Stephenson Nature Preserve (Hiking in Austin)

Horse
Horse

I’ve lived in south Austin for the past 12 years. And I just recently found out about the folk art trail between Brodie and Westgate? For shame!

It’s a really fun (but sort of confusing) hike. There’s a lot of art to take in along the trails, which are entirely unmarked. I found myself walking in circles and utterly “lost” at one point. Sure, I suppose I could have just walked down the road I found to get back to the park entrance…but where’s the adventure in that?

I plan to got back to visit a small family cemetery on the other side of the park.

Cedar wall
Cedar wall
I love you, too!
I love you, too!
Hearts!
Hearts!

 

Closed Canyon: Hike at Big Bend Ranch State Park

Mouth of the canyon.
Mouth of the canyon.

I recommend this hike to anyone either staying near the park or passing through on FM 170. It’s a relatively easy 1.5 mile round trip hike into a 200 foot gorge. The trailhead is right off FM 170 and well-marked with little cairns until the canyon appears.

The air is cool and still in the quiet depths of the canyon. It’s quite the change from the windy mountains outside.

I hiked the canyon until I reached an impassable drop off. According to one book I read, the drop off is twenty feet at two stages. You’ll know when you’ve hit it. Without equipment, there is not a method to safely descend.

Also, before that drop, there is a ten foot high pour-off. Don’t feel compelled to make that descent if it looks too difficult. The rocks are really slippery smooth at that point, and the views don’t change much the further in you get.

I wouldn’t go near the canyon during a storm. I can only imagine how the water gets whipping around the narrow canyon. Dangerous!

Some of the vegetation you'll see.
Some of the vegetation you’ll see.
This cave is way up high on the western wall of the canyon.
This cave is way up high on the western wall of the canyon.
Some parts are quite narrow!
Some parts are quite narrow!

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Big Bend Ranch State Park: Hikes for kids

When I read about hiking online, I get all confused about the ratings of difficulty. So, this is my best attempt at advising parental units on which trails might work out if you’d like to bring the kiddos to this state park.

My husband and I took a 4-year-old (okay, he’s almost 5) adventuresome child on these trails and finished them without much trouble. We brought along a 3 wheeled jogging/hiking stroller for longer hikes. We did a hike in Lajitas towards the wax factory. I do not recommend that trail as a hike. It is boring. And tedious. Seriously, we did it for exercise only. It’s best for mountain bikers.

The recommended trails:

1. Nature path near Sauceda Ranch (Easy with some hand-holding.)
2. Cinco Tinajas and Ojito Adentro (Will need to help children up and down trail.)
3. Horsetrap Trail (Heavy duty jogging stroller required for smaller children, as it is a 5 mile hike.)
4. Closed canyon (Mainly easy; gets more challenging the deeper you go. We had to pass the kid between us to get him up and down the canyon in some parts. Yes, like a piece of luggage.)

Other than the Horsetrap Trail, the others are impassable with a stroller of any kind due to trail conditions. If you are just driving through the state park on FM 170, it is worth your time to stop at Closed Canyon. If you stay at the Sauceda Ranch, the other three trails should keep you occupied during a short stay.

Here are some pictures to give you an idea of what you might see on the trails.

1. Nature Path: Sorry, no pics. We arrived at 4:30 and hiked at 5:15-6:00. Not much light available in evening on 12/21 (winter solstice).

2. Cinco Tinajas and Ojito Adentro

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Ojito Adentro
Ojito Adentro
Ojito Andentro trail
Ojito Andentro trail

3. Horsetrap Trail

View once you hike up.
View once you hike up.
Snack time on trail.
Snack time on trail.

4. Closed Canyon

Kid sliding down wall at Closed Canyon.
Kid sliding down wall at Closed Canyon.

 

Parent dangling from wall of Closed Canyon.
Parent dangling from wall of Closed Canyon.

B-36 Crash Site (El Paso) [I didn’t locate it this trip.]

If you are looking for the coordinates of the site, visit http://www.franklinmountainsflora.com/trails.php?trailid=9.  I wish I had done that before heading out.

On December 11, 1953 @ 2:37 PM, a B-36 Bomber crashed into the Franklin Mountains in El Paso while attempting to land in snowy conditions. Nine crewmembers serving out country died in the tragic accident. I have always respected the bravery of our armed forces. Lord knows I don’t have what it takes to do the job. I sometimes meet Fort Bliss folks on my flights out to El Paso, and they are always amazing. If all Americans could be a little more like them, I know our country would be a better place.  These are people who do more than put their money where there mouth is. They place their lives on the line to ensure our very existence.

We have a duty to nourish a society that so many brave people have died protecting. This means we need to focus on improving this country. A society worth protecting is one that provides for the most vulnerable among us. As a civil servant, I have to be careful about posting anything vaguely political. However, I think that if we all came from the same place that our service members do (a desire to protect and serve the nation) things would be different. They face brutality and war. They give their lives to make sure we can keep our nation alive, goddammit. And we bitch about taxes.  It’s something worth thinking about.

***

I set out to investigate the site. I relied on blogs alone to direct me to the location of what remains of the wreckage. On my first trip up the mountainside, I went to the wrong peak. Before my second trip up the mountain, I made sure to check out some blog posts on how to find the area. Unfortunately, I ran out of steam before I could reach the location. Also, without a GPS to locate the precise coordinates, I don’t think I will be able to find the remains.

I’ll try again on another trip. Next time, I will be more prepared (GPS, better clothing, water). I’m kinda impulsive, so I didn’t plan my trip up the mountain as well as I should have. While climbing down a ravine, I almost fell. I have some pretty ugly owies as a result. I must tell everyone that this kind of hike is not for the faint of heart or inexperienced. It is imperative to have good balance and an understanding of how to climb on unstable earth. It is treacherous territory.

Mere physical fitness isn’t sufficient protection. You need to know your limits. Stopping when you reach your limit (as I did) is not failure. It is success, for you have pushed yourself to your max and did something awesomely fun! You can always get better from there. Either way, you’ve burned a ton of calories and gotten a great workout. So stop before you break an ankle and require a rescue.  Or worse.

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I think some utility lawyers just jumped for joy/peed themselves over the power line pics I got. That’s fine. As a health care atty, I am in full meltdown right now over the AIM testing breach.