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.

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