Guadalupe River State Park and Luna
Updated: Aug 23, 2021
As always, I had been obsessively checking the weather for weeks. When you ride motorcycles, you check the weather. Your life could depend on it. It doesn't change when you switch to camping. My last scheduled outing with Luna in December was cancelled due to super cold temps. Since we'd not been out together since November, I was getting antsy and struggling to stay in the light. I needed to go and didn't want the weather to intervene in our upcoming week-long outing.
Sunday morning arrived with the promise of cool temps and the possibility of rain. As I prepped my food in the kitchen at home, I could feel the familiar feeling beginning. It starts small. I can't put my finger on the cause, but I know the feeling well. My heart flutters slightly. My palms get a little sweaty. I start procrastinating. I find additional, irrelevant tasks to do. I stall. I'm not yet packed, and I have more food prepping to do. And, I don't want to go. That's not true. I want...need...to go. But, my mind and now my body is saying they don't want to go. My husband, who's become adept at recognizing my little "episodes," jumps in to save me from myself, reminding me of how much I love camping; how much I love the park; and how I'll feel great once I get there. I know he's right. It takes several more attempts on his part to get me moving in the right direction. He's a by-the-schedule kind of guy. So, any delays are difficult for him. I'm thankful that he endures the them to soothe me.
Several hours later, I'm alone at my campsite. My darling husband and sweet Maddie have gone home and left me to begin my solo adventure with Luna. After a quick ice run, I return and began to set up my kitchen. I have a routine but am a bit rusty considering it has been several months since I've been out. A squirrel comes over to announce to me that I've invaded his space. A beautiful cardinal stops by to serenade me while I work. It has been misty and cool all afternoon. The trails are closed due to recent rains. I can feel another episode coming, so it takes some effort to push myself to embark on a stroll around the park roads. As I stand on the side of the road breathing in the fresh, moist air, I notice some movement out of the corner of my eye. I spot a member of the welcoming committee intently watching me. It's as if all the creatures are trying to remind me that everything is okay. All's well. It's time to head back to camp and get settled in for the evening.
The Guadalupe River State Park is a wonderous place. It has over four miles of open river frontage along the beautiful Guadalupe River. Which means in the summer the park is bursting at the seams with visitors looking to cool off in the beautiful, meandering river. It's so much more than a swimming destination, however. It's home to diverse eco systems and geological wonders. On the more developed side, there are over 13 miles of hike and bike trails. The trails are well marked and described on the maps provided at check-in. On the other side of the river, the Bauer Unit is much more primitive with no restrooms or potable water. It's only accessible by a short drive outside of the park boundaries, but well worth the trip. The trails are well marked with a couple being rated as moderate to challenging. I definitely recommend having hiking poles on hand, as well as enough water. Leave No Trace principles are observed. The remote location makes it perfect for wildlife viewing and photography. There are several different eco regions represented and some amazing fossil displays.
I'm fortunate to visit this time during the winter when the river, trails, and campsites are much less populated. There are only a few other campers in my loop, and several of them are soloing as well. So, for the most part, I'm nicely isolated at site #34. My first full day is spent mostly inside and around my camper as it's cool and rainy. The park closes the trails whenever there's a fair amount of rain to minimize impact to the delicate eco systems. Unfortunately, there are always people willing to ignore the signs and trod out through the mud anyway. I'm not one of them. On the afternoon of day two, a ranger comes to remove the trail closure sign near my campsite. He waves and lets me know I can "hit the trail" if I want to. Of course I do! My first time out, I focus on a short section of the Barred Owl trail that runs just behind my campsite. The first part of the trail runs along a ridge high above the river. I stop a lot to just listen to the wind in the trees, enjoying the sun that has been absent before. I spend a couple of hours out before heading back to quietly hang out and make dinner.
