Pedernales Falls: Primitive Camping Review

The Journey

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With Spring Break in full effect The Lady, who works at a local school, and I decided it would be fun to do another camping trip. She had read a lot about Pedernales Falls and thought it would a good place to try next. Getting there was fairly simple affair, even though we live over an hour away, I think the drive involved 5 turns total.

To the Camp Site

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One thing that The Lady and I enjoy doing, on most days, is primitive camping. If you’ve never it before, what it basically means at most state parks is that you have no nearby access to water/electricity. Though there is usually a style of bathroom somewhere near the camp sites. More often than not it’s a chemical toilet (think port-o-potty) with a nicer wrapper. It also usually means a hike of various distances to get to the camping area. If you look at the photo to the left you can see where we park in the upper left. We followed the purple trail to the middle campground near the river. About a 2 1/2 mile hike. Not to bad, though if your not used to carrying that much weight on your back, it can be difficult.

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The trail itself was pretty ho-hum. It was more akin to a dirt road than a hiking trail. This wouldn’t have necessarily have been a bad thing as most state parks have trails like this to allow park vehicles to service the area, however these trails usually circle the park with a few running to the middle. Unfortunately, a good 90% of the trails were like this. Some were even  paved over with asphalt..

 

 

 

 

IMG_20150318_125823~2~2Along the way we did come across a few notable areas. The first spot was a nice overlooked to the river below. The water was crystal clear and looked inviting.

 

 

 

 

 

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The picture here was taken a couple hundred yards before our camping site. The Lady was kind enough to pose. By and large though it was a fairly boring walk, at least when compared to other nearby parks like Enchanted Rock and Inks Lake.

 

 

The Camping

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First up upon arriving at our site was to get the tent set up. If you’ve read my other blog post you’ll know how much I love REI and in particular, my tent. It took about 10 minutes to get the tent up, air mattress blow up(with a 3 minute break to allow the world to stop spinning), and sleeping bags all stowed inside the tent. Next on the agenda… Hammocks! On this trip we decided that most of the first day would be spend relaxing in our respective hammocks.
While I was finishing up with the tent, The Lady was setting her hammock up. I finished the tent just in time to rescue The Lady from her hammock woes. A few minutes and a little tree climbing later, I had both our hammocks ready to go! It was quite the beautiful day for swinging on a tree. We did end up walking around a bit to explore. You can see from the photos that while there are a few nice areas.

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For dinner I use my portable Snow Peak stove and cook some Chicken Sausage that The Lady brought. Pretty good if you’ve never tried them. After we finished, we took a short walk to dispose of the trash in some nearby trashcans and then headed into the tent for some War and Go-Fish. A short while after I won at War(For the first time ever!!!) we went to sleep.

During the night things got a bit interesting…not in that way, there was a large cub scout troop nearby for heavens sake! No, sometime during the night I woke up to some wrestling sound by our backpacks. I sat up and saw a coyote nosing his way around The Lady’s. I could clearly hear it biting at something. I shook my sleeping bag a little to startle the beasty. With the sound it saw it run off. Problem solved, I went back to sleep thinking that the excitement for the night was over. Boy was I wrong. Now my tent is a 2 person tent which has a special meaning to hikers. Two person means two people maybe an inch or two apart if they are laying on their backs. I tell you this because it usually means my back/butt is leaned against the side of the tent if I’m on my side. So as it goes I was laying on my side sleeping when I feel this nudge that wakes me up. A coyote took it upon himself to do some sniffing of my butt! I felt its nose pushing against me through the tent wall. Generally speaking, a coyote isn’t much of a treat to an adult human. But laying on my back in the middle of the night? It’s fair to say I was scared. So I move a bit to try and scare this one as I did the other one, nope! All it did was growl with each little nudge. Ok, fair enough, I guess I’ll just wait here motionless till it leaves. Thankfully it finally did and allowed me to return to my beauty sleep.

At sunup the next morning The Lady and I got up, pack our tent, and headed back to the car to drop off the gear. We said morning to the Cub scout leaders, whom were also putting their tent away, as we walked past. The Lady had an extra spring to her step so we made it back to the car in 3/4’s the time.

The Weather

I’m just going to mention it because it was almost, if not, 100% humidity on an already warm day. Of course this is no ones fault, but bad weather can give you a bad taste on a wonder place.

The Hike to the Hike

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Our first problem started here. Looking at the map the only way to get to the trail-head was to park north at the red arrow of the head, walk back up the road, cross a trail that intercepts another road at the blue arrow, and then follow that road down to the trail-head(Yellow arrow). OK fine, that seems silly when the map showed that the area around the trail head was car-camping/RV area. Why not add in a few extra parking spaces? The kicker is that as we were walking, we found numerous parking spots, even 7 or 8 right in front of the trail-head. Is walking that extra mile a big deal? No, not in the grand scheme, it just seems odd to have your map so obviously wrong. Plus, one of the reason you go to a state park is for the convenience of trail access.

The Crossing

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Probably the best part of the hike was this awesome river crossing. You can see that it’s not very big, but it was super fun to get the boots off, and the wade across. The deepest part was maybe 12-14 inches high and was just cold enough to feel fantastic. The fast moving water and slippery rocks added a small challenge that made the experience more fun. After we crossed we took the “trail” up to the top of the basin. I say “trail” because the top layer of the trail was covered with asphalt making it more of a road than a trail. There was a loop around the whole basin, but The Lady was worried about the rain clouds and the potential for flooding at the river crossing. So we ended up just doing the left side that lead to an overlook.

The Overlook

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Getting to the overlook proved to be disappointing, The trail/road stayed a road most of the way, and areas around the road looked to be unnecessarily cleared. After a 1.5 mile hike we found our way to the overlooked. It turned out to be quite pretty, worth the hike to me. You’ll have to pardon The Lady’s arms photobombing.

 

With that, we walked back to the car, crossing the awesome river once more. This time stopping to take some fun pictures.

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The Falls

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This is the reason why everyone loves the park. When we got back to the car we were both pretty exhausted and ready to be done, but it seemed like a waste to come all the way here and not check out the falls. After washing up at a nearby bathroom(which were well maintained), we drove to the Falls area. And ohh here is where everyone is. When we were hiking around The Lady mentioned  a few times how empty the park was given it was Spring Break. Apparently they were all by the falls… makes sense. After getting really lucky with a parking spot, we took a short walk down the trail that lead the falls. Unfortunately we were both to tired to actually go down, but we did walk to a few of the overlooks. It was quite beautiful, and had we spent more time here my view of the place might be different.

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Likes

  • Nice and quite
  • The Falls were gorgeous
  • River Crossing. Would also be great for swimming in the summer
  • Some really pretty overlooks, hampered only by bad trails
  • Facilities kept very clean
  • Pretty good number of parking spaces

Dislikes

  • Roads being labeled as “trails”
  • Outside of a few spots, little in the way of scenery.
  • Trails had ZERO marking. It’s not hard to mark the trails, please do so.
  • Out dated map

Verdict

If you’re just going to see the falls, this would be a great little park to try. If however you wanted to do some hiking, then I’d look elsewhere. I think if they added a little more nature by making the trails less roads then it would go along way. One other thing that I’ll mention again is the total lack of trail markings. Some place do different things like painting rocks, others do the crazy idea of using signs, but most places do something to indicate which trail your on. This place did nothing, sometimes it would be hard to tell what is a trail, and what was just some off the beaten path.

But if you want to do some hiking, Inks Lake and Enchanted Rock would be better choices.

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