Yesterday’s hike was amazing for a few reasons. Remembering why I love sharing my love of nature with others. There is something so beautiful about being connected with others who look like you. I am so happy to see more Blacks out in nature over the years. Enjoying life and connecting over the way Mother Nature’s beauty surrounds us. Setting goals, laughing, challenging, and encouraging each other.
This Sunday, I had the opportunity to host a group hike, which comprised of individuals from all levels of activity. For many this was the first “official” hike and on top of that…we completed 10 miles. Yes, some newbies, bit the bullet and pushed their limits, and hit 10 miles. I loved that everyone wanted to stay together. We encouraged each other and made sure we took plenty of breaks. It was an amazing accomplishment and I am beyond proud of them! And luckily, I didn’t scare them away! Hiking is a good obsession to have!
We met at Purgatory Creek Natural Area in San Marcos (TX). The park is mostly flat with some small inclines. The trails range from dirt to rocky (small to very large), so watch your step! We started at the Lower Purgatory trailhead. It took us about 5 miles to start from the Lower to Upper. We took the Dante trail to Malacoda trail to reach the Grotto and then double backed to Dante trail to Upper Purgatory. On the way back, we took Styx to Paraiso to Dante and then over what I think was Ovid to over the Dam (that area is a bit confusing-ha!). You can also access the area from Prospect Park on the other side of Wonder World highway. I will have to venture that way next time!
For the most part, the trails are marked well, but there is still some confusion on both sides. So be careful, it would be good to stuy the map prior to going and take a picture (or print it out before) at the trailheads. They are doing some trail work and have closed off older trails in some parts. Also, if you ever plan to go during spring (March-May) the Paraiso Trail is closed off for nesting season for the Endangered Golden Cheek Warbler. There are plenty of trees on most of the trails, so if you do this on a hot day, you will benefit from some shade at least!
First off, let me say Happy Martin Luther King, Jr Day! And I hope you are doing something in your life to impact the world for the better!
Hike 2: Salado Creek Greenway
Alright to the hiking! If you read last week’s hiking post, it rained all day( with some sleet and snow in some areas), so I didn’t get out that Sunday. My second hike of the year happened last Tuesday, Jan 12. This is a special day for me, as it is my brother’s birthday. If you’ve followed me for a while, you may know his story. But if you don’t, that is okay. My brother passed from colon cancer at the age of 33 in 2015. Since then, I’ve taken the time to ensure I do something for him on his birthday and also the day he passed (March 29th). It usually entails me going to a park to just sit and reflect on him and our life together or the last couple years, going on a hike.
We grew up in Southern California, and anyone who thinks of that immediately goes to…BEACH. And while yes we explored many beaches and city/local parks, we also spend a lot of time in the desert. We moved out to the High Desert in the late 80s/early 90s. I have plenty of fond memories of us adventuring in the deserts right behind our house. Finding rocky mountains and bike jumps. Exploring for what seemed like hours just by ourselves. All of that, laid the foundation of our “getaway” in nature as we got older. We were quiet, reflective and healed in nature. Something I am grateful for everyday that our parents provided us with.
I didn’t go on my “typical” hike (which is usually a dirt trail, rocky inclines and in the middle of no where lol), but I returned to one of our local Greenways here in San Antonio. I used to go on these for years when I used to run. That day I chose to start at the Pletz Park Trailhead from the Salado Creek Greenway. It was a chilly day, but worth the quiet. I barely saw anyone on the trail, a few joggers and bikers here and there. I walked the three miles to the Martin Luther King, Jr Park Trailhead and took a break to write in my journal to my brother. After about 15 minutes or so, I hopped back on the trail and headed back. I completed 6 miles, which in turn honored the 6 years my brother has been gone.
One of the things that does bother me on the city trails is the trash. Many of the creeks in town have so much trash. There were some beautiful shots, ruined by the presence of cups, plastic bags, clothes and anything else you can think of! I even saw an ice chest. I will be looking into trash clean-up days and what the city has planned (if anything).
Overall, the day was a great, emotionally filled day. A beautiful reminder that grief only shows how much love we hold. And that we should never take for granted the beauty that life does bring to us daily.
Hike 3: Enchanted Rock Natural State Area
Sunday hiking returned yesterday. My usual hiking buddies and I ventured to one of my favorites spots, Enchanted Rock Natural State Area. This was my sixth time there; with one friend, being her second and the other, her first. We ventured on the Loop Trail first, heading East towards Buzzard’s Roost. Of all the times, I’ve been there, I hadn’t ventured on that part yet so I was excited to see new things.
The best part about Enchanted Rock, is of course the “rock” itself, but really all the great climbing areas. Whether you are just up for an adventure, testing your limits, avid rock climber or bouldering, these rock formations are amazing! You will definitely have some moments of hesitation, but if you are like us, we go for it! And yes, we do know our limits and the times of….”if we were trained in rock climbing…” moments. So as always, with any hiking adventure you go on, know yourself!
