Saturday, May 23, 2020
Hike: Hill Country State Natural Area near Bandera, TX – Wilderness and Spring Branch Trails
Weather: Partly cloudy, breezy, HOT, mid 90s
Hikers: Ian, Court, Biff, Finn
Length: 4 miles
First hike of the Covid Era! We finally broke out of our quarantine and got out to some trails this past weekend. We drove out to Hill Country State Natural Area, one of the few places in Central Texas that we hadn’t experienced, near Bandera, just west of San Antonio.
The State Parks are allowing a limited amount of day passes right now that you have to reserve online in advance. As Texas starts to open up, people are flocking to outdoor areas. We got the last available pass for Saturday afternoon at HCSNA, but I think a lot of passes went unused, as there were still a dozen or so waiting to be picked up when we left the park to come back home.
The good old Texas heat is starting to hit and the dogs (and humans) haven’t acclimated yet, so this hike got cut a little bit shorter than originally intended. I did bring a ton of water, so the pups were well hydrated, but tired.
We started off on the Wilderness Trail, which was marked as “moderate”, but was really a pretty flat jeep trail for most of the way. This is prime snake country, but we didn’t see any on this day. HCSNA has a lot of trails that we need to explore, but we only did parts of two. We cut the Wilderness loop short and hopped onto the Spring Branch trail, which was more challenging, but also prettier.
There were plenty of lizards scurrying about, much to Finn’s excited delight. We had to stop and take a few breaks in the shade and drink plenty of water. The views were nice and the breeze coming down the hills was a welcome respite from the heat.
After a 4 mile loop, we were back at the car and cranked the AC for the 2 hour drive home. It’s now what I call “sunrise hiking” time in Texas, where you have to start early in order to avoid the heat. Hoping to add more hikes to the blog soon as we start up a delayed hiking season.
As some may know, my PCT hike for 2020 was postponed. I actually made the call before the COVID outbreak, but this definitely would have sealed the deal.
One of the bloggers I follow who is also a doctor posted the following and I feel it’s good to pass the info along. I’ll be back to updating this blog for the spring hiking season in Texas. At least my favorite hobby isn’t impacted (much) by these weird times we are living in.
As a physician (Internal Medicine and Ophthalmology), I try to separate my work from this blog, but at a time like this, I feel the need to spread the message to as many people as possible.
Although it is still very early in the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that the world will never be the same. As the SARS-CoV-2 makes it way around the world, we will all experience our version of the pandemic at different times. Healthcare workers scramble around the world to contain the virus and minimize casualties. The battle against this virus will not be won in the hospital wards and in the clinics, it is fought in our homes and neighborhoods with prevention. The soldiers in this battle are the people who live in this country. by staying home, you are contributing more than you will ever realize. That is our main weapon. With such…
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November 30 – December 1, 2019
Annual Thanksgiving Trip
Ian, Court, Biff, Finn
We took our annual Thanksgiving trip out to Inks Lake for an overnight. We had originally planned on doing two nights, but the weather the first night was not looking fun (40s and wet) so we only went the second night when the weather was a lot better.
As always, the lake was pretty, the hiking good, and the dogs loved it. Finn got a little chilly overnight and was restless, so we are going to need to figure out a solution for him on the colder nights. Biff gets to snuggle under the quilt with us, but Finn is far too big for that.
Saturday, November 2, 2019
Tuolumne Grove – Yosemite NP
Ian and Court
For a quick hike before Greg and Cat’s wedding, we headed down to Tuolumne Grove to see some sequoias. Court and I first experienced the majesty that these trees convey back in 2016 when we went to Sequoia National Park over Labor Day weekend. There are fewer trees in Yosemite, but they are still just as impressive.
This trail is fairly short, but includes what was one of the original roads in the park, back in the late 1800s. This is also when the famous tunnel tree was made, which would certainly not be allowed now, I don’t think.
