A weary soul can be refreshed by the hands of nature. Something about sitting upon a cool stone next to the rolling purr of a spring-fed waterfall and inhaling its pure misty breath into your lungs while the warm sun touches your skin can make you feel at peace with where you stand in the world. This was exactly what I needed, a relaxing day trip to McKinney Falls State Park to help me unwind and clear the stale thoughts from my mind and just take some time to explore and move forward.
That’s what hiking is to me… move forward… explore… move forward… explore… and so on… And that’s why I love it so much. It helps me focus on the road ahead, occasionally resurfacing memories from the past, but all in all it pushes me to go forth and live in the present. So that was the plan, to hike-it-out. Getting a late start after running some morning errands, I picked up a buddy of mine and we set forth to wander.
We decided to focus on the eastern side of the park. (Click here to see a map). Walking towards the beginning of the Homestead Trail, we stopped at the famous Lower Falls area. I have been to McKinney Falls before, but the beauty of the waterfalls never ceases to attract me. With the recent rains, she was flowing nicely. It was cute to see the kids play around the water too. It reminded me of swimming at the lake as a kid before the water warmed up, when it was still freezing, but we tend to care less at that age. Little did I know I was going to relive some childhood memories!
We needed to cross the river to get to the Homestead Trail, and the current stood higher than my waterproof boots, so, I had to kick ‘dem puppies off and trek on with bare feet through the cold water. Yes, it was chilly, but after your feet go numb it isn’t so bad… what was bad was how slippery the algae covered stone floor was beneath our feet!
Across the river we hung a right to check out the last standing remains of one of the area’s first built flour mills: The McKinney Gristmill. Thomas McKinney, race horse breeder and previous owner of the park’s land, build the mill in 1852. Now in 2015, there wasn’t much for us to see, but it was an advanced technology for the time period that you have to appreciate.
We continued on down the Homestead Trail, taking in the scenery, breathing in the fresh air, and listening to the birds chirp above. Bikers, hikers, families, and individuals all roamed the park. The trails were well defined and nicely maintained. Although debris from the October 2013 floods were still piled in the brush like a scab that just won’t heal.
We found a huge patch of Desert Christmas Cactus too! They are called this because their typically green fruit turns a bright red in December, just in time for Christmas. Native Americans (the last known tribe here was the Tonkawa tribe) harvested these berries for jams and to eat raw.
We ventured onto the Flintrock Loop Trail which had a nice variety of vegetation, trees, and wildlife. Marching on towards Frog Pond, we trailed behind fresh deer tracks towards the water. We arrived to see a family of turtles stacked up on the muddy log perched up in the middle of the pond. Further up the trail, a male Eastern Bluebird watched us curiously from the tress.
Back around the bend, we returned to the Homestead Trail to check out the original home of the McKinney family that was built in the 1840’s. The structure stood tall and strong (thanks to renovations to preserve the building, made during the park’s first years in the 1970’s).
We stopped at the falls for one last visual embrace of the strong free-flowing water. And as much as I love the Lower Falls, I had to see how the Upper Falls were running before I left, and they were running good! The Upper Falls section is my favorite because the falls have cut out interesting formations and walls in the rock from many years of erosion.
The cool refreshing water felt amazing on the tired soles of my feet. The sun hung above the horizon, and I knew it was time to travel back home. Miles of trails bring hours of conversation. I enjoy hiking alone because it gives you time to resonate with yourself, but I love hiking with others, because it pulls you outside yourself and you become a “pack” together, and what can I say, I love listening to a good story!
That’s the “Coyote Heart” mission, to bring people together who love the outdoors, appreciate the passions of travel, storytelling, music, being a part of a community, and more. We are the same living, breathing, blood pumping mammals that yearn for connection with like-minded individuals. If you have an amazing story, please share it with us, we would love to hear from you!
To find out more information about McKinney Falls State Park, please visit tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/mckinney-falls, or call (512) 243-1643.
You can also find more pictures of this, and other Texas State Park adventures, on our Instagram page at instagram.com/coyotehearts. If you have any awesome outdoor adventure pics, tag us and use the hash-tag #coyoteheartblog for a chance to be featured!
Watch out for the story of McKinney Falls State Park, Part Two!
Have you ever been to McKinney Falls State Park? How does hiking make you feel? Where are some of your favorite hiking trails?
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