Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"Lost" in Lost Maples

"Lost Maples State Natural Area exists as a portal to Texas' primordial past where bigtooth maples and other relict species from the Ice Age have adapted to climate change over the ages and thrive in special riparian and woodland habitats of the Texas Hill Country."

With those words, Rob McCorkle began an article entitled "Portal to Texas' Past Awaits at Lost Maples State Natural Area" in which he reported on Lost Maples' recognition as the September 2007 Park of the Month.

As we continued our visit to Lost Maples that we began yesterday, we could understand the basis for the recognition. Even though we were past the end of the peak color season, the colors that lingered put on quite a show.

"The Maple Trail provides the easiest access to the park's natural wonders, traversing mostly flat terrain through a moist, shaded Sabinal River canyon. Mature bigtooths share fertile canyon habitat with monstrous chinkapin and Lacey's oaks, Florida basswood, pecan, black willow, green ash and American sycamore.

"Boulders the size of a subcom-pact car sit in the middle of the river and at the base of soaring limestone cliffs."

Even though the park was crowded and even though several young children were playing in the water, it was unexpectedly quiet in the Park. Greetings between hikers passing each other on the trail took the form of a nod or a one-word acknow-ledgement.

The serenity of the woods seemed to extend to these inter-actions; if conversa-tions took place, they were conducted in tones just above a whisper.

It was an unusual experience.

When we later learned that about 50,000 people visit Lost Maples during the four- to six-week peak season, we were even more surprised at the feeling of solitude that existed.

"The Sabinal River and its several tributaries have carved limestone canyons through the 2,200-acre park. Here, the canyons' moist, cool microclimates support a remarkable diversity of plant life found in few other places in Texas."

When we read: "When conditions are right, the maple leaves put on a dazzling show of fall colors," we wondered just how much more magnificent the show must have been about four weeks earlier.

And in the midst of the fall foliage there were scenes at ground level that were equally attractive.

Adding to the peaceful quality of the scenes was the subdued lighting of the overcast day. The trail was wide and with enough short off-shoots that allowed us to venture into clearings for a photo.

It was especially difficult to leave this particular scene in this gem of a park in the Texas Hill Country.

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