This morning it was cloudy and cool – a perfect day for a hike. I joined a group of 20 led by REI Outdoor School instructors, Ivey Kaiser and Cody Ackermann. A special guest was Pam LeBlanc, writer of the Fit City column in the Austin American-Statesman. I had learned of this opportunity from one of her recent columns. It was a godsend because I had been wanting to visit the Refuge but didn’t want to go alone.
The REI shuttle took us from the downtown REI store on South Lamar to Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge to hike the Doeskin Ranch trails for about two hours. This entrance to the Refuge is located on Ranch Road 1173 about ten miles west of Liberty Hill.
The trail was fairly easy most of the way but there were a few rather steep climbs and a couple of creek crossings with stepping stones. Due to the recent rains, the creek was full. For part of the hike we were close enough to the creek to hear the gurgling of the water. I was surprised at how clear the water was. We didn’t see any birds or animals. I had hoped to see black-capped vireos and golden-cheeked warblers; this is prime habitat for these two endangered species. This refuge is critical to these birds’ survival.
Not surprisingly, I usually brought up the rear but everyone was very tolerant and helpful. REI furnished some trekking poles, which made it much easier for me. In fact, I wasn’t the only ones using the poles.
I’m looking forward to joining another REI hike and have already signed up for one in December to Pedernales Falls State Park.
Route: MoPac N => US813 N => TX 29 W to Liberty Hill => FM 1869 => FM 1174 S to the Doeskin Ranch entrance [GPS: Lat 30.621001 Long -98.074192]