Tag Archives: Lost Maples State Natural Area

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.

 

 

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