Monday, March 26, 2012

Glen Campbell

On Friday, March 16, Donna and I journeyed to Midland, where we lived from 1997 to 2002, and watched Glen Campbell in concert at the Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center, located about halfway between Midland and Odessa.

Donna is the one who discovered Mr. Campbell would be playing nearby, and she made all the arrangements for us to attend. I'm grateful she did. I'm glad we attended, for two reasons.

First, when growing up, I was a fan of folk music, and I enjoyed the Smothers Brothers as well as other folk artists. Yeah, they did a lot of brotherly bantering in their shows, but they were -- and are -- talented musicians. They had a show on CBS in those days, and I watched it regularly. In 1968, Mr. Campbell hosted a summer replacement show for the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and I began watching it. I enjoyed his hits of those days, such as "Wichita Lineman", "By the Time I Get to Phoenix", "Galveston", and "Gentle on My Mind". Although most people are unaware, Campbell played some for the Beach Boys prior to this. He played some on tour and was a session musician for the Beach Boys best album, Pet Sounds. I lost interest in Campbell during his "fling" time with Tanya Tucker, and I felt like his behavior during that time was at great odds with the image he had cultivated prior to that.

The second reason I'm glad I attended this performance is that Campbell has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, and this is his farewell tour. My father suffered through several years of dementia prior to his death, so I feel a bit of camaraderie for Campbell and his family.

The evening began with an opening set of 5 or 6 songs from a young group called Instant People. I did not know it until later in the show, but three of the 5 young people in that band are children of Glen Campbell. Click here to see them perform a song called "Waiting on Someday". If you watch this video, the Campbell children are Ashley (only female -- far left), Cal (second from right on guitar and with hat), and Shannon (far right). All the children are multi-talented. Ashley, for example, played keyboards and banjo; Cal played guitar and drums; Shannon played rhythm guitar. They harmonized extremely well.

When Campbell came on stage, he was accompanied by all the members of Instant People (except for one) as well as a gentleman who has been with him for over 35 years. He played all the major hits of his career as well as a few other songs.

Of course, I was interested in how well Campbell would be able to perform considering his illness. Having 3 of his children on stage with him provides him with a safety net, and they all watch after him, especially his daughter. For example, at one point, he was trying to take off his jacket, but neglected to remove his guitar first. He struggled for a moment before Ashley came to his aid. He is also led on and off stage, and took a short break in the middle of the show while the younger musicians played a song or two on their own.

He is still able to play guitar effectively, but the young man from Instant People who is not related to him covers for him by playing along for the most part. Teleprompters are also located around the stage for him to glance at, and he does make extensive use of them. Occasionally, he will walk around stage and walk beyond the teleprompters, but he doesn't stay away too long.

Those of us who have watched someone slip into the hazy and blurred hallways of dementia will recognize that blank gaze, and I saw it in Campbell's face a few times that night. But his voice still has its old range, though it might be a bit rough at times.

As I watched Campbell perform, I watched a man with a passion for entertaining. It's sad to know that his time is coming to a close and that the thing he loves to do in life will soon be outside his ability. I'm glad I was able to see him perform on his final tour.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Day Trip: Caverns of Sonora

Our grandson was visiting during his Spring Break last week, so we decided to take him to the Caverns of Sonora just to the southwest of Sonora, Texas. We had taken his mother there when she was about his age, so we were excited to share this experience with him.

Entrance to Caverns of Sonora
It was an overcast day on Wednesday, March 14. In fact, it drizzled a tiny bit a time or two. Sonora is about an hour south of San Angelo. To reach there, we passed through Christoval on the South Concho River, then Eldorado. While passing through Christoval, we noticed a new winery just off the highway, Christoval Vineyards and Winery. Looks like an opportunity for another day trip.

We arrived at the caverns about 11:30. We stepped up to the ticket counter and received 2 surprises. First, the next available tour would not be until 1:00, and ticket prices were $20 for adults and $16 for children. Ticket prices are not listed anywhere on the website that I could see, so I was really surprised at this amount. But we had come all this way, so it wasn't the proper time to be a cheapskate.

