Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lost Maples State Park --- Back to the Challenging Hikes

Roger here...  It was time for us to get back to our outdoor lifestyle after several days of driving with a short respite in Roswell. The Sabinal River at Lost Maples State Natural Area in the hill country of Texas really is this amazing.  Look at the crystal clear water and the reflection of the large boulders.  Ahhhhh!

Before we talk about this beautiful place, we need to write about the challenges  we had on our most recent day of driving.  WE ARE BACK IN TEXAS.  Look, an oil refinery!  The first 47% of the drive was essentially nondescript, rolling along interstate 10. Just before we exited the interstate onto 83, it began to rain.  Oh well, the rain was needed and the road was decent.  After about 40 miles, Waldo (our GPS) told us to turn left onto state road 39.  We intended to drive further south to a county road before turning.  Since Waldo had made some poor decisions recently, we decided to follow our intended route.

Uh Oh!  The county road was certainly not the best.  Waldo, I am so sorry.  In fact, it was narrow and steep with many sections requiring 2nd gear.  It was full of those pesky curves that you could not see around until you were half way through.  Hmm!  Hit an oncoming vehicle head-on, or lose a rearview mirror on the rock face?  In some sections the road was so narrow that bushes growing alongside the road slapped our windshield and the side of the motor home as we drove along.

Only 17 miles to go.  Just stay alert and go slowly.  Watch the curves.  We'll get there.  We have made it so far and it can't get any worse.  OH CRAP!  FOG!  Slow the motor home down to walking speed and hope a pick up truck doesn't ram us from behind.

We arrived without mishap.  Whew!  Waldo, I will never mistrust you again.  Unless you get in one of those wonky moods and decide to send us on one of those dirt roads that you seem to enjoy.

Our campsite here is perfect.  Great views.  Lots of space between the sites.  A picturesque covered picnic area.  Grass!  Hey Bandido and Tequila, you can roll around in the grass!  Oh, and the only people here seem to be the friendly campground hosts and the couple down the street with the fantastic telescope.  Better yet, they stop by to invite us to view the black, black sky and the bright, bright stars that evening.  (Dianne here:  
After growing up in the more populated east half of the U.S., it always amazes me on a dark night with no moon when I look up at the millions of bright stars and the obvious Milky Way (which normally is not visible in populated areas).  We did indeed stop down and have a look at two nebulas through the neighbor's huge, automated telescope.  Back to Roger for now....

TIME TO HIT THE HIKING TRAIL!  We (I, and the dogs) were anxious to explore the trails on our first full day in the park.  The trail descriptions sounded challenging and fun.  We (I, and the dogs) decided to begin our return to hiking after several days of driving, by tackling the trail that was billed as the most challenging.  The East Trail.  WHAT FUN!

The first leg of the trail followed the Sabinal River and its amazingly transparent waters.  How idyllic!

 We crossed the river several times as well as a smaller creek that feeds into the river.  Bandido and Tequila LOVE splashing in the water.  Oh, they were so excited.  "Hey Bandido, be careful, don't pull me off the rocky bridges that cross the stream."

Oops!  Dianne is sooooo proud that her boots are dry and mine are VERY wet.  Oh well, what fun!

We reached a portion of the trail that was completely under ankle-deep water (due to the recent rain), and had to bushwhack through an area of decaying wood.  In Indiana we called this mulch and put it in our gardens.  What fun!

After being out in the boonies for four weeks
Here is a shot of Dianne and Tequila.  Don't they look like they are having fun!

Oh, no!  Another stream crossing that does not have rocks to hop over.  What good luck (and fun) that there is a fallen tree that we can walk across!  Bandido ignored my suggestions about walking across the log, and tried to pull me back into the water.

Dianne was excited to notice a very small brown frog/toad hopping across the trail that the dogs did not try to eat.  Dianne loves amphibians.  She is having so much fun!

Oh, look.  We're ready to climb the 742 feet to the top of the "hill."  What fun!  Here we go!

Doesn't this look like fun!  And look at Tequila.  She can't wait to tackle those steps that go straight up!  What fun!

