Saturday, December 3 – Sunday, December 4, 2022
Inks Lake Overnight
cloudy, chilly, slight breeze
Ian, Court, Biff, Finn
We made it out to Inks Lake after having to reschedule on Thanksgiving weekend due to weather. It worked out much better and I’m glad we moved our dates.
This will probably be my last camping trip with the fam for a while, as my PCT hike is happening this spring! More on that later.
We just had the wettest November in years, so the water out at Inks was flowing really well and we also have some of the best fall color in central Texas that I can remember. We had a cold snap last week and all of the trees apparently took that as a sign to change all at once.
We got to try out the new lead line we got to attach the dogs to while we set up camp. It worked great. Thanks Ryan and Kelly for the idea! We also used our new Eureka car camping stove that we got last Christmas to make a real dinner.
This was also the first time in a while we’ve been able to have a campfire, as the wet November did away with the burn bans in the hill country. It was a fairly chilly night, so we enjoyed sitting around the fire with the dogs, playing games and sipping beers.
Everyone was cold in the morning, but we made coffee and breakfast tacos before packing up a getting a quick hike in. There was a nice waterfall that hasn’t usually been there in the past, but the water is flowing great right now.
one of my favorite views at Inks
We just did a short loop of about 1.5 miles, but it was a nice way to start the morning and get a little warmed up before we hit the car on the way back. Biff was happy to fall asleep on Courtney’s lap on the way home.
As I mentioned, my Pacific Crest Trail hike is on for 2023! Some of you may remember that I was going to go for it in 2020, but a variety of things derailed my attempt, including Covid of course. As of this writing, I have an approved starting date of March 8th, though I’m going to try and change that date in January to something a little later.
My posts here will probably slow down and then dry up completely as I get closer to my hike, but I will be blogging it on my other site, http://www.mexicotocanada2023.com!
I’m doing this mainly to have a record of my hike for my future self, but follow along if you like!
Saturday, October 29 – Sunday, October 30, 2022
Lost Maples State Natural Area Overnight
Calm, chilly, low 40s overnight
Ian, Court, Ryan, Kelly, Biff, Finn, Darcy
7 miles round trip
We got out to Lost Maples and met up with Ryan and Kelly and their Giant Schnauzer, Darcy, for an overnight backpacking trip. They had actually gotten to the park the day before and snagged a good camping spot for us, as the primitive sites are first come, first serve. Thanks guys!
Ryan and Kelly live near Ft. Worth and we’ve hiked with them a couple of times in the past, including at Yosemite when Greg and Cat got married in 2019.
Court and I stopped at our usual spot in Medina to grab a veggie burger on the way to the park.
The weather has been too warm for any real vibrant color in the leaves this fall, but there were a couple of trees that did their best. Nothing like where we were in northern Georgia a week ago, but what can you do? This was also Finn’s first hike with his new backpack! He wasn’t super excited at first, but I think he got used to it. He was able to carry all the dog food and bowls for us. Biff got off easy.
We had arranged to meet up with Ryan and Kelly at the pond in the middle of the park a couple of miles in, and luckily we found them quickly, as there is no cell service in most of the park. They had procured a spot up on top of one of the plateaus with great views. We made the climb up the rocky trail and proceeded to set up camp.
Biff was very excited.
After getting set up, we took a quick hike to the overlooks on the plateau before the sun went down.
I brought along my binoculars that Court had given me last Christmas. Ryan is big into astronomy and astrophotography, but I never even thought about using the binoculars at night. We got great views of the moon, stars, and planets through them. We could even see a couple of Jupiter’s moons. The Milky Way was visible too, which is always cool.
After an hour or so of star gazing, we retired to our separate tents. The night before had been very windy for Ryan and Kelly, but the winds died down this night and we all got good sleep.
We woke up with the sun and some fairly chilly temperatures. It was only in the low 40s, but Biff quickly found he wanted to be back in the tent under the quilt. We had forgotten his jacket, but Kelly came to his rescue with a warm blanket.
We boiled water for coffee to warm up and sat around chatting as the sun came up and did away with the shadows.
After a leisurely morning, we packed up and started the hike back down the plateau to the car under sunny skies. Mornings at Lost Maples are my favorite time of day.
Lost Maples was the first place we ever went backpacking and is always a beautiful and fun place to come back to. Til next time!
Sunday, October 23, 2022
Amicalola Falls and AT Approach Trail
Cool, upper 60s, sunny
Ian, Court, Greg, Cat, Ike, MB
.5 miles or so
I loved this hike. The Appalachian Trail Southern Terminus is technically at Springer Mountain, which we hiked to a few years ago. The Approach Trail is where most AT Northbound hikers start though. This is 8.5 miles from Springer Mountain and the stone arch marks the beginning of a 2190 mile trek for these intrepid souls.