Tours leave every 30 minutes in groups of about 12 or fewer. Since this was Spring Break, they had quite a few customers waiting to tour the caverns. We should have arrived earlier, I guess. And if you go, you probably want to eat first as there is little more than basic snack items at the Caverns. Prices for everything are rather high. The caverns are probably about 10 - 15 miles out of Sonora, so they do have a corner on the market.

The caverns of Sonora are highly regarded by those who know more about caves than I do. There are beautiful formations throughout the cave system, and the pictures I've posted below do not do justice to the beauty of the caverns. The famous "butterfly" formation, which served as the cave's trademark for years and years, was vandalized in November, 2006. It was a beautiful formation, almost perfect in its shape resembling a butterfly. There are numerous other formations of interest in the caverns, from the "passing quarterback" to "applesauce" that are all of interest.

Our tour guide, Betsy, did a wonderful job leading us through the cave and giving us insight into the cave's history and various features. Each tour lasts about 1 hour 45 minutes. Please take seriously the information on the cave's website regarding clothing and temperature. By the end of the tour, most of the folks with us were a bit warm; it is very humid in the caverns. 

If you do journey to the caverns, probably the best place to eat in the area is the Sutton County Steakhouse located on I-10 in nearby Sonora.

Cave Popcorn
Horseshoe Lake
Various Formations
Apple Sauce
Cave Bacon
The Butterfly or, what's left of it. The top of the right wing was broken off by vandals.
Donna and our grandson Xander in the Belly of the Whale

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Day Hike: Pedernales Falls State Park

We woke up to rain on Wednesday, February 31. This was our last full day in Blanco, so if we wanted to hike, we needed to do so whether it was raining or not. We ate a light breakfast, put our hiking packs together, then headed out. Our destination today is Pedernales Falls State Park, located about 10 or so miles east of Johnson City, Texas.

We hiked this park several years ago. There are 2 trail systems in the park, the Trammel Crossing Trail and the Wolf Mountain Trail. We had previously done Wolf Mountain, so I wanted to do Trammel Crossing. However, because of recent rains and the continuing threat of rain today, I was concerned about crossing the Pedernales River on foot, so we opted to do Wolf Mountain again.

We arrived at the trailhead and put on our packs and got our hiking poles. Fortunately, the rain began to subside and would not be an issue today.

Wolf Mountain Trail Head; note distance is 7.5 miles
The first stretch of the trail gives the appearance the trail will be through the woods. However, this is only a short connecting trail of 50 yards or less, and quickly gives way to a gravel road.

The first 2 miles of the trail is rather uneventful. There are 3 low-water creek crossings over Regal Creek, Bee Creek and Mescal Creek. Once past Mescal Creek, the trail enters the primitive camping area.

Low-water crossing over Bee Creek; note roadway
The primitive camping area is contained between Mescal Creek and Tobacco Creek, a distance of almost 1 mile. Once past the primitive camping area, the trail continues another .7 mile before reaching Jones Spring. This is the start of the most interesting section of the hike, at least for me.

Donna approaching Tobacco Creek, the least significant creek of those we encountered.

Jones Spring is a rather nondescript little spring, but it was obviously reliable enough that it caused an early settler to build a stone hut nearby. There is a steady trickle of water from the spring.

Jones Spring. The spring is actually in the green growth just above the water level.
Old homestead hut near Jones Spring
Homesteader's hut. Small, isn't it?
Artifacts found at that site and left on stones of the hut
After a few minutes inspecting the old hut and the area, we continued on the trail. The next 1 mile is the only real "hiking trail" segment on this hike, as far as I'm concerned. It is a single-path trail as opposed to the gravel road we've been hiking up to this point. This trail really only connects us to another roadway. Much of the trail is on a steady uphill incline as it works its way towards Wolf Mountain. The incline is not a challenge as it is very gradual for the most part.

