Some Frequently Asked Questions – By Origami Hen
A: McKinney Roughs is a 1,140 acre nature park operated by the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA). The park has about 18 miles of hiking trails, and the Colorado River runs through it. You can read more about McKinney Roughs here.
A: The trails will be mostly gravel or rocky. Bring rugged sneakers or good hiking shoes if you can. Close-toed footwear will keep rocks from getting into your shoes and protect you from cactus spines. If there has been a lot of rain, expect a bit of mud as well, especially down by the river. There will be some ups and downs along the trails, but there really isn’t any very steep terrain in the area. Some of the trails will have some shade, but for the most part, expect to be in the sun a lot of the time. Bring a hat, sunscreen and water bottles! (Note: LCRA Regulations prohibit glass containers at the park.)
A: While this park is outside city limits, it is not a remote wilderness location, so wildlife will likely be limited to deer, coyotes, raccoons, rabbits, squirrels and the like. You may see an armadillo, especially if you are out at dusk. There are no bears in the area. There has been an increase in the feral hog population all over Texas, and while it is unlikely you will see any, if you do, keep your distance, because they may charge you if they feel threatened.
A: McKinney Roughs has a lot of the normal hazards you would expect while letterboxing anywhere – poison ivy (especially in the wetter areas near the river), stinging nettles, thorny plants, and so on. Some things that non-Texans might not expect are scorpions and venomous snakes. These are rare, but nonetheless, it is always advisable to watch your step and refrain from sticking your hand in holes or under rocks without checking them out first. Mosquitoes don’t seem to be much of problem, especially in the drier upland areas, but a little bug spray couldn’t hurt. Austin is generally considered to be too dry for ticks, so Lyme disease is pretty unlikely, but a nightly tick check isn’t a bad idea, especially if you’ve gone off trail a lot during the day. One thing northerners should be extra careful about is cactus. Avoid brushing up or touching any cactus (even ones that look spineless can have tiny hair-like spines), and don’t assume a spine can’t puncture right through the sole of your shoe and get you. Final thing to mention – fire ants! You don’t want to tangle with those, so be careful where you stand and stay away from ant hills of any kind. If you do get bitten by fire ants, numb the area with ice and be prepared for several days of intense itching.
A: The park is located on a highway between Austin and Bastrop, and in general, cell phone service along major roads in the area is excellent. No guarantees, of course, but many local letterboxers who have been to the park have reported that cell phone service there is just fine.
A: According to LCRA regulations, pets are allowed, but they must be leashed and under the owner’s control at all times. Pets are not allowed in buildings (service animals are an exception).
A: No. L&B XX will have exclusive use of the reserved dorms and event spaces, but there may be non-letterboxers around the grounds and on the trails during the weekend. Many of the trails are open for equestrian use, so if you are not used to interacting with horses, please note that it is customary for people on foot to step off-trail to let horses & riders pass by.
A. The park has three main trail access points with trailheads and parking. The main trailhead starts next to the event hall and dorms. The second trailhead is located about a mile down the Highway 71 next to the zip line entrance. The third trailhead, called the Pope Bend Trailhead, is located at the back side of the property off Pope Bend Road. We will have box series starting from all three locations, with most starting from the main trailhead. You can drive or hike to the zip line trailhead or the Pope Bend Trailhead – just plan ahead for the time to will take to get to them.
A: McKinney Roughs is located about 15 miles east of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA). ABIA is by far the closest airport to the park. If you prefer, flying into the San Antonio International Airport is also a possibility, but you will have to rent a car and drive about 1 1/2 hours to the park. Houston (Intercontinental or Hobby) and Dallas (DFW or Love Field) are bigger hub cities with more flights (and possibly cheaper flights) but they will involve a 3+ hour drive to the park.
