Austin "Crack Of Dawn" Hiking Meetup Group Message Board › McKinney Roughs & Barton Creek Greenbelt trip report from your visitor f
|A former member||
Hello everyone! I'm back in Nashville from my trip to Austin and thought I'd give y'all a rundown of my wonderful hiking excursions at McKinney Roughs and the Barton Creek Greenbelt.
I got up early and arrived at the main parking lot of McKinney Roughs at about 6:45 AM last Thursday, 3/28. I got on trail at the first crack of light above the horizon. I wanted to see as much of the park as possible, keeping in mind that I wanted to hike the entire Greenbelt in the afternoon. I ended up doing the four-hour suggested hike on the LCRA website. Before arriving, I had intended to extend that a bit so I could do the entire Pine Ridge trail and see the Pine Ridge overlook. And although I ended up completing the suggested hike in 2:40 (7 miles on the nose) including picture-taking, I decided that I would head out so I would have plenty of time for the Greenbelt. The splendid views and diversity of the trails in the park left me very satisfied with that decision. Plus, as I am still pretty much a newbie to hiking, I needed the ibuprofen, ice packs and Icy Hot to recuperate (I hiked 15 miles on the Arkansas River Trail in Little Rock the day before, my second-highest daily mileage total ever, albeit a virtually flat trail).
I was perplexed that the LCRA site mentions the Meditation point overlook as the best view of the river in the park. The Bluff Trail overlook was far better. Perhaps it's a seasonal thing?
I really enjoyed the Riverside and Cypress trails. Appalachian Trail hikers often lament the "green tunnel" but I love that sort of thing. I guess I can see how that could become monotonous after months on end, though :)
The gnats were a pain in the ass, but overall, McKinney Roughs is definitely better than Nashville's Radnor Lake, our best hiking. Except for the tread, anyway. Radnor spoils us with fresh mulch every couple of months, especially after the holidays when the trails have a nice piney smell from the donated xmas trees :)
After a respite at the hotel (I'm glad they didn't charge me for my ridiculous usage of their ice machine for my tired legs), I grabbed a taxi to the western terminus of the Greenbelt at the Hill of Life. My research mentioned that the Hill of Life was a landmark, and my driver was at least 65, so I figured he would know the city like the back of his hand. However, he had no idea what I meant. So I clarified by saying it was the other end of the Greenbelt. Still a blank stare. I googled directions on my phone while he pulled out paper maps (sigh) and finally we arrived just before noon. $20 fare including tip, but well worth it.
I quickly realized that the maps I got online were insufficiently detailed. Having no idea how much elevation change the Hill of Life entailed, I took a quick left. The views were sublime. After a few tenths of a mile, I looked down and saw some people far below near the creek. I didn't think too much of it at the time, and continued. Soon I realized that I would have to backtrack to the Hill of Life, but my iPhone Trail Tracker app showed that I was close to the residential street(s) that would lead me back to the starting point, so I followed it. Passing a rusted dump truck on the way, I reached an impass.
The impass was an easily-crossed wire fence, and not wanting to backtrack, I proceeded, hoping that the rich residents of the neighborhood wouldn't shoot me. To even get out of the neighborhood, I had to slightly trespass through one yard to get around the gate blocking the entrance to the street.
Finally, I got back to the trailhead, about 1.5 miles already wasted, and started worrying that I would make it back to the hotel in time for dinner. The views were totally worth it, though. I encountered a local at the trailhead who lead me down the Hill of Life the way I should have gone. Going down it, I understand the name. Going up it, I would call it the Hill of Death!
I hiked the south side of the trail for a while, then crossed over and encountered the local again, and after that stayed on the north side since that's where the official mile markers were. I was fine for quite a while, but I had some problems just before Gus Fruh park. I wandered half an hour before I encountered a mountain biker who helped me find the right place to cross the creek.
After getting off the trail, I wanted to enjoy a dip in the Barton Springs pool, but it was closed for renovations (later I learned it opened that weekend - grrrr!). So I went on my way back to the hotel. Trail Tracker told me that reaching the hotel would have given me 19 miles for the day (including McKinney Roughs), so never having walked a 20-mile day before, I detoured so I could hit the 20. I reached the hotel with about an hour to spare before dinner.
Thanks again to your suggestions. I had an awesome time and Austin has some fine hiking! The Greenbelt needs more signage, but otherwise I can't complain. I look forward to my next visit.
Wow. You had quite a day Mark. Glad you enjoyed your two choices. I've done the same thing trying to get down to the creek from the western end of the Greenbelt. Come back soon!