Saturday and Sunday, April 9th and 10th, 2016
Colorado Bend State Park – near San Saba, TX
About 14 miles total
We made the 2 hour drive out through Lampasas and west over to Colorado Bend State Park this past Saturday morning amidst some early rainy weather. The bluebonnets lined the roads all the way and the rain finally subsided just as we got to the park.
We stopped at the ranger station to check in and I went over my proposed route. We were advised to wait to do Gorman Falls until the next day, as the rocky trail leading down to the falls was at a 45 degree angle and like glass when it was wet. Therefore we ended up taking a more southerly route down Lemons Ridge Pass to the Spicewood Springs Trail. This turned out to be very beautiful and the overcast skies eventually gave way to clear and sunny, with the temperatures hanging in the mid-70s. Perfect hiking weather.
The trail went down into Spicewood Canyon and meandered back and forth across the creek several times, past multiple waterfalls and plenty of beautiful scenery. Court used the new trekking poles to ford the crossings, which was quite helpful. Biff of course needed no such help as he bounded into the water and made his way across without trouble.
There weren’t many hikers on the trails the first day, but at the swimming hole at the end of the trail there were quite a few more people, as this is much closer to the general campgrounds and day use areas. Once we reached the spot where the creek empties into the Colorado River, we road walked through the car camping area (which had some great views of the cliffs across the river), where we filled up with water so we didn’t have to filter for dinner, and then another mile and a half to the backpacking primitive sites. This is the strange thing about this park. The backpacking walk in sites are only a mile away from the car camping sites, so backpacking really isn’t even necessary. Next time we may just car camp and day hike.
We reached the backpacking sites around 6pm and unfortunately most of the best sites were taken. We settled for the first site in, which was at least under a large tree and near the river, but the dirt was so hard packed we couldn’t even stake the tent down. Luckily it wasn’t necessary, as the winds were calm all night. We set up camp and then made dinner: our first experience with Mountain House freeze dried meals and I have to say, I was kinda impressed. I had Chili Mac and Beef and Court had Teriyaki Chicken and Rice. It wasn’t phenomenal, but far exceeded my expectations and the lack of dishes to clean was a very welcome side effect.
In fact, we had brushed our teeth and were in the tent well before the sun went down. We read until dark and got to sleep early. I had a particularly restless night though. I don’t know if it’s a sleeping pad issue or what, but I woke up pretty much on the hour every hour, having to change position to stop the aching joint of whatever side I was on. The stars did make their way out after some early clouds and I wish we could have left the rain fly off, but there was still a slight chance of rain, so I didn’t want to test it.
We woke up with the sun and the initial plan was to hike back to the car, eat breakfast, and then drive to the Gorman Falls trail head and make the hike without full packs, but we decided just to skip breakfast and hike on with full packs to the Falls. We took the River Trail for a mile or so, which had some nice scenery of its own, scaling along the side of a small cliff for a section. There was actually a cable bolted into the rock to assist the exposed cliff, but it wasn’t too hard. There was also an OLD sign from before the park was officially a park I guess. Pretty cool.
There was a ridiculous hill at the end just before getting to the Gorman Falls trail that really took it out of us. We needed some energy so we stopped and set up the stove for some coffee and trail snacks. I learned the hard way to not hold the coffee cup while Court pours boiling water into it. Luckily it wasn’t a full boil so my hand was ok. Again, Jiva Cubes are awesome for coffee.
We got to Gorman Falls half a mile later down the very steep and slick rocks (the ranger wasn’t lying) and it was well worth it. 70 feet tall and absolutely gorgeous. There were several different parts of the multi-tiered falls and it looked like something straight out of a tropical rain forest.
After the falls we headed back up the steep trail, carrying Biff for most of it, and decided we had neither the stamina nor the time to take the newer and most challenging Tinaja Trail back to the car. I was a bit bummed about that, as Tinaja was one of the things I really wanted to do on this trip, but it wasn’t to be. We will have to come back another time and finish that off.
We got back to the car after another couple of miles and were all wiped, but happy. Biff went straight to sleep and we made the drive back home. A great trip overall. No map this time, as the app couldn’t find the satellite for a while and didn’t keep an accurate log. Our feet and equipment held up great. I think we are getting better at this backpacking thing.
Edit: Hey, I found the maps