Colorado – Collegiate Peaks Wilderness and Holy Cross Wilderness

Fresh start – about to begin our hiking adventure!

Destination: Phase One: Collegiate Peak Wilderness; Phase Two: Holy Cross Wilderness

Total Hiking Distance: Collegiate Peak Wilderness/Colorado Trail (35+ miles); Holy Cross Wilderness (26+ miles)

Dates of hiking: July 9th – July 17th, 2020

Time on the Trail: Phase One: 4 days, 3 nights;  Second Phase: 5 days, 4 nights

HikeCampHikers: Bettina, Kelly, Maria

July 7 – Left Austin driving, spent night in Trinidad, CO (elev. 6,000) to start acclimatizing.

July 8 – Spent night in Leadville (elev. 10,000+ feet) at the Inn in the Clouds Hiker hostel to further acclimatize and prepare. Amazing dinner at Treeline Café.

Phase One: Colorado Trail through the White River National Forest and Collegiate Park Wilderness

July 9 – Pre-adventure fueling at City on a Hill Coffee and Espresso on Main (Harrison) Street of Leadville. Delicious apple strudel was enjoyed! Parked car at Avalanche Trailhead west of Buena Vista and had our friend Lisa drop us off at Interlaken Trailhead near Twin Lakes. (Elev. 9,200 feet). Hiked 9.6 miles (last part of Segment 11 of Colorado Trail). Set up camp at Clear Creek Reservoir (elev. 8,940 feet) right along the creek. Took a dip in the water to cool off. Great first day and nice to sleep at lower elevation for first night out.

July 10 – Hiked 6.4 miles including a hard climb to 11,650 feet in elevation and then descended to Pine Creek at 10,430 feet and camped in Pine Creek Valley. Hard day rewarded by beautiful campsite overlooking meadow and ponds. We waited for elk to arrive but they didn’t show. The night sky was stunning.

July 11 – Broke camp around 9 am and headed further south along the Colorado Trail. Hiked 12.1 miles, climbing to 11,845 feet and then descended to 9,430 feet at Silver Creek Trailhead, the end of Segment 12 of the Colorado Trail. Found a good campsite that was private and spacious. A thru hiker with the trail name of “Pika” stayed at our site as well. It was interesting to hear about her experiences as a thru hiker.

July 12 – Left Silver Creek trailhead and climbed to 11,890 feet by lunchtime. Hiked up short spur to the east of the main trail, offering an amazing 360-degree view of region and a close up of Yale Peak. Then descended to 9,395 feet arriving at the Avalanche Trailhead in the early afternoon where Kelly’s car was parked. Total hiking was 6.6 miles. Short miles this day but lots of elevation gain and loss. We were tired!

This was our resupply day for food and much needed showers and regroup. Not much vacancy in Leadville but found lodging at Rodeway Inn. We ate dinner at Tennessee Pass Restaurant in Leadville. We were not impressed with food but the local beer (Elevation) hit the spot!

Perspective


Phase Two: Holy Cross Wilderness (almost) Loop

July 13 – We had a beautiful drive from Leadville up Hwy 24 to Cross Creek Trailhead near Minturn. There was a six-mile gap (on a dirt road) between our starting point (Half Moon Trailhead) and finish point (Cross Creek Trailhead) so we had to decide where to leave the car – at the start or finish. We were hiking clockwise on the loop. Factoring in the uphill trek from Cross Creek to Half Moon, we decided that would not be something to look forward to at the end of our hiking adventure. We dropped off Maria with the packs at Half Moon Trailhead and Bettina and Kelly returned to Cross Creek to leave the car. The hope was that they would find a ride to Half Moon and they did! Kelly flagged down a friendly young woman (trail angel) who offered to take them to the Half Moon Trailhead. BTW, there is a nice pit toilet with hand sanitizer at the Half Moon Trailhead – a good feature considering the popularity of the trailhead as the gateway to climb the Mount of the Holy Cross 14er.

We started our hike south on the Fall Creek Trail around 1 pm. Our destination was Lake Constantine. The Holy Cross mosquitoes were quick to greet us as we hiked. Our Sawyer Insect Repellent and rain gear came in handy throughout the coming days to fend off our new friends. There was a scramble across some scree and a few spots where the trail was quite narrow on a steep slope but not too bad. We hiked four miles, starting at an elevation of 10,340 and ending at 11,370 feet at Lake Constantine around 3:30 pm.

