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.