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    Mark Hansbauer reviewed Wolf Mountain Trail

    about 1 month ago

    If the joy of a hike is inversely proportional to the number of people on the trail, then wolf mountain will be found lacking unless one starts at sunup. But the (over)popularity of this trail testifies to its walkability and proximity to other trails such as the juniper ridge and eastern boundary trails, landmarks such as jones spring and, of course, wolf mountain, and the primitive camping sites. As others so rightly observe, the trail is mostly in the open and the nicely-packed gravel of which much of the trail consists heats up under the Texas sun early in the day. The climb up wolf mountain is long enough to get a nice gain and the gravel can get thick and thus add to your cardio. But contrast this with the eastern boundary trail, which by my reckoning is just under a mile uphill over rocky, juniperized terrain with plenty of opportunities to be bushwhacked by an industrious feral hog. In sum, the eastern boundary, probably less traveled, is the more challenging. But scaling wolf mountain up its gravel side brings you to the majestic trip down its rocky, shaded side and into a forest valley with a narrow, meandering creek bed that in its total effect makes you feel as if you were hiking towards your hidden moonshine camp. Jones spring is the centerpiece of the trip; it is nestled inside a hefty rock formation not unlike an ancient Greek amphitheater. It is not too difficult to climb down into the pit of the spring for a close-up appreciation of the ferns who call this microcosm home. The aural and visual impact of the spring will vary depending on recent rainfall totals. Thus, most of the time the spring will be running light. Such is Texas. One thing not mentioned by other reviewers is that on the final two miles of your return you might ask yourself, 'Where in Hades did all these winding uphills come from?' It is the trail's way of keeping you from ending on a lazy note.

    Mark Hansbauer completed Wolf Mountain Trail

    about 1 month ago

    Mark Hansbauer reviewed Guadalupe Park Trail

    about 1 month ago

    Hiking this trail that runs along and above the Guadalupe river gives one appreciation for two things. First, the diversity of the flora and fauna lining this portion of the river. Second, the ingenuity and hard work it must have taken to build this trail without marring the natural experience. There are well over a hundred steps made with railroad ties and other timbers and embedded with rebar. And of course bridges to cross otherwise forbidding hollows and deep creek beds. You are never far from the river and often somewhat precariously above it. The homesteads across the river might feel intrusive, but come here in Winter as I do and they are pleasantly dormant (except for quarreling feral cats or squirrels). The number of steps might not sound like much, but many are steep and they add up if you double back. If you would rather not double back, there is a flat trail in the forest/meadow above the river trail that takes you most of the way to the starting point.

    Mark Hansbauer reviewed Loop Trail to Lookout Tower Trail

    about 1 month ago

    Remarkably handsome for being smack dab in civilization so-called. There is a striking variety of greenery and, if you hear a rustle in the forest, chances are decent it is a rabbit. The paved incline is steep enough for a nice gain that given its short distance you can master in short order. As others have mentioned, there is a network of side trails that take you up forest gains that are more challenging than the paved incline. The highlight, though, is 'The Hill,' a jagged rise exposed to the sun that hits you hardest as you are reaching your limit. The proper way to master this climb is to repeat it so there is no doubt who goes out on top. Just do not try this after a heavy lunch.

    Mark Hansbauer reviewed Guadalupe River State Park Loop

    about 1 month ago

    A grouping of several trails that can be scaled up to the full five miles or scaled back to as little as three miles. The centerpiece is the painted bunting trail (have not seen a painted bunting yet), which is 70% meadow to 30% forest. In Spring, the flowers are your main attraction and, if the trail has not been recently mowed, grasshoppers might bounce off of you as you forge ahead. In Winter, the attraction is the unrestrained wind carrying the intoxicating scent of distant fireplaces. You will hike several inclines, but none too high or too rough (just rough enough). You will have to hop-scotch over the rocks; most have been placed by nature at intervals that will favor your feet, but do keep your eyes on the ground as you navigate them. It is true the surroundings are not the most handsome; this is the grizzled Hill Country landscape, after all, and I believe some controlled burns were conducted in the past, giving the place a war-torn appearance in spots. On the other hand, the open view allows you to scan occasionally for feral hogs, whom you might see trotting about. A distant hello is sufficient for these creatures. If you are scaling up, you will detour off the painted bunting trail at the crossroads down inside what I call the 'valley of the souls' (you'll know it when you see it) onto the live oak and river overlook trails. On this detour the view narrows and the rocks get ornery. You can wander off-trail to gaze upon the Guadalupe and wonder who else has been there as the centuries have passed, but do not stop for long, lest you lose the hang of getting through the gauntlet of stone. You will eventually pick up the painted bunting trail again and be hit with the hike's rudest incline. Hit it with all your vigor and it tends to back down. Then you're in open country again (or at the parking lot). Congratulations, it is accomplished.

