Sunday, February 14, 2016

Our last day in Texas was devoted to the great outdoors. While we loved exploring the rich history of the city of San Antonio, we couldn't wait to get out into the wilds of nature. We're definitely country folk, and hiking & exploring the outdoors always gets us excited. 

So, with the anticipation of unknown scenery waiting to be discovered, we loaded up the van bright & early and hit the back roads of Texas, searching for Enchanted Rocks State Park

The roadside scenery on the way was part of the fun. The dry, seemingly barren landscape filled with cacti and hunting ranches felt very foreign to us.  We were a bit worried about reaching the park in time, given that it was a beautiful Saturday morning and there were warnings on the park website about possible park closures (due to reaching full capacity). When we finally rounded the bend and found a line of cars waiting to pull into the park entrance, we were impatient to get in. Fortunately the wait wasn't too awful long, and eventually we obtained our parking pass and found a spot in the already brimming full parking lot. 

Ready to hit the trails.
We paid the fees: $7 per adult (children 12 and under free)
And poured over the trail map filled with hiking trails ranging from easy to challenging - with most trails fitting into the moderate-difficult category. 

Nothing manlier than packing a baby and consulting the trail map. I am one lucky woman.
We weren't sure we should attempt to hike the Summit Trail (ranked "challenging") with the little kids, and were initially aiming to skirt around the base of the rock on the easier trails. However, when we started hiking up we decided to just go with the throngs of people flowing toward the top of the dome.


The going was definitely pretty steep and challenging, but our kids loved it and did really well all the way to the top. We even let Margaret & William venture off a *bit* farther once we passed the really steep spot.

While the crowds were pretty thick at first, once we reached the summit there was plenty of room for everyone to disperse, and we enjoyed exploring around a bit more.  Everything's big in Texas. 

 The views from the summit were amazing. 


 Enchanted Rocks is a huge granite batholith, stretching 62 square miles (mostly underground). You can see here a bit of why it is called an exfoliating dome, where the rocks peel off in layers like an onion.

 At the top of the dome we found these neat vernal pools filled with little fairy shrimp flitting around their enchanting micro-world. The kids were fascinated. 

Smitten with micro-crustaceans - that's my girl.

Wandering toward the back of the dome we found there were more boulders, trees & shrubs and variety in the landscape....I love seeing the beauty in new areas.

Fungus & Algae took a lichen to each other.
After finding our way down the back side of the slope we joined up with Echo Canyon Trail and began to thread our way back toward the parking lot.

At this point the kids were getting pretty tired.....

But they were enjoying the adventure as much as we were and that kept them going, and extremely tough. The only tears that were shed were when Susannah bumped up against this offending little bit of flora:

After some impromptu first aid plucking out tiny barbed cactus needles, we were on our way again. Off roading this time, since we didn't follow Echo Canyon back around to the Summit Trail. Instead we did some boulder climbing down this slope:

Our little mountain goats, Margaret & William, loved it. The littler ones did awesome with some assistance from Mom & Dad. Pretty proud of these wee adventurers!

And the other bonus of this fun outing? They were so happy to collapse in the van that they rode contentedly all the way back to Missouri, resting their tired legs in their car seats. 

Quite notably, I actually took a long stint driving the green behemoth through Texas. Although I'm not sure it was as relaxing for Clay as he envisioned since I kept swerving on the back country roads every time we passed a herd of attractive ranch horses. A little before midnight we crossed the state line back into the Show-Me State, just as a shooting star lit up the sky overhead. An auspicious welcome home.


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