Saturday, September 13, 2014

Number 45: Mother Neff State Park

Mother Neff State Park was our second stop of the day back on Labor Day weekend.  It was the first official state park in Texas (per TPWD) )comprised of land donated by Isabella "Mother" Neff, her son Pat Neff who served as Governor of Texas and later as the President of Baylor University, and F.P. Smith. There are several CCC projects to see here including the entrance sign and the recreation hall in the background.

We started out from the parking lot on an open grassy trail lined with Bur Oaks and Sycamore, Cottonwood and Texas Ash, Pecans, and Elms.

As we hiked higher the grasses gave way to thicker vegetation.  Here we saw Hackberry, Rattan Vine, and Holly among the trees.

Climbing even higher things changed again.

Here the trail became rocky and the tall trees of the lower park gave way to much shorter Juniper, Mexican Buckeye, Texas Persimmon, and Sumac.

Here you can climb the lookout/water tower that was built by the CCC and get a great view of the park from above.

On our way back down, we took a short detour to get a look at a cave located in the park. The stairs leading in were also a 1930's CCC project.  Let me add, "thank you."

They call it a cave, but to me it was more of an over hang.

Beautiful  nonetheless.

Park number 45 is in the books, but we have not made as much progress on our goal as we thought.  The TPWD added two new properties in the past month which bumps our number up to 95 parks to see.

BP spill fund helps give birth to state park on Texas coast
New state park west of Fort Worth awaits funding

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Number 44: Colorado Bend State Park

Colorado Bend State Park is one of four Texas State Parks that boast waterfalls; McKinney Falls, Pedernales Falls, and Big Bend are the others.  So, needless to say, upon arrival Breck and I headed straight for the Gorman Falls Trail to check out this park's offering.

I was excited when we arrived and there were only 4 other cars in the parking lot.  Though we often hike and never see another soul on the trails, I was not expecting such an experience at Colorado Bend.  Summers in Texas mean people flock to water, especially on a holiday like Labor Day.

My excitement faded quickly as we readied to head down the trail to Gorman Falls when four cars came screaming up the caliche rock road kicking up dust.  No less than 20 people spilled out making a racket only created by exuberant tweens.  We took advantage of their bathroom break (only one unisex facility at the trail head) to get a head start and quickly made our way down the trail.  Our desire for peace and quiet meant sacrificing most photo ops on the way.

The trail was dry and dusty with little shade, but once at the falls the landscape was covered in moss and fern.

Remember those 4 cars that were in the parking lot?  Trying to get shots of the falls without those drivers and passengers was tricky.  That and trying to balance on mossy rocks to get my photos made things interesting. The lack of rain in the area also made for a lackluster falls display.  Don't get me wrong, it's beautiful, but not the 300 gallons a minute I was expecting.

The signs also made things confusing.  Several postings warned of fines if you crossed into areas that were not clearly defined and protected.  Though many people were climbing on the rocks under the falls, I didn't feel comfortable crossing those lines to get closer more scenic shots.  I wish the signs had been more clear.

I felt a little disappointed after seeing stunning photos of the falls online, but not comfortable with getting where I needed to be to get those photos myself.

I took a lot more pictures, but they just didn't do the spot justice, lacking the details that can only be appreciated by being there.

After the arduous hike back up the rocky trail in temperatures that had risen during our time in the shade at the falls, we headed to another part of the park to do a little more hiking on much flatter ground.

The Ranger told us about a swimming hole down the Spicewood Springs Trail.  It was only a short walk from the parking area along the river.

The trail cuts away from the river and into the woods.

Just over the hill we found the swimming hole formed by rocks that pool the running spring's water into a deep hole.

We had the place to ourselves.  Breck went swimming in water well over his head and I took off my shoes and lounged on the edge with my feet in the water.  It was shady, cool, and peaceful.

 About the same time I began considering retrieving my camera from the bench I had put it on, we heard voices, and giggles, and a lot of glee.  Quickly our private oasis turned into a mothers-day-out program with joyful children excited about the prospect of  swimming in the spring water pool and climbing in the small falls.  It was our cue to go.  However, it also meant I missed the opportunity to photograph the beautiful spot.  I guess we will just have to go back someday and try again.

With so many diverse miles of trails to explore, I am sure I will have another opportunity.