Category Archives: Texas

Lost Maples 5/13/17

 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

 

Lost Maples State Natural Area

warm, sunny, mid 80s

Ian solo

5.1 miles

 

 

This was actually going to be an overnight, but I finished the hike much faster than anticipated and didn’t want to sit in the woods by myself for 7 hours until the sun set, so I bailed and drove home.  The hike was still very pretty and well worth the 6 hour round trip drive.

I had a full pack, including the Marmot Limelight 3 person tent and Enlightened Equipment double quilt, despite being a solo trip.  I had no choice, as I haven’t bought my solo shelter or quilt yet.  All that said, my pack weight, including food and water was just under 25 pounds, so not too shabby.

 

I intended to hike the remainder of the trail that we hadn’t finished on our first overnight back in 2015.  This meant doing a counter-clockwise loop on the west side of the park.  There was a steep climb that got me to some good views.  Unfortunately, they don’t believe in switchbacks in this park, so it’s basically just a straight up climb for a quarter mile on scree.  I was winded, but the breeze up top was nice and I took a short break.

Views

Some flowers still hanging on before the summer heat

 

After a short walk through Mystic Canyon (which I will say is neither mystic, nor a real canyon), I got to the junction where I was to do another steep climb.  There were three hikers at the junction who had just come from where I was headed.  They told me horror stories of not only steep trail, but spiders everywhere as big as your hand.  I was already thinking of skipping this section and their warnings made it an easy decision. Instead I headed to my intended campsite and passed some nice springs on the way.

 

When I arrived at Camping Area C it was just barely 2pm.  There were several groups camped already and I wasn’t sure if they were still waiting to pack up from the night before or if they had gotten out earlier than me and set up.  Either way, I didn’t feel like hanging around by myself all afternoon, especially when I was just about a mile from the trail head.  So I continued on and headed back to the car.

Pond at Camping Area C

 

However on the way I found a nice waterfall that I had to scramble down a small cliff to really see, but it was well worth it.

 

 

Reimer’s Ranch – Lower River Trail 4/30/17

 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

 

Reimer’s Ranch – Lower River Trail and Turkey Loop

Sunny, breezy, mid 70s

Ian, Court, Biff

3.9 miles

 

 

A cool front came through on Saturday night and dropped temperatures back down to more hiker-friendly levels, so we headed out to Reimer’s Ranch again to check out some new trails.  Court was also testing out another pair of shoes (La Sportiva Bushido’s) before we head to Colorado next week.

First, we made our way down to the Pedernales River and the beach.  The water was extremely warm and we made a note to come back when it’s 100+ degrees and go swimming.

 

Then we followed the Lower River primitive trail, which was much more well maintained than the last trail we did here near the main rock climbing area.  The trail went along the river for a mile or so and we watched the vultures and hawks float along on the thermals above the trail.

river views

Turkey Vulture or Black Vulture – too far up to tell, but there were plenty of both

I love wooden bridges on trails

 

There were also several lizards out basking in the sun and one of them allowed me to get quite close for some photos.

 

The trail then climbed back up to the plateau and we transitioned onto the multi-use trails that cater to bikes as well as horses, though we saw neither.  The Texas Firewheels and several other flowers (Brown Bitterweed?) are still in full bloom.

Firewheels

 

About halfway through the Turkey Loop section, we realized that our shoes were full of spear grass and Biff was starting to get poked as well, so I picked him up and carried him a little way until the trail cleared out again.

Biff view

 

After a short rest and water we took the interpretive trail back to the parking lot.  This trail paralleled the Lower River Trail, but was higher above it on the plateau and had markers every quarter mile or so detailing different plants and wildlife of the area.  The county has done very well with this park since taking it over several years ago and we still have some more trails left to explore.

Cactus living on the cliff edge

River view from the plateau

Bauerle Ranch Trail System 4/23/17

 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

 

Hike: Bauerle Ranch Trail System

Weather: nice, sunny, mid 70s

Hikers: Ian, Court, Biff

Length: 3.3 miles

 

Court had never been out to Bauerle Ranch and we were looking for a hike semi-close to town, so we loaded up and hit the trail on a beautiful Sunday morning while the weather is still cooperating.  Any day now we should start into summer temperatures.

The trail system is surrounded by a neighborhood and Slaughter Creek and Bauerle Creek flow through it, though I am yet to see water in Slaughter Creek.  We started off on the Slaughter Creek portion of the trail, but it quickly became overgrown, so we crossed over the dry bed and continued on a more well worn path.

 

We wound up through the neighborhood to the other side of the park and went by the turtle pond.

