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Following the most recent TPWD Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) workshop in April, some of the ladies gathered for a backpacking and hiking trip in Lost Maples State Natural Area north of Concan in May. While most ladies just joined for a long day hike, a small handful of us came up the night before and primitive camped. We hiked about 30 minutes from parking to a quiet and remote campsite, and set up for the night.
Despite being a seasoned camper, or so I thought, this experience was very educational. Our fearless leader, Krista, who teaches Backpacking and Outdoor Survival for BOW, is a fount of information on proper gear and best practices. We compared tents, chairs, cooking equipment, backpacks, and other assorted gear. I loved my friend Jess’s new tent (Big Agnes – Slater UL 2+ Person TENT) and chair (KING DO WAY Portable Ultralight Chair) and have added these items to my Amazon wishlist for future trips.
I brought my ENO hammock (ENO Eagles Nest Outfitters – DoubleNest Hammock) that hung nicely between two juniper trees. I love this hammock! Lightweight, compact, and comfortable. Some campers across the path had converted their hammocks to hanging tents and I’m intrigued by the idea of this tent alternative. ENO makes a bug screen (ENO Eagles Nest Outfitters – Guardian Bug Net with Insect Shield, Black) and rain fly (ENO Eagles Nest Outfitters – ProFly Rain Tarp, Black) for their hammocks. I may go this route in the future, but will test it at home to see if I can actually sleep in a hanging position. It’s certainly good for reading a book!
Speaking of hanging things, we learned to hang everything to deter wildlife from tampering with our personal items. Yes, even water bladders. We were instructed to bring unscented personal items, and to not bring anything a cougar would find especially tasty (like tuna or a small dog).
I brought a backpacking tent that was a prime example of what NOT to do. I had used this tent on many prior trips, mostly car camping, but also backpacking in the Grand Canyon with my dogs. Not so fun fact: dogs are prey to cougars. My tent was covered in dog hair, which never occurred to me being constantly covered in dog hair myself. There is also a spot on the tent that on a trip to Palo Duro Canyon had been “marked” by a raccoon or something. Raccoons are also cougar prey. So we used this tent as a learning opportunity and set it downwind from our site. I had to sleep elsewhere for the night and decided to trash the tent when I got home.
The next day after some gnarly thunderstorms (Lost Maples Trip Report: Backpacking or Wine Tasting? Both! (Part 2) we had a lovely hike around Lost Maples to the top of a ridge. The flora was beautiful! We saw the maples that gave the natural area its name. These maples are relics of the last ice age, some 10,000 years ago. Lost Maples is in a canyon, which has provided the microclimate allowing these maple trees to live in an area not typical for cold weather trees.
Also seen along the hike were blankets of wildflowers and a multitude of happy insects feeding on them.
We spotted firewheels, cedar sage, Mexican hats, verbena, milkweed, and Texas thistles, to name a few. Can you identify any of these gorgeous Texas wildflowers?
The most striking flowers in my opinion were the thistles. They were everywhere! Also spotted along the river were delicate delta ferns and wild grapevines.
There were no shortage of bugs, but at least they were more occupied with the flowers than us. Moths, butterflies, and other flying insects seemed to love the flowers, especially after the rain.
Not as welcome of a sight were the 8-legged critters. We saw many tarantulas and daddy long legs. We kept a respectable distance from each other and went about our way.
The view from the ridge was well worth the breathy hike up. Even though the thunderstorms cut our day hike short, the day was still picture perfect.