Being Mrs. Pierce

Life as a wife, hiker, wanna-be chef, book-lover, traveler, and now, mom

Friedrich Wilderness Park: Main Loop Trail May 24, 2018

Filed under: Hiking — skpierce12 @ 4:04 PM



For Mother’s Day this year, I requested that we go on a family hike.  Summer break is fast approaching, and my feet have been itching to get on trails and get in hiking shape for our upcoming vacation to Durango, Colorado.


We left home early on that Sunday morning, arriving at Friedrich Wilderness Park in north San Antonio at 9:00 AM.  The small parking lot was already full, so we parked on the street along with the other late arrivals.




John offered to carry James in the Ergobaby carrier for this hike, so we strapped in our growing toddler (to many giggles from said toddler, who found it funny that he was riding on Dada’s back instead of Mama’s) and headed to the entrance.




We first wanted to see the working windmill that feeds a watering hole for birds which we had read about in a San Antonio magazine, so we made our way to the Main Loop trail, off of which branches the aptly-named Water Trail.




The entry trail into the park is paved and well-used, as we encountered a number of walkers, joggers, and hikers as we made our way into the park proper.  Being tucked into the sprawling San Antonio metropolitan area, it wasn’t surprising to see so many other people making use of the park, too.




Once we turned onto the short, 0.35-mile Water Trail, we left the pavement behind and headed slightly uphill towards the windmill.




We quickly came to the working windmill, supposedly one of the oldest ones in the state.




Had we wanted to linger, we could have sat upon the bench near the birds’ watering hole to see what fliers might have landed for a drink.  But James was using his hands and arms to try to push his Dada faster along the trail, so quiet observation and contemplation was not to be.


We then hiked the pretty 0.60-mile Juniper Barrens loop before tackling the primary path of the day: the Main Loop Trail.  It’s a 1.7-mile hike rated difficult to moderate.  It did have some quick, rocky ascents, but any difficulty we experienced was due to being out of shape (and, in John’s case, carrying a 30-pound 21-month-old on his back) rather than the trail itself.


Much of the trail on the way up the hill was shaded, which was nice since James decided he didn’t want to wear his hat about a half hour into the morning’s outing.




At the top of the hill, the tree cover overhead thinned out, but the trees on either side of us were thick and tall enough to block the vista view.  That was probably just as well, however, considering that we were in San Antonio.  It probably would have just been depressing to see all of the concrete and buildings in the neighboring hills and valleys.




James did really well on the hike, which bodes well for our summer adventures ahead.  It is a joy to share our love of hiking and the outdoors with our little boy!




We spent about an hour and a half out on the trails at Friedrich Wilderness Park, and we enjoyed our time there.  The crowds thinned out the further away we got from the entrance, and there are still more trails to explore than the ones we hiked that day.  It wouldn’t be our top choice for a place to hike in the wider hill country area, but it was a convenient distance from home and afforded us an opportunity to get in some shopping at The Rim nearby.  We’ll hike there again, I’m sure.


Fort Worth Nature Center: Oak Motte Trail March 16, 2018

Filed under: Hiking — skpierce12 @ 2:22 PM



While living in Fort Worth, John and I hiked several of the trails at the Fort Worth Nature Center, but there were many paths that we had not explored when we moved to the hill country.  During a recent spring break trip to DFW to see my parents, we returned to the nature center, this time with James in tow.




Out of shape and without a lot of time on our hands, we selected the Oak Motte Trail, an easy 2.16 mile loop hike.  We parked at the visitor center and walked one leg of the Prairie Trail to get to the start of the Oak Motte loop.


The weather was perfect for a mid-morning hike in March: sunny and cool.  We had expected a spring break crowd at the center, but we came across only one other family of hikers during our walk.  I love having the trails to ourselves!


The Prairie Trail lived up to its name with its tall grasses and flat landscape, and then as we approached Oak Motte we were greeted with, surprisingly enough, oak mottes, or groups of trees.