There were lots of campsite options at the lake. We picked one near the water with a view of the lake. In hindsight we realized we should have selected a spot that was more sheltered from wind and rain given the unpredictable weather. We had a quick but powerful storm come through overnight. Fortunately our tents held strong.

The pass awaits



July 14 – From beautiful Lake Constantine we hiked up and over Fall Creek Pass at 12,277 feet elevation. We had a nice reception by many curious marmots, chipmunks and pikas. We enjoyed a snack at the top and soaked in the view before descending the pass via the Seven Sisters Lakes. The lakes are bordered by dramatic granite walls that looked like a climber’s paradise. Weather started to roll in so we hurried to get below tree line and had lunch and filtered water at a stream surrounded by wildflowers and water lilies. From there we kept hiking down, passing various small lakes (one of which – the extension of Hunky Dory lake – looked very inviting for a quick swim but we decided to move on), arriving to the Holy Cross Historical City around 3 pm. After doing some way finding, we headed up a jeep road (a mining road from the late 1800s), explored the ruins of the old mining town and then continued on. Our destination was Fancy Lake (11,540 feet). Throughout the day, we did not encounter any other hikers on the trail. Our total mileage this day was about 6.5 miles and we arrived at the lake around 5 pm and set up camp. Overnight we awoke to some thunder followed by a steady rain shower that fortunately didn’t last too long.

July 15 – Blue skies greeted us in the morning which was a big relief as we were headed over Fancy Pass. We climbed up and over the pass at 12,380 feet elevation, crossing multiple snowfields slow and steady with no issue. There was lots of laughing as we made our way up. We spent about 20 minutes at the top, taking lots of pics and soaking in the view. As we started to descend toward Treasure Vault Lake we ran into other hikers doing the smaller loop (8.9 miles) that begins at Missouri Lake. We gradually entered a beautiful wide valley and came upon the headwaters of Cross Creek that we followed for the rest of our adventure. We lunched at Mill Pond and Kelly went for a quick swim. Our destination was Harvey Lake (11,025 feet elevation) where we found our favorite campsite of the trip, complete with a mountain lake, meadow, wildflowers and big granite rocks to scramble on with bird eye views of the valley. Our hiking mileage for the day was 4.8 miles. A curious mule deer visited us while we ate dinner by the lake. Did we mention mosquitoes? They were with us consistently, but nothing our repellent and rain gear couldn’t handle. No storms this night!

July 16 – Leaving Harvey Lake, our objective was to find a campsite along Cross Creek in the afternoon estimating about 8 miles of hiking to put us within a few miles of the Cross Creek Trailhead where our car was parked. We thought this would be an easy day, a steady downhill through the valley, that didn’t look too difficult on the map. Our legs were tired given all the hiking we had done in the previous days. It turned out that the terrain was rocky and challenging. There was avalanche debris to navigate and our hunt for a campsite went later than expected. Fortunately, we found a perfect (hidden) spot right next to the river that was just 2 miles from the Trailhead at 8,514 feet elev. We were relieved and happy to end our adventure at a good site after hiking 9 miles.

July 18 – Our last day – we woke up, had some coffee but decided to forgo one more day of oatmeal and granola breakfast. Instead we opted for brunch in Minturn. We leisurely broke camp and began our final hike (2 miles) of the trip to the Trailhead. It was an easy downhill, past various groups of day hikers and fresh backpacking groups just starting their adventures. We arrived at the Trailhead around 11 am, found our car intact and waiting for us and went straight to the Sunrise Café in Minturn where we had a memorable meal that hit the spot.


From there we headed to Salida, CO, to spend the afternoon and evening before our drive home to Texas the next day. We stayed at the Salida Inn and Monarch Suites which was clean and comfortable. The town of Salida is really charming. We walked around downtown, had drinks and truffle fries at Fritz Restaurant, followed by dinner at Amica’s Wood Fired Pizza Restaurant. We sat outside, relished the cool temperatures that we would miss in Texas and reviewed our trip, thinking about when we would return to Colorado and what is on the horizon for HikeCampHike.

