Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lost Pines: The Grand Hike

We decided to take a short hike Saturday morning. The LCRA (also known Lower Colorado River Authority) park McKinney Roughs backs up to the Lost Pines property. We had seen the trail head sign posts during our wagon ride the previous night and had picked up a trail map from the recreation desk. The trail head we were told was 3/4 a mile either down the same dirt path the wagon had taken us, or a smaller jogging path that wended along side the river. After looking the trail map we had decided to do the Pecan Bottom to Deep Sandy or Coyote Road loop in order to see the largest Pecan Tree in the park - estimated to be over 200 years old and more than 12 feet in circumference.

We put on our hiking books (aka tennis shoes), dabbed on the sunscreen, grabbed Kevin's GPS, a couple of bottles of water and headed out. We arrived at the trail head and followed the great signage down the wide and well maintained paths. It was actually quite a good thing that the paths were so well marked as the GPS Kevin brought wouldn't even turn on when we gave it a try at the trail head.

As it turns out all the paths along our journey (both planned and not...) were also equestrian trails and indeed we actually passed two separate sets of riders going in the opposite direction along our way. For the vast majority of the trip the large trees, undergrowth, and vines kept the path thankfully well shaded as the temperatures were rising and the direct sunlight was blisteringly hot even before noon.

The biggest surprise along the way (other than the 2nd set of riders whose lead horse almost flattened me as they came around a blind fork in the road) was the sheer number of butterflies.

The first of which we didn't actually see directly at first, but instead saw the large shadow it cast as it fluttered gracefully overhead before finally landing in some nearby brush.

We ended up seeing at least 6 or 8 different varieties of butterflies on our trek. Surprisingly, almost every time we came along a new butterfly it was a new and different variety than the ones we had seen previously.

It was amazing that there so many of so many different varieties all in one place. Though it quickly became apparent that some were more inclined to sit and pose for a picture than others who constantly flitted around barely if ever pausing in one spot making it a maddeningly difficult to actually get a picture of them. And I thought the boys were hard to capture... :)

In no time at all we came across the giant pecan tree. It was indeed a large tree, though it didn't hold a candle to the giant trees in places like the redwood forest.

Buoyed by the shorter than expected journey and the up to that point flat terrain we decided to add on another stop along our journey - the scenic outlook off the branch in the Road Runner path and depending on how tough that was either come back the way we had gone or all the way on around the loop to Coyote Road.

We carefully looked at the elevation changes the view from the topographical map afforded us and decided that it didn't look too bad. Those will be famous last words someday. They will probably be etched on my tombstone. :)

The Buckeye path was actually probably some of the prettiest trails along the way with its up and down hills and beautiful tree cover. Some areas however were fairly sleep climbs for two out of shape city folks accustomed to flat and air conditioned terrain. It was also about this time as my water was nearing the halfway mark that I realized when I had told Kevin to grab 2 bottles of water (for me) he had grabbed two total - one for him and one for me. And did I mentioned that was HOT outside??

There were plenty of distractions along the way including a variety of flowers in bloom, and along with the bee who happened into my picture a whole drove of horseflies intent on keeping us moving lest we stop and be viciously attacked. I have a whole new level of empathy for horses who spend all day swatting at the beasts. It really hurts when they bite!

As we crested the Buckeye Trail and turned on the Road Runner trail huffing and puffing (okay so I was huffing and puffing from the final steep assent and the ridiculous heat of the hottest day of the weekend - just my luck...) the trail turned into almost a prairie like path with mostly scrubby brush and few scattered trees with the sun out in full force mocking us for having decided that was a remotely good idea.

By the time we reached the cut-off I was about ready to give up and turn around and had already decided that I was going into the pool the second we got back clothes and all regardless of how many people were there and what they would think. :) Luckily as I stopped in one of the few shaded areas along the path a brisk breeze was blowing which helped cool things off tremendously. And just when I had cooled off enough and worked myself up to finishing the rest of the path come what may we were there.

I am fairly certain I uttered something like "This is IT???" just before collapsing on the shaded picnic table at the top. I was eventually revived by the shade and breeze long enough to sit up and look around and appreciate the scenic views of the Colorado River off in the distance below.

As I chugged part of my water and my face cooled from boiling lobster red to a more normal shade I recovered enough to eventually even stand back up and snap a few pictures from the top.

Almost restored back to my original good spirits by the shady break with the much appreciated breeze we decided to take the rest of the loop back towards the river. Before long, despite the lack of shade it was clear that there was a reason that everyone we passed was heading in the opposite direction choosing to take the gradual sloped path up and the crazy hilly path down. We did eventually make our way back to the trail head and I think were were both relieved to see the sign pointing out the Hyatt Resort exit.

As we took the river path back towards the hotel with Kevin dreaming about the buffet lunch he would devour and me fantasizing about either the pool or an ice cold shower we saw a squirrel - only the second animal we had actually seen along the journey. I had spotted a camera shy armadillo out of the corner of my eye just before we took the path back towards the hotel. Neither paid us terribly much attention seemingly accustomed to the wild pointing and and frequent visitors.
We did eventually make it back to the hotel and I got my nice ice cold shower - the perfect way to top off a 4.5 mile journey in the heat and humidity of a Texas summer. And like icing on the cake I savored my way through a giant, delicious angus burger topped with a thick slice of real cheddar cheese and a basket of perfectly crunchy and salted french fries.

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