Canyon of the Eagles


Watch it! Video by Kelly

Destination: Canyon of the Eagles

Campsite: Site #5 on Tanner Point

Date: April 28th and 29th, 2018

Travel Time from Austin: 1 hour 15 minutes – beware of speeding in Liberty Hill there was a cop waiting for speeders on our way there and back.

HikeCampHikers: Bettina, Kelly, Judy (Suzanne is recovering from shoulder surgery and Maria was busy helping a friend)

 

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We were lucky to have great weather and a view of the full moon over Lake Buchanan. We were extra excited about the campfire since this may have been our last cool evening of Texas camping until fall.

Overview: We have camped at just about every park within 3 hours of Austin since we started our group in January of 2013. Based on these experiences we enthusiastically recommend Canyon of the Eagles. It is a treasure and a rather well kept secret for an overnight tent camping trip from Austin. We aren’t sure why it’s not as crowded as its close neighbor Inks Lake State Park but I suspect it could be because it’s known for its resort facilities and people don’t  know it has a great campground. Also, Canyon of the Eagles is an LCRA park so campers with State Park passes may prefer to stay at a state park.

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Bettina and Kelly along the Bird and Butterfly Trail watching the bees buzzing inside the yellow cactus blooms.

Campsite: The Tanner Point camp sites are hike-in and don’t have water so you’ll need to bring it. The water from RV bath house tap was salty tasting so bring water from home or you can do as we did and buy it from the camp store. Most of the campsites at Tanner Point are great but we think we lucked out and got the best site with #5. We were assigned the site so are not sure if campers are able to request specific ones. When we visit again we will ask for #5! It has room for multiple tents and easy access to the Lake Buchanan. The site is large and private with a beautiful shady Live Oak tree at one end. After our hike on Saturday we took our camp chairs to the edge of the water and watched the sun sink over the horizon and the full moon rise over the lake.

Judy, Bettina and Kelly relaxing on the rocks along the shore of Lake Buchanan. This spot is part of campsite #5. After our afternoon hike we had a cold beer, a cool dip in the lake and watched the sunset.

Bettina and Kelly relaxing on the rocks along the shore of Lake Buchanan. This spot is part of campsite #5. After our afternoon hike we had a cold beer, a cool dip in the lake and watched the sunset.Saturday Hike: It’s important to know that if you’re going to Canyon of the Eagles for hiking about half of the trails are closed from 3/1-8/31 for endangered and threatened species of Golden-Cheecked Warbler and the Black-Capped Vireo. Even with the closed parts we hiked about 6 miles on well marked and neatly maintained trails. We walked from our campsite to the Amphitheater across from the RV Bath House. From there we took the Rocky Point Trail to Lakeside Trail around to the 13 marker to the road and back on the Bird and Butterfly Tail. The trails are mostly flat with lots of mesquite trees and cactus full of bright yellow blooms this time of year.

Sunday Trail Run: Since the amount of trails that are open are currently limited we traveled along the same path as we did on Saturday but ran our route counter-clock-wise for a change of scenery.

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Kelly happily breaking down camp on Sunday morning after a pretty good night’s sleep testing her new ‘sleep system’. She added an egg-crate type pad under her Therm-a-Rest for added insulation and padding.

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Hill Country State Natural Area

Suzanne, Maria, Bettina and Kelly taking a water break on Hermits Trail during our Saturday afternoon hike.

Destination: Hill Country State Natural Area

Date: March 24th and 25th, 2018

Travel Time from Austin: 2 hours 30 minutes

HikeCampHikers: Kelly, Judy, Maria, Bettina, Suzanne

Walk-in site 126 in the Chaquita Falls Camp Area is our favorite place to camp in the park so we were happy to get it again.

Campsite: As with our last visit here, we got the Walk-in Campsite in Chaquita Falls #126. Don’t forget to bring your water since there is no potable water at the park. It was worth the hike to the site since we had the place all to ourselves.

