Texas Hill Country: Day 3

Colorado Bend State Park

Panorama of Dogleg Canyon

Dogleg Canyon

Texas Hill Country: Days 1-2 (Enchanted Rock SNA)
Texas Hill Country: Day 2 (Colorado Bend SP)

I woke up surprisingly not sore from the day before. I’ve added compression sleeves to my gear and I’m still not sold on them but they haven’t hurt so far. I think I’ll keep testing them out for a while. My calves are always sore for the first couple days of a hike but the last two trips with these sleeves have been great. There may be something to this. I don’t think I would wear them all of the time but I may add these to the beginning of my next thru-hike. They’re supposed to help avoid shin splints so that would be nice. We’ll see.

I thought about sleeping in a little but I didn’t have much water left and wanted to make that my first priority. I connected the Lively Loop to Lemons Ridge Pass and refilled my water from what I’d stashed in my car’s trunk. That section of Lemons Ridge Pass was shadier than anything I’d done the day before so it was nice. Lots of webs and caterpillar silk to walk through though. My preferred method of combating this is to wave my trekking poles wildly in front of me like a crazy person.

I had planned this nice 3-day hike but after not being able to make it through the flooded roads on the first day I had to rearrange my plans. I wanted to get as much done without repeating a lot. I decided to do the Dogleg Canyon Trail, set up my tent at the River Backpack Camping Area, and then decide from there. The Dogleg Canyon Trail is super cool. I’m glad I did it. The canyon is neat and I love how the cacti and yucca stick out between the rocks on the side of the canyon. It makes them look tough I guess. I like it.

Where Dogwood Canyon Trail meets the River Trail, there was a big bush on the left and a field on my right. I was rounding the bush and saw an animal digging around in the bushes to the side of the trail. I immediately thought it was a coyote because, well it’s Texas, and because I heard them the night before. Then it looked up straight at me and I realized it wasn’t a coyote at all. I geeked out and yelled, “You’re a fox!” It cocked its head at me as if to say, “Duh!” I felt so silly at my outburst but I was just so excited. It didn’t run off instantly, despite being screamed at. I wish I had a picture but I was just so sure it was going to run off as soon as I tried so I didn’t. It went back to its digging and I quietly sat on the trail where I was and watched it. A good solid minute later it seemed to suddenly remember I was there and it took off running across the field. It was absolutely amazing! Ladies, when people judge you for hiking alone, feel free to tell them stories like this. Imagine all the animals that run off before you could ever even know they were there when they hear and smell you in a group. I still like hiking with people in small doses but moments like this are why I choose to hike by myself. Fox!

I honestly don’t remember much about the River Trail. I think I was still in a euphoric fox sighting state so I was just on autopilot. Again, I had a camping spot all to myself so I set up in the first flat spot I could find. There was a nice log which I’d hope to cook dinner on but later found out it was covered in fire ants. Everything in Texas is covered in fire ants all of the time. I sat in my tent and looked at the map again. I still had to check in at the headquarters at some point and the idea of walking in the morning JUST to get my car didn’t appeal to me. I took my day pack and cruised up Lemons Ridge Pass, got my car (and water), drove to the headquarters to check-in, and asked about the Spicewood trails.

I talked with a woman at the office about my fox sighting. She was really nice. Then I asked about the Spicewood trails. There is a canyon trail and a spring trail. I’d already done about ten miles that day so I wasn’t sure how much I had left in me. I wanted to know how comparable they were to the trails I’d already done. She asked if I had already done the Tinaja Trail. I said yes. She said it would be easy then. Easy! I like easy.

It’s not easy.

I was regretting leaving my trekking poles in my tent and day hiking. The trail is rocky, there’s a tiny bit of scrambling, and I lost count of how many times you have to cross the stream. Seven maybe? If I have to use my hands, it’s not an easy trail! Haha, no hard feelings though. It was my favorite part of the entire park. I saw a giant armadillo, lots of deer, and a bunch of snakes. I hiked above the canyon and got to look down below at where I’d be later. Then I hiked back down following the stream and because it’s spring-fed the water is clear. It was really pretty. There were signs that they had some serious flooding in the storm. There were a few dead fish on the trail that had been washed up. I said sorry and flicked them off to the side of the trail for anyone behind me. There were these huge rolls of grass that had been peeled from the rocks like old carpeting. It looked really funny. I wanted to just sort of roll them back to where they belonged but I didn’t know if it was too late to help or if I should even do it. I decided that if I had to question whether or not I should do something then I should probably just leave it alone.

If you’re not planning on doing the entire thing and just want to swim, I suggest not stopping at the first swimming hole going north. There are better waterfalls and deeper pools the further you go. They are definitely harder to get to but really not that much further and they are worth it. I had one all to myself! At first, I had reservations about stripping down to my underwear to swim. I did it all the time on the A.T. but it felt weirder in a state park for some reason. Of course, I did it anyway because really what’s the difference between a bathing suit and underwear? Nobody came along so it ended up not mattering much. I can’t think of a better way to beat the heat! Except maybe ice cream, which by the way they sell at the headquarters!

I drove back over to the trailhead parking for the River Backpack Camp. The last walk back to my tent added the day’s total mileage to 15.1 but I was already grateful knowing that I only had less than a mile to my car in the morning instead of the three or four I would’ve had if I’d left it at the other trailhead. The camping area there was just okay. I liked the seclusion of the Windmill area better. While it was nice to be by the water, it also meant dealing with a LOT more sounds at night — animals going to the water, people fishing from boats, and cars across the street because the other bank of the Colorado River is private property and there are houses. If I was going to do it again and stay by the river, I’d go ahead and get a car camping site. If I’m going to have my illusion of being in the wilderness ruined, I might as well have the luxury of a fire pit and a picnic table to go along with it. I wouldn’t have minded much if I was with people but it’s not the best if you’re looking for seclusion.

Overall, it was a great trip. This has to be one of my favorite Texas State Parks so far. Unfortunately, in the morning, my back was killing me. I don’t know if I just slept terrible or what. I wasn’t sore the first three days at all so I don’t know where it came from. I’ve been home a week now and it’s still pretty bad. I’m worried that my surgery and all the physical therapy I did was all for nothing. I’m also well aware that I’m a worrier so I’m going to wait it out a little bit longer to see if it gets better. I’ve been on longer and harder trips than this since my surgery without any problems and I wasn’t carrying more weight than usual. I didn’t trip or fall or pick up something heavy. I don’t know why this was different. I have a theory that maybe the combination of back surgery and just the fact that I’m getting older means that it’s time for a more substantial sleeping pad. I’ll start there. I’m switching from a 1″ ProLite to a 2.5″ NeoAir XLite. Throw in some physical therapy sessions and an hour massage scheduled this week and I should be fine soon. Cross your fingers for me!

Trail map with my routes highlighted.

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