Sunday, April 20, 2014

Pedernales Falls: Wolf Mountain and more miles

Apr 16 2014

 Unlike yesterday which had absolutely clear skies all day,
this morning there were a few wispy clouds to spark up the sunrise

The trail starts out from the trail0head very promising.
A nice stroll through the trees
I got started at a decent time this morning and was finished with morning chores and headed over to the Wolf Mountain trailhead not long after sunrise. Because of my lack of success yesterday at finding a shortcut across to the trail I had the choice off walking the road, adding a couple miles to the hike, or breaking down camp and driving over. I drove.

For the first few yards from the trail-head it's a nice walk through the trees but that doesn't last long. At the end of that wooded stroll you come to the real trail which is more road than trail. This is becoming more and more common. Not all that long ago as a park ranger you expected to be hiking trails on foot, humping all the supplies you needed to patrol and maintain them on your back, but those days are fading fast. I suppose that's to be expected in this day and age of volunteer park personnel. You probably can't keep many of them around long if you make them carry chainsaws, gasoline and shovels on their backs instead of motorized transport.

but quickly turns into more road than trail.
that little hump right there at the end of the road is Wolf Mountain,
a stop along our way today.
It's hard to tell from this photo, but that Prickly Pear is actually growing out
of the tree that has fallen across the upper end of Regal Creek. It's hanging there
10 feet above the ground.

 The park guide claims the Wolf Mountain trail is 6 miles long and challenging. I'm not sure about the challenging part, I think it ranks more like moderate, but I have no idea where they measured from and to because my round-trip hike was 8 miles long. Maybe I just wandered around for those extra 2 miles??

Wouldn't this make a fantastic coffee table!!

At any rate I still fell 2 miles short of the daily average of 10 miles for a loaded oxcart traveling the Santa Fe Trail. I don't know why that always sticks in my head but it's a benchmark I measure most my hikes against.

This Mark Chalberg of scout troop 101 was busy earning his Eagle scout badge
back in 2010. I ran into half a dozen of his map and bench projects
scattered around the park.

At any rate, much of this hike was uphill - well - exactly half of it anyway - and, like vehicles, I clearly get less mileage to the gallon going uphill, but unlike vehicles, my mileage doesn't improve on the downhill-side. . .
And I made good use of many of them!! Like this one

up on the side of Wolf Mountain with great views of the river below.
Maybe I need wheels on my heels??
Sometimes it's hard to tell natural limestone ledges from man-made rock walls.

This tree, with its dark, twisted branches reaching out to engulf me in its embrace reminded me of so many
Disney adaptations of the Grimm's tales I watched as a boy. I could almost hear the evil cackle it made as it reached for me.  

Finally, on the far side of Wolf Mountain, the 'road-trail' petered out and I was hiking a proper trail down through the cool woods towards Johnson Spring.

Oops, need a little trail maintenance here. This probably came down during
the ice storm of a few weeks ago.
Just off to the top right of the photo, Walnut Creek disappears back underground

But right here there's enough water for a few creatures, such as the water-walker sitting in the top right and casting his
space-pod shadow on the bottom of the shallow pool,

or the big fat tadpoles squirming around on the bottom.

A little further downhill the trail pierces this dry-stack rock wall

probably built by the Johnsons to protect a crop from the livestock. Can you even imagine the hours of hard
work it took to enclose a multi-acre field?

And this is what remains of the house the Johnson's lived in

Nearby I found another weathered relic of days long past

And this is why the Johnson's chose to build near here. The clear water of Walnut Creek re-emerges from
underground, flows briefly across the rock

then makes a short drop into this pool which I'm sure was deeper in the days of dipping a bucket to haul water back
to the house.

There's another one of these concrete pads over on the other side of the river up above Trammel Crossing. This one is at the base of Wolf Mountain on the river side and from the bolt pattern I would guess it supported a small, three-legged tower, but I have no idea what the tower might have been used for.

I think this bench has seen a few too many butts, including mine!

Are we there yet?? Nope, not quite. Another mile and one more creek crossing before we make it back to the van.

One of the perks of being park superintendent.

This residence sits on the site of the mid 20th century two-story ranch house that burned to the ground back in the 60's or 70' and is just a short ways above the pool formed by twin falls.

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