Dianne here:  NOW, WAIT JUST A DARN MINUTE!!   Let's have a little reality check here about this trail....

Normally, I'm the optimist in this family, but I've gotta tell you, this was the worst. hike. ever. 
My pedometer doesn't begin to tell the tale....

These rocks were all under water -- Note the water trail coming off  Roger's shoe
First off, we picked a day to hike this trail one day after drenching rains, which put water where water normally doesn't go.  This made each of the many stream crossings difficult at best (although I did manage to keep my boots dry).

Not to mention the mud...

Several times we had to bushwhack through the tall brush when the trail was muddy or underwater.

No gentle switchbacks on this trail -- these stone steps and steep rocky inclines went straight up.

As the stone steps and incline went up and up and up and kept going UP, I heard myself saying to Roger "Ya know, most wives would be asking by now 'Just what part of this do you think is FUN?'"   To myself I was thinking "You need a younger wife" and "What part of being 62 years old do you not understand?"  I kept that to myself, but I admit to doing my share of whining along this trail!

Some of the rocky steps were so tall that for my short legs it was like doing lunges or squats with each step up.  But the worst part of the trail for me was the rocky trail surface that went on for most of the entire 4.6 miles.  No gravel or hardpan dirt, we had to pick our way over these large rocks, making our speed only about one mile per hour as we slowly plodded along.

Did I mention that it had rained the day before?  The humidity on this hike made me feel I was back in Indiana in the summertime, except for the occasional prickly pear cactus along the way.  Note to self:  Skip the makeup and eye liner next time; it will only sting and blind you as it melts into your eyes!

After an eternity, we did reach the summit and my mood improved.  We could see the river down below and the rocky trail down.  

A zoomed-in shot shows a couple hiking up the rocky trail we'd soon be starting down.  We read after the fact (of course) that it is recommended to take the trail in the opposite direction that we did -- I assume that's because the steep rock steps would be easier to climb down than up.  And so we started down.

Ugh!  More uneven large rocks to navigate!   But the payoff was scenes like these:

Nancy R. alert -- you know what's ahead....

While hiking along behind him, Roger jumped and squealed like a little girl.  I knew that could only mean one thing...

Texas Rough Green Snake

Roger almost tripped over him along the trail.  I admit, I probably would have jumped and did a "Whoo!" had I been in the lead.  Since he didn't startle me, I just thought he was cute.

A girl and her dog....
We did finally find some flat surface stretches of the trail as we made our way down.

Tomorrow we plan to do the 4.9 mile West Trail.  The park ranger assured me that it was easier than the East Trail.  The only reason I agree to go along (it will probably have the same rocky trail surface and multiple water crossings) can be illustrated in the photo above
This morning, after picking up our general delivery mail in Vanderpool, we drove on to the small town of Utopia, Texas to have lunch at the Lost Maples Cafe.   Jim and Niroo, Retama neighbors, had recommended Lost Maples Cafe to us last spring.  What an interesting and unique place!

The 2011 movie Seven Days in Utopia starring Robert Duvall was filmed in Utopia, and some scenes were filmed inside the Lost Maples Cafe.

The cafe is one of those places where the locals hang out.  Lots of "local color"!

I loved the old dinette tables and chairs and the rustic booths in the adjoining room.

Lest you think I was the only one who enjoyed pie with their lunch...

The pet picture of the day shows Charlie the cat doing what he does best, lazing and rolling in the grass.  He is still an outdoor cat at heart!


Chuck and Anneke's RV travels said...

After that hike, pie is definitely called for:)

Cj Cozygirl said...

Coconut cream - my fav! Snake in the road...ecks! Lv reading your blog...and wonderful photos!

Linda said...

I would be with you Dianne, whining about the 1.5 miles of UP. And Roger, I can relate to your reaction of the snake, don't like them, never will. Now, that pie looks like a nice reward!! Great post!! Did you check, if you had turned when Waldo wanted you to, would the road had been better. I didn't know Texas had roads like that.

Nancy and Bill said...

Great Post you two!! So glad you are taking us back to NATURE:o)) You always make us smile!!!