After a wonderful Thanksgiving, it was time for a trip to one of my favorite Texas State Parks, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. I have visited Enchanted Rock many times since high school and the massive granite dome keeps me coming back. This recent trip was planned with a few friends wanting to get away for the weekend. The plan was to meet in Boerne and head over to Fredericksburg on Saturday after we fully digested our Thanksgiving dinners. As the day drew closer my E-Rock compatriots had to bow out from making the trip. Holidays are always hard to schedule around, but we all agreed to plan a future camping trip. The trip to Enchanted Rock became a solo trip and it was time to get ready.
I had been watching the weather forecast all week hoping for good weather. A cold front was blowing in and I knew it would be chilly Saturday night. Possibly into freezing temperatures. Luckily for me I forgot my jacket in College Station as it was in the 80s when I left town. I wasn’t too worried as I would be staying in a tent and using my Marmot Atom 40° sleeping bag. The cooler temps would give me an opportunity to test out my sleeping bag. I did pickup a fleece pullover on Black Friday just in case the temps became a bit unbearable. I made a mental note not to forget important things like a jacket on cold weather trips.
Packed and ready to go, I roll out of Boerne Saturday morning for Fredericksburg and Enchanted Rock. The weather is brisk and windy, but the sun is shining so I’m happy. The drive down I-10 and Hwy 87 is always a quick one to Fredericksburg. It’s the turn on to F.M. 965 where the anticipation begins. Every bend around a hill builds the excitement as you know that final corner where you see Enchanted Rock is fast approaching. I’m not really sure why, but I’ve always stopped at that spot on the road where you first see Enchanted Rock to snap a photo. Nothing has changed over the years and yet I must take a current snapshot.
Thinking there wouldn’t be much of a crowd this weekend, I snapped a few photos of the entrance sign. As I pulled into the park I noticed about eight cars ahead of me. Maybe it would be a bit more crowded on the rock than I thought. I reserved a camp site several weeks earlier so I wasn’t worried about the crowds. I just needed a place to put my tent and I’d be good to go. The majority of campers usually opt for the sites in the front of the park that have water, fire rings, and tables. I much prefer the primitive camping options where you have a bit more solitude. The park ranger suggested I stay at the Walnut Springs camp site as Moss Lake was pretty full. Looks like I won’t have the park to myself. The amazing Fall weather definitely brings out the crowds.
Leaving the park headquarters I find a parking spot and setup my gear. I have two trail options to get out to Walnut Springs: Loop Trail or Echo Canyon Trail. I decided on Loop Trail; a trail I’ve never hiked on the west side of the park. I can loop back down Echo Canyon on my way out. I filled up 2 liters of water as I began my hike. The park ranger recommended bringing in my water as she wouldn’t filter out of Moss Lake. With the cool weather and only staying one night I figured I would have enough water. I packed my filter just in case I ran out of water though. The hike took about 30 minutes to reach the Walnut Spring site. I noticed a few tents right near the beginning of the area so I continue on toward the back of Walnut Springs. I finally spot a site with the main dome as a backdrop. I’m somewhat close to two other camps, but my options were a bit limited due to the crowds. Time to setup camp and explore Enchanted Rock.
I’ve become fairly efficient with setting up my REI Halfdome 2 HC tent, so I was up and running in no time. Normally I don’t pull out the rainfly, but figured it would provide a bit more protection from the potential cool weather of the night. With the tent setup and my sleeping bag ready for slumber, it’s time to hit the trails around Enchanted Rock. Moss Lake was closest to camp, so that’s where I went first. I was curious to see why the park ranger advised against filtering from the lake. Upon arrival I saw no problems with filtering from the lake. It’s man-made as the trail goes along a berm and about one acre in size. I’m sure animals visit the lake quite often for water as most of the streams are dry during the winter. After a few photos I headed down the Loop Trail toward Base Trail and the north face of Enchanted Rock. This is where I used to climb and I knew there would be others out there.
As I approached Base Trail, I crossed Echo Canyon trail and could here the laughter of children down the canyon. Glad to see families taking their kids outdoors instead of sitting at a computer all day. Within minutes of reaching the north face I found several groups of climbers. Most were doing fairly short runs and it brought back memories of climbing with my friends in high school. I sat down for a spell and watched the rock climbers maneuver up the rock. One was complaining of really cold hands while grasping for a hold. I’m sure it wasn’t warm up on the rock with the cool wind blowing around. I continued down the north face and found another climbing group working on a lead climb. That’s something I left for others and it’s always exciting to see a climber find that first anchor. He managed it just fine once he found the anchor. After watching the climbers for awhile I figured it was time to head up to the summit of Enchanted Rock.
I wasn’t really in the mood to go up Summit Trail where the majority of the crowds would be. I opted to continue down Base Trail over to the east side of Enchanted Rock. Sighting my plan of attack up Enchanted Rock, I notice two hikers on top of Turkey Peak. It had been awhile since I had gone up that climb, but would have to wait for another trip. Taking a few photos of a tabletop structure I head up Enchanted Rock for the summit. My breathing increases as I walk up the granite slab. The approach isn’t very steep, but you still feel it in your legs. The wind increases in velocity as I get closer to the top. Now on top I find the crowds of people hanging out on the summit. I tried to find the benchmark, but I think it has been removed. I once found it at night years ago. The view from the summit is always spectacular. You can see for miles and witness the beauty of the Hill Country. I noticed a line of cars outside the park entrance. The great weather and the latter would explain why so many people were out at Enchanted Rock. Can’t blame them, it’s a wonderful place. I didn’t spend too much time on the summit as I wanted to hit up Echo Canyon and head back to camp for dinner.
