When the Maples are not turning blazingly beautiful colors, the Mountain Laurels take over Lost Maples park in the Spring time. The heady sweet smell filled up the air which was luscious and welcome. Smelling the blooms directly was even more intense and so fragrant I can't even describe it. The butterflies in the park were huge. Must be the super nectar from the Laurel blooms...
Lost Maples State Park is a gem...I know I've said it before but it's so true in my opinion. There is only about 11 miles of trail, but it is in beautiful country with several good steep climbs to get the blood pumping and the thighs and calves burning. Camping there was superb and I almost hate writing about it because the selfish part of me wants to keep the place as secret as possible. Not that it's a secret now, but the place still offers solitude and perfect peace and quiet, especially at night. And yes, I consider the yipping of coyotes to be peaceful.
Oh where to begin...I saw and experienced so much! I can remember on the drive home thinking my brain couldn't possibly drink in anymore sights.
On this trip were Matt, Thomas, and myself. Thomas picked us up and we got on the road around 10am. I was so excited about getting back to this state treasure. I loved backpacking there the first time around and wanted to see more of the place. I also knew at the time there were better areas to camp in and wanted to experience those places as well. So yeah, I was pretty happy to be going back knowing I would get to pick up where I left off.
We arrived around 1pm and it wasn't long before we were parked and out on the trail with full packs. We first headed up the West trail and stopped by camp site D, exactly as Thomas and I had before. Then we climbed to the top of the hill and sat under a pretty shade tree for a few minutes before moving on to campsite E where we camped before. After sitting a few moments there, we moved on to the parts of the trail we had not experienced yet...Mystic Canyon.
The trail started descending down down down, to the valley floor into an almost jungle like canyon of incredible beauty with weather as perfect as it gets. The path followed clear streams that disappeared in and out of the ground...gushing in some areas and we knew with certainty that a river ran below us in a limestone rock world unseen.
The sounds of various birds surrounded us and the ferns and trees were lush and emerald green. Butterflies almost as big as my hand floated in and out of view, and I felt like I was in another world. The pictures I took won't do the place near justice unfortunately. The only thing wrong with Mystic Canyon according to Thomas is the fact it's not long enough. We all agreed though and could have walked for hours and hours through it.
After another long steep climb we got to campsite H where we would spend a lovely evening out. We had plenty of time to make camp, walk around, eat, talk, and relax. I have to say again, that the weather was as perfect as it gets. Thomas remarked that the air was a perfect ambient skin temperature and he was right. There was barely a breeze, yet it was totally refreshing and felt amazing. It was as serene as can be. We kicked back on the ground for a long time and drank it all in waiting for night to fall. When it did set in, the moon lit up everything except the dark shadows of the trees we were lounging under. We heard a single call of what we think was a screech owl.
We left the tree cover briefly to inspect the night sky. We couldn't see many stars but were able to point out Orion's Belt, the Big Dipper, and the Little Dipper. Venus shone brightly too that night and all was lovely. I had no trouble falling asleep but did wake up a couple of times in the night to coyotes yipping and calling to each other off in the distance. It put a smile on my face.
The next day's hiking was probably a six miler. We stopped by the "Water Maple Cache" but I didn't get to sign the log this time. I wanted to, but I think we were a little pressed for time due to a late start that morning and we still had adventure left. Sometimes I find breaking camp to be a chore I don't much like doing, but yesterday it wasn't bad at all. The only thing I had to contend with that wasn't pleasant was my sore foot. I injured it several days before the trip and knew it would be difficult to hike on. The first day was manageable, but the second day I was in considerable pain. Today I can barely walk on it, but it was well worth it. I'll ice it down and baby it all week...should be good as new for next time.
Anyway, we got back to the car, but the adventure wasn't over. Thomas took us to a tiny nature preserve called Old Tunnel on the way home. There is a bat colony three million strong living in the Tunnel, which served as an old railway tunnel back in a day. The preserve also had a tiny trail being developed. I stopped and sat down next to a small clear stream and put my bare feet in the cold water, which felt damn good after all that hiking.
It wasn't late enough in the evening for us to see the bats come out but perhaps another time we'll get to see it. I'm sure it's a spectacular sight...maybe even more so than the bats coming out of the Congress Street bridge here in Austin. The drive home was exceptionally pretty because Thomas took more back country roads this time. It was at that point I felt like I couldn't take in any more. I'm sure I've lost some details of the trip and more and more feel the need to carry a personal tape recorder so I can be sure not to forget a thing.
In closing I have to say again how grateful I am to Thomas for getting us out there. He is a gem too and I'm lucky to have him as a friend.
Maple leaf in stream. I love the solid rock bed.
Fern growing from rock and crystal clear water
Water droplets from fern into transparent pool
Waterfall into another clear pool
Loved this shot of the fern and water next to each other. I wanted to dunk my head in!
Matt Descending. Thomas a bit ahead of us
In camp Matt prepares to heat water
Thomas and I prepare Chicken and Stuffing in a bag
My bag before adding water
After adding water. Notice I put dried cranberries in. They plumped up nicely!
Night starts to sneak in. The tree in the background still hanging on to what light it can
Close up of Mountain Laurels. A hummingbird came within inches of me at this tree. It was too quick for me to capture on film.
View from up top on one of the scenic overlooks
Thomas found a beautiful spot under this tree for us to rest towards the end of the hike. We lounged up against a boulder that was slanted perfectly.