Overview:


COVID complicated our plans to go to the Three Sisters Wilderness in Oregon (our original plan) so we researched an adventure in Colorado. It was a good option because Colorado is within decent driving distance for us from Austin (~14 hours). Bettina researched the Colorado Trail and what segments we could tackle and Maria researched loop options, talking to rangers with the White River National Forest. We targeted the Leadville area for our trip because we had a good friend who offered to shuttle us to the Trailhead and the mountain ranges in that area are spectacular. We were interested in testing our endurance for a longer hiking adventure, extending our normal schedule of 4-6 days to about 9 days.


Takeaways from adventure:
When carrying a pack that weighs about 25 pounds, it is important to seriously consider factors such as elevation, technicality of trail and distance to hike in planning the mileage for each day. For us we realized that if you are in elevation between 9,000-12,000 feet and carrying a pack, it’s best to shoot for not more than 8 miles per day total distance. If the hiking is flatter and/or less technical then 10-12 miles is a fine goal per day. For Maria, the climbs were the challenge and for Kelly and Bettina the descents were the stressor given their sometime testy knees.

During our hike we experienced occasional, light afternoon rain. It is important to get an early start, especially if going over high passes above tree line.

The Colorado Trail was a nice option because there was lots of information on the web about the trail segments. Bettina found the Women of the Colorado Trail Facebook page especially informative. We had some tough days on the trail from an exertion perspective and met lots of thru hikers. However, hands down, the Holy Cross Wilderness (Phase Two) was our favorite – dramatic scenery, high passes, snow fields, running streams and clear water lakes in abundance. And there were less people on the trail which made it easy to pick primo campsites each night. The one drawback to Holy Cross was the persistent mosquitoes that we were able to control with repellent and our rain gear.

Given the uncertainties of COVID and our plans, it was super helpful to not have to worry about permits. For the Colorado Trail no permit was needed and for the Holy Cross Wilderness, we just had to register at the Trailhead. 


The wildflowers in the Holy Cross Wilderness were stunning in their color and variety. We never tired from walking past the purple, yellow, pink, blue, maroon, red and lavender that carpeted the valley and mountainsides.

Inks Lake State Park

Kelly, Bettina, Suzanne, Maria on the trail at Inks Lake. (Judy is taking the pic)

Destination: Inks Lake State Park

Date: January 25 & 26, 2020

HikeCampHikers: Judy, Maria, Bettina, Kelly and Suzanne

Travel Time from Austin: 1.5 hours

Campsite: We decided to forego the primitive camp site this trip so that we could have a fire. We reserved site #349 and that was a good thing because all campsites were completely booked, even the primitive sites. Our site bordered the lake and was spacious enough to easily accommodate 5 tents (limit of 8 people per site). We looked at other sites and decided that reserving site #349 and #341 would make a great group site. Also site #346 was another good option, lots of room for tents, private, and on the lake.

Saturday Hike: We went for a long hike that started close to our campsite and crossed the main road and looped around the primitive camp sites.

Sunday Hike: We broke down camp and had breakfast and left for Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge and hiked on the trails there before heading back to Austin. It was our first time there, the trails were nice and it was fun to do something different.

Camp food: Kale salad, green beans and tomato soup. Lots of yummy white cheddar.

On our hike at Balcones Canyonlands

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Group shot at Guadalupe Peak summit! Suzanne, Maria, Bettina and Kelly

Destination: Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Map: Park Map

Dates of hiking: October 30 – November 3 2019

HikeCampHikers: Bettina, Kelly, Suzanne, Maria

Wednesday, October 30 – we took off at 6:45 pm and got to Ozona at 10:30 (Holiday Express)

Thursday, October 31 – cold and sunny day, on to Fort Stockton and Pecos – a punctured tire that could not be patched and required a detour to Odessa. We go back on the road around 3 pm and drove via Van Horn to Pine Springs Campground. We miraculously got there before it got dark and claimed one of the last campsites. We were able to set up our three tents which barely fit.  The campground is well designed with beautiful views of the mountains and nice bathrooms. 