The wintry landscape was dry and brown, but the trees – even leafless – were majestic (or as majestic as trees can get in North Texas).




James was pretty excited about the trees above and sticks on the ground below, preferring to look at them rather than the camera.




I’m not sure if it was the shade from the tree branches overhead, the warmth of being snuggled in next to my back, or exhaustion from a weekend with Grandma and Grandpap, but within 15 minutes of being on the trails James fell soundly asleep in the Ergobaby.




John spent much of the next hour holding on to the back of James’s head as we hiked so that it wouldn’t flop around too much.


We walked at a rather leisurely pace, talking about John’s book that he’d finished the night before (The Killer Inside Me, if you’re curious) and favorite hikes from the past.


The scenery remained consistent throughout the Oak Motte trail, with the only real alteration in view being the break in the trees due to power lines.




Before long, we were back at the Prairie Trail and headed for the nature center once again.




James finally woke up just at the end of the hike.  He seemed a little grumpy that he’d missed out on the fun!




Soon we were on our way out of the center, headed to the lunch buffet at Bosses Pizza just down the road (in which we completely undid any and all health benefits from the morning’s hike).


I am glad to have returned to the Fort Worth Nature Center, which is a gem for hiking enthusiasts in the DFW area.  Its trails are well-marked, interesting, and varied, making the entrance fee ($5 per adult; free for children 2 and under) well worth the cost.


Cibolo Nature Center February 3, 2018

Filed under: Hiking — skpierce12 @ 10:34 PM


On a mild, partly cloudy day in January, my little family headed towards San Antonio for the day.  We left our school work behind (mostly – John graded papers while I drove) in order to spend a day together, in nature, away from our usual Saturday routine (lesson plan, play with James, grade papers, play with James).  I had a cold, but we were determined to get in a hike before John’s UIL season ramped up and took over our lives for the rest of the semester.  I also didn’t want to fail to meet my 2018 goal of going on a hike at least once every 2 months!

We selected the Cibolo Nature Center in Boerne for our hike.  A San Antonio magazine given to us by a friend had featured the trails available in the center, and we were lured there by the promise of easy hiking and the beautiful photographs of the cypress-laded creek.  Neither of those would disappoint.


Adjacent to the parking lot are replica dinosaur tracks of real ones found in the area.  James, who when he sees a picture of a dinosaur growls menacingly in reply, cared nothing about the tracks but “grrrr”d nonstop at the placard next to them with a dinosaur image.  This was where we started our hike.


Now that James has surpassed the 25-pound mark, it was time to try out the back carry position with our Ergobaby.  James LOVED being able to take in the scenery more easily and swing his legs back and forth!  It took me a little while to feel balanced with the extra weight on my back, but in the end, I was firmly in the back carry fan club.


As we set off on the marsh trail, we could easily pinpoint Cibolo Creek thanks to the line of trees a short distance away.




Boardwalk trails are among my favorites, and despite the wintry environment, the marsh surrounding the trail was surprisingly beautiful.




As we left the marsh trail and approached the creek, we lingered at GreenMan’s Lookout for an elevated view of the nature center.




The creek was too tempting to ignore any longer, so next we hiked to the crossing.




While I feel certain that the cypress trees in spring and summer, vibrant and green, are a sight to behold, the muted, neutral palette of the dormant trees and grasses in winter had its own allure.

We forded the creek and hiked down a path to the left until the trail disappeared.  Playing it safe, we turned around and walked back to the crossing and then hugged the creek for a while upriver.




On occasion, it took some maneuvering to forge ahead.


Cibolo Creek and its stately trees, however, more than made up for our slippery-footed efforts.




After dallying near the creek for as long as possible, we bid the cypresses goodbye and embarked upon the woodland trail before concluding our hike.


Full of shrubby oaks, the woodland trail was an easy, albeit run-of-the-mill, central Texas hike.  Perhaps we should have saved the best–the creek trail–for last.


