Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Hike Report: Multiple Trails at Mother Neff State Park

During our stay at Mother Neff State Park, we did a bit of hiking. Since the park is not large, trail distances are limited, and there are only about 5 miles of trails within the park. We did roughly half of that amount, but it was a very interesting and pleasant hike. There are quite a few "points of interest" in this little park.

The map of the park, which also shows the trails, is pretty reliable, but there are some details that are a bit off. I'll point these out as I move through the hike. If you have some trail savvy and can read a map with common sense, you should be able to get around just fine.

We began our hike in the multi-use camping loop and took the Tower Trail. The trail head for this trail is located in the parking area directly across from the restrooms. This section of trail is relatively flat, and passes through an area of good grass and numerous trees.

Start of Tower Trail at parking area across from restrooms. Trail is barely discernible in center of picture.
I believe these are junipers, but I'm not a tree expert.There are several thick wooded areas like this.

The trail in this section is outlined in rocks. This section is arrow straight.
After half a mile or so, we came to the bird blind (see picture below). It's a typical bird blind, much like others in the state park system. There is seating behind glass, and a bird guide is available on the wall. In the viewing area, water and bird feeders are available to attract birds.

Bird blind
Just past the bird blind, there is a trail junction. Actually, the trail is to the right (north). The trail to the left (south) is actually a spur that leads to the Tower. The trail map is a bit misleading here. We took the spur a very short distance (50 yards, perhaps) to the Tower. Climb to the top of the tower, which is on a rise, and you will be slightly above the tree line, thereby having views of the surrounding country.

The Tower
Looking west from atop the Tower
After checking out the Tower, we returned down the spur and continued on the trail for a short distance. The next trail junction gave us 2 options: north (right) would take us to the Wash Pond, while west (left) would take us to the cave. We decided to go to the cave, then return to the Wash Pond trail on our way back to the campground.

We then crossed a bridge, where a small seep provided a small trickle of water. The area had received heavy rain the previous 2 weeks, so the seep may have been running only because of that. Just beyond the bridge is the old CCC Table, which sits at another trail junction. I do not know the significance of this table, but based on the name, it must related to the Civilian Conservation Corps who built this park in the early days. At the junction, we headed west (right), which led us up a steep slope to a parking area on the road connecting the two sections of the park (see previous entry, "Mother Neff State Park"). The connecting road, though less than a mile in length, has 2 or 3 parking areas to allow visitors to access the trail system.

CCC Table
Once on the road, we walked towards the southern portion of the park for perhaps a quarter mile at most before coming to another parking area with a trail leading down to the cave. The "cave" is actually an overhang that measures 45 feet deep and about 90 feet long. Tonkawa Indians used this "cave". According to the information available, the area is called a cave rather than a rock shelter because of the "living features" along the back of the cave. I noticed several areas where water was dripping along the back wall.

Trail leading down to the cave, which is partially obscured by small trees.

Partial view of the cave, with its overhang clearly visible.
Green stains along back wall indicate where water seeps in. I suppose these are the "living features" mentioned in the information provided about the cave.
This is the view the inhabitants of the cave would have had. This ravine has steep slopes on either side.
View of the cave from the trail as we walked away towards the east.

After visiting the cave, we followed the trail down the ravine in an easterly direction until we intersected with the "Lost Trail," which heads south to the older section of the park. Instead, we turned north, following the stream bed formed by the waters of the Wash Pond as they work their way towards the Leon River. Soon we found ourselves again at the CCC Table. We recrossed the bridge we had crossed earlier, then turned north (left) on the Wash Pond Trail.

Another trail junction on the right appeared, but we continued on the Wash Pond Trail. We soon could hear water running. Another trail to our right, the Prairie Trail, does not appear on the map, but it led down to a stream crossing where water flowed over some rocks. We checked this out, then continued on the Wash Pond Trail as the map indicates the trail passes by this site before continuing on to the Canyon Trail, which would lead us back to the campground. However, the Wash Pond itself is the end of the trail, and is located next to a parking area on the connecting road.

The Wash Pond is fed by springs that are close to the surface. Today, these springs only run after recent rains. A major area of runoff is in the top center of this picture.
After visiting the Wash Pond, we retraced our steps to the Prairie Trail turn off and took that trail. The stream we crossed there is runoff from the Wash Pond. We then followed the Prairie Trail back to our campground.

Looking upstream towards the Wash Pond from the Prairie Trail crossing of the small creek.
Rocks in stream bed are used for stepping stones; they also create a small water fall.

The trails we hiked were easy, but there are some steep climbs in a couple of places. Almost the entire trail was in the woods. This is really a pleasant hike with lots to see for such a short hike.

An excellent hike report on this trail system is available at Texas Hiking.

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