Thursday, May 31, 2018

Madrone In The Morning


Not exactly what I would call a pretty trailhead, even in the flattering light of early morning,

but it is what it is.

Fortunately I don’t have to trudge the powerline right-of-way very far before

making a sharp right into far more pleasant environs, although most anything is more pleasant than hanging around under those humming, snapping power lines which conjure up images of a bug creeping along under the imminent threat of a bug-zapper.

The 4.5 mile Madrone trail is mostly contained in a little slice of Pedernales Falls State Park that is on the south side of CR-201 and for the most part is, for the area, a relatively flat hike among Juniper with a healthy scattering of hardwoods for variety.

The trail is named for the Madrone trees which put in a few rare appearances here at the southern end of the park. As can be seen in the photo above the bark of the Madrone is often a distinctive red and, unlike many trees, doesn’t grow with the tree but is shed in long flakes to reveal the next, fresh smooth layer.

I know there’s at least one larger specimen along this trail because I’ve seen it before, in fact the image above comes from a 2015 hike on this trail,

but today the best I could come up with was this seedling protected by a ring of stones as it struggles to survive right at the edge of the trail.

The seeds are barbed so it’s not unreasonable to expect that a few years ago this one hitched a temporary ride to this spot on a hiker’s pant-leg. Maybe even mine!

With a little luck maybe this one will survive long enough to one day be classified as a tree.

The Madrone Trail is not in itself a loop, but by piecing it together with parts of the Juniper Ridge Trail it can be turned into one.

Though like the Madrone, the Juniper Ridge Trail has a minimum of vertical challenges, it crosses distinctly more pitched and rocky terrain than Madrone. Juniper Ridge was designed and built by a mountain bike club out of Austin and it shows.

Rather than backing off into the easier ground a few feet away, the Juniper Ridge Trail clings right to the rocky edge of a number of ravines as it zig-zags across the  park for over 9 miles, sometimes just barely clinging to the edge of drop-offs.

Given my skills, or rather lack of, as a mountain-biker you won’t catch me riding it, but as a hike it's actually pretty good.

Using the Madrone and Juniper Ridge, I could have created an 8 mile loop that traverses most of the southern end of the park, as I have in the past, but I was actually supposed to be heading home to chores rather than out here hiking today, so I used a piece of the Windmill Road to cut things down to a 5 hour, five and a half mile bit of procrastination instead.


  1. That was wild trail when it first opened 40 or so years ago. I left blood marks all along it the early days. Loved it!

    1. I understand the original intent was to name this trail Panther Junction. While lurking around, Mountain Lions are more rare around here than Madrone trees so I'm glad they rethought the name.