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Monday, September 7, 2009

Enchanted Rock: Majesty of the Hill Country


When I think of the slower pace of life lived to its fullest, hot summer and colder winter days paused only by the tranquil transitions of spring and autumn, abundant wildlife harmonizing perfectly with nature's wonders, and the grandiosity of a landscape filled with rising plateaus, nestled valleys, bubbling aquiferous springs, hidden waterfalls, and magical peaks--I think of the Texas Hill Country.

The Texas Hill Country is a place paused in time. Cowboys in ten gallon hats, pickups pulling horse trailers, one-hundred-fifteen-year-old mercantile buildings in a downtown antique shopping district, and homestyle food cooked up and served happily to waiting customers. Typical Hill Country pride includes farm buildings and gates painted like the Lone Star flag, a rusty non-working turned art 1950s Chevy truck bed filled with prickly pears and parked outside a ranch gate, and conspicuous signs advertising "The Best Yard Sale in Town."


The Texas Hill Country is an artist's mecca. Wide open ranch land dappled in various types of cacti from speared yuccas and sweet ripe magenta prickly pears to small thorny barrel cacti to coral-like pencil cacti intermixed with fragrant cedars, towering hickory and pecan trees, and filled with glistening prairie grasses and colorful wildflowers. Take a hike or a drive to one of the many spring created ponds, lakes, streams or rivers and find welcome relief from the sun's heat in swirling wet refreshment. Stick your toes in the water and feel the cool tumbled limestone rocks between your toes. Watch your reflection or catch a glimpse of fragile fairy ghost shrimp which live their entire lives in placid vernal pools.


Labor Day Weekend we took the boys up to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area just north of the German-roots town of Fredericksburg to hike the trails and over 1800 feet high pink granite boulders rising more than 400 feet above the surrounding landscape to experience the Majesty of the Hill Country. We didn't make reservations, which is ideal if one plans to camp at Enchanted Rock and so we had to commit to a one-and-a-half to two mile trek to our primitive campsite near Buzzard's Roost on the far east side of the park. Not an easy feat with three young boys and a bulky tent.

Twice my husband nearly stepped on a juvenile diamond back rattlesnake which had made its resting spot on the side of the trail and refused to move--still there the next morning at sunrise when we hiked back out.


The hike was worth the trouble and strenuous activity it took to get to our primitive camping spot. Hiding in nests of spiny prickly pears lightening quick species of lizards rested and then flitted when disturbed. Ripened black fruits from Texas persimmon trees fell when lightly brushed, while silvery gray air plants made home in the branches of live oak and hickory trees.


The kids enjoyed the hike to our camp, often pretending they were jungle explorers in the shade of towering trees, tall grass, and wildflowers of this pink granite landscape. Early in the morning we observed on several occasions herds of white tail deer filling their bellies with breakfast, each time our small Yorkie, Lily, catching their scent before we actually saw them.


Late in the afternoon on Saturday we hiked the boys to the top of Buzzard's Roost, the entrance a Stonehenge-like fortress formed by the elements of nature. Inside the fortress grew cacti, trees, and wildflowers in the granite gravel and housed wildlife such as buzzards and reptiles. From the top of Buzzard's Roost we could see for miles and as Ira Kennedy says in her article, Appreciating Enchanted Rock, we could see "examples representing the whole evolution of plant life-from lichen (the slowest growing plant on earth) to mosses, to ferns, to herbaceous plants, to shrubs and finally trees" (Texas Hill Country Magazine, Winter 2004).
 


That evening, we as a family rested quietly, but not undisturbed, inside our tent. Not planning ahead meant that not only did we have to hike in to this primitive camping spot, but that we also were forced to sleep on the hard ground without any padding or pillows. Moonlight was our only lantern and leftovers from lunch our only dinner. We thankfully packed two gallons of water to quench our thirst, but had to ration it so we'd have plenty the next morning.

