Sunday, June 8, 2014

Canyons, Trees, and Stars: To Lost Maples We Went

Here’s Part Two of our recent adventure to Austin and beyond.  Part One is right here.

Austin Wildflowers

High on our good news from Austin, we drove west to Lost Maples State Natural Area.  Paul had been itching for us to visit Lost Maples for months.  Now I understand why: it’s a gorgeous park deep in Texas hill country.  It’s more like canyon country, reminding me of the splendor of Colorado but not nearly as steep.

Once we escaped Austin traffic, we drove for several hours to Lost Maples, where Paul quickly built a fire while I chopped vegetables supper.  After dinner, Paul set up his hammock, and we cuddled and dozed together until we finally got so tired that we crawled into our tent.

The next morning, we ate our cereal and fruit, I drank coffee, and we discussed a plan for the day.  Our time in Lost Maples was, unfortunately, pretty short: we had just the weekend, Friday to Sunday, and we both kinda knew without discussing it that we’d need to leave pretty early on Sunday because we had a long drive home.  If we were going to explore the park, Saturday was the day to do it.  We decided to tackle the East Trail, a nearly five-mile loop with some serious elevation changes.  Paul warned me that the trail was steep in some places, but I didn’t really get it until I was confronted by our first rocky incline.

The hike was an athletic endeavor, which was not a bad thing at all, considering that Paul and I have been lamenting our lack of fitness lately.  Lucky for me, Paul carried our heavy day pack on the way up, which included our lunch and most of our water.  All that climbing was totally worth it, as we were treated to scenic vistas once we reached the plateau.

At a Scenic Overlook

We sat and ate lunch in a shady spot on the plateau—canned chili, hummus and crackers, bananas and for dessert?  More crackers, this time of the graham variety, with some almonds.  It was a hot day, so we sat for a while, drinking water and feeling the stillness of the moments.  Other hikers passed us by, and at one point, we acted like goofy statues, breathlessly waiting to see if they’d notice us.  They didn’t.  Once we felt sufficiently rested, we got up, and this time, I took the heavy pack and staggered onward.

We climbed down, down, down, off the plateau and into some of the prettiest sights I’ve ever seen in Texas.  There was a waterfall, more canyons, and this open stretch of river.

At the Water

The riverside was so lovely that we unloaded our things and spent some time at its bank.

But soon our campsite was calling for us: the day was hot, and we were tired, and a nap seemed like a necessity.  We shuffled our way back to the car, drove back to the campsite, and collapsed onto the nearest surfaces: a hammock for Paul and a picnic table bench for me.

Afternoon rolled into evening, and eventually we roused ourselves to make dinner.  Our standard camping dinner is cooked in a foil packet; Paul calls them Hobo Dinners, and we both love them.  Ours is a tumble of vegetables and cubes of tofu, tossed with coconut oil and a spice market’s worth of seasonings.  We’re a model of teamwork when it comes to campfire dinners: Paul builds the fire while I prep the food, then we hang out together while it cooks and dig in hungrily with our sporks.  Afterward, we wait for the sun to set and for the Milky Way to illuminate the dark sky.  I think I spotted it the first night, but I couldn’t find it the second night.  I’ll never forget seeing the Milky Way for the first time, while camping in Colorado.  The darkness was so intense that the faint smear of light from our galaxy was unmistakable—there it was, like white chalk smudged on the blackness of night.  Looking back on that trip, Paul and I agree that our time in Routt National Forest was the highlight of the trip.  Though camping often involves physical labor, even hardship (soft creature that I am), the feeling of connection to the universe beyond human civilization is more than worth the trouble.  So far in Texas, Paul and I have camped in Pedernales Falls State Park and now Lost Maples; Lost Maples is by far the better park and comes just a bit closer to our Colorado experience.  (Though in fairness, I have to say that I loved Pedernales too, but it’s not nearly as stunning as Lost Maples.)

The next morning, we woke early, breakfasted, packed up our campsite, and drove out of the park.  We returned to Austin to sign our new lease(!) and eat lunch at Kerbey Lane.  Contemplating the menu, it was one of the hardest decisions to forgo the pancakes, but I did and got the Egg Francisco instead (yum!).  Paul is nudging us to eat less added sugar, and I admit that he’s got a point.  Maybe we don’t need to eat pancakes every time we go to Kerbey Lane?  (More about the sugar thing later.)

After lunch, we hopped back in the car and were back in College Station by 3 PM.  Just like that, our little whirlwind trip to Austin and the woods was over.  But it meant that the next chapter of our lives had officially started, the one where we move together to a new place and begin our Austin adventure.

Near the Water


Chrissy (The New Me) said...

What a beautiful trip and a lovely post! You make me want to go camping again immediately!

Rosiecat said...

Thanks, my dear! I would love to go again, too, but the Texas weather is getting to that point where it feels oppressively hot and muggy. I've already suggested to Paul that we need to reserve a spot at Lost Maples in November :-)