Saturday, November 28, 2015

Enchanted Rock

The second stop of our pre-Thanksgiving trip was another Texas' landmark - the Enchanted Rock.

Enchanted Rock is an enormous pink granite pluton batholith located about 70 miles west of Austin Texas. It has an elevation of 1,825 feet, and rises above its surrounding, the Llano uplift basin, by  425 ft. The rock is over one billion year old! It is a very popular place, even on Monday afternoon when we got there,  there was a line at the ranger station for check-in and there was streams of people on the rock.

There are a few trails at Enchanted Rock. The most popular one is the 0.67 mile long summit trail, which lead from the parking lot area trail head to the top of the rock. The longest trail in the park is the 4.25 mile loop trail - which circles around little rock, enchanted rock (big rock) and freshman mountain.
Enchanted rock viewed from summit trail trail head
on the way up
on the top
The enchanted rock and the little rock have extensive exfoliation (i.e. rock falling apart)  at their lower half. Those exfoliated areas provide great opportunities for kids to play and explore without getting lost since one always has a clear sight of the parking lot. Nicholas led the way when we descended from the summit, we deviated from the trail, and hiked into those areas. It was a little bit challenging but pretty exciting. 

Sunrise at enchanted rock
little rock under morning Sun
The loop trail is much less traveled. When we hiked on the trail, we encountered only 3 groups, 4 hikers, a father daughter pair, and two solo lady hikers. The loop trail presents a different vista than the summit trail.  There are a few interesting rock formations along the way. The big rock apparently altered the temperature locally, the south side must be a few degrees higher than north side in winter. The trees and plants on the south side of the rock were green, and there were fall colors on the north side. The loop trail also leads to the moss lake.

Enchanted rock is a great place for hiking and camping, even for families with young children. It also provides a great lesson for natural history of Texas - there are exhibits at ranger station and the summit trail trail head to delineate it.
rock formation 1

rock formation 2

rock formation

north side of the rock

foliage at north side of the rock 
Moss Lake

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Hiking and Camping at Lost Maple Natural Area

We finally visited the famed Lost Maple this past beautiful Sunday. It was a great trip despite less than spectacular colors and a very cold night for camping.

Driving to Lost Maple

Instead of the beaten I-35 route, we took the less traveled roads in the hill country, going west first on I-20, then turn to US-83,  followed by US-377, US-83 to get to Lost Maple Natural Area in Vanderpool, TX.

The drive was smooth. Once we got off I-20, the highways were almost empty - we had the roadway all for ourselves most of the time. The road  hugging the hills, went up and down, with vast forest, huge ranches with cattle, horse, donkey, bison, .....along the way. We got a real sense of what hill country means.

Trails and Foliage

Lost Maple has two big loop trails - east trail (4.6 miles) and west trail (4.9 miles), plus a western loop trail at the west end of the park. We hiked on east trail on Sunday afternoon and west trail on Monday morning.
Water and Blue sky make everything looked great
A rare scene of  red maple leaves this year
Big maple trees had orange/brownish leaves due to wet/warm autumn
Maple tress by a pond

Trails at Lost Maple have a good mix of difficulty levels of easy and strenuous.  The strenuous  portion of the trails is naturally formed by loose gravels on dried creek bed on steep slopes. We got good exercise and good foot message by hiking on the trails.

rugged trail

There were not a lot of people on the trails for both times, we fully enjoyed splendid views - Blue Sky, bright sun shine, still spring formed ponds, rock formations.

On Monday morning we were the only hikers on the trail in the early morning for a time, it was so quiet, as we stood still to look around, we heard the maple leaves tumbling down - "ti ta" as a fallen leave hit a leave after another, "ti ta" and "pa" - finally reached the ground.

Monkey Rock

We reserved a primitive camp site but were so very lucky to get a regular site upon check in, a big relief for us all as the closest primitive camp site requires at least a mile of hiking to reach.

We quickly set up the tent  in less than 10 minutes and then went hiking on the east trail.

anchoring the tent with stake
Put on Canopy
Mission Accomplished
It was around 5:30 pm when we got back from hiking, and it was getting pretty cold already.

We were prepared for this cold night - bought firewood, brought extra blankets and winter coats.

camp fire
I started the camp fire while Lily cooked dinner.

We had our sausage, shrimp, and tortilla under bright moon shine accompanied by the sound of the running creek by our tent.

Our sleep was fidgeting interrupted by coldness and baby's cry from a nearby site. When I got up sometime after midnight for relieve, I enjoyed the spectacular  night sky, full of stars when the moon was long set. We were surprised to find everything covered in frost in the morning. But we survived a very cold night.

What an outdoor experience!


1. Primitive camping will require backpacking. We under estimated the difficulty of primitive camping.
2. Cold weather camping is more enjoyable if one is prepared for the cold. We should have brought all of our skiing related clothes, especially heavy socks.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Autumn, Foliage and Thanksgiving

We have had a wet, relatively warm autumn until today. Against the cold strong northern wind, I stepped out of the house on this cloudy morning to look for colors of autumn.

Leaves on many trees just start to change color, some are still green. So every time I did see some bright colors along the streets, in the alleys, or in the backyards, I stopped to take some pictures, frequently I had to wait for a minute or two to allow cloud pass and sun shine on my target for brighter colors. A neighbor's persimmon tree was full of fruit as always,  a tree full of red leaves was spotted between houses in a backyard. Standing under a tree full of  bright yellow leaves made me feel warm on this cold windy morning. The bright red leaves, blue sky, white cloud and green leaves formed a beautiful mosaic of color..... Despite a below average year for autumn colors, I actually enjoyed the foliage during my over one hour wandering in the community because I focused on what were out there, not what could be there. It is the same in life. I am thankful for everything I have - health, family and friends, home and community, life and work.

As I finish this post, this colorful bright sunny Saturday afternoon felt great!

The persimmon tree down the road in my street has another fruitful year.

in the front yard

in the backyard

along the street

The brightest red I saw this morning

by the pond