Enchanted Rock

A while ago, it came up that Aaron had never been to Enchanted Rock. Between that and the fact that visiting a giant chunk of granite sticking out of the ground seems like an appropriate activity while studying geology, we put it on our to-do list for when the weather got cooler. We picked a weekend this month, which happened to be last Saturday. It turned out not to be quite as cool as we’d hoped, but we got the kids up early and made the drive out there and it was still below 80 when we arrived. Happily, the park wasn’t full so we didn’t have to turn around and take a shuttle. We started off with the hike to the summit, then hiked some of the trail around the park. We’ll stick to the summit portion for today.


Here’s the view as we were leaving the trailhead.


There go the intrepid hikers!


The first part of the hike (the summit trail and Echo Canyon trail) was a little rough for Margaret, but she made it.


Pretty views on the way up.


As things got steeper, we had to adopt a new technique: point out a spot ahead of us and tell the kids we’d stop and rest when we got there. They weren’t long rests, but they got everyone going again.


Getting close to the top!


More of the view.


Pretty as it was, I’m not sure that Enchanted Rock will end up on my list of favorite places to go hiking. It was really crowded, and that takes some of the fun out of it.


A view from the top. Although this is solid granite, there are little places where the plants have managed to get a foothold. It was really fascinating to see.


Aaron found the survey marker that indicated the highest spot.


Nathan wanted his picture taken on the highest point…


… and so did Evan!


Nathan didn’t like sharing his spot. His mood improved after we sat down and ate some lunch.


One more view from the summit.

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Lego Build!

Guess what happened Tuesday? Monthly Mini-Build! Aaron gave me these photos from his phone, and they’re in no particular order. Just cute faces and Lego.


Nathan with his completed model — a deep sea anglerfish.


Next month’s model — a shark!


This is the Christmas set for the year. Isn’t it cute? There’s even a light brick inside the toy shop to provide a cheery glow.


It looks like the choir guy got knocked over (on the left, behind the skier).


I think we’re going back in time. Here they are working away at their models.


And here’s Nathan working. Apparently the lack of Evan pictures is not due to favoritism. It’s because Evan whizzed through his build and took off to look at Star Wars Lego.

While the guys were thus occupied, Margaret and I had fun of our own. We went to Bush’s Chicken and split a meal. When I asked her if she liked her chicken she said, “Mm! I’m happy!” That made two of us. Once we were done we visited a new pet store in Round Rock to see what sort of stuff they have. Margaret was disappointed because there were no dogs present, so we stopped at PetCo next in hopes of getting to watch a dog being groomed. No luck, but there were cats available for adoption so we looked at them. Then we went to Sam’s and got a head start on our grocery shopping for the next day. When we were done there, we go a car wash and got home just a few minutes after the guys did.

It turned out to be a good thing that we did the Sam’s trip, because when we went to get in the car the next morning we realized Aaron still had Nathan’s car seat. Oops! He came home for an early lunch, and we took a late trip to H-E-B. It would have been a crazy day if I’d still needed to go to both stores, but since I didn’t it worked out pretty well. I’ve been struggling to come up with a good grocery shopping method, as lately the kids have gotten out of hand. No one of them is especially terrible, but when you multiply it by three I’m pulling my hair out before we’re halfway through the store. This week I tried a new tactic: I made grocery shopping their job. Evan drove the cart. I minded the list. Nathan and Margaret put stuff in the cart. It wasn’t perfectly smooth, but there was no fussing. Evan informed me that when he can drive he’ll take Nathan and Margaret to do the shopping and I can just stay home. Sounds like a plan!

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Phone pictures

I went digging through the photos from my phone and found some fun stuff that I don’t think I shared yet, so prepare for randomness!


This is the proper way to relax around the campsite in the evenings. I read The Martian during the first half of the trip, and Aaron read it when we got back. Since it was good, we’re going to see the movie this weekend. Date night!


This is what bedtime stories look like in a tent. Margaret is just out of the frame to the right — I couldn’t quite squeeze her into the shot.


Here we’re eating lunch at the Grotto on the Seven Hollows Trail. I think the area with all the ferns often has water in it.


Coming back to our camp site from the restrooms. We really did have the place to ourselves.


Margaret was very tired after the Seven Hollows Trail. Here she is with her bunnies waiting while Aaron cooks hot dogs for dinner.


This is what my kitchen sink looked like. Yes, the camp stove is part of it — that’s where the hot water comes from. :)


Here’s my refrigerator, looking a little empty toward the end of the week.


This is my kitchen cabinet.


And this is the pantry!


Here’s another look at bedtime — a little earlier than the last picture because everyone was so tired.


This was the view out of our bedroom window first thing in the morning.


For their junior explorer badge, the boys had to do a project. One option was to draw a picture. Nathan drew this one of our family in our campsite. I think that left to right it’s Daddy, Nathan, Mommy, Margaret, and Evan. But I could be wrong. You can see our campfire and our green tent, along with some trees and rocks.