Saturday Hike: We took the car and parked along the road at the Hermit’s Trailhead. We hiked Hermits Trail to Side Track Trail, Good Luck Trail and back along Hermits Trail. About 3 miles.

Kelly has a heart rock radar.

Sunday Trail Run: To mix things up, we decided (thanks for the idea Maria!) to try a trail run on Sunday morning. From our camp site at Chaquita Falls we ran Heritage Loop towards Comanche Bluff, Overlook Trail to Medina Loop and back towards Heritage Loop to our camp site. About 4 miles.

Sunday Hike: After the trail run, breakfast and taking down our camp site we drove to the parking area by the West Peak Overlook Trail. We started off on the Spring Branch Trail to the Madrone Trail, took the Vista Ridge Trail that loops around back to the Madrone trail. We headed back on the Madrone Trail until it intersects with the Spring Branch Trail and took it back to the road towards our car. About 5 miles.

Sunday hike along the Vista Ridge Trail.

Here’s a link to the park’s map

South Llano River State Park

Sunset over the Llano River after our hike on Saturday.

Destination: South Llano River State Park

Date: February 24th and 25th

Travel Time from Austin: 3 hours

HikeCampHikers: Kelly, Judy, Maria, Bettina

Kelly, Bettina and Judy on the Fawn Trail on Saturday.

Saturday Hike: We hiked from our walk-in campsite along the Fawn Trail, Lost Spur Trail, East Ridge Trail, Buck’s Shortcut Trail, Golden-cheeked Warbler Trail. ~7.5 miles

Sunday Hike: We had limited time Sunday morning since we were heading back to Austin at noon. We walked through the Camping Area towards the park headquarters. Once there we found that the trails in the tan-colored areas of the map are closed for Turkey Roosting until 10am. We decided to go back to our walk-in campsite and take down camp. Afterwards we walked through the pean trees to Buck Lake Trail and River Trail. We put our feet into the cold water of the South Llano River and enjoyed the blue skies and crisp air of a beautiful day in February. ~3 miles

The Karwendel in the Alps of Germany and Austria

 

Looking happy on the 4th morning of the hike leaving the Falkenhuette headed for Binsalm. The handsome man in the apron is Fritz Kostenzer who was our host at the Falkenhuette. He recently retired and the Falkenhuette is closed for extensive renovations which will take until 2019. We just made it!(L-R: Judy, Bettina, Kelly, Fritz, Suzanne, Maria)

Destination: Hut-to-Hut from Mittenwald to Stans
Distance: 50 Kilometers
Time on the trail: 5 days, 4 nights
Date: July 3-7


Trip Itinerary:

Pre-hike: Met in Munich on Friday June 30th, at the Muenchner Kindl. Toured the city with Mike’s Bike Tours with our guide Ryan Hadaller (we recommend the tour and the guide!). Highlights were Englischer Garten and dinner at the Biergarten (reasonably priced) and the surfers on the Isar River. The next day we had Judy’s Birthday breakfast at the Glockenspiel Cafe, then visited the Lenbachhaus museum. Then on to the Munich train station for a 2 hour ride to Mittenwald. We arrived to pouring rain and we purchased a few umbrellas and took a taxi to our apartment at Gastehaus Alwin Hornsteiner that we rented for the entire time we were hiking so that we could leave our luggage. The following day we spent hiking in the rain around the Kranzberg area and around the Lautersteiner See.

Day 1, July 3rd: Left our apartment in clear weather ,walked about 2km through Mittenwald to the trail head then on to our first hut of the trip, the Hochlandhuette (1630 meters high). We hiked about 3.5 hours, covered 8km, and climbed 900 meters. Hut Highlights: Beautiful view, only accessible by helicopter or hiking. Our sleeping arrangements were in a room with 10 beds, 5 beds on one wall, 5 on the others, our group took up one wall of beds. 44 beds total in the Hochlandhuette. Our dinner was a yummy pea soup. Cash only. No showers and only cold water. Beautiful weather!