Would I do it again? Absolutely. This hair-raising, yet peaceful trip to Enchanted Rock wasn't my first and it certainly won't be my last. I've learned my lesson though: Plan ahead or else be prepared to hike in the essentials. At least the compost toilets had toilet paper.

10 Comments:

Lorilee said...

I wouldn't relish a hike in South Texas. Here it is 91 and humid right now. I hear that it is a bit cooler and drier up there now! I do love Enchanted Rock. I have only been twice and have not had time to explore as I would like! I would be a bit un-nerved by that rattler! A student in our school was recently bitten while walking her dog! I think it was a baby and got her on both feet! I have heard that she is rcovering fine.

Blessings,
Lorilee

Kristi said...

Beautiful pics! Can't wait for the weather to cool down so we can attempt a camping trip with the twinners in tow. Bought a huge 8 person tent so we could accomodate two porta-cribs and 4 sleeping bags.

Dane D. Miller said...

I am constantly fascinated with the vernal pools that are scattered all over the face of Enchanted Rock. These simple depressions apparently become hotbeds of life with the addition of a little simple rain water in the Spring. They are quickly surrounded by all forms of plant life greedily slurping up the trapped water, become seeping water feeders for lichen and moss, and even have small hibernating shrimp pop up within their short-lived ecosystem. Needless to say, each filling of rain water doesn't last long, but they get renewed over and over again, and that to me is really amazing in what is a fairly harsh environment. So glad you guys enjoyed it for what it's truly all about! Nice to get the boys appreciating and being intrigued with natural beauty at early ages.

Mindee@ourfrontdoor said...

You are a trooper. No wonder God gave you 3 boys. I would have been out of there at the first rattler - without pics!

Amy @ Living Locurto said...

Gorgeous photos!! I think I might have turned back after seeing that rattle snake. EEK! I've never been there, so it was fun looking at your photos.

LeAnn said...

OMG! We were there this weekend too. What a coincindence. Took ten Boy Scouts up on Saturday and stayed through Monday morning. We camped at Buzzards Roost - first site on the left past that adorable compost toilet. Think we even saw the same rattlesnake - on the left-hand side of the trail that leads up to the campsite.
It was a great weekend. Enjoyed the beautiful weather, and wasn't that moon gorgeous?

Screwed Up Texan said...

Lorilee, Oh no! So glad to hear the student is doing better now. My husband is crazy getting within 12 inches of that thing to take a pic!

Kristi, Y'all will LOVE it! The campground we stayed at east of Sedona was nice. Bear creek? No showers though. I think State Parks are the best b/c at least there's showers, running water, and electricity if you need it.

Dane, I agree the vernal pools are amazing. I didnt get to spend as much time as I'd like to have at Enchanted Rock. I'd love to explore the fissure cave at Enchanted Rock.

Mindee, I didnt tell you about that time I had a rattler as a pet did I? That lasted about a week.

Amy, You should totally go! It is beautiful...especially spring and autumn. Really all year round, but the weather is more tolerable in the spring and fall.

LeAnn, Hey! We were at Buzzards Roost Primitive Camping area too! We saw some of the boy scouts. Thought there were more of y'all, but now I know just ten. Yep, that was the same snake...on the left side of the trail. Dang thing refused to move. You'll have to ask one of the dads/leaders. We talked with him and he told us about the snake. Our oldest is a Tiger.

Cindy said...

So glad you enjoyed the camping trip and what wonderful memories you are creating for your boys. Texas has so many beautiful and unique areas to explore. Some are more challenging than others but it sounds like you are learning to prepare to meet then next one head on.

Raine said...

Wow! Such a different world from up here in Boston - looks beautiful!

confessionsofacountrygirl said...

Good morning! Dropping by from Texas Word Tangle. LOVE the photographs. Makes me wish I live in Texas instead of Wisconsin...well minus the rattlesnakes. Off to check out more of your blog.

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