Texas Hill Country – Day-3 (Saturday) – Part-1… Scenic Drive and Lost Maples…

Another couple, retired, was staying in the Texan cabin, next door to mine.  The routine was, the guests would head up to the main house at 9:00am for what turned out to be a-MAZ-ing breakfasts, made and served by Brett and Gil, along with conversations that helped us get to know each other a little, and get ideas of places to go and things to see in the greater-Bandera area, depending on our interests.

I wish I had the presence of mind to have snapped a few pics of the first morning’s breakfast: venison bacon, venison sausage, homemade fried green tomatoes, Gil’s homemade biscuits with gravy (she taught us the proper way to prepare them on our plates…you break up the whole biscuit and drizzle your own gravy over it), scrambled eggs made with eggs from the ranch, yellow tomatoes and red habanero peppers from their garden.

I didn’t know how to eat the whole habaneros (which were small enough to eat whole, but pack a bite), so Brett instructed me.  You first take a bite of other food, then take a little bite off the tip of the habanero, while the original bite of food is still in your mouth.  Then, chew the mix together before swallowing. Worked like a charm.  Adds just a little kick to whatever you’re eating.  Now, I want to try it back home.

So, this was how guests’ mornings started on the Double U Barr Ranch.  I highly recommend staying here when you’re in the area.  I got very lucky finding this lodging during my pre-trip research.

Today, my main goal was to hike one of the trails at Lost Maples State Natural Area, which I think may be one of the few…or the only…place in the Hill Country, or Texas, to see fall foliage colors.  I was there too early in the season to see the foliage, but that was fortuitous, since the park has limited parking, and the park and main road to the park get jammed up with traffic at the height of the foliage.

Brett suggested that I take the East Trail at Lost Maples, as this is the one with the highest elevation and best scenic views, so that became my goal.

Brett and Gil also highly recommended that, since I was going to be out that way, that I should stop for dinner on my way back, in Tarpley at Mac & Ernie’s, which is where Brett said that he and Gil always go when they want a special dinner in the area.  So, I added Mac & Ernie’s to my day.  With ranch breakfasts as amazing as Brett and Gil’s, I knew I was in for something special at Mac & Ernie’s.  You just have to go with the flow when you get local insider info like this.  I’ll get into Mac & Ernie’s in my next post.

I had also planned a scenic route to get to Lost Maples that started west of Kerrville, which is north of Bandera and is the largest town in the Hill Country.  My entire route for the day made a large counter-clockwise circle from Bandera…north to Kerrville (where I stopped for an oil change.  That’s how many miles I’m logging on this trip!)…onto TX-39 west…out to Ranch Road 187 South…down to Lost Maples…continuing south on RR-187 (after my hike) to Ranch Road 470, out to Mac & Ernie’s in Tarpley…and returning to the Double U Barr Ranch in Bandera.

But, the stretch from Ingram (southwest of Kerrville), down along the Guadalupe River, and continuing down RR-187 South to Lost Maples was the main scenic route.  This was beautiful countryside, and was arguably my second favorite scenic drive in the Hill Country.  The entire Lost Maples area is beautiful.

As Brett suggested, I did hike the East Trail, and as a park ranger suggested when I got to Lost Maples, I did the trail loop counter-clockwise, which is a little easier than clockwise.

Following my experience hiking Enchanted Rock, I opted not to take my DSLR camera, or my cellphone, to save weight (the DSLR is a bit brawny), and for fear of dropping and damaging my cellphone (which I’m relying so heavily on for GPS on this trip) on the rocks (which luckily did not happen at Enchanted Rock).  In hindsight, it would have been nice to have a couple of snapshots from the trail and the scenic overlooks on the ridge, but it was one less thing to worry about, not bringing them.

The East Trail is about 4 ½ miles long and is beautiful.  It’s also very challenging and a bit treacherous on the two steep stretches (heading up to the ridge…and then back down).  But, the lengthy level areas…leading to and from the steep stretches and along the ridge…are really pleasant.  The level stretches at the lower elevation cross a number of trickling brooks via stepping stones, which is cool (and challenges your balance!).

Hiking the loop counter-clockwise, the steep ascent to the ridge heads nearly straight up the side of the hill via a mix of natural rocks and manmade rock steps (versus any sort of traversing back and forth).  This is easier on the way up, when your legs are fresher.

The steep descent is a seemingly endless loose-rock-and-gravel slope that heads nearly straight back down the hill.  Although you really need to watch each and every step to avoid gaining any momentum, whatsoever, and to avoid slipping on the loose gravel, I think this is still a little easier than climbing down an endless stone staircase when your legs might be close to rubber by this point.  Just my personal preference.  Folks were hiking in both directions.

By the end of this hike, it was getting to late afternoon, and Brett and Gil strongly recommended that I get to Mac & Ernies before 5:30 (it opens at 5:00), because items on their limited menu quickly begin to get crossed off, the later you get there.  So, off I went.  Yikes!

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