Both times I have been out here it has been really green and lush.  We didn’t do all the trails, so our distance ended up being just over 3 miles.  This is a nice little easy hike that is often overlooked.

Biff rolling around like a dope

 

Westcave Preserve Uplands and Violet Crown Trail 4/15/17

 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

 

Hike: Westcave Preserve Uplands and Violet Crown Trail

Weather: sunny, pleasant, mid 70s

Hikers: Ian, Court, and Sara

Length: about 3 miles combined

 

We had planned to go out to Westcave Preserve, near Hamilton Pool and Reimer’s Ranch, to take the guided tour to see the grotto.  Guided tours are required because of the fragility of the area.  However, on beautiful days like this, apparently you have to show up more than 10 minutes early for the 10am tour, as we just missed the cut off (30 people).  It would have to wait for another day.

However, since we were already out there, we did a quick 1 mile loop in the “Uplands” area of Westcave, which is a nice, flat prairie loop.  It starts out with a short boardwalk, but quickly transitions to gravel, dirt, and grass.  We are at the end of wildflower season, quickly approaching hellish broiler season, so there are only a select few flowers left, but it was still very pretty.

Old cabin on the trail

Last of the bluebonnets

Sara getting in her bluebonnet pic before they are all gone

 

The trail was only a mile and we all wanted to hike more so we came back into town and hit the Violet Crown Trail down to the Greenbelt and back.  We hiked down the switchbacks and crossed dry creek beds several times before we got down to Barton Creek, which was flowing well.

Violet Crown Trail

dry creek

not dry Barton Creek

 

We lingered shortly before turning around and making the trek back up to the trail head at 290 and Brodie Lane.  There wasn’t much length for the hikes today, but it was good to get out on the trails nonetheless.

Westcave Preserve

Violet Crown Trail

 

 

 

Reimer’s Ranch – Canyon Trail 4/1/17

 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

 

Hike: Reimer’s Ranch – Canyon Trail

Weather: windy, cloudy, cool, mid 60s

Hikers: Ian, Court, Biff

Length: 1.4 miles

 

 

Milton Reimer’s Ranch is a park that is about 1 mile from Hamilton Pool and we had never hiked it.  This was a pretty short (but hard) hike and we have plenty of trails left to explore out there, with over 2400 acres in the park.

From the Travis County Parks website:

This pristine parkland, open space and reserve land in western Travis County with almost 3 miles of continuous frontage along the Pedernales River is the largest parkland acquisition in the history of Travis County.

The rain was supposed to start up in the afternoon so we woke up relatively early and made the 45 minute drive to the park, hitting the trail by about 9:30am.  I also used this hike to test out my new day pack that I bought for use this summer in Colorado and Canada, the Osprey Stratos 24.  I could have saved a pound of weight going with the Talon 22, but the sturdier frame of the Stratos ultimately sold me. It will take a couple of hikes to dial it in, but I was happy with the fit and feel of it on today’s hike.  However, the hole in the pack for the water bladder hose was engineered poorly, being very difficult to thread the hose through and I can see that getting old.  I may have to cut part of it to make it not as maddening.

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The ranch is apparently a rock climbers heaven and there were plenty of climbers down in the canyon.  The trail was not well marked and we had to feel our way and do a bit of scrambling and bushwhacking, carrying Biff quite a bit.

We trekked down into the canyon and there were several people doing a photo shoot under one of the big rock overhangs with a tent set up and various gear combinations.  We continued down into the canyon, following the small stream that was cut into the rock.  It soon became several beautiful waterfalls surrounded by ferns and tall trees.

Preparing to enter the canyon

Stream inside the canyon

From here the trail became much more difficult to ascertain and was pretty overgrown.  We came across several different rock climbing groups and stopped briefly to watch them.  We struggled on through the trail for a bit, bushwhacking and climbing up and over huge boulders, but ultimately decided it was time to head back in the other direction where there seemed to be slightly clearer trails.  The day was very muggy and carrying Biff along with a full pack takes its toll.

Rock climbers

We came back to the waterfall from earlier and Court ate the rest of her breakfast next to it.  We then followed the trail to a river overlook and saw where the stream emptied into the Pedernales River, again with several beautiful waterfalls.

Breakfast

We did not enter

Pedernales River

2nd waterfall in the background

We could hear more and more people entering the canyon and decided to head back.  There were lots of kids and they did not seem to care about enjoying the sounds of nature as much as the sounds of their own voices.  Get off my lawn.

We climbed out of the canyon, past a field of wildflowers, and back to the car.  This hike was really short in distance, but big on nature.  We’ll be back.

click to enlarge

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.

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

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San Marcos River

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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!