Paul and I have been very impressed on our previous visit to Texas with the state parks here so we thought we would take a break from WWOOF-ing and visit some of the closest ones. We purchased a State park pass earlier when we were doing trail runs at Bastrop State Park. For $70 its a deal if you will be traveling in the state for awhile and either camping or visiting the parks for day use.
We headed first to McKinney Falls State Park in Austin. Being so close to the city this park fills up on the weekends so book ahead of time. We arrived on a Wednesday so it was still pretty quiet and the weather warm enough to check out the trails. We slept peacefully and did a Thursday day/night exploring Austin.
On Friday the weather was getting cold and we headed North to Inks Lake State Park. We found a nice spot to park the van on a inlet where deer, ducks, and various wildlife felt comfortable milling about. We woke in the morning and waited awhile until it warmed up a bit. We bundled up in our winter running gear (it was that cold) and headed out to the trails. Inks lake is one in a chain of “Highland Lakes” created in the 1930’s through a series of impoundments on the Colorado river. It has beautiful granite-like rock called gneiss that the trail traverses that makes running slow and tricky but you then had time to enjoy some veiws. We managed to get in 10 miles but my hands and toes were numb by the end. The hot showers afterwards felt sublime. This park would be fabulous in the warmer weather with its many water play options.
Colorado Bend State Park is a very remote, rugged park we visited and decided to trail run. The park has over 30 miles of hike and bike trails so we thought this would be a perfect place to get some miles in. We arrived a bit late in the afternoon but thought we would only run a few hours. We headed first to Gorman Falls to check out a waterfall and then continued on a steep and winding trail along bluffs and canyons on the Colorado River. The trails were definitely runnable but it took concentration and careful footing as there were a lot of rocks, roots and places you could trip. We were really enjoying the run but we messed up a bit on the distances and ended up out a lot longer than we expected. It was getting late and I was really getting cold and tired. By the time we got back it was more like 4 hours and over 17 miles of trails with no one in sight. We were both spent!
Deserving a day off we took some time to relax and then move on to another park. Because of our pass we decided to stop at Enchanted Rock for lunch. It was still misty and wet outside so the main trail to to top of the rock was closed due to being slick. We just wanted to eat our lunch in the van and stare at this unique pink granite dome which rises 425 feet above the surrounding area. It is the largest batholith, or exposed underground rock formation, in the US.
Our last park to stay at was Gualalupe River State Park. Here again the weather was offputting so we pretty much had a whole section of the camp to ourselves. The park had limited trails and the wet weather had made them so muddy that it would collect on your shoes and make them super heavy. Paul especially liked a short loop called the Oak Savannah Loop which felt like a prarie run.
My favorite place in the park is where they have set up bird feeders with a blind so you can watch them. I have never been a birder but I can see why people want to sit and watch these beauties. I was mesmorized by their movements and captivated by their songs.
I would have sat alone there for hours but a creepy camper dude made me want to move on. This park would also be a wonderful place to enjoy a hot summer day floating on the river.