Inks Lake Overnight 2 – 12/12/14-12/13/14

December 12th and 13th, 2014

 

Hike: Inks Lake – Multiple Trail Loop, near Burnet, TX

Weather: Overcast to sunny, upper 50s to lower 70s

Hikers: Ian, Court, Biff

Length: 6.47 miles

 

This was our second trip out to Inks Lake and we got our hike in this time.  We were able to choose the exact same campsite as last time and we had the whole area to ourselves.  It was supposed to rain this weekend, but the weather ended up being fantastic.  We arrived late Friday afternoon and set up camp and the skies were clear all night, giving us a great sunset and some great stars.  A lot of pics on this trip.

Court setting up camp
Court setting up camp
same site as last time, #328
same site as last time, #328
Biff inspecting the firepit
Biff inspecting the fire pit
tent set up successfully
tent set up successfully

The sunset pictures were just behind our site over the granite (gneiss) outlook.

Biff running out of frame
Biff running out of frame
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sunset with vernal pools in the foreground

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After we got camp set up, I started the fire and Courtney put together some foil campfire dinners similar to what my mom used to make when we would go camping growing up.  Chicken, bell peppers, onions, potatoes, zucchini, garlic, and saffron seasoning.  It turned out amazing.

Biff being a goof
Biff being a goof
Ian's first fire attempt
Ian’s first fire attempt
Court and Biff
Court and Biff
Wonderful camp dinner
Wonderful camp dinner
Court's fire attempt.  She ended up being the best fire stoker.
Court’s fire attempt. She ended up being the best fire stoker.

We got to bed around 10 and got up at sunrise to hit the trail with the temperatures in the mid 50s.  However, it would warm up quite a bit as the day went on.  We were both very happy with this trail, as it had a lot of different terrain and certainly gained some elevation at points.  This may have been our hardest trail overall to this point, despite the relatively short length.

overlooking Inks Lake
overlooking Inks Lake
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mountain that we would see throughout the day. name unknown.

 

vein of rock
vein of granite (I think) embedded in the gneiss
Court scrambling
Court scrambling

We made a loop of several trails in the park.  It started out pretty flat through the primitive camping area (which I was unimpressed with) and then got a lot tougher when we got back toward the lake.  Around this point, Biff started limping and favoring his left front paw.  He hadn’t been  on a hike of this length in a long time and we were worried that we pushed him too hard.  We carried him for a about a mile and that mile ended up being the hardest part of the hike.  To be fair, we probably would have carried him on most of this portion of the trail anyway, due to his back issues, but it was hard on both of us.  Finally, we set him down for a rest and he “miraculously” was ok again.  I think he just wanted to get a free ride for a while. 🙂

primitive campsite
primitive campsite
leaves covering the trail
leaves covering the trail
Court liked this tree
Court liked this tree
big rocks
big rocks
Court realizing that prickly pear fruit is prickly
Court realizing that prickly pear fruit is prickly
another granite vein
another granite vein

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treats for Biff
treats for Biff
great views at the high point of the hike
great views at the high point of the hike

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good colors
good colors

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We were all very tired, but very happy at the end of the hike.  It’s always nice to realize that such beautiful scenery is available in Texas just a couple of hours away.  We will certainly return to Inks Lake in the future.

map elevation profile

Barton Creek Upper 11/30/14

November 30th, 2014

Hike: Barton Creek Upper, Austin, TX

Weather: mid 70s, mostly cloudy, pleasant

Hikers: Ian, Court, Josh, Pete, Zoe

Length: 6.49 miles

 

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Court and I met up with our buddy Josh at his house for the hike today.  He can access Barton Creek from his backyard, which is awesome.  He also lives a little further north of the trail head that we have used on this hike before, so we got to see some of the trail that we have never seen.  His two dogs, Pete and Zoe, joined us also.  The weather was great and we started off around 8:30am.

Pete and Zoe
Pete and Zoe

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There were some great views of the surrounding hills at the beginning as we descended to the creek.  The cloud cover made for very nice hiking today and we didn’t work up a real sweat until the end.

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Josh on the trail

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The water was flowing well in the creek and the waterfalls were beautiful.  I took a video of the first falls we came to, which I had not seen before.  I must have put my finger over the mic for the second half of the video because the sound goes out, but you get the idea.

We didn’t have a real plan as to how far we were going to go, but didn’t want to push it too hard because we haven’t hiked in a while and Josh is mending a hurt knee.  We turned around about three miles in and I think that ended up being perfect.

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nice falls, not sure of the name
nice falls, not sure of the name
millipede along the trail
millipede along the trail

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The fall colors in Austin are really starting to show as well.

