Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

If you are from Texas you know about this park. The park is located in Fredericksburg. TX which is an hour or so west of Austin. I have heard of it for years and now I finally get a chance to hike Enchanted Rock. I found a guided hike that would take me to the summit. I get there early and the park is already packed. The problem was the wind was gusting to the point it was difficult to stand. I decided along with a few others that is was not a good idea to hike up a rock being fully exposed to the wind. They did eventually stop the guided tours. I hiked the Loop Trail to the scenic overlook and back with a little off trail adventuring. I did not stay here long because I was going to another park the same day. Even though this was the first of two trips, I still did not get to Moss Lake. Loop Trail had so many great features to see and I was trying to get as much as possible but the wind was really blowing hard. Check out this video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZJ1hv4bq54 and you can hear the wind. 20170122_09553920170122_09575420170122_100807.jpg

Once I got to the scenic overlook I could really tell I made the right decision and the views from the overlook were incredible. I got a good view of Enchanted Rock and Little Rock. I could see for miles outside of the park borders to the beautiful hill country.20170122_10124020170122_101303.jpg20170122_101350.jpg

Heading back down Loop Trail I found different rock formations I missed on the way up. I was amazed at all the different small trails off of the main trail.20170122_10282220170122_10394420170122_102700.jpg20170122_105101

I am definitely going to have to spend at least three more days here to see some of the caves, Moss Lake, the summit and the rest of the trails I missed. The next park though I traded rocks for water. Before I left I got one more picture of Enchanted Rock so I know I have unfinished business.20170122_110910.jpg

Up next, waterfalls and wind gust.

Inks Lake State Park

Inks Lake State Park is an incredible place that I had never heard about before my trip. I needed a place to stay close to Enchanted Rock SNA and Pedernales Falls SP and Inks Lake had cabins. I did not know anything about the Texas hill country also but now I know the three parts of the hill country. This is an Austin area park located in Burnet, TX in what I call the central hill country. This post is about my first trip to the park. Since I did not have a plan for this park I really did not know what trails lead to what part of the park. I also found out that this is a park in which the trail map is not as accurate as most other maps. I did get off trail several times but quickly found my back. One of the most distinctive things at this park is the rock formations, they are fascinating.20170121_16481820170121_16272620170121_172358

Also the trails crossed creeks, dirt paths and rocky hills, everywhere I looked I found something interesting. 20170121_17164320170121_16331620170121_165739.jpg20170121_163331

After all the hiking I was rewarded with great views of Colorado River Inks Lake. The sun was going down and I wanted to get a couple of quick pictures before I was hiking back in the dark. The trails were not clearly marked and I did not want to try to use the map because I got lost using the map also. I actually got back to the trailhead when a stargazing guided night hike was heading out.20170121_165752.jpg20170121_165819.jpg

This park is a true gem of the hill country. I did return to this park to see the park’s highlight, the Devil’s Waterhole. I did not know it was there until I left and was so impressed I wanted to return and see what else the park had to offer. I did some research and planned it out a bit better. I did get a picture of it on the way out. It is just a taste of the second visit.20170122_080600.jpg

After this great hike I was really excited to go to the next two state parks. These were the better known state parks in the central hill country and the reason I was in the region.

Cleburne State Park

This state park was a pleasant surprise. It is located in Cleburne, TX, which is between 30-45 minutes southwest of the DFW metroplex off of Hwy. 67. I have driven past this park several times going Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, TX which also off of Hwy. 67. The park is another CCC park and the rock bridge and damn are incredibly built. The park has many features but I was here for the man made waterfall. This park is another park I did not think about visiting and never heard of till I was passing the signs directing passersby to the park.  I am glad I stopped by the park because it was worth the trip. The entrance sign was CCC built and then you cross a CCC bridge both very nice.20170211_124131.jpg20170211_124919.jpg

We hiked the Spillway Trail to the gem of the park. A three tier CCC spillway that doubles as a magnificent waterfall after a good rain. We, Dade and I, went when we did not have rain in awhile but still the water was flowing. 20170211_133017.jpg20170211_135649.jpg20170211_135523.jpg