By this point, though, James was tired and ready for lunch, so we had to hurry our steps.  At the end of the woodland trail, we immediately left to forage for food rather than picturesque landscapes.

Cibolo Nature Center is truly a gem in the San Antonio metropolitan area, and I expect that we’ll return on another day.


2018 Goals January 3, 2018

Filed under: Cooking,Hiking,Reading — skpierce12 @ 10:17 PM

My husband has inspired me to set my 2018 goals in writing on my blog so that I will be held accountable to them.

  1. Lead a healthier day-to-day lifestyle, which will hopefully also lead to me losing a little weight.
  2. Cook at least 4 new recipes from a different cookbook that I already own each month.  I’m doing this challenge in conjunction with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law, the latter of whom came up with this fun idea.
  3. Read at least 30 books this year.
  4. Write at least one blog post per month.
  5. Go on a hike at least once every 2 months.
  6. Finish James’s baby photo book and keep relatively up-to-date with his current one.

Yay for goals!


Colorado Bend State Park: Gorman Falls June 13, 2017

Filed under: Hiking — skpierce12 @ 9:35 PM


Yesterday morning we ventured out for our second hike of the summer.  The day’s destination was Colorado Bend State Park.  Twice last year we visited the park, but it was this third trip in which we made the hike to the park’s most famous site: Gorman Falls.


We headed out on the trail at 8:45 AM, as we wanted to beat the heat.  The weather was in the 70s and rather humid but also partly cloudy and breezy, which is about as good as it gets for a hike in Texas in June.


The first part of the Gorman Falls trail was a combination of open grasslands and oak groves.


A lovely vista presented itself as we hiked toward the falls.


James was a little too sleepy to fully enjoy the view.


The path was rocky, so we had to watch our step as we trekked down the trail.


Once we passed the 1-mile mark, we could hear the falls in the distance.  Suddenly, we were upon them!


The trail first led us to a view of the upper part of the falls.


By then, James was wide awake and very intrigued by the falling water.  We couldn’t get a good picture of him in front of the falls because he kept squirming around in order to look at the water!

After taking in the upper part of the falls, we carefully descended the rocky hill to the base of the falls.  Holding on to the metal railing was necessary to prevent slipping down the rocks.  But what a reward awaited us!




Taking in the beauty of the falls was especially memorable because we were the only ones there.  What a rare experience that is at a popular hiking spot!  We were able to be still, listen to the water and other nature sounds, and take our pictures without jostling or interruption.


We also took a family selfie.  Clearly James needs further instructions on smiling for the camera.


He was more interested in playing with his daddy’s hat strings.

The hike back to the trailhead was mostly uphill, but it was easier than we’d feared on the way in.  We hiked the 3-mile out-and-back trail in an hour and a half.

We then drove to the other side of the park for a picnic lunch in the day use area by the river.


We spotted a turtle making his way across the picnic area in order to reach the river.


After eating, we showed James the murky Colorado River up close.


James was more interested in getting my hat.  James likes hats – unless they are his own.



Our morning at Colorado Bend could not have gone better.  The falls are well worth the moderate hike it takes to see them!


Enchanted Rock State Natural Area: Loop Trail revisited June 11, 2017

Filed under: Hiking — skpierce12 @ 10:22 AM

For our first hike of the summer, John, James, and I made a return visit to Enchanted Rock to hike the Loop Trail.  John and I hiked the trail last year while I was 6 months pregnant, so it was fun to revisit the hike with baby James in tow.


I carried James in our Ergobaby, which I have loved.  James likes being in the Ergo as long as I keep moving, which means we don’t linger at sights like we used to.



After some quick pics at the pavilion, we embarked upon the Loop Trail.  Someday we’ll hike the Summit Trail together, but it’s going to be when James is able to hike up it himself.  He’s already weighs 20 pounds, after all.  That’s a lot of baby to carry around!