One of the more interesting parts of this section of the trail is the remains of an old rock fence early settlers built. Perhaps it was even built by the settler who lived in the hut. Imagine the patience and determination required to build such a fence, let alone the physical challenge. I don't know how long this fence was, but we encountered it off and on over a stretch of the trail.

Rock wall near homesteader's hut

Another section of the rock wall

Once the trail junctions with the roadway, we headed towards Wolf Mountain. At the crest of the "mountain", the trail splits and loops around the top of the hill. You can go either way as the trails converge on the other side of the hill. Since we had taken the west side on our previous hike a few years ago, we opted for the east loop this time.

There are nice views from the loop trail, and the Pedernales River valley can be seen on the northeast side. We decided to stop for a snack at a bench located there. Donna had brought an apple, celery, carrots, and peanut butter for a healthy snack. We spent a few minutes enjoying a little rest there before getting back on the trail.
View from Wolf Mountain. The green in the center is actually the slope of the Pedernales River

The trail down from Wolf Mountain eventually arrives at the primitive camping area. From that point on, we simply followed the trail we had traveled over earlier in the day.

The last time we hiked this trail was in the heat of the summer. Although we don't shy away from hiking in the summer heat, this is not a good trail to hike at that time. The roadways in the park do not allow much shade or protection from the summer sun, so it is really better to hike this trail in cooler weather as we did this time.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

LBJ Tours: Part 2, the LBJ Ranch

After our morning tour of the LBJ Boyhood Home, Johnson Settlement, and Visitor Center in Johnson City, Donna and I headed west to Stonewall, the site of the LBJ Ranch and the Texas White House.

The Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site is located on US 290 in Stonewall, Texas. As in Johnson City, there is also a Visitor Center here with displays and exhibits. It is also the place to begin the driving tour. At the Visitor Center, you get a driving tour pass to allow you on the ranch grounds. You also receive a CD to play. Be sure to play the CD as it provides great information about the tour as you drive along.

From the Visitor Center, you can tour the Sauer-Beckman Farmstead, which is a homestead maintained as in 1918. The volunteers and employees actually conduct themselves as if they live here, including eating their meals from food products raised on the farm. They had recently butchered a hog to make sausage, which they were currently smoking.

Sauer-Beckman Farmstead
Canned vegetables from the farmstead garden
Sausage in the smokehouse

Donna and I both agreed that our favorite part of the day was the tour of the Johnson Ranch and the Texas White House. For years when driving through the area on our way back and forth between West Texas and Conroe, Donna and I have often taken Ranch Road 1, which veers off US 290 and follows the Pedernales River for a few miles. The little road is a pretty drive, affording beautiful views of the river, the oak and pecan trees, and the Johnson Ranch. We often commented that we needed to stop and tour the ranch, but we were always in a hurry. We aren't in a hurry anymore; time to tour the ranch.

The tour begins on Ranch Road 1. At Klein Road, turn north, cross the river, then immediately turn west and view the old Junction School, a one-room school house where LBJ learned to read. This is also the place where he signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as President in 1965.

The Junction School, where LBJ learned to read

A bit farther down the road is the recreated birthplace of LBJ. The President was born at this site August 27, 1908. In 1964, he rebuilt the house as a guest house.

Recreated birthplace of LBJ
Right across the road from the birthplace is the Johnson family cemetery. It is a peaceful, tree covered patch of ground on the banks of the Pedernales River, with a Lutheran Church in the background. LBJ, Lady Bird, and many other Johnsons rest here. It's a good place to spend eternity.

Johnson Family Cemetery. Just beyond, the Pedernales River (not visible), Ranch Road 1, and the Lutheran Church.
LBJ and Lady Bird have the 2 largest markers in the center
A bit farther down the road is the final home of Sam and Eliza Johnson, the President's grandparents. They left the Settlement in Johnson City to live out the final years of their lives here.
Sam and Eliza Johnson's final home
After passing the Sam and Eliza Johnson home, the tour turns north into the actual LBJ ranch. The road heads north for about one and a half miles, loops, then returns south. Actually, the road simply loops the landing strip where Air-Force One-Half (as LBJ nicknamed the 13-seat Lockheed Jetstar -- Air Force One was too large to land on the ranch) would land back in the 1960s. LBJ spent about 25% of his time during the Presidency at the Texas White House, so not only did LBJ land here, but other planes ferrying dignitaries -- both domestic and foreign -- would land here as well.

