea behind the free Walk and Talk summer program from Marathon Kids, the non-profit organization that works to improve the health and happiness of children through running and walking programs.

Parents who register online for the Walk and Talk program will get a link to 26 discussion topics ranging from health and education to knock-knock jokes and travel dreams – one for each mile of walking or running with their kids. They’ll also get a special mileage log to record their progress.

“Kids are sometimes more comfortable connecting when they’re engaged in activities with their parents, like coloring, or cooking or exercising,” Marathon Kids chief executive officer Cami Hawkins said in a press release. “There’s something about being together, side by side, that helps get the ball rolling on good conversation.”

Talking and exercise go hand in hand. Photo courtesy Marathon Kids

 

Research also shows that when kids engage in physical activity with their parents, they have a much better chance of developing lifelong healthy habits, Hawkins said.

After 26(.2) miles, the parent and child will have completed the equivalent of a full marathon – and they’ll know each other a little better in the process.

To register for the free program go to MarathonKids.org/WalkandTalk.

Grant will pay for new well at Deep Eddy Pool

Friends of Deep Eddy received a grant from Austin Parks Foundation to drill a new well for Deep Eddy Pool. Ralph Barrera/American-Statesman

 

Five area parks are getting a boost through grants awarded by the Austin Parks Foundation.

On the list of recipients? Friends of Deep Eddy, which landed $25,000 to drill a new well that will provide an additional water source for the much loved spring-fed pool.

In all, the foundation awarded $172,000 in community grants for its spring cycle.

Mabson Fields will get $50,000 for new bleachers, a shade structure and scoreboard, and Patterson Park will get $50,000 for new playground equipment, seating and natural play elements. Barrington School Park received $27,000 to improve access to the Barrington Green Schoolyard, and Murchison Pool landed $20,000 for a new playscape.

As part of its new Park Design Services, the foundation also named Pomerleau Pocket Park as recipient of its first-ever Master Plan project. The foundation will lead efforts to develop a long-range vision for the park.

Austin Parks Foundation is a non-profit organization that works with the city of Austin and the private sector to develop, maintain and enhance the area’s more than 300 parks, trails and green spaces.

For more information or to apply for future grants, go to www.austinparks.org.

Free yoga – plus a discount on prAna gear

PrAna will host a free yoga class at Castle Hill Fitness this Sunday. Photo courtesy PrAna.

What’s better than a free yoga class? Free yoga, plus a discount on yoga clothing and gear.

PrAna will host the free class from 10:15 to 11:30 a.m. Sunday at Castle Hill Fitness, 1112 North Lamar Boulevard. Afterward, participants will head to nearby Whole Earth for mimosas and a 25 percent discount on prAna products.

The class is limited to 28 people, so advance registration is required. Arrive 10 to 15 minutes early to sign a release.

The class, led by a veteran Castle Hill yoga instructor, will include therapeutic somatic movements and will focus on structural alignment and meditation. It is open to all levels.