Now if the spillway was not cool enough the limestone walls and the CCC steps along side the spillway was a pleasure to hike and see.20170211_135541.jpg20170211_132538.jpg20170211_140411.jpg

Once you get up past the spillway and on top of the limestone wall you get a great view of both Cedar Lake and Camp Creek. The view is marvelous and you can see for miles on a clear day.20170211_134114.jpg20170211_133720.jpg

A bonus of this park is once you get a view from the top you can see other off shoot trails leading down to Camp Creek. A good reason to get down to Camp Creek is the view of all three tiers of the spillway. 20170211_135533.jpg20170211_134819.jpg

I like this park because it is a good exploring park. We did get lost right from the get go but we quickly got back on course. We hiked about a half mile off course but still had a good adventure seeing the lower side of Camp Creek, a large gully to cross and some more limestone formations. You can follow the creek to the spillway or the trail. The walk up and down the CCC steps and crossing over on the spillway was also possible due to the low water. The park is packed with trails in a small area and plenty of scenic features. Next up are some hill country parks, the popular parks of central Texas.

Lake Whitney State Park

Next up was a guided nature hike at Lake Whitney State Park in Whitney, TX.  Whitney is about and hour south of the DFW metroplex. The hike was early morning and I thought there would be a hand full people like the last two guided hikes. I was wrong. I had never heard of this park prior to going on this hike and I guess not many people know about this park also. On the hike it was the guide, my son and myself. The guided part of the hike was not very interesting. The guide was nice and very knowledgeable but she did not have much to work with at this time of year. She did say that you can hunt at the Texas State Parks which I did not know and you can fish without a permit also.20170211_095228.jpg20170211_102553.jpg20170211_102817.jpg

Yes there were two bridges and a lake but not really anything that was eye popping. The second part of the hike in which we did without the guide was more scenic. We were closer to the lake and walked on a red dirt beach. We saw some deer tracks on the sand beach and about 30 ducks in the lake. This should have been the part of the park that had a guided tour. The park only has two trails and second one had more to offer. I wanted to see and old Native American settlement but of course I misread a map and found a trail but not the settlement. If I am in the area again I will go back to the park and find that settlement and hike around the lake again.20170211_110602.jpg20170211_111751.jpg20170211_111839.jpg

This was the best part of the park. I liked the hike and the beach. The hike was flat but you could tell that there were plenty of deer and other wildlife. I still prefer a hike with elevation change or something new to see. We did go to another park after this one since the hike started early.

 

Meridian State Park

The next hike was at Meridian State Park. I am getting to these parks as part of the 52 Hike Challenge so there are a bunch of parks I would not consider visiting or even heard of before I started the challenge.  I also choose some guided hikes because I did not know much about the parks or the park system. These little known parks are very nice but do not get publicized because they do have the huge destination within the park. This park, by the way, is located in Meridian, TX which is about an hour and forty minutes southwest of the DFW metroplex. I have never heard of this park but it was in close driving distance, had a guided tour and it had a place called Bee Ledge. It is a naturally occurring rock formation lookout shaped like a  sideways halfpipe. I have seen others since this hike but this was my first time seeing something like this rock. I also realized this was a Civilian Conservation Corps park, which is another new thing I learned on this hike. It was a guided hike so I was given a lot of information on the hike. I am not going to go into the history of the CCC but they built stone structures at these CCC parks and the structures lasted for a very long time and have a distinct look.20170128_093332.jpg

This is one of the CCC buildings we saw and the next is a CCC bridge.20170128_100857(0).jpg

The use of the rocks is a recurring feature of CCC parks. I came for the Bee Ledge but seeing the CCC structures were a nice surprise. Also Lake Meridian was a nice picturesque lake.20170128_111637.jpg

The hike was not flat either it had some very steep inclines and rugged terrain that made the hike more challenging.20170128_110038.jpg20170128_110325.jpg

