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Discovering the Magic

Little natural springs pop up all over Enchanted Rock

Little natural springs pop up all over Enchanted Rock

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.

Rocks along the Loop trail

Rocks along the Loop trail

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.

Enchanted Rock behind Moss Lake

Enchanted Rock behind Moss Lake

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.

It's kinda anvil shaped...

It’s kinda anvil shaped…

Freshmen Mountain from Enchanted Rcok

Freshmen Mountain from Enchanted Rcok

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.

View from the top of Enchanted Rcok

View from the top of Enchanted Rcok

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.

enchanted-rock-state-natural-area7

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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Becky

At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.

22 Comments

  1. Old Fat Man on January 31, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    That place and the general area explodes in wildflower color in April/May.



    • Becky on February 1, 2015 at 5:45 pm

      We’ll be leaving end of March. Maybe if I’m lucky spring will come early this year. πŸ™‚ If not, well, it’s still a beautiful area!



  2. Pleinguy on January 25, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    Sounds like some easy hiking and climbing with nice scenery. Hope you enjoy your time there.
    Pleinguy recently posted..Bill Williams RiverMy Profile



    • Becky on January 25, 2015 at 6:26 pm

      I am so far Plein, thanks! I hope you’re enjoying AZ.



  3. Brian and Carolym on January 25, 2015 at 8:46 am

    Nice insight into an unusual place. It definitely doesn’t wow you upon first sight, but sort of grows on you. Have you heard any noises from the rock yet?

    Hope you’re ready for all the Spring Breakers!!



    • Becky on January 25, 2015 at 6:25 pm

      Yeah, a lot of noises! This weekend it was mostly Boy Scouts making noise, we had something like 200 of them camping over, they filled up the whole campground.

      But I know what you mean. No, no mysterious unknown noises, although I’ve heard a few of the stories now. The official theory of the rangers is the granite heats up and expands during the day, and then when the sun goes down in the evening the granite cools and contracts again, and that causes noises.

      Luckily we have over a month to prepare for Spring Break. Batten down the hatches!



  4. Jay Tolbert on January 24, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    The Hill Country in spring is fantastic. The wildflowers brings visitors from all over the country. You should begin to see that before you leave the area.



    • Becky on January 25, 2015 at 6:20 pm

      I hope so Jay, it sounds lovely!



  5. Jodee Gravel on January 24, 2015 at 10:31 am

    What a great backyard to explore – a wonderful “paycheck” for the herding of cats you started with! Like the magical creatures one sees in the clouds, the variety of discoveries in an outcropping of boulders is nearly endless. How fun to have the time and proximity to embrace the beauty. Hope the weather holds {especially on your “off” days πŸ™‚ }
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..Not the Arizona Desert or the Florida KeysMy Profile



    • Becky on January 25, 2015 at 5:46 pm

      Herding of cats, that about covers it Jodee!

      And yeah, just about every boulder out here has a fun name, it’s going to take me the rest of the time I’m here to learn them all. πŸ˜‰ There’s one near the top of E-Rock that looks amazingly like a turtle if you view it in the late morning hours. Like, no stretch of the imagination needed, boom – turtle. πŸ˜›

      The weather was cold and rainy (and just a little bit snowy) on Thursday and Friday, but now it’s looking good until next Saturday. I can deal with that!



      • Jodee Gravel on January 26, 2015 at 7:57 am

        I see those “obvious” rocks and think Mother Nature is just checking to see who’s paying attention πŸ™‚
        Jodee Gravel recently posted..KISS – Keep It Simple SaturdayMy Profile



        • Becky on January 26, 2015 at 1:26 pm

          Maybe so!



  6. dawn from camano island on January 24, 2015 at 6:05 am

    What a gorgeous place, Becky! We stayed at Sawtooth Canyon–free BLM campground about 15 miles south of Barstow–that’s a mecca for climbers in SoCal & a very nice place to camp too. The routes there had great names too–must be a climber thing.

    We got a huge kick out of your previous post! Organized chaos were the words that came to mind! Super nice that it’s easy to get to everything. It really take a leap of faith when you accept a position–it seems as if it’s a journey of discovery the first few days. I admire the openness to new adventures you & Julie have.



    • Becky on January 25, 2015 at 5:41 pm

      Yeah Dawn, the climber who first completes and reports the route gets to name it, hence the odd names.

      I’ll have to go back for Sawtooth someday, you aren’t the only one who brought it up as a place to visit when in California.

      Glad you enjoyed that post! That is a very good way to describe last Saturday, haha. Yesterday and today weren’t nearly that bad. It was steady, but not crazy.



  7. Misty on January 23, 2015 at 9:33 pm

    Haha, looks like the backyard of my childhood home. πŸ™‚

    I think we’re technically a savanna? I seem to remember something about that from when I was a kid, and being like, “But we don’t have elephants?”
    Misty recently posted..Don’t forget to remember that you’re a personMy Profile



    • Becky on January 25, 2015 at 5:36 pm

      Lol, I demand more elephants!

      I asked the rangers and they don’t call it by one thing, they just say it has desert, grassland, and forest in it. Although they said things like “blah-blah desert” and so-and-so forest”, I missed the exact kind of each. πŸ˜›



      • Misty on January 27, 2015 at 9:04 pm

        I looked it up online and the hill country is technically classified as a savanna. :> We just don’t think of it that way here because when we hear savanna we think of Africa and lions and stuff. But hold a picture of Texas hill country up next to a picture of an African savanna and it’s kind of hard to tell the difference. Unless you’re a local and recognize the mesquite trees and Texas oak. πŸ˜›
        Misty recently posted..Tinkering with a new ideaMy Profile



        • Becky on January 28, 2015 at 8:17 pm

          Interesting, I had no idea!



  8. Rob on January 23, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    I really like staying places where my bike can be the major transport.



    • Becky on January 23, 2015 at 10:39 pm

      Sure saves on gas Rob. πŸ˜‰



  9. Hans Kohls on January 23, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    We will be in Fredericksburg during the 1st week of April. Will have to check out the park. Will you still be there then?
    Hans Kohls recently posted..San Diego Beach ScenesMy Profile



    • Becky on January 23, 2015 at 10:39 pm

      Darn, probably not Hans. Our last day of work will be March 29, then it’s off to get the water heater replace in Rice before continuing up to Wisconsin.



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