We hiked counterclockwise around the loop this year, so we began by crisscrossing Sandy Creek.  Unlike last time, the creek area was deserted.  We would encounter few hikers on the entire trail; it seemed most of the park visitors set their sights on reaching the summit.  The park was the least crowded I had ever seen it in general.  I’m sure the summer temps had something to do with it, although we also were there on a Thursday morning.


We set out on the trail around 8:30 AM.  The forecast had been partly cloudy, but the morning would be bright and sunny.  We were glad we made the early start, as most of the trail is unshaded.


James fell asleep early in the hike, so he missed seeing the rear view of Enchanted Rock with the “slip and slide” rocks.


We did not divert to Moss Lake or the scenic overlook this year, as the morning was warming up quickly and James was hungry after waking from his nap.


We briefly paused to take in the rock outcroppings and hill country vistas near the end of the hike, but we all were tired and hot.


Especially James.


Overall we thoroughly enjoyed hiking the Loop Trail again, and I’m positive it’ll be one of our go-to hikes in the future.  We decided we prefer to hike the trail clockwise, as it’s a slightly easier hike than the counterclockwise version.  We also decided that we are out of shape and that we have a lot of training to do before hiking the Canadian Rockies next month!


Colorado Bend State Park: Tie Slide Trail June 9, 2016

Filed under: Hiking — skpierce12 @ 2:38 PM



After hiking the Spicewood Trails at Colorado Bend State Park over spring break, John and I had looked forward to returning to the park for the hike to Gorman Falls.  Yesterday we set out early for Colorado Bend, but upon arrival we learned that the Gorman Falls area was closed due to flooding from last week’s rains.  A park ranger suggested that we hike the Tie Slide Trail, which leads to a river overlook that would give us a view of the falls.




Now 7 months pregnant, I am more limited on difficulty and length of hikes.  Texas Parks & Wildlife rated the Tie Slide trail at a moderate level of difficulty, and combining it with the connecting path to the Gorman Falls Trail would have us hiking a loop just over 3 miles in length.  So after thoroughly spraying ourselves down with sunscreen and insect repellent, we headed out on Tie Slide.




It was in the low 80s when we parked at the trailhead, but the humidity made it feel much warmer.  Luckily about half of Tie Slide is under shade from oak and cedar trees.




The other half of the trail winds through open meadows, which at this time of year were dotted with yellow and orange wildflowers.




We hiked about 2 miles before reaching the river overlook.  We gratefully took a breather and caught some cooling breezes from our vantage point above the river.




The Colorado River was not at its most picturesque, as it was especially brown and muddy from the excess rain last week.




But Gorman Falls indeed could be seen–and heard–in the distance.  I had to zoom in quite a bit in order to capture more than just a small white blur in the background.




We soon continued our hike, taking the connecting trail between Tie Slide and the Gorman Falls Trail back to the trailhead to turn our hike into a loop rather than an out-and-back.  The scenery was much the same as before: a mixture of small bunches of short trees and wildflower-strewn meadows.  Throughout our hike, the elevation remained fairly level, which confirmed the moderate difficulty rating that the trail had been given.  We completed our hike in about 1.5 hours, and we were glad to get back in the car with the AC turned up.  It was not yet noon, but the outside temps had already climbed into the 90s.


While we enjoyed our excursion at Colorado Bend, we continue to look forward to making the hike to Gorman Falls.  The glimpse we got from afar convinced us that the falls will be more than worth seeing close up.


Enchanted Rock State Natural Area: Loop Trail May 13, 2016

Filed under: Hiking — skpierce12 @ 8:07 PM

Living in the Texas hill country has its perks, such as witnessing the wildflower displays in the spring, avoiding traffic jams and smog, and being less than an hour away from Enchanted Rock.  Regarding the latter, John and I have talked and talked about hiking up Enchanted Rock over the past two years, but we kept picking somewhere else to go when it came time for a hike.  Leave it to us to finally make it there when I am six months pregnant!  This meant, of course, that we avoided the famous Summit Trail and took to the 4-mile Loop Trail instead.  What initially felt like a consolation prize, however, turned out to be one of our favorite hikes in Texas.