At the hanger, we parked and entered the Visitor Center. Up to now, everything we had done today has been free, but there is a $2 per person fee to tour the ranch house. We gladly paid that nominal amount. A very competent tour guide then led us through the Texas White House, entertaining questions throughout the tour. We were not allowed to take pictures inside the Texas White House, so I have no pictures to show you of the interior.

Originally, the house was a single room affair erected from native limestone. LBJ's aunt and uncle bought the house in 1909, then LBJ purchased the house from his aunt in 1951. Over the years, the Johnson's enlarged the house time and time again until today it is 2 stories and about 8,000 square feet. We were only allowed to tour the first floor.

It's a unique feeling to know that you are walking where some famous and powerful people walked. I actually felt like we were imposing a bit as we walked through the bedrooms where LBJ and Lady Bird spent their nights. 

Texas White House; President's office is room on far left; master bedrooms on far right; the part where the porch is under the bow of the oak tree is the original room of the house.
Lockheed Jetstar VC-140, jokingly referred to as "Air Force One Half" by LBJ because of its smaller size
LBJ's 1962 Amphicar is displayed with other of the President's cars at the ranch
I really enjoyed the day we spent learning about LBJ. I admit I'm partial to the late President. Since he was a Texan, I really took an interest in him as a child. His rise to power is such an interesting story.

Monday, March 19, 2012

LBJ Tours: Part 1, Boyhood Home

Tuesday, March 28, was tourist day for us. We have passed through this part of the state for years and years and have never really visited the LBJ facilities available in Stonewall and Johnson City, so we decided we would do so today.

The park service has done a wonderful job telling the story of President Johnson, our 36th president. And by telling his story, they have also told the story of all Texans -- and particularly those in the Hill Country. LBJ was probably the last president to be born in "frontier" type conditions, and his life serves as a transition from the 19th century into the 20th century.

Our first stop for the day was the National Park Service Visitor Center in Johnson City. Within this facility, permanent exhibits are arranged to showcase the lives of Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson.

Lady Bird exhibit at the Visitor Center

In addition to the exhibits and displays, the Visitor Center is a good place to get information to plan the rest of the LBJ tour.

From the Visitor Center, it is a 1 block walk to the LBJ Boyhood Home, where LBJ lived from age 5 until he graduated from high school. The home has been well maintained, and offers a glimpse into life in this part of Texas in the early 20th century. The tour guide we had also did a marvelous job revealing the influences during these years that led LBJ into a life of politics.

LBJ Boyhood Home in Johnson City, Texas

Kitchen in LBJ Boyhood Home
Back of LBJ Boyhood Home
Just a block or so west of the Visitor Center and LBJ Boyhood Home is a trail leading to the Johnson Settlement where LBJ's grandfather and great-uncle established a homestead in the 1860s. Several original buildings still stand in this area on the edge of Johnson City.

Cabin and other original buildings in the Johnson Settlement. The cabin belonged to Sam and Eliza Johnson, LBJ's grandparents
Barn and cabin in Johnson Settlement

In Part II, we'll tour the Texas White House and other places in Stonewall.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Wimberley, Texas

We woke up to light rain on Monday, February 27th. We don't like to hike in the rain, so we opted for a day trip to nearby Wimberley, Texas.

Wimberley is a small town about 25 miles east of Blanco in Hays County. Current population is about 2,500 people. Donna and I have passed through Wimberley a number of times over the years; in fact, our first time through there was just after we got hitched almost 35 years ago. At that time, it was little more than a spot in the road -- it hadn't really been "discovered" yet.

