- J.F. Rowan
Lost Maples State Natural Area & Garner State Park
Hiking the East Trail, Lost Maples State Natural Area
House sitting is fine, but it doesn’t take long before we feel the need to get back to the open road and explore. Sure, you can do some exploring when watching over someone’s house and looking after their cat or dog, but not quite with the same freedom when you’re just looking after yourself. So we were excited to get back on the road after our Sisterdale house sit was finished.
The Sanbinal River running through Lost Maples. Limestone layers were everywhere.
We chose Lost Maples State Natural Area and Garner State Park as our next two stops. Both presented plenty of opportunities for exploring and learning. The one thing the areas had in common was the abundant limestone canyons and river beds. The water in both areas was extremely clear. So what? No, I mean really clear! When we first came across a pool of water, a deep hole in one area of the river, we were mesmerized by how deep it was yet the clarity never seemed to fade!
Taking a lunch break at one of the clear remote pools in The Lost Maples State Natural Area.
East Trail. Lost Maples. Clear water revealing limestone river bed. The water is about 6 feet deep on the left.
Lost Maples is known for its great foliage during the fall when the Big Tooth Maple reveals it’s lush shades of yellows. Of course, none of the deciduous trees were showing any foliage while we were there, but we still enjoyed plenty of the Ashe Juniper, Sycamore and different types of laurel in the park. The hiking in Lost maples was one of its great highlights. It had a variety of challenging trails. I picked a very tough hike that led up and down some of the canyons steep and rocky trails. I have been getting back in the habit of hiking with a pack, holding all the needed equipment “just in case”. And, I was thankful for the wise investment a few years ago of a pair f trekking poles that I’m convinced have saved my knees and kept me from a few possible face-plants! Lost Maples is going on our “go back to” list as it had everything we were looking for; Hiking, quiet and dark at night made this for a great place to get off the road and relax.
View from Mount Baldy of Garner State Park on the left side of the Rio Frio River. You can also see "Nana's" Private RV Park to the right of the river. Probably over 600 campsites between the two areas. Even from up here, you can see how clear the water is!
After a great stay at Lost Maples, we headed to Garner State Park, still in Texas. We had heard that during the summertime, Garner State Park had a reputation for being a “Party-Park” due to great access to the Rio Frio River and the long-standing tradition of “Juke Box Night”, something that was started back in the days when the park was created by the Civilian Conservation Corps. During the summer, music plays every night until 11 PM, and officially, quiet hours don’t begin until about 12 PM. So we thought since it was the offseason, things would probably be quieter and a less crowded.
Base Camp at Garner State Park.
We were right! Though the weather didn’t seem to cooperate, we did get in a few days of hiking and exploring. We had plenty of birds that visited our campsite and found one species that we followed around the park looking for the perfect moment for a photo op! And when the weather kept us from doing anything outdoors, we headed into the towns of Leakey, and Uvalde for errands and a bit of exploring. When the weather was good, we found the hiking challenging here. Though the accents were not particularly record-breaking, the steep and extremely rocky conditions could be fairly tricky to negotiate. And if you were up for the challenge, great hill country views were your reward.
"Western Spiderwort" on trail back from Mt. Baldy, Garner State Park.
"Rain Lilly" These are springing up everywhere (In February). This bunch is from The East Trail at Lost Maples Natural Area.
One of three spillways at Lost Maples. These are access roads into the park. Needed to help control flash floods that can occur. Just this past October (2018) they experienced a flash flood that would have put 3 feet of water over Yvette's head where she's standing.
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