It was cool and sunny when we embarked upon the trail on a recent Saturday morning.  It would warm up considerably as the morning turned to afternoon, and the Loop Trail offers little shade for much of its length.  The posted warnings to carry enough water with you were well founded.  John had left his sunglasses at home, so he borrowed mine.  They made him look especially manly for the hike.




We hiked clockwise around the loop, and the trail quickly took us up an incline as we began our trek around Little and Enchanted Rocks.




I loved the wildflowers we encountered along the trail, especially as they acted as a delicate contrast to the rough and tough granite outcroppings nearby.




All of the cool rock formations had me thinking about my geologist dad.




At the one-mile mark, there was a short diversion to a scenic overlook, and we had our first clear view of both Little and Enchanted Rocks.




After another 0.6 miles, we took a second diversion, this time to Moss Lake.  We were pleasantly surprised by the prettiness of the lake as it reflected Enchanted Rock behind it.




Back on the Loop Trail, we enjoyed more signs of spring.





The views of the surrounding countryside were lovely, as well.




The Loop Trail is the best way to get a 360° view of Enchanted Rock (as compared to a 360° view from it).




After passing between Freshman Mountain and Buzzard’s Roost, the trail borders Sandy Creek for the last mile of hiking back to the trailhead.  Many of our fellow hikers had stopped to wade and splash in the creek, but we were too tired, warm, and hungry to follow suit.


The hike was fairly easy, with only moderate inclines to tackle.  I am not sure I would want to make this hike in the full heat of a Texas summer, but it was very doable on a beautiful, sunny spring morning.  I can’t wait to hike it again someday soon with Baby Boy Pierce in tow!


Colorado Bend State Park: Spicewood Trails March 8, 2016

Filed under: Hiking — skpierce12 @ 9:53 AM



Spring has arrived early in Texas, and the warm temperatures and bright, roadside bluebonnets have encouraged John and me to shed our lazy winter selves and get outside.   Luckily our spring break is early this year, so we made a day trip to Colorado Bend State Park on Sunday as our official spring break kick-off event.  It was a tad chilly and drizzling when we left home and cloudy and windy upon reaching the park, but the weather conditions were not enough to deter us from our plans.


John had visited Colorado Bend about ten years ago, but it was my first time at the park.  Upon his recommendation, we selected the Spicewood Trails to make up our morning hike.  While the park’s trail guide rates the paths as challenging, John knew the elevation gains and drops were not significant.  Despite it being our first hike since trekking in the Rocky Mountains last August and my first hike as a pregnant Mrs. Pierce, we felt we could handle the trails.


The Spicewood trailhead.  John joked that I was trying to show off my belly while he spent the day trying to hide his.


The hike begins on a flat trail that parallels the Colorado River.  Kayaks and fishermen were about, although the persistent winds cleared the river as the day went on.




We then headed north on the Spicewood Springs Trail, which is the bigger draw of the two Spicewood paths due to the waterfalls and pools that crisscross the trail.




The water crossings are fairly well marked, and we learned that as long as you spot the yellow marker on the other side of the creek before attempting a crossing, you end up right where you are supposed to be.  One time we missed the marked crossing, but it was not too difficult to get across slightly further upstream.  John led our way across each time, and most of the crossings had stones and logs upon which to step.  Only once did John’s foot sink deeply down into the water, but his hiking boots kept his toes dry.


I utterly loved the sights and sounds of the small pools and waterfalls along this trail.  No sooner had we left one lovely spot, than we could hear another just ahead.




The colors at the park this time of year are muted grays, tans, and greens, which made for a quiet, calming environment.




