Copyright © Shannon D. Blackburn
Location: Enchanted Rock State Natural Area (Fredericksburg, Texas)
Time of Year: Mid-May
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 40% chance of thunderstorms, mid-80s
Activities: Hiking, birding, photography
Submitted by: Shannon Blackburn
We arrived at Enchanted Rock at 8:30 AM, a half hour after the park opened. When we arrived, all of the granite domes were obscured from view by a dense fog bank. As the fog lifted, we were awed by the transformation the park undergoes in spring: thriving patches of wildflowers (black-eyed Susans, verbena, Mexican hats, morning glory, etc.) and gurgling streams have replaced the parched pink earth we are accustomed to from prior visits in late August.
We began our hike around 9 AM after taking photographs from Sandy Creek below the granite domes. Drizzle fell on us for ten minutes or so, leaving the rest of our hike entirely rain-free (though not free of the threat of rain.) We began the hike on the Turkey Pass Trail, a scenic route that offers spectacular views of Freshman Mountain and Turkey Peak, as well as the sheer northeast side of Enchanted Rock. We spotted two mature white-tailed deer in this area and watched the dozens of turkey vultures perform their aerial acrobatics.
Following the marked trail west, we were hailed by a large group of schoolchildren perched high atop the Enchanted Rock dome. We exchanged the obligatory “Yes, we can see you,” waves and continued hiking below the north side of the dome. We hiked to Moss Lake and then proceeded south on a worn but unmarked trail, intending to take it around Enchanted Rock. Had we packed a park map or picked one up at headquarters, we would have realized the need to backtrack. Instead, we found ourselves doing more scrambling than hiking. We began hiking southwest, hoping to link up with the Loop Trail at some point. We made numerous errors in judgment on this hike, not the least of which was skipping breakfast and having packed only one liter of water to share.
Suffice it to say this is a shining example of what not to do!
When we finally realized we had strayed so far afield that we were hiking on the granite domes whose bases we should have been hiking around, thunderheads were beginning to assemble in the distance and the summer sun was turning the day into a scorcher. When we finally retraced our steps and returned to Moss Lake, the last marked trail we had been on, we were exhausted. We attempted to hike the trail between Enchanted Rock and Little Rock, but our exhaustion had set in; I am still not certain whether we again veered on to a side trail, or whether the route is in fact for rock climbers and bouldering enthusiasts rather than hikers. When we are prepared and clear-headed, we will return and sort it out.
In the end, we hiked east all the way back around Enchanted Rock, nursing our limited water supply and screaming muscles and joints. What we had intended to be a leisurely two hour morning hike had turned into a frustrating, four and a half hour misadventure.
Let me stress that had we come prepared and exercised our common sense, rather than allowing complacency to set in, the hike would have been a treat. This was a learning experience and an important reminder to us both.
No matter how well you think you know your skills or a particular park, always pack at least the ten essentials. In this fortunate case, laziness cost us nothing more than some scratches from unplanned off-trail travel, temporary exhaustion from exertion and a lack of fluids and food, and frazzled nerves. We were very fortunate for the few supplies we did bring, and the fact that the thunderstorms did not unleash their fury until we were driving home from the park.