Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, June 14, 2017

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, June 14, 2017
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, June 14, 2017

Monday, March 28, 2016

Willow Wildflower Loop and Hwy 965 (Texas) - Sunday, March 27, 2016

Continuation of Easter Sunday blog...

When we left Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, we headed north on Hwy 965 on our way to the Willow Wildflower Loop off of TX Hwy 16. What a surprise we were in for! As we drove north, we started seeing bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush along both sides of the highway. They created a beautiful palette of blue and red.

Hwy 965 bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush
Indian paintbrush
TX Hwy 965 - flowers as far as the eye can see
We turned south on TX 16 and had many wildflowers there as well. We turned left onto Willow Loop Rd for a 13-mile drive through the Texas Hill Country.

Willow Wildflower Loop
Cows like bluebonnets to eat
Roadside display
Willow Wildflower Loop
A field of yellow wildflowers
White prickly poppy
Texas Hill Country landscape
Hill Country scenic view

The old boot fence
Bluebonnets at their peak
From the Willow Wildflower Loop we high-tailed it home. We were spent.

At home, we had lunch of salads and took a nap. That was a fulfilling day.

Travel Bug out.

Enchanted Rock Walk and Wildflowers - Sun., Mar. 27, 2016

It was a gloomy, misty morning when we left the 5th wheel at 7:00 am for a 1-1/2 hour drive to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area just north of Fredericksburg, TX. The chatter in the car was, "Should we go, or is it going to be raining? If it's raining, they'll close down the rock." We decided even if Enchanted Rock was closed we could still do the Loop Trail around it

You may wonder why we were up so early on a Sunday morning. The reason is that Enchanted Rock State Natural Area opens at 8am. If you don't get there early enough, and it's a busy day, you won't get a parking spot. The parking will be closed until more spots are available. This sometimes requires waiting on the side of the highway for people to leave the park. Also, at 9:30am there was going to be a naturalist leading a hike to the top of the rock explaining geology and other interesting facts about the park.

As we drove north, we could see a huge black cloud ahead of us. What would our morning look like? We drove right under that black cloud and out the other side to find cloudy skies, a light mist and a breeze.

Once at the park, we checked in, got our window tag for parking, and I checked in for, and got the directions to, the 12K Volksmarch (7.4 miles) year-round event. (Note: There are also 5k, 7k and 10k walks available.) Enchanted Rock is a huge, pink granite exfoliation dome. (That means rock slabs slough off from time to time.) It is one of the largest batholiths (underground rock formation uncovered by erosion) in the United States.

Once parked, we put on coats because the wind was cold; then headed up the trail. [Another note: The Ranger who checked us in said if there was rain they would close the rock. If they closed the rock we were to descend immediately and do it carefully because the rock would get very slippery. I asked the Ranger if the naturalist-guided hike was still on. She said at that point she didn't know.]

At 9:00am, with all the available information and the sky threatening rain, we decided to boogie on up and not wait to see if there would be a tour. When I say "up," I mean UP. Enchanted Rock is amazing and the hike up gives a very good workout.

The starting point: a gazebo
This is called the "Summit Trail" for a reason.
A nice passerby offered to take our photo together.
The lower part of the trail
Views on the way up
Unless you're in tip-top fitness, it's necessary to rest a number of times on the way up. But the views and sense of accomplishment are oh-so worth it!

Bob found a cool spot to rest for a couple of minutes.
This rock is steep.
Bob powering on up the rock.
You can see I'm behind (hufffing and puffing).
Looking down to where our car is parked.
As we made our way up and up, the wind increased and was quite cold. By the time we made it to the top, we had a full-on gale to deal with. The wind chill was most likely in the 40s. Brr!

The view from the top of Enchanted Rock of the surrounding Texas Hill Country is great. Well worth the effort.

Still going up.
At the top
View from the top. (Hold on to your hats!)
After spending 20 bone-chilling minutes checking out the beautiful vistas before us, we carefully made our way down the rock. Thankfully, no rain fell.

Once down, we followed the directions for the Volksmarch which took us along the base of the jumbled rocks toward the campground. Our ultimate objective is to walk the Loop Trail all the way around Enchanted Rock. The last time Susan M. and I had done this walk was April 2014 and the route has changed for the better. If you'd like more info about Enchanted Rock geology and history, refer to my two previous blogs: Texas (State Parks), and A Loopy Look at Texas Wildflowers.

After some discussion, I convinced Bob which trail we were supposed to be taking: the Interpretive Trail "at base of jumbled rocks." This led us through the campground and out onto a paved road: the start of the Loop Trail.

Interpretive Trail at base of the big rocks.
Wildflowers along the trail
A veritable rock garden
Evidence of rock exfoliation from the dome
Heart-shape cacti.
First big patch of bluebonnets
From this point, we connected with the Loop Trail that will take us around Enchanted Rock.
The photos in today's blog let you see the splendor of this hike.

Looks like an upside-down elephant
Enchanted Rock from the Loop Trail
Below are rain lilies. The only time you ever see them are after it rains. Feel blessed to see them today.
Rain lilies
Me "rockin'" out
Claret cup cacti in bloom
Antelope horn flower
Onward to the Scenic Overlook. The view is wonderful.
A new addition to the walk since last time.
Moss Lake with Enchanted Rock in the background
Indian Paintbrush in bloom now too.
Eastern Towhee in the tree
More awesome views from the trail
Side view of Enchanted Rock
Bob and I have been doing a cleanse for our health which means no bread or flour products, no dairy products, no citrus, no bananas, limited protein and drinking two smoothies a day along with one meal. We also need to learn how to regulate our snacking. Today was an example of what not to do when you're going to be doing strenuous exercise and you haven't eaten enough. Thank goodness we had the foresight to bring along some pecans on the walk. 

We are four days into our cleanse when we decide to hike to the top of Enchanted Rock and do the Loop Trail. All we had to eat before we left was our breakfast shake consisting of mostly fruit and a piece of cucumber, along with protein powder. When we started up the rock, I was very grumpy and hungry. My body didn't want to cooperate, so I took my time going up. By the time we had walked about 1-1/2 miles after coming down off the rock, I had to have something to eat. We plopped ourselves down on, what else?, a rock. We munched on pecans and drank water. Ten minutes later while we were hiking, we felt better. 

We repeated the pecan snacking as we worked our way along the trail. I think that's what got us through the 7.4 miles!

A window in the rock
Enlarge to see the person so you can appreciate how big
the rocks are!
Taking another rest to enjoy the beauty around us.

What Bob was looking at from his perch

Some stream crossings required

Seeing more bluebonnets
 And then...

A bluebonnet bonanza
This is what peak bluebonnet season looks like
A lush carpet of Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnets)
Trail through a blue sea of lupine
Popular hike to the top. (See the people?)
White prickly poppy
Enchanted Rock hikers
With that, we finished our hike. Back at the car, I had sliced yellow peppers, chunks of cucumber and a hard-boiled egg. Bob had brought a half apple, some avocado, and half a banana. We ate a "feast" (to us) as we drove to look at more wildflowers. See separate blog for that. We decided to be good and wait until we got home to have our full lunch, not go out to eat for Easter.

To be continued...if you're not into wildflowers, you can skip the next blog (but you'll miss some awesome shots of wildflower fields along roadsides).