Monday, August 24, 2020

Lost (Maples) in Texas

Texas has some place-names that are a little out there, like a Looneyville, a Jot 'Em Down, a Needmore, and a Bug Tussle.  But then Texas is a big place so there's plenty of room for oddities like Nimrod, Cheapside, and Ding Dong.

And with all that space it's no surprise a few things got lost. There's even a couple websites like LostTexasRoads and Lost-Texas that are trying to un-lost lost Texas stuff.

Apparently there's also a few lost trees wandering around the state, like the lost pines that, instead of hanging out around East Texas with the rest of their brethren, can be found huddling together, scared and traumatized by the Bastrop County Complex Fire but still there, near the fringes of the Hill Country in the Bastrop State Park, and the lost maples setting up homestead in the hollows of the Sabinal River in - well, Lost Maples State Natural Area.

Which is where I am now. ( This trip was actually taken in late February 2020, just before coronatine shut everything down)

This photo was taken on my last trip here in late fall some six years ago.

As you might imagine, during fall color season this park, despite being somewhat remote, is highly popular. In fact, it's not at all unusual for the park to reach it's capacity of 250 day-use vehicles by mid morning and start turning arrivals away.

You could always plan your trip for a couple weeks after peak season, as I did back in 2014, and still get some decent color without the hoards, but if you insist on peak color, and can abide the crowds, the State Park system now has a "Save The Day Pass" that can hold a spot open for you. These can be purchased up to 30 days prior to your trip, but remember, you will be competing with all the other people that want to visit at the same time and, reservation or not, the number of passes is limited by the number of parking places. (You can make campsite reservations up to 6 months prior, but expect the same rush on sites during peak color)

View of the park's maintenance facilities tucked into the valley alongside the Sabinal River. The campground is out of sight around the corner to the left.

Now I enjoy peak color season as much as the next guy, but not enough to willingly put up with the crowds,

Yep, the outside temp was 27 this morning and overnight a healthy layer of frost had built up on the inside, between the window-covers and the windshield.

so a crisp trip in February was, once you factor in the crowd-cringe element, easily as enjoyable.

Don't get me wrong, it seems that there is rarely a time when this park is empty. (Well, except maybe for that Christmas day back in 1983 when a freeze and ice-storm locked most the state down and we had the place to ourselves, not even a ranger around to take our entry fee.)

Many of these rigs in here were just over-nighters, which I find a little surprising since it's not like this place is on the way to anywhere,

but even mid-week the 30 water/electric sites were about 60% full every night I was there, and don't count on driving in without a reservation on a weekend, even in the off-season, and finding a place unless you are headed for one of the underutilized back-country hike-in sites.

Anytime you get more than a few people together there's probably going to be some numbnuts among them, such as these people in a motorhome that cost more than our house who insisted on leaving the "hey, look at me, aren't I cool" under-chassis lights on all night, (Which, if we are brutally honest about it, are really "please look at me because I'm so insecure I can't stand not being paid attention to" lights) completely ignoring the fact that

this park, located at the cross-hairs in the map above, normally sits just out of reach of the star-gaze killing glow of San Antonio and Austin at a refreshing 3 on the Bortle Dark-Sky Scale, (The bright greys at the city centers are a 9 on the Bortle Scale) has a dark-sky designation.

To stay here on a generously sized water/electric site (Unlike some parks in the system, there are no less expensive hook-up free drive-in sites at this park, besides, my house batteries are definitely past their "use-by date" so I didn't mind running the fridge off the park's electric.) with sheltered table, and a shower with flush toilets, costs $20 per night (Plus $6 per day per person entry without a Park Pass)

Oh yeah, don't count on a cell signal here, even from the ridge-tops. Several years ago I had to drive 60 miles round-trip to check in on The Wife who, though she claimed she was getting better, was pretty sick when I left the house.

Of course the main draw here, at least for me, is the 20 some miles of trails, which I'll touch on a little in the next few posts.


  1. Lost Maples is a great park, with some really wonderful trails. Last time Donna and I camped there, we were sitting outside our trailer in the campground looking north at those hills. Suddenly, we saw movement. We grabbed our binoculars and began scanning the hills. There were 2 mountain goats of some type. Obviously, the property to the north has exotic animals. We watched them cross the slopes of the hills for at least 30 minutes before they disappeared. This was early July, 2015, and we were camped in site 23. I'm looking forward to your next entry and your hike reports. Wonderful trails!

    1. I suspect what you saw was Barbary Sheep, or Aoudads as they are known in Texas. They are not limited to exotic ranches and are, in fact, wandering around in the park as well. It's just that they are very shy and wily so stick to the more rugged, higher areas and are difficult to spot. But more about Aoudads coming up in the post scheduled for Sep 7.