This is Evan’s picture of the cottonmouth we saw on the Seven Hollows Trail. It’s next to a big grey rock, and I think Evan took advantage of artistic license to show a creek next to the trail. He made a few different efforts at this one, and this was the version he liked best.


Since the batteries on the good camera died at the CCC Overlook, this is what I’ve got that shows a little of the structure at the site.


Each of the kids got a little souvenir money for the trip. Nathan’s purchase at Petit Jean was this mug. He was excited to drink his hot cocoa out of it on our last morning.


Here’s Margaret with her cocoa.


And Evan with his. You can see his Crater of Diamonds hat that he purchased there.


We were just as glad we left when we did. On Thursday night, these folks moved in next door and across the street. The one on the right was huge. The A/C ran all night, and at 10 p.m. we went and knocked and asked them to please turn down their movie so that we couldn’t hear it at our campsite. I have to confess to wondering what the point of camping is when you do it that way. I might go for a pop-up or something, but who wants a TV on a camping trip?


The kids had to help roll the tent up again before we could leave.


Aside from Nathan’s mug and a magnet Margaret picked out, the souvenir of choice from Petit Jean was a bandanna printed with a map of the park. When we got in the car I gave each kid a few plastic army guys and they explored the park.


The first part of our drive home looked mostly like this. It was lovely and still felt like we were on vacation. Then suddenly we intersected with the interstate. Vacation over. Sigh.


When we left Petit Jean we drove straight to Allen to spend a night and a day with Dad Rhinehart. We got there a little before he got home from work, so we made ourselves at home and made use of the bathtub and shower. The next order of business after a week of eating out of a cooler was getting GREEN FOOD. We took Dad with us to the nearest Souper Salad, and it was delicious.

We spent Saturday with Dad and my brother Ben, and after dinner we hit the road for home. We got in around 10, if I remember right, and put the kids straight to bed then unloaded the car and went to bed ourselves.

And that, folks, was our vacation!

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Bear Cave Trail

These are the last of my photos from the good camera… sniff, sniff… it feels like vacation is ending all over again. I also have a folder of photos from my phone, so I’ll poke through those and see if there’s anything worth making a post or two out of, but otherwise it’s back to the daily grind!


There wasn’t actually a cave, but a lot of really, really big rocks scattered around and passages and shelters around and between them.


Reeeeeally big rocks.


There was supposedly a trail, but it also said we were welcome to wander  around, under and through the rocks.


People in front of big rocks.


Walking back out through the little passage we’d followed.


Next to more big rocks.


More rocks.


A view off to the side.


Prettiness and rocks.


This tree was growing up the rock. Cool!


One last photo of everyone (but me).


The kids in front of the chimney from the old CCC lodge.


Evan with a statue of a CCC worker.


And some interesting history on the CCC company that was at Petit Jean!

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More overlooks

Our next stop was the M.A. Richter Memorial Overlook.


I know it’s not much compared to real mountains, but as someone who’s lived most of my life in pretty flat territory, this took my breath away.


Here you can sort of get a feel for what we were on top of.


I set up my tripod for another picture, but the exposure wasn’t great and the kids weren’t really excited about posing for a picture so I didn’t try for more.


This was the CCC overlook. Straight across toward the left side of the frame you can see the rock on the other side. Later you’ll see some pictures from there. Unfortunately my camera batteries died here, so no more CCC overlook photos, but I replaced the batteries when we got back in the car. I think I do have some photos from my phone, and at some point I’ll go through those and post anything fun in a follow-up post.


This was the Cedar Falls Overlook. One of the trails we skipped because of the steep ascent/descent would have taken us to the bottom of the falls which were, alas, merely a trickle at the time. I was very frustrated trying to get a picture here. Those large rocks showing just above the trees are not at the bottom of the falls. There’s a dark spot near the bottom left of this photo. If you look carefully, you can see rocks that are near the bottom of the falls. It’s a pretty spectacular waterfall… when there’s water.


Here’s the view looking the other direction.


And here’s our last overlook, which I’m sure had a name. See that sticky-out bit on the right? That’s the CCC Overlook.


More from this last overlook.


And one last picture.

When we were done here, we hopped into the car and went home for a taco dinner. Once we’d eaten and were feeling energetic again, we headed out for the Bear Cave Trail.

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Now we’ll move on to the lazy part of our trip, where we drove from overlook to overlook and enjoyed the views while I tried not to imagine anyone plummeting to their deaths.

First up is Stout’s Point, which is also (according to legend) Petit Jean’s grave site. I linked to the story in my last post, but I’ll give the Reader’s Digest version just in case. A French nobleman wanted to go explore the New World, and his fiancee asked him to marry her first so she could go with him. He was concerned for her welfare if she went with him, so he refused and promised to marry her when he got back. Not liking to take no for an answer, she disguised herself and got a position as a cabin boy. The disguise must have been a good one, because she made it to America and through the exploration and some time spent with the Indians on Petit Jean Mountain. Then just as they were ready to leave for France she became very ill, and in the course of her illness her true identity was discovered. It became obvious she wouldn’t survive, so she asked to be carried to the top of the mountain to spend the last of her time there — and died hours later. At some point someone discovered a raised mound with rocks fitted together in a way that they don’t believe could be natural. It seems to be a grave, and legend has it that it’s Petit Jean’s.


