Thursday, November 30, 2006

Article: Enchanting day at Enchanted Rock

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, saw some of the most beautiful weather of the year. I can’t understand anyone spending that day shopping. Since my son Philip’s nuclear family went to his fiancé’s grandmother’s house for the holiday, he was free to spend the day with me. We decided to get up early--though not as early as the shoppers--and head to Enchanted Rock State Park.

Enchanted Rock is a gigantic granite dome located on RR 965 north of Fredericksburg. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife website (, the dome rises 425 feet above the ground and is one of the largest batholiths in the United States. A batholith is an underground rock formation that has been exposed by erosion. There’s a lot of impressive erosion going on at Enchanted Rock. The rock looks like it is sloughing its skin.

Since the weather was so nice, Philip and I decided to take my little Jeep Wrangler with the windows off. We used the back roads, traveling through such towns as Sandy, Willow City and Eckert. The miles wore by in a shifting tableau of cattle, small streams, goats and live oaks. This area is spectacular with wildflowers during a good spring but it’s a very nice drive any time of the year.

Eventually we wound our way to the park. Our fantasy that everyone else would be shopping or sleeping off their Thanksgiving “cheer” was shattered immediately. There was a line of cars waiting to get it. Luckily it moved fairly quickly. Once parked, I got my camera gear and water packed up, and off we went to climb the dome. Unfortunately everyone had the same idea. A long trail of colorful dots, the bright shirts of fellow climbers, wound up the side of the great rock.

In my opinion, the point of hiking is to get some time alone with nature. Given the number of people on the so-called Enchanted Rock, that wasn’t going to happen. But there was another granite dome right next to it, not quite as large but way less populated. We decided to head up that one.

The domes are not hard to climb. They’re fairly steep but the rock is rough and there’s plenty of traction if you have a good pair of sneakers on. I stopped at multiple places to take photos of the jumbled rocks that litter the smaller dome. It was at one of these stops that I focused my camera down slope. This reminded me that I’m afraid of heights. Suddenly the rock did not feel secure at all. I might plummet to my death at any moment. Luckily Philip has absolutely no such fear. With his guidance and occasional hand-holding, I made it to the top.

The view was wonderful. The air was clear and cloudless. Scrub forest stretched over the hilly countryside below us with little sign of human disturbance. Some trees even displayed a Texas version of fall color. We sat on a boulder and watched a spiny lizard while butterflies and birds flitted by.

Later we made our way carefully down the least steep section of the rock and into a canyon with a small stream. Dragonflies danced above rippling water. We continued our hike around the back of the dome, past a stock pond and a scenic overlook and finally to the parking lot. We’d spent about four hours in what Philip jokingly calls “the tawdry beauty of nature.” Now it was time to head back home.

We used to go out to Enchanted Rock all the time when the kids were little. Now it seems we don’t have time to do things we used to enjoy. As we left, Philip commented that he is going to bring Celeste, his eight year old daughter, out as soon as possible. Maybe all we need is a little reminder about what is important in life.

A train of people heading up the official "Enchanted Rock".
The view looking up the rock we chose to climb. Notice the two standing rocks. I had Philip climb those for a photo.
Here are the standing rocks up a little closer.
Now there's Philip on top of one of the rocks!
Taking this photo reminded me of my fear of heights.
Our rock had a lot more boulders on it. This is looking toward the Enchanted Rock.
Here's Philip on the top of our rock with the back of Enchanted Rock in the background and a view of the Hill Country.
Some of the boulders congregated on the back of Enchanted Rock.This shows how the skin of the rock is being sloughed.
A bit of Texas fall color.
A dragonfly we saw near a stream at the base of the domes.
This is the stream where we saw the dragonfly.
The sun sparkling on the water of the pond. It looks late but I think it was about 2:00 pm.
The forest around the base of the granite domes.
Philip admiring the view from a scenic overlook on the loop trail.
It was around this area that my brother Stephen and I caught three water snakes one day. Stephen made me catch them because water snakes always bite.


namacuix said...

It looks cold up there. The scene is gorgeous though. You said there were a line of people going up the rock. How come we don't see a bunch of people in all but one of the photos? Did you push everyone else off the cliff?

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