Tag Archives: Texas Hiking

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

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!

McKinney Roughs – 2/11/17

 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

 

McKinney Roughs Nature Park near Wyldwood, TX

Clear, cool, mid 70s

Ian, Court, Biff, Cray

3.9 miles

 

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We are keeping the in-law’s lab, Cray, for a couple of weeks while they are in Patagonia (jealous) and we wanted to get her out on a hike.  And us too of course.  Court got a new daypack (Gregory Maya 16) of her own for our trips to the mountains this summer and we needed to test it out too.  McKinney Roughs is one of our favorite spots that is close to town and never crowded.

Dogs on trail!

Dogs on trail!

We did a reverse loop of the first time we hiked here back in June of 2015. One of the more interesting aspects this time was they are constructing a zip line tour through the park.  It looks to be about 80% finished and, while it is a bit of an eyesore, I hope it does well and brings in funds to the park.  We will probably try it out once it is complete.  We haven’t been zip lining since we got married in Costa Rica two years ago.

 

Zip line tower

Zip line tower

Zip line tower

Zip line tower

Zip lines overhead

Zip lines overhead

When we got to the high point of the hike with the best views we busted out the breakfast tacos we had gotten from Taco Joint (one of the best breakfast taco places in all of Austin…shhh) on the way out.  Warm Texas hiking in February and breakfast tacos.  That’s a good morning.

Break time

Break time

Breakfast tacos...almost gone

Breakfast tacos…almost gone

After breakfast we followed the trail down the switchbacks and to the Colorado River where the dogs took a swim.  Biff is getting better with water, but still won’t go in where his feet can’t touch bottom.

Down to the river

Down to the river

 

After some quick swimming we headed back up the tough 45 degree trail to the top of the trail head and back to the car.  Successful hike and the dogs did great.

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Enchanted Rock – Loop Trail 1/29/17

 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

 

Enchanted Rock – Loop Trail

Clear, sunny, comfortable, low 70s

Ian, Court, and Biff

5.2 miles

 

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We drove out to Fredericksburg on Friday for our anniversary, as we usually do every year, and hiked the Loop Trail around Enchanted Rock on Sunday morning.  It turns out, the Loop Trail is the only trail dogs are allowed on, but I had kinda planned on doing that trail anyway.

The morning actually started out a bit chilly.  We had to get out to the park somewhat early, as the lines to get in get very long and the park actually usually closes by 11am on weekends due to the crowds.  Starting the trail in our puffy jackets, we gained a little elevation and soon has some pretty nice views of the surrounding country.

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The streams were flowing nicely, which is not always the case in this part of the state.

Sandy Creek

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Sandy Creek

As we wound around Enchanted Rock, we got better and better views of the rock itself and the large granite slabs that clung to it.  I wondered aloud what it would be like to witness one of these house-sized slabs come sliding down the side of the massive rock.

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We reached Sandy Creek and the trail followed it for about the last 1/4 of the route, back toward the parking area.  We had to cross one time and got our feet wet.  The water was very cold, but felt good after about a 4 mile dusty hike.

 

Hikers in the foreground for scale

Hikers in the foreground for scale

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We got to the end of the trail and walked through the parking lots back to the trail head.  As we headed out, the park entrance was indeed closed to new traffic.  We’ve got some good hikes set up for this coming year and are starting to gear up for the new season.

 

map

Violet Crown Trail (Barton Creek Greenbelt) 1/21/17

 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

 

Violet Crown Trail (Barton Creek Greenbelt)

Cool, Overcast, 60s

Ian, Court, and Biff

5.7 miles

 

We hadn’t been hiking in almost 2 months so by god it was time to go.  A combination of holiday travel, just being busy, and crappy weather on the weekends had kept us from the trails, but no more!

We headed out early on Saturday morning to get to the trail head before 8am when they start charging for parking.  Since it was a pretty gray and foggy morning, there were few other cars in the lot at Barton Springs Pool.  We headed down the familiar trail.

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We’ve had a wet January so the water is way up right now and made crossing the creek unwise.  Biff had a blast and it was good to be out on the trail after so long. We stayed on the main trail for about an hour and a half before turning back, as we were going to march at the Capitol at noon.  I’ll include a couple of those pics at the end too.