We passed a few other hikers on the trail, but for the most part we were alone with nature.




Spicewood Springs Trail meets up with the Spicewood Canyon Trail, and it was the latter that we hiked back to the trailhead.  Spicewood Canyon traverses the hills above the creek, and much of this leg of our hike was spent amidst dense, shrubby trees.




Towards the end of the Canyon Trail the view opened up to the springs below that we had crossed just an hour or so earlier.




We took in a few more sights from above before descending down to river level and back to the trailhead.  It took us a little over two hours to complete the 3.8 mile loop.


We rested and ate our picnic lunch near the river, and with continuing gray skies above and tired legs beneath us, we abandoned our plan to hike to Gorman Falls in the afternoon.  It may have been wimpish of us, but at least we now have even more of an excuse to return to Colorado Bend in the future!


Grand Teton National Park: Sawmill Ponds Trail August 5, 2014

Filed under: Hiking,Travel — skpierce12 @ 1:58 PM



During our recent Wyoming trip, my husband and I hiked around Phelps Lake on a Friday, white-water rafted down the Snake River the following day, and then went horseback riding the day after that. Our double date with two horses named Rex and Whiskey was set for 2 PM that Sunday afternoon, so John and I fit in the easy, 1.4-mile hike at Sawmill Ponds late that same morning.


The Sawmill Ponds trailhead sits at an overlook off the Moose-Wilson Road. We stopped at that same overlook the morning of our Phelps Lake hike and had seen a cow moose and her baby wading in the water. Hoping for additional moose sightings, we decided to return and walk the short, out-and-back trail.


When the trail began, the walkway was wide and easily navigable, thanks to the crowds that pause at the overlook to spy on moose in the wetlands below. Few people (and no moose) were present when we set out on our hike, however, and we would not encounter anyone else (of the human variety, at least) until we returned to the parking area.




Shortly after beginning our walk, John noticed movement in the distance. Using our cheap binoculars, he found two brown spots far away in the trees. I found the same spots using our camera. Our best guess leaned towards elk, which would prove to be the case as we hiked nearer to them.




The trail followed the edge of the cliff that overlooked Sawmill Ponds, a series of small water bodies created by beaver dams.




Most of the trail was in full sun, so we paused for a minute by this tree to cool off in the shade.




There were actually two trail options for hiking above Sawmill Ponds. We stuck to the cliff edge path to better spot wildlife, but another trail (the remains of an unpaved road to and from an old landing strip) existed away from the edge. That trail was wider with less brush to scratch your shins, but it also cut off much of the wetlands from view.




Back by the drop-off, we came around a slight bend in the trail and immediately saw this dark figure in the grass below. What you see is pretty much the only view that we had of this hungry cow moose. Not once, on either the out or the back portion of our hike, did she fully lift her head away from her lunch.




Slightly disappointed in our wildlife sightings on the trail so far, John kept the binoculars poised and ready as we hoped for more.




We paused often on this hike to scan the landscape beneath us. When I tired of fruitless gazing, I turned to the mountains behind me for entertainment.





Just as we neared the end of the trail, a group of brown blurs came into view. With a little zooming courtesy of the binoculars and camera, we found ourselves in a staring contest with a small herd of elk. We felt confident that two of these elk were the two brown spots we had seen at the start of our hike.




Even though we were quite far away, the elk remained wary of us for as long as we were in view.




When we had our fill of elk stalking, John and I turned around and made our way back to the trailhead. We were still hoping to catch sight of a bull moose, but our grass-happy cow moose was the only one willing to cooperate.


We completed the Sawmill Ponds hike in under an hour, and we were glad to have done it–even with the lack of wildlife activity. Had we ventured out earlier in the morning, we might have had better luck. I would recommend this hike to anyone interested in a short, easy hike with wildlife-viewing potential. Just remember to bring your bug spray!  Those mosquitoes love the wetlands.