Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Lost Maples SNA, Part 1

Donna and I decided to hike Lost Maples State Natural Area on Tuesday, February 21. We had hiked the East and West Trails at this park before, back in October 2005. I consider this to be one of the most enjoyable places to hike in Texas, so I was eager to return.

Our previous hike had been about 8.5 miles; lately, though, I've been having some lower back problems, so we decided to shorten the hike today and only do the East Trail (see map). Even though this is only about a 4.5 mile hike, I knew it would still be challenging because of the elevation changes. Elevation in the park ranges from 1800 feet to 2250 feet, and the East Trail covers that range. As my legs age, my ability to climb becomes diminished.

Lost Maples SNA is a unique environment. The steep, rugged limestone canyons and clear streams in the park provide a perfect habitat for an isolated stand of Big Tooth Maples. Their foliage in the fall can be spectacular when conditions are good.

The Sabinal River is the main waterway in the park, but Hale Hollow Creek and Can Creek also flow through the park. Beautiful examples of water erosion exist throughout the park.

Sabinal River at the base of the ridge has carved this canyon wall.
At the trailhead, we opted for the Maples Trail, which converges with the East Trail about half a mile up the trail. The Maple Trail is very scenic and provides opportunities to view stands of maples. The trail weaves through boulders lying between the river and the canyon walls.

Rock jumble along Maple Trail
The first mile or so of the trail is an easy hike. The trail follows the Sabinal along the canyon floor, so the terrain is essentially level. There is plenty of shade for summer hikes. Much of the river bed is dry as water tends to be in pools except during rainy times. However, there are obviously springs that feed the river and creeks at intervals, for there are steady flows in some places.

Donna standing in a grotto near Primitive Camping Area A
The sign doesn't lie; I paid for the climb that night
Just past Primitive Camping Area A, the trail goes up a large hill. The elevation change is probably about 400 feet. Think about climbing 40 flights of stairs, but with stairs, you have level steps and handrails. That's not the case at Lost Maples. And the trail went straight up more or less instead of using switchbacks. About halfway up, there is a ledge that allows for some good views.

The trail goes up . . . .

. . . and up . . .
. . . and up . . .

. . . and up . . .

. . . and up.
The climb is hard on old knees, but the view from the top is wonderful.

View from the top.
We stopped to rest at the top and eat some peanut butter crackers and drink some water.

Part 2 will detail the hike atop the ridge and then our descent from the hill.

No comments:

Post a Comment