Friday, November 1 – Following a night with very heavy winds, the ranger predicted gusts up to 50 mph for the following night so we decided to spend the night indoors at White’s City Cavern Inn located at the entrance to Carlsbad Cavern. After making sleeping arrangements over the phone and breaking down camp, we left to hike to the top of Guadalupe Mountain – the highest peak in Texas at 8751 feet. It was a great hike, beautiful weather (but windy), amazing views. Then on to White’s City to check in. We had dinner and drinks at the brewery in Carlsbad. 

Saturday, November 2 – we got up early and arrived at Carlsbad Cavern NP around 8. Hardly anyone else there. We opted to hike down into the caverns rather than ride the elevator. It was an impressive experience! Unfortunately, we got to Pine Springs Campsite a little too late (at 11:30 am) and all sites were taken!! No other options except hiking in the backcountry for 4 hours and camp there. We decided against that because we had to get home the next day and it would take us a while to break down camp, hike out and then drive all the way back to Austin. We opted to hike up McKittrick Canyon with amazing fall foliage. We met a VIP (Volunteers in Parks) named Doug who really inspired us to go backpacking in the Guadalupe Mountains next time we make there. He claims there is water to be found in the backcountry which is a challenge in GMNP. We drove to Van Horn and stayed in the B.A.S.I.C. We had dinner and drinks at “El Capitan”.

Sunday, November 3 – pretty easy drive back with lunch stop in Fredericksburg for street tacos. Got back to Austin at 4.

Overview: 

Guadalupe MNP is beautiful and remote which is what makes it so magical. It is important to note that you cannot reserve a campsite (in the campground, nor primitive) in advance. It is first come-first serve and there are 20 sites in the campground. There is some public (BLM land) where you can camp if the park is full but that felt like a scene from a Breaking Bad episode.

We highly advise to NOT go through Pecos to get to Guadalupe Mountains NP. It is a much prettier drive to go through Van Horn, and safer as the traffic from fracking operations around Pecos is very disconcerting to drive through.

 

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

Group shot taken after hiking down from Cascade Canyon with the Tetons in the background.

Destination: Grand Teton National Park

Distance: 26 miles, plus trek to Anderson Glacier

Dates of hiking: July 4rd – July 8th

Time on the Trail: 5 days, 4 nights

HikeCampHikers: Bettina, Kelly, Judy, Suzanne, Maria

Grand Teton’s National Park  (July 6 – July 13)

Saturday, July 6 – left early, got to Jackson Hole around 10, lunch at the delicious Persephone Bakery  in Jackson Hole, bought stove fuel and bear canisters, went to the Ranger Station in Moose to sort out our backpacking permits, and then drove about an 1 hour to airbnb in Driggs (Idaho) 

Sunday, July 7 – day hike to Tabletop Mountain (Alta – Idaho side of the Tetons)

Monday, July 8 – day hike to Wind Cave, Darby Canyon trail

Tuesday, July 9 – started backpacking trip from Jenny Lake TH, left at 10:15, very crowded with day hikers, crowds thinned when we entered Cascade Canyon Trail, hardly any people when we turned left at fork on South Fork Cascade Canyon, Took first campsite. Set up camp and did a later afternoon hike further along the South Fork Canyon Trail. Had dinner on rocks across trail. 

Wednesday, July 10 – woke up to some marmot shenanigans – they chewed on Judy’s boots in her vestibule. We left campsite around 10 am and headed back to fork and then on to the North Fork Trail. We left Maria/Suzanne at first decent campsite while Judy, Kelly and Bettina scouted for a better campsite, While relaxing, Maria and Suzanne had a close encounter with a curious bear very unexpectedly.  After things calmed down, we set up camp at a large site on flat ground. We set out for an afternoon hike to Solitude Lake – a must see destination – that felt like a winter wonderland. 

Thursday, July 11 – hiked back down via Cascade Canyon Trail and on to Jenny Lake Trailhead. The hike down seemed to take forever, perhaps because we were really hungry. Got to car at 2:00 pm and took advantage of amenities – snack bar, bathroom, repacking. Drove to Death Canyon Trailhead – back on trail at 5:15 to head to Phelps Lake Campsite. Beautiful lake, good campsite with view. There was a very poised bald eagle hanging out, a Common Merganser with 5 ducklings jostling for a ride on her back and lots of bugs buzzing around at dusk. Kelly was brave enough to jump of “Jumping Rock” into Phelps Lake. 

