Texas Hill Country
October 12, 2020
Copperhead and I set out for Enchanted Rock early on Sunday morning, intending to stay at the state park that night, with a stop in Fredericksburg for brunch. Both of us loaded up with a hearty meal full of eggs and Texas toast at a warm, eclectic place off the main strip in town.
Fredericksburg is known as a picturesque little German town in Hill Country, so we took a stroll down main street and around the square in the middle of town. I loved the old library, which by the look of it, I'm almost certain was once a county courthouse. As we strolled through the square, an old man on a park bench pulled out a banjo and began to play. I was stunned when Copperhead asked me what that instrument was called!
While Fredericksburg is nice to look at, there's not a lot to do, at least not in my book. I'm not much of a shopper. But I could see how my mom would love it. It's funny how in cities, everyone acts as if there's so much to do, but I'm bored to tears. Then in the countryside, I'm excited about how much there is to do, but others, not so much. Different strokes.
After Fredericksburg, we drove straight to Enchanted Rock, but the gate was closed and the rangers were turning people away! You could clearly see people hiking on the rock, so it was unlikely that the park was closed entirely. Maybe something had happened just now? We swung around and rolled down the window so we could ask what was going on.
"We're full! We'll be re-opening at 2:30."
"We were planning to camp here," we answered. It was a Sunday night, in April, so we figured there wouldn't be many overnighters and hadn't bothered to make reservations. It was a perfect day though, so we could see how there would be a lot of day use folks.
"Did you make reservations?"
"No. We were planning on doing primitive camping..."
"If you can, I'd try to make a reservation while you wait. But come back after 2:30."
We decided to head back to Fredericksburg, and on the way, Copperhead called the park office. They said there was plenty of room in primitive camping, and if we came back and gave our name, they'd let us in. By then, we were almost in Fredericksburg already.
Copperhead's uncle had mentioned a scenic wildflower drive right around Fredericksburg, so we decided to check it out. It was peak bluebonnet season and Copperhead had been listening to me gush about them for at least a week. I guess she didn't mind, because she agreed to look at more of them!
There was one particular spot where a load of people had pulled over for photographs. We joined them. Upon seeing us taking pictures of each other, a friendly middle-aged woman kindly offered to take one of us together. The funny thing was, she'd talk to us for a short time, then said, "Well, I'll leave you to yourselves," and a minute later, she'd come back over and strike up another 60-second conversation. Not that we minded.
"I wish my daughter had beautiful red hair like you," she said to Copperhead. "I hope you two have a whole bunch of beautiful red-headed kids!"
At one point, we were driving along a ridge. Copperhead pointed to a valley down below, to the left.
"It looks like a river down there!"
I briefly flicked my head over for a glance. "Well, it is."
"No, it's bluebonnets!"
I looked again. "Holy crap!"
Sure enough, it was a clearing in the woods at the bottom of the valley, so packed with bluebonnets that blue was the only color you could see. At a glance, it looked just like a stream lazily meandering through the hills.
Shortly after a beautiful 30-minute drive, we were in Enchanted Rock State Park. We had no trouble securing a primitive campsite; evidently those are never in demand. We hiked the mile-and-a-half around to the other side of the rock and set up our tent underneath a post oak tree, leaving off the rainfly for the clear skies and cool air that night. Then we hiked up to the top of the rock.
Enchanted Rock is a curious thing. For one, it's granite. There's almost no granite found anywhere in the state of Texas, except here, right in the middle, and uplifted above everything else (or more accurately, everything else has worn down around it). If you look on a geologic map, it's easy to spot - the pink area in the middle, right where it seems like it doesn't belong. It's also some of the oldest rock in the state. Hill Country truly is the heart of Texas.
Enchanted Rock got its name from the Native Americans that lived nearby. In the summer, the sun heats up the rock until it's hot enough it could burn you. At night, as it cools down, it occasionally creaks and groans, causing the natives to believe that spirits lived on the rock, and that it was a sacred place.
On top of the rock are vernal pools, where rainwater collects after a rain. Incredibly, things are alive in them! At some point, dirt and dust blew into the air and settled, just enough for grasses and algae to live off of, and now there are trees managing to take root on a solid granite slab. And if that's not enough, there are entire species that are native to the pools. Some of them are even found only in one pool and none of the others nearby! An entire species contained in a dozen square feet of space.
Copperhead and I summitted the rock fairly easily. Somehow, I remembered it being more difficult last time I was there. We followed that up with a hike around the base of the rock, then revisited a pond near our campsite at sunset, popped open a couple Shiner Bocks, and watched the stars come out, pointing out the constellations we knew.
Sometimes I feel sorry for non-Texans.
As we fell alseep, we heard coyotes howling, then awoke to the sound of a herd of cattle mooing. The sun was just rising over the rock, directly in front of our tent. With the rainfly off, we barely had to lift our heads for an incredible view to start our day. It's hard for me to understand why primitive camping is unpopular. We almost had the entire campground to ourself.
We packed up our belongings in no time - Copperhead's an awesome backpacking partner! - and made our way back out of the park. Changed into fresher clothes, got back in the car, and pointed west. Desert, here we come!
from Southwest 2016