In recent years, Wimberley has become one of those towns that attract artists, which in turn attract boutique shops, which in turn attract tourists -- well, you can see where this is going. It is similar to Salado, Texas, in this respect. Since Donna and I first saw this place, it has grown considerably, with numerous subdivisions and other housing communities nearby.

The setting is very picturesque. The "downtown" area is situated along Cypress Creek, a lovely little clear water brook that babbles through town. Live oaks sprawl along the roadways and shelter the little shops. One of the favorite swimming holes in the state -- the Blue Hole -- is located in Wimberley and is surrounded by old growth cypress trees.

We spent some time this trip driving the streets of Wimberley. We then parked in one of the public parking areas and walked around the center of the community where most of the shops are located.

Donna on the streets of Wimberley. Tall trees in the background line Cypress Creek.
Typical of the shops and byways in Wimberley
Store fronts in Wimberley, Texas

If you are interested in learning more about Wimberley, you can visit these websites:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Changing Parks

Sunday, February 26, was moving day for us. We had stayed the previous 7 nights at Parkview Riverside, and we would stay the next 4 nights at Blanco State Park, which I wrote about last year at this time (see post from last February).

We normally like to arrive at a new park on Sundays for that is the end of the weekend and people are usually pulling out as we are pulling in. Parks have their most activity on weekends while the weekdays are usually calm and easy-going. Of course, there are exceptions to this, such as during summer, Spring Break, and other holidays. By arriving on Sunday afternoon, we have a better selection of sites to choose from.

It takes about an hour or so for us to get the trailer ready for travel. I'll write an entry regarding this routine at another time. I usually get pretty dirty when doing this routine as I have to work outside. So, just before leaving the park, we stopped at the facilities and I took a quick shower in their shower house so that I would be clean for the trip.

After leaving Parkview, we stopped for gas up the road in Leakey and enjoyed some coffee and eats from Subway. Then we headed back north the way we came a week ago. About 30 miles north on US 83, we turned east on State Highway 41. It might have been shorter to travel due east from Leakey or the park on the ranch roads there, but there is no way I wanted to pull the trailer up and down those twisty highways. I opted to stay on roads that I knew had good shoulders and not so many twists and curves and steep inclines.

Highway 41 took us past the famous YO Ranch. After another 25 or so miles, we intersected with I-10, which we traveled only briefly before exiting on Ranch Road 479 north. This small, straight highway would junction in less than 10 miles with US 290 just west of Harper. This is familiar country to us. When we lived in Ozona in the 1990s, we made numerous trips from Ozona to visit Donna's family in Conroe, and this is the route we would take. It's good country, and we enjoy traveling there.

US 290 becomes 4 lanes just west of Harper and remains 4 lanes all the way through Austin and beyond. Of course, we weren't going that far today. We followed it into Fredericksburg, where we stopped to replenish supplies at Walmart and to refuel.

Fredericksburg has long been a favorite destination for Donna and me. We love strolling along Main Street and visiting the varied shops there. One of our favorite hiking destinations is just north of Fredericksburg at Enchanted Rock State Park. Seeing the town made us want to spend a few days there, so I guess that's another trip we need to plan.

But for today, we had another place to go, so we continued east on 290 out of Fredericksburg. From Fredericksburg to Johnson City -- a distance of about 30 miles or so -- is one of the more interesting highways in the state, not so much for scenery, but for the places located there. First, the LBJ State and National Parks are located there; I'll tell you more about those later since we did visit them this trip. But the businesses located along this stretch are fascinating.

On the north side of the highway about 5 or so miles east of Fredericksburg is Wildseed Farms. If you like wildflowers, pottery, and those types of things, then you'll like this place.

The Stonewall area has been known for its peaches for generations, and you'll find plenty of produce stands all along the way selling not only peaches -- and some great peach ice cream -- but other produce as well during growing season.

And then there are the wineries. When Donna and I used to make this trek going to and from Conroe, there were only 1 or 2 wineries, most notably Grape Creek Vineyards. Now there are perhaps as many as a dozen. Although some are located directly on the highway, others may be a mile or 2 down country lanes. And now tasting rooms are beginning to pop up along the highway as well. I'll not even try to list all the wineries, but as you drive along, blue road signs indicate their location.

