• Monica Stanley

Travel Time - Enchanted Rock State Park, Llano, Texas

It’s time for another solo #adventureswithvern road trip!


This time around Vern and I’s destination was southwest of home about 3.5 hours with the goal of hiking Enchanted Rock State Park.


This particular state park doesn’t allow RV/Van camping, just tents. Many of which are primitive hike-in sites. The views these tent campers have are amazing, I can tell you that. But I’m not real interested in that life these days. I don’t mind the hiking in… I just want my heater when it gets cold, my fan when it gets hot, my refrigerator/cooler to be well stocked, and to not worry if it decides to rain at some point.


The simple things. Glamping style.


The place we chose to call home for a couple of days was Oxford Ranch RV Park, about 15 minutes north of Enchanted Rock and 10 minutes south of Llano. I had originally looked at staying in Fredericksburg, just 20 minutes south of Enchanted Rock. They have some really nice RV spots, but they also are much more expensive. If I had a gal-pal with me and we were going to toot around Fredericksburg together, then I for sure would have gone and stayed down that way. For this trip though, I wanted be close to the park and mostly, I wanted peace and quiet.


Oxford Ranch doesn’t take reservations, so I was a little concerned. That usually doesn’t go well will my little “plan-ahead” self, but she was certain they’d have a spot… so I chose to take a risk. Good thing about Vern is, worst-case, I sleep in him on the side of the road. I’ve got enough power and water to get me through anyway, I just wouldn’t have my trusty heater, a toilet, or hot shower… so I was really hoping they had room at the Inn for me!


If you recall, on our last adventure I lost all solar/backup power a couple of hours into the trip and 1) learned how cold it can get inside the van this time of year and 2) had to drive into town to get a Styrofoam cooler since the refrigerator was inoperable. We replaced all four of his batteries and he should be as good as new on that front now. But you can bet I’ve got extra blankets, my cooler, and the hopes of a spot with electric being open when I get there so I can plug up my heater with no concerns!



So, my little bougie ass and Vern headed out!


First stop was Glen Rose for gas and groceries. I kept it super simple this time, honestly thinking I’d go into town at some point for a meal or two. I just bought some canned beef stew, chips, peanuts, beef jerky, protein bars, fruit snacks, a mixed bag of chocolate candy (that was promptly placed inside the fridge)… and now for the bougie part… prosciutto, a smoked black pepper white cheddar, and a box of red wine. The essentials.


We had no need to stop again after that until we “hopefully” got to our camping spot for the night. And we didn’t. Vern is a beast on the road. He’s down to just go, go, go!



It’s such a pretty drive out this way and I found Llano to be more charming that anticipated. If I had seen an easier place to park Vern in, I probably would have hung around downtown a bit doing a little touristing.


I did however stop at Iman’s BBQ while I was there and got some yummy brisket, turkey sausage, and potato salad before going to the campground. Cooking was on my list tonight. TOTAL FAIL on my part for not getting a photo of the food. In my defense, right after I ordered, a school bus full of teenagers came in which, if you know much about HSPs, had me a bit discombobulated from there. I was ready to just eat and get to camp at that point. The bark on the brisket was the best part of the meal. The brisket itself was a tad drier than I’d like, but I also didn’t venture over to get the BBQ sauce and beans with the 30+-some-odd teenagers. The smoked turkey sausage had good flavor. Again, a bit drier than I’d have preferred, but it’s turkey sausage… it’s not supposed to be super fatty. The potato salad was really good as well. Sorry, I know that was about the worst food review I’ve ever done. Oh well. You’ll all live.



I called the campground before I left Llano just to make sure they had a spot for me in case I needed to use that phone reception I was getting in town to find another place to stay. They had several to choose from thankfully. So Vern and I headed to get checked in and settled in.

I was pleasantly surprised by the campground. It’s on a pretty spot of land with things worth walking around to see, it’s got running toilets and showers with hot water (a rarity you’ll learn if you’re new to this camping stuff), the folks that run the place are very nice, and they have a coupe of pot-bellied pigs running around – and that’s just plain fun.



The primitive spots are really nice here and only $10 per person, per night. The electric spot I stayed in don’t have the view and privacy of the primitive ones, but again, I really wanted my heater when it hits 30 degrees overnight. They are $27 per night and have all the three main hookup types, depending on the exact spot/pole. Mine only had 30-amp and 50-amp, but I have an adapter that will take it down to 12, so that worked just fine for me. The spots aren’t really leveled, so bring your jacks/blocks.


Only real downside is the stickers. There are lots of them. They are large. They don’t play. My hiking shoes did perfectly with them, but my sneakers were beacons for them. And don’t let anything fabric fall out of the van… you’ll be removing them from that as well.


On the first night I spent my evening walking around the campground’s property, did some reading, had a glass of wine, and went to bed. Nothing fancy.



Saturday morning I woke and made the all-important cup of coffee, got layered up for the temperature changings coming, and Vern and I went 15 minutes south to see what Enchanted Rock was all about.


Again, the drive there was beautiful and gets more so the closer you get. This park stays pretty sold-out on their reservations, so you best book in advance or you’re probably not getting in. This is a small park in regards to parking itself and they really do try to limit the damage to these amazing natural attractions.



If you aren’t familiar with how the reservations are released in the Texas State Parks system… here is a little quick tutorial. The parks release reservations for camping spots 2 months in advance. So, if you want to go to Palo Duro Canyon (hard to get into to) on February 1st, you best be hopping on that reservation system December 1st. The day pass reservations are released 1 month in advance. So, again, if you want to go to Palo Duro Canyon on February 1st, you get on the reservation system January 1st. If you are trying to buy multiple days in your day pass, you’ll have to wait until the final day of your trip is in the registration window. You cannot book it early.