Day 2, July 4th: Two routes to chose from to get to our next hut, the Karwendel Haus (1765 meters high). Kelly took one route and the rest of us took the other. We hiked about 6 hours, covered 12 to 15km, climbed 800 meters down and 1000 meters up. Hut Highlights: Big and beautiful hut, 140 beds total, most comfortable lodging (we had our own rooms – a double and a triple), the best breakfast (excellent jam) of all of the huts we visited, fun, energetic vibe in the common areas. Cold Showers! They accepted credit cards. Continued perfect weather for hiking.

Day 3, July 5th: On to the Falkenhuette (1848 meters high) we hiked about 3.5 hours, covered 12K. Hut Highlights: Delicious buttermilk, friendly, talented host/chef Fritz and his family. Nice homemade food. Great side trip to Mahnkopf (over 2000 meters) Great sunset view in lounge chairs. Lots of friendly guests. We were all in our own room with 3 bunkbeds. More great weather.

Day 4, July 6th: We left the Falkenhuette and hiked to the Binsalm and stopped along the way to have lunch at Eng-Alm. We hiked about 3.5 hours, covered 8.5K. We had our own, spacious room with 5 single beds.Hut Highlights: Great view from the front deck, free schnapps!

Day 5, July 7th: Hiked from the Binsalm to Stans train station. We stopped along the way at the Lamsenjochhuette (we would have stayed there if we could have arranged reservations) and experienced Wolfsklamm. We took the train from Stans to Innsbruck, had lunch and took the train back to Mittenwald (1.5 hours) and returned to our apartment at Gastehaus Alwin Hornsteiner

Post Hike: That night we had a well deserved, delicious dinner in Mittenwald at Haus am Kurpark, walkable from our lodging. The next day we walked to the train station and took the train to Venice via Innsbruck (6 hours to Venice). In Venice we rented an apartment from HomeAway Villa Bellini for 4 nights and explored the city including the Biennalle Arsenale. We took a ferry to the island off the cost of Venice Lido and rented bikes and rode down the beach, caught another ferry to Pellestrina island and rode down the beach, swam in the Adradic Sea and had a wonderful lunch at the Da Memo.

Photo links:
Kelly’s google drive photo album
Maria’s flickr photo album
Bettina’s google photo album
Judy’s flickr photo album
Suzanne’s Shutterfly photo album

Maroon Bells Four Pass Loop – Near Aspen Colorado

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With views like this, impromptu singing of “the hills are alive…” happened a lot on this adventure. 

Destination: Four Pass Loop, Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness

Distance: 28 miles round-trip

Time on the trail: 4 days, 3 nights

Date: July 3-6

Trip Itinerary:

Pre-hike: Flew in late on July 1st and spent the night in Denver. Drove into Aspen the next day and talked to helpful people at Ute Mountaineer who had updates on trail conditions. We arrived that evening at our roomy digs at The Crestwood (pretty close to the trail head and not as pricey as accommodation options in Aspen) and started our hike on the morning of July 3rd.

Day 1: Maroon Lake to about a mile before West Maroon Pass (~6.5 miles)

Day 2: A mile climb to West Maroon Pass, 1.3 miles past Frigid Air Pass (~5.5 miles)

Day 3: Hike to Trail Rider Pass to Snowmass Lake (~7 miles)

Day 4: Snowmass Lake, climb Buckskin Pass, end at Maroon Lake (~8 miles)

Post-hike: Drove to Aspen for an amazing burger and truffle fries (and cold beer) at the White House Tavern.  Then drove about 18 miles north to Basalt and loved our stay at the Basalt Mountain Inn, oh and don’t miss a visit to the Xin Yu Massage next door.

Ahhh, made it to the top of Frigid Air Pass. (L-R) Our new friend Aaron Stich, Kelly, Bettina, Maria, Suzanne, Judy.