    Mark Hansbauer reviewed Madrone Trail

    about 1 month ago

    The trail offers many switchbacks and brief elevation changes that add up over a hike. Mostly you are in woodland that closes in on you from time to time, producing a tunnel effect that prompts you to go faster. Naturally, this too leaves its mark on your body when you hit the final few miles, if like me, you go in the reverse direction and end up in the sunnier portions at the end. The woods are mostly juniper but a few areas are dominated by handsome oak specimens tucked in along the trail. There are indeed scant lake views, but one can make the most of these by wandering off-trail to commune with the shore and water. On the whole, however, the shorelines present a rather foreboding experience of stone, Hieronymus Bosch cedar formations, and abandoned bric-a-brac of by-gone tourist days. I should mention at this point the many, many forsaken bathrooms and picnic tables one will discover as he or she glides through the forests. I find these charming and humbling; others might find them a nuisance. We might all agree, however, that it is like hiking backwards through time. The trail is often rocky, that is for sure. Many of these formations are flat and smooth. The ones that are not can be navigated with few mishaps provided one maintains Zen lightness. As others have pointed out, you have to cross numerous roads and it takes some looking to see where the trail picks up. Be rest assured, the trail does pick up. Just use your trail-nose. My final observation is that one will see numerous side trails that are not on the trail map as they are not part of the trail officially. But unofficially some of these can lead to notable discoveries, as when yours truly found a dumping ground of partial animal skeletons somewhere off-trail. Not sure what happened there; just grateful not to have been there when the deal went down. .

    Mark Hansbauer reviewed San Marcos River, Mesquite Flats, and Ottine Swamp Trails

    about 1 month ago

    Superb trails for thinking, as there a few elevation changes, rocks, or other obstacles to divert your concentration. Deep forests, once in a while feral hogs early in the morning, a few snakes, a turtle or two, geese at certain times of the year, squirrels talking trash, hawks, you get the picture. The adjacent property has cattle (who indeed are lowing) and horses, who do find their way onto the trails from time to time. The trails themselves are very well maintained with crushed granite, packed soil, or sand (on the San Marcos river trail). Come off season in December-February and feel the open winter air.

    Mark Hansbauer reviewed Overlook Park

    about 1 month ago

    There is the walk across Canyon Dam, which (according to the signs on the Dam) is .8 miles each way. You feel as if you are on top of the world with the lake on one side and the valley on the other. The road atop the Dam is straight and paved with plenty of room for bicyclers, joggers, speed-walkers, and wanderers. But there is more than this. Park in the back parking lot and you can access the meadows, the newly mulched trail that leads to the Dam, and the trail that works its way through the forest hills above the shoreline. There are many ways down through the forest to the shoreline. Keep to the shoreline as you go away from the Dam and you will find yourself in an 'undiscovered country' of boulders, cliffs, and in Spring through Fall, Poison Ivy nestled in just where it is most inconvenient for you. Most who get this far are there to swim or fish; thus, if you are there to boulder or climb, you will be in rare company. Personally, I keep to the easier cliffs, but several---especially a formation I have dubbed 'The Great Mo'---would be worth the while of more seasoned climbers. As for the bouldering, this land of stone offers you many paths depending on how hard you want to be on yourself. You can even execute tricky maneuvers where a slip would land you in the lake if you really want to jazz things up. The views of the lake from here are iconic. And if you happen to come on a windy day, as you face the heavy waves that smash against the boulders, the power of the lake becomes yours. Who could say 'no' to this?

    Mark Hansbauer completed Overlook Park

    about 1 month ago

    Mark Hansbauer completed Guadalupe Park Trail

    about 1 month ago

    Mark Hansbauer completed Madrone Trail

    about 1 month ago