Steiner Ranch Trail System 3/27/17


Sunday, March 27, 2017


Steiner Ranch Trail System

Warm, clear, low 80s

Ian, Court, Biff

2.7 miles


Court and I were going out to Steiner to check out something on her parent’s property so we figured we would hike on one of our old favorite trail systems.  We actually found a new trail head that is right by her parent’s property and it was nice to get a new perspective on the trails out there.  It wasn’t a long hike, but pretty with bluebonnets and views.

We crossed a couple of creeks and Biff loved the water.  The trails were much more maintained and marked than the trails we normally hike in this system.  That was a nice change, as most of the time I feel we are navigating by feel out here.  The trail quickly took us up to the ridge looking over Lake Austin and the Texas Hill Country.

The water wasn’t way up, but it was flowing and Biff got to wade a little bit.  It was an easy out and back and at the end we got some great bluebonnet shots, which is a Texas spring tradition.

trail head at red dot

Palmetto State Park 2/25/17


Saturday, February 25, 2017


Palmetto State Park – near Gonzales, TX

Sunny, cool, low 60s

Ian, Court, and Biff

3.3 miles


What a surprise this park was!  We had actually planned to car camp here a couple of years ago, but never had made it until now.  We drove out through Lockhart south to the park and made a loop out of 3 separate trails.  The park isn’t very big, but the flora is so much different than anywhere else in Central Texas, which makes it quite a gem.

We started at the CCC-built Rectory and took the Ottine Swamp Trail, which wound through the palmettos for a mile or so.  Birds everywhere.  The trail was partly boardwalk, to protect the fragile plant life, and there was spanish moss hanging from the trees.

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We connected to the Mesquite Flats Trail, which is aptly named, for another mile and then to the San Marcos River Trail to round out the 3.3 mile hike.  It was level pretty much the whole way, but very pretty and so different from most of the Texas hikes we have done before.


Exposed tree roots from a metal bridge over a creek. I really just liked my shadow here.


San Marcos River


CCC-built Rectory

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I finally discovered (took 5 minutes to google) how to add more menus at the top of the blog, so I divided the posts into Texas, US, and International hikes.  Considering there are over 80 Texas hikes, I may take some time later to further sub-divide those.  But for now it’s a start.  Can’t wait to add some more international hikes when we go to Canada this summer!

McKinney Roughs – 2/11/17


Saturday, February 11, 2017


McKinney Roughs Nature Park near Wyldwood, TX

Clear, cool, mid 70s

Ian, Court, Biff, Cray

3.9 miles



We are keeping the in-law’s lab, Cray, for a couple of weeks while they are in Patagonia (jealous) and we wanted to get her out on a hike.  And us too of course.  Court got a new daypack (Gregory Maya 16) of her own for our trips to the mountains this summer and we needed to test it out too.  McKinney Roughs is one of our favorite spots that is close to town and never crowded.

Dogs on trail!

Dogs on trail!

We did a reverse loop of the first time we hiked here back in June of 2015. One of the more interesting aspects this time was they are constructing a zip line tour through the park.  It looks to be about 80% finished and, while it is a bit of an eyesore, I hope it does well and brings in funds to the park.  We will probably try it out once it is complete.  We haven’t been zip lining since we got married in Costa Rica two years ago.


Zip line tower

Zip line tower

Zip line tower

Zip line tower

Zip lines overhead

Zip lines overhead

When we got to the high point of the hike with the best views we busted out the breakfast tacos we had gotten from Taco Joint (one of the best breakfast taco places in all of Austin…shhh) on the way out.  Warm Texas hiking in February and breakfast tacos.  That’s a good morning.

Break time

Break time

Breakfast tacos...almost gone

Breakfast tacos…almost gone

After breakfast we followed the trail down the switchbacks and to the Colorado River where the dogs took a swim.  Biff is getting better with water, but still won’t go in where his feet can’t touch bottom.

Down to the river

Down to the river


After some quick swimming we headed back up the tough 45 degree trail to the top of the trail head and back to the car.  Successful hike and the dogs did great.

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Enchanted Rock – Loop Trail 1/29/17


Sunday, January 29, 2017


Enchanted Rock – Loop Trail

Clear, sunny, comfortable, low 70s

Ian, Court, and Biff

5.2 miles



We drove out to Fredericksburg on Friday for our anniversary, as we usually do every year, and hiked the Loop Trail around Enchanted Rock on Sunday morning.  It turns out, the Loop Trail is the only trail dogs are allowed on, but I had kinda planned on doing that trail anyway.

The morning actually started out a bit chilly.  We had to get out to the park somewhat early, as the lines to get in get very long and the park actually usually closes by 11am on weekends due to the crowds.  Starting the trail in our puffy jackets, we gained a little elevation and soon has some pretty nice views of the surrounding country.

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The streams were flowing nicely, which is not always the case in this part of the state.

Sandy Creek


Sandy Creek

As we wound around Enchanted Rock, we got better and better views of the rock itself and the large granite slabs that clung to it.  I wondered aloud what it would be like to witness one of these house-sized slabs come sliding down the side of the massive rock.

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We reached Sandy Creek and the trail followed it for about the last 1/4 of the route, back toward the parking area.  We had to cross one time and got our feet wet.  The water was very cold, but felt good after about a 4 mile dusty hike.