A: There is no public transportation to or from the park. The AQ event page has a place to match drivers with riders, so check that out if you need a ride or can give a ride. Uber and Lyft both operate in Austin, but please consider using a local service called Ride Austin (www.rideaustin.com). Ride Austin is a local nonprofit, it operates exactly like Uber and Lyft, and according to local drivers, a larger percentage of the fee you pay goes to the driver than with the commercial services. If you select the registration package that includes all accommodations and food, you should not need a car for the weekend. However, if you plan to stay in a hotel or travel outside the park, you will need definitely need a car. This is Texas, after all, and in Texas, we DRIVE a lot.
Note that both ABIA and the entrance to McKinney Roughs are both on Route 71, so it is a pretty simple drive. The only complication is that a short portion of 71 is a toll road near the intersection of 71 and 130. To avoid the toll road, just follow the signs for 71 (without the word TOLL) and do not take the toll flyover bridge over 130.
A: A Texas turn-around is a way for vehicle traffic to U-turn on a highway from the left-hand lane. It’s a bit hard to explain, so check out this diagram for a visual. A lot of folks from outside Texas have never seen one of these, so we thought we would mention it here. Texas Turn-arounds are awesome.
All About Boxes
A: If you have a stamp or stamps you would like to contribute, please contact Mosaic Butterfly via AQ Mail. You can also sign up to provide stamps using the trackers on the AQ event listing for L&B XX.
A: Table top boxes are welcome- no need to notify anyone -just bring them with you! You will be responsible for collecting your box at the end of the event. We will not be accepting or returning table top boxes by mail.
A: Letterboxing activities will run the full gamut. There will be boxes on short, easy hikes. There will be boxes on long, more strenuous hikes. There will be “Hidden in Plain Sight” boxes. There will be boxes with straight-forward directional clues, and boxes that require some mental acuity to locate. There will be night-boxing, so bring flashlights/headlamps. It’s going to be a blast!
A: Clues will be made available upon arrival at the event.
A: We expect to have a mix of permanent and temporary. We will know closer to the event which will be which, and we will get the word out once it’s all figured out.
A: Unfortunately, no. Trying to manage customized meal plans by individual is too complicated for our merry band of volunteers. Plus, the caterer is providing us with a set price based on a specific number of people having all meals for the entire weekend. Do note that regardless of whether you purchase the meal plan or not, ALL registered participants are welcome to come to the Friday Night Ice Cream Social!
A: No problem! Just be aware that food cannot be taken into the dorms. There will be some kitchen space available in the event space for food storage, which will be available on a first-come-first-serve basis. Please label all your food with your name. Any food left at the end of the event will be thrown away.
A; Certainly. The dining hall is very large and there is room for everyone!
A: According to the LCRA rules: “Public consumption or display of alcoholic beverages is prohibited on LCRA Land. Intoxicated persons are not allowed on LCRA Land.” So what this means is that you may bring your own alcohol -just be discrete. (In other words, if you get visibly drunk, wave your bottles around, etc., you may be asked to leave. 🙂 ) None of the L&B XX events will provide alcohol.
A: The L&B organizers are hard at work finalizing event details. An event schedule will be posted to the website soon!
A: Yes! All are welcome to the Friday night social, where Blue Bell ice cream will be served. Blue Bell is made in Brenham, Texas, and is only available in Texas and a few surrounding states, so if you haven’t had Blue Bell, hold on to your cowboy hats – you’re in for a treat!
Q: The McKinney Roughs website says that there is zip-lining and an obstacle course at the park. Will that be included in the event?
A: Zip-lining and use of the obstacle course are not included in the event, as the cost for these activities is high. You are free to set up these activities on your own by contacting McKinney Roughs directly. Please note that the zip lining and obstacle course areas are off-limits unless you have arranged to participate in these activities. No letterboxes will be hidden in these areas.
The Local Area
A: The average high in Austin in October is 82 degrees F, and the average low is 61. It’s not impossible that highs could reach into the 90s. It’s pretty unlikely that it will be uncomfortably cold. Rain is always a possibility. You should check the weather forecast a few days before you arrive and plan accordingly, but chance are summer-weight clothing plus a light jacket will get you through the weekend nicely.