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Sculpture Falls was beautiful as usual.  The other pics below are from the part of the trail that neither Court nor I had been on.

Sculpture Falls
Sculpture Falls

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cool patterns on a tree that had its bark stripped away by the high waters
cool patterns on a tree that had its bark stripped away by the high waters
Courtney
Courtney
ferns along the creek
ferns along the creek
clear watering hole
clear watering hole

 

The Barton Creek Greenbelt is always a good hike and I’m glad we got to go with Josh and see some new parts of the trail.  I look forward to doing more hiking with Josh in the future as he really enjoys it as well.

green arrow is start and finish.  bottom waypoint is turnaround
green arrow is start and finish. bottom waypoint is turnaround

elevation profile

Buescher State Park – Pine Gulch Loop 11/2/14

November 2, 2014

Hike: Buescher State Park – Pine Gulch Loop

Weather: cool, upper 60s – low 70s, sunny

Hikers: Ian

Length: 7.33 miles

Buescher State Park is only about 30 minutes away from Austin and I had pretty much forgotten about it, despite the fact that I have passed the entrance tons of times on the way out to my parent’s cabin near Winchester.  With Court out of town in Dallas for her final review before her licensing exam, I decided to get out in the woods for the morning.  Daylight savings hit the night before so with an extra hour, I actually woke up at 6:30 in the morning and got a decently early start.  I got to the trail head by about 8:30.  It was still in the upper 50s and I had to wear my jacket for the first couple of miles. Hiking solo is a really different experience from hiking with others and it’s easy to let your mind wander and not pay attention to the world around you, which somewhat defeats the purpose of why you are out there.  So on this hike I tried to stay in the present as much as possible.  With that in mind, the rest of this blog I will write in the present tense.

trail head
trail head

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these berries were everywhere
these berries were everywhere

As I start out on the trail, the morning chill bites into me a little bit, but is slowly melting away as the sun rises behind me.  There is only one other car at the trail head, so it appears I will have the trail to myself for a while.  About a half mile in I see my first wildlife: two white tailed deer, a male and a female.  I am very used to deer, as they are all over my parent’s neighborhood in northwest Austin, but for some reason seeing them in the wild is a different experience and is still exciting.  They are being very noisy in the forest, but once they notice me they freeze, make eye contact with me, and then turn and bolt the other direction.  I try to get a quick picture, but I am not fast enough.  Moving on at a solo pace of almost three mph (with companions we usually average two mph), I notice the path varies from sandy to rocky to soft pine needles.

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At the first road crossing, I see a sign for the MD Anderson Cancer Science Park.  It is a small building in the middle of the woods that you need special clearance to access.  Science Park and Research?  More like nuclear missile silo if you ask me.

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The trail is pretty flat for the first half of the loop, but I know it will gain some elevation on the other side.  A little further on I pass a small stagnant pond and am glad that I don’t have to filter water out of it.   I see my third deer of the trip, but it escapes my camera once again.

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rock cairn
rock cairn
pine cones
pine cones
fall colors starting to show
fall colors starting to show

Starting to gain elevation now.  I stop for a quick snack break and take off my jacket.  The trail is starting to wind a bit more and gain some elevation.  As I round one bend I hear a sound in the silent forest that at first sounds like boulders rolling down a hill.  Before I can react a great cracking explosion fills the forest and I see the last branches of a 50 foot tall pine descending into the undergrowth about 40 yards off the trail.  My heart rate skyrockets and I get into a defensive posture.  All of this happens in roughly 5 seconds, so I’m just glad the tree didn’t fall across the trail, as that would have been the end of me.  This is definitely a first for my hiking career. After the adrenaline slows a bit I continue on and see my first hikers of the day.  Three people heading the opposite direction on the loop.  I say a quick “good morning” to them just before I see a small pine that reminds me of a Dr. Seuss plant, the way it grew up windy and curvy.

wooden bridge
wooden bridge
stone bridge
stone bridge
Dr. Seuss tree
Dr. Seuss tree

With about 2 miles left, I come across an unexpected viewpoint that looks out in the direction of Bastrop and has a nice view of the plains below.  I haven’t taken a video in a long time, so what better spot?

I finish up the hike and it doesn’t feel like I just did almost 7.5 miles.  I get back to my car and go a little further down the park road to an old CCC-built picnic shelter and also a short path to a big Cedar Elm called “Big Tree Trace”.  It is big, but I feel like there are other trees around that are bigger.

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Back to past tense.  This was a really nice hike that I would like to repeat with Court and maybe do an overnight.  Hopefully no trees will almost crush me next time.

