Lost Maples

The last week in October, we visited Lost Maples, which is northwest of San Antonio.  Look how shallow and clear this stream is.  We crossed it many times over wobbly rocks.

This may be Texas Groundsel or Texas Squawweed(Senecio ampullaceus).

We were too early for the Maples to have turned, but hey, there’s color.  Okay, it’s Poison Ivy.

Several patches of this tiny star flower.

I showed a picture to a ranger, but she said that she was a paper pusher and didn’t know the plants.  Surprised me.  Anyone know?

Pretty sure this is Helmet Skullcap (Scutellaria integrifolia).  Lost Maples area has a much warmer winter than we do, so many of the wildflowers are different than ours.

Pretty little flower.

The flowers look like Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum).

This was growing lower to the ground than Boneset usually does.  But, of course, this doesn’t receive regular watering.

This looks like Frostweed (Verbesina virginica L.) to me.

Some tree color – yeah.  But it’s a Sumac, not a Maple.

These flowers look like little cotton bolls on tall stems.  Unknown to me.

What happened here?  Crazy.

This could be Pigeonberry (Rivina humilis).  Not sure if the leaves are correct, though.

A sign lead to a side path to see the “monkey rock”  Reminds me of one of those stuffed monkeys that have tambourines in their hands.   When wound up, they bang their hands together.

And we thought that we had rocks!  Well, we do.  Just different kind.  We have rough caliche rocks, while these are river rocks.

Don’t recognize the flowers.

Although we didn’t see lots of color, it was nice that it was a peaceful hike without the crowds that would be there when the maples turned.

When the sunlight hits grasses just right, it’s so pretty.  It’s easy to see why they have become popular as a landscape plant.  I’m just leery because I planted an Inland Oats in a pot a few years ago.  It spread like crazy.  Still, I find them scattered here and there in flowerbeds.

More red.  Five leaves, so I’m pretty sure it’s Virginia Creeper.

The hills are mostly covered with cedars or spruce.   The maples and other trees are in the valley.

There were several different trails available.  We choose a 3 mile one.  We had walked for one and an half hour when the trail left the flat land and headed upwards.  The trails all had loose rocks, even on the flat ground, so the footing was iffy.

The climb was steep with rocks requiring big steps up.  I was getting more unsure of continuing by the minute.  Then a younger couple than us came down a steep incline.  They had turned around and said it was very difficult up ahead.  That was all it took for us to turn around.

Back on fairly level ground.

Just what one would expect to see on a walk through the woods:  mushrooms growing on a decaying log.  Could be Polypore mushrooms.

Getting close to the parking lot.

While in the area, we stayed at The Lodges at Lost Maples.  The cabin was actually more spacious than it looks from the outside.  Very quiet, peaceful setting.

Loading up to head to San Antonio.  Noticed the Ball Moss hanging on the tree.  Some people say they aren’t harmful to the host plant.  But we saw some at Lost Maples Park that had killed the foliage on trees.

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”  Oscar WildeSave

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WestCave Preserve

Last Friday we headed to Austin for some diverse activities:  a little shopping, some Mexican food, a Gilbert and Sullivan production, and a visit to a grotto.

WestCave is about 40 miles west of Austin in an isolated area.

By the entrance gate is some New Gold Lantana.  I had thought it was a hybrid, but everything growing here is native.

Some Rock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) in front of the main building.

As we head down, we get a glimpse of Pedernales River.  The word means flint stone.  The Spanish explorers named it to denote an area the Indians had used because it was rich with a high quality brown flint or chert.

Ball moss hanging from Live Oaks.

The moss is a Tillandsia or the type of plant that gets its nutrients from the air and is not harmful to the tree host.

Further down, Woodland Fern grows among the rich soil of tree leaf mulch.

Not sure what this plant is – maybe a type of Oakleaf Hydrangea?

The path is rough and steep.  Wish I had taken a picture of the stone stairs, but I was concentrating on staying upright.  The guide constantly reminds the group to stay on the path for our safety and to protect the preserve.

Some American or Canadian Germander (Teucrium canadense) seems to grow out of rocks.

Love the bright red of Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus drummondii) flower.

At the end of the trail is the grotto area.  It seems that we’ve stepped into a mythical secret place.

What looks like a cave is just a spot under fallen rocks.

Delicate Maidenhair Fern provides more lush growth.

Standing under the large fallen rock, the dripping water forms a thin curtain.

This the actual cave that we climb into.  The rocks are wet and slippery, so I’m thankful for the wire hand holds.

The Cow Creek Limestone forming the ceiling of the cave is covered with ancient sea shells.

The humidity is so high that by the time we leave this area, we’re soaked with sweat.

But I take the time to take photos of these two dragonflies.

I’ve never seen a red-orange one before.  Glad one stopped darting around long enough for a photo to be taken.

Two full days of activities was fun.

Have a blessed day.

“We only know a tiny proportion about the complexity of the natural world.  Wherever you look, there are still things we don’t know and don’t understand.”                          David AttenboroughSave

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