The first thing you notice after you drop your kayak into the San Marcos River is the river bottom. Unlike most rivers in Texas, the San Marcos is spring fed, resulting in crystal-clear water. After climbing in, it takes a few minutes for me and Shawn to get adjusted heightening lumbar rests, repositioning water bottles, but soon we have found our rhythm and are swiftly moving downstream. Perhaps it is the repetitive sound that the paddles make as they hit the surface of the water, like the “ommm” chant they teach you in yoga classes, or the complete lack of crowds out here on the water, but I am in a very meditative mood.
We break the silence every once in awhile to ask one another about our girlfriends or to consult the map, but the majority of the time we spend paddling and enjoying nature. There are a few short rapids on this stretch of the river, but nothing a little practice or a short detour can’t handle. Our area of Texas has many short and easily navigable kayaking trips along the Colorado, Llano, or Guadalupe rivers. There are also various schools and guides willing to teach you the mechanics of kayaking before you even leave the shore. After eight hours on the Marcos, my partner and I reach our exit point and pull the kayak up onto the shore. Our arms are tired and the weight of the kayak makes the distance from the water to my car feel like miles instead of yards. Both of us are ready to get home and eat a huge lunch, but there is already talk of what river is next.
During the week, I work at a non-profit, so I use my weekends to re-energize myself and spend time with friends. Most of these weekends I can be found in nature, either hiking, rock climbing, kayaking or taking survival classes. Recently, I joined Search and Rescue to merge my love for the outdoors with my love for helping people. To bone up on my navigation skills, the next weekend I hit out to Bastrop State Park, one of those green rectangles on the map I had noticed but never visited. My unfamiliarity with the terrain here made it the perfect place to get my first orienteering lesson. Orienteering uses only a compass and a topographical map to find markers scattered throughout the park, basically geocaching without the GPS unit. This is treasure hunting for non-pirates.
For most of the morning, my girlfriend and I left the marked trails behind and crashed through the woods in search of six numbered, metal posts, known as “control points.” At the beginning of the day we only knew how to point the compass needle north and find hiking trails on a map. By the end of the day, we were able to measure distances using the map and our stride. We learned how to correspond a compass to a map and how to read the land features of an area. The scavenger-hunt arrangement makes orienteering a perfect activity for a family trying to teach their kids about nature.
I figure there is no better way to top off a month of outdoor excursions than a trip to the summit of Texas Hill Country — Enchanted Rock State Park. Many consider Enchanted Rock, or E-Rock for short, the outdoor gem of our region of Texas, and for good reason. Twenty minutes outside Fredericksburg, the pink granite dome of Enchanted Rock juts out of the ground, like pictures I’ve seen in National Geographic of Ayers Rock in Australia. The two-mile Summit Trail climbs straight up the 425-foot dome, and the top offers a dramatic 360-degree view of the surrounding landscape.
Although usually crowded, Enchanted Rock has a strange, enduring beauty. After hiking the Summit Trail and the other popular 4.5-mile Loop Trail, we pitch our tents in the primitive camping section away from the crowds and parking lots. Before driving back the next day we hike the rest of the park’s trails, watch the climbers ascend the numerous routes, and spend some time window shopping in the picturesque Fredericksburg.
The Texas Hill Country is rich with outdoor activities to enjoy with friends or family. Other adventures include hiking the 7.4-mile Wolf Mountain trail at Pedernales Falls State Park, exploring the underworld at the Natural Bridge Caverns near New Braunfels, or seeing Wimberley from a bird’s eye view while ziplining across the tree canopy. •
Enchanted Rock rock climbing courses
Provides courses in rock climbing for all skill levels and one-on-one guides.
Friends of Enchanted Rock
No reservations needed. Tour meets at 9 a.m. at onsite gazebo the day of tour for easy going hikes.
Summit Tour dates: Oct 16 and Nov 20
Guadalupe Canoe Livery
8195 281 N, Spring Branch, TX 78070
Offers multiple kayak trips on the Guadalupe.
4970 River Rd
New Braunfels, TX, 78132
2-, 4-, 6-, 8-person unguided rafts. $28 per person ($30 holidays and weekends). Open 7 days a week.
Mountain Breeze Campground
201 Mountain Breeze Camp Rd
New Braunfels, TX, 78132
Unguided raft rentals, $25 per person, open 7 days a week
Natural Bridge Caverns
26495 Natural Bridge Caverns
San Antonio, TX, 78266
Adventure tours, including rappelling, climbing, and crawling through caverns 230 feet below the surface.
$99.95 per person
226 Cascade Caverns Rd
Boerne, TX, 78015
Adults $11, children $7
Cave Without a Name
325 Kreutzberg Rd
Boerne, TX, 78006
Open 10am - 5pm from Labor Day - Memorial Day
Adults $16, children $8