Friday, July 12 – hiked around Phelps Lake to Granite Canyon. After much back and forth and extensive scouting, we settled on first campsite in Canyon with amazing kitchen rock and view. Lightning and thunderstorm added some flavor to our adventure for about an hour during which we huddled under some thick brush and made up songs.   

Saturday, July 13 – left camp at 8:15, hiked back to car, We were able to shower and organize for our flight home at the Grand Teton Climbers Ranch American Alpine Club. We paid a nominal use fee for hot water, soap and nice facilities. Amazing lodging option inside the park. Lunch was amazing at Dornan’s Chuckwagon in Moose. From there we headed clean and full to the airport. Back in Austin around midnight. 

Overview:

Grand Teton National Park had been on our radar given the mystique and grandeur that is Wyoming. There was some trepidation about bear encounters but we decided to not let that be a reason to deter us from going. The weather was amazing. The scenery was spectacular. If/when we go back, we will plan the trip for later in the summer. Our original plan was to hike the Teton Crest Trail but there was a huge amount of snowpack even in mid July so our “loop” route turned into two out and backs to bypass the most treacherous pass. Getting the permit was challenging as we, along with thousands of other eager adventurers, had to wait for the government to reopen. Once that happened, it was a floodgate of requests for permits and the gov site crashed. We were able to get a permit, but not what we wanted. Fortunately we were able to improve our trip plan at the Ranger Station once we arrived to Jackson Hole. All in all it was a great trip.

Lake Solitude at 9035ft elevation and frozen.

Matagorda Bay Nature Park

Geared up for the wetland exploration adventure.

Destination: Matagorda Bay Nature Park

Cabin: Matagorda Beach Rental – 21 Bahia de Matagorda

Date: November 2nd, 3rd 2018

HikeCampHikers: Bettina, Judy, Suzanne and Maria

Travel Time from Austin: 2 hours, 20 minutes – 145 miles

Pros: Interesting new landscape and activities including exploring along the beach and kayaking the wetland trail. We loved the little town of Matagorda with its colorful history, a charming selection of restaurants bustling with local diners serving a variety of fresh seafood. The birding was amazing, even Suzanne (our birder) was impressed.

Cons: The lodging, although spacious, was run down and didn’t seem worth the cost. There were A LOT of mosquitos, come prepared.

Sunset after a run on the beach.

Sky Island Trail Run: Davis Mountains State Park

Spectacular sunrise in the Fort Davis Mountains along one of the running trails.

 

At the finish line in the official Spectrum Race trucker hats.

Destination: Sky Island Trail Run, Spectrum Trail Series Davis Mountains State Park, Fort Davis, TX

Hike Camp Hikers: Maria, Bettina, Kelly, Judy

Date: September 20th – 23rd, 2018

Itinerary: 

SEPT. 20, 2018

Leave Austin at X. Arrive Ozona 3.5 to 4 hours and check into Holiday Inn Express, 1308 Avenue E., Ozona TX

SEPT. 21

8:30 am 

Leave Ozona at (3-hour drive to Fort Davis) 

11:30 noon

Lunch at Stone Village Grocery in Fort Davis, 509 State Street, Fort Davis

12:30

Leave grocery for Tour of Hobby Eberly Telescope at McDonald Observatory, 82 Mount Locke Road | Fort Davis, TX; 30-min drive. 

1 pm

Arrive McDonald Observatory. Meet in Visitor’s Center lobby.

2:30

Leave Observatory and head to cabins to check in at Mountains Trails Lodge, 501 S. Highway 118, Fort Davis. Lodging phone is 432-426-3481

3 pm

Check in and get settled in rooms. Jenny is main contact.

4:30 pm

Drive to Davis Mountains State Park and check out lay of the land. (10 min from lodging), to see it in day time. 

5:45 pm

Head to Blue Mountain Bistro for 6:00 pm reservation, 100 North State Street, Fort Davis, TX

7:15 pm

Leave restaurant and head to race check in at park Check in from 6-8 pm.

8:15 pm

Leave for Star Party at McDonald Observatory. 20-min drive. Star Party starts at 8:45 pm. Tickets paid – $11.50 each. 