Instead of hiking up from the arch, we decided to drive up to the top of the falls and hike down the 600 or so steps back to the bottom. MB was nice enough to shuttle us to the top and pick us back up at the bottom, since this is a park she comes to often with the kids. Nobo hikers go up the stairs to start their hike and it’s quite the baptism by fire with a heavy pack, I’m sure. The view from the top of the falls is lovely, especially with the fall colors of northern Georgia.
I was very glad to have seen the arch and the approach trail. Yet another long trail landmark checked off my list.
Saturday, October 22, 2022
Duke’s Creek Falls, GA
Cool, low 70s, sunny, pleasant
Ian, Court, Ike, MB, Greg, Cat
Hey, new blog post! I’ve been hiking the past couple of months, but nothing new until now. We flew to Georgia and met Cat and Greg in Atlanta (they came from San Francisco, where they live) and then drove up to Dahlonega to surprise Isaac for his 40th bday. This was a fun weekend.
On Saturday we drove out to Duke’s Creek Falls for a quick and easy hike. The falls are right along the edge of the Raven Cliffs Wilderness. The trail is partly paved at the beginning and then has a few quick switchbacks down to the falls at the bottom of the ravine, which are accessible via a viewing platform and boardwalk.
The trees are at peak color change in the mountains of northern Georgia right now and it was beautiful.
Thursday, August 11, 2022
Town Lake Kayak to Congress Bridge to see the bats
Surprisingly cloudy and not too hot
Ian and Court
We used to live down by the Congress Avenue bridge from 2008-2010, so we’ve seen the bats plenty of times, but never from the water, so we decided to check it out! For those not aware, the Congress Avenue bridge in downtown Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in the world with approximately 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats that come out every night to eat a billion bugs.
The Hill Country Conservancy set up a “Bat Paddle” from the Texas Rowing Center on this warm August night. There was a decent turnout of probably 20 or so people and we all set off as a pack, but eventually split up and went at our own pace.
It’s crazy to see the Austin skyline now, compared to when we last kayaked here back in 2015.
It took about 45 minutes to paddle down to the bridge and as the sun got closer to the horizon, the colors got more dramatic.
Plenty of people were lined up on top of the bridge waiting for the bats. I often forget that this happens EVERY night in the warmer months in Austin (most months). They were right on time as the sun hit the horizon.
We hung out for 20 minutes or so and watched the river of bats in the sky flow out to the east. Then we started the paddle back in the sunset.
Saturday, August 6, 2022
Lake Georgetown – Jim Hogg Park Trailhead
warm, mostly cloudy, a little humid
Ian, Biff, and Finn
With this hike, I have officially “section hiked” the full 26 mile loop around Lake Georgetown. Only took me like 5 years. I brought the dogs out early to avoid the heat. This was actually a fun and challenging part of the trail. It was very rocky and I had to watch my footing for the majority of the trail, but the terrain and scenery was varied and enjoyable.
There were plenty of deer out in the morning mist and Finn was super excited to see their white tails bounding away as we got closer.
This hike was roughly Mile 21-23 in the numerical mileage for the 26 mile trail. We reached the lake and while it is low, there’s still a good amount of water, considering we haven’t had rain in over a month in central Texas. That’s getting old. Got some good vulture shots though.
We headed back the way we came and there was a spot on the trail where the dogs started sniffing like crazy and then I saw a pool of blood on the trail and some off in the grass beyond. I’m guessing a coyote had gotten to something, or perhaps a bobcat.
We ended up at exactly 5.0 miles when we got back to the car. I’m glad to have hiked every part of this loop now and plan to again use the loop as training for my future adventure to come next spring.
Monday, July 4, 2022
Lake Georgetown – Tejas Camp to Russell Park
HOT, partly cloudy, low 90s
I completed the only section of the Lake Georgetown trail that I have yet to hike on this July 4th. I started off at Tejas Camp on the far west side of the lake at about 8am and followed the north shore about 6 miles to Russell Park.
I knew this section would probably be pretty exposed, so I brought along my new sun hoodie that I got for use in sunny hiking conditions because I really dislike putting on sunblock. My wife is a dermatologist, so I am VERY conscious of it.
The first half of the hike was very pretty with cool temperatures and some good cloud cover.
There was a hiker who started off right before me and I figured I would eventually pass him up, but he was trucking. I was averaging 3 mph, which is faster than normal for me, but I never did catch him until I got to the campground at Russell Park. I asked him how far he was going and he replied that he was going for the full loop. He looked like he wasn’t really prepared for a 26 mile hike, but far be it for me to judge, so I told him to make sure he had enough water and good luck.
Speaking of water, I had gone through half of mine (one liter) and walked down into the campsites to find a spigot to refill. I found an open shelter with one and hung out on the picnic table for a bit, airing out my feet and eating some snacks to refuel.
The day was starting to heat up so I headed back the direction I came. Most of this section of the trail is pretty flat and exposed, but there is a short section that is more like the south side of the lake, which is rocky and sharp, aka karst topography. One needs to watch their footing in order to not take a fall and get sliced open by this unforgiving terrain.