Trip Map:

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Maps and Guides: 
USDA guide and map. National Geographic Trails Illustrated Topographic Map And we bought a map when we got to Aspen at the Ute Mountaineer store and received some tips from the helpful staff.

Food Notes: A new favorite snack from Suzanne was cheese flavored Halfpops. They’re delicious and the saltiness was a nice contrast to all the sweet energy bars. Also the cheddar-flavored Moon Cheese was, well, out of this world! Handily available at REI. Another convenient place we found a good selection of food for our trip was Target. A delicious dinner of Bettina’s was dried pea soup from the Wheatsville Food Co-OP to which she adds smoked, spicy chorizo.

Gear Highlights: This was the first year that Suzanne used her REI Joule sleeping bag. She reports “I was warm and toasty every night and the one night it rained, I hadn’t done a great job pitching my tent/rainfly and I was very happy to have the waterproof fabric around my feet which to keep them dry. I also appreciated that it’s much lighter than my old bag.

 

Lost Maples State Natural Area

Maria, Kelly and Suzanne on Saturday's hike on the West Trail.
Maria, Kelly and Suzanne on Saturday’s hike on the West Trail.

Destination: Lost Maples State Natural Area

Date: May 14th and 15th, 2016 (Finally, we’re back after a long time without a weekend hiking trip)

Travel Time from Austin: 2.45 hours

Participants: Kelly, Judy, Maria, Suzanne (Bettina was in Hawaii)

Saturday Hike:  We backpacked from the parking area at the West trailhead to G primitive camping area. About a 3 mile hike with steep climbs to the camping area.

Sunday Hike: We packed up Sunday morning, hiked from our campsite with plans to drop off our backpacks and hike the East Trail. Rain clouds gathered while we tossed our gear in the trunk and we decided to head back to Austin instead.

Bird of the Trip: Black Capped Vireo also the Common Raven

Campsite: G primitive camping area

Camp Food: Incredible Curry by Kelly. A tip on beer and backpacking: wrap each chilled beer in newspaper and then pack them in an insulated lunch bag. They stayed cold for over six hours!

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Maria, Kelly and Suzanne spotting a Black Capped Vireo while hiking on the West Trail Saturday afternoon.

I’ve highlighted our hike on the map below. Here’s a link to a PDF of the map from the park’s web site.

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Queens River Loop – Sawtooth Wilderness, Idaho

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On day 3 hiking from Pats Lake to Everly Lake with Arrowhead Lake in the background. Photo by Kelly Fitzgibbon. 

Destination: Sawtooth Wilderness, Queens River Loop with side trips to Everly Lake and Rockslide Lake

Date: July 4-11, 2015

HikeCampHikers: Bettina, Judy, Kelly, Maria, Suzanne

Trip Itinerary:
Pre-hike: Fly to Boise, spent the first night at The Beaver Lodge in Atlanta, Idaho

Day 1: Queens River Tailhead to Browns Lake
Day 2: Browns Lake to Pats Lake
Day 3: Pats Lake to Everly Lake
Day 4: Everly Lake for 2nd night with a day hike to Rockslide Lake
Day 5: Everly Lake to Nanny Creek
Day 6: Nanny Creek back to Queens River Trailhead

Post-hike: Eat burgers, visit the hot springs and spend the night at The Beaver Lodge. In the morning drive back to Boise and catch the flight back to Austin.

Special thanks to Michael Lanza and The Big Outside for his expert advice on this trip itinerary!

Hiking through a lush, grassy meadow on our way to Nanny Creek on day 5.

Hiking through a lush, grassy meadow on our way to Nanny Creek on day 5. Photo by Judy Paul.

Trip Map:

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Beautiful alpine lake between Pats Lake and Everly Lake. Photo by Judy Paul.

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We were lucky enough to tour of some of the re-built, historic mining shacks lead by the artist/owner of the Atlanta School. Photo by Kelly Fitzgibbon.