Hikers in the foreground for scale

Hikers in the foreground for scale


We got to the end of the trail and walked through the parking lots back to the trail head.  As we headed out, the park entrance was indeed closed to new traffic.  We’ve got some good hikes set up for this coming year and are starting to gear up for the new season.



Violet Crown Trail (Barton Creek Greenbelt) 1/21/17


Saturday, January 21, 2017


Violet Crown Trail (Barton Creek Greenbelt)

Cool, Overcast, 60s

Ian, Court, and Biff

5.7 miles


We hadn’t been hiking in almost 2 months so by god it was time to go.  A combination of holiday travel, just being busy, and crappy weather on the weekends had kept us from the trails, but no more!

We headed out early on Saturday morning to get to the trail head before 8am when they start charging for parking.  Since it was a pretty gray and foggy morning, there were few other cars in the lot at Barton Springs Pool.  We headed down the familiar trail.

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We’ve had a wet January so the water is way up right now and made crossing the creek unwise.  Biff had a blast and it was good to be out on the trail after so long. We stayed on the main trail for about an hour and a half before turning back, as we were going to march at the Capitol at noon.  I’ll include a couple of those pics at the end too.


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Women’s Rights March at the Capitol

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Garner State Park 11/25/16 – 11/27/16


Friday, November 25 – Sunday, November 27, 2016


Garner State Park – near Concan, TX

Ian, Court, Biff, Greg, Cat, Sam


The four of us and the two dogs car camped for a couple of nights out at Garner State Park over the Thanksgiving weekend.  I had never been to Garner, but had always heard good things.  The Frio River is the main attraction here, but in fall, it’s a bit chilly to swim, although there were quite a few that were in the water, nonetheless.  It is November in Texas, so “chilly” means 50s and 60s.

We made the three hour drive from Austin on Friday morning and stood in line for about 20 minutes to get our campsite.  I heard every state park in Texas was at capacity this weekend.  The campsite situation is different than most parks I’ve been too.  They are very exposed.  Essentially the sites, in “Old Garner” are just a big field surrounded by the cliffs and hills on one side and the Frio on the other.  We were within 20 yards of about 8 other sites with no trees in between, so privacy and solitude was not an option.  It worked out ok though.

After setting up camp we had a couple of hours before the sun went down so we went on an improvised hike along the river and up to the old CCC building where they have dances in the summer.  Heading back towards the campsite, we came to a trail head where three people were just finishing up.  They told us to head up to the Crystal Cave and that it was only about 2/3 of a mile.  Following their advice, we started up the rocky trail.

Well that 2/3 of a mile ended up being straight up and somewhat challenging, but we made it and explored the cave for a brief time.  The sun was dwindling so we headed down the other direction on the trail and, after a nice overlook of Old Baldy and the campsites, we switchbacked down to the main road.

We made our foil packet dinners (thanks Court) over the campfire and got to bed relatively early in preparation for a sunrise hike, despite being serenaded by a random trumpet playing child who sounded like he could use the practice.

The next morning we woke around 6am and started to head up the trail to Old Baldy, the iconic dome at the south end of the park, hoping to get some sunrise photos.  It quickly became apparent that the trail was even steeper than the Crystal Cave trail and with Biff and hiking poles, it just wasn’t going to happen for Court and I, so we headed down to drop off the poles and choose another trail, while Greg, Cat, and Sam continued up.

We spent the rest of the day playing cards, attempting to watch football via smart phone (Greg is a Michigan fan and they were playing Ohio State) and sitting around the fire.

Aside from the crowds, which were expected, the park was very pretty and has some tough trails. We should come back in the summer to take advantage of the river.

EDIT: forgot to mention that we tried out our new sleeping pads, Thermarest NeoAir XLites and they were a resounding success.  We both were much more comfortable than with the Big Agnes Double Z’s, which always felt like sleeping on pool floats.  We were much warmer (R value of 3.2 compared to about 1.5) and the “noise” complaints that I’ve heard a lot of people have with the XLites was a non-issue.  I was able to sleep on my side without waking up to sore hips or joints.  Extremely happy with the decision.  They are a bit pricey, but I put them in the “you get what you pay for” category.

Pedernales Falls SP – Juniper Ridge and Madrone Trails 11/20/16


Sunday, November 20, 2016


Hike: Juniper Ridge and Madrone Trails – Pedernales Falls State Park – Near Dripping Springs, TX

Weather: Clear, cool, mid 60s

Hikers: Ian, Court, Biff

Length: 5.5 miles


We hit up Pedernales State Park again to get some more of the new southern trails hiked.  We started off on an equestrian trail that went by a horse camp until we hit the Juniper Ridge Trail and then followed it to the junction with the Madrone Trail and took that back to the parking lot.  It was a nice loop, though somewhat uneventful, but it was a perfect hike to get back  into the swing of things around Austin, since we have been hiking out of state lately.

The weather finally turned cooler in Texas and it felt great to be walking through the woods today.  Court spotted a doe who was doing her best to stay still and camouflaged while we walked by.  She never moved, but we knew she was there.  I didn’t have the presence of mind to get a picture though.

There were a couple of creeks that were barely running, but they were still pretty.  Biff enjoyed himself off leash the whole time and was very good.  There are still plenty of trails left to hike in this park, so we’ll be back plenty I’m sure.