Around 11am the sun really started to bake. I was trying to pace myself, but I haven’t done this much mileage in a while and actually had to take a seat in the shade at one point to cool down. Texas summers aren’t anything to mess with. Quick video below too.
I made it back to the car and blasted the AC. I got a couple of blisters on my left heel, which is a consistent problem area. I guess on a long trail I would just tape it and move on until it turned into a callous. For now, I am letting it heal and will be back on the trail next weekend.
I’m ramping up my training and am hoping to make another run at the PCT in 2023. More details later. Let’s ride.
Tuesday, June 14, 2022
Courtney, her parents, and I met up with her cousins and uncle in Sicily on the back end of our 2022 Italy trip. The youngins (I’m including myself in that) did a short hike to a hidden beach in Zingaro Nature Reserve near the small town of Scopello on the northwest corner of Sicily.
The trek wasn’t long, but the views were beautiful. Zingaro was the first officially protected nature reserve in Sicily, but it was only created in 1980. You enter through a tunnel, or a “gallery”, as the sign below calls it.
There were a ton of other trails in this reserve, but they were pretty intense and we were only dressed for a short trip to the beach, so those would have to wait for another life. The path was pretty easy and we soon got to the crowded beach and staked out a spot to stash our stuff while we floated in the Mediterranean.
After an hour or so of swimming we packed up and headed back up the dusty trail. Sicily is beautiful and I’m glad we got a short hike in while we were there.
Monday, May 2, 2022
Location: Exuma, Bahamas – Half Moon Reef and Stingray Reef
Divers: Ian, Tyler, Ned, Kyle
Depth: 30-40 feet
So here’s a new category for this blog! I recently went to the Bahamas with my buddies and got re-certified for scuba beforehand. I was certified when I was a kid, but hadn’t dove in years, so I figured I might as well start from the beginning. I convinced Tyler and Ned to get certified as well and Kyle was already certified, so there were four of us.
We stayed in Exuma and had a great time. We only dove one day, but this is looking to be an annual guys trip going forward, so we should get in some more dives. We are going to try and get in some other dives in Texas and perhaps other locations throughout the year also.
We did two dives to two separate reefs, Half Moon and Stingray. When we arrived at the dive shop in the morning, we found that they had mixed up our reservation and we were actually supposed to go that afternoon, but luckily there were just two other divers there (a father and son) who said we could go with them on their charter. They were both experienced divers and it was nice to have them along to keep an eye on us newbies.
This was my first attempt at underwater photography on my little knock off GoPro camera, but I think it came out ok, considering I was just holding it in my hand and praying I didn’t drop it. Nothing spectacular, but it did the job. I’ll include everything I got, including the videos.
The reef was actually a little better in terms of health than the reef we were on in the Maldives a few weeks back. Sadly, in 2016 there was a worldwide coral bleaching event and most reefs are still recovering. I’m hoping against hope that we can reverse course, as these are some amazing creations that play such a vital role in our existence, even if most people don’t understand it.
In terms of wildlife, we saw a couple of huge lobsters, a barracuda, and a nice reef shark. Of course, I don’t have pics because I wasn’t even sure my camera was going to work, but you’ll have to take my word for it.
Saturday, April 9th – Sunday, April 10th, 2022
Colorado Bend State Park – River Trail and River Backpacking Area
Windy, sunny, high 80s in the day, low 60s overnight
Ian, Court, Biff, Finn
About 9 miles
The weather finally cooperated for our April Colorado Bend trip, after raining us out in 2020 and then having stinging caterpillar issues in 2021.
The river backpacking area at Colorado Bend is only .7 miles in from the regular camping area, but it is so much better. Especially the site we reserved, which has its own private beach on the Colorado River.
We hiked in and set up camp by about 1pm and then slack packed (thru hiking term, which means we had our packs, but mostly empty with just what we needed for the day hike) up the River Trail.
I have renamed the River Trail as “Armadillo Alley”. They were EVERYWHERE. We counted 13.5 going one way. Yes, there was half an armadillo. Some animal had gotten to him, but I didn’t take a pic, so you are spared that image, dear reader.
We were going to try and finally hike the Tenaja Trail, but decided it would be a bit too far to push the dogs on a relatively warm day. Courtney thinks that trail is just not meant to be hiked by the pair of us. I hiked it solo in 2020 and it’s a great trail, but Court has never done it.
We stuck to the River Trail and backtracked back to camp after about 4 miles, returning through Armadillo Alley. The dogs, especially Biff, were supremely interested in them. No armadillos were harmed though.
We got back to camp and cooked dinner on the beach. There were some beautiful birds (cranes? herons? both?) in the river at sunset and they were a little ornery with each other, much like flamingos in the zoo. We heard them still squawking as we got into the tent for an early night and fell asleep quickly.
We were up with the sun and packed up and headed out. Successful trip to one of the most underrated state parks. Pups had their usual naptime on the 2 hour ride home.