Trip Story:

Atlanta Idaho is so far off the beaten path that we almost needed the compass to us get there from the Boise airport. Exploring this charming, historic mining town was an unexpected bonus to our trip. We met the quintessential mom and pop owners of the Beaver Lodge and a friendly gang of artist on main street who spend their time making art and restoring mining shacks at the Atlanta School.

Atlanta is just a short drive to the Queens River trailhead so after breakfast at the lodge we piled in the rent car and headed out. Once at the trailhead we completed the self-serve wilderness permit and started the 10 mile trek to Browns Lake. On our way we encountered a bear, lots of burned trees from the fire in 2013, beautiful wildflowers and the only people we would see for the entire rest of the trip. Four people total in six days.

Day two brought us into higher attitudes with wide vistas of the stunning, jagged Sawtooths. As we made our way to Pats Lake we lost the trail when crossing a vast, lush meadow. We backtracked a bit, got out the compass, consulted the map, read the guidebook over and over and finally just went in the general direction we knew we needed to go and relocated the trail. This was the first of many times the trail seemingly disappeared. Eventually we weren’t that shocked when we got off track and mostly just kept going until the trail re-appeared. Navigational know-how, map, compass and guidebook were very helpful on this trip. By this point we were feeling pretty good about our outdoor skills such as using the PCT method of hanging our bear bags and when a huge dead tree fell one windless morning we were thankful we had decided that spot was too risky for our tents the night before.

We arrived at Everly Lake on day 3 and stayed 2 nights using it as base camp for day hikes. Kelly and Bettina did the 6 mile round trip to Rockslide and the rest of us took it easy with a walk to Plummer Lake where we were rewarded with the sight of a regal Golden Eagle overhead. Everly is a beautiful, remote spot with views of the rugged sawtooth mountains that surround the teal waters of this alpine lake. Mosquitos were thick here so our head nets came in handy.

From Everly Lake we hiked to the crossing of Nanny Creek and the Queens River, about a 6 mile trek. Based on the map and the guidebook description, we thought we were at the right spot where Nanny Creek crosses the Queens River but we didn’t see the creek. Eventually Bettina spotted a moss-covered sign high on a tree that said Nanny Creek so we knew we were in the right place. That evening we did some exploring and found an impressive waterfall about 1/2 mile east off the trail. We survived a dramatic thunder and lighting storm that night and the next morning we headed back to the Queens River tailhead. On the 6 mile hike back we encountered a few knee-deep creek crossings, a hail storm and several occasions of losing the trail. Thankfully we spotted a tiny orange flag on tree branch on one of the crossings that marked our way. Once back to our cabin we flipped coins for who got to shower first, ate burgers at the Beaver Lodge and soaked in the hot springs just outside of town. We can’t wait to explore more of the Sawtooths!

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Atlanta Natural Hot Springs were a treat after 6 days on the trail!

Maps and Guides: Earthwalk Press Sawtooth Wilderness Hiking Map and Guide, Backpacking Idaho by Douglas Lorain

Food Notes: Mary Janes Farm Outpost backpacking food was our favorite brand of prepackaged meals. REI sells it online and in some stores. Mary Janes Chilimac was the best of all we tried. Curry in a Hurry was Maria’s least favorite. Moon Cheese was also a big hit as was Backpacker’s Pantry Creme Brulee.

Gear Highlights: After trying three different backpacks, Suzanne loves her Osprey Aura AG 65. She says “Both the hipbelt and the harness are adjustable so I was able to dial in the fit.  It also has a lot of great features like external pockets and the handy “stow-on-the-go” loops for trekking poles. It’s a keeper, for sure.” Maria and Suzanne both have a Sawyer Squeeze Filter System and we are all very happy with its performance and ease of use. 

Birds of the Trip: Golden Eagle, Bald Eagle, American Three-toed Woodpecker and the Black-backed Woodpecker.

Photos:
Check out more trip photos by Judy, Kelly and Maria.