When one of these trees falls over you get an even more up close sense of how huge they really are. They make you feel quite small in the world. It’s a sensation that can only be experienced in real life.
Next time we come back we will go to the Mariposa Grove, which is much larger, but is located on the southern end of the park so we didn’t have time to make the drive. This smaller grove was a worthy consolation.
Thursday, October 31, 2019
Mist Trail – Vernal and Nevada Falls – Yosemite NP
Ian, Court, Kelly, Ryan
This hike is the beginning of what would have been our hike to Half Dome, but as I mentioned in the last post, we had to cancel that trip due to weather. This is a tough hike, don’t let anyone fool you. 10 miles round trip from the parking lot at Curry Village.
I had looked at the topo map before the hike, but wasn’t expecting it to basically start to go straight up from the very beginning. Get ready calves! The trail starts off paved, but at about a 30 degree angle for a while and then it evens out until you reach the long set of stairs heading up to the first set of falls on this hike, Vernal Falls. Since we were there late in the season the falls were not flowing very strong, but they were still beautiful.
The stairs were a real life version of the stairs up to Cirith Ungol (nerd alert) in Lord of the Rings. There was no Shelob at the top though.
After a quick rest at the top where we fended off the well-fed squirrels trying to get at our snacks, we continued on and soon got our first glimpse of Nevada Falls.
More steps were to come.
But we made it. I erroneously thought that the rock formation in front of us was Half Dome, but it was actually Liberty Cap. Gotta get better at reading those topo maps.
Had we climbed Half Dome we would have kept going up from here, but instead we took the John Muir Trail back down to the valley. There was a short section that was pretty icy and will probably be closed in the next few weeks due to treacherous conditions.
The trail switchbacked all the way back down to the valley and we were glad to have our trekking poles to cushion the descent, as we were going at a pretty quick pace to try and get back to the visitor center before it closed, which we did. This was a beautiful and challenging hike that everyone who goes to Yosemite should do if they are able.
Wednesday, October 30, 2019
Mt. Hoffmann – Yosemite NP – trail to May Lake and unofficial trail to summit
Ian, Court, Greg, Todd, Kelly, and Ryan
Well, today was supposed to be the day we were going to climb Half Dome with the cables down, but the weather overnight made us cancel. The forecast was in the teens at our campsite (Little Yosemite Valley) and almost single digits on Half Dome, so we made the call and bailed.
However, this hike was recommended by Kelly’s ranger friend and it was a fun challenge with some great views. A group of us got to the trail head around 1pm and headed up into the Sierra.
About a mile or so in, we hit May Lake and the camp there, which was closed for the season. We got some good photos and continued around the lake to start the unofficial trail up to Mt Hoffmann.
A lot of this trail was route finding, looking for cairns among the rocks as we steadily gained elevation.
About half way up we could see views of Half Dome way down in the valley.
We turned up the mountain and the ascent got quite steep and difficult. There were multiple cairns to choose from and we basically had to just make our own route and use our best judgement. The altitude became a bit too much for Ryan and Kelly, so they chose to hang back while the remaining four of us continued up toward the summit.
Just a hundred yards or so after we left Ryan and Kelly, the trail flattened out quite a bit and the remaining trek to the base of the summit wasn’t nearly as steep. Greg and Todd went for the actual summit while Court and I decided to forego it and chose a smaller peak just below to rest and eat lunch on.
After enjoying the view for a bit we knew we had to start down to try and get back to the trail head before dark, or at least close to it. The journey down was a bit more treacherous than going up, as we were having to again pick our way through cairns, but this time downhill on unstable rocks. We made it back to the lake after a long journey and met back up with Ryan and Kelly while we waited for Greg and Todd to catch up.
The alpenglow was starting to hit the rocks and the light made for some stunning pics.
Once everyone was back together we hiked back down from May Lake to the trail head, stopping multiple times to get pics of the sunset and the encroaching dusk. The sunsets out here are incredible. We don’t get much in Texas like this.