Monday, August 31, 2020

The West Trail; Too Ambitious for an Old Fart?

Snaking through the hollows and over the ridges of Lost Maples are a number of trails, and over my 5 day stay I managed to hike all of them. And without killing myself!

The bulk of the trails,the East (green) and West (blue) are laid out in a couple of loops that share a central spine (purple).

My first day here I jumped in with both feet - so to speak - and tackled the West Trail. I even threw in the West Loop (yellow) in for good  measure.  (Umm, was it really good, or just egotistical foolishness?)

From my campsite, down there in the lower-left corner, most everything about this park is uphill, until it's downhill. (Yeah, I know, that statement is about as nonsensically necessary as telling someone I'm standing right in front of that I'm here. But really, it sounded better in my head than it looks on paper, and since I've already written it, it stays. . .)

For this hike the initial climb is along along the gradual tilt of Can Creek, then up the steep scramble to the ridge circled by the West Loop Trail. Of course now I had to get back down off that ridge by a different, but equally scrambly route, only to, after a short reprieve along the lower reaches of Mystic Canyon, where the trail gets sketchy at times as it shares the limited space with Mystic Creek, head sharply uphill again to the ridge near Primitive Camp E, and finally back down until I stumbled wearily back into camp.

 But first, back to the beginning.

By the time I got to the joint trailhead this morning I had already hiked the better part of a mile to get from the campground, past the maintenance area, across the Sabinal River and finally to the Overflow Parking area that doubles as trailhead parking near where Can Creek flows into the river.

Not far from the trailhead, if you look very closely at the cliffs to the southwest

you just might spot this. A Redtail Hawk nest precariously tucked well out of the reach of predators.

Like Eagles, Redtails mate for life and also nest every year in the same spot, adding to the nest each season. This being late winter there was no nesting activity going on today.

Next stop was the point where the two legs of the West trail split up (or come back together depending on where in the hike you are). Today I took the branch to the right and will return on the branch to the left.

And if that straight line over to the right in the photo looks suspiciously like a curb, you're right.

Just across the other side of Can Creek you can make out a two-track climbing back up out of the creek. Prior to the mid 1970's this was a working ranch and under that arrow, on a bench above the creek,

sits what used to be the ranch-house and some outbuildings. Today it's used as the Park Superintendent's house.

After hiking along Can Creek for a bit the East Trail peels off and goes its own way right about were the Pools are located. These, the pools, are only one mile from the trailhead parking and are a very popular spot.

So popular that much of area along the accessible north side of the pools, to the right in the photo, is roped off right now to allow it to rest and restore itself. Primitive Camp C used to be here but I kinda doubt that it will ever be reopened again, even after the area has recovered.

Fishing is a popular activity here (In Texas you don't need a license to bank-fish if you are standing on State Park land.) but the Sabinal River and Can Creek are one of the last refuges of the highly endangered Guadalupe Bass so all fishing is catch and release only.

Eventually I made it beyond the pools to where the West Loop Trail leaves (and returns to) the West Trail.

The temptation to skip adding this additional 2.5 miles to my hike was strong, but I resisted the lure of common-sense (not as difficult as I, and especially my mother, would sometimes hope) and forged on anyway.

In the past this elaborate concrete-filled steel pipe anchored one end of a fence-crossing over the upper reaches of Can Creek. That fence marked a boundary between two ranches, and later between the State Park and a ranch.

In 2009 the State bought that 600 acres on the other side and added it to the park,

 though they haven't yet gotten around to updating the signs, nor have they added a new trail through the area. Admittedly, it is a bit rugged up in there. (giving into temptation, a few years ago I did a little bushwacking back in there.)

This fence, however, along the west side of the West Loop, does mark a current park boundary, and the mid-point of my perhaps ill-advised little side excursion. It also meant I was nearing the location of primitive camp H. Which meant lunch break!

As I was hiking up Mystic Canyon after coming back down off the West Loop Trail I found this laying on the ground.

To some this might look like nothing more than a bit of Spanish Moss gone astray, but to a modelrailroader the foliage possibilities are downright titillating!  But, like National Parks, everything here in a State Park is protected, so I put it back where I found it and walked away, though there might have been a longing backwards glance or two. . .

As I was coming down off the ridge where Primitive Camp E sits I came across this trail marker.

Seeing as how that's a  nearly vertical 25 foot rock wall back there behind the marker I'm not entirely sure it's necessary - - -

I eventually closed the loop and ended up back at the trailhead parking area.

Since I still had the better part of a mile to go before I would get back to The Van I used the excuse of the adjacent bird blind and this cabin to linger here for a bit.

Since there is nothing on the web-site history page, and no informative info-plaque to be found, I have to assume that this was once used by the ranch foreman or some other worker(s).

These blocks the walls are made of are larger than bricks but smaller than cinder-blocks, so I poked around a bit

and found this spot where a gas pipe, a later addition, had been crammed through the wall. Now I could see that these blocks are made of clay, like bricks, but are hollow like cinder-blocks. When I was wandering around Venezuela back in the '80's-90's these were a very common building material but not one I've seen much of here in the US.

I sure wish they'd post more of the historical info for those of us that are curious about that stuff. . .

But for now, I've already hiked nearly 9 miles, burning up a healthy chunk of the day at my usual snail's pace, and still have some hiking left to go before I get back to The Van and can finally put a nice big dinner into action. (After all, no sense in risking burning off too much of this hard-earned fat!)


  1. That’s a full day of hiking. And some nice ups according to the map.

    1. It's a good thing our property is all up and down so I can stay in training!

  2. Enjoyed reading about your hike. Donna and I last hiked this trail in July 2015. In fact, the second picture of our entry is virtually the same as your 7th picture (with red markings). Angle is virtually the same, but water levels noticeably different. Beautiful country, but a challenging hike for our aging legs.

    Keep writing!

    1. Yeah, ya gota watch the water levels around here. I once waded across the Pedernales River at Trammell's crossing to do some hiking over there, came back three days later and found flood-debris caught up in the trees 10 feet over my head.