The next day, I head in the opposite direction and make my way down to the river via the trail that passes the Discovery Center with a brief stop at the bird blind. I'm joined by a fellow photographer. We nod hello but the only sound to be heard besides the birdsong is the fevered clicking of our camera shutters. Before I leave, I make a point to tell him that I have a case of lens envy as he's shooting with a large (and expensive) 600 mm telephoto zoom lens. It's on my wish list. We chat briefly about me being a newbie, and he offers words of encouragement. Later, I see him on the trail, and he laughingly remarks that my smaller lens is better because it weighs less!
As I make my way down to the river through the day-use area, I notice a large area of destruction left by the invading feral hogs. Feral hog signs are everywhere, but this is the largest I've seen. It's very sad. Unfortunately, feral hog damage is a national issue. The park is working hard to mitigate the hogs' impact, but it's almost impossible given the magnitude of the problem. The park recently shared a wonderful presentation created by Master Naturalist Colette Nies on the park's efforts to curb the hog's impact. It's so hard to witness the devastation, so I move on to enjoy the towering Cypress trees and river rapids on the northwest corner of the park boundary.
Afterwards, I head back towards the Discovery Center to meet up with Ranger Holly Platz, the park's interpretive ranger. With COVID, the Discovery Center's hands-on activities were put on hold and public contact has been somewhat limited. So, Ranger Holly switched to creative online videos to educate the public on the wonderful things within the park. I've been fortunate to work with her on several occasions in a volunteer capacity. I so enjoy her enthusiasm as well as her company. As usual, she has another educational opportunity for park visitors in the works and excitedly tells me about it while we walk the River Overlook Trail. Finally, we part company, and I make my way back to camp and settle in for a warm meal and set up for my first attempt at astrophotography. Needless to say, I have a lot more to learn on that topic.
The next morning, Ranger Holly reached out for assistance in replacing some trail signs in the Bauer Unit. We made plans to meet there and, after our work is done, to hike the Curry Creek Overlook Trail together. Unfortunately, however, the sign replacement project proves more time-consuming than planned. So, I'm left to hike the trail solo. The 1.2 mile trail loop entrance is located about 1.5 miles from the Bauer Unit parking area. It's listed as moderate to challenging and rightfully so. Not so much because of elevation change, but because of the littered rocks strewn about on the trail. According to the Geology and Hydrostratigraphy of Guadalupe River State Park and Honey Creek State Natural Area, Kendall and Comal Counties, Texas publication, "The rocks exposed in the study area are Early Cretaceous sedimentary rocks that belong to the Trinity Group. These formations contain shale, grainstone, sandstone, and fossiliferous limestone, with alternating and interfingering mudstone, wackestone, packstone, and grainstone." Let's just say, that's technical speak for it's pretty rocky in some areas. So caution is advised. The fossil representation is amazing. That particular trail's time is listed as one hour, but being me with a camera, of course it takes longer. I definitely want to return in the fall. I imagine the colors will be amazing.
As is usually the case, it takes me some time to ease into a routine. Unfortunately, there are several more moments of unprovoked episodes throughout my trip that delay me somewhat. But, I hear my darling husband's words in the back of my mind, and I'm able to move past them. I am richly rewarded. Over the course of 5.5 days, I manage to get some amazing bird and landscape photos, try my hand at making some yummy camping recipes, get some much-needed campfire and starlight time, hike a part of the park I'd not hiked before, and spend quality time with a neat friend in a place that I adore. Although I miss my husband and critters terribly, by the end of my visit, I don't want to go home. From experience, I know the euphoria I feel will quickly subside as I settle back into the mundane. I've yet to master the post-event blues that always occur after a successful outing. As I'm several days late in posting this entry, you can probably tell that I had some brief under-the-rock time afterwards. But, the experience of writing it down to share with you and reviewing the awesome photos serves to lift my spirits and reaffirms my love for the outdoors. It strengthens my resolve to do it more often. I'm so looking forward to my next outing with Luna in April. I've missed her. Sunny days are indeed here again.
I hope you've enjoyed sharing in my first outing of the year with Luna and are taking steps to get out there too! I'd love to hear from you.