At Johnson City, we headed south on US 281 for fewer than 10 miles to Blanco. We were able to secure the same camp site we enjoyed a year ago, and we quickly set up camp. After getting everything set up, we built a small fire and enjoyed the surroundings. I enjoy the state parks so much more than commercial campgrounds. Camp sites in state parks are usually larger, and there is much more of a natural setting. This is a good little park.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Parkview Riverside RV Park

We spent the week of February 19 - 26 at Parkview Riverside RV Park. I mentioned its location in a previous post.

This is a nice little RV park. It obviously has built a loyal clientele over the years, as many people return year after year. While there, we saw RVs with license plates from all over, especially the western United States and Canada. We probably saw half a dozen plates from Alberta, Canada, and Montana USA was well represented, too. About the second day we were there, a couple from northeastern Colorado pulled in next to us, and we socialized with them off and on over the next several days.

Of course, many people from northern climes journey to Texas to escape their colder winters. But what seems to attract many of the travelers to this particular park was the golf package available. That is what pulled our Colorado neighbors there. I don't play golf, so I know nothing of green fees and other costs, but they seemed delighted with a fee of $350 per month (per couple; $250 per person) to play at the nearby Club at Concan course. According to them, green fees at their local course were $50 per day per person. Again, I know nothing of golf fees, but if all this is accurate, then they were getting a great deal since they like to play 3 days a week.

Many of the residents at the park make the journey down to Texas about November and stay until late March or April. So for about half the year, they are full-time residents of Parkview. There is obviously a little community there, and people go about regular lives. While there, our site was next to 1 of 3 access points to the river, so every day we saw the same people come by on their way to the river to fish, walk their dogs, or simply take a leisurely stroll along this beautiful cypress-lined river.

Many of the RVers had large stacks of firewood at their sites, about one-fourth of a cord or so, and the park rented large propane tanks, about 25 gallons or so I would guess. These are indications these people are staying a while. People in RV parks love the outdoors, and it is great to see people living outside so much. Every day, people were enjoying fires, cooking on grills, or just sitting under their awnings visiting with neighbors. The people across from us were motorcycle enthusiasts, and several days while we were there they would leave in the morning for a ride and not return until late in the day. The couple a few trailers south of us were kayakers, and they put their boats in the water several times while we were there.

The park has just about the best facilities I've ever seen for the price we paid. The laundry room and restrooms were spotless. Normally, we use our facilities in the trailer, but on days when we pack camp to leave, I like to stop at the shower room and clean up before hopping in the truck for the drive to the next park; I get pretty dirty prepping the trailer to leave a park. This park had private shower stalls with locking doors for security. Plus, an access code is required to even gain entrance into the restroom/shower room.

There is also a store at the park that provides basic supplies with what I thought were very fair prices. One of our propane tanks ran out a day or two before we left, so I was able to refill it there for under $20; that is a better price than you pay at tank exchange places. I also bought a gallon of milk there for a price comparable to a regular grocery store.

Roads within the park are all paved; this is important to me as it keeps down dust. I don't like staying in places with dirt or gravel interior roads. Some sites were on dirt, but have been and are being upgraded to asphalt. This is a hilly area, so most sites are on inclines which require leveling your RV.

Although I don't have plans to return to the area -- I think we've done about everything there we enjoy doing -- I would not hesitate to stay at this park again.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Scenic Drives in the Southern Hill Country

If you like beautiful scenery, the southern Hill Country offers a number of drives where you can see lots of unique country. And depending on when you go, the country can take on a different look. I've been in that country in summer, in winter, in fall, when it was hot and sunny, and when it was foggy and misty. Each time, it can look different.

