We are on day 3 of our 4 day camping trip at Pedernales Falls State Park, it’s about 55 degrees, cloudy, windy and feels like it is fixing to rain. I don’t care, I’m going hiking and I’m going solo, as my brother, TJ Bustem has an aching back.
The trail itself is 7.5 miles, but about 1.3 miles from our campsite and I aim to walk to the trail and back which will give me a good 10-mile hike. I’ll be honest and say I am a fair weather/sunshine lover, but I can also be a determined person and nothing short of a heavy downpour of rain will dampen my hiking spirit.
Now, it’s still winter and the vegetation is fairly bleak and the absence of other hikers on this trail makes it appear less than hospitable. There are parts of it that look like Mirkwood from ‘The Hobbit’ in fact. Goblins probably hang out here while on R&R.
The first part of the trail resembles a gravel road, as the primitive camping area is about 2 miles up the trail and is serviced by vehicles, but after you pass that, it becomes more rustic and in places a mountain biker would have trouble. However, I did not find any of it difficult and anyone capable of walking that distance could walk this too. Now, after saying that, I want to add that any trail can be hazardous and if I would have slipped and sprained my ankle, I would have been in a fix. In the summer, there is the extensive heat and then there are the snakes also.
On this hike, my main concern was the wind and a smattering of rain. 50 degree F weather with a 20-mile per hour wind is flat cold. I was wearing a large lumbar pack with about 20 pounds of gear and water and despite the cold, I was sweating. Sweat, wind and cold can cause hypothermia and people have been known to die in these conditions when injured and I was hiking solo. I moved on and watched my step.
Up on top of Tobacco Mountain there are the remains of a old stone house. On the rocks around it are all kinds of old nails, pieces of pottery, and relics that hikers have found and left. It is close to Jones Spring, so if you hike this trail, look for it. Remember the rule of hikers everywhere – take only photographs, leave only foot prints.
Now I’m not a paranoid person, but I am a cautious one and the upper part of this trail under these dark, windy and cold conditions can get a person to look over their shoulder a bit. I thought I heard voices a number of times, or sounds of pursuit, but each time I stopped and listened, nothing appeared.
In the book ‘A walk in the woods’ by Bill Bryson he touches on lonely hiking when a hiker begins to hear things and becomes obsessed that they are being followed. I knew there was no one out there, as I had saw two mountain bikers early and the trail showed no signs of them and at the primitive camping area, I had talked to one fellow only and he was looking for the latrine. I moved on against the wind and cold and just kept my eyes open.
I was about 4 miles into the trail and 5.3 miles from camp when I caught the first ray of sunshine and it sent a bolt of adrenaline through my soul. From there on in, the sun gradually came into full view, the clouds dispersed and I made my way around Wolf Mountain a happy hiker. Bring on the orcs.
The trip around the top is about a half mile and I began my descent, camera in hand. Hikers and primitive campers with their large backpacks began to pass me heading up the trail, as I made my way back across the three dry creek bed crossings and finally arriving at the trailhead, I walked the 1.3 miles on the road back to the camp site. I must admit, I was a relaxed slow-moving camper the rest of this day.
My brother TJ Bustem drug out a largish sirloin steak and tossed it on the grill side of my Stansport propane stove and he had whipped up his specialty salad mix of artichoke hearts, tomatoes, avocado and onions and we dined like Kit Carson did, only better. Meat on a stick – yeah, meat on a stick. It doesn’t get any better than that, except when I looked up from my plate and there were five deer standing between us and the campfire. One even walked over our pile of kindling.
Closing out the day by the campfire and slipping into my bag for our final night, I drifted off perfectly content to stay another week and slept like a baby. Rolling out early for more coffee, I greeted the sunshine and the 26 degree F weather. Reluctantly we broke camp, cleaned up after ourselves and made the drive home.
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