Some info on the park below from Wiki:

Buescher State Park is a state park located just north of Smithville, Texas. The park consists of 1,016.7 acres (411 ha) of public land donated to the state by Mr. Emil and Mrs. Elizabeth Buescher, as well as the City of Smithville. Between the years 1933 and 1936, Mr. Emil and Mrs. Elizabeth Buescher deeded 318 acres (129 ha) of land to the State of Texas. After Emil Buescher’s death, his heirs donated 318 acres (1.29 km2) more. The rest of the parkland was acquired from the city of Smithville. Companies 1805 and 1811 of the Civilian Conservation Corps built many of the park facilities between 1933 and 1939 using native stone to better blend with the surrounding landscape.

When it opened in 1940, the park was 1,738 acres (703 ha). In 1967, the Texas Legislature transferred 700 acres (280 ha) to The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center for use as a science park research facility.

The park features a 7.7-mile (12.4 km) round trip hiking trail through the park’s undeveloped area. There is also a small lake open for canoeing and fishing. The lake is stocked with crappie, catfish and bass year around and with rainbow trout in winter. Camping and picnicking areas are available. Buescher is less than four miles (6 km) to the east of Bastrop State Park and the two are connected by Park Road 1. Over 250 species of birds have been spotted in the park throughout the year. Mammals include White-tailed deer, raccoons, opossums, bobcats, and armadillos.

map elevation profile

Balcones Canyonlands NWR – Doeskin Ranch 10/19/14

October 19th, 2014

Hike: Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge – Doeskin Ranch, Northwest of Austin, TX

Weather: partly cloudy, upper 70s, breezy

Hikers: Ian, Court, Sara, and Ryan

Length: 3.66 miles

 

This was our first hike with Ryan and Sara.  We couldn’t have picked a better day weather-wise.  We hit the trail around 10:30am after an hour drive from Austin.  The sun came out about halfway through the hike and the breeze was nice.  This hike actually had some of the most elevation of any of our previous hikes in Texas.  Real switchbacks on the this one, but a short hike overall.  There is also a spring fed creek towards the beginning of the trail that is always running, regardless of rainfall.

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first creek crossing
first creek crossing
into a small wooded section before gaining elevation
into a small wooded section before gaining elevation
looking down the hill
looking down the hill

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at the top
at the top

 

This hike also had a lot of varied terrain.  From prairies, to woods, to more desert-like vegetation, it was constantly changing.  We connected several loops to make one big loop of a little over 3.5 miles.  We saw a couple of other hikers and it was nice to not have to share the trail with any bikers.

 

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Sara really loved these random man-made wood piles.  Kind of like cairns, but not sure.
Sara really loved these random man-made wood piles. Kind of like cairns, but not sure.

Not much wildlife, save a lizard, a turtle, and one rabbit.  Plenty of birds as well, but no Monarch butterflies, which supposedly peak in their migration through this area at this time.  This hike was very beautiful and actually exceeded my expectations.  It was great to have some elevation change and views compared to a lot of the flat Dallas hikes we had gotten used to.  It was a lot of fun to do with Ryan and Sara and hopefully they will join us for some more hikes in the future.

 

bat houses
bat houses
creek on the way back
creek on the way back
turtle!
turtle!

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old cabin
old cabin

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finish
finish

map elevation profile

Pace Bend Park 9/28/14

September 28th, 2014

Hike: Pace Bend Park, Spicewood, TX

Weather: sunny, warm, mid 80s, balmy

Hikers: Ian and Court

Length: about 8 miles

 

We woke up early and made the 45 minute drive out to Pace Bend Park off of Highway 71 west of Austin.  There are a lot of trails in the park and a lot aren’t marked real well, so there was some interesting navigating going on at times.  Court does not like the idea of being lost I found out today.  But on the plus side I got to use my recently acquired compass a few times.

Trail Head
Trail Head
First trail marker
First trail marker
which way to go?
which way to go?

 

We got some decent elevation at times that showed some good views of Lake Travis (what’s left of it) and the Hill Country.

really low Lake Travis
really low Lake Travis

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Didn’t see any other hikers, just a few bikers.  Surprisingly, not much wildlife, aside from a huge jackrabbit that ran across the road on the way in and a massive spider in its web on the side of the trail.  I’ve gotten better about my spider fear, but I still didn’t want to get too close.  We also saw a dung beetle rolling it’s ball of dung down the path which was a first for both of us.  Pretty interesting because they do it backwards.