SEPT. 22

6 am

Leave cabins for race

7 am

Race starts

5-6 pm

Return to Fort Davis – maybe at Lupitas 411 State St, Fort Davis, TX or have dinner in Alpine. TBD.

SEPT. 23

Head Home

Notes about Cabins:

They provide coffee in filter packs. If you bring your own loose ground coffee, you will need to bring coffee filters to fit a 4-cup coffee maker. You will have a small sink, small fridge, and small microwave in your room. And yes, you will need to bring plates and silverware. We provide the coffee packs, hot tea, sugar & creamer packs, paper towel roll and two coffee mugs.

You may check in on Friday any time after 3:00 p.m.

Other Stuff To Bring:

Rain jacket; hydration plan for run; nutrition for run; jacket for evening; cash to contribute to gas, rooms, etc as needed. 

Amazing tour of the Hobby Eberly Telescope used to explore Dark Energy.

Overview: The Fort Davis trip was our first HCH adventure that focused on a trail run as the main feature. After casually training for a few months, we were excited to try this 25K race/run just to see what it would be like. Fort Davis also offers so much more which we took advantage of – visits to McDonald Observatory, Big Bend Brewery, several restaurants in the area and lovely exploration of Fort Davis State Park. The Sky Island race is challenging but doable. The race directors were well organized and the race logistics were great. There was a cap on the number of runners which means the registration fills up quickly as does limited lodging at the park. Ideally we would have stayed at the Indian Lodge inside the park (or you can camp) which is where the race starts and ends. If you decide to do it, make sure to save enough energy for the last 30 percent of the course which is more scrambling than running!

 

Post-race hydration at Big Bend Brewery in Alpine.

Olympic National Park

The trees and vegetation in the temperate rain forest of Olympic National Park were something we had never experienced – a truly magical place.

Destination: Olympic National Park, Enchanted Valley via East Fork of the Quinault River 

Distance: 26 miles, plus trek to Anderson Glacier

Dates of hiking: July 4rd – July 8th

Time on the Trail: 5 days, 4 nights

HikeCampHikers: Bettina, Kelly, Judy, Suzanne, Maria

Pros: Relatively easy hike for a spectacular rainforest experience. There were many choice campsites available in the busy season.

Cons:  The porta-potties at the Enchanted Valley campsites were overwhelmingly stinky but as responsible campers we used them because that’s the rules in this crowded camp area. Lots of bugs at the campsites along the river.

Day 1 – Graves Creek Trailhead to Pyrites Creek campsite (8 miles)

Day 2 – Pyrites Creek campsite to Enchanted Valley (5 miles)

Day 3 – Day hike to Anderson Glacier 3400′ climb from Enchanted Valley. Second night in Enchanted Valley (14 miles, out and back)

Day 4 – Hike to campsite between O’Neals Creek and Pony Bridge (9 miles)

Day 5 – Hike out to Graves Creek Trailhead (4 miles)

Overview: We began our hike at the Graves Creek Trailhead after an amazing breakfast at the Lake Quinault lodge. We hiked about eight miles to our first night’s campsite at Pyrites Creek. The trek there was pretty easy, not a lot of elevation. On day two we hiked to the Enchanted Valley for a planned two-night stay. We hiked about five miles to get there for an easy day. We set up camp and then relaxed while looking at the beautiful waterfall across the river. On day three we did a day hike to the Anderson Glacier which was 10 miles roundtrip with several challenging water crossings. To get there we had to go over a few treacherous spots of washed out trail. The glacier was an amazing site. On day four we hiked out of Enchanted Valley to a campsite that was about 4 miles from the trailhead Our campsite along the Quinault River was beautiful but there were a lot of bugs. On day five we hiked out to the trailhead and headed to the Queets region to the home of Bettina’s friends. They fed us an amazing lunch and we also explored the beach. Afterwards we headed to Port Townsend where we stayed at historic Palace Hotel.

Day two – headed to Enchanted Valley.

Arrival to Enchanted Valley.

Waiting for the self timer at Anderson Glacier. A little chilly….

Bettina crosses the snow field below glacier.

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)

 

campfire

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.

cactusblooms

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.

packingup

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.

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