On to the really good stuff… the park… the hike… the ADVENTURE!


Enchanted Rock did not disappoint. This is one of the most beautiful state parks I’ve been to, in that I could fill a phone memory card up with photos. Everywhere is a photograph basically. I tried really hard to not just take pictures of EVERYTHING and enjoy the hike for what it was. It was super hard though.


The trails here a mix of all skills, so you’ll find something here whether you’re looking to just meander around the rock or climb the rock itself or the surrounding ones.


I saw weird snake-lizard looking creatures, dragonflies, and even a little fox. I hated that my camera just couldn’t pick him up very well where he was. That camouflage is real. He was a cute little buggar.


I started with the Summit Trail so I could get to the top of Enchanted Rock with fresh legs. Then I planned to take the Echo Canyon Trail to Moss Lake and hop on the backside of the Loop Trail, effectively cutting the Loop Trail in half.


I did the first part just great. I climbed the rock. That big ass rock was no joke either! A lot of people will not be able to make it to the top of the rock just due to age or injury. You best bring your big girl legs, be prepared to make stops along the way up, and possibly (surprisingly) be a little scared of the sheer height you are reaching on the side of this thing. But once there… MAN.


What a view! You really feel on top of the world out there. It’s stunning.


It’s a great place to take a break, have some water, and a snack before heading back down. Yeah… what goes up the giant rock must go back down the giant rock. I was more concerned about that part originally because you can SEE how high up you are the whole time. But that wound up being the easier part of the hike mentally. My knees and ankles were hollering though!



Once down the summit trail I had trouble finding the entrance to the Echo Canyon Trail. I’m pretty good at trail maps, but for some reason yesterday was not my day for that skillset to come to play. I wound up meandering who the heck knows where and on what all trails… and what offshoots… I don’t know.


Once I found my way back to where I had been trying to go in the first place, I got my confidence back and was headed to the van. All was going well. I even told myself to not take photos during this time and just enjoy the hike. So I did.


Now for the twist!


I ran out of water with just a little bit of the hike left, no concern there. Until… I’m almost at the end of the Loop Trail and reach back for my phone to take a photo of something and realize it isn’t there… gasp! Where could it be?!? Then I remembered putting it on top of the toilet paper dispenser in the outhouse bathroom on the trail… damn near half-way back the other way


Initially I took off running because, fear. Then I reminded myself I was out of water, it was quite warm out, and I needed to conserve myself. I reminded myself if it wasn’t there, then someone is likely taking it to a Park Ranger because most all people I have met when out camping are good people and would put themselves in my shoes and understand how bad losing a phone in this situation is. I was still freaking out… but I wasn’t doing it physically. Luckily it was still right where I left it when I go back there. I was thirsty as heck, but I had my way home!


I had to then reevaluate the situation. Do I go all the way back to the end of the Loop Trail or do I take the chance that I can find/follow the other trail I couldn’t find early to cut my journey time down a little? I chose to find Echo Canyon and take the chance. This is a popular and busy state park, so it’s not like I would die of thirst out here. Someone is going to come along in the relatively near future and I could probably bum some water to get me the last couple miles or so. Not a life or death thing here – but uncomfortable.


Anywho… I found Echo Canyon and it was a beautiful hike. Not easy to follow, lots of rocks to traverse, but man it was pretty.



I finally made it back to Vern and once I got all settled back down, we headed to the campground for some stew and snack-dinner (my favorite kind of dinner).


I read more, had a couple glasses of wine, and got to bed early. An 3.5 hour moderate hike will whip you! It certainly did me.



Once I woke I was reminded of the hike, as I felt sore in all the places from my mid-torso and down! Time for a little coffee, a little camp breakdown, and a little pre-writing for the blog post before heading back home to my little girls, dogs, and life.


On my way home, I stopped for a quick lunch in Llano at a place on the square called Joe’s Bar & Grill. I had the small meal that came with a Philly Cheesesteak Slider, a side (I chose tater tots), and a pickle – all for $7! Shut up and take my money! It was good too! Solid flavor on the Philly Cheesesteak. Wood floors, tables and booths, and photos and memorabilia on the walls. Just the type of place you’re hoping for from a place called Joe’s Bar. They even have an all-you-can-eat salad bar (not on Sundays) for $9.99. Shut the front door!



This little town of Llano might not get as much sexy coverage as Fredericksburg, but I gotta say, I might be in love.


This trip felt right. I don’t know how else to say that. Easy isn’t the word. Perfect isn’t the word. I felt mostly calm, kept no schedule or plans, and heard a whole lot of my own thoughts. It was a good, solid, enjoyable trip. It felt like I was right where I was supposed to be.


I’m not sure where to next on a solo trip. I was thinking of the beach in late January, but I’m not sure that is going to work out in life at that time. I’ll probably be doing a few day-hike trips instead of 3-day trips for a little bit. I do love a good day-hike.


I’ll certainly return to Oxford Ranch when I’m around here again and Enchanted Rock shouldn’t be missed. I will most certainly be hiking this rock and these canyons with my daughters as soon as their skills allow it. Just amazingly beautiful. A real testament to the fact that mother nature is the worlds best artist and always has been. The OG.


‘Til next time – Adventure on and do you!


Monica


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