Texas Hill Country: Day 2

Colorado Bend State Park

After I left my detour at Enchanted Rock SNA, I drove about an hour back to Colorado Bend SP. I called on the way there to make sure the park was open and they assured me that the road was no longer flooded and they had cleared all the debris from the storm so vehicles could pass safely. The road from the entrance of the park to the headquarters is six miles long so if you’re just there for the day or you’re checking in after-hours, I suggest using the self-pay station at the entrance to avoid the drive. I went ahead and made the drive all the way to the office to straighten out my cancelled reservation and to make a new one. The staff was nice and we got it all worked out. I drove to the Cedar Chopper Loop trailhead and headed out. I chose this parking lot because it’s sort of in the middle of the park. I stashed some gallons of water in a cooler in my trunk to pick up the next day on my way to the second campsite. It worked out nicely.

What a day! It was hot in the mid to high 80s. It wasn’t so much the heat but the lack of clouds and shade that really got to me. I was kicking myself by the end of the day for not using this as the perfect time to test out my new hiking umbrella. My trusty trucker hat saved the day. I took the Cedar Chopper Loop to the Tinaja Trail. Their map boasts the Tinaja Trail as the toughest in the park so I wanted to get it over with first. There’s some elevation gain and loss but I think it has more to do with the rocky terrain. I was hiking along and suddenly heard all this loud crashing on the opposite ridge. There were rocks falling everywhere and hooves clacking.  I was secretly hoping for goats but I’m pretty sure they were just deer. There were too many trees in the way to tell for sure so I’ll just pretend they were goats.

A tinaja is a bedrock depression or bowl carved out by running water. I don’t know why I thought I’d be able to see the rock itself but I couldn’t. Maybe you can normally but there was just so much water from the previous storm? I’m not sure. It just looked like a pond. Still cool though because I learned something new about rocks! There was a very cool section of trail coming out of Tinaja that was completely covered with butterflies and flies. I couldn’t get a good picture because they would all fly away when I got close. My best guess is that the rain had made mineral deposits on the rocks and then dried out for the insects to feast. There were soooo many! I ran through them with my mouth closed and holding my breath. In 2,000+ miles of hiking I’ve swallowed a bug or two on accident. Fool me once.

From the Tinaja Trail, I’d planned to hit Gorman Spring and then Gorman Falls. I got to the beginning of the spring trail and there was so much water I turned around. I’m sure it would’ve been fine but I just wasn’t in the mood for wet feet. The falls were awesome though! It isn’t far off the main trail, .2 mi one way, but it is steep so be prepared. The upside to all that rain was a fully flowing waterfall. It’s 65 feet high so not the biggest but still beautiful and geologically interesting! The minerals in the spring water build up slowly over time and form travertine. It’s weird to think that my kitchen tiles came from something like this. I’ve been thinking more and more about where things come from and making conscious decisions to limit the damage done. We’ve made small changes to our lives in the last several years but I feel like there can always be improvements. In that moment of realization while I was watching the water rushing I felt guilty. I mean, I know my tiles didn’t come from this waterfall and I didn’t even buy them because we rent, but they came from somewhere. Everything comes from somewhere. I felt so far removed. I click a couple of buttons and Amazon delivers something to my front door in a couple of days. I have no idea where it came from really. We aren’t all bad. Most of my groceries are sourced locally or within Texas at minimum and we drop off our recycling because they don’t pick up where we live. I just feel like I could be doing more… or less… I’m not sure what I’m saying. Just something to think about.

From the Gorman Falls Trail, I debated on whether or not to take the shorter route to the campsite or take the longer Tie Slide Trail. I still had plenty of daylight and water left so I picked the longer route and I’m glad I did. If we’re being honest, the Colorado River isn’t that grand. It’s muddy and all those pretty pictures you see of it are with strategically angled light reflecting what’s around it on the surface. I wasn’t expecting much from the river overlook on this trail but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a great view and the river is more impressive when you see its size from above, surrounded by limestone bluffs and cactus. Perspective!

I saw lots of tracks in the mud throughout the day. It was fun trying to figure them all out. There were deer, birds, raccoons, coyotes, and something I couldn’t figure out. It was nice not seeing any shoe prints because then I could be fairly certain that none of the tracks were dogs. Haha sometimes I get excited when I see a track and then realize it’s just a dog. By the time I made it to the Windmill Backpack Camping Area I was exhausted. The sun is just so draining to me. I was happy to have the whole area to myself and went straight to the first flat spot I could find to pitch my tent. I didn’t even cook dinner. I just ate a bunch of snacks in my tent. I’m considering going stoveless on the PCT this year. We’ll see. I only did 9.3 miles, more I guess if you include the 2 or so I did at Enchanted Rock that morning, but it felt like more. I fell asleep to the sounds of crickets and coyotes. I think I’m in love with this park.

Trail map with my routes highlighted.