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.

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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.

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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.

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

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.