Category Archives: Hiking

A Beautiful, Rugged Hike at Lost Maples State Park

I had trouble choosing a title. I wanted to say that God answered my prayers again, gave me the desires of my heart, showed up in a big way as always, because He did! But I’ve become more hesitant about saying that only because I know many people are praying for important , urgent, and much desired interventions and sometimes God waits a long time to answer, but always in His perfect timing. I don’t want to make anyone feel bad that God answers my prayers so often. Believe me, I am still praying, waiting and trusting for many things. Keep trusting and praying! But, it’s true, this time I was praying for the rain that was falling Saturday morning to stop , not flood the roads, not close the trails and for us to have a great day hiking, which was my chosen birthday activity. It all worked out! Here are the photos. Thanks be to God who blessed me once again!

This video is what got me so fired up to go here. Lost Maples SNA Part 1 of 2

 

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We drove through heavy rain to the park.

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Finally we came into view of the mountains!

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Ready or not! Let’s go!

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The trail was wet and rocky all the way.

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And easy section that was NOT in the creek bed.

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Taking a break from climbing up.

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A little more to go to the top.

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This is the trail.

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Octopus tree?!

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We were mostly alone but there was a young couple with two kids following us.

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Clear, clean water!

 

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A lovely pond  in which my husband took a quick dip .

How the day went: Left the house at 7:00. Hit rain about 9:00. Called the park and they said they were still open. Kept driving. Got to park at 11:00. About 80 degrees, breezy and not raining! Drove through some water on the road to get to the park. I started feeling emotional and excited when I spotted the mountains rising up ahead of us. The route is a very scenic road along a river through hunting leases, farms and ranches.  The area is a favorite place for motorcycle riders. We stopped for a quick photo in the town of Utopia. Who could resist?
Parked, got our gear, headed to trail head . We immediately had to cross over water on some large rocks. Looking across to the other side we saw a group of middle aged women ( like myself) laughing and talking and looking our way. We got to them and discovered that one of them had lost her balance crossing the rocks and fallen into the water. She had taken off her wet pants and was just wearing a rain poncho. They thought it was hilarious. We laughed with them,  wished them well and kept going. A little later we came to another crossing of the same creek but no dry way across , so that was the first of many times we got our feet wet.

Another group was heading out in the opposite direction at this point in the loop. I had heard that the clockwise direction was the more difficult way and I picked that . I thought it might be easier to go up the “hard side” and  down the other side. But in reality, I think it may have been just as hard either direction. But going clockwise you do get the hardest parts over with first and then finish on the easy trail, which I liked. There is one relatively big climb  and then you come to a flat spot on the top where we took a lunch break. There’s a chemical bathroom up there as well and primitive camping. Then you go back down which was very technical, but doable, and we were glad we had hiking poles. Then once again you are in the canyon, mostly hiking through or next to the creek bed with canyon walls on both sides. The trail was hard to follow due to a recent flood and leftover debris which made it hard to see a way through in many places. So that added a level of adventure which made it more interesting than your typical groomed trails. You can’t really get lost unless you scramble up the side of the canyon , which would not be easy or wise! We enjoyed the sounds of the bubbling, gurgling creek, the occasional breezes, and lovely variety of trees and rocks.

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I had hoped to hike a little further but we were taking our time and not covering distance very quickly, so we decided at one point in an out and back section to turn around and finish the main loop, knowing we still had a two hour drive back to our hotel. Happily for our tired, sore feet, we found some less rocky trails ahead. My husband took a dip in a lovely pond while I had a snack of Skittles and took in the natural beauty of the canyon. We passed more hikers in this easier section of trail. Finally we made it back to the car ,covering just under 6 miles.  We took the time to visit a small motorcycle museum, where we met a very friendly lady and saw about 50 very cool bikes from all over the world,  before driving back to San Antonio. All told, a wonderful day!

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By the clear pond. Those are green rocks in the water.

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The rocks that the lady fell on. I would have hurt myself if I’d fallen! Glad she didn’t.

