Monday, September 04, 2006

Lost Maples Backpacking

This place is a true gem and I'm thrilled I had the opportunity to go explore it. It expands several thousand acres with the Sabinal river winding it's way through the canyons and valleys. I even took a swim in the river but will tell the details on that later because it's a fun little story. In attendance on this trip were Thomas and myself. Unfortunately Mykel and Elliott couldn't make it, but they were missed.

Thomas picked me up yesterday morning around 9ish and we arrived at Lost Maples maybe two hours later. We had delays in a couple of the small towns (Medina, Bandera) that we drove through, with whole towns of people crowded in the streets enjoying parades and festivals. Many folks, mainly kids, were dressed up for the occasion and made the people watching fun. Oh and Bandera is a total party town for bikers we found out. They were everywhere! It reminded me of a biker town in North Carolina that I visited once called Bat Cave. Yep, I'll have to get back to Bandera some day and check it out.

This was my first backpacking trip, but I think I did a good job packing considering my equipment. I had a small tent, almost 6 liters of water, some food, some bedding, my camera, and a few other little things. I'm thinking my pack was probably about 40 lbs, most of the weight coming from the water of course. I learned alot from Thomas about equipment during this trip and have some ideas of what I need to purchase for a good trip pack for future adventures. The pack I was using was one Mykel gave me. It was crammed full because it's not really made for an overnighter, but it's all I had. The second day it blew out and I had to safety pin part of it together. Thank goodness Thomas was carrying safety pins! He is a very prepared guy. :)

Speaking of Thomas...I think his pack probably weighed at least 50lbs. I had to work hard to pick it up and hoist it on my back. But it's a great pack and distributes weight well, vs. my pack which doesn't so much. Once I had his on my back, I could feel a huge difference. It was still heavier though and I'm glad I wasn't carrying it! Every ounce counts when out in back country, believe me.

We started out our day on the West Trail, which the Park Ranger said was a rugged leg burning trail. He wasn't kidding. It was mostly uphill with a very steep portion that had my legs screaming by the time we were at the top. We stopped at campsight D and had a little look around. It wasn't the spot though. We felt it was too close to the trail and it was mostly on a slope with lots of rocks. It didn't take us long at all to reach D, so we decided to push on to E. We still had plenty of energy left and knew we could do better. It was a good choice. We ended up in campsite E, which was tucked out of the way near the edge of the park boundary. The campsite ground was nice and level since we were on top by that point and there was plenty of tree cover.

Btw, on a side note, I'd like to mention the park was crowded for the holiday weekend. We encountered many day trippers and hikers on the trails who were some of the most friendly people happy to chit chat for a while. One person we met, Justin from Austin, seemed to be doing laps around that place like it was nothing. He had a full pack that weighed no telling how much and I could barely pick it up. Justin if you decided to look at my blog, it was so nice to meet you and we hope you will join us on future adventures. Feel free to email anytime!

Anyway, back to campsite E...

We set up camp and spent the rest of the afternoon under the trees on our homemade couch. There was a downed log that served as the back for our couch and we used a tarp, a sleeping pad, and a blanket to make a nice place to chill. Occasionally we'd get up and walk around a little and explore the immediate area. Thomas and I just hung out, laughed, talked, and enjoyed the sounds of nature around us. Towards evening, clouds started rolling in that looked like rain. Uh oh. The tent I had with me isn't the best rain tent in the world. It will keep one dry in a slight rain, but not a rain that comes down sideways. Thank goodness it didn't rain sideways, but it did rain!

It's funny because Thomas kept asking me if I thought it was going to rain. There's a little back story to this. I was telling Thomas that when I was in REI looking for a tent, the sales guy told me the one I had my eye on was a nice tent...for dry weather. He said if it rained hard, I'd be screwed. I said "Oh yeah, like it's going to rain anytime no worries." Thomas had quite the good time ribbing me, pretending to be me by talking in a high pitched voice saying "Perfect! I'll take it!

