I’ve now had five days to recover after the shock of my first day volunteering at Enchanted Rock SNA, this rather perplexing little park out in the hill country of Texas that receives an incredible number of visitors in a year. And during that time, I’ve gone out to explore a little and see what all of the fuss is about.
As a couple of you either guessed or knew from visits yourselves, the biggest draw for Enchanted Rock is rock climbing. There are about 200 registered climbs within the park boundaries, so on a day with good weather folks will come from all over the area to try their hand at scaling one of the park’s five peaks from any number of angles.
The tallest of these “peaks” is E-Rock itself at about 1,850 feet. It’s not exactly a mountain, but all things being relative it’s one of the tallest points around here with public access and for rock climbing it’s less about how tall a climb is, it’s more about the complexity.
Being the curious person that I am, I did a little digging and discovered that rock climbs are rated on rather complicated scales. The US uses the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) with a range for technical climbs of 5.0 to 5.15. For long climbs, roman numerals might be thrown in front of the number to indicate length, and for the harder climbs of 5.10+, there is usually a letter between a and d after it to further define the difficulty level. It’s pretty fascinating stuff.
If you want to be amused though, you should see what some of the climbs here are called. ‘Chunky tuna’ is rated at a 5.5 on the YDS scale. ‘Stranger than fiction’ is a 5.10b. ‘In the beginning there were ducks’ is rated at 5.9, There’s even a climb here named for me, ‘Becky’.
I don’t have any gear for rock climbing, but what I do have are two feet that love to hike.
So far, Julie and I have hiked half of the Loop trail that goes around E-Rock, and Echo Canyon, which runs between E-Rock and Little Rock.
You know how some parks blow you away the moment you get through the door? The really showy ones where you can’t help but be impressed even driving through a parking lot? Enchanted Rock isn’t like that, you really do need to get off the pavement to find the magic of this place.
I’m not quite sure what to call this ecosystem. While there is plenty of cactus around it seems too wet to be a desert, too many trees for it to be a grassland, but the trees (mostly oak) aren’t dense enough to be a forest. It’s an interesting blend of a little bit of everything and I expect the real show will come in the spring once the vegetation has greened up again.
On the other hand, the mostly naked trees and wilted grasses makes it easier to see the rocks. I’ve found rocks shaped like a castle, a rock shaped like an anvil, rocks shaped like – well, you get the point. This might be the draw for families, because there is a lot of places for active kids to burn off some energy scrambling around on rocks that don’t require climbing gear.
But perhaps the most magical part about this experience so far is the accessibility. I had to put a lot of projects on hold while I was working 50+ hours at Amazon over the holidays, and now that that’s over there’s finally time to catch up. Being a smaller park, I can get to every trail here without first having to hop in my truck and drive. This may not sound like a big deal, but being so close to everything means I’m not wasting time in transit to get to the good stuff. The good stuff is in my backyard, an easy walk between spurts of productivity. So here’s to getting stuff done, and having a great playground to wind down in afterward!
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