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

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.

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.

Pedernales Falls State Park

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Sunday hike along Trammell’s Crossing Trail. (L-R)Judy, Bettina, Maria. Photo by Suzanne.

 

Destination: Pedernales Falls State Park

Date: January 25 & 26, 2014

Travel Time from Austin: 50 minutes

Participants: Bettina, Judy, Maria, Suzanne

Campsite: We stayed in site #56. Sites 31, 33, 34 & 36 looked to be some of the best in the park but they were taken when we arrived. We had reservations but you can’t reserve a specific site. We are finding out that if you want to camp anywhere in central Texas, reservations are a good idea!

Saturday Hike: Wolf Mountain Trail, 6 miles. The trailhead is not far from the park headquarters. This is the only trail that the park describes as challenging but it was about the same or maybe even easier than the Trammell’s Crossing loop we hiked Sunday.

Sunday Hike: Trammell’s Crossing Trail, 6 miles. Trailhead is between campsites 33 & 34. Watch out, we had to cross the river and it was freezing and slippery! A great hike! If I only had time for one of these two trails, I’d choose the Trammell’s Crossing Trail.

Here’s a link to the Trails Map and the Park Map. Below is a detail of the Trails Map with our hikes highlighted.

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Bird of the Trip: Ladderback-backed Woodpecker – we visited the Bird Blind and I highly recommend it! I’m so glad we have our birding expert Suzanne in the group, I would have probably never thought of visiting the bird blind without her suggesting it.

Camp Food: Broccoli Cheddar Soup

This soup was seriously good and perfect for a cold night under the stars. Thank you Bettina, your home-grown broccoli was delicious!

Equipment highlights: We were impressed with the performance of my new Baja Burner stove by snow peak. We also loved our new lightweight chairs – Maria has the REI Flex Lite Chair and I have the Alite Designs Mantis Chair. They were great for sitting by the fire! Bettina and Suzanne  spend their first nights in their new backpacking tents by Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 and gave them a thumbs up.

McKinney Roughs Nature Park

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Giant Pecan Tree on the day hike at McKinney Roughs Nature Park. Suzanne, Judy, Bettina, Kelly. Photo by Maria.

Destination: McKinney Roughs Nature Park

Date: December 8th

Travel Time from Austin: 30 minutes

Participants: Bettina, Kelly, Judy, Maria, Suzanne

Bird of the Trip: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker! Because it’s such a great name. And we saw lots of them!

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Enjoying Lebkuchen cookies by Bettina. Pictured: Suzanne, Kelly, Bettina, Maria, photo by Judy.
Camp Food: Bettina made German cookies called Lebkuchen (german for delicious I’m guessing) here is the recipe:
8 eggs
1/2 pound sugar
1 Tbsp. Vanilla
1 tsp. Ginger
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Allspice
(if you want to – add fresh grated ginger)
1 pound  ground almonds
1/4 pound currants
1/4 pound sultana raisins (yellow raisins)
Mix first six ingredients, slowly add ground nuts, currants and sultanas. Greased aluminum foil on cookie sheet, put mixture on it and bake for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees.
When cooled down, put icing on it (powdered sugar and lemon juice) and cut in squares.

Hike: This month we had so much going on for the holidays and snow (yikes!) was expected for the weekend we were planning to go camping that we just decided to go for a day hike. McKinney Roughs is a great destination for a day hike being only 30 minutes away from Austin and having around 18  miles of hiking trails. It’s a day use park and the main entrance is closed on Sunday (the day of our hike) but you can drive to the Highway 71 trail head, east of the Main entrance and start at the Whitetail trail. We hiked for about 5 hours with a break for lunch at the Giant Pecan Tree. I’ve highlighted our hike on the map below. Here’s a link to a PDF of the map.

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Photos:

See more photos from the McKinney Roughs Nature Park here.

 

Lost Maples State Natural Area

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Lost Maples Primitive campsite E on our Sunday hike – Maria, Suzanne, Bettina, Judy. Photo by Kelly.

Destination: Lost Maples State Natural Area

Date: September 14 and 15th

Travel Time from Austin: 2.45 hours

Participants: Bettina, Kelly, Judy, Maria, Suzanne

Saturday Hike: Backpacked from the parking area at the East Trail trailhead to B primitive camping area. About a 3 mile hike with a steep climb to the camping area after passing the pond.

Sunday Hike: Hiked from B primitive camping area to the parking area at the trialhead of the East trail put our packs in the car and hiked the West Trail to the G primitive camping area and back to parking area at the East Trailhead parking area. Maybe 5 miles.

Bird of the Trip: Black-throated Green Warbler They’re such pretty birds and they’re migrants so it was passing through on its way from the northeast to central/south America for the winter.

Campsite: B primitive camping area

Camp Food: Incredible Pulled Pork Tacos by Kelly, Parmesan Cheese Crisp from Whole Foods by Suzanne. A few varieties of apples with honey crisp apples being the tastiest. Beer to go with the pulled pork was Hops & Grains Zoe Pale Lager. We wrapped each chilled beer in newspaper and then packed them in an insulated lunch bag. They stayed cold for over six hours. Yay! The breakfast from Suzanne: Natural High Strawberry Granola with Milk was really good.

Below I’ve highlighted our hikes on the park map:

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Photos:

See more photos from Lost Maples State Natural Area here.