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Utopia, Texas, where everything is perfect!

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Well, Now What?

My happy and excited mood was instantly replaced with disappointment and questions when I checked the weather this morning. All week I’ve been patiently waiting and anticipating what was supposed to be great weather and a hiking trip for my birthday (which is actually Monday). Evidently the jet stream or whatever has shifted , as often happens for good or for bad, and now we are looking at a 60% chance of thunderstorms and a high of 80 degrees. I can handle the heat but this park closes the trails when it rains . So, now what?

The park is over 3.5 hours drive from here. Do we risk it? We have a hotel reservation , as well. Do I cancel or change it to somewhere else? Do we just pray and hope for the rain to hold off or be lighter than expected? If you’re from Texas you know most of the time rain here equals storms , not pleasant showers, but we get those occasionally and that might feel nice when hiking as long as the trails don’t get too slippery. They are steep and rocky , like I like them, but I don’t want one of us getting hurt.

The current weather is gorgeous! I’ll try to enjoy it while it lasts . I’m going to pray and see where God takes us. Maybe we need to stay home for some reason. I will choose to trust Him.

How a Texas flatlander climbed a Colorado mountain.

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My sister called me up one evening and said, Can you meet me in Colorado and go hiking? My heart started pounding a little faster and I dared to get my hopes up a little. This was the call I’d subconsciously been waiting for all summer. I knew about her plans of traveling, camping and hiking through beautiful places with her little teardrop camper and I wanted to be a part of it, but wasn’t sure how or when things would come together .  She had literally just finished hiking the trail seen above in the guidebook and was excited and inspired to call me. She gave me one month’s notice to get there. We chatted a few minutes and I was non-committal but told her I’d ask my husband. He was already in bed, but I couldn’t stop myself from heading to the bedroom to ask him if I could go. Not sure why , he was probably half-asleep, but he said yes without asking questions! My spirit soared! Yes! I am going hiking in the mountains of Colorado! Segment 10 of the Colorado Trail to be exact.

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I’d been training for a hilly trail running race for the past few months, gradually increasing my hill repeats and time on feet, but I still immediately began to wonder if I could handle something like this. I’d never backpacked overnight before or even put on a pack heavier than just a full 2 liter hydration bladder. I may look strong but my upper body could use some attention, so I knew I had some work ahead of me.  My first step was to go to Ebay and look at backpacking packs. My sister said I could rent one at REI in Denver but I wanted to train with a pack. God blessed me with a super nice vintage Gregory pack in my size for only $75.00 plus shipping! I ended up using this pack on the hike. When it arrived, I immediately put some stuff in it, including some hand weights and various random blankets and put it on. Yikes! It felt heavy. I was nervous. IMG_2712

So I started taking walks with the pack. The first time I only had about 10 pounds in the pack and it felt so awkward and different than my running vest. I was walking sooo slowly! I tried to go faster and tried various postures.  The pack is supposed to sit on your hips, which means you have to get used to that weight on your hips as opposed to your back.  I started to worry that I’d not be able to keep up with my sister. Later, I discovered that 2 miles per hour was considered perfectly normal so I stopped worrying so much. I kept adding time to my hikes with the pack and adding weight. I even went out in the rain one day. Finally I did a 3 hour hike with 25 pounds in my pack and used my trekking poles and tried climbing hills. It went so well that I finally felt ready. My only fear was the altitude.

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I live at 300 feet, basically sea level. I would soon be traveling to a high point of over 14,000 feet . I posted in a Facebook Texas hiking group about my plans and the replies were that I was probably going to get very sick in the altitude. Headaches, nausea, dizziness, etc.. Great! I became very concerned . My sister thought I’d be fine because I had been okay at 10,000 feet in the past, but this was higher, said my Facebook friends. So I did some research about how to survive and this is how it worked out. IMG_2727

The first day I flew into Colorado Springs and my sister picked me up and we drove out to where she was camping.  Mueller State Park is at around 9,500 elevation. All we did there is sleep and then get up and pack up and leave to drive to the next place. That was one night at elevation. The main thing, as far as adapting to altitude, that I did the first day was to drink a lot of water. I woke up needing to pee so bad it hurt,  but I was afraid of bears! I finally couldn’t hold it and I got out of the camper and just went right there in the grass. My bear fears abated a little over the next week.