Then you throw in a river crossing or two and you have a complete hike. We also saw wildlife and a tree cut down by a beaver.20170128_105220.jpg20170128_105439.jpg

Now what I came for was not disappointing. The Bee Ledge was an awesome sight and thrown into the mix of sights to see was a tree growing horizontally out of these limestone rock ledges.20170128_102903.jpg20170128_103329.jpg20170128_103344.jpg20170128_104051.jpg

We stayed on the Bosque Hiking Trail for the entire trek but there was another unmarked trail near the dam. The ranger said that they are going to have that trail completed at sometime and it leads to dinosaur tracks and other wildlife viewings.20170128_114851.jpg20170128_114856.jpg

I really enjoyed this hike and will definitely be back when the last trail section is open for hiking. It was a good experience being on a guided hike again. I am finding that the Texas state parks have many guided hikes at the beginning of the year and into spring which is nice but as I hike more the self guided hikes are a bit more fun.

 

Dinosaur Valley State Park

I heard about this park for awhile before I hiked it. Since the time I have started hiking “seriously”, I have hiked this park twice and ran two 5Ks in this park. The park is beautiful and the trails really help the hiker see all the park has to offer. Some people complain that there is a water crossing to get to the best parts of the park and when it rains it might be unpassable. I think they are just complainers. The most famous part of the park in the the very clear and visible dinosaur tracks in the river. I came for the 45 foot waterfall but later to find out it is rarely flowing. Just once in the past 5 years and that was the flood year of 2015. If you hike to the top of the park you can see the plains, the river and the forest all in the park. The trail map is useful to find the overlook and other park scenery. As I have found out some trail maps are better than others but this is a good one. It is a moderate to challenging hike but worth the effort. There also a pond at the top of the park in which not many people know about but I was lucky to be on a ranger lead hike. This was one of my first hikes so my pictures were still a work in progress and they get better as I start to hike other parks. 20161231_103440.jpgDinosaur track.20161231_110753Overlook from one of the highest points of the park.20161231_113923The hidden pond at the top of the park20161231_122841The river crossing to get to the good trails.20161231_121250On the ledge of the trail leading to the high point.DVSP SelfieMy hiking buddy and myself selfie.

This was a fun hike and looking forward to sharing more Texas State Parks. Next up the rare Texas snow hike.

Hiking the Basic Approach

So every(one) that has been following this blog is probably waiting for good substantive information of places to hike. This will not be the blog post you are looking for. I am going to give some useful information about hiking tools and what my personal preferences are for hiking. We will start with the feet. I prefer Nike Elite socks, any color, they are sturdy buy light weight and very comfortable.  Now for shoes I like Hi Tec Altitude Lite and previously I hiked in Hi Tec Altitude V and for the more snobbish hiker I also loved my Timberland Chocorua’s. As for pants I go with 5,11 Taclite Pro pants. The pants are light but tough and extremely comfortable. I never hike in shorts. I do not like the feeling of grass and stuff on my legs. A thermal pullover long sleeve shirt for cold weather hikes and any graphic tee for warmer weather hikes and I always have an undershirt. A boonie hat is also a must for head protection. I use to hike with a large fanny pack but now any light weight day backpack is good. Snacks are usually a personal preference but beef jerky and peanut butter crackers are my favorites. I have tips for hiking but most more than likely already know this stuff. If you are taking pictures with your camera have it on landscape, I actually picked my phone just because of the camera. If you are in Texas, checking out the state parks are a must hike. I always check out the Texas Parks and Wildlife website. I also like using the Kamp-Rite cot tent. I do not like being on the ground so this tent is off the ground and comfortable. The only problem is that it is bulky and heavy and not good if you are backcountry hiking. It is perfect for car camping or a campsite at a park drive up. Last but not least hiking poles, I use Alpine metal poles. They are light weight and durable and the cork grips are a bit better than the rubber grips. Other things I bring are a Bowie knife, lip balm, gun, flashlight, sun block, bug spray and pain relievers. If you lasted through this post the next will be the hikes and more interesting content. They will be the post you want to read and the pictures you want to see.