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"...I remember the sunset, just a hint of coolness in the air, the first fresh breath from the summer heat. It was an adrenaline rush on an early November late afternoon, the sun setting behind the orange and yellow and red maples and the their many branches criss crossing across the canyon roof in their coat or many colors; taking on the appearance of Tiffany glass. No, not stained glass, but more grand, as beautiful as the greatest artist could ever hope to canvas and more vivid than even the great window of Norte Dame as the sun shines through from the east early each Easter morning; a pure and elemental mix of colors and hues and shades, a multiplex of racing imagery that summons up surreal thoughts of how the world must have looked on creation day, a dynamic outburst of bliss that warms the heart and erases the years of maturity and sends your spirit immediately back to the days of your childhood. I a little girl standing before my first and last real sunset it seemed, looking upon the real world only to see a beauty more daring than prose, as it shot through my heart such unyielding emotions of calm and glory all at the same time. For a moment I was lost in time; it was in the Garden of Eden that I stood, amazed at the original beauty of a world without sin or pain or shameful nakedness. To say it was a special moment in a special place is to say far too little..."
...Travel Writer Carla Land,
excerpt from her forthcoming book "Mystic Places in Texas"...

If you've never made it to the Lost Canyon country in the southwest part of the Texas Hill Country, then you've missed more than just a casual drive. Surrounded by stark bluffs beneath rolling hills and flat top mesas, limestone canyons are cut by spring fed waters that trickle gently across tree lined meadows into deeper troughs that wind their way through the hills.

This is the land of big ranches and abundant wildlife, some of the finest land in Texas that still resembles the way it looked long before the Comanche made camp beside her splendid springs and pools and hunted deer along the Sabinal river canyon; God's country as they call it around Utopia and Vanderpool and Leakey. And you know it the moment you park your car at Lost Maples State Natural Area parking lot and step out into "the Little Eden of Texas."

This is true any time of year but at the peak fall season (most years), usually in late October or November, the landscape takes on vivid color, perhaps like no place else in Texas. Everyone seems to appreciate the big-tooth maple (Acer grandidentatum), the close relative of the sugar maple. Its spectacular autumn foliage is Texas' answer to the vivid fall colors of New England. The most famous bigtooth maples are those in Lost Maples State Natural Area along the Sabinal River north of Vanderpool. Hordes of tourists hoping to enjoy the colorful foliage jam the highways in that area every fall. Big-tooth maples also grow in other parts of the Edwards Plateau, mostly in canyons of Bandera, Real, Uvalde, and Kendall Counties.

Big-toothed maples in the Hill Country commonly are large shrubs and small trees. The largest may reach 50 feet high and have trunks 10-12 inches in diameter. Some experts say that big-tooth maples grow best where they are protected from the hottest afternoon sun, making the tree-shaded canyons of the Sabinal river valley the perfect place for abundant and healthy growth of these colorful trees.

The park is an outstanding example of Edwards Plateau flora and fauna. It is a combinations of steep, rugged limestone canyons, springs, plateau grasslands, wooded slopes, and clear streams. It features a large, isolated stand of uncommon Uvalde Bigtooth Maple, whose fall foliage can be spectacular. Generally, the foliage changes the last two weeks of October through the first two weeks of November. The park is extremely popular during the fall and is often crowded. Parking is limited to 250 cars, so for maximum enjoyment and serenity, visitors should schedule trips during the weekdays, if possible.

After arriving at the park you will have several choices to make. The trail system throughout the park is comprehensive, and while the colorful maples grow near the streams and springs throughout the park, including the first trail you can take, the secluded Mystic Canyon is perhaps the best place for viewing.

The second hiking trail in the Lost Maples State Natural Area, Mystic Canyon, offers hikers more Bigtooth maples in high-walled, rugged hill country canyons than anywhere else in the park.

GETTING THERE
Drive about 35 miles west on Texas 39 from Kerrville to RM 187. Take a left on RM 187 and go about 15 miles to the Lost Maples State Natural Area.

Take a left across the Sabinal River to the Can Creek trailhead and park, then go left at the first fork, about 1/2 mile from the start, to begin the loop hike. The right fork is the end of the loop.

Hike through the first steep-walled canyon, past primitive area "D," and up a steep climb onto a ridge. Take the left fork soon after reaching the ridge top. Stay right at the next fork that takes you into Mystic Canyon. Maples will become dense again in the canyon. Hike through Mystic Canyon to a trail fork and takes a right to Can Creek and ponds.

Take a right at the next fork at primitive camp "C," which takes you back to the trailhead.

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