Last weekend we had the privilege to hike and backpack in the most beautiful part of Texas I’ve seen: Lost Maples.
Jeremy works with the University of Texas’s Recreational Sports department, and they guide hiking, backpacking, canoeing, climbing, and more trips. Lost Maples was Jeremy’s final trip, so it made for a special one.
Not only was Lost Maples marvelous, but we had an exceptional group of UT students traveling alongside us.
While the ride in was something special, with its winding roads and abundant wildlife at every turn, we managed to find our way through the dark and no deer were harmed in the making of this trip. After the obstacle course of a drive, we made it to our destination and began the trip with a short night hike to our campground.
Lost Maples has front and backcountry camping, and since the trip was a backpacking experience we stayed in the back country at a primitive site (no running water or electricity). And after not having running water in a bathroom for about an hour, you’re grateful for any bathroom at all: AKA a composting toilet.
The first day was exhausting with all the driving and the short but semi-strenuous night hike. And when you get to camp, all the gear needs to be taken out and set up so you can sleep. Plus, we were each carrying group gear including all the water for the weekend. We were a group of pack mules.
I thought, “Man, I’m going to sleep so well.” When I finally decided to get up to pee, I found myself back at the tent in a hard and fast sleep. Not long after, I heard a scream like sound. I’m pretty sure I had to be dreaming, because I heard audible remarks like “OH NO!” “WHAT DO WE DO!” Thinking back to what Jeremy told me about the sounds bobcats and mountain lions make before a kill, I found myself more irritated than scared. I had worked so hard to get to sleep, so I decided I’d just have to die if the creature decided to take us all out.
The next morning over a backcountry breakfast of potatoes and sausage, a short conversation about the sound ensued. Jeremy quickly let me know that what some of us heard was a screech owl. How the hell was I supposed to know the difference?!
After Jeremy gave a demo over how to properly put on and secure our packs, we headed out for our hike. It was a foggy and drizzly morning, which was welcomed weather given we had a long way to go. We were met by walks along the creek side, beautiful trees, flowers and foliage of all shapes, sizes, and colors.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, since I had seen photos of Lost Maples prior to experiencing it, but man… it is a wonder to behold.
This was also my first time legitimately backpacking, and I felt more in my element than I have anywhere else in a long time, excluding the RVE Summit. The variety of the animal and plant life alone was refreshing to the spirit.
Jeremy and I came across an older couple as we made our way to the designated lunch spot. They told us they had been going to Lost Maples for over three decades. I was a bit jealous and amazed at the same time. There I was thinking Lost Maples was a well kept secret. Just from me, I suppose.
After lunch, we made our way uphill about a mile to an overlook of the valley. The sun decided to show about that time, and the light lit up the water and leaves in the expanse below for our viewing pleasure. With the wind at our faces cooling our sweating bodies, it was a little slice of paradise.
After another mile or so, we made it to our last camping spot for the weekend. It was a beautiful lush spot with a super cool rock formation that had obviously been tested by time, wind, and water. But “Do not fear!” The rock told us. “I am now home to other living things.”
“Do you see it?” Jeremy asked me, as I watched a small bird make its way up the center of the rock into its home. Nature, I thought to myself. Ever adapting.
Half the group ventured out to see the sunset while the rest of us prepared a dinner of tasty bites, apples and cheese. After a failed attempt at playing a version of Mafia, we all called it a night.
The next morning, after we made 1,000 pancakes, we walked the last two miles of our weekend journey; not forgetting to stop by Monkey Rock.
Lost Maples was probably the best first backpacking experience I could have imagined. I was surrounded by great people, we had amazing food, and our surroundings were unbelievable for Texas. At one point, there was enough fog and dew in the early morning, I thought I might be in the mountains.
We (literally) had a couple bumps and bruises along the way, but the hiking experience was a great way to condition for even longer stints of walking.
Needless to say, Lost Maples was a fantastic warm up to our upcoming adventure. I’ll admit that I was pretty sad when we came home. My dumb phone was awaiting me, which helped ease the overwhelming noise of city life; but I find myself yearning to be out there again. Lost among the trees, birds, and the maples.