My much anticipated trip to Lost Maples State Natural in Vanderpool, TX was this past week. I wrote a blog last August about the healing that the solitude of this park in winter brings to me. I headed out on Christmas Eve with plans to spend 5 glorious days and nights at this park that has come to be such a special place to me. Pippin and I arrived about 2:00 p.m., set up camp and immediately went for a hike. The sky was blue, the air was crisp and clean and the park had obviously benefited from the rains we have had over recent months. While the vibrant color of fall had faded there was still the occasional burst of reds and oranges just beginning to turn to rust. The rains had brought more green to the area than I had seen in many years. Armed with my camera I planned to capture these images to take home with me when the trip was over.
We hiked until nearly dark and headed back to camp just as the sun was setting. I started a fire, cooked a steak and veggies and sat down in front of the fire to relax a bit. The stars were shining brightly in a crystal clear sky. It was heaven. Then it was off to bed early with plans for a hike of the West Trail on Christmas Day.
Despite the early bedtime I managed to sleep until after 9:30 the next morning; something that is nearly unheard of for me. After breakfast I wrote my morning pages and it was nearly noon before Pippin and I headed out on our hike. There were clouds coming in but it looked to be more overcast than rainy. The hike was beautiful; the strenuous climb up to the top of the hills and then down into Mystic Canyon was worth every step and I stopped often to take pictures of plants, streams and breathtaking vistas.
All was going as planned as we approached a benign looking creek crossing about 4 miles into our hike. The water wasn’t more than a few inches deep and trickled off in little falls to the right of the crossing. As I stepped out I remembered thinking how smooth the creek bed was at that section; almost as though they had poured concrete to make it easier for the park maintenance crews to drive through. I also noticed the thin layer of moss and slime growing just beneath the surface about the time both feet flew out from under me and I landed hard on my backside and rolled over onto my right shoulder (the one that was replaced about a year ago). The water was too cold for me to lie there feeling sorry for myself for long so I managed to scramble up and make my way carefully to the other side of the creek. Pippin, who’s leash was fastened to a nylon belt around my waist was staring at me with a stunned look on his face and (I’m sure) wondering what the heck had just happened. We headed on our way and I was thankful for moisture wicking clothing. By the time we got back to camp my clothes were mostly dry with the exception of my boots and socks as well as my jacket that had been fastened to the back of my backpack.
So, after supper and some time by the fire it was off to bed early again. The soreness from my fall and the cold that night made for very little sleep for me or for Pippin. He was restless and I knew that when I could feel him shivering against me that it wasn’t just me thinking it was colder that night. I confess that I was already rethinking my plans to stay until Sunday.
The next day after breakfast we headed out for a hike of the East Trail. After the hike from the campground we set out on the Maple Trail which runs parallel to the East Trail for almost a mile. I have only seen pictures of the park decked out in full color but this short trail holds its own special beauty even in midwinter. There are quaint little rocky stairways along the trail that just make it all the more lovely.
Everything was going swimmingly until we got half way up one of those quaint little stairways and Pippin yinged and I yanged and the next thing I knew I tripped on a rock and went flying forward. I must have put my left arm out to catch myself and managed to twist my left shoulder in ways that I’m pretty sure it was not meant to be twisted. As pain surged down my arm my first thought was, “Well, that’s it; it’s time to pack it up and go home.” I got up, brushed myself off and began to check out the damage. Poor Pippin was wondering once again what had just happened. My shoulder was still throbbing but as I began to gingerly move it around I decided that the desire to capture this trail with my camera was greater than the now subsiding pain so off we went.
The Maple trail dumps out onto the East Trail and we enjoyed an amazing hike, taking in “Monkey Rock”, the steep and strenuous hike to the summit and the breathtaking views from the top. We managed the somewhat treacherous hike back down without further incident and got some really fabulous photos to remember it all by. It began to rain just as I finished packing the truck and began to drive away. Seems like the universe was trying to tell me I had stayed long enough.
I know that many of my friends think I’m nuts to want to go camping in the middle of the winter, by myself at Christmas time. It’s hard for me to explain but it is a way for me to recharge my batteries, mentally, physically (yes, I mean that) and spiritually. Despite the mishaps I drove away with a tremendous sense of gratitude for my time spent at this captivating place on the Sabinal River in the Texas Hill Country. It won’t be the last time I make that trip for sure.