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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Inks Lake State Park (primitive camp site this time)

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Kelly, Bettina and Judy in front of primitive camping site #3. Photo by Maria

Destination: Inks Lake State Park

Date: September 27 & 28, 2014

HikeCampHikers: Judy, Maria, Bettina, Kelly (Suzanne broke her toe and couldn’t make it )

Travel Time from Austin: 1.5 hours

Campsite: Backpack Primitive campsite #3. The primitive campsite ended up working great for us. You can’t park your car at the entrance to the primitive camping area but there is a unloading spot that we parked and hiked in, set up our campsite then hiked back to the car and parked it inside the park area and started our Saturday hike from the trailhead at the parking lot that is near the park headquarters.

The website for Inks Lake doesn’t have the Hiking Trail Guide posted so I borrowed this from https://www.sctxca.org. You can get a copy of this map at Inks Lake park headquarters.

Saturday Hike: The primitive campsite we stayed in is located along the yellow “Pecan Flats Trail Camp” area. We hiked the yellow trail to red to the blue loop and back to site 3 in the primitive camp area.

Sunday Hike: We packed up and hiked yellow to green and then on through the park to the trail in the Devil’s Waterhole area.

Camp food: We brought an ice chest so we could expand our dinner choices (and cold beer and wine!). We had a chicken salad contest between Russell’s bakery and Upper Crust Bakery. It was close but Upper Crust won.

Rae Lakes Loop – Kings Canyon National Park

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Judy, Bettina, Suzanne, Maria and Kelly on day 1 between Mist Falls and Paradise Valley.

Destination: Kings Canyon National Park, Rae Lakes Loop

Date: August 24 – 31, 2014

HikeCampHikers: Maria, Judy, Kelly, Suzanne, Bettina

Travel Time from Austin:
Flight to San Jose on Southwest Airlines: 3.5 hours
Drive from San Jose to Kings Canyon National Park: 3.5 hours

Trip Planing: We met 3 times for planning the trip. In March we applied for the wilderness permit. Once we had the permit we met to plan the itinerary. And we met another time to divide up the shared equipment and weigh our packs.

Trip Training: We each have our own workout routines. Bettina and Suzanne are rowers, rowing and training for rowing keeps them in great shape. Myself, Maria and Kelly each run, ride bikes and hike to keep in shape. But to prepare for this trip we made time to get together and hike with weighted packs 4 or 5 times before we went on the hike. We can’t get the altitude training in Austin that we encountered in Kings Canyon but the heat of the summer in Austin made it very challenging.

Trip Itinerary:
Pre-hike: Fly to San Jose and spend the night at Cedar Grove Lodge

Day 1: Roads End to between Middle and Upper Paradise Valley.
Day 2: Paradise Valley to Woods Creek Crossing
Day 3: Woods Creek Crossing to Rae Lakes
Day 4: Rae Lakes to Vidette Meadow
Day 5: Vidette Meadow to between Charlotte Creek and Sphinx Junction
Day 6: Between Charlotte Creek and Sphinx Junction to Roads End

Post-hike: Eat burgers, drink a cold one and spend the night at Cedar Grove Lodge. In the morning drive back to San Jose catch the flight back to Austin.

Park and Trip Map:
This trail allows for options on where to camp and we had a few different ways we thought we might do the trip. The itinerary above was the one that we went with for a variety of reasons and it worked out perfectly for us. Each day the scenery was beautiful and offered something different from the day before. Each camping spot was spectacular in it’s own way. We were challenged as far as hiking goes each day but none of us felt like we were pushed beyond what we were prepared to do.
Here is a link to a map of Sequoia and Kings Canyon. Below is a detail of the map with our 5 night/6 day hike highlighted:

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Food Notes:  Food storage is required since this is Bear Habitat. Some of us used a Bear Vault and Suzanne rented a lightweight canister from Wild-ideas.net. Some of our favorite foods of the trip included Mary Jane’s Farm selection of backpacking food, Wheatsville Food Co-Op‘s bulk Pea Soup with chorizo sausage, Whole Food’s Turkey Jerky, Epic Bars, Wild Garden Hummus to go, Jif peanut butter to go and Arnold Sandwich Thins, beef sticks, dried apples, banana chips, biscotti cookies all from Trader Jo’s.

Birds of the Trip: American Dipper, White-headed Woodpecker, Chickadee, Western Tanager and Rufous Hummingbird.

Photos:

See all the photos from the Rae Lakes Loop Trip here

South Llano River State Park

 

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We saw a snake just below us in the river so we moved (quickly) to where the other swimmers were before getting in.

Destination: South Llano River State Park

Date: May 31 & June 1, 2014

HikeCampHikers: Suzanne, Bettina, Kelly, Judy

Travel Time from Austin: 3 hours

Park Notes: Wow! Birds! We saw all types never seen before (by me), even Suzanne (our bird expert) was excited and impressed with the number and varieties of birds. This park will be a favorite destination especially in summer since it has the river which we hopped in after our hikes on Saturday evening and again on Sunday morning. Maybe we’ll even bring our bathing suits next time. And the primitive camping spot, with a mile and a half hike in, was remote and we had it all to ourselves.

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We forgot our swimsuits but were not deterred.

Campsite: Primitive Campsite

Bird(s) of the Trip: Painted Bunting – incredible color! Other sightings included the Summer TanagerVermilion FlycatcherHouse Finch and Indigo Bunting

Equipment Highlights: Since we swam in our undies Bettina and Kelly had a contest to see who’s pair of fancy new hiking panties dry fastest. Kelly has a pair of Smartwool brand Women’s PhD Seamless Boy Short and Bettina’s are REI brand Seamless Briefs.  Both pairs dried by the time we got back to camp, everybody was a winner. Kelly also has a new sleeping bag, the Sierra Designs brand Backcountry bed. She was very happy about it. It looks so comfy I am thinking of getting one too.

Camp Food: Thanks to Suzanne we all tried the Epic Bison Bar. It was actually very tasty. We will be packing some of these protein-packed bars on our Rae Lakes Loop epic Backpacking Trip this July. Don’t get the wrong idea, we had our usual spread of great food in addition to the bars. Bettina cooked penne pasta at home and packed it along with pesto, just picked tomatoes, avocados and parmigiano-reggiano, delicious! We (me) hauled an ice chest the 1.5 miles to the campsite and we had cold wine and beer with dinner. Worth it! Oh and I can’t forget to mention a stop at a Valero gas station in Johnson City  the “Dixie Quick Stop” with the most amazing selection of mexican pastries! YES! Get a Churro and bring me one please.

Saturday Hike: We parked in designated spot for primitive camp sites behind the park headquarters. We hiked in and set up our tents and started hiking from our camp on the Golden-cheeked Warbler Trail to the Fawn Trail through the camping area to the Tube Takeout spot at the river. We took a swim and hiked back to our campsite. 6 miles

Sunday Hike: We packed up and hiked back to the car, unloaded gear and hiked to the day use trail past the log barn (#4 on the map) and to the river for a swim, then back to the car. 3 miles

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Hiking through a beautiful pecan grove on Sunday’s hike.

Here is a link to the park’s trail map. Below is a detail of the map with our hikes highlighted:

 

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Photos:

See all the photos from the South Llano River State Park here.