Most of the really pretty drives are on east to west roads. Since most of the rivers in the area flow north to south, carving canyons and valleys as they go, by driving east or west you can cross these valleys, canyons, and rivers. If you should happen to travel these roads, do so with caution. Even in the best weather and with the best road conditions, they can be dangerous due to hairpin turns, dips, blind curves, and other features.

One of the best drives is Ranch Road 337 from Medina in the east to Camp Wood in the west. Ranch Road 470 from just west of Bandera to just north of Utopia is another pretty drive. From Utopia, you can take Ranch to Market Road 1050, another pretty drive but not as dramatic as the two previously mentioned. Highway 16 from just south of Kerrville to Medina is one of the prettiest north/south drives in the area. Highway 39 west of Kerrville follows the Guadalupe River through some of the prettiest country in the area, and certainly some of the most developed with the tourist in mind.

While in the area, Donna and I stumbled upon a short drive down a country lane. In the community of Concan, County Road 348, locally known as the River Road, heads north from Concan near the intersection of US 83 and State Highway 127 along the Frio River for about 5 or 6 miles. Along this narrow lane are numerous "resorts" and other businesses catering to river rats. There are 2 low-water crossings over the Frio on this road.

A road we've not been on in over 20 years, US Highway 377 from Junction follows the South Llano River towards Rocksprings. The area around Telegraph is particularly lovely, with at least one high vantage point for enjoying the view. There are 2 low-water crossings of the South Llano, and these provide drop-in areas for those wishing to canoe or kayak the river to a take-out point at South Llano River State Park, about 3 miles outside of Junction. In fact, there used to be an outfitter just outside the park entrance; however, since I've not been there in about 20 years, I can't say if that outfitter is still in business.

The southern Hill Country provides some of the most beautiful scenery in Texas in a relatively small area. There's lots to see, and if you like water, there are numerous opportunities in warm weather for swimming, tubing, canoeing, kayaking, or fishing.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lost Maples SNA, Part 2

When we last saw our intrepid heroes, they had just reached the summit of an approximately 2200 foot hill. The terrain at the top of the hill is much different from that below in the canyons along the river and creeks. Much of the trail on the ridge is rock, similar to what I expect the Appalachian Trail is in Pennsylvania. The trees are generally shorter, and there is more grass. The views looking east are wonderful.

Trail atop the ridge; lots of cedars; usually more embedded rocks than shown here. There is a patch of large trees in one area.
At the trail junction atop the ridge, we choose to go look at the Scenic Overlook (see map). It is three-tenths of a mile to the overlook, making it a little over half-mile round trip for this look.

View from the scenic overlook. Those are park buildings in the valley. Sabinal River is the line of trees to the right of the buildings.
After returning to the main trail, we then continued our hike along the ridge. There are several good views just off the trail, and the following pictures were taken from the ridge.

Rock outcropping along the ridge. The trail follows this ridge. At the far end, it begins its descent; trail down can be seen in the left of the picture.

This is the Pond; it is formed by Can Creek. The trail down the ridge is to the right.

Trail follows the valley back to the trailhead. Note Pond in lower-right of picture.
What goes up must come down, so after enjoying the views from the ridge, it was time to begin our trek down the hill. This part of the trail is actually an old ranch road, but the loose rocks can be treacherous.

The trail goes down . . . .

. . . and down . . .
. . . and down . . .
. . .and down . . .
. . .and down.

Once at the bottom, we were next to the Pond.

The Pond
The remaining hike to the trailhead was about a mile and every uneventful. It consisted mostly of a level trail and 2 or 3 low-water crossings, like the one below.

Low water crossing over Can Creek near trailhead.
Lost Maples remains one of my favorite hikes. The elevation changes provide a good workout. If you hike the entire trail system, it is about 11 miles or so, with 3 opportunities to go up and down high hills of approximately 400 feet. The trees are beautiful, and there are plenty of places to enjoy the water. After hiking a few miles on a hot summer day, there is very little more enjoyable than taking off your shoes and socks and soaking your feet in the cool waters of one of the creeks. The carvings formed by the water erosion throughout the park are works of art, and the views from the hill tops are lovely.