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

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.

Kickapoo Cavern State Park

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Suzanne, Maria, Kelly and Bettina all geared up and ready to descend into the darkness of the undeveloped Kickapoo Cavern.

Destination: Kickapoo Cavern State Park

Date: January 17, 18 & 19

HikeCampHikers: Bettina, Kelly, Judy, Maria, Suzanne (Bettina and Judy camped 2 nights, the rest only one night)

Travel Time from Austin: 4 hours

Campsite: After looking over all eleven tent campsites we settled on site 14. Since there isn’t any big advantages to one site over the other, our main concern was finding one with places for 5 tents. 14 was the winner. An armadillo, Olive Sparrows and a cardinal were there to welcome us.

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A friendly armadillo came by for a visit.

Bird of the Trip: A pair of  Olive Sparrows  greeted us on our first morning. Along with our warm fire and fresh cup of coffee it made for a great start to our day of hiking. In the US, Olive Sparrows are only found in south Texas.

Hiking: We arrived at the park at 12:30 on Saturday just in time for the cave tour. After the tour we did a short hike Saturday evening from our campsite to Seargeant Memorial Trail. It’s a short, easy loop with a great view of the hill country. On Sunday we combined a hike up and back the Barbado Ridge Trail and The Long Way Home Trail. After finishing the Barbado trail we headed west on the road towards the trail head for The Long Way Home Trail and found no trail head marker. There is a marker at the east end of the trail. The Long Way Home trail is long but not difficult. Later Sunday evening we hiked a combination of the Pine Canyon Loop to the Vireo Vista trail. It was a beautiful evening hike with good views. Below is a detail of the park trail map with our hikes highlighted, here is a link to the park map.

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Bettina, Suzanne, Judy and Maria on The Long Way Home Trail. Photo by Kelly

 

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View along the Barbado Ridge Trail.

Highlights: Not being a big fan of dark places especially on a beautiful sunny day I was a little hesitant about the guided tour of Kickapoo Cavern. It ended up that we had an interesting, authentic, and fun adventure that definitely should not be missed when visiting the park. I truly could not see my hand in front of my face when our tour guide asked us to turn off our lights while deep into the cavern. The towers of flow stone where impressive and tales of the history of the cave stirred our imaginations. The tour takes about 2 hours, cost $10 and requires reservations. More info here.

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Descending carefully along the rocky trails inside Kickapoo Cavern.

 Photos:

See all the photos from the Kickapoo trip here.

Canyon of the Eagles Nature Park

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Kelly and Bettina hiking at Canyon of the Eagles Nature Park

Destination: Canyon of the Eagles Nature Park

Date: December 12 & 13, 2014

HikeCampHikers: Bettina, Kelly, Maria and Suzanne

Travel Time from Austin: 1 hour

Campsite: Site 3 at Tanner Point, car camping site with no water or electric

Hiking: Saturday’s hike combined Peacock Loop (1.8 miles) and Juniper Ridge Loop (3.5 miles) east of the entrance to the park. On Sunday we hiked west of the entrance including Faris Lookout Trail (2.2 miles) Lakeside Trail (2.9), Rocky Point Trail and Bird and Butterfly Trail. Below is the hiking trail map for the park with our hikes highlighted. Here is link to the park map.

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Highlights: Campsite was very large, lots of room and private. In years past our campsite would have been a stone’s throw from the lake, but due to the draught, the area is covered in scrub and bushes. The LCRA park at Canyon of the Eagles has nice hiking trails that are well marked and include some good elevation. They also have amenities which campers can take advantage of at the Canyon of the Eagles resort. The best part of the campout was going to the Austin Astronomical Society Observatory where they had a big telescope set up. We happened to be there the night of a great meteor shower and we also saw stars in the Andromeda Galaxy which is the next one beyond the Milky Way.