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We set up our next camp at Twin Lakes campground, a very scenic park with a lovely lake surrounded by tall mountains. Gorgeous! This was about 9,200 feet elevations, the second night. We got our gear all sorted and packed and ready, discussed morning plans with her friend who was going to shuttle us,  and went to bed.  Her little camper is very comfy. The temperatures there were much cooler and dryer than Texas, by about 30-40 degrees at night and 20 degrees in the daytime, and I was loving that! Day two I also drank water constantly and also took some salt tablets. I was peeing constantly, as fast as I drank, the faster I peed it out. This is normal as the body adjusts, so you need to add salt to your drinks or food, or you’ll get dehydrated from so much water. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. IMG_2783

The next day we loaded up in two cars, dropped my sister’s car off at the place where we planned to end the hike, and then rode in her friend’s car to the trail head. All of this driving took awhile and we didn’t actually start the hike until 10:00 A.M.  The hiking went pretty well as far as how I was able to handle the backpack and poles and trail, but I had one problem, gas! In other words, my intestines were bloated up with air and it really hurt. I found out later after suffering for a long time that  my sister had some Gas-X tablets which I took and they helped a lot. After that I just farted as often as necessary to relieve the pressure. Turns out gas is common when adjusting to altitude. Bring Gas medicine!

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The first day I was super happy, almost giddy, to finally be hiking in the mountain, something I’d been dreaming of doing for awhile. Instagram has a way of inspiring me to try newer and more exciting adventures , especially when I know there’s a real possibility of making it happen, thanks to my amazing , retired, adventurous  big sister. So far, thanks to her and with her, I’ve been to Hawaii, climbed up to the Delicate Arch in Utah, hiked Negro Bills Canyon in Moab, went running on Mid Mountain in Park City, went snowshoeing and alpine skiing, and did lots of camping and other fun things when she still lived in Texas. We also went to see the late, great  Stevie Ray Vaughan live in Houston. Once we went canoeing and our boat capsized in some rapids and I was left stranded in the middle of a river. Another time we got caught in a huge rainstorm and near-flash flood while camping and had to abandon our tent. Oh, and I got lost on that mountain that  I climbed in Park City and thought I might die.  But things always work out!  I’m very thankful for my sister and her willingness to teach me how to adapt and learn and have fun. IMG_2787
Back to hiking. On the first night on the Colorado trail, we set up camp at 11,000 feet. I was feeling good, no issues with headaches or anything, except for the previously mentioned intestinal gas. This was my third night at altitude. The next day was going to be the real test. We were going to attempt to climb the trail to Mount Massive, up to 14, 421 feet. Could I do it? Could she do it? Neither of us were really sure. It took me a long time to fall asleep.

We woke up at sunrise as usual. It was gloriously cold and beautiful weather, but there was  smoke in the air from a wildfire burning. It wasn’t close to us, but the wind carried the smell. We retrieved our food bag from the tree, took some sunrise photos, packed up our sleeping bags and tents and got our packs sorted, then hiked about a mile down to the Mt. Massive trail intersection. Before we headed out we had to refill our hydration packs from the stream (after filtering), figure out what food and supplies and clothes we were going to wear and set up a tent to leave the rest of our stuff in while we were gone. This was a tip we got from some fellow hikers that we became friends with, leaving our stuff in a tent instead of just leaving it out by a tree or something. We finally hit the trail to climb the mountain at around 8:30 or so. Not as early as we should have started , but it worked out.