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holes in the limestone.  this all used to be under the ocean.
holes in the limestone. this all used to be under the ocean.
heart shaped hole (Guy Forsyth reference)
heart shaped hole (Guy Forsyth reference)
look at that monster
look at that monster

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The trail was pretty rocky so it was a bit tough on the feet, but considering it was our first hike in over a month, we both did pretty well.  Court had to get past the mental block of being lost, but she powered through in the end.

From the website:

Pace Bend Park is located in far western Travis County in the Hill Country of central Texas. With more than nine miles of shoreline along scenic Lake Travis, Pace Bend is one of the most popular areas in the Highland Lakes region, offering visitors a wide range of recreational opportunities. The west side of the park features high, limestone cliffs and numerous rocky coves with some of the most impressive views available of Lake Travis, especially at sunset.

Most of Pace Bend Park is easily accessible by vehicle from the six-mile, paved roadway that loops the park. However, the interior of the park is managed as a wildlife preserve and can be reached by foot, bicycle, or horseback only. Numerous trails lead into the hills and provide excellent views of the lake and the Hill Country. This area serves as home to a large number of whitetail deer, raccoon, fox, ringtail cat, and dozens of bird species.

map elevation profile

 

Mt. Bonnell 8/27/14

This wasn’t really a hike, but I’m adding it here anyway.  I took Biff to the top of Mt. Bonnell this morning for some views of Austin in the morning light.  It was pretty peaceful even though the temperature was creeping up steadily.  It was a bit hazy, but still great views.  Some of the pics are a little blurry as I was having to hold onto Biff and handle the camera at the same time.

the stairs up to the top
the stairs up to the top

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I had to carry Biff up the initial stairs because of his back, but he did great on the short trail, which is only a couple of hundred yards.  It was a nice morning walk and will probably be even better on a cool fall morning.

Pennybacker bridge in the background
Pennybacker bridge in the background
Austin skyline
Austin skyline
Biff was thirsty at the end
Biff was thirsty at the end

Greenbelt – Zilker to almost 360 8/24/14

Hike: Greenbelt – Zilker to almost 360, Austin, TX

Weather: sunny, clear, hot, low-mid 90s

Hikers: Ian, Court

Length: 7.51 miles

 

Court and I repeated most of the track that I did a couple of weeks ago and hit Barton Springs again afterward.  It was a lot hotter today than when I did this hike solo and there were a ton of bikers.

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We got out on trail again around 8am and Court started us off at a brisk pace.  The temperature rose pretty quickly and the humidity made it a bit rough at times.  But that just made the springs at the end that much better.  It took a few minutes for Court to work up the courage to jump in the water, but she finally got in.  Barton Springs is an amazing way to end a hike.  I think I’m going to take a break from the Greenbelt for a few weeks and check out some other area hikes.  I’m going to try and do the full length of the Greenbelt at some point this fall, once the temperature goes down a bit.

 

cheesy kiss pic
cheesy kiss pic
Court liked this shrub
Court liked this shrub

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trail snacks
trail snacks
Ian in Barton Springs cooling off
Ian in Barton Springs cooling off

We hit Doc’s afterward for lunch and it was a pretty amazing day.  Yay Austin.

Doc's
Doc’s

SAM_2028 Map Elevation Profile

Greenbelt – Zilker to Mopac 8/9/14

August 9th, 2014

Hike: Greenbelt – Zilker to Mopac, Austin, TX

Weather: mid-80s, warm, sunny

Hikers: Ian

Length: 8.61 miles

 

For my first hike back in Austin, I thought what better than the Greenbelt and afterwards a dip in Barton Springs?  I had originally only planned to go about 4 or 5 miles, but I first reached Gus Fruh and decided to go to Mopac and 360.  Then when I reached 360 and wanted to keep going.  I finally forced myself to turn around shortly after because I wasn’t prepared, or in good enough hiking shape, to go much further.  I do want to do the full length of the entire Greenbelt (14 miles or so) at some point in the future.

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a little water in the creek
a little water in the creek

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Court went to Dallas for one of her classmate’s birthdays, so it was just me.  I hit the trail around 8am and finished up in a little more than 3 hours.  There were quite a few bikers, but relatively few hikers for a Saturday in August.  The creek is almost totally dry again.  The trail was mostly shaded and the heat wasn’t too bad that early in the morning.  I saw a few new parts of the trail that I hadn’t seen before, including walking underneath 360.

dry creek was more the norm
dry creek was more the norm

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With the crowded trail there was no real wildlife, though I did see one rabbit as he hopped off the trail.  At one point on the way back, I saw a bench that was dedicated to a woman who had died in 2008 and the weird part was when I looked up in the trees near the bench.  There was a neon green life-sized mannequin with no features other than nipples.  Instead of a face on the tiny head there were letters that spelled ‘hi’.  Oh Austin, I missed you.