Enchanted Rock itself, is pretty steep and is almost a mile (0.8) up from the bottom (starting at the Gazebo entrance to Summit Trail). Many people come to just hike it and leave. This was my 4th time up and even with a few mini breathing spots, it takes about 15 minutes to get to the top.
A highlight from this hike was finally hiking up Turkey Peak. We sat and watched the sun begin to set. We also heard coyotes in the area howling. It was pretty exciting. It started out as a few and then you could hear several all at once.
This trip also made me want to start some rock climbing classes this year, and of course, work on strengthening my bad knees. I recall trying to climb back in college and just never really went to try again. Such a shame, but that will change!
To learn more about the legends and history of Echanted Rock, check these sites out:
Happy Sunday! Texas got a surprise today with snow! Unfortunately, I didn’t go on a hike today. Listening to the rain and sleet outside made me reminisce about all the sunny days out in 2020. Below are all the parks I completed during the year. All my favorites are the ones with **. Check out my video highlights from them all.
Friedrich Wilderness Park**
Crownridge Canyon Natural Area
Mother Neff State Park
Government Canyon State Park
Hill Country State Natural Area
Guadalupe River State Park**
Lockhart State Park
Choke Canyon State Park
Lost Maples Natural State Park**
McKinney Falls State Park**
Palmetto State Park
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area**
Goliad State Park
Old Tunnel State Park
Garner State Park**
South Llano River State Park
Dinosaur Valley State Park**
Cedar Hill State Park
Ray Roberts Lake State Park
Purgatory Creek Trailhead
Pedernales Falls State Park**
Brazos Bend State Park**
Hikes for 2021
For 2021, I plan to try new State Parks and add a few National Parks as well. I will be heading out to Big Bend State Park later this month. The major hiking goal I have is to climb Guadalupe Peak at Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The goal is to climb the 8,750ft peak in September. After that, Carlsbad Cavern National Park!
Lots of research of parks and gear ahead! This is going to be a great year!
Well we know 2020 was a little bit of a crazy year. Although, I have a lot of gratitude towards 2020. In fact, I wrote a love letter to it (will share in another post). I admit, this blog sat on the back burner for the last 7-8 months. Yet, I have been far from complacent in that time.
Just a few updates since my new year post of 2020 and my last post in May. I found my worth. I moved into a tiny home. I started a Wellness Life Coaching Business (www.rebirthselflove.com) and I finished my 52 Hike Challenge. I did well with my poetry for a while and then life just caught up with me. Between all the good, there was definitely pain and sorrow in between. Life has been lived and I am ready for more!
I am making a new addition to NaturaLu Creations for 2021. I have decided to do the 52 Hike Challenge again and to write about my amazing adventures. These hikes have been my saving grace in 2020- with COVID and racism being in our faces all year long, I needed something to settle my anxieties and nature has always been the best therapy for me. Don’t worry, the poetry will be coming back this week too!
So join me on a little hiking adventure each week! Welcome to NaturaLu Creations presents, NaturaLu Excursions!
NATURALU EXCURSIONS: The 52 Hike Challenge 2021, Hike 1: Kickapoo Cavern State Park
Today, my friends and I, went to a brand new place for us. We traveled almost 3 hours to Bracketville, TX to visit the Kickapoo Cavern State Park. Although we weren’t able to see the actual caverns (thanks again to COVID) or stay to watch the bats emerge, we were able to trek about 95% of the trails there and complete 11.2 miles.
If you are a bird watcher, you will love it here. We saw so many birds, including Crested Caracaras and the most American Robins I have ever seen. I am not an avid birder, but I remember many species from my college Ornithology class (I was a Wildlife Conservation Major). I have thought about investing in binoculars so I can test myself from all that knowledge over a decade ago! You can pick up this bird checklist below, inside at the office!
If you are looking for other signs of wildlife, you are still in luck. We saw several armadillos, one of which pretty much walked right past us while looking for food and water. There were also hundreds of javelina footprints around and we did see a fox running by in the morning (we arrived around 930am).
If you are not an avid hiker just yet, some of the trails may be challenging for you. As always, Texas State Parks provide trail guides with a levels of difficulty. Most scale “easy” towards “moderate,” with the Barbado Ridge Trail leading, moderate to strenuous (I will say, for any of these parks, be aware that these maps are not to scale. We typically hike more than what the numbers say). The terrain is pretty rocky and has several steep inclines and declines. The highest point we reached was 1,900ft. Make sure you have some sturdy shoes and ready for those rocks. And if you have any previous injuries, make sure you are prepared. I have knee injuries and always wear my knee brace, but those inclines, plus the distance, can be rough! Those last two miles certainly were for me.
Overall, it was a perfect day with the views and the weather. I usually layer up (it was 34 degrees Fahrenheit when we arrived and moved up the to high 60s). I plan to go back when they reopen the caverns to the public. We only saw three other people on the trails, really just one biker. Seemed like everyone else who was there was utilizing the camping grounds. Perfect park to go to if you are looking for some quiet and no people! Yay for social distancing.
If you enjoying hiking, what are some of your favorites areas to frequent?