Lost Maples State Natural Area 10/16/15-10/17/15

 

Friday and Saturday, October 16 and 17, 2015

 

Hike: Lost Maples State Natural Area overnight, near Vanderpool, TX

Weather: Highs in the 90s, lows in the 50s, clear

Hikers: Ian, Court, Biff

Length: about 12 miles total

 

Our first official backpacking overnight was a success.  After two years of gathering gear and learning, we finally got to put it into practice.  The leaves haven’t started to turn yet, as it has been a very warm fall so far, but it was still beautiful.

We made the 3 hour drive through the Texas Hill Country out to Lost Maples State Natural Area and stopped at a great little cafe in Medina for lunch.

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Just outside the Vanderpool area we passed by the Siesta Valley Ranch, which is a working dude ranch at the base of a huge cliff with longhorns and bison and a beautiful lake.  Court was in love.

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longhorns

longhorns

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We reached the park just after 1pm, not sure of what kind of crowd to expect.  The parking lot was actually pretty empty.  I asked the rangers if there had been a lot of hikers in so far and they said no, but they expected it to get packed later on.  We paid our entry fees and drove to the trail head.  It was a good feeling to head off on a trail knowing that we would get to the end and set up camp, instead of having to just turn around and come back to the car.

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We started off on the Maple Trail, which takes you through the main stand of the “Lost Maples”: Bigtooth Maples, which are a holdover from the last Ice Age.  The trails are very rocky and sometimes simply follow the dry creek beds.

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Not long after, we came to Monkey Rock.  It’s a huge natural rock formation that, well, looks like a monkey.  The scale is hard to tell, but it’s probably 30 feet tall.

Monkey Rock

Monkey Rock

After Monkey Rock came the Grotto, which was very beautiful and is probably even better when the water is higher and dripping from the rocks.

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We then came to the biggest climb of the hike, up to the top of a plateau overlooking the whole area.  It was straight up and I was carrying Biff most of the way, since he is barred from climbing steps due to back surgery a few years back.  We got to the top and took a break and enjoyed the breeze and the views.

climbing up

climbing up

We walked along the plateau to a lookout point, but the sun was starting to beat down again and it was very exposed, so we continued on and took the difficult trail down, which was more of a vertical scree field than a trail.  Finally at the bottom, we took another break at the primitive campsite next to the pond and filled up our bottles.  The water was cold and felt great on our feet.

on top of the plateau

on top of the plateau

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trail down on the right

trail down on the right

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We continued on down the trail and basically followed the creek bed for most of the way to camp.  On the way we passed a small pond with some great reflections.

tendrils below the surface

tendrils below the surface

Court's favorite reflection

Court’s favorite reflection

carrying Biff

carrying Biff

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We got to camp and set up, but used most of our water to cook and clean dishes, so we had to backtrack about a mile back to a spring to filter water so we had enough for breakfast the next morning.  Having to really gauge our water use was a new experience.

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spring that we filled up at

spring that we filled up at

We woke up the next day with the sun.  The temperature got down to the low 50s, but it felt quite a bit colder for some reason.  We packed up pretty efficiently and headed back down the path we came.  We had originally planned on doing the outer loop of the West Trail, but didn’t feel like another steep climb so early in the morning so we came back and took the flatter trail through the middle of the park.  The sun hitting the valleys and trees created some great scenery on our way back to the car.

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morning sun

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We did very well with full packs and really enjoyed the adventure.  The crowds were not nearly what we were expecting.  In fact, we only had a couple of neighbors in camp and ran into less than 10 hikers overall.  Biff did well, but was definitely wiped out by the end and slept the whole way home.  It wasn’t a super long trail, but was very good for our first official time out and gave us time to really get used to the gear and enjoy the experience.  This will be the first of many I’m sure.

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trail head at the red dot

trail head at the red dot

3 responses to “Lost Maples State Natural Area 10/16/15-10/17/15

  1. Hi Ian, Court and Biff! Beautiful photos! You cover the areas well in visual detail. I don’t plan on having any children either, so a life of travel is an attainable bi-product and I can relate your lifestyle. I have since retitled my blog for the PCT and have relisted it on the PCTA. Still learning wordpress as fast as I can here before my brother and I depart Australia for San Diego in less than two weeks. I had a Beagle too when I was young. They are beautiful dogs. I’ve enjoyed your posts (wish I had time to read more) and hope to see you online – here and there. Goran

    • Thanks Goran! Every year I follow somebody’s blog on one of the big three trails and I’m glad I found you this year! Cannot wait to see the trail through your eyes!

      That said, I don’t know how long you’ve been blogging, so you may know this, but don’t feel like you have to blog every day on the trail. I feel a lot of thru-hikers burn out trying to please their readers and it becomes an obligation. Blog when it feels right and natural. It’s a much more organic and free-flowing blog that way.

      As for the PCT, I’m always jealous of you all. I’m hoping to make a thru-hike attempt of my own maybe in 5-10 years, if the fates allow. Sorry you won’t get to visit Hiker Heaven in Agua Dulce (the Saufley’s, who I’m sure you know closed up their Trail Angel-ing mecca this past year).

      But enough rambling from me, hike on!

  2. I’m honoured that you are keen to follow my posts Ian. I tried following three blogs last year but only had time for one in the end. It had the right mix of words and photos (as your site offers) so I stuck with it. It’s great to get “live” information as it unfolds even if it might be more than a week late at times.

    Yes, it’s true what you’ve mentioned about blogging on trail. In my opinion the two just don’t go together that well, yet so many want and feel the need to share which is fortunate. My brother is anti technology while on trail. He has battled with it before while traversing New Zealand, so for me the main point of the hike is to enjoy each day – not matter what. I have taken some measures already to help towards burn out. It should be interesting to see just how much I can cope with for such a distance. This is my first blogging attempt. Not a wise move for such a trail 🙂

    As for Hiker Heaven, I appreciated you commenting on it. The Saufley’s mentioning it being a rumour. The rumour must have something in it for future – a good enough excuse to start preparing for your PCT thru-hike between now and 2020 (a nice round number to remember your PCT by). I read about them being closed and just as I had completed my resupply strategy – they were open for business. So we plan on stopping there at least for a drink and some shade, maybe a mail drop.

    See you out there Ian.

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