 

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Women’s Rights March at the Capitol

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Garner State Park 11/25/16 – 11/27/16

 

Friday, November 25 – Sunday, November 27, 2016

 

Garner State Park – near Concan, TX

Ian, Court, Biff, Greg, Cat, Sam

 


The four of us and the two dogs car camped for a couple of nights out at Garner State Park over the Thanksgiving weekend.  I had never been to Garner, but had always heard good things.  The Frio River is the main attraction here, but in fall, it’s a bit chilly to swim, although there were quite a few people that were in the water, nonetheless.  It is November in Texas, so “chilly” means 50s and 60s.

We made the three hour drive from Austin on Friday morning and stood in line for about 20 minutes to get our campsite.  I heard every state park in Texas was at capacity this weekend.  The campsite situation is different than most parks I’ve been to.  They are very exposed.  Essentially the sites, in “Old Garner” are just a big field surrounded by the cliffs and hills on one side and the Frio on the other.  We were within 20 yards of about 8 other sites with no trees in between, so privacy and solitude was not an option.  It worked out ok though.


After setting up camp we had a couple of hours before the sun went down so we went on an improvised hike along the river and up to the old CCC building where they have dances in the summer.  Heading back towards the campsite, we came to a trail head where three people were just finishing up.  They told us to head up to the Crystal Cave and that it was only about 2/3 of a mile.  Following their advice, we started up the rocky trail.


Well that 2/3 of a mile ended up being straight up and somewhat challenging, but we made it and explored the cave for a brief time.  The sun was dwindling so we headed down the other direction on the trail and, after a nice overlook of Old Baldy and the campsites, we switchbacked down to the main road.

We made our foil packet dinners (thanks Court) over the campfire and got to bed relatively early in preparation for a sunrise hike, despite being serenaded by a random trumpet playing child who sounded like he could use the practice.

The next morning we woke around 6am and started to head up the trail to Old Baldy, the iconic dome at the south end of the park, hoping to get some sunrise photos.  It quickly became apparent that the trail was even steeper than the Crystal Cave trail and with Biff and hiking poles, it just wasn’t going to happen for Court and I, so we headed down to drop off the poles and choose another trail, while Greg, Cat, and Sam continued up.

We spent the rest of the day playing cards, attempting to watch football via smart phone (Greg is a Michigan fan and they were playing Ohio State) and sitting around the fire.

Aside from the crowds, which were expected, the park was very pretty and has some tough trails. We should come back in the summer to take advantage of the river.

EDIT: forgot to mention that we tried out our new sleeping pads, Thermarest NeoAir XLites and they were a resounding success.  We both were much more comfortable than with the Big Agnes Double Z’s, which always felt like sleeping on pool floats.  We were much warmer (R value of 3.2 compared to about 1.5) and the “noise” complaints that I’ve heard a lot of people have with the XLites was a non-issue.  I was able to sleep on my side without waking up to sore hips or joints.  Extremely happy with the decision.  They are a bit pricey, but I put them in the “you get what you pay for” category.

Pedernales Falls SP – Juniper Ridge and Madrone Trails 11/20/16

 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

 

Hike: Juniper Ridge and Madrone Trails – Pedernales Falls State Park – Near Dripping Springs, TX

Weather: Clear, cool, mid 60s

Hikers: Ian, Court, Biff

Length: 5.5 miles

 

We hit up Pedernales State Park again to get some more of the new southern trails hiked.  We started off on an equestrian trail that went by a horse camp until we hit the Juniper Ridge Trail and then followed it to the junction with the Madrone Trail and took that back to the parking lot.  It was a nice loop, though somewhat uneventful, but it was a perfect hike to get back  into the swing of things around Austin, since we have been hiking out of state lately.



The weather finally turned cooler in Texas and it felt great to be walking through the woods today.  Court spotted a doe who was doing her best to stay still and camouflaged while we walked by.  She never moved, but we knew she was there.  I didn’t have the presence of mind to get a picture though.

There were a couple of creeks that were barely running, but they were still pretty.  Biff enjoyed himself off leash the whole time and was very good.  There are still plenty of trails left to hike in this park, so we’ll be back plenty I’m sure.