Friday, December 3, 2010

Lost Maples State Natural Area

My first week back in Texas I camped at Lost Maples.  The weather was perfect, but sadly, most of the maples had dropped their leaves. This is the classic shot of the park and you can find many beautiful versions on Goggle Images.

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Lost Maples is 2200 acres and was created in the mid 70s.  The trees grow along the river and creeks at the bottoms of  the canyons.  Almost 12 miles of trail traverse this rugged steep country.  And while it seems very remote (and did take me 3 hours from Austin) it’s not that far from San Antonio.

The light was beautiful on the tress when I arrived late in the afternoon.

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This one is at the Entrance Station.

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Since it was so late I went directly to the trail head instead of checking out the campground.  It was maybe 80/20 as to the color left.  Not so much. 

The East Loop follows the Sabinal River.  Low flows made crossings easy,  but Gore-Tex boots would be important at higher flows.  This is a good example of the many, many maples (without their leaves) along the river. 

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Water action on the sandstone creates interesting canyon walls.

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A couple miles along the river, I came across this sign and decided to save that part of the trail for the next day.

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I was really glad I went out Monday afternoon because Tuesday dawned cloudy and drizzly.  What color that was left was very muted.

So, back out the East Loop trail I continued up the ridge past the warning sign.  It began with these lovely rock stairs. 

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Only a 400 foot climb, it felt like more due the rough trail.  It’s the kind of trail that one plays leap frog with other hikers and in the process gets to visit several times along the way.  Across the top of the ridge was really nice with several overlooks of the river far below.  And then the trail dropped down the front side of the ridge.  A young family warned me that it was steep. Oh, gosh, how steep would it be? 

It was so steep that parts looks more like waterfalls than a trail  I have no idea how they maintain these trails.  It must be a nightmare. I was sure missing my hiking poles that are back home in California!

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Finally at the bottom the East Loop hooks up with the West Loop along a series of pools on the river.  It’s very beautiful and there is primitive camping allowed all along this area.

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OK, for future reference,  to see the maples, it’s ok  just to stick to the flat trails along the river.  The maples do not grow on top of the ridges.  Although, IF the leaves are on the trees, it might be pretty to see the hillsides from the upper overlooks.

Not far from the end of the East Loop there is a pipe targeted at a Red Tail Hawk nest across the river.  It’s not a telescope, just a pipe pointed in the right direction.  If you can locate the whitest hollow in the cliff face, go up to the top of the white band, and just to the left you will see the nest.

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An interpretive sign says the hawks are clearly visible during nesting season. That would sure be fun to see!

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It seemed like the most ancient  trees were holding their leaves the longest.  This old timer stands guard at the end of the trail.

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Next year I’ll get my reservations early (for mid week) to be sure to see the peak of the color. It must be amazing!

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