 

plaque on bench
plaque on bench
crazy mannequin.  because Austin.
crazy mannequin. because Austin.

There was some interesting graffiti underneath the 360 bridge and also a couple of stone benches on the edge of the creek that looked like maybe they were supposed to be part of a dock or something, but were never completed.  Maybe just benches.  Not sure.

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Barton Springs afterward felt amazing.  I think that needs to be a new post-Greenbelt hike ritual.  Glad to be back in Austin.

marker is turnaround point
marker is turnaround point.  started at barton springs pool.

elevation profile

Knob Hill Trail 6/15/14

June 15th, 2014

Hike: Knob Hill Trail, near Flower Mound, TX

Weather: upper 70s – low 80s, warm and breezy

Hikers: Ian

Length: 9.12 miles

 

I got in another Dallas area hike before we moved.  Court had to study so I went solo.  I have done this trail a couple of times before, but for some reason this time was really difficult.  I don’t think I ate enough breakfast (or any breakfast really).  I also had a pretty long day (start of the College World Series) the day before and I was going at a faster than normal pace because I was solo (a little more than 3mph), so all of those were contributing factors.  But I stuck it out until the end and it was quite enjoyable despite the physical hardship.

starting the trail
starting the trail
bunny
bunny
bunny close up; he let me get really close before hopping off
bunny close up; he let me get really close before hopping off
view from Knob Hill
view from Knob Hill
bench at viewpoint
bench at viewpoint

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I hit the trail a little before 9am and was done in just under 3 hours.  It was a pretty warm day, but nothing compared to normal June temperatures in Texas.  I saw a couple of rabbits, but not much else in terms of wildlife.  There were quite a few bikers on the trail so I think that kept a lot of the animals away.

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the wind through these trees sounded beautiful, like a river
the wind through these trees sounded beautiful, like a river

My favorite part of this trail is when you get into the deeper forest because despite being pretty close to civilization, it gets really quiet and cool in there.  I actually found a separate trail that I hadn’t used before that made a small loop towards the turnaround point, which made for some new scenery for me.  I also saw a small green snake that had just been run over by a biker.  I felt bad for him, as he looked like he was in pain, so I moved him off the trail.  Hopefully he survived.

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bunny #2 lazing on the trail

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turnaround point
turnaround point
the trail back
the trail back

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Overall this was one of my favorite trails in the Dallas area.  I may try and sneak in one more before we head back to Austin, but I’m not sure.  This trail also gave me my first blisters ever, which I will attribute to the faster pace and no break for lunch.  The green arrow below is the trail head, the first way point is Knob Hill, and the far left way point is the turnaround point.

Map Elevation Profile

Greenbelt – Gus Fruh Park 6/8/14

June 8th, 2014

Hike: Greenbelt – Gus Fruh Park, Austin, TX

Weather: warm, overcast, a bit muggy, low 80s

Hikers: Ian, Court, and Doc

Length: 4.16 miles

 

We hit the trail around 8:30am and started towards the Gus Fruh access point, which is also the same spot that Court’s cousin had his wedding last summer.  There was still a bit of water running on the greenbelt, as there had been some decent rain in the past few weeks, but it was quickly running dry.  We figured we’d better get out there before all the water vanished for the summer.

Doc joined us today and him hiking in his cowboy hat made me laugh.  There were a lot of friendly dogs on the trail, but we decided not to bring Biff, as we didn’t know how much water there would be and we would have had to carry him a lot.  Turns out it wasn’t that bad and he probably would have been fine.  The main creek was pretty dry in most spots, with a few pools of water here and there.

Trail Head
Trail Head

Towards the beginning of the trail we saw some rock climbers across the creek and that was pretty cool to watch.  There was a bridge out a little ways in so we had to detour around it which ended up adding a little adventure to our hike.  We somehow missed the turn on the way back when we went around the washed out bridge and ended up hiking way up towards the top of 360, but Court figured out our unintended detour and we eventually, after a couple of circles, found our way back to the parking lot by bushwhacking up the back side of it.  Thank goodness for GPS.

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attachment points in the rocks for the climbers
attachment points in the rocks for the climbers
washed out bridge
washed out bridge
one of the stagnant pools
one of the stagnant pools
fuzzy caterpillar
fuzzy caterpillar

Still some good wildflowers out on the trail.  It was a fun hike and one that we will repeat many times in the future I’m sure.

dry creek bed
dry creek bed

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site of Little Rob's wedding, but with more water now
site of Little Rob’s wedding, but with more water now

SAM_1911 Map Elevation Profile