So he and I bantered back and forth on whether or not it would rain, and Thomas took great joy in singing "Ginny's getting wet tonight". So, I put the rain fly on, even though it didn't fully cover two sides of the tent, thus confirming what the REI guy said. Thomas got his fly out, but said he wasn't going to put it on because that would bring rain for sure. Well guess who got wet that night? Because it didn't rain sideways, I stayed nice and dry. Thomas on the other hand had a tent full of water. He didn't personally get wet because his tent did keep him dry without the fly, but only barely! The water pooled all around him, but didn't quite reach him. But regardless, I did have a good laugh as he poured rainwater out of his shelter the next morning.

Sometime during the night an animal sniffed all around our tents. I'm not sure what it was, but it was kind of scary hearing an animal right outside my tent only inches away from my head. It most likely was an armadillo, but I was too scared to look! It could have been a wild boar for all I knew. It made a ton of noise digging around the ground and sniffing heavily. I was glad it moved on eventually and I could settle back down.

The next morning we broke camp and hiked back to the car to change into our day packs. We moved the car to the next parking lot and took the Lost Maple trail which is on the East trail. We followed the East trail loop for a few miles of amazingly gorgeous Texas Hill Country. We climbed 1.5 miles of steep terrain to a look out point that gave a breath taking view of the hills and valleys. On the last part of the loop is when I earned my new nick name "Navy Seal" because I jumped in a deep spring fed pool to retrieve a geo cache. Thomas thinks I should start signing the geo cache logs with that handle. I might just do that. :)

The cache was located about eight feet under water, almost under a big boulder in a bottle that was anchored to the bottom with a huge rock. I had to strip down to bra and underwear for this retrieval. The water was great though! It was cold and perfect after all that hard hiking through rugged territory. And because the Sabinal river is spring fed, the water was clear. However, it was dark down below next to that boulder and a little scary! I kept thinking I was going to meet up with a nice big snapping turtle through the moss...which there was a lot of. I just wanted to get the cache up to the surface and struggled with that huge frickin rock it was tied to. I didn't notice that all I had to do was unclip the cache from the rock and didn't have to heave the rock out too. Duh! I felt so silly when I realized my mistake.

After returning the cache to it's hiding spot, I had a great swim in the deepest clearest parts of the water. I tried to coax Thomas in, but he would have none of it! Too bad, the water felt great! I got out, dried off, and dressed just in time before a few of the parks visitors found their way to the area! That was probably one of the more daring things I've done in a while.

We hiked the final part of the East Loop, and made it back to the car in good shape. We would have hiked the west loop and maybe outer loop too, but time was an issue at this point. Our motto is leave wanting more, and we did. We'll get back to Lost Maples soon and maybe make it a two day trip next time. Enjoy the photos!

Our campsite is in the trees shown top center. This was a small hill I walked down to get a little look around the area we were in. I went into some of the brush and photo'd the butterfly shown below.
This is what it looked like from our vantage point while sitting on our make shift couch. Looks like rain don't you think?
My REI two person tent.
Thomas's solo tent. He won't be using this one much longer though. It's old and he needs something lighter.
Thomas relaxing before we made our make shift couch.
Just a view from near our campsite.
Next morning...wet gearPooled up water in Thomas's tent.
Polyphemus Moth Caterpillar. The adults wingspan can reach five inches!
In this shot it looks like Thomas is about to walk off an edge.
But as you can see, it's just a steep downward trek. There are plenty of these steep ups and downs in Lost Maples.


Anonymous said...

I so envy you.
I would give most anything to be able to hike again. But, thanks to you, I get to live vicariously through your pictures and stories.

Thank you, Virginia!! *hugs*

Virginia aka Ginny said...

It does my heart good to know that you are getting enjoyment out of the stuff I put here. I hope my stories never get tiring and I have plenty of adventures to report on in the future. :)