I hiked across the summit to the west side of Enchanted Rock where I headed down to Echo Canyon. The slope of Enchanted Rock can look deceiving sometimes. What looks very steep is actually not bad at all when going down it. The granite rock also grips really well unless it’s been raining. Down at Echo Canyon I notice more climbers working on some boulders. Really made me wish I had some climbing shoes with me. No need for extensive climbing gear when tackling a boulder. Just you and the rock. I watched them for a bit and then continued down the trail back over to Moss Lake. Instead of taking the direct route back to camp, I hiked through the Moss Lake camp site toward the back side of the Loop Trail. This allowed me to hit some trails I hadn’t been on in awhile and enjoy a more wooded area. Eventually I made it back to camp and prepare for the evening.
Back at camp my first priority was to get dinner going. A package of pasta was on the menu after having my fill of Clif bars during the day. The ever-trusty MSR Whisperlite stove fires up without a hitch and I put on a pot of water. Before the pasta I heated up some water for hot cocoa. The sun was coming down, so it was nice to have something warm my body a bit. Watching water boil and pasta cook can be a bit boring, so I prepared my tent for an evening of cool weather. Sleeping bag. Check. Layers of clothing. Check. Headlamp for reading. Check. It’s time for dinner and I chowed down. The package of cheesy pasta was about 500 calories of goodness and I finished it off in no time. I could have used more calories, but an overnight trip isn’t going to put me in too much of a calorie deficit. I still had ¾ liters of water to get me through the night and next morning. I cleaned up my camping kitchen and retired to the tent for the evening. Slinking into my sleeping bag, I grabbed the book I brought with me, Between a Rock and a Hard Place. I had a full day of hiking, so it was nice to settle in and enjoy a great book. After reading several chapters I slowly drifted off to sleep. I turned off my headlamp and called it a day.
During the evening I was suddenly awoken to a wailing noise. The wind was howling, but this wasn’t the wind. I listened a bit closer and figured out that it’s a child crying. I look at my watch and it’s 12:30 a.m. I recall hearing some crying around dinner, but dismissed it at the time. This child definitely had a set of lungs. They were practically screaming bloody murder and never let up. I figured the parents’ camp was a few hundred meters from my camp and now I was regretting my site choice. Not once did I hear the parents try to console or calm the child. I placed a sock hat over my ears and buried myself in the sleeping bag hoping to muffle the cries. That didn’t work. Only the wind picking up would drown out the screaming. The wails continued for about an hour before the child finally let up. I have no clue how the parents could handle that screaming in the same tent. At one point I thought maybe the parents the abandoned child. Devil child maybe? I’m very perturbed that they didn’t think of others in the camping area. I’m certain no one in the vicinity was getting any sleep with this child screaming. Quiet the child or take them out of the park. After having such a great day, this child was very close to ruining my entire experience at Enchanted Rock. I really, really wanted to go yell at the parents, but it was dark and cold. Eventually I was able to get back to sleep.
No need to set an alarm while camping as I usually wake up around sunrise. The temperature is in the high 30s and I was never uncomfortable other than the crying child. I crawl out of the sleeping bag and unzip the tent to see how cold it is. Putting a pullover on I rise from the tent to see an amazing sunrise over Enchanted Rock. The red hue of the sun cascades over the clouds onto the granite dome. Absolutely beautiful! I take several photos then think it’d be great to get some shots over by Moss Lake. Quickly I put the rest of my clothes and head over to the lake. I decided to cut across the camping area to save some time. Luckily my navigational skills were working and I made it to Moss Lake in a few minutes. I sat myself down on the bank and watched the sun rise up from behind Enchanted Rock. The reflections of the dome on the lake were especially nice. After a restless night of a child screaming, this scene made up for it. I just enjoyed the moment and reflected on things in my life. This is why I enjoy the outdoors. Little moments of serenity.
The sun was now hiding behind some clouds, so it was time to head back to camp. I opted for the trail back to camp as I wasn’t really sure where I exited the brush from my camp site. As I walked along the trail I passed several deer foraging for some winter food. I’m fairly certain they’re accustomed to people as they weren’t startled one bit with me less than 10 feet away. I snapped a few photos and let them be. Yes, mornings at Enchanted Rock are a wonderful thing. I arrive back at my camp and start to tear down my site. Withing minutes of folding up my tent I hear the child crying again. Wow, this child won’t quit! At this point I’m happy to be packing out and headed home. If I were staying any longer, I would have found a spot FAR AWAY from that child. I sling my backpack on my shoulders and head back down Loop Trail toward Echo Canyon. The trails were devoid of people early in the morning and I liked that. Wish it was like that all weekend. A cool morning breeze blew through Echo Canyon as the sun warmed my face. This is how I wanted to end my trip at Enchanted Rock. I hiked down to the intersection of the Summit Trail and worked my way down some boulders off trail. People were starting to move around from the main campgrounds. Fires were burning warming people up after a cold night. I took one last look at Enchanted Rock and reached my car to head back to Boerne.
Even though this trip to Enchanted Rock wasn’t meant to be solo, I still thoroughly enjoyed my time in the park. I definitely will return and maybe next time with some climbing shoes.
Trip Date: 11-27-2010 Trip Location: Fredericksburg, Texas Trip Rating: ★★★☆☆