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The first mile or so was still in the trees, mostly pines. It was fairly steep going, about 1000 feet in one mile. Then it got really steep! About 2500 feet in a little over 2 miles. The trail was well built but rocky and got slightly technical in some places. We took a lot of breaks to take photos, rest, catch our breath, eat snacks(protein bars, jerky, cheese, and Clif bloks), and my sister made one phone call, so it was slow going . The closer to the top we went, the steeper it felt and the slower we climbed,  and the windier and cooler it got. My sister said she had never moved that slow in her life, and we were having a little trouble with the lack of oxygen, but no headaches or dizziness, so we were thrilled when  made it to a flat spot about 13,900 feet up where we stopped for a short break. We took some photos, shooed away an overly brazen marmot who wanted snacks and  waited on our friend who we saw descending the trail which was pretty technical past that point. She was without her husband and she told us that she had decided to stop short of the summit because it was very difficult and included some rock scrambling in place with steep drop-offs.  Her husband had gone on to the top. After hearing this information, we decided to push forward as far as we could , knowing that we would probably not make the summit as we both have a fear of heights when we can see the bottom. As long as there was no visible drop-off , I was okay, but the minute I had that in my peripheral vision, I knew I would get scared and could freeze. I also knew that even if we made it up , we’d have to come back down which is even more frightening.  We made it up the increasingly technical and hard to see trail to approximately 14, 153 feet, based on my Garmin and were both okay with stopping there. Next time I may make it to the summit, but this time I am happy with climbing over 14,000 feet . We could see a mountain goat on the summit, we were so close. Of course, there was  a boy about 10 years old scampering back down from the summit with no poles and no fear and  that did make feel a little like a big chicken for not going all the way.

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After that, we carefully, but fairly quickly descended the mountain and made it back to our tent.  We were tired and hungry so we took time to refuel before  we packed the tent and hiked another 4 miles mostly downhill to her car.  Our total mileage for the two days was about 20 miles.  The next few days were spent camping,  kayaking relaxing, and reliving the hike and feeling very good about it. I can’t wait to do it again and I plan to use the same methods of sleeping at gradually higher altitudes for several nights, drinking tons of water, and taking salt, to adjust to the the altitude. It worked and I’m so thankful!

 

Perfect berries and Mountain views

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Sometimes you just have to sit down in the middle of the trail and rest.

I want to share a life lesson or three I’ve learned recently from berry picking and hiking . I posted this first on Facebook so some of you have seen it. I got some nice comments so I decided to share it here as well.
When I pick dewberries I have to lean over in an uncomfortable position and I wear my reading glasses so I can be sure to pick good ones. I am also constantly listening and looking for snakes. This hyper-focus is necessary. When my hunching over gets too painful, I have to stand up and stretch and when I do I scan the berry patch with a broad view. I usually take a few steps to the right or left. When I do this I never fail to see berries that I missed when I was hyper-focused. Also when I’m picking , there are long , thorny vines mixed in with the berry vines. I have to carefully move them aside and when I do I find the biggest, perfect berries hiding under the thorny vines, usually a bunch of them.

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Jackpot! Monster sized berries hiding just behind the thorns.

When we go hiking, I’ve noticed how things can be hidden from view, as well. When you are in a bunch of trees or in a valley or coming around a bend, you can’t see what is ahead until you take one more step and suddenly, there’s a beautiful view! Or you might think you are lost and start getting fearful and then one more step and there is the trail marker right where it should be! Or, more commonly, you might think you are almost at the top of the mountain, but you take one more step and discover that you have reached a flat spot but there is yet another hill ahead. This is a good time to stop for a break and enjoy the view.

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I love this view! I was worth the climb.

What does this all mean? For me it means  1) your perspective can change your thoughts in an instant so keep your eyes open and search for truth behind the thorns and trees and 2) keep moving forward even though you are scared or tired because eventually you are going to get that perfect berry or that beautiful mountaintop view. 3)Take breaks to rest from time to time so that you will have the energy to carry on. Because, as the saying goes, Life is a journey , not a destination.