So, here’s Petit Jean’s grave.


Some of the surrounding countryside.


The Arkansas River.


Yep. Heart attack material for me right here. To be fair, they aren’t nearly as close to a drop-off as it looks — there are a few more “steps” down before it’s just empty space.


I grabbed another visitor and asked her to take a picture for us. Margaret fell in love with her puppy, Jack-Jack.


Looking along the river in the other direction.


More prettiness.


More of the view. Sorry; I have to indulge my photography habit.


I loved the cloud shadows.


This is a little clunky, but I tried to take and piece together a panoramic view. When you stood out on the point, it was about a 320-degree arc of view (I made Aaron come up with a number; it’s not precisely calculated). It was truly incredible and worth the four-mile drive out of the park to see it.


On the way back into the park, we stopped for a picture by the sign. This time I hauled out my tripod, since there were no hapless bystanders available to be enlisted.

IMG_8418And then before we hit the overlooks in the park, we stopped at the visitor’s center so the boys could get sworn in as junior explorers. BT handled the ceremony, and I got to use his camera to take a picture that will go on the wall until next year. Then they’ll mail it to us. The program was for kids 6 and up, but they let Nathan participate and he did very well. They gave Margaret a packet too, but it was a little over her head. She didn’t get a certificate and she wasn’t in the picture, but BT gave her a badge. He didn’t want her to be left out, and after all, she did an excellent job of exploring the park.

More overlooks coming up soon!

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More hiking

I think we’re up to Thursday now! As I said, Thursday we wanted to hit the Cedar Creek Trail, the scenic overlooks, and the Bear Cave Trail. The boys had also been working on their Junior Explorer packets and wanted to finish those up with the park interpreter, and we needed to do our souvenir shopping.


While we were at the visitors’ center, we had to say hi to the statue of Petit Jean. We told the kids the story of how the park got its name and Margaret fell in love with Petit Jean and periodically informed us (often through tears) that she was sad Petit Jean had to die. She was thrilled to be able to give Petit Jean a hug.


The Cedar Creek Trail starts out next to the Pioneer Cabin, so we had to give that a look before we headed out.


Refreshed after yesterday and ready to set off!


This rock along the trail needed some propping up.


The kids found a lizard!


Running water was scarce during our visit — things were pretty dry. But look! We found some!


This trail was pretty rock, so Margaret had to pick her way carefully. Short legs can make things very difficult!


I loved this little bridge. I’ll bet it’s even prettier when the creek is closer to full.


Some hikers passing the opposite direction saw me taking pictures of Aaron and the kids on the bridge and asked if I’d like them to take a picture with me in it. Since those are few and far between on this trip, I was glad to take them up on it.


After we crossed the bridge, we could look back and see this rock shelter. Not nearly as big as the Rock House Cave, but the kids thought it was cool.


Mr. Long-Legs here had to stop and wait with me for the others to catch up. He’s clearly a state parks pro, with his Palo Duro shirt and his Crater of Diamonds hat. By the way, you may have noticed in the pictures from the Seven Hollows Trail that the hat went back and forth between Evan and Nathan quite a bit. That’s because Evan was sharing with Nathan. What a sweetheart!


More steep trail, with occasional steps added by the CCC. This trail was shorter than the Seven Hollows Trail, but I think it had a higher proportion of strenuous bits. At least the first half involved a lot of up and down and rocky areas.


Nathan’s turn to be goofy while waiting for Margaret to catch up.


And here she is, trucking along.


Did I mention there were some steep spots? As you can see from the trail markers (red), we had come from down there off to the right.


Yet again, imagine how pretty this would be with any significant amount of water in it!


The boys found a cool caterpillar. We forgot to ask BT about it and I haven’t tried to look it up online yet. Very pretty, though!


Did I mention it was rocky?


And some of those rocks were verrrry impressive. When we planned this trip I figured Crater of Diamonds would be great for learning geology and Petit Jean would just be for the hiking and scenery. Turns out the geology here was pretty cool too.


I just love all the little shelves of rock sticking out, and the moss and grass growing on them.


More creekbed, more rocks!


I think they stopped to wait for Margaret and me to catch up.


Margaret started to get tired of walking, but then I gave her the job of making sure I found the trail markers. She took it very seriously.


Scenic spot! It was really far down behind them. Scared-of-heights me had trouble setting up this photo (and no, they’re not as close to the edge as it looks like).


We decided we were about ready for lunch, so we stopped at a wide spot in the trail. Nathan and Margaret were excited to eat on the “Stone Table” since we had listened to The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe on the drive out.


After lunch we got back up feeling energized and ready to hit the trail again. Then we turned the corner and… there was the end of the trail! Oh well. Our picnic spot was lovely and shady.

I’m noticing that I take a lot of pictures. I’m about out of time for this morning, so next time we’ll see about those scenic overlooks.

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