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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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.

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.

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.

Government Canyon State Natural Area

Suzanne, Maria, Bettina and Kelly hiking along the Far Reaches Trail.

Suzanne, Maria, Bettina and Kelly hiking along the Far Reaches Trail.

Destination: Government Canyon State Natural Area

Date: April 12 & 13, 2014

HikeCampHikers: Suzanne, Maria, Bettina, Kelly, Judy

Travel Time from Austin: 2 hours. We took IH35 on the way to the park and ran into traffic. The Google maps lead us to a road that is gated off with no access to the park. We called and got directions from the helpful rangers at the park. Evidently we aren’t the first ones who have been lead astray by using google maps to get there. We took 281 to get back and preferred that route.

Park Notes: We were happy to find the Government Canyon’s staff informative and super friendly when we asked for insights on hiking in the park. Government Canyon has miles of trails which are well maintained and easy to follow. We weren’t quite so happy about the sharp, rocky tent pads at the campsites.

Campsite: G15 – Group Tent Campsite – walk in 60 yards. It  has a 16 person capacity but we were pretty tight on space with our 5 tents. The trailhead to the Recharge Trail is right outside this campsite making it convenient to get started on our hikes.

Bird of the Trip: Chuck-will’s-widow

Equipment Highlights: Bettina and Suzanne managed to buy the same shirt in the same color. It’s a Tech T Lite shirt by Icebreaker, 100% merino wool in Shocking (that’s the official color name, we called it coral). It’s lightweight and the has the super-power of being naturally odor-resistant. It seemed to work, they both wore the same shirt for two days of hiking and seemed completely un-smelly!

Saturday Hike: Started at trailhead right outside G15 campsite took Recharge Trail to Far Reaches, Wildcat Canyon looping back to Recharge Trail. We hiked about 7 miles.

Sunday Hike: Started at the same trailhead and hiked Bluff Spurs tail including two scenic overlooks. Total hike about 3 miles.

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 more photos from the Government Canyon State Natural Area here.

Hill Country State Natural Area

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Kelly on Saturday’s hike. Photo by Judy.

Destination: Hill Country State Natural Area

Date: February 8 & 9, 2014

Travel Time from Austin: 2 hours 30 minutes

Participants: Bettina, Kelly, Judy, Maria, Sheila, Suzanne

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Scenic overlook on Saturday hike. (L-R) Kelly, Suzanne, Judy, Bettina, Sheila. Photo by Maria.

Campsite: Walk-in Campsite Area (Chaquita Falls) #125, 126. We felt like we had the place to ourselves, it was worth the walk-in!

Saturday Hike: Maybe 5 miles (see map below) It was beautiful and rugged with lots of loose rock on some parts of the trail. Very West Texas without the drive to Big Bend.

Sunday Hike: This trail  takes off from the campsite and is scenic but not as dramatic as the Saturday hike. We hiked about 3.5 miles.

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

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Bird of the Trip: We woke up to the sounds of Wild Turkeys! They really do say “gobble-gobble”!

Camp Food: Bettina brought Tortilla Soup from Whole Foods. It was delicious and put some spice in a chilly night! Kelly made a very tasty Kale Salad.

Photos:

See more photos from the Hill Country State Natural Area here.