“I don’t like jelly beans...the Easter Bunny poops them.”, says our nephew. Well OK, that seems logical to me. I really don’t know how to argue that one. I recently traveled to Central Texas on the edge of the Hill Country and was able to steal a few hours away from my family for some beautiful trail running.
The first day we visited San Antonio (San An-Tone if you speak Texan) where we used to live. Cara and Maddie wanted to do some shopping so they dropped me off at McAllister Park near the airport. This is a fine network of single track and home of the Prickly Pear 50K and 10 miler. I’ve completed both distances in the past and wanted to reminisce my time spent in the Alamo City.
This area of Texas seems to cycle between a 100 year drought and a 100 year flood every couple of years if that makes any sense. Fortunately, the drought has been broken by recent rains and the wildflowers have exploded.
The highlight is fields of bluebonnets, Texas’ state flower. There are actually five different species of bluebonnets and all good Texans will swear that the type growing in their neck of the woods is the official one. What’s more, folks are likely to plop their one year olds down in a patch of bluebonnets for a picture from time to time.
The trails were gorgeous, and I had a hard time getting any running accomplished for snapping photos. The path is mostly flat, hard packed dirt, but turns to mud when it rains. I have been here after heavy precipitation and the stuff is so sticky that it clumps onto your footwear like you are running in a pair of shape-ups. You know, those ridiculous looking shoes with the squishy rocker sole.
Sometimes the trails are completely under water because San Antonio is good at creating parks in flood zones where no other development can occur. That is fine with me; the mud keeps it interesting; just don’t get caught in one of the creeks in a downpour.
The hot weather and high humidity seemed to slow me down, but I enjoyed the shade of the many live oak trees. These trees, known as Quercus virginiana for “fine tree of Virginia” (my former state), often grow in very twisted and bent shapes creating a sort of “wind swept” look. They also harbor two types of “air plants” (epiphytes)—ball moss and spanish moss which get all their nutrients from the air. Although I was slow on my run, I did manage to pass a box turtle who was also enjoying the shade of the trees.
Following our stay in San Antone, we went to San Marcos (pronounced San Mar-Kiss) and I was able to run the Purgatory Creek Natural Area. These trails are located minutes from either the outlet malls or Cabela’s Outfitters, so you can drop your non-running better half off for a shopping spree while you run to your hearts content.
A sign at the beginning of the trail marked the location of a Native American campsite where the only known metal arrowhead was discovered in 2007.
This park sits in the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone where surface water runs into the ground through porous limestone and eventually makes its way to the aquifer under San Antonio. Millions of residents get their drinking water from this source, therefore development is limited in the recharge zone to prevent pollution.
The first morning, just before sunup, I was greeted by three deer, but was not able to get a focused picture. The trails were mostly flat and, again were lined with wildflowers and lush vegetation of all sorts. I stayed on the main trail known as Dante’s that goes for about 4 miles. The footing was fairly good, but there were some rock gardens that kept me alert.
I saw a man falling up the trail on a mountain unicycle which was a first for me and then I came upon a pool at the foot of some bluffs where a duck was enjoying the break of dawn. Eventually, I made it to the top of a high cliff and stopped for a look over the edge. This would not be a good place to crash on your unicycle.
Another trail, the Paraiso, intersected Dante’s, but was closed due to Golden-cheeked Warbler nesting season; another reason land is protected in this area. If you look at a range map of these rare birds, you will see a few pin pricks in Texas, indicating the only places they breed.
These are just a few of the many trails that make visiting the Texas Hill Country worthwhile. In addition to hiking and running, I have enjoyed kayaking and fishing on the Guadalupe and San Marcos rivers and at Canyon Lake. Here is a picture of a Easter Bunny X-ing sign that I came across during my run at McAllister Park. Kinda makes you wonder...
|Watch out for jelly beans|
...see you on the trail.