Monday, November 4, 2019

Haynes Ridge Overlook Revisited: or Idiot Squared

After pulling the bone-headed stunt of climbing on my bike, the Quad-B, after a bike-riding hiatus of nearly half a year and covering 30 miles of noticeably tilted north-west Texas terrain on tire-dragging cinders yesterday,

this morning I groaned my abused and aching self up out of bed and headed out for a hike that included 2 of the 3 "Extremely Steep & Rugged" sections of trail within Caprock Canyon State Park.

Stupid?  Perhaps.

Idiotic?  Most likely.

But I was on a roll so why stop now?  (I know, I know, lots of reasons to stop now, but apparently I wasn't hearing them. . . Idiot!)

The numbers roughly correspond to the locations that the numbered photos that follow were taken from

The first part of the day's hike, from the trailhead parking in the bottom-right of the map above up to where I hung a hard left onto Trail B, the Haynes Ridge Overlook Trail, wasn't too bad.

I even had some high terrain off my right shoulder to shade me from much of the morning sun.

( 1 )

But then I made that hard left and was faced with the reality of that daunting wall that forms the eastern end of the Haynes Ridge.

There used to be a sign-post at this trail intersection, but now, other than the bare-dirt trail branching off towards the west, the only marker is a lonely, weathered bench placed there for those who wish to sit for a moment and reconsider their choice of trail.

I didn't. . .

Instead I marched towards that 600 foot wall and the promise of an overlook with confidence as if I knew what I was doing. OK, confidence might be overstating things slightly, but I hiked on anyway, like Columbus sailing off the edge of the world, only in reverse.

Every once in a while I would pause during that upward slog that was reminding me of yesterday's foolishness on the Quad-B with every step, and look longingly back down to where I went wrong - I mean where I made that left turn.

It seemed so far away down there. A reminder of how many careful steps up the jagged and uneven rock it had taken to get here,

but when I turned back to the climb there was always so much more of it to - well - climb. . .

But being the dumb-ass fool-hearty beast that I am, I kept on going. I kept on getting farther and farther from that fateful turn, until there couldn't possibly be any farther to go.

But there was. . .

( 2 )

Eventually my pigheadedness persistence got me to the lofty heights of the ridge, from where I could look south-southwest with longing down at The Van patiently, smartly, waiting for me there in the parking lot near the trailhead.

Which raises a question. It's common knowledge that The Van, like all modern vehicles, has more computer power in it than the Apollo capsules used to get to the moon and back. Does that mean The Van, sitting down there all snug and comfy, is smarter than me??

( 3 )

I guess I'm not smart enough to figure out the answer to that, but from a vantage point a few steps further on down the trail, I could look east, northeast down the valley of the North Prong of the Little Red River and see the faint tracing of the highly sensible Lower Canyon Trail that perhaps I should have been hiking instead.

But for now my path lay westward as I hiked the lonely length of Haynes Ridge.

Yep, out here on my own again. Well, almost. I did encounter one young couple at the west end of the ridge that were slightly confused and needed a little help getting headed in the right direction.

( 4 )
Nearing the western end of the ridge I came to the end of Trail D there at the intersection of the Trail A and Trail C segments of the Upper Canyon Trail. The Trail A segment, off to the left in the photo, where it falls off the ridge in one of those "Extremely Steep and Rugged" segments is an adventure in itself. Trail C, the northern portion of the Upper Canyon Trail, is straight ahead and will eventually U-turn into the Upper North Prong Canyon and head back east again.

For more on ascending Trail A, as well as more of a description of hiking along the Haynes Ridge check out this post from last year.

Oh, and don't get too invested in that claim that Fern Cave is only 2 tenths of a mile away.

It's more like double that and to get there I have to give up most of my hard-won altitude as I scrabble down the third of the "Extremely Steep and Rugged" trail segments. And in case you didn't know, going down is actually tougher in many ways than going up.

If you look close at the post next to the sign you can see it is marked with a "C" over a "7".

C, as we have established, is the parks designation for the northern section of the Upper Canyon Trail, the one I'm about to follow, and the 7 - well, it seems to me to be slightly weird, but C1 will be at the trailhead, in this case where the Upper Canyon and Lower Canyon trails intersect with the North Prong Spur Trail.

Roughly a half mile further along will be a post marked C2. So C1 is zero, C2 is .5 mile, and so on, making C7 3 miles. So essentially you subtract one from the number on the post and that tells you how many half-miles you've either come or have to go, depending on which direction you are headed.

( 5 )  Taken with my Canon SX50 with the lens at the equivalent of 24mm

At this point I'm nearing the north west corner of the State Park and can occasionally hear a truck making the steep climb up SR 256.

In fact, just one turn short of the top of that climb, (The road's climb) just under the arrow up there on the edge of the escarpment,

( 5 ) Same spot, same camera, now zoomed out to the equivalent of  a 1200 mm lens

is a picnic area.

but that's not where I'm headed.

See that dolphin-shaped shadow in the center of this photo?

That's what is euphemistically called Fern Cave, the northwesterly most point in the park that can be reached by established trail.

I say euphemistically because it's not a cave, by any stretch of the imagination, so much as it is an overhung hollow in the rock. A sheltered grotto.

And by a temporary quirk in the geology, this grotto is the only spot in the canyon that is cool and wet enough to support the ferns that hang from its roof sucking up water that has seeped down through the rock above.

Though today wet was more of a state of mind than it was a reality. I've been here before when the ferns were dripping and water pooled behind the house-sized boulder that fell down from above some time in the past and now shelters the mouth of the grotto.

But right now the pool is dry and the ferns slightly brittle.

( 6 )

From here, even though not quite yet to the half-way point of today's hike, all the hard parts of the hike are behind, unless you consider trudging that final, interminable mile back to The Van hard, which I guess it is in its own way.

But first, from Fern Cave it's a couple relatively mild miles down the Upper North Prong of the Little Red River to the intersection with the 1.3 mile North Prong Spur which will get me back to said Van.

Along the way I'm treated to a pair of hoodoos called The Last Dance.

These are a fine example of the wisdom of turning around often when hiking.

As your perspective changes, so does the nature of the dancers.

In fact, if you are hiking this trail from east to west, or left to right in the photo, unless you turn around after you've gone by you just might miss the hoodoos altogether as when viewed from the east they line up with each other and blend into the fin on which they stand, which then blends into the higher ridge behind it.

OK, essentially this hike is all over now except for the shouting, so I'm going to stop shouting now and finish dragging my idiot self back to The Van.

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