Friday, April 10, 2009

An Enchanted Place

Getting outdoors can be done just about anywhere. It can be as simple as playing catch in the backyard to as complex as a two week hunting and fishing expedition in the Canadian Rockies. Any time spent outside is time well spent, but sometimes it can be so much more. Everybody has a special place that they love above all others. A place that feels like home…that provides a sense of belonging and comfort. These special places make that time spent outdoors rewarding, invigorating, and relaxing. For me, that place has and always will be Enchanted Rock.

E-rock as it is lovingly called by its many fond visitors is truly a special place. It has been so for hundreds of years. E-rock is located just north of the small German town of Fredericksburg, known for its wineries, quaint shops, peaches, and great German food. This particular rock just so happens to be the second largest pluton in the US, after Stone Mountain in Georgia (another really neat place). Plutons are also known as monadnocks, depending on which geologist, or in my case, wanna-be, you talk to. Plutons are composed of what is called intrusive igneous rock that forms from cooled magma and is then exposed as the earth around it erodes and/or it is thrust up through the Earth’s crust. When multiple plutons from near each other, they are known as a batholith as is seen near E-rock. E-rock is a single pluton that rises about 400 feet from its base and covers an area of about 600 acres. It truly is massive! The Tonkawa Indians believed the rock to be inhabited by spirits due to groaning and cracking sounds that can be heard from it at night. These sounds are actually just caused by the expanding and contracting of the rock due to heating and cooling from day to night. Never mind the scientific explanation for the noises, this rock really is something sacred. The plant life around E-rock is similar to other places in the hill country. There are the ever present junipers (or cedars), blackjack oaks, cedar elms with there little leaves that always end up stuck in the tent, and plenty of mesquite and prickly pear cactus. During the summer you can even pick muscadine grapes and slip their gooey white insides out of their thick purplish-black skin. The white-tailed deer are plentiful and so tame that they will wander through the campgrounds looking for handouts or leftovers from careless campers too lazy to clean up after themselves. There are also neat little black squirrels and lizards that hop along the rocks and trails. On one visit, a small fox was exploring the outer edges of our campsite, also likely looking for something to eat. The wildlife at E-rock is just as nice to see as the rocks themselves.

My first trip to E-rock took place when I was 10 or 11. I went on a church camping trip with my good friend Mikol. Upon driving down the farm road that leads to the park from Fredericksburg, I immediately fell under the rock’s spell. Even at that young age, I had a fond appreciation for the uniqueness of this place. As I recall, we spent several hours exploring the boulders and climbing to the top of a smaller dome next to E-rock called Little Dome. As the day was ending, Mikol and I waded barefoot through a small creek that ran through the park and caught a frog and a strange, small fish with bumps on its head. That night, we sat up by the campfire with other boys on the camping trip and joked around and a great time. I was immediately hooked on the beauty of this distinctive part of Texas.
During high school I made several day-trips to E-rock with friends. The most memorable trip I took there during high school was with my brother. I don’t remember all of the details, but I think he was visiting or had just moved back from his two year stint in Canyon. We made the hour and a half drive from San Antonio in his little blue Ford Ranger with the Rebel flag sticker on the backglass listening to Jerry Jeff Walker, Everclear, and Sublime. We spent the entire day hiking, scrambling over some of the thousands of boulders, and exploring little caves formed by the exfoliating chunk of granite. Life’s little quirks are really funny sometimes. I made my first trip to Palo Duro Canyon with my brother when I was a freshman in high school and he was a freshmen at WT. I think he made his first trip to E-rock with me a couple years later. Now he lives close to E-rock and I live close to Palo Duro.

For several years in a row, our family made habit of camping at E-rock with our friends the Millers. It started with Marie’s first camping trip with me. That Thanksgiving weekend, we were probably the most under-prepared backpackers ever. We reserved a site that required a 1.5 mile hike and all we had was car camping gear. So…we made the 1.5 mile trek like pack mules as we carried a large tent, sleeping bags, an inflatable bed, ice chest, and other cumbersome and unnecessary gear. We were happy to set up camp among the oak and mesquite trees and relax with our beer and wine-coolers, which later in the night led us to make a trip to the composting toilet, read outhouse, in the camping area. The 40 degree morning found us shivering and damp as our hand-me-down cheap tent did not breathe too well. We reluctantly broke camp and made the pack mule trek back to the car with a new found hobby that I think I enjoy much more than she does, but she has definitely made a great effort to come along with me on my outings and has begun to love the outdoors as much as I have. Marie enjoys our camping trips much more when friends come along, so the next year and several thereafter we made our annual Thanksgiving Pilgrimage with our friends the Millers. Through those trips we made numerous memories of bouldering with babies, low-crawling through a tent to photograph deer walking just yards away from our tent-site, making the perfect s’mores, a must for Christine, picking cactus thorns from little hands, and otherwise having a great time in the woods.

It has been several years since my last trip to E-rock. In the mean-time we have camped in several other places across Texas and hiked several more across Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado. Each place we go is equally as wonderful as E-rock, but none provide me with that feeling of belongingness, if that is a word. There is truly something enchanting about Enchanted Rock and it will always be my special outdoor place.


Laura said...

My 'E-Rock' is Glencoe in Scotland - it is ethearal in its beauty and haunting in its history. If you ever get the chance to travel to Scotland, put it on your must see list!

mp said...

Awww, I miss E Rock now. We should plan our next Thanksgiving there.

Christine said...

Kevin & I feel the same way, we have so many special memories camping w/ you guys there. We had so much fun. I have some really good videos from the last couple trips I need to burn to a disk and send you guys. Kevin's whispering "narration" alone is hilarious..."There's a deer..he's about 10 feet away...he's he's walking towards me.." LOL

Maybe we can all meet up there again after Thanksgiving this year. :)

Anonymous said...

I also got to see the little fox! And I went to Enchanted Rock with you too.... a couple times... guess they weren't as memorable!
:( (just kidding)